Genetic and herd improvement

Market need/context

  • The Australian dairy industry has an opportunity to realize substantial increases in dairy farm profitability by taking full advantage of the benefits of herd improvement. The potential benefits of addressing issues of market failure in herd improvement could be worth approximately $25 million in gross farm margin per annum due to genetic gain, a figure which may well rise with continuing innovation in genomic technologies.
  • The Herd Improvement Industry Strategic Steering Group (HIISSG) was convened by Dairy Australia in January 2014 in recognition that a whole of industry strategy was required to address the issues in the industry that had been impairing progress for the past decade or more. The Herd Improvement Strategy was completed in August 2014 and implementation commenced at that time.
  • The target audience is farmers, farm advisors, herd improvement industry service providers, milk processors and financial organisations.

General approach/strategy

  • Research investment is focused on: continued improvement in the reliability and accuracy of genomic breeding values and much reduced test costs; enhancement of breeding values through incorporation of traits which are of particular importance to Australian producers; and application of genomic approaches to cow herd management. Areas of investment reflect Dairy Moving Forward priorities and incorporate cross-sector and international collaboration where viable.
  • Development and implementation investment is focused on continuing to improve the ability of farmers to select for important traits, such as fertility, and develop new traits such as heat tolerance, lameness and heath.  Work will also focus on creating new tools for farmers to use to make better decisions on farm, whether through genomic testing or improved use of data.
  • The development of a central data repository will enable innovation by service providers and industry through allowing access to data from many sources, also known as single-entry, multi-use data for farmers.
  • Extension activities to facilitate practice change will focus on meeting stakeholder requests for technical information and demonstrating the profit impact of herd improvement.  Where feasible herd improvement resources and modules will be integrated into other programs, particularly animal health.