National Dairy Herd Information Association (DHIA) presented Philip “Phil” Dukas, Raleigh, N.C., with the Joachim-Wilson Leadership Award. Dukas recently retired from Dairy Records Management Systems (DRMS) after serving the organization as the director of software development.
Raised a “city kid” in Washington, D.C., Dukas “fell in love with the dairy cow” after embarking on his bachelor’s degree at Virginia Tech University. “There’s something special about the dairy industry. It’s a great community that’s cohesive and forward thinking,” he said.
Lacking a dairy farm background, Dukas’ college adviser encouraged him to seek an on-farm position following college graduation. He landed a job with a 160-cow dairy in Central Virginia. In that role, he discovered Dairy Herd Improvement (DHI) records. “The discipline of recording and analyzing the dairy’s records led to continuous herd improvement,” he said.
After leaving the Virginia dairy, Dukas worked at Virginia DHIA and then managed Pennsylvania DHIA. Those state DHIA positions prepared him for his next roles at National DHIA where he worked for 14 years, finishing as CEO.
Next, Dukas contracted with NorthStar DHI Services and its artificial insemination partner NorthStar Select Sires (these organizations are now part of CentralStar Cooperative, Inc.) as the two cooperatives integrated their business units. At that time, he also developed PocketDairy, a handheld farm management program.
For the last 19 years, Dukas worked at DRMS and directed the software development team and managed data operations. “Today, DRMS processes about 50 percent of the nation’s cows,” he said. “I’m proud to have played a part in that growth.”
When Dukas started in the dairy business more than 40 years ago, about 25 percent of U.S. cows were on DHI test; today, that number is about 50 percent. “The milk data industry has continued to grow and be strong,” said Dukas. “The strong commitment to DHI testing and records analysis have contributed significantly to (dairy cattle) genetic progress.”
Dukas continued, “Studies show that DHI-tested herds, on average, have more than a 1,300 -pound (per cow per year) advantage over non-DHI herds. Genetics and DHI testing are the big drivers in this advantage. Dairy producers and consumers benefit from these two entities working together.”
In addition, genetic advancement and records analyses helped the dairy industry achieve better resource utilization. For example, the carbon footprint of DHI herds per unit of milk harvested is 15 percent less than non-DHI herds.
During retirement, Dukas has become passionate about the area of kidney disease. Capitalizing on his data analysis expertise, he is using benchmarking and longitudinal and comparative analysis skills to help advance kidney disease prevention, treatment and control. “Many areas in medicine are not as advanced as DHI. I plan to apply DHI approaches for management with the goal of reducing kidney disease,” said Dukas.
National DHIA, a trade association for the dairy records industry, serves the best interests of its members and the dairy industry by maintaining the integrity of dairy records and advancing dairy information systems.