Thursday, 13 June 2019 12:13

Breeding the cow of the future

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A new $25.68 million innovation programme for New Zealand’s dairy industry will drive improvements in the health and wellbeing of the national dairy herd and a step-change in sustainable milk production.

The seven-year programme, called Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future, launched today and is being led by farmer-owned herd improvement cooperative Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), with investment and support from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and DairyNZ.

It will invest in new disease management technologies and advancements in genomic science to improve cow productivity, and produce better cows with improved health, wellbeing and environmental resilience.

The programme was officially launched at the National Fieldays today by the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor.

Over the life of the programme, LIC is investing $11.2m, MPI is investing $10.3m and DairyNZ is investing $4.2m.

“At the heart of the new programme is innovation that aims to deliver long-term economic, environmental and animal health benefits for New Zealand,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s Director Investment Programmes.

“For New Zealand to maintain its reputation as a world-leading producer of premium products, we need to further increase the value of our products in a way that improves sustainability,” says Penno.

“MPI is investing in this new programme as it aims to deliver long-term gains in a number of areas, including sustainable production, milk quality, and animal wellbeing, while importantly reducing impacts on the environment.”

LIC, the largest supplier of artificial breeding services to New Zealand’s dairy farms, will leverage its existing capabilities in genomic science and diagnostics to develop innovative breeding tools and tests that support more sustainable milk production.

“We’re committed to providing farmers with the tools they need to improve their prosperity and productivity in a sustainable way, with animal health, wellbeing and the environment at the forefront,” says Richard Spelman, LIC’s Chief Scientist.

“This programme will strengthen our existing research and development work to keep our farmers and New Zealand leading the global pastoral dairy system,” says Spelman.

Investment from industry-good body DairyNZ will go into re-building its national evaluation system for dairy cattle to incorporate genomic information to facilitate faster rates of genetic gain.

“Resilient Dairy is our opportunity to get back in front of the world with genetic gain,” says Bruce Thorrold, DairyNZ’s Strategic Investment Leader.

“With new discoveries in genomic methods and data collection we are now in the position to jump ahead and incorporate genomic data into our animal evaluation system – enabling the whole sector to maximise genetic gain,” says Thorrold.

LIC’s Richard Spelman says this programme will address calls for resilience and sustainability on dairy farms, now and into the future.

“Through the new Resilient Dairy: Innovative Breeding for a Sustainable Future programme, we’re investing now, to help future proof our dairy industry and deliver long-term benefits for New Zealand.”

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