The U.S. Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding held an open forum on Feb. 25, the day before the opening of the Western Dairy Management Conference in Reno, Nev. Entitled “Genomic Revolution: The Next 10 Years,” the session attracted 150 producers and industry participants. The program included a quick look back at how genomics have changed the cattle breeding industry and several speakers who offered predictions for the future.
CDCB CEO João Dürr opened the day with a challenge to the crowd: “A lot of data generated on farms today is not being collected into the national cooperative database. We have a choice to make – will we, or will we not, marry the new tools of big data with the legacy systems of data collection for genetic evaluations.”
Veterinarian and consultant Dr. Jack Britt, PhD, in a wide-ranging talk looked ahead to dairy and the dairy cow in 2029. He predicts cows will be “gene based” rather an “breed based,” with breeding lines for cattle genetically engineered with health and productivity traits aimed at market conditions and locality as global dairy production expands.
University of Wisconsin dairy economist Dr. Mark Stephenson showed where milk is being produced and where the people are, noting that by 2020, two-thirds of milk produced in the U.S. will be from herds with 1000 cows or more.
“Improved efficiency in milk production per cow is the most persistent and relentless trend,” he said and sees no signs of that changing.
These three speakers joined two dairy producers for a panel discussion – Pat Maddox is a partner on RuAnn Dairy in California and Denton Ross is an owner of Arizona Dairy Company near Phoenix. The dairymen are using genomic testing for evaluating their heifers and within herd IVF along with sexed semen on top end. They look forward to incorporating health traits and feed efficiency into their genetic selection going forward.
After the lunch break, two more speakers were joined by two producers for a panel. Miel Hostens, DVM from Ghent University in Belgium, predicted that the trends and technology of “big data” are coming to dairy.
Cameron Holbrook is the head of agribusiness development at Amazon. He grew up on a northern Utah grain farm, graduated from Utah State and began his career at John Deere. At Amazon, he leads the group that is looking for opportunities to invest in agriculture. He described the management style at Amazon which puts a premium on rapid innovation and disruption. He explained that the near- term use of big data in ag will be to generate a predictive response for the user, rather than simply analysis.
For a panel discussion, these two were joined by Austin Hyde of Heglar Creek Dairy in Idaho and Mark Rodgers, MVT Polled Holsteins in Vermont.
The afternoon program was completed by the audience breaking into discussion groups, each coordinated by a moderator, considering four questions around big data. What are the alternatives if the industry does not move to big data analytics in a collaborative manner? What is the role for producers and what do they expect in return? What should be CDCB’s role and the role of its members – AI, DHI, and breeds? Who else should be involved? And finally, what are the steps to take to move in that direction.
- Vision: How does dairy look in 2029?, by Jack Britt, PhD
- Genomic Legacy: What have we achieved in the genomic revolution? Paul VanRaden, PhD, USDA AGIL
- What has changed in the dairy business since 2009? Mark Stephenson, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Transforming Big Data into Value: Put Data to Work for Your Dairy, Miel Hostens, DVM, Ghent University