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Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

For some time now the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) has been working to establish a “Cooperative Agreement” with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) pertaining to the transfer of the USDA-­‐ARS dairy genetic evaluation service to the CDCB.  This has culminated in the recent release of a draft Cooperative Agreement for public comment.  The problem is that the draft lacks some of the core values that makes America great, specifically the ability for everyone to operate on a level playing field (access to information) and to be led by brave leadership driving toward a better future.

With these changes come many questions.  Some key issues follow.

Will everyone have access to the information?

Reading the agreement may require having a law degree to fully understand it.  This may be by intention, but it really doesn’t make for light reading.  Some of the language in the proposed agreement is very confusing. It talks about how the CDCB will have ownership and control of the information.  One of the reasons that the USA has been able to become the mega world power that it is was because it was founded on the belief that everyone is created equal and has equal opportunity to achieve success.  Looking at how the use of genomic information was handled in the past does not bode well for how everyone will get free access to the information.  Many smaller organizations are concerned that this will lead to a monopoly for a few A.I. studs.

The proposed wording is in stark contrast to allowing free access to the information for all those involved.  This actually causes a double edged sword.  On one side, the powers that be are limiting the small guy from competing at the same level.  However, there is also the interest about keeping much larger players, such as say Pfizer from entering.  In Canada, Pfizer is already offering genomic testing and what’s to stop them from using their many resources to use that information in new ways (read Are You Ready for Genetically Modified Cattle).

How do we maintain our integrity with breeders worldwide?

Similar to the views expressed by Greg Anderson of Seagull Bay Dairy, many breeders are concerned about the perceived integrity that comes from going away from a government organization (USDA) to a private entity.  Vice President of Holstein USA Glen Brown and Director Bill Wright also express these concerns,  Both men are also  dairy breeders and call for the need to develop  strong business plan, in the following video


While I do understand this concern, there are many examples worldwide, such as the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN), which has been able to maintain integrity and do it   without the political hurdles that come with government involvement.

One of the lessons learned from the CDN model is that you need equal representation from all parties involved, not just those who put up the most money.  CDN is majority funded by Industry and specifically A.I., but its board has equal representation from breed associations, breeders, and industry.  This is necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the organization and also to provide effective direction for the future.  One thing is for sure, it will take bold leadership through these times.  This makes me remember when Murray Hunt (Dad for disclosure sake) backed by the Canadian Genetic Evaluation Board, was facing a similar challenge in Canada. At the time he made some bold moves, hiring of Paola Rossi, and Gerald Jansen, Canadians working in Italy to do Canadian genetic evaluations, long before there was the full business plan, but rather had the agreement in principle.  Yes, this was putting the cart before the horse, but it also lead to the formation of the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).

Who pays the bills?

As Holstein USA Director and dairy breeder Leroy Eggink, points out in the video above, it has been a great scenario for US breeders having taxpayers foot the bill.  But, that gravy train is over.  In Canada when that ship sailed, it left industry footing the bill.  Since A.I. represents the most direct profitable gain from genetic evaluations, that means they are left holding the bag. Ultimately, this cost is passed on to the breeders.  And while the response comes that we pay for all the systems that track and record this information, there is still the cost to convert that raw data into actionable information (bull proofs).

The one area the CDCB needs to remember is that all costs should be expensed equally and should not play favorites with the larger A.I. centers, as happened with Genomic information.  In an interview with Ron Flatness, Flatness International, he repeatedly expressed the concerns around price for the smaller competitors and protecting against un-needed additional fees.  (Following comments are that of the writer and not Ron) Instead of higher membership fees that will limit the involvement of smaller organizations or independent breeders, all costs need to be handled equally.  One standard price per sire sampled vs. a much larger membership fees, would be fair to everyone.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Be careful what you ask for.  While many breeders want 100% free access to information, it isn’t always a good thing.  While there are many questions that still need to be answered, regarding a business plan, ownership of information and how to be as transparent as possible, I ask the question, “Is this a move to keep, not smaller players, but much larger players out of the marketplace?”

Here are some more great resources:

Dairy producers will have 29 days to comment on the Cooperative Agreement (May 7 to June 4).

If you have questions please contact any of the CDCB officers.

Contact information for USDA representatives:



  1. The ship has NOT sailed! .Just because a couple of top USDA/AIPL officials have been convinced this is the the way to go by the bull studs… to continue the control of  Genomics…it is NOT,. If they can’t do their jobs… resign and let some one else run the ship..This change will not save US taxpayers one dime!  Who would have believed… the last secret deal between USDA/AIPL and the large bull studs…simply corrupt..  We now know they cannot be trusted.

    I did NOT say anthing about fees! It should remain the same….keep them at USAD/AIPL..We are not getting $30 per # for our milk in the US, like Canada….when our govenment backs us like Canada, maybe a change is in order..but certainly not now, just to keep the few bull studs in control of Genomics. I don’t want my competitors more involved in price-fixing and monopolization.  Any breeder that wants to market semen on his own Genomicly proven bull l..should have that right…without his competitoers trying to keep him out of the market thru thousands of dollar of un-needed fees!

    • Ron,

      First I never said the mentioned increasing fees.  What we commented was the need for it to be fair to all.  I agree that everyone has the right, but with the right comes the expectation to pay for the service accordingly.  You can not expect a free ride.

      Governments are cutting expenditures all the time, and I would be shocked that they are still willing to pay for a program such as this.  These are typically the 1st to get cut not the last.  I have not seen anywhere saying this is a cost saving initiative.  Rather that it’s a transition of who has the burden to bare the cost.

      As far a secret deal goes, we have not seen and proof of that.  As far as the ownership of Genomic information, that was pretty simple, those who paid to develop the system got a moratorium on the use of it.  But that time is almost over.  Since this program was developed with government dollars, that same argument could not be made here.


      • You implied… I said that about fees… I did not. Canadian bull studs have gotten a free ride on our proving program for decades..I coudn’t get my bull proven in Canada for less than $2,500 each.

        Regarding costs…. if they are not going to save money…. why eliminate their most important program at USAD/AIPL?

        In the US we know the Genomic deal was a secret one.It was unknown to most of the AI organizations and US Holstein Assoc…. before it was done. Holstein wasn’t asked if they thought males should be excluded…. even after donating $100,000 on their members behalf !!

        WHAT…those that paid for it.  Genomics was paid for with US government money…US Hostrin Assoc and US Jersey Assoc money and the 6 US bull studs…,plus Semex (not an NAAB member) added $49,000 to join the party.They also furnished semen 10 units each on old dead bull..taxable value 20 cents each and current bulls..The smaller bull stud were not allowed to add any semen.Thus two of the best longevity trait bulls have been excluded … Dirigo Jevon and Futuraland ZADE..thus adding to more inbreeding. 

        So no nonsense please that those 7 bull stud paid for this program. The rest of us were denied entry!  I don’t think those federal empliess lost one day of salary or benefits while working on Genomics..

        If USDA wants to cut programs let them cut out some research programs like increasing production in Zebu cattle..

        Regarding government spending….they are like drunken sailors…. at leat sailors spend thei own money.. USDA recently awarded $1.2 Billion to 86,000 black farmers for past loan difficulties and reparations.There aren’t 86,000 black farmers in the US..

        • Ron,
          The reason you could not get your bull proven in Canada for less than $2,500 is because we don’t provide a free ride.  That is the fees that all A.I. centers or Breeders who want to prove their bulls must pay.  It is fair and equal to all.  While you perceive your current system as being free, ultimately someone is paying the bill, US taxpayer in this case. Is it not fair for those who benefit from the service, pay for the service? Is that not the job of responsible government?

          I agree the genomic issue was not handled cleanly, hence why I named this article what I did.  I wanted to point out that everything needs to be fair and transparent.  The big issue with all of this is not cost, but rather transparency.  If it is not handled in a transparent way, they of course there should be issues.  However, if everything is handled in a transparent way, and is fair and equitable to all parties involved, what really is the issue?


          P.S. As far as the the aforementioned approval of $1.2 billion for 86,000 black farmers, I am not touching that one with a 10 foot pole.

          • First no one is giving us a free ride… breeders and small bull studs also pay for production and type information,including SETS  .ALL….US taxpayers pay for for this information…we want some services for our money..just not sometimes useless research.. USDA is needed for more than just handing out food stamps..the biggest part of their budget. Someone must help the US food producers as well.

            Transparency is not the main issue now…95% of the US breeders don’t know a thing about this. Some might have heard it is about trying to save the government money….it is NOT.

            When we had US Assoc.Holstein forums in NY and PA recently…hardly anyone(including the top most informed breeders).. knew a thing about this topic and were appalled when they heard the facts..

            Things like this get past thru all the time. When it’s too late many complain…sorrry!..

            Thank you Andrew for this important article and to  the top breeders  you interviewed….some are on the US Holstein board. They know about this and we appreciate their is needed..

          • Ron,
            One thing I have found very interesting is how little talk this has been getting (in the past) for such a major issue.  You would think more breeders and breed associations would be raising their concerns.

          • One thing is evident from the comments about the very controversial $1.2.Billion class action lawsuit for 86,000 US black farmers,, Pigford  vs Glickman, Clinton’s Secr of Agr…see it on Wikipedia  .The USDA can …successfully be sued. for wrongdoing. Breeders you might want to remember that.

    •  Ron,
      Also not you mention about the $30 per hundred weight that Canada gets. That is not actually the case, and even it it was, you need to remember that Canadian producers also have to put up the equality to purchase quota.  If you work the math you will realize that the premium CDN breeders receive pretty much just covers the cost to finance the quota. To read more on this check out Does Canada’s Quota System Give Breeders an Advantage? (


  2. Dairy Breeders, Take responsibility for your industry!

    Having been a participant in the swine industry, I believe the dairy industry needs to take responsibility for there genetic improvements. The beef, poultry and swine industries have made tremendous genetic improvements by doing for themselves. Granted, the poultry and swine industries have gone by the way of company genetics as a whole the beef industry has not. The beef industry has taken genetic improvement upon themselves for the betterment of individual breeds and for greater market share by providing a better product for consumers.

    In an era of genomics, do we as an industry need to continue to utilize programs of past in developing proofs? If an industry is not transparent, they will not exist, remember the breeder proven bulls of the past? My question as a Jersey breeder, how do we develop genetics that provides a superior product for processing efficiencies and consumer demand? That is our real challenge in a Global protein market. As I read the concerns of individual breeders, maybe as an industry we need to have a different perspective. Private breeders need to focus on how provide a product for today’s commercial dairyman that will generate financial success.

    Please “Look Over the Fence”. In the poultry industry individual breeders are gone and in the swine industry only a few private breeders exist.

    Tim Klaustermeier
    Prairie Harbour Jerseys

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