Dairy diets made easier with data

Further research into how much dairy cows eat will help farmers identify their most efficient animals and provide tools to improve culling and breeding decisions.

Heather White headshot
Dr Heather White is an Associate
Professor at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison in dairy cattle
nutritional physiology.

That’s according to US dairy cow health and nutrition researcher Dr Heather White who addressed the Herd ’21 conference today.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences Associate Professor in dairy cattle nutritional physiology was one of several dairy experts that will address a physical crowd of up to 150 and online audience of about 50 farmers, researchers and breeding industry representatives during the next two days at the Herd ’21 conference.

Herd ’21 is a biennial herd improvement conference at Bendigo, Victoria featuring speakers from Australia, the USA, Canada and Ireland.

Dr White provided insight into how dairy farmers and the industry could leverage routine information from herd recording, breeding, nutrition, and health management to gain more insight into dairy cattle.

For example, using herd recording samples to test for beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB), a diagnostic for ketosis.

“Instead of putting a person out in the fresh cow pen twice a week to take blood samples and then run the BHB tests at $US2 each, we predict blood BHB from milk when the cow is already being routinely milk tested each month,” she said.

Herd’21 will focus on the role of data throughout the dairy supply chain with discussions about how it can assist breeding and on-farm decisions, the value of cattle, nutrition and health management and sustainability.

Leading dairy farmers will provide insights into the on-farm application of genomics – the large-scale analysis of DNA markers.

Graeme Gillan presenting at Herd 21
Herd ’21 master of ceremonies
Graeme Gillan addressing the
crowd on day one of the conference
at Bendigo

National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (NHIA) Chair and conference master of ceremonies Graeme Gillan said Herd ’21 would reflect on past, current and future genetic trends and research.

“In many ways genetics is a long-term business, but recent technological developments have resulted in huge on-farm gains as farmers use the latest information and science to make breeding decisions,” he said.

“The uptake of genomics is just one example, understanding the potential of each animal helps to identify those which will be retained as replacements for the dairy and those which can be joined to beef semen.”

Herd ’21 is sponsored by DataGene, NHIA, Holstein Australia and Dairy Australia.