Demonstrating the value of herd improvement in the Australian dairy industry
© 2020 Journal Compilation Herd improvement has been occurring since the domestication of livestock, although the tools and technologies that support it have changed dramatically. The Australian dairy industry tracks herd improvement through a range of approaches, including routine monitoring of genetic trends and farmer usage of the various tools and technologies. However, a less structured approach has been taken to valuing the realised and potential impacts of herd improvement. The present paper aims to demonstrate the value of herd improvement, while exploring considerations for undertaking such a valuation. Attractive value propositions differ among and within dairy stakeholder groups. While broad-scale valuations of genetic trends and industry progress are valued by government and industry, such valuations do not resonate with farmers. The cumulative nature of genetic gain and compounding factor of genetic lag means that long timeframes are needed to fully illustrate the value of genetic improvement. However, such propositions do not align with decision-making timeframes of most farming businesses. Value propositions that resonate with farmers and can lead to increased uptake and confidence in herd improvement tools include smaller scale cost-benefit analyses and on-farm case studies developed in consultation with industry, including farmers. Non-monetary assessments of value, such as risk and environmental footprint, are important to some audiences. When additionality, that is, the use of data on multiple occasions, makes quantifying the value of the data hard, qualitative assessments of value can be helpful. This is particularly true for herd recording data. Demonstrating the value of herd improvement to the dairy industry, or any livestock sector, requires a multi-faceted approach that extends beyond monetary worth. No single number can effectively capture the full value of herd improvement in a way that resonates with all farmers, let alone dairy stakeholders. Extending current monitoring of herd improvement to include regular illustrations of the value of the tools that underpin herd improvement is important for fostering uptake of new or improved tools as they are released to industry.
This paper arose from research undertaken as part of the ImProving Herds Project. ImProving Herds was funded by the Gardiner Foundation (Melbourne, Australia) and Dairy Australia (Melbourne, Australia), led by Agriculture Victoria (Victoria, Australia), with co-funding contributions from DataGene (Melbourne, Australia), Holstein Australia (Melbourne, Australia), and the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (Werribee, Australia). The authors acknowledge feedback from reviewers, which provided opportunities to improve this paper.
- School of Applied Systems Biology