Pillar I: Cow fertility
The profitability of dairy farming could be increased by $500 million per year if industry targets for reproductive performance are achieved.
These targets will not be achieved using current knowledge and technologies alone. A biological breakthrough is required.
Pillar II: Cow lifetime productivity
Little is currently known about animal wastage and under-performance in New Zealand dairy systems.
The focus of this project is to investigate involuntary culls, deaths and poor health in NZ dairy cows.
What we've found so far...
Most pregnancy losses occur in the 1st week after AI
The chance of conception increases by 18% with each oestrus cycle before AB and 13% with every extra week before AB.
Poor recovery, and an unhealthy uterus prior to mating, reduces reproduction. This was evident in 25% of all cows (between 10 – 90% of each herd).
Greatest gains from genetics occur in low repro herds.
Feeding starch vs fibre to early lactating cows (if fed the same amount of energy) does not affect reproductive performance
High fertility BV heifers reached puberty 25kg lighter and 21 days earlier.
During 1st lactation, high fertility BV heifers had a 40% greater 3-wk submission rate, resulting in a 34% higher 6-week InCalf rate.
What we've found so far...
21% of cows are removed each year. Greater than 60-80% of removals are involuntary or avoidable.-
Farmers recorded the following reasons for Culling and on farm mortality. Reproduction - 44%, Unknown - 23%, Management - 21%, Udder - 17%, Other - 5%.
The main reasons for removal are: Reproduction - 37%, Udder health - 11%, Health disorders - 31%, Low production - 8%.
Rate of BCS gain during the dry period does not affect cow performance in the following season.
Improving cow’s immune function during the transition period can contribute to greater health and fertility. 25% of all cows have had a poor recovery and an unhealthy uterus prior to mating reducing cow fertility.
BHBA levels alone are not a good indicator of sub-clinical ketosis or underperformance in a pasture based system.
Funding and research partners
This is a seven-year partnership programme funded by New Zealand dairy farmers through DairyNZ Incorporated with matched co-funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and aligned core funding for fertility from AgResearch. Additional funding and resources provided by Fonterra, LIC and CRV Ambreed support this key science platform.
The research team led by DairyNZ involves: AgResearch, AbacusBio, Victoria University Wellington. Cognosco (a division of Anexa Animal Health), University of Queensland, Massey University, Monash University, University of Auckland, VetSouth, New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited.