Data Flow Needs to Increase for Health Traits
This past April, genomic evaluations were produced for the first time by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding for six of the most common and costly health events in a dairy cow’s life – hypocalcemia, displaced abomasum, ketosis, mastitis, metritis, and retained placenta.
The new traits were defined in terms of disease resistance with the value for evaluated animals expressed relative to breed average. A positive value indicates more resistance to the health event. Conversely, a negative value identifies a more susceptible animal. Compared to traits such as somatic cell score, Productive Life and Livability – which improve herd health through indirect selection – the development of evaluations for these direct health traits was a considerable advance in the ability to breed healthier cows.
CDCB’s new health traits were the result of research using producer-recorded data collected from herds across the nation through state and regional Dairy Herd Information Affiliates.
But, these genetic evaluations for health traits were not produced for Jerseys. Why? Insufficient data.
Genetic evaluations have been the outcome of decades of cooperation across the different sectors of the U.S. dairy industry. The starting point is reliable data recorded by herd owners, day after day, year after year. After that, it is all about data flow, from the farm to dairy records providers and dairy records processing centers (DRPCs), then on to the CDCB database so that research and development work can proceed by geneticists at CDCB as well as scientists at the Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory (AGIL).
Lactation data has flowed well and for so long, it seems peculiar that despite lots of data sitting in on-farm computers, health data has not. It’s only been been in the past few months that there’s been an uptick in the number of Jersey health records coming into the CDCB database. Much more data needs to come in if accurate genetic evaluations are to be produced. So what needs to happen? For answers, we turned to CDCB Technical Advisor and Industry Liaison Dr. Duane Norman.
“Health events need to be recorded on the farm and held there. The data needs to be transmitted to a DRPC as this is the only channel for it to be forwarded to CDCB for obtaining genetic evaluations.”
How this is accomplished, he explained, depends on the herd management software you use and/or which DRPC you work with.
“If you have on-farm computer capabilities, the data could be transmitted to the DRPC soon after the incident occurs.” However, Dr. Norman cautioned, “you need to know whether there is an agreement in place between the company that you purchased the software from and the DRPC so that it is legal to make this transfer.”
If your herd management software is not tied to your DRPC, “you might be able to transmit on test day by having the technician enter health events, depending on the capability of the DRPC.”
In all cases, “you must have given your DHI Affiliate approval to release health information to CDCB. It would be wise to check to see what the current status of your release is.”
There will be no Jersey genetic evaluations for direct health traits, affecting profitability and breed improvement, until sufficient data from Jersey dairies reaches CDCB through the DRPC system. It’s in your hands to help change that situation by making sure your herd’s health incident data is flowing to the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding. As Duane Norman and research geneticist Kristin Parker-Gaddis observed in the November CDCB Connection, “Dairy producers are the core of all these organizations, so cooperation means helping yourself.”