Genomic data aids farm business progress

Deciding which animals to retain for their milking herd has become easier for one south west Victorian dairy farming family.

Thanks to the addition of genomic testing, they are making better informed and more confident breeding, culling and bull selection decisions.

Ondit dairy farmers Dale and Karen Angus began genomic testing their young stock four years ago and is something that they believe will improve their business bottom-line because of its ability to improve their genetic base across their herd.

“Genomic testing helps us to make informed, data-supported decisions about who stays and who goes from a genetic perspective,” Karen said.

The final decision is based on genomic data alongside visual assessment of the animals made by Dale.

Dale and Karen milk 400 autumn calving Holsteins in a predominantly grazing system, north of Colac.

Genomic testing was introduced to the Angus family when they participated in the Dairy Australia Focus Farm program.

At the time they were intrigued by how other farmers were selecting heifers for the export market.

What began as a “casual lunchtime discussion”, became an important part of their farm and a contributing factor to their business progression.

The latter benefit is something they attribute to making more informed decisions with the genomic data they have access too.

Thanks to genomic data “taking away the guesswork,” Karen and Dale have also felt more empowered in discussions with breeding advisors.

“We’ve developed a much broader understanding of genetics, certainly this year and last year, and it has helped us make decisions about the bulls we use,” Karen said.

“We understand the data a lot more, opposed to having catalogues put in front of us. We make our own decisions. It’s our business, and at the end of the day we need to be comfortable and confident in each decision.”

The Angus’ use DataGene’s Balanced Performance Index (BPI) and consider several animal traits when selecting bulls and evaluating their heifers including fertility, milk fat and protein percentage, yield, and survival.

BPI has the “most weighting” but fertility is a close second.

“We rank them by BPI first and then look at individual traits,” Karen said.

“For us, fertility is something we are striving to improve in our herd since we started on our own seven years ago.”

Practically, this means if there was a “toss-up” between two high BPI animals, the one with the higher fertility would be selected.

They believe that the information generated by genomic testing will inform more of their breeding decisions as a higher percentage of the milking herd is tested.

“Genetics might only be a small part of our business, but it is often the one percenters that determine how profitable and sustainable our business is,” Karen said.

For more information on how genetic testing can help you make more informed decisions across your herd for improved farm productivity, visit Cow and Heifer Genomics | Dairy Australia

DataGene is an initiative of Dairy Australia and the herd improvement industry that is responsible for developing modern tools and resources to drive genetic gain and herd improvement in the Australian dairy industry, through research, development, and extension activities. DairyBio provides the research pipeline to develop and maintain Australian Breeding Values. For more information about DataGene’s Datavat tool,


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