History 45 years in the making

World Holstein Friesian Federation Council president Cherilyn Watson.

Cherilyn Watson is the new president of the World Holstein Friesian Federation Council, making her the first woman to hold the role in the federation’s 45-year history.

She says she’s honoured to accept the role and is looking forward to leading the Federation through an ever-changing world – from the global pandemic to the environmental challenges facing all dairy farmers.

“New Zealand farmers are facing similar issues to dairy farmers around the world, from managing our social licence to operate, to addressing environmental challenges,” says Cherilyn.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Council and continuing to both facilitate discussion and help address those challenges.”

Holstein Friesian NZ president, Hennie Verwaayen, says Cherilyn’s appointment is recognition of how far the breed society has come and is proof that New Zealand was producing some of the best leaders in the field.

“For a little country at the bottom of the world I think Cherilyn’s appointment shows we can and are footing it with the best in the dairy industry.”

Holstein longstander

Cherilyn has been Holstein Friesian NZ’s general manager for 17 years, and the Oceania representative on the World Holstein Friesian Federation Council since 2016.

She was instrumental in securing funding and is leading the development of a new $1 million project, backed the Ministry for Primary Industries, to develop an information system to shape the genetics powering New Zealand's dairy sector.

The Breed Society and Traits other than Production (TOP) solution to Dairy Industry Good Animal Database (DIGAD) is being jointly developed by New Zealand's independent, not-for-profit dairy cattle breed societies lead by Holstein Friesian NZ.

She is also on the Industry Genetics Steering Group looking at access to data and genotypes across the NZ dairy industry.

She sits on the Breed Association Working Group of ICAR, an international committee setting standards for animal recording, and is secretary of the NZ Dairy Breeds Federation. Cherilyn also serves on the TOP Advisory Committee which steers the development and implementation of TOP traits in New Zealand.

Challenges ahead

Cherilyn says one of the biggest challenges currently facing the New Zealand dairy industry is the development of genomics and the ownership of genomic information for the national herd.

“Overseas the development of genomic testing has already led to more structured breeding decisions about the type of cows farmers both want and need to breed. In New Zealand we haven’t quite got there yet because there is currently no one industry good source of genomic data.”

Cherilyn takes over from Jos Buiting, from the Netherlands, who will remain as a Federation Council member.


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