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MILK SOLIDS PER KG OF LIVEWEIGHT With the total kg of MS produced being key, kg MS/kg LW is a true efficiency marker. This measurement removes the barriers between breeds and production systems and enables us to compare how efficient each animal is. This approach crucially takes into account the size of the animal and reflects the cow’s natural biological efficiency to generate more solids (see examples in table 1).


Yield Fat %


Table 1: kg MS/kg LW examples per breed Jersey Mixed Holstein 6,500 5


Protein % kgs milk solids 3.8 588 Liveweight (LW) 475 kgs solids/ kg LW 1.23


8,000 11,300 4.8 3.8


3.9


707 600


1.18


3.25 830 650


1.28


Kite has been looking into this a bit more and found that the best performing dairy herds in the world deliver an average herd value of 1.5kg MS/kg LW. These herds are of all breeds and sizes and the one thing they have common is truly efficient cows. As such, it was felt that this 1.5kg MS/kg LW was something that could clearly be aimed for as a target in the UK. Having analysed current performance among Kite clients it is clear the best herds are around 1.3kg MS/kg LW in terms of overall efficiency. What was really interesting was the strong correlation between high performance on this measure and profitability.


What is most evident within British herds is a huge range of kgs MS/kg LW between cows in the same herd. Many herds will have a number of animals giving 1.5kg MS/kg LW, but have other cows with much lower performance.


This discrepancy within herds is something Kite will be examining carefully over the next year. Further work will look at all the factors that make certain cows achieve 1.5 and what can be done to bring other cows within the herd to this level. Of course, genetics plays a large role in the kg MS/kg LW value and it may be necessary to look closely at the type of animal being bred in British herds. It costs the same to rear an animal with a score of one as a score of 1.5, but the latter is the one that will make you more money from your milk contract. GENOMIC TESTING Fat, protein and milk yield have some of the highest heritability of any breeding traits and, although there are breeding programmes selecting for the best possible genetics, when that calf arrives we simply do not know what her potential is. Genomic testing at birth allows you to identify the most biologically efficient animals at this early stage. It allows you to make rapid genetic process by identifying those heifers that best fit your system and milk contract. We know it costs about £1800 to rear a heifer to two years old, whatever the breed. Spending £30 on a genomic


test at birth allows you to identify which of your heifers are worth that investment, will thrive in your system and meet the requirements of your milk contract. Those surplus heifers may fit well into someone else’s system and be exactly what they need to meet the needs of their contract. When looking at the best performing herds in the USA there is not the same genetic variability within them that there is in many UK herds. Primarily this will be down to the fact that USA herds have been genomically testing heifer calves for much longer and with much more frequency than UK herds have. TECHNICAL FACTORS There are also a considerable number of other factors driving the kg MS/kg LW value of cows. Right from the epigenetic triggers pre-weaning, to looking at factors that make the rumen more responsive, Kite is going to examine all of these elements to try to determine what turns a 1.2 cow into a 1.5 cow. 1.5 GROUP ASDA and Arla have demonstrated their interest in this area by sponsoring some work with groups of farmers to look at producing kg of MS in the most efficient way. Meanwhile, Kite has just established a ‘1.5 Group’ to look at pushing the boundaries of what is possible, in order to get the most biologically efficient cows on the best farms. There is no denying the 1.5kg MS/kg LW is a hard target to strive for, but we know some of cows already performing at this level. What is stopping the others from doing the same and what can be done about it? It is going to be an interesting journey…


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