The dairy sector has shown support for DairyNZ's proposal to create one Breeding Worth index that incorporates genomics.
A six-week consultation co-ordinated by DairyNZ subsidiary New Zealand Animal Evaluation Ltd (NZAEL) in May and June saw dairy farmers, bull breeders and breeding organisations provide submissions. The consultation showed a genuine appetite for New Zealand to be internationally competitive and achieve better genetic gain in its national dairy herd.
DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says there is strong support for one BW, to be independently calculated and available to all, to help farmers make the right breeding decisions on-farm.
“Currently there are multiple BW indices across the sector. This makes it difficult for farmers to compare bulls between breeding companies – and compare their replacement heifers’ merits in MINDA or MyHerd when they have used semen from different companies. This is a fundamental issue to be resolved.
“A transparent, inclusive and independent system will create consistency and mean the results are trusted by farmers,” he says. “Through a single genomic BW index, available to the whole sector, NZAEL aims to help New Zealand farmers accelerate the genetic gain of their herds, and once again track toward being world leading.”
The consultation received 100 submissions and revealed there is a strong consensus that one BW is important, with support from farmers and all other respondents, including breeding companies. The submissions also highlighted themes NZAEL will take forward into its next phase of work.
“The need for improved accuracy in animal evaluation predictions, the financial model around one BW and whether it should be levy-funded were all key themes we’ve seen emerge from the consultation – and we are looking into those now as part of our post-consultation actions,” Mr van der Poel says.
Submissions also highlighted a need for clarity around the fee structure and how R&D investment will be maintained and incentivised for AB companies and new market entrants, to encourage investment.
“We will continue to work with breeding companies to help farmers understand the importance of genomics in improving New Zealand’s genetic gain and how they could include young high BW bulls in their breeding plans,” Mr van der Poel says.
“We also heard system alternatives and some preference for the status quo, which sees two key providers offering genomic information to farmers. However, we know international studies show genetic gain has improved in countries where genomics information is available for everyone based on a central database. That is a key driver behind why NZAEL proposes a shift to a similar model."
Mr van der Poel said the feedback was hugely valuable in helping shape a system that works for farmers and NZAEL was grateful to those who contributed.
“We need our model to be effective at sector level and have our dairy farmers’ support. We know we are falling behind our international competitors, and we believe an updated system based on world best-practice will help turn that around. Many farmers are achieving good rates of genetic gain, but rates for the whole sector can be better. We believe we owe it to every farmer in New Zealand to change our current system to close that gap.”
NZAEL will continue working with breeding companies to define what a single BW index will look like – using the consultation feedback – and how it will be funded, with the goal being to deliver one BW to the sector.
These are important considerations and contribute to New Zealand dairy farmers’ international competitiveness. NZAEL is now looking at the next steps in this process and will share them with farmers they are finalised.
Please visit Better Breeding Worth for more information about Better BW.
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