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Longevity and lifetime effiency of dairy cows - IS0213

Over the last twenty years, British dairy farmers have striven to increase milk output by using Holstein genetics imported from North America. Whilst this goal has been achieved for the top ca. 10% of dairy farms, it has resulted in associated animal health and welfare problems, with reduced fertility, and lower life expectancies of the cows. Although increased milk yields in larger animals can increase the efficiency of milk production per animal in the short term, costs (economic and environmental) associated with higher herd turnover rates in high genetic merit animals may lead to lower long-term efficiencies.

This project aims to investigate and quantify the longevity and lifetime efficiency of dairy cattle in the UK. A literature review of farm studies conducted around the world using different cattle breeds will be conducted, and a farm-scale model will be generated. This model will enable the effect of genetic merit on longevity and lifetime efficiencies of different dairy breeds to be compared. In addition to characterising whole enterprise efficiency, by targeting the economics and environmental implications of dairy cow longevity, we will provide DEFRA with information to guide their policy objectives. It is anticipated that this project will also provide guidelines for the establishment of a longer-term, farm-based study at IGER to investigate the practical application of the principals developed in this study. We anticipate funding for the longer-term study via an SLP LINK project with the MDC.

This study has two main objectives as follows:

1. To produce a literature review of published work to provide background information on the effect of cow breed on lifetime performance in a range of dairy farming systems, concentrating on those appropriate to the UK

2. To produce a model of lifetime production and costs of different breeds of dairy cattle, where outputs will be defined in terms of economic, environmental, and consumer driven sustainability.

Project Documents
• Final Report : Longevity and lifetime efficiency of pure and crossbred dairy cows   (157k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2003

Cost: £40,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Institute of Grassland and Environment Research (IGER)
Livestock Farming              
Sustainable Production