Connecting with CDCB’s Technical Director – Ezequiel Nicolazzi

Ezequiel Nicolazzi, Technical Director for the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB), reflects on 2017 and looks ahead to developments in 2018.  This is the organization that produces genetic evaluations for the U.S. dairy herd.  It is a non-profit service organization supported by four industry segments… DHI, AI, breed associations and the DHI dairy processing centers.

What are the top three highlights of CDCB’s work in 2017?

Nicolazzi: Among the many activities of 2017, three highlights to ensure data integrity and optimal support include a new IT infrastructure, new customer service portal and quality certification for genotyping labs and genomic nominators.

In 2017, CDCB revised its whole IT infrastructure including changes to domain, email and phone systems, launch of a new website, transfer of query system, centralized backup, and increased internal and external security. This IT package was foundational for a series of applications and services developed in 2017 and those planned for 2018.

To enhance customer service, the Redmine system introduced in August allowed CDCB to track all requests, reduce response time by more than 50% and provide far-better documentation. Dairy producers receive faster, better service when issues are more easily identified and solved. CDCB will continue to develop this process in 2018.

In 2017, CDCB designed and completed a new quality certification program for genotyping labs and genomic nominators. The updated guidelines and online documentation gives a formal process to validate something CDCB has done for years: ensure the best data quality possible.

Looking ahead to 2018, what are your top three priorities?

Nicolazzi: CDCB will continue to identify new ways to improve services: from new traits delivered to the public, to new and better ways of interacting with our system. Most exciting and beneficial to producers is likely the publication of CDCB health traits in April 2018. With these new evaluations, we will also implement a simplified and improved evaluation software produced by USDA AGIL. In this framework, six new trait evaluations will be released on all animals, including results from a nationwide evaluation that has been validated globally.

The CDCB list of projects in ambitious. We will start planning and designing a complete rewrite of our query system. We will revisit the formats used to our data and continue the effort of identifying and dismiss obsolete files. We will continue evaluating and implementing the high-quality research on new traits and new evaluation methods provided by AGIL.

Another important area will be documentation. We aim to continually improve system documentation and enhance the reports shared with collaborators. Our collaborators and therefore owners of animals will have more information on conflicts, errors and solutions to ultimately obtain evaluation results in the shortest time possible.

What are the keys to maintaining and developing evaluations for health and fitness traits?

Nicolazzi: Data flow, just like any aspect of CDCB’s operation, is based on one central aspect industry collaboration. The new CDCB health traits are a perfect example of involvement from the whole industry. Dairy producers are the data providers, owners and final beneficiaries of the product. Those cooperating to collect data and provide the final evaluations to farmers include DHIAs and DRPCs, the CDCB, breed associations and AI organizations.

 

On the more technical side, health traits require enhanced data security and close collaboration with DRPCs to identify the codes used by the dairy producers to name a health issue. Such data security is the main reason the CDCB included a firewall server in April and now only allow encrypted data transfers. In 2017 the data formats for health traits were established. Being a new set of traits, we’re thoroughly revising and checking every detail of the model performance to use data in the best way possible.

The new health traits coming in April are truly a U.S. dairy industry success! Thank you to all that have cooperated in this, and our many other CDCB projects.

Editor’s note:  This interview first appeared in the December newsletter from CDCB and is published here with permission.