Companies challenge breeding worth proposals

New Zealand breeding companies are concerned the proposed model for a single breeding worth (BW) that includes genomic evaluation risks disincentivising investment in research and development. Anne Lee reports.

James Smallwood, CRV.

Both LIC and CRV breeding companies have failed to endorse the proposed model for a single breeding worth (BW) that includes genomic evaluation although they’ve acknowledged there are some benefits to the concept of a single BW.

New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited (NZAEL) is a subsidiary of DairyNZ and is responsible for publishing the independent evaluation of dairy animals using the BW index.

Current BW evaluations produced by NZAEL do not include genomic evaluations. Breeding companies have been the ones to develop the technology and provide young sires backed by genomic evaluations.

LIC’s submission reports that it’s spent $80 million developing genomic evaluations while CRV is understood to have also invested heavily.

Both companies say DairyNZ and NZAEL claims that NZ has lagged behind in genetic gain due to a poor uptake in the use of genomic sires are greatly exaggerated with calculations flawed. A funding model has been proposed by NZAEL where money could come from fees charged for bull and cow enrolments, a straw levy, fees for bull screening with a continuation of the money coming from the milksolids commodity levy.

Under the model, royalties would be paid for access to genotypic data and payments made for supplying high-quality phenotypic data.

Both companies are concerned the proposal risks disincentivising investment in research and development and that the DairyNZ-owned body may not have the funding or expertise to carry out the work needed to achieve the genetic gain it claims.

CRV Oceania managing director James Smallwood says there are other ways companies could share their genomics data and NZ could look to successful systems set up overseas including a partnership – the EuroGenomics Cooperative – CRV has been a part of. He wants to see more effort going into improving farmer uptake of other tools that boost genetic gain such as sexed semen, DNA testing and better herd recording.

Having one reference population is part of that strategy but it shouldn’t be the only factor, he says.

Creating a more level playing field so CRV could publish cow BW rather than that right being held by LIC should also be an outcome of any review of the system, he says.

Both companies are fully supportive of improving the quality of phenotypic data with LIC’s submission pointing to the fact that work is underway in that area separate to the NZAEL proposal.

LIC’s submission has also questioned the complexity of the funding model and what level of extra costs farmers might have to fund.

Consultation on the proposed model closed at the end of June and changes to the way NZAEL calculates BW so that it includes genomic information is planned for delivery in June 2024.

DairyNZ’s discussion document is unclear on how the model would operate without the participation of breeding companies.