Canadian dairy genetics


Source: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

A century of improvement

Canadian dairy cattle genetics are among the best in the world. So it’s not surprising that producers in many countries depend on Canadian genetics to provide consistent, high-quality results in their breeding programs.

This excellence is no accident, since Canadian breeders and geneticists have been improving Canada’s dairy herd for more than a century. Collection of genetic information began over 125 years ago with the establishment of breed associations, which undertook the recording of animal identification and pedigree data. Later, in 1905, milk recording began with the establishment of the Canadian Record of Performance (R.O.P.) program. More than 80 years ago, breed associations started a type classification program to provide producers with an unbiased evaluation of their animals. The contemporary versions of these pioneering programs continue to underpin Canada’s sophisticated dairy genetics industry.

Modern innovations

Since its introduction in 1991, the Lifetime Profit Index (LPI) has been the primary genetic selection tool in Canada. As it evolves over the years, its main objective continues to be the identification of bulls and cows that can be expected to transmit superior genetics to their progeny.

The LPI helps quantify the relationship between genetics and profit by providing all animals with a genetic evaluation for a complete series of characteristics including production, durability, and health & fertility traits. Selection for LPI will yield genetic progress for most traits of importance within the dairy herd.

In 1999, Canada was the first country in the world to implement the Canadian Test Day Model. The Canadian Test Day Model uses the cow’s test day records from the first three lactations and estimates a lactation curve, at a genetic level, for each lactation. Geneticists worldwide recognize the advantages of this approach over the use of lactation data, and several countries are following Canada’s lead in this area.

Approximately 70 percent of Canada’s dairy cows are enrolled in milk recording, and about 85 percent of these have their parentages recorded in breed association herd books. This means that approximately 540,000 cows, spread across more than 11,000 herds, are contributing to the national genetic evaluation program.

The most recent Canadian dairy genetics tool is the Canadian Multi-Breeds Classification system, introduced in 2005. This is a state-of-the-art package for accurately and consistently evaluating the conformation characteristics of dairy cattle, regardless of breed. It is a sophisticated, world-leading system that provides excellent information to herd owners. Having this detailed analysis enables the producer to make the necessary genetic selection and breeding decisions in order to increase the longevity of the dairy herd. This allows for high levels of production over many lactations, which has a major impact on the farm’s profitability.

The result of this long history of innovation is an exceptional dairy herd with the best combination of milking and conformation characteristics available anywhere. Genetic material from Canadian dairy cattle is in demand around the world with exports to customers in more than 95 countries, including the United States, Mexico, Russia, China, the European Union, Japan, South America, Australia and the Middle East.

Discover the Canadian difference

Canadian personnel take active roles in global organizations, including the International Committee for Animal Recording (ICAR), Interbull and international breed organizations. Our products not only include genetic material, but also the information, technologies and management know-how that allow the dairy herd to perform to its full genetic potential.

For countries seeking to improve their national dairy herds, Canada’s dairy genetics industry can provide the needed solutions.

For further information, please visit:

Government website

Industry websites