Good genetics reaps rewards for dairy farmers

Good genetics can reap financial rewards of more than £24,000 for every 100 cows, a new study has revealed.

Research across 400 farms, carried out by Promar International, in collaboration with NMR, CIS and DairyCo Breeding+, has valued every Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) point at £4.21 in relation to today’s milk prices.

This equates to an additional annual margin for a high genetic merit herd (top 1%) of £24,839 for every 100 cows when compared to a herd of average genetic merit.

PLI is the UK’s principal national breeding index which generally weights milk production and fitness traits in a 45:55 ratio.

To ascertain PLI value, the study considered key dairy farm financial factors impacted on by cow genetics: milk income, calf income, purchased feed costs, home-grown feed costs, vet and medicine costs, AI and semen costs, and net replacement costs.

Promar consultant Tim Harper, who carried out the work, said: “The study gives a clear economic endorsement of PLI, but it is important to recognise that there are clearly other factors than genetics alone which also influence the bottom line.

“These include feed and forage quality, cow comfort, and other aspects of good herd management, most importantly the capability of the farmer and his staff.”

DairyCo geneticist Marco Winters said the study reinforced the levy board’s confidence in the index, and confirmed the importance of PLI in any dairy farm breeding strategy.

“The role of PLI in improving margins and profitability is overwhelming. This is partly because the higher PLI cows are more efficient converters of feed into milk, and partly because they possess other qualities which will positively impact on margins,” he added.

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