Genetic Gain Makes Sharemilking Profitable
Across New Zealand, farmers use genetics to ease pressure in their pasture-based dairy systems by breeding more efficient cattle with the Three Way Cross.
Doug and Emma McLeod are 50/50 Sharemilking in South Otago. Peak milking 460 cows, the McLeods are coming into their fifth season now. They put together the cheapest herd they could find to kick start their 50/50 sharemilking business, and it was mostly Friesian x Jersey tending more towards the Jersey breed.
“We wanted to improve the herds conformation and correct the stature, some of the cows were quite frail and weak. With the high Jersey component in the herd, there was no alternative to calves other than bobbies. We wanted to move away from the Jerseys but we wanted to maintain the Fertility and Health traits we saw in the Jersey vs the Friesians.” This led to the McLeods exploring the options of what they could put over their crossbred herd.
“The attraction of crossbreeding was we got a black cow with great hybrid vigour. From there, we weren’t sure where to go next. We didn’t want to go back to Friesians with their fertility and health traits, we didn’t want to go to Jersey, and we didn’t want to use a crossbred bull over our crossbred cows and end up with a frail cow. We discovered the Three Way Cross through Samen NZ and saw the opportunity to maximise the hybrid vigour and pull in some really top health and fertility traits as well as working on the cow’s conformation, stature, capacity and udders.
The advantages of the VikingRed give us the ability to maximise our heterosis and we are still getting predominantly a black or black and white calf. Some stay red, but that is fine. Basically, we are trying to get a crossbreed or Friesian-looking cow but have all those underlying health and fertility traits, as Sharemilkers that will really set up your business’s profitability.
Our aim is to use the VikingRed in our herd to improve our herd’s health traits in order to minimise the use of antibiotics in the future. We have successfully used the VikingRed over our heifers two years in a row, with no calving problems at all.
We would love to get down to a 15% replacement rate and maintain great reproduction performance. We have started using sexed semen in the herd to accelerate our genetic gain and remove replacements coming from poorer cows.
Using frozen sexed Fanof straws over our heifers we achieved a conception rate of 66% and a conception rate of 63% with the Friesian sire Jitterbug. Although this is down on what we achieved the previous year using conventional frozen VikingRed straws, we will get half of our replacements from our heifers this year, speeding up our genetic gain and herd improvement and in theory, we will have all of our replacements on the ground in two weeks.
The difference in the calves was visible from day one when we had our first Three Way Cross VikingRed on the ground; they had strong, healthy frames and plenty of “go” from the start, and nearly half were polled which was a bonus.
We are looking for that low maintenance medium size cow, she doesn’t get noticed because she walks to the shed every morning, she milks and just gets on with it and doesn’t have an issue. Some of our main priorities are feet, legs, udders and getting in calf every year, the total package, all those traits a cow needs to have to be a sound dairy cow.”
The New Zealand Dairy Industry has a largely crossbred national herd consisting of Friesian x Jerseys. Over the last four years, the VikingRed from Samen NZ has become the number one option for farmers looking to optimise their crossbreeding programmes heterosis and breed stronger healthier cows.