What's it worth to you?
Although farmers have multiple ‘levers’ to pull to increase their farm’s profitability, it’s the cows’ genetic merit that sets a foundation for what the herd can achieve, says New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited (NZAEL) manager Dr Jeremy Bryant.
“Farmers with high Breeding Worth herds are working from a stronger start point. A herd in the top 10 percent nationally is estimated to be generating around $30 extra profit per cow per year, or $12,600 extra per year, when compared to the median herd, if you imagine both herds were run under the same conditions," says Jeremy.
Study supports value of genetic investment
Exactly how significant is genetic gain’s contribution to the productivity of our nation’s dairy herd? That’s a question being answered by NZAEL, the DairyNZ subsidiary charged with managing the national breeding objective for dairy cattle.
NZAEL has analysed 800 2005-born cows across 30 herds nationally, comparing the performance of cows ranked highest and lowest within each herd.
Each animal was ranked according to its Breeding Worth (BW), and the performance of animals in the top 20 percent was compared to the bottom 20 percent.
What NZAEL found establishes a sound case for farmers to focus on increasing the genetic merit of their herd, and reap the benefits in greater farm profits.
In the 2009/10 season, cows in the top 20 percent for BW generated an additional 17kg of protein, 18kg of milk fat and calved 4.5 days earlier than those in the bottom 20 percent for BW.
The liveweight and conformation scores of the cows were consistent across both the top and bottom groups.
Jeremy says the analysis, which was completed using the Dairy Industry Good Animal Database (DIGAD), offers a valuable insight into genetic improvement’s role in bringing stronger profits for farmers.
“It’s shown us that our research and our evaluations of genetic merit are on track with the reality of what’s playing out on farms around the country.”
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy February 2017