Press release…

With the onus on farmers to reduce emissions from their herds many are looking at how breeding cows with better feed efficiencies can help achieve the objectives.

Using the CFIT technology from VikingGenetics is already helping dairy farmers around the world not only reduce methane but also help save feed costs.

Let’s face it, the agricultural industry is an easy target for governments to focus on to help reach overall climate goals, but it comes with a huge cost to farmers.

Research shows that cattle emissions in the Nordics can be reduced by approximately 20% by 2050 if farmers invest in their herd’s feed efficiency.

Two experts on breeding offer their advice and knowledge on better feeding efficiency and how it can impact herds.

Jan Lassen, Ph.D. is the senior project manager at VikingGenetics, and Coralia Manzanilla-Pech, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at Aarhus University’s Centre for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics.

CFIT explained

VikingGenetics has a goal of having over 30,000 cows registered on the CFIT system by 2025, but how can this help farmers?

Jan Lassen

Jan Lassen said: “The CFIT system has been developed in VikingGenetics with collaborators for the last seven years or so. It is a 3D based camera system that measures individual feed intakes.

“The technologies in the 3D camera system take pictures of the back of the cows together with their ear tag reading. And then we can use that information to refine the cows while they’re eating. We use the changes in the shape of the feed to quantify how much feed they’re eating.

“This is recorded 24 hours a day. We combine that with a predicted weight from the 3D camera, so we can say based on an image how much a cow is weighing. And those are two of the key elements in making the saved feed index. The saved feed index is an index that is giving bulls breeding values on how well their offspring performs for efficiency.”

Chewing over the data

Feed is the biggest variable cost on any dairy farm, therefore farmers know if the efficiency is improved, the costs come down. If a cow eats less yet maintains herself and produces more milk, then profits can be higher. Cows eating less per litre of milk they produce are also more climate friendly. 

CFIT currently collects data from 12,000 cows, but with 30,000 cows by 2025, there will be 1.3 million daily intake records.

Coralia Manzanilla-Pech

Coralia Manzanilla-Pech said: “As researchers, we always need a large amount of data to estimate accurate genetic parameters, but also breeding values. And with more data, we will have a better reliability for those breeding values.

“This is also a unique opportunity where we can measure a large amount of data on different commercial farms, also different breeds. But the most important is that is continuously and that will give us more information on what is happening through the lactation, but also in different and further lactations that we couldn’t have without the CFIT system.”

Breeding the climate friendly cow VikingGenetics is the only company that profiles a saved feed index on breeds other than Holstein, such as Jersey and Reds. There are variations of the index depending on the breed. For example, the index is a little bit smaller for the Jersey than it is for the larger breeds.

Coralia said: “There is still a lot of research to do on that area because it will be possible now with the CFIT that we have all the information on those three breeds. But I think one important thing is not maybe what breed to choose, but it’s how to make that breed more efficient or within the breed how to make the animals that you are using the best of it.”

With all this data to hand, how can the saved feed index help you, the farmers, breed more future-friendly cows by breeding for the feed efficiency and reduced emissions.

Coralia concluded: “By using feed efficiency in the breeding goal, you are already selecting for cows that are low emitting in terms of methane. That means that if you are selecting in one way for more efficient cows, you are already selecting for cows that also produce less methane than the others.”

By Chris McCullough, International Freelance Agri-Journalist

About İsmail Uğural

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