27 September 1996

Compounder move to close the gap in breeding &feeding

MANAGEMENT and feeding of the high genetic merit dairy cow comes under the spotlight in a move led by compounder Dalgety.

Speaking at the European Dairy Farming Event, the company said it had set up a High Genetic Merit Cow Initiative to improve the knowledge of how to feed and manage these cows.

It was investing £100,000 in closing what it described as the gap between dairy breeding improvement and feeding practise.

The project is supported by the Holstein Friesian Society, Wye College, and the Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland, Hillsborough.

"To make the most of high genetic cows we must manage them differently to their lower performance herdmates," said Dalgetys Stuart Marsden. The management advice needed would stem from several sources.

Prof David Leaver of Wye College and Dr Sinclair Mayne of Hillsborough were reviewing existing research on managing high merit cows. Their scientific reviews would form the basis of practical notes produced by Dalgety and HFS for producers.

Focus farms would be used to demonstrate the practicality of improved management techniques.

"In this way we can ensure the advisory packages we shall be developing really do help commercial producers make the best of their high genetic potential stock," said Dr Marsden.

The company is funding new research too. Supplementing high merit cows at grass was the focus of a three-year trial at Hillsborough, and use of mixed forage diets for high merit cows is being examined at Wye College.

Prof Leaver told industry leaders at the Initiative launch that high merit cows partitioned more energy into milk production than body condition score and that this could have implications for the reproductive performance and health and welfare of the cow.

"We have much to learn about how to feed in high concentrate and forage systems and under grazing conditions," he said. "Many high merit cows are in low and medium input systems and we must manage them properly."


&#8226 Review of existing research.

&#8226 Demonstration farms.

&#8226 Funding for new research.

High genetic merit initiative – aiming to bridge the gap between improved cattle breeding and feeding , says Stuart Marsden.