Friday, 15 December 2023 08:55

Genetics landscape is evolving

Written by  Staff Reporters
Mark Townshend Mark Townshend

New Zealand's genetics landscape will continue to evolve, says outgoing New Zealand Animal Evaluation Ltd (NZAEL) chair Mark Townshend.

The Ngatea-based dairy farmer says any changes need to be robust enough to be fit for purpose in the long term – and should consider what is best for dairy farmers.

Townshend stepped down as NZAEL chair end of last month, after three years in the role.

NZAEL is a DairyNZ subsidiary and the industry good organisation responsible for ensuring New Zealand’s rates of genetic gain are internationally competitive.

DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel says Townshend’s leadership, hard work and commitment has been greatly appreciated.

“Mark has extensive farming and dairy cattle breeding experience, along with dairy sector governance skills, which have enabled him to provide invaluable guidance and support to the NZAEL board in his capacity as chair. We thank him for his exceptional service and wish him all the best for the future.”

During his tenure as chair, Townshend has also engaged with sector experts and partners to successfully progress the development of NZAEL’s Breeding Worth (BW) to include genomics for bulls. This is expected to be available to the sector in mid-2024.

Other achievements during his time with NZAEL include updating the animal evaluation model and several traits that make up BW.

Townshend is stepping down due to his other commitments and interests in New Zealand and internationally – and to spend more time with his family. He will continue to support the sector as a strong voice for farmers in animal genetics.

The process for appointing a new chair will be worked through over the next 6-12 months, while an independent working group also reviews best practice in genetic gain across the sector. DairyNZ board will manage the chair appointment process.

NZAEL board member and Analytica Laboratories executive director Steve Howse will be the acting chair until a formal appointment has been made. Howse is an experienced director in the commercial science, agribusiness, technology and education sectors, says DairyNZ.

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