NEW ZEALAND - Dairy cow fertility has been the watchword in Oceania this week as industry leaders have underscored fertility as critical to cost control.
In New Zealand, the latest figures show fertility performance is improving. In Australia, producers are being rallied to contribute to a national breeding database to collate more breeding data.
Improving the data set will improve accuracy of 2014’s Australian Breeding Values, out in April, in turn assisting with selecting for fertility traits.
Speaking on behalf of Dairy Futures CRC, chief executive Dr David Nation said breeding values are a key focus at the moment, although success depends on a large data sample.
This has been seen in New Zealand this week, where DairyNZ and Livestock Improvement Commission (LIC) statistics have reported a three per cent rise in average six week in-calf rate since 2010.
This means 65 per cent of kiwi cows fall within the six week period, a step closer to the industry target of 78 per cent.
Savings from this improvement have been estimated at NZ$110 million based on a ‘conservative’ $5.50 payout using the InCalf gap calculator.
LIC chief executive officer Wayne McNee said he was encouraged by the findings. He commended dairymen for the improvements, adding that more can be done.
"Based on more recent payout levels, this latest increase is worth more like $150 million to those farmers who made improvements in 2012,” said Mr McNee.
“And there's still at least NZ$400 million on the table, if the average 6-week in-calf rate can get up to the industry target of 78 per cent."
Herd data from 7000 LIC farms was analysed under DairyNZ’s Fertility Focus programme using the cooperative’s herd management software.
Australia boasts a greater corpus from which to derive findings and it is growing. October to December last year saw over 120,0000 farmers submit records for the first time.
Rising popularity has been attributed partly to an upgrade to herd management software package Easy Dairy.
This is promising and, according to Michelle Axford, a manager at the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme, a sign that early adopters are prompting other farmers to adopt the software.
“We know there is a lot more quality data on farms that could be used to bring about faster genetic gain within herds,” she said.
“We’re asking farmers who use herd management software to check they are using the most recent version.
Australian producers are reminded to enter data by with sufficient data for the April ABV calculations.