As costs of production soar and cow numbers decline, more dairy farmers need to take advantage of the technologies available to identify the best animals to rear and mate and make sure they use their investments in livestock wisely.
This is the message from CRV managing director James Smallwood following the release this month of 2021/22 New Zealand Dairy Statistics report.
The report shows an increasing number of farmers are tapping into technology and information to help them breed healthier and more efficient cows. The season saw an increased uptake of herd improvement services, with record herd testing levels of 3.79 million cows.
While more New Zealand farmers are using data and insights to support on-farm decisions, James believes there are still many who have not yet realised the value of tools like herd testing and DNA and genomic testing.
“While this trend is encouraging, there are still many farmers who are not using the tools already available to help them future proof their business,” says James.
“Our herd testing and myHERD data shows the average production of the top 20% of a herd gives 160kg more milk solids per lactation when compared to the average production of the bottom 20% of that same herd.
“They all eat the same and cost the same to get into the herd. Imagine if every dairy farmer in New Zealand knew who their top performers were early and then mated accordingly.
“It makes financial sense to know which cows are in the top 20 per cent. You breed from these animals to increase the productivity of your herd and get genetic gains faster.”
James says knowing which cows are in the bottom 20 per cent can also be profitable.
“The worst performers can be culled or bred for dairy beef, while animals with genetic potential can be inseminated with sexed semen or targeted with specific traits to boost the productivity potential of their progeny.”
CRV has seen demand for sexed semen continue to grow year on year as farmers look to accelerate their herds’ genetic gain and reduce bobby calf numbers - increasingly important as they consider animal welfare and make sure every calf enters the value chain.
“For herds with good fertility management, using sexed semen from the very best bulls on your best cows is the most effective and fastest way to get ahead,” says James. “Our farmer customers get the genetics they order, not just the sexed bull available on the day. This means they get the right bull for their herd to achieve more rapid genetic gain.
“By helping farmers select the right mix of sexed semen, conventional semen and dairy beef sires they can breed better replacements, higher value dairy beef calves and reduce the number of bobby calves.”
Last year, CRV collaborated with Genus IntelliGen® Technologies to bring proven innovative sexed semen technology to New Zealand, giving dairy farmers access to high quality sexed semen to accelerate the genetic gains of their herd.
“As margins continue to be squeezed, it is more crucial than ever for New Zealand dairy farmers to leverage these types of technologies to make sure the investment they are making in their herds is delivering the best returns.”