Number crunching boost helps herd decisions

Australian dairy farmers can now make faster and more informed breeding decisions, thanks to new weekly genetic analysis.

This change means Australian milk producers can now access their herd’s genomic data as frequently as their peers in the United States of America – one of the world’s largest milk producing nations.

An increasing number of dairy farmers are relying on genomics – the study of an animal’s DNA - to make more informed breeding, sales and culling decisions for young calves and heifers.

DataGene Chief Executive Matt Shaffer said data timeliness and accuracy was crucial for farmers to get the most value from their investment in genetics.

“If you are a farmer, and on a tight time frame, you want to know the genetic merit of your animal as soon as possible,” he said. “You don’t want to have to wait two or three months after your animal has been genotyped to get that information.  'We have now cut the turnaround time in half, from an average of 22 days to 11 days from when the genotype arrives from the lab to sending results to farmers.”

There are three steps to genomic analysis: taking a sample on farm; a lab using that sample to create a map of the cow’s DNA, its genotype; and DataGene running its genetic analysis using that genotype to produce breeding values.

Since January, DataGene has analysed the genotypes of Australian dairy cattle every week. Last year, this task was completed monthly and before that, it only occurred nine times a year.

Practically, this means if DataGene receives an animal’s genotype just after the weekly “run”, there’s now only a week before the next analysis.

Shortening the turnaround time gets information back to farms faster and ensures all farmers have the most up-to-date figures for farm management decisions.

Dr Shaffer said DataGene has spent years working with the Australian dairy herd improvement industry, developing this system to combine improved data frequency and quality.

Brendan Martin caucasian male standing in from of black and white dairy cattle
Bamawm dairy farmer Brendan Martin says
faster turnaround time at the DataGene lab
for genomic results will improve his decision
making process when it comes to selecting
animals to retain and sell.

This has been a welcome development for Bamawm dairy farmer Brendan Martin, who has genomically tested almost 500 heifers in the past six months.

“For us, when we are selling heifers to the export market, on the old system it used to be two to three months by the time we received their genomic information,” he said. “By that time, we had already made the decision. Now with more readily available data, we will be able to make better decisions around what animals to keep and sell.”

Weekly genotype analysis means more of Australia’s dairy farmers will be able to get the best value from their genomic data, according to Daniel Abernethy, the Genetics Manger of Zoetis Genetics – a company which tests animal DNA to develop a genotype.

“Having frequent releases means producers with different calving patterns, split calving or longer calving periods can make better decisions because the turnaround time of results are so quick,” he said.

Total Livestock Genetics assists farmers with DNA testing for genomics and its Sales and Product Development Manager Paul Douglas said increasing the frequency of genotype analysis will enable farmers to manage their livestock more comprehensively.

“Receiving a complete set of numbers, as efficiently as possible, allows for better management decisions for a complete batch of animals,” he said.

“It has shortened the timeframe for decision making.”


For more information contact: DataGene 03 9032 7191 or or

DataGene is an initiative of Dairy Australia and the herd improvement industry.

Media enquiries: Lee-Ann Monks 0419 349 244


About DataGene

DataGene is an independent and industry owned organisation responsible for driving genetic gain and herd improvement in the Australian dairy industry. DataGene performs many pre-competitive herd improvement functions such as genetic evaluation, herd testing and herd improvement software development and  data systems. DataGene is a Dairy Australia and industry collaboration. Ph 03 9032 7191