Global exchange delivers “win-win” for dairy industry

Breeding dairy cows faster, inserting reproduction aids for heat synchronisation and genomic testing. These are just some of the skills a group of four bovine reproduction technicians from the United States of America and Canada are learning as part of an industry exchange.

This team works for ABS at home but have spent the past few months breeding cows and completing animal husbandry work in south west Victoria and south east South Australia. Here, Tyler Pratt, Riley Thobe and Lynnsey Crouch, from the US and Natasha Bolender from Canada work for Nu-Genes.

The Australian dairy industry has historically relied on international artificial insemination technicians to support local reproduction teams and it’s the second year of this ABS exchange. ABS Australia General Manager Marcus Rees said the exchange was a “win-win”. “Australian dairy farmers get access to skilled reproduction technicians and young ABS professionals have an opportunity to broaden their knowledge and skill set in another country,” he said. “The Australian dairy industry needs overseas breeding technicians to fill skilled worker shortages, and ABS is pleased that its team can step-up – even on the other side of the world.”

Tyler, Lynnsey, Riley & Natasha are learning new skills as part of an industry exchange program between ABS & NuGenes

For the ABS team, working in the Australian dairy industry has exposed them to new breeding techniques and a different way of working. Natasha explained she worked alone on her AI route in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada, visiting the same farmers each day. It’s a similar story for others. “Here, what’s different is the teamwork aspect, working with four-to-five people, we don’t have that at home,” she explained.

“It does keep your energy up, you don’t get burnt-out as fast, “Lynnsey added. “You avoid burnout because you are feeding off each other.” For Tyler, he’s developed techniques to breed cows faster. “I used to spend more time adjusting the tail of the cow before I bred her, now I don’t lift the tail anymore,” he said. “We have to go faster to keep up, especially the timed AI on the rotaries. We have to figure out how to go faster and still get a good result.”

Riley came from an internship position with ABS in western Ohio in the US and said her time in Australia has improved her physical stamina and time management skills. “There’s a larger dairy farm at home we service and say you have 200 cows to do, broken up between four people,” she said. “After 30 cows my arm would be dead tired. Now, I can go to 50-plus cows. I have a bit more energy and have built up strength. There’s also time management.

Here, we have got to go from one farm to another and get there at a relatively fair time to the farmer, so you have to really manage your time. So, some days I know I can’t talk to this farmer because I’m running 10 minutes behind, but if he wants to chat I can work that into my schedule the next day.”

Some of the skills the team have learnt in Australia aren’t part of their job back in the US or Canada, such as freeze branding and working with reproduction tools such as CDIRs and Cue-Mates. But all agreed the extra experience would be valuable when they returned to their work at home. “It’s a different way of doing the same job,” Lynnsey explained. “You learn different skills.”

The ABS team will remain in Australia, working with Nu-Genes until December.