15 January 1999

Holsteins concern

MILK producers are expecting so much productivity from young cows that management and welfare are compromised and the animal has no chance of a long life, says Canadian sire analyst Brian Carscadden.

"The genetic potential for production has increased far faster than farm management can cope with. The two should go hand in hand. One cannot perform without the other," he told this weeks Semex conference in Glasgow.

The most recent study in the US showed that average longevity of Holsteins was now two years and nine months. Most herds were unable to meet their own replacement needs.

"Maybe we need to be more patient and give young cows an opportunity to have a persistent, non-peaking lactation curve, so that they will reach their maximum genetic potential well after their third lactation," he said.

Sire analysts needed to concentrate on functional traits that would support a long living animal. There was no question that an animal needed to be mobile and have the body parts for a long life, but as feedstuffs became more powerful in the quest for high production, susceptibility with foot diseases and laminitis increased.

Continual foot care required extra labour and money and it was the responsibility of AI companies to provide better blood lines for feet and legs to help dairy farmers attain efficiency goals, Mr Carscadden told conference delegates. &#42