dairy cow

Reviewing dairy breeding objectives for Australia

The Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) is reviewing the National Breeding Objective (NBO) in Australia's dairy industry and in doing so, working with AbacusBio to determine the best path for future progress.

ADHIS is charged with maintaining the national database of performance and pedigree records, and providing genetic evaluation and extension services (amongst other things) for the Australian dairy industry.

They are looking for guidance from dairy farmers on what makes a functional and profitable cow, suited for Australian production systems. The NBO underpins the selection indexes used to rank bulls and cows for breeding.

In Australia, the selection index that helps farmers to make their decisions is the Australian Profit Ranking (APR). 

AbacusBio has been working with ADHIS to gather views and priorities of dairy farmers. During March and April, farmers from around Australia completed a 1000Minds® survey that asked them how they select bulls, feed their cows and what traits they regard as important.

Michelle Axford, of ADHIS, said that “understanding what traits farmers see as important for dairy cow performance, efficiency, and profitability would help guide further economic analysis and selection index development work”.

Dairy farms in Australia have diverse feeding systems and calving patterns, due in part to the variable climate within the states where dairy cows are farmed.

Michelle said that “establishing whether there are differences in trait improvement priorities for different feeding and calving systems, is one of the key outcomes of the survey”. Thirteen traits were included in the survey, including production, health, and type traits.

As well as analysing the survey data, AbacusBio works with ADHIS and Australian geneticists on economic analyses, to calculate economic values in the NBO.

The outcome of this work is that the NBO and final formulation of the associated selection index will rank cows and bulls to reflect the priorities of Australian dairy farmers.

Ultimately, breeding objectives and indexes set the direction of genetic improvement for the industry. The formulation of the APR will also lead to more informed decisions and increased profitability for Australian dairy farmers in the future.

An animation outlining Australia's new breeding indices has recently been released. 

Watch the YouTube video on Australia's new breeding indices 

Watch the YouTube video on 30 Years of Australian Breeding Values 

View the National Breeding Objective - Final Short Report