Tuesday, 18 July 2017 09:55

We’ve hit peak cow – LIC

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
LIC chief executive Wayne McNee. LIC chief executive Wayne McNee.

The days of high growth in New Zealand cow numbers are over, says LIC chief executive Wayne McNee.

Numbers have dropped in recent years due to economic factors and environmental issues are forcing cows off farms in some regions.

LIC is forecasting zero growth in cow numbers over the next five years.

“We are calling it peak cow or cow equilibrium,” McNee told Rural News.

“For forecasting purposes we are saying there will be no growth in cow numbers in the next five years; this forecast is corroborated by other information and what others are saying in the sector.

“We are not seeing the [dairy] conversions for a variety of reasons – some economical, some environmental.”

Over the last 23 years, on average an extra 100,000 cows were added to the national herd every year— an extra 2.3 million cows in the last 23 years. McNee doesn’t see that continuing.

“We are seeing stabilisation; it may vary region to region -- some will grow, some won’t.”

McNee says the peak cow makes genetics and herd testing even more important. Farmers need to pick out the good cows in their herd; if the number of cows is down, let’s have the most productive.

The most efficient cows will be those converting grass into milk, not waste. Farmers need to choose the right cows to breed from.

“With our scheme at the moment, you can breed from the top 80% of your cows and produce replacements and put the rest of them to a beef animal,” says McNee.

“But to do that, you must know what are your best animals. you can’t do that by just looking at them in the shed and milking them; herd testing is the way to go.”

McNee says peak cow aligns with what DairyNZ has been “saying for a long time”.

“Identify your most efficient animals; focus on breeding from them and milk your best cows.”

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