NZ Dairy Summer 2021

6 | nzdairy Better data use and genomics testing needed Kim Newth Tararua dairy farmer Hennie Verwaayen, a Holstein Friesian New Zealand past president and current board member, is frustrated that New Zealand’s dairy sector is still largely missing out on the potential benefits of genomic testing. Such testing enables breeders and commercial farmers to get a full genetic picture of each individual calf, making it easy to identify the animals with the greatest potential to drive superior efficiency on farm. Holstein Friesian New Zealand offers a genomic testing service to its member famers but Hennie says a big stumbling block is that New Zealand-based genetics can’t be tested with the same reliability as animals related to overseas genetic populations. The service is currently most useful for overseas genetics. “We’re hanging out for a good reliable genomic test that will be available to all NZ farmers rather than those using overseas genetics. It’s very unfortunate that New Zealand has painted itself into a corner, with our dairy cow reference population only a fraction of the European or North American populations.” He cites recent DairyNZ research that shows New Zealand’s genetic progress has stagnated compared to that of all major dairying nations around the world, after the introduction of genomic technologies 10 years ago. He suggests this is of even more concern, as environmental markers are developed for feed, methane and nitrogen efficiency. “If you can measure something like that through genomic testing your calves, then you know straight away which ones are the more efficient feed converters into milk solids and also identify your least efficient animals that could be sold or mated to beef.” With more and more data now going directly into the Dairy Industry Good Animal Database managed by DairyNZ subsidiary NZ Animal Evaluation Ltd, it is vitally important that New Zealand herd improvement is driven from this independent database that should capture and share data from as many corners of the industry as possible, says Hennie, even more so in a post-Covid New Zealand that relies on primary industry to pull the country out of an economic hole. As an example, Hennie notes that calves get identified at birth and sell at 10 days old for beef. “That calf arrives 18 months later at the works and is followed all the way. At the moment, that data is not collated or used so there’s no value proposition we can put to beef producers to show our calves have superior growth rates over that period. Instead, we go by coat markings to make purchase decisions without making use of the information. We have to do better with our industry good information.” DAIRY PEOPLE » Hennie Verwaayen Hennie and wife Kerri farm 360 cows at Oringi, south of Dannevirke on a 145ha property, with an additional 97ha block used for cropping and dairy support, and are running a beef herd, as well as finishing some of their own beef calves. Having genomically tested animals since 2016, their ongoing goal is to have an efficient herd of cows that have good conformation, health and environmental traits enabling them to last in the herd. The couple’s two children have also pursued dairy careers. Their son, Harvey, is running the home farm at Oringi while daughter Lucy is contract milking nearby. DairyNZ research that shows New Zealand’s rate of genetic gain in the genomic era is trailing some of our competitors can be viewed at: Proud to be associated with Hennie Verwaayen Call Arron Cook on 027 498 7104 Phone: 06 374 7090 Email: Proud to Support Hennie Verwaayen Tararua farmer Hennie Verwaayen is frustrated the NZ dairy sector is missing out on the benefits of genomic testing.