This month, NZAEL (New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited) welcomed Waikato-based farmer Mark Townshend as board chair for the dairy cattle breeding subsidiary of DairyNZ, taking over from the retiring chair Warren Larsen.
DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel is pleased to have Mark onboard as his knowledge, passion for genetics and skillset will be valuable as NZAEL enters a new phase of evolution.
“Mark has over 45 years farming experience in New Zealand and internationally, and is an experienced chairman. Perhaps most importantly, he has a lifelong passion for bovine genetics through four stud herds, and a deep understanding and appreciation of the National Breeding Objectives,” said Mr van der Poel.
As a wholly owned subsidiary of DairyNZ, the mandate of NZAEL is to lead the independent provision of state-of-the-art national genetic evaluations for the New Zealand dairy sector.
“NZAEL is a complex system which underpins crucial decision-making for farmers and their animal breeding. We are constantly adjusting and updating the systems to improve data and information for farmers,” says Mr van der Poel.
“In a bid to deliver improved breeding values, during 2020 we have focused on implementing the most recent genetic evaluation software. Our next phase is to work toward a national genomic evaluation system for New Zealand dairy farmers.”
Mark and the NZAEL board will be supporting the transition of genomic data into the NZAEL system, as the emphasis shifts to utilising genotype information.
Mr van der Poel acknowledges the great work Warren Larsen has done with NZAEL and its team in establishing new databases and animal evaluation software.
“Warren has supported the NZAEL team with ensuring there’s a reliable and future-focused source of genetic evaluation information for farmers which is independent and achieving the National Breeding Objective for dairy cattle,” said Mr van der Poel.
“There is a lot of work on data standards which underpins the system, and we are excited by where it’s at, thanks to Warren’s leadership.”
As part of the next phase, the results of research will be integrated into the NZAEL system and new research initiated.