Feb. 13 2012 01:34 PM

There are now two options on the table for a new structure to carry out genetic evaluations.

In recent weeks, the silence following the October 2011 gathering of the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) was broken when Dave Thorbahn shared a Frequently Asked Questions article with the dairy community. It represents the first publicly produced document this year from any member of the CDCB's Dairy Data Business Development Committee.

As a member of that committee, Thorbahn, who also is president and chief executive officer of Select Sires, shares his perspective on CDCB work up until this point. You may read his original letter along with the fourth version of the Frequently Asked Questions document. Both can be found at: www.hoards.com/IB_CDCB-FAQs

We appreciate his proactive approach on this matter. As the project progresses, we hope the entire committee will come together and develop a FAQ sheet and share any documents, along with concrete proposals that will shepherd the dairy genetic industry's long-term future.

On another related subject, Holstein Association USA presented an alternative plan for future genetic evaluations on February 7. In all, nearly 30 leaders gathered in Rosemont, Ill., to hear a discussion led by four, full-time dairy producer members of the Holstein Association USA board of directors. The discussion included a mix of organizations, some organizations that have been involved with CDCB discussions since the beginning, and others that have not had a seat at the table up until this point.

It is difficult to draw a direct comparison between the Holstein Association USA and CDCB proposals because publicly disseminated details on the CDCB plan are hard to gather. However, there does appear to be some key differences based on what we have heard verbally. They may include:
  • What specific organizations will serve as gatekeepers of dairy-producer generated data
  • What organization or organizations will actually conducts the evaluations
  • The extent to which dairy records processing centers (DRPCs) and other allied industry organizations can be involved
  • The recognition for the value of phenotypic data (production, type, and health) and recalibration of genomic evaluations
At this point, Holstein Association USA has given PowerPoints of their presentation to those who attended the meeting.

As our industry moves forward, there appears to be four options that have varying degrees of likelihood. We will keep you posted as they unfold. The options include:
  • Publicly vet out and approve a CDCB-led plan
  • Publicly vet out and approve the Holstein proposal
  • Develop a hybrid of the CDCB and Holstein proposal
  • And the least likely option, work with elected national leaders to secure new funding to keep genetic evaluations at USDA
How do we move forward? To open the lines of communication with the entire dairy producer community, we suggest the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding update their website to make any related materials available. To date, the communication that has come from the group has been sporadic and not consolidated in one place.

As genetic industry leaders work through this process, it is a monumental one to say the least. In 1917, Hoard's Dairyman was the dominating influence in the founding of the herd test, proven sires, and the brood cow research program conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has served our industry well for a century.

Any new structure must continue to benefit our entire industry, must be thoroughly and publicly debated, and, finally, shared with all stakeholders before it is approved. At the end of the day, no dairy farmer wants our industry's genetic future to follow that of swine or poultry which have little to no grassroots breeders providing genetics to the commercial sector.