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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Genetic Improvement is Worth the Investment.

Dairy Pipeline: September 1995

by Bennet Cassell
Genetics and Management

Do the returns from higher production always cover the costs necessary to achieve it? Some producers question the returns to management and are turning to lower cost schemes such as rotational grazing or low concentrate rations. Some have questioned the value of genetic improvement as well. Can the effort and expense of AI to top bulls be justified or would daughters of heifer freshener bulls perform just as well on low input management schemes? A breeding and feeding experiment at the Langhill Dairy Cattle Research Centre of the University of Edinburgh provides an interesting answer. Researchers started two separate breeding lines of Holsteins in 1973, one line sired by the top 4 to 5 bulls available world wide for fat + protein. The other line was sired by breed average bulls for the United Kingdom. These two lines of cows were then divided in half and fed a high roughage/low cost ration or a low roughage/high cost ration. The table below summarizes first lactation results.

Cows on the low forage/high cost diet out produced cows on the high forage/low cost ration regardless of breeding program used. However, the difference between cows sired by carefully selected bulls on a low cost ration and cows from low intensity sire selection on a more costly ration was very small. Therefore, don't skimp on the genetic inputs in your dairy herd. Besides, you can change your mind about how to feed cows but you can't change their sires once conception has occurred.

Average yield (lbs/day) of fat + protein in selection and control line cows on high and low forage diets

Breeding programLow forageHigh forage
Selection line5.04.3
Control line4.43.7

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