The evolution of dairy genetics has included many turns along the way. One of the more notable pivots involves the introduction of Net Merit (NM$) in 1994. The economic index helps dairy farmers understand a specific bull’s impact on their herds’ bottom line with just one dollar value.
In August, NM$ will once again be reformulated to better serve the industry. Three new traits will be included to better address survivability and efficiency.
“During this latest review, we added three new traits. The first is early first calving. We know that our heifers are calving earlier than before,” shared Joao Durr the CEO of the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding during the July 7 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream.
The second is heifer livability. "We want our heifers to be healthier and survive,” he continued. “The third is feed saved. Feed saved is the combination of residual feed intake (RFI) and body weight composite (BWC).”
Additionally, Productive Life (PL) will be designed within the formula so that each sequential lactation carries greater weight.
“The idea is that we can provide a tool for all farmers to select the animals that will be not only higher producing, but also be healthier, stay longer in the herd, and, now, be more efficient,” Durr explained.
Making the most of feed
Feed efficiency is a central mission of the current NM$ update. The goal is to select genetics that result in cows that produce the same or more fat, protein, and milk using fewer resources. That is a mission that addresses both financial and sustainability goals of modern dairy farms.
“The idea is that we are going to have cows that are able to survive, produce well, and also make this production based on less resources,” Durr said. “That doesn’t mean that what we were doing before wasn’t right. We were going in the right direction, but now we have more information and data, so the direction of our selection is more accurate for our population.”
To watch the recording of the July 7 DairyLivestream, go to the link above. The program recording is now also available as an audio-only podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and downloadable off of the Hoard’s Dairyman website.
An ongoing series of events
The next broadcast of DairyLivestream 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, register here for free. Registering once registers you for all future events.