A two-day forum focused on dairy herd improvement was held in Bendigo in March.
The industry’s biennial conference, Herd ’19, was well attended by dairy farmers and service providers.
Guest speakers included Professor Ben Hayes who spoke on genomics and how it has changed herd improvement; Sijne Van der Beek from the Netherlands who spoke on the dangers of inbreeding; and Inverloch dairy farmer Tim Jelbart who spoke on the importance of data-driven decisions in the quest for change in his family business.
Dairy Australia managing director David Nation spoke about innovation and the Australian Dairy Plan.
Mr Nation said the dairy plan was looking at a whole industry approach, from farmers through to processors, to set a course for the future.
“We need a strong, confident and united whole supply chain focus which will include extensive regional consultants starting in May,” he said.
“These will be professionally facilitated and will be the basis for taking us forward for the next five years.
“One billion people globally derive their livelihood from cows being milked; we are a big industry and we need to act like it.
“There are some great things happening, even though we are currently going through some challenging times with high feed and water prices — trends show there is growing demand for dairy worldwide,” Mr Nation said.
Tim Jelbart milks 1000 cows with his two brothers.
He began genomically testing a small portion of his herd four years ago; now, they test every heifer born on the property.
The top portion of the herd is joined to sexed semen, the bottom portion to Wagyu beef.
BPI and fertility have steadily improved.
“Genetic improvement is real but it won’t happen overnight,” Mr Jelbart said.
“If you get the fundamentals right, push forward and remain open to new ideas and innovation — change will happen.”
Mr Jelbart said four years ago he had no idea about the importance of genetics and genomic testing — which have now become an integral part of the business, especially when it comes to selling heifers.