CDCB Connection June 2017




Connecting with Joao Durr


Each month, CDCB Connection will share insights from a member of the CDCB team or Board of Directors. To start, let's connect with Joao Durr, Chief Executive Officer.


Joao, you've been at the helm of the CDCB for nearly three years. What are highlights in that time?
Durr: The first challenge was to establish an operation practically from scratch - staffing, employee benefits, infrastructure, office space, visual identity and networking without interrupting the services. Then we completed the transition of services from USDA to the CDCB by December 2015 to comply with the USDA-CDCB Non-Funded Cooperative Agreement (NFCA), which included establishing material license agreements with all data providers. This was a considerable change for an industry accustomed to public services under a very different business model. Along with the CDCB Board, positive steps have been taken to define roles, responsibilities, policies and strategies, and this is a work in progress due to the industry complexity and evolving business environment. I am pleased that we now have a full team engaged in a functional operation, and our focus has changed from learning the legacy (established by USDA) to optimizing the processes per CDCB policies and industry needs. Recently, we have formed several working groups that increase our interface with stakeholders and qualify recommendations made to the CDCB Board. Meanwhile, the services kept evolving, and certainly the most impactful implementation was weekly genomic predictions. Weekly predictions changed the way genomic services are provided and the use of information for selection, herd management and mating strategies. All these achievements are possible due to the unconditional support provided by USDA's Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory (AGIL).

In the next year, what are the top CDCB priorities?
The CDCB is an industry collaboration that benefits the dairy community by promoting dairy cattle improvement and establishing the gold standard of dairy genetics. To pursue this vision, the CDCB has elected five main strategies:

- Cutting-edge research and development provided by USDA AGIL
- Effective communications
- Robust cooperator data base
- Accurate genetic and genomic evaluations
- Attractive services and products portfolio


Usually the question about top priorities is directed towards the services and products, or simply directed to new traits and future genetic evaluations launched by CDCB. This is certainly important, but it can only happen if the other strategies are also addressed. Fostering research, consolidating the CDCB policies and procedures, developing new data pipelines, improving the processes and implementing an effective communication plan are all high priorities. For new traits, the CDCB is launching Gestation Length in August, and we are planning for health trait evaluations as early as December 2017. Initial health evaluations will include Hypocalcemia, Ketosis, Clinical Mastitis, Displaced Abomasum, Metritis and Retained Placenta. Another exciting area is Residual Feed Intake. We are working with the research groups from the 5-year national feed intake project funded by USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to utilize the existing data and to generate new records. The CDCB is also committed to generate national statistics and reports for National DHIA, like these on the CDCB website.


How do you see the dairy industry in 10 years, and how does that impact the dairy genetic system?
Current trends indicate that U.S. dairy herds will continue to get larger, become more automated and adopt a more pragmatic management style. All these trends will impact dramatically how dairy breeding is conducted, and CDCB needs to understand this and remain relevant. The first consideration is how the CDCB member sectors - dairy records providers, breed associations and artificial insemination organizations - will adapt to the new reality. Data flow and quality are the first challenges. Huge volumes of data points are being generated through a multitude of sensors and software interfaces, and demand for supervised milk recording procedures tend to decrease. Data synergy will become much more complex and DHI participation will depend on the development of new services that address specific needs of these large and automated herds. There could be further concentration in the breeding sector, including the risk of verticalization of genetics, as has happened with poultry and swine. Genomics created new business opportunities, and non-traditional players have an important role in dairy genetics - in genotyping, for example. Further diversification should be expected, given the enormous potential of DNA sequencing and genetic engineering applications.


Is there a place for the CDCB in the future? Most certainly! Independent and transparent assessment of the animals' genetic merit benefits producers and all sectors that utilize the genetic evaluations, directly or indirectly. The CDCB hosts the world's largest database of phenotypes and genotypes, and CDCB provides highly specialized services with excellent national and international acceptance. To remain relevant, we will continue being the technical reference and providing complementary services to a diversified range of companies at a cost-effective price. The CDCB is fully aware that reinventing itself - along with its member sectors - is the only option ahead. The first steps towards the future are being taken now.