Breeding dairy cows for the future!

Dec 13, 2018

Technology continues to reshape the genetics industry. Artificial insemination was the first ‘game changer’ and there have been many more to follow. Luc Libberecht, Sales Director for Semex Holland, in The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, tells his story about the recent developments within the genetics industry.

Proven or genomics?
For the past decade, genomics has dominated dairy herd improvement discussions. At the start, ten years ago, there was a lot of controversy and many farmers had doubts about this new breeding strategy. Today, for many breeders, using proven or genomic bulls is not an issue anymore! Farmers simply look for the best bulls to use in their operations, whether these are proven or not. Many farmers even start testing their female animals, allowing them to identify their very best young animals. With this information, breeders can better plan strategies and make the right breeding decisions. Nowadays, female genomics testing programs, such as Semex’ Elevate or mating programs, e.g. Semex’ ProMate, are becoming part and parcel of the genetics industry.

The critical public opinion is playing an increasingly important role… People want to see healthy cows in a comfortable environment, where life is good for people and cows. The use of antibiotics is a big point of discussion and in time, we expect a general prohibition on the use of antibiotics in animals. That is why AI-centres are looking for genetics that provide sound and healthy animals. R&D departments are key within this development and their research leads to more innovative techniques, producing animals fit for a sustainable future. Products, such as Semex’ Immunity+, are the first step in the right direction and we are sure more new techniques will emerge in time.

Cow – and bull – fertility is also rapidly becoming a hot topic for producers. Once again, we are working towards a more sustainable future, so we need animals with high fertility numbers, in order for them to breed easily and remain for a long time at the farm.

Dairy Cow Monitoring and Herd Management Systems
Fact is, that farms are developing, which means that farmers are in need of innovations and systems, helping them in their day-to-day management. Intelligent systems already exist and we will see a lot more of them in the future. These systems will help farmers detect the right time to breed their cows. In the same time, it will help control the overall health status of the herd. AI-companies already deliver these systems – e.g. Semex’AI24 – and their share will become bigger over time.

So yes, the genetics industry is changing rapidly and these changes will take dairy breeding to a higher level. However, breeding a functional cow, with good revenue, stable legs and good udders etc., will remain the most important aspects. Technology and genetic techniques – e.g. DNA testing – will help take a look inside the cow. That way, our cows will become more performant then ever with a longer life and less health issues!