Genomic testing for profitable farm management decisions

Genomic testing is helping lead Australian dairy farmers to reduce heifer rearing costs, increase livestock trading profits and make confident breeding decisions.

According to  financial and farm analysis reports commissioned by Dairy Australia, investment in Genomics is laying the foundation for sustainable businesses.

These reports profiled three, long-term profitable dairy farms, highlighting the value they derived from genomic testing and how information from the DNA of their animals is being used to make management decisions.

South East Queensland dairy farmer Paul Roderick employs genomic testing to guide his use of sexed and beef semen. This breeding strategy will assist Paul to phase-out bobby calves while also reducing heifer rearing costs within his family business that milks 220-370 cows year-round. “Our herd turnover rate is about a third a year and that has a lot to do with animal health, dealing with hot weather and wet summers,” Paul said. “If we can breed a better, more functional cow,  we could see that rate reduce. Retaining 10 less heifers each year would save the Rodericks over $20,000. This saving in rearing costs, helps offset the cost of genomic testing of the Rodericks’ calves. “It’s just like a built-in practice now. I don’t see it as a cost, I see it as a part of doing business.”

West Gippsland Holstein breeders Megan and Barry Coster started genomic testing seven years ago and now use the data it generates for a range of business purposes.  Milking 700 cows, the Costers rely on genomic test results to double check the parentage of calves and they view this technology as insurance for their large, registered herd. Barry and Megan examine the genomic results of their bulls, searching for good bulls with high Australian Breeding Values for calving ease.

Genomics is also one of the tools they use to determine which 220 heifers they should keep as replacements, out of the 350 they rear each year.  Primarily the Costers select heifers that have genomic results indicating a high Balanced Performance Index (BPI) and meet target weights.  According to the Dairy Australia report, the Coster’s livestock trading profit has increased 86 per cent since 2018, almost 77 per cent more than the Gippsland average.

South west Victorian dairy farmers Karen and Dale Angus find that they are now more empowered in discussions with breeding advisors as genomic data takes the guesswork out. Objective data, obtained from genomic testing, is an additional tool that helps them make more informed decisions and they believe this leads to progression of their business. 

“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 as 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 family have genomically tested their heifers for the past three years and something they feel will improve their business bottom-line by advancing their genetic base.  “Genetics might only be a small part of our business, but it is often the 1 percenters that determine how profitable and sustainable our business is.” Karen said. Read more about Dale and Karen Angus’ story

To find out more about Cow and Heifer Genomics testing visit the Cow and Heifer Genomics webpage.

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, visit

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