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Are genetic parent averages enough?

February 25, 2015
POSTED BY: Dave Erf | Geneticist | U.S. Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

If you become lost while driving, which navigation tool would you rely on to help you find your way, a compass or GPS? While a compass could steer you in the general direction, it lacks the step-by-step detail to pinpoint an exact location.

On your dairy, you have a similar choice to gauge a heifer’s genetic transmitting ability — parent average versus Genomic Predicted Transmitting Ability (GPTA) values1 from CLARIFIDE®.                                                                  

What is a parent average?

  • A genetic average of each parent’s genetic values, if known and correct
  • Assumes that offspring inherit exactly half of each of their parents’ genetic merit for all traits
  • Assumes the identified parents are 100% accurate, which we know to be false approximately 14% of the time2

While producers have been using parent average to determine genetic transmitting ability for years, the reliability of this method ranges from 20 to 30%, depending on how much is known about the sire and dam.3 This means prior to genomics being available, it was well-known that using parent average for major management decisions or genetic investments was very risky.

Why use the GPTA values from CLARIFIDE?

  • It gets to the DNA level, therefore it is based on an animal’s genetic makeup
  • Allows producers to make more-proactive, effective management decisions
  • Provide a more accurate prediction of an animal’s future performance

According to the United States Department of Agriculture and the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding evaluation for Holstein females tested with CLARIFIDE, the GPTA reliability is much higher than parent average.2

The reality is, offspring can receive a more favorable or less favorable set of traits than what the parent average can reveal. Therefore, when given a choice between utilizing parent average versus GPTA values from CLARIFIDE, it makes sense to choose CLARIFIDE.

Raising a heifer from birth to freshening is a big investment in time and money. With the use of CLARIFIDE, you can more confidently and proactively (at an animal’s young age) make efficient management decisions to build your chosen herd of the future.

Talk to a Zoetis representative or visit to learn how you can incorporate CLARIFIDE on your dairy.


1 Genetic evaluations are calculated by USDA-CDCB and Holstein Association USA.

2 Zoetis data on file. Results from analysis of cumulative 3K and 6K results reported from USDA-CDCB dairy genetic evaluation as of September 2012 and associated submission data.

3 USDA-CDCB evaluation for CLARIFIDE-tested Holstein females ≤ 12 months of age as of April 2014. Median value for NM$ in this data set = 22%.



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