Why is the fertility rate higher with New Zealand dairy genetics?

Answered by Phil Wicks, general manager, LIC USA

There are two primary reasons behind the high fertility rate of New Zealand genetics. First, virtually all New Zealand herds are on a strict seasonal system and have been for decades. Dairying for most farmers in New Zealand in some ways runs on a bit of a knife edge. Everything is aimed at being as profitable as possible. Under this seasonal system, not getting cows bred quickly and efficiently will affect the ability of the farm operation for the whole year. Cows that aren’t bred during the mating window are culled, even if they are good cows. This natural selection pressure has been in place for decades, making New Zealand genetics naturally very fertile. This occurred at the same time as significant genetic production increases.

Second, because of the profit benefits association with getting cows bred in a seasonal system, genetic selection for LIC sires has a very strong fertility component. North American and European genetics that were used in the 1990s had a very detrimental effect on cow fertility, but since that time cow genetic cow fertility has increased fairly dramatically with the emphasis that has been put on lifetime production because of its effect on herd and farm profitability.

Many New Zealand farmers are starting to face issues in nutritional needs of a cow that must convert feed efficiently and the ability to get that cow in calf. The genetic fertility of these cows has been increasing, but that has not always been the case. The New Zealand cow has had a dramatic production increase, both per cow and per acre, during the last 15 years. However, farmers have not always had a complete understanding of the nutritional requirements of such a cow. That is why we are starting to see some U.S. farmers with LIC-bred herds get mating results that are just as good as the best herds in New Zealand. They have a fertile cow and they are providing sufficient nutrition to achieve both sound production and high fertility.

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Phil Wicks – dairy breeding and geneticsPhil Wicks – dairy breeding and genetics
Phil Wicks is the general manager of LIC USA, a world leader in dairy genetics and dairy grazing technologies. He has been involved in dairy genetics for more than 25 years and has developed breeding programs for dairy producers all over the world.
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