Dairy breeding traits : the farmers' perception
The aim of this study was to identify which breeding traits New Zealand dairy farmers believed were the most important and whether variations in farm system influenced these opinions. A random sample of 2000 herds, from an estimated population of 12,271 herds, was acquired from Livestock Improvement Corporation Limited. The 2000 surveys were directed to the persons making the breeding decisions for each of the herds. Forty four percent responded, of which 48% were Holstein-Friesian farmers, 32% were cross-bred farmers and 17% were Jersey farmers. Their operating structures were mostly owner/operator (64%) and 50:50 share-milking arrangements (21 %). Most farmers (57%) used breeding company liquid semen packages with 28% using frozen semen (nominated sires) and 11 % using a combination of fresh and frozen. More farmers (41 %) expressed satisfaction with the breeding criteria used in the current Breeding Worth (BW) system than dissatisfaction (32%), with 27% expressing no opinion. More than 60% of farmers believed that the fertility trait had not improved in the last ten years, while approximately 30% believed each of the lameness, survivability and somatic cell count traits had not improved. Farmers were given the opportunity to select five traits to include in a breeding index. In order, the most selected were the protein, fertility, milk fat, somatic cell count, udder overall, volume and temperament traits. It is evident that the current breeding indices do not satisfy all of these traits, with the omission for direct improvement of udder overall and temperament in BW and milk fat and temperament in the NZMI. However, some of these are improved indirectly through their correlation with other traits included in the calculation of these indices. Very few farmers (5%) selected to include liveweight despite its recognised importance for profitability. When asked whether they desired the most profitable dairy cow or the most easily managed dairy cow, 62% of farmers selected profit. The selection of traits in an index was largely influenced by the farmer's herd breed and breeding objective (the 'profit cow' versus the 'management cow'). Farmers typically selected traits that are recognised as weaknesses of their corresponding breed, e.g. fertility, calving difficulty. The farmer's breeding strategy also altered the traits selected, with farmers nominating a specific sire to a cow and those artificially inseminating their heifers selecting more of the conformation traits than farmers using 'bull of the day' liquid semen packages. Similar trends emerged with older farmers, smaller herd farmers and owner-operators, all selecting more conformation traits over the productive and functional traits, than younger farmers, larger herd farmers and 50:50 share-milkers respectively. This was particularly the case for the temperament trait.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsbreeding; farmers' perceptions; breeding indices; dairy farms; breeding worth (BW); farm management; efficiency; profitability; surveys; quantitative research; dairy farmers; breeding strategy; New Zealand
Fields of Research070106 Farm Management, Rural Management and Agribusiness; 070201 Animal Breeding
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