The Winds of Change Are Blowing…Hard


Services in the dairy cattle improvement industry have been gradually expanding since WW II. Three main areas have fueled that growth: (1) program participation levels; (2) usage of top sires; and (3) the evolving uses made of data. Almost every dairy producing country in the world has developed an industry organization infrastructure involving breeds, milk recording, artificial insemination, and genetic evaluation centers.

Yet, today in 2016, breeders can be divided into two groups – those who think the industry organization infrastructure of the past will continue to evolve and those who feel that significant industry organization infrastructure changes are necessary. Which of those two groups are you supporting or leading?

Current Model Livestock Improvement Model

The dairy cattle improvement industry that we have today has been built on person-to-person service that involves mandatory third party verification. These services usually include fees that are 60% – 70% used for employee wages and travel. Official registration certificates, official independent animal evaluators, official third party DHI supervisors, breed, approved A.I. technicians, …. almost everything depends on service by human hands and authentication by human eyes.

Well, that must be overseen by authorities approach is wearing thin on breeders who are required to pay for those costs. It is especially irritating to milk production focused breeders. We hear more and more breeders questioning their associations, co-ops, and societies on the reasons for having services that they no longer need and are not willing to pay for or subsidize such as registration certificates, breed marketing, hard copy print and magazines, field and club officer staff, A.I. arm service and DHI supervisor visits. For many breeders these services already considered as practices from the past.

In the future, improvement services must be based on ease, accuracy, need for the information and contribution to decision-making. A business approach for all services must prevail.

Past Growth Industry Growth

In the twentieth century investment from outside agriculture often fueled dairy improvement industry growth.  Herds like Montvic, Curtis, Carnation, Romandale and Hanover Hill in North America purchased top animals for their herds, thereby giving the initial owners financial reward for their efforts. It goes beyond that. Thousands of animals were shipped from Europe and North America to new homes abroad. That continues today but to a much lesser extent as some regions in Asia are still building their dairy herds.

Revenue from animals and semen exported, in the past, built new at both the farm and the industry levels.

Times Have Changed

The farm business model where significant revenue must come from off-farm animal and genetic sales is under considerable pressure. Well, in fact, seed stock sales are already a thing of the past for the majority of breeders in most countries. Revenue from springing heifer sales now barely covers the cost of raising them (Read more: Who Killed The Market For Good Dairy Cattle? and Is There Still Going To Be A Market For Purebred Dairy Cattle In 10 Years?). Animal improvement service providers counting on breeders garnering added off-farm income because of their services are in for big time wake-up calls. Animal and herd improvement services must return increased on-farm profit if breeders are expected to continue usage of them.

Tomorrow’s Realities for Services

There will be fast-paced advancement in all aspects of dairying. Improvement services and industry organization infrastructure will need to adjust to:

  • Big Data, where alliances between service providers exist for benefit of all
  • More in-depth DNA analysis for many more traits
  • Gene Editing where the best or new bovine genes will be prominent in breeds (Read more: Gene Editing – Is It The End of Dairy Breeding?)
  • Data captured totally by computers, cameras, drones and other on-farm equipment
  • Data source labeling for user awareness (eliminating the need for third-party verification)
  • Expanded data for wellness, disease, immunity, environment, nutrition and reproduction
  • 24-7 animal monitoring from birth to departure from the herd (24-7 means complete accuracy)
  • Consumers requiring verified nutrient content along with healthy and safe milk products
  • Additional service providers with new technologies
  • …. and much more

Possibilities for Future Infrastructure

Each year the world is a smaller place, and the pace of change is speeding up for dairy cattle improvements as it is for all aspects of our lives.  Services must be based on needs, not tradition. Here are a few ideas, challenges and opportunities that organizations will have before them as it relates to animal improvement organization infrastructure.

  • Global animal identification, parentage verification, and animal movement
  • Global dairy cattle databases for improvement services including research and development
  • International protocols for DNA analysis and indexing as well as for gene editing
  • Alliances between cooperatives and private companies for content and uses of animal information
  • Moving from total control by one organization to shared control and availability of services and data by multiple organizations
  • Disconnecting from current partners that are not prepared to change their operations and/or services
  • Organizations with proprietary services conducting traditional improvement services (i.e. genetic evaluations and linking genetic indexes to proprietary service data.)
  • Application of new technologies to reduce organization overhead costs and program service fees
  • ….. and many more

Leadership For Change

Breeders in cooperatives need to elect directors that have relevance, vision, leadership and communication skills. We’ve always done it that way or only following what was successful for a previous generation of breeders will not cut it anymore. Agents for change within and between organizations need to be supported by Boards, staff, and breeders.

What will it mean for YOU?

Depending on who you are (breeder, organization director, organization administrator, developer of new services, …., etc.) changes in industry organization infrastructure could range from very little effect to meaning a big deal for you. If you are a leader, you will be faced with or have the opportunity to lead fast-paced advancement on how organizations work with each other.

Will Our Current Dairy Improvement Infra-Structure Crumble?

No.     If long-term vision, cooperation and a what’s best for breeders’ approach are applied by organizations.

Yes.    If the procrastinators, control or don’t change breeders or organizations rule the day.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For certainty, it is a matter of not if, but when changes in the dairy cattle improvement industry organization infrastructure occur. Attitude to advancement will shape the future for both breeders and their organizations. Breeders will need state-of-the-art animal and herd improvement services. The vision and actions of breeder and industry leaders are critical. Advancement will occur even if current organizations do not adopt and adapt the future technologies and systems.

 

 

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