Monday, 23 February 2015 00:00

Indexes aim at breeding healthy cows

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Dairy farmers wanting to produce healthier and more efficient animals can now make this part of their breeding programme, says herd management firm CRV Ambreed.

 It says its two new breeding indexes, ‘Better Life Health’ and ‘Better Life Efficiency’, will enable farmers to breed specifically for an efficient, easy-to-manage herd that stays healthy as it ages.

Both indexes are expressed as percentages so farmers can easily pinpoint the expected health and efficiency value of an individual bull.

Peter van Elzakker, global grazing genetics product manager at CRV Ambreed, says the Better Life Health index identifies a bull’s overall contribution to a healthier herd. A higher percentage means the bull’s progeny will have a lower rate of health incidents like mastitis, lameness, difficult births or reproductive problems.

“The benefits to farmers are easier-to-manage animals, fewer treatments, fewer veterinary bills and, in the end, greater financial gain.”

The traits in this index for New Zealand include fertility, calving difficulty, somatic cell count, residual survival, condition score and TOP-predictors. Overseas genetics incorporate ketosis, udder health, fertility, hoof health, calving ease and calf vitality.

For example, Okura Lika Murmur S3J, one of CRV Ambreed’s top bulls, is claimed to excel in calving ease, fertility and cell count, giving him a Better Life Health value of 8%. Bulls pass on half their genes to their progeny, so Murmur’s daughters will be 4% healthier than daughters of a bull that scores 0%, the company says.

The Better Life Efficiency index supports sustainable dairy farming by helping to reduce feed costs and increase lifetime production.

“Better use of feed, lower feed costs and lower cost per kilo of milk is a good thing, especially when payout is low,” says van Elzakker.

The traits included in the Better Life Efficiency index for New Zealand are kilos of milk, fat, protein, live weight, longevity, and fertility. Overseas genetics incorporate the new feed intake breeding value.

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