A helping hand for cows in the heat (13 December 2017)

300 words + farmer quotes

Dairy farmers can now breed for greater heat tolerance in their herds.

DataGene’s December release of Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) includes the world-first Heat Tolerance ABV.

Australian dairy farmers are familiar with the impact of hot, humid weather on their herds. Now they can add breeding to their toolbox of ways to help cows handle the heat.

Dr Matt Shaffer, DataGene CEO, said that although environment and management conditions had a big impact on a cow’s response to the heat, genetics also played a role.

“Advances in genomics allowed the Dairy Bio team to identify gene markers for heat tolerance. The Heat Tolerance ABV allows farmers to identify animals with greater ability to tolerate hot weather with less impact on production,” he said. Dairy Bio is a joint initiative between the Victorian Government and Dairy Australia.

To breed for improved heat tolerance, look for bulls with a high Balanced Performance Index (BPI) and a Heat Tolerance ABV of greater than 100. Use a team of bulls to allow for the lower reliability.

The reliability of the Heat Tolerance ABV is 38% which is in line with the newer generation of genomic-only traits. Like all new ABVs, reliability is expected to improve with time, as more data becomes available.

Heat tolerance is favourably linked with fertility and unfavourably with production. This means a strong focus on heat tolerance bulls may improve fertility but compromise production.

“If breeding for heat tolerance, look for the exceptional animals that are strong for both BPI and heat tolerance,” he said.

While not all dairy farmers will want to include heat tolerance in their breeding priorities, some are keen to get started. Insert comments from relevant farmers (see later)

The Heat Tolerance ABV was developed by Dairy Bio, a joint initiative between the Victorian Government and Dairy Australia, with funding from the Australian Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

For more information contact: DataGene 03 9032 7191 or enquiries@datagene.com.au or www.datagene.com.au


Trevor Parrish, Kangaroo Valley, NSW. 
“Now when I get a list of bulls I’m going to be looking for bulls which combine increased production and increased heat tolerance – they are going to be the ones who buck the trend,” Mr Parrish said.

Trevor’s family milks 160-240 cows year round and sells bulls to semen companies and other dairy farmers.

Ray Kitchen Carenda Holsteins, Boyanup, WA

“Having a Heat Tolerance ABV will mean we can breed cows with a greater ability to tolerate hot weather, be better suited to our farming environment. We will be looking for the bulls that pull together production and heat tolerance.”

Ray’s family milks 400 cows year round and sells bulls to semen companies and other dairy farmers.

Shane Gardiner, Lorebeck Partnership Mt Gambier SA

“Heat Tolerance is something we can breed in our cows for free so why not? Like all genetic traits, it will be permanent and cumulative.”

Shane manages a 250-cow herd for the Lorebeck Partnership.

Image removed.

December 2017 ABV release