Good breeding strategy is driving a rise in milk protein percentages
It's been a very good year so far for milk protein percentage. Figures of 3.4pc were common for May, and many of you had figures of over 3.5pc. And it didn't stop there. Figures of over 3.6pc were achieved on Irish farms for the month of May.
A number of our dairy processors increased protein percentages, on average by 0.07pc for 2014. This was a seriously big increase as I have noticed over the years that milk protein percentage increases by, on average, only 0.02pc. So, over a five-year period, milk protein percentage lifts by 0.1pc. In other words, it moves from 3.3pc to 3.4pc.
Will it keep rising and what has been the reason for the sudden surge? Yes, is the answer to the first question, but only as long as we keep making the right breeding decisions. The industry wants more kilogrammes of protein in milk .
It is also prepared to pay twice as much for a kilogramme of protein compared to a kilogramme of fat. This level of clarity gives confidence to the dairy farmer and he/she will implement the plan by making the breeding right decisions.
The right breeding decisions involve using a panel of AI bulls with, at least 14kgs of protein and +0.15pc for milk protein. If this plan is being implemented, I know that the calves born next spring are going to be genetically superior to the calves born in 2013 and 2014 and definitely superior to the herd average.
ICBF have played a massive role in guiding us to this point. The one page HerdPlus report for your herd is an invaluable piece of innovation in the dairy industry. It allows us to accurately predict milk protein percentage in the herd as well as in the young stock.
For instance, if your HerdPlus report shows that the overall average figure for milk protein percentage is 0.07, then the genetic potential for this herd of cows is 3.58pc. The key here is the base cow in the ICBF database. This cow has an average protein percentage of 3.3. Tom O'Dwyer, current Head of the Dairy Knowledge Transfer Department in Teagasc, observed that if you multiply the 0.07 by a factor of four, and add this to the figure of 3.30 for the base cow, then you can accurately predict the genetic potential for milk protein in the herd of cows you are dealing with. So, doing the maths, multiplying 0.07 X 4, equals 0.28 and adding this to 3.3, gives you the target figure of 3.58pc.
This figure is the genetic potential for the herd. It is up to you, the manager, to provide the cows with the platform to allow them express this genetic potential.