Archive for Dairy Breeding

Dairying Breeding in 2025

Almost weekly, there are news updates on what dairying will be like in the next quarter year or the next year.  Just recently, there have been some significant alarms surrounding the farm gate milk price in the immediate future. Supply will exceed demand, and the milk price has already dropped to below the cost of production for UK dairymen. In the United States, the farm gate prices will be lower in 2015 than they have been in 2014. Yet in Australia, according to a leading A.I. manager, the strong demand for Australia milk in SE Asia could continue to keep the farm gate price level.

However, strategic planning on dairy farms and in dairy cattle breeding must look much further into the future than 3 to 24 months. We here at the Bullvine decided to consider global circumstances that will determine the genetics that will be needed in 2025 in order to assist breeders as they transition from their current breeding programs.

The future milk market will be vastly different than it is today:

  • Market Size There will be one billion more people by 2025. FAO predictions are that the demand for milk protein from dairy animal sources, including cows, goats, buffalo and sheep, will be in strong into the future. Market size could well be over 25% above what it is today. To keep pace with that expansion, breeders will need to increase production by 2.5% per year for the next ten years. Whether that is by increasing average cow production by 2.5%, cow numbers by 2.5% or a combination of both, will be a decision that each manager will need to make. Making no change in output will mean that the farm will fall behind. Not a good situation as the margin of revenue over costs narrows.
  • Milk Production LocationTwo current global trends will continue – urbanization everywhere and significant global population increases in Asia and Africa. An increase in milk production will need to occur on those two continents; otherwise considerable expense will be incurred in moving dairy products from the countries where production exceeds demand. Many developing countries have recognized the need for increased milk production and have already initiated programs to domestically produce a higher proportion of their milk. Breeders in developed countries cannot automatically expect to expand their volume of production in order to meet the demands for milk from Africa and Asia.
  • Milk Products The vast majority of milk will not be consumed in a liquid unprocessed form – it will be eaten. The trend toward consumers wanting natural products will continue. Consumers will know the product source and product composition in exacting detail. Breeders will need to be produce milk that has attributes for which they have not previously been paid. Processors will want to know more than the fact that the milk they buy is 4% butterfat and 3% protein. Processors will base their payment to producers on the level of specific proteins and/or fatty acid composition. Since breeders currently do not have genetic information on the composition of the protein or butterfat that their animals produce, they will be at a disadvantage compared to the processor. A2A2 milk in Australia (Read more: 12 Things You Need to Know about A2 Milk) already receives a premium farm gate price. Breeders there are already using sires genetically tested to be A2A2.

Dairy farming will be different as well:

  • Herd SizeIn developed countries a minimum of 300 – 500 cows will be needed to cover the cost for the purchase of technology. Breeders in those countries will design their operations based on their strengths and specialties. While in countries with developing dairy industries herd size will vary from a few cows per owner in village herds to very large herds that are located in close proximity to cities and that buy all their inputs. Breeding decisions will be made by groups of cows and not on an individual cow basis.
  • Automation There is no doubt that dairying, like all other modern industries, will undergo very significant changes in the degree of mechanization that will occur. Cows will be electronically monitored for a multitude factors. Managers will be focused on managing systems and will have much less time to attend to problem animals. The traditional definition of a breeder’s cow sense will be replaced by breeders using facts, figures, and information on which to base decisions. (Read more: The Future of Dairy Cattle Breeding Is in the Data and Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd management.)
  • Feed – Forages and human food processing bi-products will form the majority of the animal diets. Dairy cow diets will be more finely tuned and balanced on a profit generated basis, instead of on a production level basis. Managers will make the investment to obtain expert advice.
  • Genetic Merit –The level of the genetic ability of the general population of dairy cows for their ability to return a profit to their owners will need to be 25-30% higher than it is today. Breeders, over the next decade, will need to invest in the genetics that return their farms the most profit.
  • Animal Welfare – Big strides will continue to be needed in animal welfare. Cow comfort and cow mobility will be continuously monitored and will be essential to herd profit. Consumers will demand that cows be polled, not be confined to a tie stall and treated humanely. Breeders will need to use genetic information to help address some of these issues.

Beyond the farms, other factors will affect dairy farming:

  • The Environment – Practices that are detrimental to the environment will not be tolerated. The current list of factors including greenhouse gas levels, GMOs, carbon footprint, and damaging product residues is only a short list of what farm managers will have to keep on top of in 2025.
  • Research / Education – Research and Development (R & D) will be an integral part of every business decision. Some farms will produce milk as well conduct R & D. Ownership of intellectual property will be closely guarded, which will be a new approach for many parts of dairy farming. Continuing education will be something farm managers will consider important to keep current with on a daily or weekly basis.

What will this all mean for animal breeding?

There will be no looking back. Cows will need to be different and genetically improved from what they have been in the past and what they are today. The changes in the TPI™ and NM$ formulae that will be implemented on December 2nd will not be progressive enough for 2025.

It will take research and development to change the genetics of our cows. It could even go as far as the need to develop a new breed or new strains of cows.  Breeders will need to take action. Breeders, their leaders and the suppliers of genetic products and services need to be taking time right now to understand how the genetic profiles of the cows of 2025 will need to be different than the genetic profiles of today’s cows.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It cannot be assumed that someone other than breeders will address the challenges of developing the cows best suited for 2025. A vibrant, viable and sustainable dairy breeding industry in 2025 is not guaranteed, but it is possible. The payoff will be that the breeding industry will be able to shape its best future.


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Who Controls The Future of The Dairy Breeding Industry?

As I listen to breeder-to-breeder discussions and read the information that is produced and shared, I am asking myself “Have we lost our breeder minds?” Most of the details or information shared is about what non-breeders think. Organizations, media and governments have different agendas and goals than breeders have. The Bullvine feels strongly that breeders need to make their voices heard in defining the genetic systems and services that are absolutely necessary for future success.

The Gravy is Gone

Where once breeders could sell animals for good prices, the premiums are gone and there are minimal, if any, margins for selling average breeding stock (Read more: Who Killed The Market For Good Dairy Cattle? and An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013). Where once breeding a top proven sire would mean a nice royalty check, that farm development or retirement money is no longer there.  And, furthermore, buyers who once bought replacement animals from breeders have moved to using sexed semen and cross breeding and they now have their own reproductively efficient replacements.

Adjusting to Reality takes A C T I O N

Breeders are seeing a much different industry today than even just five years ago but they have not adjusted their business plans accordingly. Getting to the future in this era requires something other than following the past. Sexed semen, sexed embryos and cows with a hundred plus daughters are here. Genomic information has moved the focus to young animals (Read more:  Genomics – Opportunity is KnockingGenomics at Work – August 2013 and The End of the Daughter Proven Sire Era). Breeding decisions must be extended to include many more profit determining traits. And that only gets us to 2014. What will the industry look like in 2020 and beyond? In today’s terms that is only three to four generations of females away.

The Future – Bright & Sunny or a Tornado?

The Bullvine hears both scenarios. Some breeders have accepted that genomics is a very useful tool for their niche and plans. They see light at the end of the tunnel for themselves. Other breeders are asking questions – “Why have purebreds? Why test? Why record? Why participate? Why more traits? …Why, Why, Why?” For them they are in a tornado. Some of those breeders have already cashed in and moved on in their careers.  For those that remain in the breeding industry where are they being given support, representation or help?

We can learn from the Past

Breed societies were formed about a century ago to provide service to breeders in authentication and representation.  Breeders set aside their individual ideas or priorities for the collective good. They elected peers to represent them on boards that set policies, established recording systems and set the breed direction necessary to get us to where we are today. That took work. We need that kind of work today. It isn’t just holding down a seat at a board table. It means representation. It means vision. It means proactive leadership.

Does the collective good concept still hold today?  Cooperative A.I. organizations, formed 75 years ago by breeders, are in some cases being run as primarily as large corporations. Is the breeder voice being voiced? Being lost? Being heard?

Time for Breeders to Speak Up

So what has happened to our minds and our voices? Have they gone into hibernation or gone silent? Are we only huddling with likeminded breeders? Are we stuck in deep muddy ruts? Do we give good input to our elected officials?

Breeder organizations need to be looking to the future. Meetings seem to be the same old crowd talking about what’s wrong with the future. Breed promotion is, often, tied to the past not the future. It’s all about tradition in a time when we are in revolution.  Meetings are boring and ignored by innovative breeders. Discerning breeders take the time, when they have it, to provide input to boards, researchers and politicians. They often catch up or link up during a break time in their busy days.

If breeders do not work collectively and take action to position breeds then the move to bigger corporations setting the rules will win the day. This has happened in poultry and swine.

You can be Heard 24-7

Not everyone has time for meetings. Holding office is time consuming. Dairy breeding is 24-7.  There are ways to communicate 24-7. Several ways in fact. Social media is ready to carry your message whenever you are ready to give it. Some breeders may say that they prefer hard copy or face-to-face communications. But today that is passé.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It is time for breeders to spend time, energy and resources to develop positions and make their wishes known. That will not happen by complaining to each other. It is time to stop leaving the action to others. Our future is in our own hands and key pads. The time for sitting back and watching is long past. Are you speaking up for the future of breeds and tomorrow’s breeders?



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