GENOMIC testing has revolutionised Chris Place’s dairy herd – and likely made it much more valuable.

Chris farms with his brother Peter and they’re part of a family dairying dynasty with six brothers on different farms in the Camperdown region.

Their objective is to have the best possible herd, with trouble-free high-production, longevity and self-replacement and genomic testing and using sexed semen has done the trick.

They have almost doubled their number of heifers born each year and halved their empty rate. Their herd ranking has gone from about 150 to the top 40, complete with a heifer in the national top 10, and they have a new income stream through beef sales.

The whole herd is now registered with Holstein Australia.

Chris was inspired to expand the use of genomic testing after participating in the Ginfo project and from discussions with his consultants at Genetics Australia and DataGene.

Ginfo is a large-scale genotyping project to provide genetic and performance information to increase the reliability of Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) and indices. It is a collaboration of DataGene, Dairy Australia, Holstein Australia, Jersey Australia and the Victorian government.

Like the Our Farm, Our Plan process used by Dairy Australia to help farmers identify long-term goals, improve business performance and manage volatility, Chris took it upon himself to do some forward thinking.

He now knows much more about his herd and is sure it’s better than ever, and he has the facts to back that claim.

Chris and Peter had some cows registered about 25 years ago and had used some sexed semen, but that has ramped up as they continue to develop the genetic merit of the herd.

Their meticulous record keeping helped when it came to using the new technology.

“Because we had very accurate records going back more than 50 years, they could take my DNA data and see how it correlates to my herd recording data and use the Ginfo data to see the different markers such as milk production and mastitis resistance,” he said.

They have been using sexed semen on maiden heifers for about seven years, concentrating on growing young stock well to maximise mating results, as well as ramping up use within the herd, and it has been a game changer. The valuable data from the genomic testing is used in selecting cows to breed from.

After joining maiden heifers to sexed semen, they have gone from getting 70-80 heifers a year to 140-150.

The figures support Chris’s theory.

“We were ranked about 150 in the top herds; suddenly we’ve jumped up to the top 40,” he said. “We’ve never been that high before and we also have one of our heifers in the top 10 of female Holsteins in the country.

“That’s all come from the genomic testing.”

Genetics Australia is investigating the potential of breeding from one of Chris’s heifers.