Dairy study to determine how breed and herd longevity are related

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AMARILLO – Texas AgriLife Research is trying to help the dairy industry determine how breed and conformation affects dairy cow longevity.

Dr. Pablo Pinedo, Texas AgriLIfe Research ruminant animal health scientist in Amarillo, is studying dairy cow longevity in a herd of Jerseys, Holsteins and their crosses that are being fed and maintained under similar conditions. (Texas AgriLife Research photo) Dr. Pablo Pinedo, AgriLife Research ruminant animal health scientist in Amarillo, is conducting a study funded by the American Jersey Cattle Club Research Foundation after producers have noticed a decline in longevity of dairy cows worldwide.

“Today’s high involuntary culling rates are a concern on dairy farms from both an animal well-being and an economic point of view,” Pinedo said.

While Holstein herds have been predominant in Texas and New Mexico, large cheese-processing plants in the northern Texas Panhandle and in Eastern New Mexico have prompted the use of Jersey genetics, increasing the number of large, pure Jersey and multi-breed herds in those areas, he said.

In his study, Pinedo intends to use Jersey, Holstein and crossbred cattle all under the same conditions in the same operations to provide what he characterized as “a unique opportunity to analyze and compare the dynamic of culling in different breeds.”

The objectives of this study are to:

- Describe the dynamics of culling risk of Jersey cows considering age, stage of lactation, milk yield, reproductive status, herd milk yield and herd size.

- Explore associations between culling dynamics and breed traits such as udder conformation, foot and leg, body depth, etc.

- Identify management related risk factors.

- Compare the productive life among Jerseys, Holsteins and their crosses in multi-breed dairy herds in the Texas High Plains region.

The study will analyze lactation records from cows calving since January 2007 to the present from large herds located in the Texas High Plains and Eastern New Mexico, Pinedo said.

“We hope our results will help dairy producers implement efficient strategies to manage critical points affecting cow survival,” he said. “This information will also provide a precise comparison on the productive life between Jerseys and Holsteins under the same conditions, supporting the decisions process regarding the future replacements.”

Pinedo said this information should serve dairy producers throughout the region, assisting them in making rational and cost-effective management decisions when selecting cows and sires for improved survivability.

The study is expected to be conducted over the next year, he said.



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