Feedback sought about regulation of dairy herd improvement industry

Media contact: Sid Pickering
Telephone: 04 894 2465

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is looking for feedback on the rules surrounding the New Zealand dairy herd improvement industry.

The New Zealand dairy industry has been a world leader in herd improvement, and its ability to trace the performance of the national herd – through the dairy core database – has been central to that success.

Studies have shown that genetic gains through dairy herd improvement have accounted for about two thirds of the sector’s productivity over the last decade.

”It’s important that any regulatory system is fit for purpose,” MPI’s manager animal sector Inna Koning says.

MPI is consulting on the system of regulations that ensure the database is maintained and that fair access to the data is available where it is in the best interests of the New Zealand dairy industry.

The industry has agreed to a process to transfer a copy of the database from Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) to DairyNZ, an industry-owned organisation set up to act for the good of the whole dairy industry.

“This is a good time to re-examine the regulations because the current system was set up in the context of LIC, a commercial entity, holding the database.

“Also, there have been significant technological developments in data collection methods and genetic science since the current regulations were put in place. We want to make sure that the regulations remain fit-for-purpose.

“At this stage, MPI doesn’t have any preferred solutions, but is looking for feedback on the scope and nature of amendments that could be made to improve the current regulatory system,” Ms Koning says.

The consultation document [PDF, 229 KB] discusses the current system and poses specific questions. All submissions must be received by 5PM on 15 February 2013.

Questions and Answers

What is the Dairy Herd Improvement Industry?

Herd improvement through genetic gain is a powerful tool to improve the productivity of the national dairy herd. The dairy herd improvement industry refers to the companies and individuals who are delivering services which aim to deliver this genetic gain in the dairy herd. Specifically, the industry includes the following services:

  • Herd testing services, whereby herd testing companies analyse the milk production of individual cows
  • Data and records management services, such as LIC’s MINDA service and CRV Ambreed’s MISTRO service, where herd testers and sometimes other companies keep records on farmers’ dairy herds on their behalf
  • A national database, which contains information on the performance of the national herd
  • Artificial breeding services, which involves the breeding of bulls of high genetic merit and the provision of semen from these bulls for the insemination of dairy cows.

What is the dairy core database?

The New Zealand dairy core database, or the ‘core database’, contains information collected pursuant to herd testing regulations dating back to 1936. The purpose of the dairy core database is to record the performance of the New Zealand dairy herd and enable research and evaluation of dairy cows’ genetic productive potential.

The core database currently comprises 46 fields of data relating to the production and ancestry of the national dairy herd. It is currently held and maintained by LIC. Herd Testers are required to provide the data from its herd testing activities (i.e. the 46 data-fields) to LIC for inputting to the database.

What is the scope of the current regulatory system?

A regulatory regime is in place to ensure that:

  • Quality data is provided to LIC for inputting to the database
  • The database is maintained
  • LIC provides fair access to the data where access is in the benefit of the New Zealand dairy industry.

Why is MPI reviewing the regulatory regime now?

The core database is currently held by LIC, a commercial entity that uses the data for commercial purposes. In May 2012, LIC and DairyNZ (an industry-good organisation) reached an agreement to transfer a copy of the core database from LIC to DairyNZ.

MPI is reviewing the current regulatory settings to ensure they will remain fit for purpose once the core database transfers. In particular:

  • Many of the current requirements were designed to mitigate concerns with LIC – a commercial entity – holding the database. It is therefore necessary to consider what regulatory requirements are needed for DairyNZ holding the database. 
  • Also, there have been significant technological developments in data collection methods and developments in genetic science since the current regulatory requirements were put in place. It is therefore timely to consider whether the current regulatory regime remains fit-for-purpose and consistent with the Government’s commitment to better regulation.

As part of this review, MPI is looking for feedback on the magnitude and nature of problems, if any, with the current regime. The consultation document poses specific questions, but also seeks any other feedback on problems and potential solutions.

Why is a copy of the dairy core database transferring? And what does this mean?

In May 2012, LIC and DairyNZ, agreed to a process to transfer an up-to-date copy of the core database from LIC to DairyNZ. This agreement followed consideration by the DairyNZ appointed ‘Anderson Committee’ which in 2009 recommended that the core database be transferred to an independent, non-competing industry good entity, acknowledging the benefits that would arise from transparent independence of the core database.

The transfer would grant DairyNZ a copy of all core data. Going forward, LIC’s and DairyNZ’s intention is that the DairyNZ copy of the database would be the core database. That is, all herd testers would be required to provide data to DairyNZ for inputting to the core database. Any regulatory requirements relating to the maintenance of the core database and access to the core database would apply to the database held by DairyNZ.

MPI has already been in discussions with industry and consulted on the transfer of the core database in 2011 – why are we consulting again?

When MPI consulted in 2011, the primary focus was on whether or not the transfer would be beneficial to the dairy herd improvement industry. At the same time, feedback was sought on the changes that might be required to the regulatory regime to allow the transfer to happen.

This consultation builds upon this earlier work. Now that LIC and DairyNZ have reached an agreement to transfer the core database, and the shape of that agreement is known, MPI is better placed to consult on the specific problems with the current regime and options to mitigate any such problems. 

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