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Hoard's Dairyman reports:

U.S. dairy farmers continue to get better at breeding more efficient, productive, and longer-living cows as more genetic selection tools become available. One such tool, the Net Merit (NM$) formula, has been updated for the August 2021 evaluations.

This revision adds traits that will contribute to the sustainability and health of the overall dairy industry. Wisconsin dairyman Lloyd Holterman is excited about the addition of that information because this Holstein breeder has been making good use of NM$ since it first debuted in 1994. The selection index has effectively transformed his herd, especially in terms of reducing body size, improving fat and protein production, and reducing overall herd health costs.

During the July 7 Hoard's Dairyman DairyLivestream, Holterman also explained how his Rosy-Lane herd has seen tremendous advances in reproduction through their selection measures. Their pregnancy rate is currently over 40%, and conception rate has reached 58%.

"Open cows are the enemy of profitability," he said.

He noted that improving fertility, especially to that level, takes multiple generations, estimating that the farm is now on their nineth generation of cows selected for NM$. Still, a high NM$ bull will not be used if it is low on Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) or Productive Life (PL), Holterman's two other key considerations.

In fact, PL is the biggest reason they adopted NM$ as their major selection index back in 1994. Holterman, like many dairy farmers, wanted to keep his cows in the herd longer. Today, he says they're finding their cows produce the most milk in the fifth lactation. Over half - 55% - of the farm's 1,100 cows are in their fourth lactation or greater.

"The average cow in this country is 2.7 lactations. We have to fix that right now," said Holterman, who serves as the chair of the Producer Advisory Committee for the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding. "That's the only way we're going to achieve a lower carbon footprint, higher production, and wider margins."

Readers are invited to watch the July 7 DairyLivestream, by following the link above. A program recording is also available as an audio-only podcast on Spotify, Google Podcasts, and is downloadable from the Hoard's Dairyman website.

The next DairyLivestream broadcast will be on Wednesday, July 21 at 11 a.m. CDT. Each episode is designed for panelists to answer over 30 minutes of audience questions. If you haven't joined a DairyLivestream broadcast yet, you can register here for free.

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