During the past year, the U.S. genetics community identified a challenge and came together to create a solution that will benefit breeders of Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, and Milking Shorthorn genetics. We applaud the Dairy Breed Improvement Collaboration initiative and want to do our part to share more details.

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB), which calculates U.S. genetic evaluations, is largely funded by fees assessed when genomic tests are run on males and females. The largest $800 fee takes place when a domestic bull is declared active for A.I. service. The fee, which is twentyfold higher than the charges for females, can more easily be absorbed by owners of Holstein and Jersey bulls due to the sheer population size and market potential as these two breeds garner over 95% of semen sales.

The same case could not always be made for the other breeds. Hence, some bull owners would pass on paying the $800 fee. Bypassing that fee has had a devastating impact on breed improvement as those bulls were not enrolled in the National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) cross-reference database and the NAAB code was not linked to that bull. The cross-reference system is a critical link for phenotypic data to flow through the Dairy Herd Information (DHI) system and into the CDCB database. Hence, precious data was lost forever.

With full support of CDCB’s four member sectors — DHI, NAAB, the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association (PDCA), and the Dairy Records Processing Centers (DRPCs) — Ayrshire, Brown Swiss, and Guernsey bulls declared active for A.I. service are now eligible for a reduced $400 fee (Milking Shorthorns would become eligible when the breed starts genomic evaluations). That’s a 50% savings. In return, the four breed associations agreed that A.I. bulls have to be genotyped in order to be registered. Progeny of an A.I. bull can only be registered if the sire is enrolled in the NAAB cross-reference program, and the bull’s dam and sire need to be registered and have a DHI record.

These aforementioned breeds still have one hurdle to pass because of their smaller population size, as larger data streams drive accuracy in genomic predictions. However, the economic hurdle has been greatly reduced for these four breeds.

We urge everyone to play by these new incentivized rules and focus on moving breed improvement forward. For those who think they can slip by on the reduced $400 fee, a $1,000 late fee awaits along with the loss of the right to genotype males. We applaud the many carrots in this new plan and hope the stick can stay in the shed.