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  • Kindra Gordon, field editor

Striving for Sampling Success

Do’s and don’ts for DNA sample collections. Q&A with South Dakota Breeder Lee Kopriva.

In northeastern South Dakota, Lee Kopriva and his father, Jim, run a seedstock Angus operation. They rely on DNA testing to enhance their herd and provide data for the bulls and females they offer customers each May in their annual DVAuction video production sale. Here, Lee answers questions about the value he sees from their DNA collection efforts.

Which type of samples do you collect (blood, hair, tissue), and do you have a preference for one over the other?

We started collecting blood samples on blood cards as this was the best way to archive samples early on. However, with the advancements in tissue sample units and the ease of collection, we have switched solely to TSUs. We had used hair samples for twins, but now TSU samples can be used [for twins]. I really like how quick and simple the Allflex tissue collection tagger works. We get a neat clean sample that is safe in the sample vial.

What type of data do you want to get from DNA sampling?

We like to verify parentage in addition to running the AngusGSSM profile to increase the accuracy of the EPDs, which provides more confidence and less guesswork for unproven young animals. By running the AngusGS analysis, it is reassuring that non-parent animals can be proved up as if they had already sired more progeny than they could with natural use in one season for several traits.

Additionally, because we run multiple-sire breeding pastures, which allows us to better utilize and manage our grass efficiently, having the ability to verify sires works well. We can also see which bulls are siring the most calves.

As well, we have had neighboring bulls crawl into our pastures a few days before we turn in bulls, so luckily in this instance, the traveling bull had parentage on file. There is also the occasional chance that cows calve at the same time and swap calves, so being able to confirm parentage before registration is important to eliminate surprises later on.

We are also able to test for persistently infected BVD with the same TSU samples. Previously, we would have collected ear notches and sent them off to a different lab.

Is there a certain time of year that you have found best to collect samples to fit with your management?

We usually let the calves get off to a good start and collect samples midsummer when we are running them through a chute. We also collect samples at weaning time when we are taking weaning weights. The earlier the samples are collected reduces the chance for an ear tag to be lost. Also, testing earlier allows the breeder more time to use the data to make keeping and selling decisions.

What do you find most challenging or cumbersome about collecting your samples?

The TSU collection process is simple and quick. We record the sample numbers and animal ID on paper, however the TSUs are smart-coded, and an electronic wand could be used to scan, helping to keep the information organized and have less chance for mistakes or error. It would work best having a person who can solely collect samples while running them through the chute. However, with a two-man crew, we are able to run them through timely since the TSU collection process is so simple and quick. After the samples are collected, the process is fairly smooth to submit the samples for testing as long as the animal has been enrolled in the electronic calving book or has Angus Herd Improvement Records (AHIR®) calving/weaning data turned in. Make sure when mailing in the TSU samples to put them in a box with bubble wrap, as they could get damaged in mail using regular mailing envelopes. Regardless of the chosen sample method, there is a very small incidence that a sample would fail and a new sample will need to be collected and sent in.

Any tips you’d offer to other breeders about the sampling process?

I would encourage breeders to start by testing a few animals. I think with the technology that we have available, verifying parentage is a must for breed purity. Since we started testing animals, we have been able to increase our certainty that an animal is who we say they are. With the number of animals that we have tested over time, we have been able to correct parentage issues, which do happen occasionally.

When collecting samples make sure that the ear is dry, free of dirt and dander to ensure that a good sample is being taken. Double-check animal ID numbers and TSU sample numbers to reduce the chance of error when submitting samples.

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