Riding the Genomics Juggernaut

Brian Behnke lashed himself to the mast of the speeding genomics juggernaut when he took on the role of business manager of ABS’s globally renowned breeding business, St Jacobs.

Behnke is heading to International Dairy Week in January to meet the dairy farmers and specialist breeders who flock to the St Jacobs banner for high type sires.

Genetic selection criteria have changed rapidly since the introduction of genomics. Bull selection has shifted and increasingly favours what can be seen in the genomic evaluation numbers. Breeding businesses are under pressure to keep pace with the changing demands of dairy farmers seeking increasingly rapid rates of genetic gain.

Behnke comes to the new role, which he took on in July 2016, with a wealth of experience in dairy cattle breeding and the A.I. industry. He has a thorough understanding of genomics, evaluation systems and pedigrees and has worked as a sales manager and sire analyst.

Born and bred in Wisconsin, in the heart of US dairy country, he is now responsible for the global strategic direction of the St. Jacobs brand and product offering as well as promoting the brand across the different business regions. His goal will be to grow the brand’s reputation for overall type improvement by fast tracking better bulls with a balance of great cow families that have a track record of show success and that have the highest possible numbers around type, udders, daughter pregnancy rate, productive life, sire calving ease, somatic cell score, production, rumps and teat length.

Dairy farmers and breeders around the world are becoming more ‘technical’ with their breeding, taking in the new data available from genomics and increasingly testing their cows for a wide variety of desirable attributes, including fertility, health and production as well as show winning cow families.

An accomplished cow-man, Behnke has judged numerous dairy cattle shows both domestically and abroad, including the 2005 Grand International Red & White Show, Western Spring National and Wisconsin State Fair, the Canadian Scotia 4-H Classic, National Guernsey Show in Louisville and Madison as well as shows in the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Japan.

Brian and his wife Tami live in Albany, Wisconsin and work with Tami’s family farm, Glenn-Ann Holsteins, 2016 National Herd of Excellence award winner from Holstein USA.

Brian Behnke will be at the ABS marquee at IDW on Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 January.