'Dairy yields set to double over the next two decades'
Ireland will soon have the most fertile Holstein Friesian herd in the world, but massive advances in productivity are still achievable over the next 20 years, according to Teagasc's top genomics expert.
Prof Donagh Berry told farmers at the Positive Farmers conference in Cork last week that even with the huge strides in fertility and production over the last decade, output per cow could easily double by 2036.
"I would go as far as to say that a mere doubling of yield over the next two decades is an insult to the potential of the dairy cow," enthused the geneticist.
Prof Berry highlighted the fact that 90pc of the vast improvements in feed conversion rates in pigs and poultry was due to genetics, as opposed to improvements in diet or management.
He pointed to an increased number and length of lactations per cow as being key to not just greater output, but also for reducing the greenhouse emissions per litre of milk.
"The average herd only gets four lactations per cow, while some herds are getting 5.5 lactations per cow. This equates to an additional 40pc of milk solids during their lifetime," he said.
Prof Berry also pointed to an increase in the average days in milk from 262 to 285 days and crossbreeding as two other simple ways to achieve a further 8pc boost in output.
He said that genetic improvement would continue at the current rate of 1pc annually and, when coupled with better management, would cumulatively add another 40pc to overall production.