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CDCB Connection                                     February 2020
Click for the detailed 2020 schedule of CDCB data deadlines and evaluation releases.

Revised article on 2020 base change

Numbers for Holstein conformation traits were revised in the complete article on 2.21.2020. Revisions reflect updated Holstein Association USA requirements to determine which cows born in 2015 met criteria for inclusion.

April 2020: Genetic Base Changes

The base for U.S. genetic evaluations will be updated, effective with the April 7, 2020, triannual evaluations. Milking cows born in 2015 define the new base, and their PTAs will be set back to zero with the April evaluations.

Because gains were made across five years for most traits, most PTAs will be lowered by the amount shown in Table 1 in the complete article (rev 2.21.2020). A note of caution, Table 1 does not reflect the precise changes coming because all will be recalculated before the April 2020 run using more complete and current data.

Genetic Progress of the Past Five Years

  • Favorable gains are shown for 81 of the 102 traits (excluding conformation), while 18 were unfavorable.
  • The most important traits (all lifetime merit indexes) showed genetic improvement for all the breeds; the largest gains were for Holsteins, Jerseys and Ayrshires.
  • Genetic gains were made in all three yield traits (milk, fat, protein) for all breeds. Gains were particularly impressive for Holsteins and Jerseys.
  • Unfortunately, 13 of the 18 fertility estimates showed unfavorable changes over the five years; only Holsteins improved for all three traits.
  • Resistance against diseases in Holsteins improved for five of the six traits.
  • PTAs increased for 80 of the 90 breed conformation traits, which indicates that selection has been for the higher scores. The 10 traits with PTAs that did not increase were ones that had an intermediate optimum.

Impact of Genomics
The genomic revolution initiated in 2008 brought an increase in the rate of genetic improvement, primarily due to a reduction in the generation interval. A small portion of genomic benefits would have been revealed in the previous base change for cows born in 2010, but the current update will reflect all benefits from genomics achieved from 2010 to 2015.

The Bottom Line
Advocates for improving sustainability and eliminating world hunger should be amazed to see the changes in productivity in U.S. dairy. Greenhouse gases are being reduced per unit of product because of greater production per animal. We are seeing significant improvements in the animals’ appearance and health as well.


Click here for the article and tables (rev. 2.21.2020)

Jersey Health Traits Arriving in April

Genetic evaluations to strengthen Jersey cows’ resistance to health disorders will be delivered on April 7, 2020. These CDCB evaluations are derived from Jersey data recorded in Dairy Herd Information (DHI) herds – thanks to a concerted industry effort and support of American Jersey Cattle Association to transfer more Jersey health data to the national collaborators’ database.

These new genomic evaluations will help alleviate six costly health conditions in Jersey cows to help build resistance against displaced abomasum, milk feverketosis, mastitis, metritis and retained placenta – the same traits introduced for Holsteins in April 2018.                             

Highlights of disease resistance in Jerseys:

  • Frequencies of the six disorders vary considerably as 10.4% of recent lactations included a code for clinical mastitis, while only 1.3 and 1.2% had a code for displaced abomasum and milk fever. (Refer to Table 1 in full article.)
  • Average resistance rate to mastitis, for example, in U.S. Jerseys is defined as 89.6% (100% minus mastitis incident rate of 10.4%).
  • Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) will be the predicted daughter difference for resistance above or below the Jersey breed average. The larger the positive values, the more favorable the genetic resistance to the disorder.

The U.S. dairy herd will be healthier as we incorporate disease resistance into breeding programs. Today’s food customers and consumers are paying attention and even requesting assurances of animal health. 

Click for complete article.

Welcome Gerald Jansen to CDCB

CDCB welcomes Dr. Gerald Jansen, who will provide consultancy on software development and data analytics. Gerald is an animal breeder and software developer with tremendous experience in global dairy genetics, genomics and bioinformatics. He previously served the Italian Holstein association and the Canadian Dairy Network, and then was associate professor of dairy cattle genetics at the University of Guelph. More recently as a private consultant, he has provided specialized software development services to global cattle breeding companies, breed associations and the Interbull Center in Sweden.

Gerald is happiest working behind the scenes on the computational aspects of genetic improvement services, seeking to develop efficient, streamlined and sustainable systems for data management. He is excited about this collaboration with CDBC, to apply new techniques to manage huge volumes of data and to engage in the dynamic spirit he sees at CDCB.

In The News
VanRaden Inducted into USDA Hall of Fame

Dr. Paul VanRaden has earned the prestigious honor of induction into the Science Hall of Fame for the Agriculture Research Service (ARS), USDA’s in-house research arm. Dr. VanRaden is senior research geneticist with USDA AGIL, a vital collaborator with CDCB in delivering world-leading dairy genetic evaluations. The Hall of Fame will officially recognize Dr. VanRaden on April 14, 2020, for “development and implementation of genomic prediction methodology that revolutionized animal breeding and advanced genetic progress for economically important traits of animals and plants worldwide.”
“Paul is the first scientist from AGIL – or AIPL previously – to receive this prestigious honor,” stated Dr. John B. Cole, Acting Research Leader at USDA AGIL. “There’s no question that Paul richly deserves Hall of Fame status, standing among peers at USDA who have made tremendous contributions to research and improvement of agriculture worldwide.”
USDA AGIL = United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory, AIPL = Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory

U.S. Leaders Engaged in Interbull Planning

The U.S. was well-represented at an Interbull strategic planning meeting in Uppsala, Sweden, on January 23-24, 2020, with participants João Dürr, CDCB CEO; Gordon Doak, U.S. representative to the Interbull Steering Committee; and Jay Mattison, President of International Committee for Animal Recording.
Interbull works with organizations around the world – such as the CDCB – that compute national genetic and genomic evaluations. A key Interbull service involves receiving national evaluations, blending them with comparable evaluations from other countries, and returning higher reliability blended evaluation data to the participating country.

Dürr Advocates for Dairy Genomic Research Priorities

João Dürr, CDCB CEO, presented the dairy industry perspective on the USDA Blueprint for Animal Genome Research during the USDA Genomic Blueprint Workshop in San Diego, Calif., in January, in conjunction with the Plant and Animal Genome XXVIII Conference. The audience included scientists, along with those who fund agriculture research. Dürr demonstrated the need and opportunity for specific research to improve dairy genetics and advance key USDA priorities, such as optimizing animal production through precision breeding and management, reducing the effects of animal disease, applying precision technologies to animal phenotyping and training the next generation of animal scientists.

FFAR: A Key Collaborator for Dairy Herd Improvement

Javier Burchard, CDCB Innovation Director, attended the “Foster our Future” event organized by The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR) on February 5. The program included a series of pop-up presentations, panel discussions, and speeches by policymakers and food and agriculture scientists, centered on regenerative and carbon sequestering agriculture practices to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Developing Goals.

FFAR and USDA leaders emphasized the potential within agriculture to offset the negative effects of greenhouse gas emissions and the synergy between the private and public sectors to make meaningful impact. Another highlight was the pivotal role of USDA science-based contributions to solve global animal health challenges, advance data value and promote policies around innovation.

FFAR awarded a $1 million grant in mid-2019 to Michigan State University to improve dairy cow feed efficiency, which could improve farmer profitability and substantially reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the dairy industry. CDCB is proud to co-sponsor this initiative through a matching grant to fund research and measure feed intake and sensor data at four universities and USDA AGIL, which is crucial to release U.S. genetic evaluations for feed efficiency in later 2020.

At FFAR’s Foster our Future event, Former Vice President Al Gore (right), and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI, left) promoted that utilizing agricultural land to sequester carbon – along with reducing emissions – could prove to be a significant tool for mitigating climate adaptation. Gore suggested that is possible to imagine a day when farmers receive payments for the carbon they have sequestered in their soil. Stabenow is Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

In Memoriam

CDCB extends sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of two dairy genetic leaders who recently passed away.
Dr. Ronald Dean Plowman passed away peacefully on February 6, 2020, at the age of 91. After earning degrees from Utah State University and University of Minnesota, Dean Plowman began his USDA career in 1956, conducting genetic research at USDA AIPL’s Dairy Cattle Research Branch in Beltsville, Maryland, where his work focused on improving milk production in dairy cows through selective breeding. Dr. Plowman served as research leader (1966-1969) before returning to his home state of Utah for work with ARS and Utah State University. In 1988, he was recruited back to the ARS as Administrator. Dr. Plowman was a prolific research scientist, responsible for the USDA National Program of Sire and Cow Evaluations, and he continued coauthoring research studies with AIPL scientists into the 1990’s. View Dr. Plowman’s obituary and express condolences here.
Dr. Jeff Berger, faculty member in the Animal Breeding and Genetics group at Iowa State University, passed away February 11 from complications of ALS at the age of 76. Dr. Berger was a dairy cattle quantitative geneticist honored with several awards including the J.L Lush Award in Animal Breeding and Genetics from the American Dairy Science Association in 2008. For 38 years, he taught graduate students and conducted research in Dairy Cattle Breeding. Dr. Berger is renowned for facilitating the national calving ease evaluation at Iowa State from 1978-1999 and conducting preliminary evaluations of stillbirth before both trait datasets were transferred to USDA and later to CDCB. Find details and Dr. Berger’s obituary here.
USDA AIPL = United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory; USDA ARS = Agricultural Research Service

Nominator and Laboratories Workshop: May 14

CDCB will host the 4th annual Genomic Nominator and Laboratory Workshop on Thursday, May 14, near Baltimore, Md. Watch for information from Jose Carrillo and Kaori Tokuhisa at CDCB.

Connecting with Lloyd Holterman

This month, CDCB connects with Lloyd Holterman, owner of Rosy-Lane Holsteins, Watertown, Wis., and the first Chair of the new Producers Advisory Committee. This committee was founded by the CDCB Board of Directors in August 2019 to help ensure that dairy producers have consistent and thoughtful input into the strategy, priorities and future opportunities for U.S. dairy genetic improvement.
Joining Holterman as the inaugural members of the Producers Advisory Committee are Kent Buttars, Lewiston, Utah; Patrick Crave, Waterloo, Wis.; Brent Czech, Rice, Minn.; and Matt Hendel of Caledonia, Minn. These five producers were selected based on their demonstrated leadership and commitment to the improvement of the dairy industry.
What is the role of the Producer Advisory Committee?
Holterman: The Producer Advisory Committee (PAC) aims to keep the CDCB board apprised of current trends on cow profitability and conditions at the farm level. And, our group gives input and opinions about including new traits in formulas. As end users of the information, farmers should be at the table to help develop relevant data. We have had our first meeting, and discussion among our committee and board members was productive. I hope more will be forthcoming as we move ahead.
What input was given to the Board and staff from the first meeting?
In general, dairy farmers are not aware of what CDBC is and does, or how CDCB affects them. Our committee gave input on productive life, feed efficiency, daughter pregnancy rate, and overall cow longevity and health. Frequency of base changes was also reviewed.
What are top priorities for CDCB to support dairy producers, in your opinion?
I believe CDCB should update formulas more often with current data to provide relevant information for farmers to succeed, by recognizing the latest genetic trends and their impact on profitability at the farm level.

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