Have breed society members become too complacent? Have they lost hope? Do they even care about their own futures?
The Bullvine knows and understands that with the current global health crisis and the associated food supply disruptions that there is much on dairy breed society members’ minds about immediate survival and future business.
The outlook for dairy cattle farmer-breeders is often negative. On the Milk House Group and on Facebook there are comments about how breeding companies (formerly called A.I. companies) are taking over from farmer-breeders by running their own breeding herds, by having their breeding lines proprietary to themselves and by producing their own genetic evaluations.
The Bullvine wonders how breeders feel about this because we see that breed society members are not asking more of their breed organizations. More to keep them in the breeding scene. More to help breeders generate revenue from the sale of breeding stock (breed societies once did that). More action to demonstrate a ‘go-to-it’ organization as members plan for the future of their farms. More focused on the future and not repeating the past.
We here at The Bullvine care about helping dairy cattle farmer-breeders to be successful … but … do breeders themselves care?
Is It Too Late for Breed Members and Breeds?
It should never be too late. However, nothing will change in breed societies, if breed members do not act collectively and demand results.
What Can Breed Members and Breed Societies Do?
Here is a partial list of things that breed members and breed societies could do to start down the road to a successful tomorrow:
BREED MEMBERS ACTION
Future Dairy Farming
- Take time to acquaint themselves with where dairy farming will be in their region in 5 years’ time. Dairy farms will, on average, be double their current size and have considerably more technology.
- Reach out to neighbors that milk cows but do not register to find out their future service and genetic needs.
Expectations of Director
- Elect only progressive dynamic breed society directors. Boards only need to meet virtually for 3-4 hours per month so that busy directors are not taken away from their farms for days at a time. Insist that boards of directors are doing accurate visioning, setting priorities, updating policies and programs, overseeing finances and virtually reporting to breed members.
- Lead by example and genomically test all their breeding animals. Then use the genomic information in all herd improvement and service purposes – genetics, nutrition and management.
- Promote maximum data capture from breed members entire herd (cows and heifers) and ensure that all animal data reaches the national data base so that it can be used for benchmarking, genetic evaluation, research and development purposes.
- Be open to supporting ways of introducing new superior bovine genes into their breed.
BREED SOCIETY ACTIONS
- Breed purity, pretty animals and protection of animal owners’ investment must take the back seat. The front seat will be value-added services including those that related to a) animal health, welfare, feed conversion, functionality and heifer performance; and b) financial details on both a daily and lifetime basis.
- Work with breed members, all dairy farmers and industry stakeholders to research and determine breed strengths, limitations and opportunities.
Work with Others
- Takedown the walls and align, merge or collaborate with DHI’s, breeding companies, herd software providers, herd device providers, genetic evaluation centres, genomic testing organizations, cooperative milk marketing organizations, animal research centers, extension education and youth development. The farmers own the data, not the breed societies or other services that capture animal data.
- Staff and data systems are costly items. Only one national dairy animal database is needed.
- Leave behind the verified, control and only official data source approach. The future will depend on serving the needs of breed members, milk producers and industry partners. This includes governments.
- Move all breed-related services for heifers and cows into the virtual information and service age.
- Expect that funding breed societies based on registrations, genomic testing and animal transfers not to be acceptable to dairy farmers. Breeds must address the need to work with industry partners on animal traceability services (the combination of animal id, location and movement) in order to guarantee products to consumers.
- Support that all animal-related information is publishable provided the data source is identified. Farmers will decide if any or all the animal information is useful to them.
- Modernize the breed’s purposes, roles, organizational infrastructure and operations.
- Takedown the barriers by expanding the gene composition of the breed.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Dairy cattle breed societies are in the process of moving from being on life-support to becoming museums.
Without new value-added services, society members will do their voting with their chequebooks. Dairy farmers have been heard to say – “I no longer get value from registration, type classification and historic data files”. So, they will quietly stop registering, having the classifier visit and requesting performance pedigrees.
Is there an opportunity for breed societies to exist in the future? Yes … but only if they change. Performance efficiency, satisfying the consumer, viability and sustainability are today’s prime drivers of that change.
Now is the Moment of Truth. Breed societies have only two options … change or fold!