DataGene hits the ground running (17 November 17)

DataGene – the dairy industry’s organisation to drive herd improvement – has hit the ground running in its first year, reported Chairman, Ross Joblin at its recent annual general meeting (9 November 2017).

Mr Joblin said DataGene’s first six months of operations combined the start-up phase of a new company with the acquisition and integration of Mistro Centre and the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS). The start-up phase included appointing a board and recruiting industry members, of which there were now 22, representing most of the major players in Australia’s dairy herd improvement sector.

DataGene had also delivered two new tools for farmers during the year, the HerdData App and the Herd Test Dashboard. Both products are delivered via herd test centres with rapid uptake by farmers. Use of the Good Bulls App continued to grow throughout the year and is now used widely by farmers, breeding advisers and semen sellers.

Genetic evaluation is one of DataGene’s key roles and this year saw the introduction of a public ABV run in December, in addition to those in April and August. DataGene continues to work with DairyBio researchers to develop new and more reliable breeding values, several of which are scheduled for release in 2018, including new Heat Tolerance and Gestation Length traits.

DataGene is working with industry partners on two major R&D projects: ImProving Herds and MIRforProfit. Both projects are scheduled for completion in 2018 after which the findings will be integrated into industry extension programs. ImProving Herds will demonstrate that genetics and herd testing improves profit on farm and MIRforProfit will lay the groundwork for new management tools from herd test samples.

Behind the scenes, DataGene has two major infrastructure projects in development: new genetic evaluation software and a central data repository. Mr Joblin said both systems were scheduled for delivery in 2018 and acknowledged the industry’s eagerness for the technology and the complexity of the developments.

“The industry has been asking for this for a long time and DataGene is committed to delivering a system that will allow herd information to be entered once then accessed in a variety of ways. But there are no shortcuts,” he said.

“Game-changing projects like these are large and complex. All large IT projects have their challenges and ours are no exception.  As an example of the scale of the work, we are moving more than 220 million records from the old system into the new. When they are finished, these projects will deliver significant value to industry and lay the foundation for future innovations,” he said.

Mr Joblin also reported that three directors were re-elected to the board, following a thorough recruitment process. They were Craig Lister, a dairy farmer and Holstein breeder from Northern Victoria, James Smallwood, General Manager of ABS and Lucinda Corrigan, a beef producer from the NSW Murray Valley.