Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the future of the dairy breeding industry. New technology, new information and new organizations are entering the industry at record rates. The problem is that along with all the changes there is also concern about who is leading these changes and protecting the interests of the average breeder. One of the ongoing battles is the one surrounding the production and publication of US genetic evaluations. The recent development of the Council for Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) has sparked a war between CDCB and Holstein USA over access to information. Both sides are threatening to take their toys and go home.
”He who controls the information controls the world.”
Is anyone even considering the answer to the question, “Who does the information belong to?” As we wrote back in March of 2012 the conflict is over who will have control of the information. (Read more: Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?) Now more than 2 years later this battle is coming to a head. Rumors suggest that Holstein USA is threatening that they won’t share type data with CDCB/USDA because they are not in support of positions and actions being taken at CDCB and are even considering producing their own genetic evaluations for production in addition to the evaluations they currently do for type. Now let’s be clear. Up until this point Holstein USA has cooperated fully in the exchange of data. However, they have been very upfront about their concerns regarding material licensing agreements (MLAs) and the usage of Holstein data.
Enemy at the gates
When you consider that larger and larger corporations have now started to enter into the dairy genetics marketplace, whoever has access to the information will have the power. If these new players get instant free access to this information, what does that mean to breeders? I would guess that it would not be positive to seed stock producers or to those who market and sell dairy cattle genetics that has already seen significant decline in their animal values.(Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013, Who Killed The Market For Good Dairy Cattle? and Is There Still Going To Be A Market For Purebred Dairy Cattle In 10 Years?) You see the big nasty label should not be applied to the AI companies but rather to multinational supply companies. That is the enemy I think the large AI companies are most threatened by. Not the smaller AI organizations taking market share but rather these significantly larger corporations that have the resources to squash the large AI companies like a bug.
Imperfect Track Record
Now let’s say that USDA’s recent track record leaves some questions in many breeders’ minds. Their decision to restrict breeders’ rights to genomic test their own bulls for a period of time certainly raised the ire of many. Now the heated debate includes the formation of CDCB comprised of Breeds, DHI and AI (each with 3 seats on the board). There doesn’t appear to be any apparent savings and no intention to reduce the USDA budget as a result of this decision. And with the makeup of the board, it is felt that it is controlled by NAAB and the large AI organizations.
Once again this has me asking who exactly controls the information.
Holstein USA has been very vocal about stating that they have their members’ best interests at heart. I respect that. However I also see the other viewpoint that points out that this is the same information that members have paid for and yet they don’t get free access to it as in other countries. Moreover, the limited amount of information that they do get access to comes with additional charges. In the US is costs $8US to register a calf, in Canada it costs $9 CDN to register a calf. Considering the exchange values these are about the same expense. Though in Canada all information is then made publicly available to all. In the US everyone has to pay an additional $3US per animal in order to get that information. So does Holstein USA really have their members interests at heart? Or are they driven by their own survival and pocket book? This is why the relevance of breed associations and programs like type classification are becoming key issues for many breeders. (Read more: What is the Role of a Dairy Cattle Breed Association? and She Ain’t Pretty – She Just Milks That Way!)
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Am I saying that I am in full support of CDCB’s actions? No. It seems to be heavily weighted against breeders and towards the interest of the larger AI companies. I am most concerned that breeders have access to information. As more and more AI companies get into owning females and developing of their own bloodlines, the very livelihood of seed stock producers is threatened (Read more: Should A.I. Companies Own Females?, Why Good Business for AI Companies Can Mean Bad Business For Dairy Breeders, and What the Experts Won’t Tell You about the Future of the A.I. Industry). So I understand why Holstein USA should be concerned. The majority of the membership, and especially those at the board level, is made up of these very seed stock producers. So if they were truly concerned about these breeders, why don’t them allow them access to all the information? It’s not about control. It’s about breeders’ success. Nobody wins if infighting prevents progress.