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Matching to genetics critical to success

Top-class dairy genetics are worth nothing unless the cow is managed correctly in a system that suits her, farmers at the Emerald Expo dairy event in Kilkenny were told.

The importance of matching cow capability with on-farm management systems was highlighted by genetic, fertility and nutrition experts at the two-day event in Cillin Hill.

Dairy fertility expert Dan Ryan claimed that some cost efficient milk production systems were "insulting" individual cows and herds, resulting in impaired fertility.

The Fermoy-based fertility specialist slated the practice of inducing cows to calf early, claiming it was completely unacceptable from a welfare point of view but yet it was happening on more Irish farms than people realised.

He described golf-ball grazing as totally unnatural for cows and dismissed the use of stand-off pads for milking cows as unsuitable, hostile environments.

Dr Ryan said farmers with on-farm issues would have to ask themselves if the problem was the cow they bred or their own management of the cow.

While the Holstein cow was labelled as inherently infertile and unsuitable for Irish farms, Dr Ryan suggested that in some cases the limiting factor was not the cow but the management expertise on the farm.

However, the fertility specialist was not the only speaker to highlight the critical importance of managing high genetic merit cows on farms.

Michael Davey from Keenans said farmers did not always match their farm system to the herd they had.

"If a cow is genetically capable of going to 1,500-1,600gal but she is kept in a 1,000gal system, the wheels can come off," he warned.

"You either feed that cow to her potential or you have to breed that potential out of her."

Mr Davey warned that heifer management was critical to maintaining the best genetics in the herd but too often heifers were too light and underdeveloped when they entered the milking herd. The result was that small heifers were susceptible to bullying and some of the best genetics were lost to the herd.

Teagasc's genomics guru Donagh Berry also warned farmers that good genetics were useless unless an animal was managed accordingly.

Indo Farming