AUSTRALIA - Australia must centralise its herd data system soon or risk losing its position as a globally competitive dairy sector.
Dairy herd analysts are calling for one single database to house the national herd's testing statistics. They say increased farmer engagement should be promoted to increase data feeding into the annual Australia Dairy Herd Improvement report, an industry initiative providing breeding values for dairy cattle.
Carol Miller, general manager at the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (NHIA) pointed to falling herd involvement and cow numbers for over a decade.
Explaining the recent drop in test involvement, she said: “The decline in herd numbers can, to some extent, be explained by the overall decline in the numbers of dairy farmers – this has almost halved from a decade ago."
“It is more difficult, however, to explain the decline in numbers of cows in herd testing. Victoria tested 761,219 cows in 2009 and 409,743 in 2014.”
She wants to see measures put in place to get 55 per cent of the herd participating by 2020, an increase of 12 per cent from current participation.
She said tests should be made more flexible and relevant to niche markets.
The tests, which are continuously growing and welcome new metrics for 2015, offer a wealth of herd information on breed, longevity, performance, calving age and much more, some going back to the 1930s.
They map genetic progress by charting individual cow performance, the “foundation of all genetic improvement”, according to Graeme Gillan, NHIA chairman.
He said “substantial rationalisation” had occurred in dairy herd data in recent years, adding that two platforms now capture test centre data as opposed to five previously.
One database was expected to house the “vast majority” of data soon, added Mr Gillan.
He said: “This should see us begin to realise the immense industry benefits that we know that we should be realising from working together collaboratively instead of in separate ‘silos’.”
Explaining the “large scale overhaul" of the computer systems, Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme Chairman, Adrian Drury, said: “The new system, known as GESII, will deliver a greater level of automation, flexibility and quality control to support the evolving requirements of genetic evaluation and genomic testing.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Miller wants to see better, more visually explicit reporting and more synergy with other industry players in marketing, logistics, transport and research.
Other metrics looking at methane and fatty acid profiles may need future consideration, she added.