The Australian dairy industry has genomically tested a record number of female animals this past year, delivering farmers better quality genetic information for breeding and management decisions.
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DNA “game changer” for Australian dairy breeding

This increase in genomic testing comes as the average rate of genetic gain for Balanced Performance Index (BPI) in sires of Holstein cows has increased to $35.69 per cow per year – a rise of almost 23 per cent in the past five years.

An increase of more than 24 per cent to $22.30/cow/year was also recorded for the Jersey breed.

DataGene Chief Executive Officer Matt Shaffer revealed at the organisation’s annual general meeting on Thursday, 17 November in Melbourne that 61,531 females – including 50,000 heifers – were genomically tested during 2021-22, DataGene oversees genetic evaluation, herd testing software and herd improvement initiatives on behalf of the Australian dairy industry.

“This drive to increase the number of heifers genomically tested is a commitment by both Dairy Australia and DataGene to collaboratively drive genetic gain, which is responsible for about 30 per cent of the productivity gains,” he said.

“This has allowed us to leverage Dairy Australia’s ongoing investment in genetics to help farm productivity.”

Australia’s dairy rate of genetic gain has recorded a “sharp increase” since the introduction of genomics and DataGene and its collaborators continue to deliver innovative herd improvement products to the local dairy industry.

One of these is mid-infrared spectroscopy (MIR) Conception, one of the newest tools to sit on the HerdPlatform dashboard on the DataVat website.

MIR Conception uses information about the cow and its herd test sample to predict the odds of getting pregnant to its first insemination. It builds on the work of the MIR 4 Profit project and ongoing research by DairyBio.

Dr Shaffer told the DataGene AGM that in a “world first development” this technology was rolling out to farmers in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland as the newer herd test centre machines allow.

Outgoing DataGene chairman Ross Joblin highlighted the organisation’s growth and how this has led to income diversification and an increase in the ability to deliver innovation for dairy farmers.

“Our sources of revenue have expanded into work with international dairy counterparts, other Australian dairy industry partners and also into new industries such as cotton and red meat,” Mr Joblin said.

“All these projects leverage the core skills of DataGene; technology, genetic evaluation, people development and project management. As a result, we have been able to not only maintain our service offering to the Australian dairy industry, but we’ve also expanded it using revenue from these projects.”

Mr Joblin stepped down from the Board and as DataGene chairman after six years and the end of his term.

“I am proud to leave an organisation that has successfully navigated its start-up years, is financially stable, has a strong governance and people culture and has a pipeline of innovation for dairy farmers,” he said.

Former Dairy Australia chair Jeff Odgers is replacing Mr Joblin as the Dairy Australia nominated director on the board.

Gippsland dairy and beef farmer Tim Jelbart and host of the DataGene’s ImProving Herds National Muster in 2018 was also re-elected to the board.

Mr Graeme Gillan has been subsequently elected as the chairman. Mr Gillan has been on the board since its inception and has more than 45 years’ experience in herd improvement, including former Chairman of the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (NHIA), former CEO of Holstein Australia and numerous roles with genetics companies.

For more information contact: DataGene 1800 841 848 or enquiries@datagene.com.au or www.datagene.com.au.

Globally, consumers can’t get enough of the quality and taste of American dairy products. Foreign exports of American dairy are twice the volume of the nation’s domestic dairy consumption. Last year, about 18% of U.S. dairy production was exported, and economists forecast that percentage to grow more than 25% in 2023.

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