CDCB Connection        October 2017


Connecting with Neal Smith

This month, CDCB connects with Neal Smith, Executive Secretary and CEO of American Jersey Cattle Association and past Treasurer of CDCB.

How has dairy information and genetics been impacted in the early, formative years of CDCB?

Smith: The idea of the artificial insemination (AI), breed association and DHIA organizations collaborating systematically and strategically to provide leadership for the genetic improvement of dairy cattle was floated in the mid-1980s, but it took until late 1993 for the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) to gain a formal structure. Then in in 1995, the sector representatives established a study group to explore how AI, milk recording, breed associations, USDA and milk marketing organizations can work together to maintain the programs necessary for long term viability of the national genetic evaluation program.
Looking back at the early minutes, the territory is pretty familiar with the CDCB Board discussions today. The USDA geneticists were consulting industry and seeking input about the genetic evaluations and new traits in development. The representatives of AI, NDHIA and PDCA were concerned with quality standards for data and animal identification. Maybe it wasn't as obvious then as it is today, but the Council has been influencing the dairy data system and genetic evaluations for a long time.
The CDCB has transitioned in the past few years and is now the service provider for U.S. dairy cattle genetic evaluations, and everyone has benefited. Our system today is more efficient, genomic evaluations are being returned on a preliminary weekly basis for management purposes, and the geneticists at USDA AGIL* are focusing on research and development.

*USDA AGIL = United State Department of Agriculture, Animal Genomics Improvement Laboratory*


How does the cooperation of breed associations with the CDCB affect genetic programs and progress?

Smith: The breed associations are one of the four sectors in the CDCB structure, the others being AI, DHIA* and the dairy records processing centers. As I look at the people from each sector, plus the terrific staff at CDCB led by Joao Durr, what stands out is that the Council is harnessing a lot of talent and ability to produce high-quality genetic evaluations and management tools for dairy farmers. This illustrates the fact that great things happen when every segment in the dairy industry prioritizes the dairy farmer's needs and then collaborates to produce results.


*DHIA Dairy Herd Information Association


How do you see genomics used today and into the future?

Smith: Commercial genomic selection is the same age as the iPhone, and it has been as disruptive to dairy cattle breeding as the iPhone has been to computing and communications. When genomics burst onto the scene, we wondered, What will be the demand for high-merit bulls that hadn't been proven? We now have the answer. CDCB data show that for Jerseys, three of every four A.I. breedings today are to young genomic-evaluated bulls. For Holstein, it's well over half. It's been a seismic shift.
I believe this would not have happened without CDCB. Thank goodness the industry had a formal cooperative structure in place to fuel the genomics revolution. There are nearly 2.1 million genotypes in the CDCB database, and the rate at which genotypes are being added is accelerating. Genomics have already increased the rate of genetic progress and have practically eliminated the long, costly process of bull progeny testing. Let's not overlook the fact that genomics has also led to the identification of long-present but unrecognized lethal recessives.
CDCB will soon introduce six new health traits and continue to develop more. I'm impressed by how AGIL geneticists and CDCB staff are using the loads of data available to them, and developing accurate, reliable and completely transparent evaluations.

The dairy industry is in a great position.