In HI’s February issue (pgs. 10-11) you became acquainted with the phenomenon Beef-on-Dairy: the breeding of dairy cows to beef bulls. As the result of extensive use of sexed semen in many prominent Holstein countries, this is a growing practice. In this article, we will consider a number of breeding programs which have been developed to select the best possible beef bulls to meet this end goal. And you receive an overview of the bulls from various beef breeds that are recommended by AIs for use on dairy cows. Also with Beef-on-Dairy, it is the case: do not use “just any bull”; also here, better bulls clearly lead to better results.
Theoretically, a breeding value for somatic cell score (SCS), as is routinely calculated in most countries around the world, could continue to serve as a genetic indicator for udder health well into the future. In countries where a breeding value for mastitis is calculated, the correlation between it and SCS can go from 0.6 to 0.9. that is very high. Nonetheless, more and more breeding indexes are directly incorporating breeding values for mastitis. Here we will explain why that is and how mastitis breeding values are obtained.
In HI, we seldom or never write an article about the beef breeds. Nevertheless, there is a good reason to do that now, because the use of beef bulls on Holstein cows is becoming commonplace. In most Holstein countries, the number of inseminations with so-called “beef on dairy” sires has increased tremendously in recent years, in some cases even to nearly 50%. HI spoke with specialists about the phenomenon “Beef on Dairy”. Which breeds are being used for this? And: what is the emphasis in sire selection?
Use of genomics in official genetic evaluations has transformed the dairy cattle breeding industry over the past decade. Now genomics is being used to offer breeders new options when it comes to selecting healthier animals: the wellness traits.
The breeding of tall, impressive looking cows has been the goal for many a breeder down through the years. Now, slowly the tide of opinion is changing and many believe the stature of Holsteins is already tall enough. However, the selection for increased stature appears to be built into our breeding systems at various levels. How do we slow the rate of increase in stature of our cows?
With US Holstein genetics playing a major role on the international scene, the TPI is widely recognized and has become a common language understood in many different countries around the world. However, do you know exactly what traits are included in the TPI? Here you can learn in 2 pages about the many valuable traits included!
France has two large breeding companies: Evolution and Gènes Diffusion. At the latter, Frédéric Lepoint has already been employed for 28 years and thus is both a genetic manager and an ambassador. HI spoke with Lepoint about developments at Gènes Diffusion, cooperative efforts and the potential of genomics. Lepoint calls himself “pro-genomics” but places significant conditions on that. Something needs to change, according to this expert.
Improved cow comfort is often listed as a major contributor to increased milk production. Improved barn design, increased air flow and ventilation, better access to the feed bunk, and more spacious stalls all help to make for a more efficient operation. This month we discuss the various choices when it comes to another significant contributor to cow comfort, bedding material.
Timely pregnancy of heifers and cows is critical to the economics of dairy farms. That is the reason why during the past number of years, fertility has received increased attention within breeding programs. It is no longer possible to imagine indexes for daughter fertility being omitted in the sire selection process. But also bull fertility – no matter how small the contribution may be in the total spectrum – is also carefully considered by many farmers. The figure can even be crucial for the career of a bull.
‘Stress reduces the resistance of cows, causing the likelihood of infections to increase. And the number of stress moments is quite high actually; cows are like people with autism, they do not handle changes well.’ Speaking is Arnout Dekker, a practicing veterinarian with years of experience who now works at Phibro, the supplier of OmniGen, the product that offers proven support to the immune system of, among others, dairy cows, and thus maintains a high resistance level. In turn this results in fewer cases of disease and reduced use of antibiotics.
It is now almost 10 years since the arrival of the genomics. In that time it has evolved into the biggest revolution the cattle breeding industry has seen. To look at some of the developments as genomics has been implemented over those 10 years we spoke to Dr Paul VanRaden, a research geneticist with the USDA Agriculture Research Service Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Maryland.
A common sight on many farms around the world is the arrivial of the AI technician to breed cows. Now the number of farmers with their own tanks and doing their own inseminations is steadily climbing.
A daily production of 40 kg/cow; Pieter Karst Bouma wants to reach this goal within two years. ‘After raising the roof on the old barn, that is certainly realistic,’ says the farmer from the Dutch province of Friesland. Bouma is in tune with all aspects of his farm and is trying to get the most out of his herd: With the assistance of information from the milking robots and surrounded by the right specialists.
Elevated somatic cell counts not only cause production losses, but also increase the likelihood of mastitis, with all the associated problems and costs. To prevent financial damage and animal losses, it is important to decrease, or maintain the somatic cell count on the farm at a low level. Easily said, but what does this look like in practice? Which factors play a big role in this? HI spoke with an independent milking expert and two dairy farmers that have an average somatic cell count of 100,000 or lower.
“The Program for Healthy Cows”: That is how the ProFitPlus program is described on the websites of the German AIs RinderAllianz (RA) and Rinderzucht Berlin Brandenburg (RBB). For more specific background, experiences and results on this unique project, HI spoke with Jan Körte, Head of Breeding at RA. In his working region, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in the far northeastern part of Germany, already since 2005, standardized field data from thousands of cows has been compiled in the areas of mastitis, hoof health and calving, among others. This resulted three years ago in indexes that are much appreciated in the field.
Average daily milk production per robot for all Lely milking robots world-wide reaches 1628 kg, while the top farm is now above 3000 kg! ‘The robots are the same everywhere, the difference lies in management,’ state Lely representatives Frank van der Staak and Rutger van de Streek, who present lots of remarkable data and share engaging stories about the developments of the automatic milking systems, and especially about the growing stream of information from numerous sensors that offer farmers management support. They provide insight about goals, and how to realize those goals with the proper application of modern technology.
In August 2011, the Nordic Total Merit (NTM) index – used in Denmark, Sweden and Finland – became the first total index worldwide to include the trait Hoof Health as one its components. ‘Now farmers can see the result for themselves through better longevity and fewer cases of lameness,’ comments Lars Nielsen from Viking Genetics. ‘Hoof health has a correlation of .40 with longevity, while feet & legs have a correlation of just .15/.20 with longevity. Our best bull for Hoof Health reduces the cases of lameness by 50%.’
Whether or not to use dry cow treatment, housing in one or two groups, a dry period of six weeks or is eight weeks better? Experts think differently about the ideal dry period. What all experts do agree on, though, is that without a good dry period, milking cows will not get old. HI spoke with Boclair Holsteins in Scotland, the Dijk-de Bruin partnership in the Netherlands and Hendel Farms in the US; three enterprises with high-producing and long-lasting herds that have proven to have good dry cow management.