Tony Peacock, CRCA CEO

Dairy Futures CRC Wind-up

The Dairy Futures CRC has set a new benchmark in successfully winding-up a Cooperative Research Centre.

The CRC will officially finish on 30 June and DairyBio, an industry biosciences initiative, will commence on 1 July, taking over some of the work of the CRC. CRC researchers, dairy farmers and dairy industry came together in Melbourne recently to both lock-in and celebrate the achievements of the CRC.

Dairy Futures CRC, a single-term CRC, has delivered very significant genetic improvements on both the animal and plant production sides of the industry. Those improvements amount to approximately $500 per hectare per year and $100 per cow per year. Despite the current problems in the industry, Australia’s dairy industry has grown to be a major export earner for the country and competes with the United States to be the third or fourth most traded dairy industry internationally each year.

The power of genomics has been harnessed by the Dairy Futures CRC team to deliver in many areas. Farmers can now put emphasis on the selecting for milk production, reproductive performance, feed conversion efficiency and even heat tolerance. The massive reduction in the cost of genetic testing, combined with a huge increase in the ability to handle data has enabled the CRC to deliver quite extraordinary genetic power into the hands of dairy farms. As CEO of the CRC. Dr David Nation, reminded the Melbourne audience “Genetic gains are permanent improvement, delivered in an easy manner”.

Genetics has also improved the grass that dairy cattle consume. High yielding and high energy ryegrass is now available to breed new pasture varieties. How ryegrass interacts with naturally occurring fungus affects safety of the grass for cattle, as well as the persistence of the pasture. CRC researchers have developed new fungi that are paired with ryegrass seeds by commercial seed companies and are available to the industry. The development provides safer, more nutritious, more persistent and higher yield grasses.

Another major achievement of the Dairy Futures CRC has been its student program. Every CRC student was paired with an industry mentor and given extensive training about the whole industry. The communication skills and experience provided to the CRC students is clearly evident. Students are able to explain their work to industry and look for new ways to solve industry problems. Two Dairy Futures CRC students were amongst the five finalists in the CRC Associations Early Career Researcher Awards this year.

Dairy Futures CRC Chairman, Dr. Mike Ginnivan, gave an extremely insightful speech at the wind-up event. Amongst his observations on what had made the CRC a success was the rejection of the initial CRC bid by the Commonwealth. “Although the rejection hurt at the time, it made us go away and design a truly transformative CRC that had the potential to make a major difference to the industry. Ultimately, that is what we achieved”.

The CRC has built a dedicated website to communicate their work to industry (www.dairyfuturescrc.com.au), which includes a comprehensive Achievements Report and an animated video. This is well worth a look to see how achievements from a CRC can be clearly communicated to an industry.