Dairyman Mitch Breunig’s genomic test results are no longer buried in a stack of papers. With the Enlight online management tool, he now has real-time genetic data at his fingertips. In 2014, Zoetis and Holstein Association USA partnered to provide dairy producers with better access to genetic and genomic data via a comprehensive online management tool, Enlight.
By logging into the password-protected website through a computer, tablet or smartphone, they can quickly and easily query information for making selection, management and mating decisions.
This tool was the solution Breunig was looking for to make his herd’s genomic data more accessible and actionable. An early adapter to genomic testing, he has been pulling hairs since 2010 at Mystic Valley Dairy, located in Sauk City, Wisconsin.
“I had a stack of 200 sheets of paper in my office, but I needed a better way to use it,” says the owner of the 430-cow dairy and breeder of Jenny-Lou Marshall Toystory.
The mountain of information that used to sit on Breunig’s desk is now collected through this web-based resource. Simple functions allow him to easily sort, list and rank animals across the herd or in specific groups, which he finds particularly useful when making decisions on his herd’s elite females.
“I am able to really see how an animal ranks in my herd,” he explains. “If she is in the top 2 percent, I can then decide if I am going to flush her or breed her.”
Breunig adds that color-coded results make it easy to identify an animal’s faults, allowing him to choose a complementary mating based on traits like somatic cell score or daughter pregnancy rate (DPR). Further, he is able to pull lists of calves with red or polled genes, as well as genetic recessives like complex vertebral malformation (CVM).
Breunig is using this simplified method of disseminating and implementing genomic data to work toward the genetic goals for his herd. “We are trying to push the envelope, find outliers and improve the herd,” he adds.
Taking it one step further, Breunig uses the information to guide his marketing program. It helps him determine which animals he wants to sell and to provide buyers with genetic records. On the other hand, if he is considering purchasing an animal, he can compare the numbers relative to those within his own herd.
Another advantage Breunig identifies is the program’s ability to integrate records across his entire herd. He now registers all of his calves through Enlight, which also synchs with his DairyComp record-keeping software, to provide him with a complete, up-to-date database for all the animals he owns.
“It’s my herd inventory in real-time,” Breunig states. “As soon as I register an animal, it shows up in Enlight.”
For a breeder like Breunig, Enlight serves as a playground for genetic data. He enjoys analyzing his herd’s genetic progress, going back nearly 30 years, and sorting through lists that tell him which sires and bull studs have had the strongest influence and even the percentage of genes coming from each bull.
“There is so much information in Enlight for people who like that kind of stuff,” he adds.
According to Zoetis, there are no incremental fees to access and use Enlight for dairy producers that are enrolled in Basic I.D. program and genomic test using Clarifide. Information is available for both registered and unregistered purebred Holsteins in the U.S.
Though Breunig does not pay an additional cost beyond the genomic testing fee, that doesn’t mean Enlight is not a valuable tool. He adds, “For me, the payback is that it makes better use of my time, and that is important.” PD
TOP: For dairyman Mitch Breunig, Enlight serves as a tool for sorting through his herd’s genomic data in real-time.
MIDDLE: An early adapter to genomic testing, Breunig has bred and developed a top genetic herd.
BOTTOM: In fact, Mystic Valley Dairy was home to Jenny-Lou Marshall Toystory, known as the Holstein breed’s highest-producing bull. Photos courtesy of Jeff Raatz from Big League Production, LLC.