Today’s dairy cattle breeders live in exciting times. The information and tools available are expanding at lightning fast speed. Traditional methods for improving herds and generating revenue from the sale of breeding stock have gone by the wayside. (Read more: Is There Still Going To Be A Market For Purebred Cattle In 10 Years? and Which Is Your Most Profitable Cow?) The breeding of elite animals rests in fewer hands every year.

What’s In the Future for Breeders

Until five years ago breeders limited the traits they selected for to those for which data was captured by DHI and Type Classification Programs. The future will be different.

  • Cow Efficiency Will Be Key
    With milk producers getting a smaller and smaller portion of the consumers’ dollar spent on milk, breeders need to supply breeding stock that are more efficient. Feed and labor account for about 70% of cost at the farm level. Genetic indexing for feed conversion and labor efficiency hold out great promise as areas where breeding could help. To date capturing feeding and labor data at the farm level is not happening. Some research is underway on feed efficiency. Stay tuned as researchers study these areas. However no longer will longevity be #1. Cows will need to be efficient every day of their productive lives. (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable, 30 Sires that will produce Feed Efficient Cows and Feed Efficiency: The Money Saver)
  • Food Safety Will Be a Must Have
    Higher and higher demands will be put on the quality of milk coming off farms. Even moderate levels of mastitis will not be tolerated. It is very interesting to see that CDN has just announced that, effective December 2013, it will publish an Official Genetic Evaluation for Mastitis Resistance. This report is well worth the review by discerning breeders. Information like the fact that for the best sires 6% of their daughters get mastitis whereas for the worst sires 22% of their daughters get mastitis.  These evaluations will be significantly more accurate that using SCS alone. Now that’s news breeders want to hear. Additionally it is quite exciting to read that in the future CDN plans to publish genetic rankings for other disease resistance traits.
  • Island Mentality Won’t Work
    Breeding dairy cattle will be just like running any sustainable business. You need all the information and you need KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).  Breeders will need all the details which include the relationship of a trait to all other traits when making breeding decisions.  Think about it. How much more valuable is it to know all of the performance, nutrition, rumination, estrus, body temperature, health, DNA, classification, financial and other management information. Selecting for only a few traits will become a thing of the past. On-farm data capture systems will be much more extensive in even just a few years from now and it will be stored in the cloud.  Are you ready for on-farm testing for fat, protein, CLAs, protein fractions, and hormone levels? That list will grow quickly. Breeders will need 24-7 access to data and information. Data storage systems by breed societies and DHI’s will likely be a thing of the past. (Read more: Why Dairy Farmers Need To Know Their Key Performance Indicators)
  • Get Used to Global
    The world of dairy cattle breeding has gone totally global. The current Interbull system for ranking bulls will be a thing of the past. Consider the fact that Scandinavia has had cow and heifer health data recording for many years now. Think how useful it would have been to use that data to develop genomic indexes for health traits for the world. The best animals in the world will not be limited to a few countries. Can you imagine only implanting sexed female embryos that are genomically tested and in the top 5% globally? (Read more: Who Really Has The Best Dairy Cattle Genetics In The World?)
  • Less Instinct More Facts
    We often hear about the art versus the science of breeding cattle. Well get ready for the art of applying the science. So much will be known about the genetic make-up of our animals that the breeder instinct will be replaced by programs that analyse and give recommendations to breeders.

It has Already Started

Over the past few years, the breeding of dairy cattle has gone viral.  Communication by hard copy is dying quickly. Communities of breeders around the world talk every day without even leaving their office or picking up the phone. (Read more: The Shocking Speed of Social Media and the Dairy Industry) No one owns the patent on improving dairy cattle. It is a shared opportunity taken by those who want to breed improved cattle and generate income from owning the elite. Oocyte recovery will be possible from cows and heifers no matter where they are located.  And new technology and information will be available daily or weekly not every four months as is now the case with genetic evaluation releases.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Now is the time for more global collaboration. Thinking beyond the present is a must. When it comes to breeding the ideal cow for 2020 or beyond she will need to be more complete than she has ever been before. (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow) If you haven’t considered one or more of the above changes you may already be in danger of falling behind.

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