A seven-year study to improve dairy cow fertility has begun.
The project will create a special herd of 700
Holstein-Friesian heifer calves with low and high fertility
attributes, selected from contract matings in spring this
With more than 2800 matings needed, DairyNZ was enlisting
farmers' support to meet its target.
LIC and CRV Ambreed were helping to set up the research herd,
with LIC managing the contract mating programme. It started
contacting more than 1000 selected dairy farmers during the
last week of May.
DairyNZ senior scientist and project leader Chris Burke said
cow fertility was fundamental to dairy farm productivity,
with the goal of getting as many cows as possible in calf in
the first six weeks.
''More cows in calf means more milk in the vat before
Christmas, fewer replacements required, more flexibility when
making culling decisions to improve herds and better returns
overall for dairy farmers,'' Dr Burke said.
The programme aimed to lift the six-week in-calf rate from
the current average of 65% to 78%. This would deliver an
estimated $500 million annual increase in profit.
''This is a challenging target that cannot be achieved using
current knowledge and technologies alone,'' Dr Burke said.
''A biological breakthrough is required.
''The research herd will help us to unravel the underlying
biology that differentiates genetically fertile cows from
The fertility programme's biggest challenge was reducing the
apparent 30% of conceptions in the first 35 days after
insemination that did not become pregnancies, he said.
The magnitude, timing and possible reasons for pregnancy
failure in commercially operated herds would be measured.
This new work would be a collaborative effort from DairyNZ,
AgResearch and Fonterra.
The project also wanted to increase the ability to select for
improved fertility genotypes and give farmers new management
tools to take advantage of the cows' improved genetics.