Researcher: Genetics Are Making Dairy Cows More Productive, Sustainable
For many dairy farmers, it’s a decision that comes naturally. Breeding for elite registered Holstein genetics that can position their herd for greater production, efficiency, and profitability for the future. A recent study from Zoetis also helps show the positive effect genetic selection can have on environmental sustainability outcomes.
“What we found is that higher genetic merited animals that are making more milk and are living longer, and are healthier, have lower antibiotic intensity usage, have lower methane intensity,” noted Principal Scientist Brenda Gessenden.
The research, which included nearly 13,000 head of Holstein dairy cows, explored how animals selected through the dairy wellness profit index, calculated through the Zoetis clarifide-plus genomic test, brought value back to the farm and beyond.
“When we did that first round of the DWP, or dairy wellness profit validation, we found that those high genetic merited animals were healthier, right?" Gessenden said. "We were seeing less mastitis, less lameness, less metritis, right? They were just healthier overall.”
Healthier animals means less antibiotic usage and greater longevity in the milking herd.
“These higher genetic merited animals are longer-lived," Gessenden noted. "They need fewer heifers coming behind them, right? And so, that’s another spot where we’re really saving a lot on feed costs, saving a lot on that impact, because they’re living longer and requiring fewer heifers.”
In the study’s top 25% of cows with superior genetics, the animals demonstrated eight percent less calculated methane emissions, 43% less antibiotic usage over their lifetimes, and five percent less feed when compared to the bottom quarter of the herd. According to the data, these reductions were achieved while also producing 34% more milk and generating an average $869 more lifetime profit per cow.
Click Here to read the entire study.
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