The development of effective breeding policies has always been a “cornerstone” of improved herd performance, according to Northern Ireland-based AI Services Group.
The farmer-owned company, which has around 2,500 farmer shareholders, believes there is a growing recognition of the role that genetic improvement will play in delivering future sustainability for the milk sector.
This was one of the key themes discussed at the recent launch of the 2024 AI Services (Northern Ireland) Holstein Sire catalogue.
According to the company’s breeding services’ manager, Ivan Minford, technologies – including the use of sexed semen and embryo transfer – are already making a significant difference in this regard.
“Committing to AI has always represented a very small investment relative to the overall costs incurred within any dairy farming business. Feed, fertilize and energy prices continue to increase at an exponential rate,” he added.
“What’s more, the development of effective breeding policies has always been the cornerstone of improved herd performance that will continue to deliver for many generations,” Minford said.
“In money terms, the size of the initial investment required to make all of this happen is inconsistent, relative to the scale of the benefits increased.
“And this remains the case. AI Services has developed a strong working relationship with the world’s premier breeding companies to secure elite dairy genetics at prices that represent unbeatable value for money for local milk producers,” he added.
According to Minford an investment in improved genetics will deliver at two fundamental levels for dairy farmers these are; improved efficiency and improved profitably.
“Genetics impacts on every impact of cow performance: improved milk production, enhanced milk quality, extended longevity within a milking group and improved health traits to name but a few.
“Significantly, all of these factors combine to deliver a smaller carbon footprint and improved sustainability for all dairy farming operations,” he outlined.
Cow size has also been identified as a key factor in determining the carbon footprint of all milk production business.
“There is scope to reduce cows size while still maintaining overall animal performance,” Minford stated.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s winter milk sector continues to expand.
An increasing number of dairy farmers are opting to calve cows in the months of September and October.
This approach ensures that the winter milk bonuses available from all the dairies can be fully capitalized on.
From a management point of view, there is a growing recognition that autumn calving cows can be put back into calf and subsequently turned out into early spring paddocks.
Optimal use of grazed grass can also be achieved by taking this management approach.