What type of cow will be in demand in the future and how can breeding contribute to it? Willem van Laarhoven, member of the Breeding for Longevity Foundation and Joost Klein Herenbrink from CRV mention the importance of older cows, persistence, feed efficiency and low methane emissions. The good news, according to Klein Herenbrink: low methane emissions and high feed efficiency go hand in hand.
“We really expect that in the coming years much more attention will be paid around the world to breeding for high feed efficiency and low methane emissions. The good news is that feed efficiency and low methane emissions are closely related. This provides breeding opportunities, ”says Joost Klein Herenbrink of CRV.
Klein Herenbrink works in the Global Product Management Department of Genetics. This focuses on recognizing the trends for years to come in beef farming around the world. To then translate them into breeding values for practice. “Half of the seed sold by CRV goes to farmers in the Netherlands and Flanders. The other half go to countries around the world.
Important differences between countries
The themes of food efficiency and climate are omnipresent, but there are also major differences, continues Klein Herenbrink. “For example, grazing is a strong factor for us and even more so in countries like the UK, South Africa and New Zealand. But not at all in many parts of the United States. So what you focus on to raise the “best cow of the future” depends in part on where in the world you are active.
The lifespan doesn’t really want to increase on many companies
Longevity is another topic that receives a lot of attention from breeding around the world, but certainly also in the Netherlands. Partly because of the influence of social discussions, this is only expected to increase.
one hundred tons
Klein Herenbrink explains that you can learn a lot about target breeding by looking at cows that have exceeded the 100,000 liter limit. Another important step and a symbol of longevity. “On average, these animals achieve a significantly higher than average lactation value as heifers. This means that the best performing animals, in terms of lifespan and lifetime production, are already off to a good start as heifers. ‘
According to Klein Herenbrink, one difference that will become more visible in the years to come is that more and more dairy producers are marking their calves on the basis of genomics and making choices based on that. “Previously, a farmer would mate with, for example, a bull like Altantic which performs well on hoof health. Because the dairy farmer attaches great importance to this, he consciously breeds with the offspring of this bull. He now marks all young animals and selects animals to continue breeding on that basis.
Does the dairy farmer lose reliability with this method? “No, you can compare the marking of young females in this regard to that of a third cow with calf,” Klein Herenbrink replies.
Gain one year of lifespan
Willem van Laarhoven is affiliated with the Breeding for Longevity foundation. This organization tries by breeding to encourage efforts to increase the lifespan of dairy cattle. “Nutrition and management are important, but selection really matters,” says Van Laarhoven.
“From a genetic point of view, the majority of Dutch farms can gain at least a year of life from the dairy herd. The holding figures for daughters of bulls presented annually prove it. The number of daughters that are still in production 5 years after first calving can differ by up to 25 percent between bulls, ”explains Van Laarhoven.
According to Van Laarhoven, it is above all the attitude of many dairy farmers that the lifespan still does not really want to increase in many farms. “Early calving, for example, has become very fashionable in recent years. It sounds interesting, but one should not forget the following: Previously, a heifer averaged 75 percent of her maximum production as a mature dairy cow. In recent decades, this figure has risen to an average of 83%. It sounds positive, but it’s not always the case. Earliness has a strong negative correlation with longevity.
Van Laarhoven notices from the field projects that many young farmers are focusing on living production. “They want to achieve this through high milk production. Heifers “should” give 30 liters or more. Well, I can tell you that they wear out too quickly on a lot of companies.
Keeping an older cow can be done often and for a long time, explains Van Laarhoven. “As long as you think the cow can still go through another lactation, you should still go and make sure you keep milking her. The counselor calculates that an example heifer produces 8,000 kilograms of milk per year. If this is 80 percent of her peak, that means she is producing 10,000 pounds as a mature cow.
“With breeding, you gain an average of 100 kilos per year in milk production. A five-year rearing will give you an average of 500 kilos more milk. But maturity at five lactations will give you 2,000 pounds. A new heifer with five years of targeted breeding that produces 8,500 kilos is therefore not easily more attractive than an older cow that produces 10,000 kilos. And you have already paid the costs of raising that older cow. This has to be redone for each new heifer ”, advises Van Laarhoven.
In order to obtain better results, the Breeding for Longevity foundation is campaigning to orient more and better breeding towards the transformation of fodder and grazing.
“We know of companies that feed a lot of corn, companies that process a lot of silage and fresh grass, and companies that are fully committed to grazing. It would be best to be able to present a total index for these enterprise systems in the future, ”suggests Van Laarhoven. “You have to separate the concentrates and the forage in terms of efficiency. Because when is a cow effective? TMR and forage efficiency are different things.
Long term business
Van Laarhoven points out that being able to present full bull maps for different farming systems based on forage efficiency is a long-term process. “It’s not something you write and organize in the late afternoon. But the time has come to look at it more and more carefully.
Klein Herenbrink agrees that research into feed efficiency takes time. And expensive. Nevertheless, CRV has been investing in it for some time. “We are testing feed efficiency at five practical farms. To be fair, they feed a fair amount of corn on average. However, we can correctly measure the consumption of concentrate and forage separately. There seems to be a strong correlation between the two.
Sometimes difficult research
The CRV man would like to see more research, but besides time and money issues, it is difficult to implement in some areas. “You can measure grazing time, for example, but with that you are not measuring the exact record.”
But the development of sensors and associated formulas and models continues. “This way we can plan more and better,” says Klein Herenbrink. “I can imagine that in five to ten years we will be able to tell for each bull whether their model of inheritance is a good fit for a farmer of a certain type of operation.”
CRV: “Persistence will gain in importance in the selection”
Late last year, the CRV conducted a survey of its members to indicate the direction in which the breeding goal should be taken over the next five years. The results are known, but the breeding organization is still working on the analysis and would like to share the results with the members later this year. Joost Klein Herenbrink is curious about the results. He expects the fertility trait to change at the farm level in the years to come. “A lower value can be attributed to the characteristic of the calving interval (TRT). Aiming for a longer TRT in combination with good persistence may also be better suited to circular farming. Persistence will thus gain in importance in breeding. Fertility will primarily involve as few inseminations as possible per pregnancy. ‘ Klein Herenbrink sees an increase in the popularity of high quality components around the world. “We hope to be able to take advantage of our lead in this area.”