U.S. Genetic Milestones

U.S. dairy has led the way in research and development of genetic evaluation methods and traits that have been adopted globally. Collaboration and a pioneer spirit is the foundation of this leadership. The U.S. genetic system is a collaboration between dairy producers and several organizations that serve farmers. The involvement of the U.S. Department of Agriculture – dating back to 1895 and continuing today – is a unique public-private partnership to optimize research, innovation and dairy industry cooperation. Along with U.S. leadership in R&D, the vast exportation of U.S. genetics to more than 120 countries has improved dairy cows and dairy farmer livelihoods around the world.


Individual cow records

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began collecting milk and fat records of individual cows


First milk recording organization

Cow Testing Association (CTA) started in Michigan


DHIA became known

CTAs renamed Dairy Herd Improvement Association, or DHIA


Unique identification

Eartag series developed to allow unique identification of all cows tested by DHIA


First sire evaluations

Daughter-dam comparisons used to calculate first USDA evaluations


Start of A.I. cooperatives

First U.S. Artificial Insemination (A.I.) cooperative organized; seven established by 1939


DHIA records computerized

Faster, more accurate transfer of DHIA records enabled growth in USDA genetic evaluations


Frozen semen commercialized

Allowed distribution of superior genetics around the U.S. and world


Herdmate comparison

Herdmate comparisons developed by USDA, considering management differences when computing sire evaluations


First U.S. genetic index

USDA published Predicted Difference Dollars index to combine milk and fat


Genetic trends considered in evaluations

Modified contemporary comparisons accounted for genetic trends and replaced herdmate comparisons


Protein evaluated

Protein and solid-not-fat evaluations calculated by USDA


Linear type evaluations

Type evaluations became available in all breeds using linear appraisal


Animal model implemented

USDA was first, using relationships among all cows and bulls for more accurate evaluations


Net Merit, Productive Life and Somatic Cell Score launched

New Net Merit $ index combined fitness, conformation, and production traits – unique from indexes in most countries.


Calving traits initiated

Calving ease for Holsteins and Brown Swiss, stillbirth for Holsteins


Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) incorporated

Collaboration began between USDA and CDCB for quality control


Focus on fertility traits

Emphasis on female and male fertility increased with USDA’s launch of Daughter Pregnancy Rate (2003), Sire Conception Rate and stillbirth (2006) and Cow and Heifer Conception Rates (2009)


Sexed semen commercialized

First U.S. license for sexed semen granted


Chip for genomic testing made available

First commercial genotyping chip released with set of 54,001 SNPs


First official U.S. genomic evaluations

U.S. pioneered use of genomic data, leading to epic genetic progress


CDCB responsible for U.S. genetic evaluations

Calculation of U.S. genetic evaluations transferred from USDA to CDCB; USDA continues important role in research


One million genotypes recorded

Number of dairy genotypes in National Cooperators Database hit the million mark, 7 years after first U.S. Holstein bulls were genotyped


Breed Base Representation developed

Estimated contribution from multiple breeds to crossbred animals


Genotyping certification created

CDCB established certification requirements for genotyping labs and genomic nominators to enhance data quality


Health traits published

Evaluations for resistance to six disorders published by CDCB for Holsteins


Genomic evaluations for crossbred animals

U.S. was first to evaluate crossbred dairy animals by applying a weighted combination of solutions estimated from purebred populations


New Feed Saved trait

CDCB published Feed Saved, the first national evaluation in the U.S. to leverage genetic variation for feed efficiency


Feed efficiency in national selection index

Net Merit index updated to account for feed efficiency, along with >40 other individual traits


9 million animals genotyped

CDCB’s National Cooperator Database is the world’s largest set of animal phenotypic and genomic data; female genomic testing is common management tool