How Does This Affect You?
Identifying animals with superior traits for longevity, health, and performance are key to farm profitability and continued growth. One important index offered is Net Merit (NM$), which predicts the expected lifetime profit contribution of an individual animal compared with the breed base. It includes economically relevant traits with weights of 48% for health and fitness traits, 35% for production, and 17% for conformation. Genomically testing a group of heifers will not only help identify elite animals, but also identify animals with lower genetic potential.
Managing herd inventory regularly helps contain costs, and in extreme situations, such as extensive drought, the ability to selectively cull inferior animals is very important for beef and dairy producers. Investing in genetically superior animals and selecting for relevant traits will help manage feed costs and at the same time assure genetic progress. This technology provides producers with the flexibility of testing early in an animal’s life so they can be more confident in their decision making. It is important to apply a long term herd strategy and maximize the value of the investment. Paying for the information and not using it is an inefficient strategy.
Before Getting Started
As with any new investment and application of new technology in your farm, there are various questions that have to be answered beforehand. Implementing technologies like genomics may affect your current business model and marketing opportunities, which is one reason why it’s important to think long-term. Not only do you have to decide what animals in the herd should be tested but also consider goals, herd inventory, selection decisions, feed costs and at the same time take into consideration the price fluctuation of milk and meat. Understanding the goals of your herd now and in the future and knowing your return on investment (ROI) is imperative.
Technology will continue to move the dairy industry and will play a large role in the progression and succession of a dairy.
To help you keep up with all this new technology, the Penn State Extension Dairy Team has developed a Dairy Reproduction Certification class that will cover topics in reproductive efficiency. Also this fall there will be two Precision Dairy Technology Forums to inform farm managers on precision dairy technologies, strategies to implement these technologies and factors to consider when taking the leap into these technologies on their farms. The first forum will be held in Chambersburg on October 18 and will focus on robotic milking and automatic calf feeding. The second forum will be held in Lancaster on October 31, and the focus of this program will be genomics and activity monitors.
Additional information can be found at http://extension.psu.edu/animals/dairy/events.