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Crossbreeding Can Improve Dairy Cow Welfare

09 December 2009

UK - Crossbreeding can help address animal welfare concerns from both a financial and ethical perspective.

A report released by Morrisons, in conjunction with Arla Foods, looks into the role of crossbreeding in the UK dairy herd as part of Morrison's Farm Programme.

Along with livestock specialist, Wes Bluhm, Morrisons and Arla looked at research from the US, New Zealand and Europe.

The report concluded that an important benefit of crossbreeding is improved survivability. This offers the potential of increased heifer sales, more intensive culling of unsatisfactory cows and possibly the option of increased beef crossbreeding in the dairy herd to increase income.

Longer living cows require less replacements and this has been identified as an environmental benefit to crossbreeding. As well, the improved reproductive performance of crossbreds also has a positive impact on the environment.

In turn a lower replacement rate provides the opportunity for more of the dairy herd being bred to beef sires improving the yield and quality of domestic beef with less reliance on imports.

Available research indicates that crossbreeding may well have larger benefits to the UK dairy industry as a whole. The possibility of crossbreeding generating more robust cows could be a significant benefit in the age of animal welfare concerns. Animal welfare is not just a concern on moral grounds; it has financial implications as well.

For the processing industry crossbreeding provides the opportunity of increasing solids content of milk more dramatically through the use of high component breeds.

It is important for producers to have an effective breeding programme in place which is tapered for each individual herd.

The research undertaken demonstrates that crossbreeding can contribute useful heterosis and complementary benefits in these traits and that a well planned crossbreeding programme can play a role in addressing these concerns.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

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