Drop in fer­til­ity to be re­searched

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

New Zealand dairy farm­ers are not alone in wor­ry­ing about the de­clin­ing re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance of their herds – it’s hap­pen­ing all around the world – but an in­no­va­tive new project aims to halt that de­cline, in this coun­try at least.

Dairy farmer-owned co­op­er­a­tive, Live­stock Im­prove­ment (LIC) said im­prov­ing re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance was the num­ber one pri­or­ity for the coun­try’s dairy farm­ers – and as the pi­o­neers of much of the coun­try’s dairy in­no­va­tions, it was ap­pro­pri­ate that LIC take a lead. LIC gen­eral man­ager Peter Gat­ley said the re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance of New Zealand dairy cows had been pro­gres­sively drop­ping.

‘‘Over the last 10 years the six week in­calf rate has de­creased from 68 per cent to 62 per cent and the empty rate has in­creased from 10 per cent to 15 per cent. ‘‘On an in­dus­try ba­sis that’s hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars in lost pro­duc­tiv­ity – and at an in­di­vid­ual farm level it’s cost­ing farm­ers many thou­sands of dol­lars.

‘‘LIC breeds most of the coun­try’s cows but our fo­cus has largely been on the type of cow that re­sults. Things that im­pact on preg­nancy rates, like se­men technology and tech­ni­cian per­for­mance are rou­tinely mea­sured but there’s a lot more we can do to help farm­ers im­prove per­for­mance.

‘‘The drop in New Zealand’s re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance isn’t as marked as else­where in the world but that doesn’t negate its sig­nif­i­cance or cost to our farm­ers.

‘‘Farm­ers con­firm, in our an­nual sur­veys, that im­prov­ing the re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance of their herds is their num­ber one pri­or­ity.’’

Mr Gat­ley said LIC had be­gun re­cruit­ing for a man­ager to lead the project. ‘‘The Re­pro­duc­tive So­lu­tions Man­ager has a piv­otal role. The job will be to es­tab­lish and man­age a team of re­pro­duc­tive spe­cial­ists whose role is to as­sist farm­ers in us­ing cur­rently avail­able knowl­edge and prod­ucts but also to work with our R&D team to de­velop new tools.

‘‘If it was as sim­ple as chang­ing the ge­netic makeup of the na­tional herd, we would have done it years ago. The fact is that ge­net­ics ex­plains only a small pro­por­tion of the vari­a­tion seen be­tween herds and that vari­a­tion is enor­mous. We know what can be achieved with cur­rent best prac­tice and we’re con­fi­dent a lot more can be done to de­velop tools to help solve the prob­lem.

‘‘A lot of good work is al­ready be­ing done by DairyNZ, vets, con­sul­tants and oth­ers, and this ini­tia­tive is about work­ing with all in­ter­ested par­ties to achieve the right out­come.

‘‘For ex­am­ple, we have al­ready iden­ti­fied how we can im­prove in­for­ma­tion flow from our data­base to en­able the farmer or ad­viser to pin­point prob­lems or op­por­tu­ni­ties and do some­thing about it. As they say, if you can mea­sure it, you can man­age it. Un­til we started plan­ning for this ini­tia­tive, no one even knew what the six-week in-calf rate was or how it was trend­ing.’’

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