27 Jan 2014

Decline in dairy cow fertility may have halted

6:26 am on 27 January 2014

New dairy industry data indicates a long-term decline in dairy cow fertility may have been halted.

Cheese and butter boost commodity index.

Cheese and butter boost commodity index. Photo: PHOTO NZ

It's an issue that's been challenging dairy scientists and farmers in New Zealand and overseas, because cow fertility is fundamental to dairy farm productivity and profitability.

Dairy New Zealand strategy and investment leader Bruce Thorrold says the lower fertility was linked to the import of American Holstein cows into the country in the late 1990s.

But he says better breeding and management may have turned the tables and after 15 to 20 years of cow fertility declining, what's been seen in the last three or four years is that the average in calf rate at six weeks in the national herd has risen from a low point of around 63 percent up to now 66 percent.

Mr Thorrold says it's significant in terms of financial gains to farmers with something in the order of $150 million more profit on farms as a result of that.

He says a push on better genetics fertility and a major push on farms for better management and to focus on reproductive performance and the various factors such as heifer rearing, bull management and feeding that impinge on that.

"But importantly it's obviously farmers who've picked up the challenge and got stuck in on farm and got cows in better condition and just done a better all-round job."