The Net Merit Index was introduced to dairy producers in 1994 as a formula designed to help identify genetics that improve production, health, and livability. During the July 7 Hoard’s Dairyman DairyLivestream, dairy producer Lloyd Holterman detailed why his Rosy-Lane Holsteins have used Net Merit as a primary selection criterion since it debuted in 1994.

“The biggest reason we switched from our previous selection criteria in 1994 was we wanted cows to live longer, so Productive Life had the heaviest weighting in Net Merit as compared to the other indexes that we could choose from,” the Watertown, Wis., farmer explained.

While the formula has been modified and improved over time, Holterman shared that it has been an integral part of improving the genetic base of his herd.

“Over the years we have improved our herd in every metric,” he said. “Our fat and protein – both in percentages and pounds – have dramatically increased and we’ve reduced our overall herd health cost.”

According to Holterman, utilizing the Net Merit formula has also helped the farm breed more margin cows. That term – margin cows – is an important one at Rosy-Lane Holsteins.

“Margin cows are near and dear to my heart. To be a margin cow, you have to produce a lot of fat and protein, get bred back, and you need to resist mastitis and lameness,” Holterman explained. “Those are the most important things.”

Just like a farm runs on operating margins, Holterman explained that they select for cows that have greater opportunities to return high margins of production over input costs – in other words, margin cows.

“Now, smaller cows eat less. If we can get a smaller cow to produce as much or more, we will make more profit,” he continued. “We really are excited now with the addition of Feed Saved, with the research being done, and I anticipate that over the years as we get more data, the weightings may change slightly, but we’re going to make more progress in developing margin cows.”

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.

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(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2021
July 12, 2021
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