A scheme to genotype the national dairy herd is being considered later this year, which could have a significant impact on milk quality and commercial beef value (CBV) for dairy farmers. The scheme will involve testing dairy cows, heifers, and calves in year one, and then testing the calves born each year thereafter. While this scheme will require a large investment, it will have many benefits for the dairy sector, including ensuring the accuracy of the data recorded for CBV.
Improving milk quality on farms is a focus for many farmers, vets, and co-ops alike. However, identifying high somatic cell count (SCC) cows can be challenging. Currently, farms use milk recording data to identify cows that cause high SCCs. But sometimes, a spike in SCC is not caused by one of the high SCC cows in the milk recording reports. If the national herd is genotyped, it will be possible to identify cows with high SCC from bulk tank samples. The somatic cells would carry the DNA of the cows, making it easier to identify high-SCC cows or cows that contribute the most to total SCC. This could significantly impact how cell counts are controlled on farms.
The main focus of genotyping the national herd is to get the CBV working, but it could have many benefits for dairy farmers within their farm gates. One of the most significant benefits is the potential to improve milk quality. By identifying high-SCC cows, farmers can remove them from the herd and take appropriate measures to treat the cows that have caused a spike in SCC within the bulk tank. This could result in higher milk quality, which could lead to better prices for dairy farmers.
In addition to improving milk quality, genotyping the national herd could have other benefits for dairy farmers. For example, it could help identify genetic traits that are beneficial for dairy farming. This could lead to breeding programs that produce cows with better milk production, disease resistance, and other desirable traits.
However, there are also potential challenges with genotyping the national herd. One of the biggest challenges is the cost. Genotyping the entire national herd will require a significant investment. Additionally, there may be concerns about privacy and data protection. Farmers may be hesitant to share genetic information about their cows, especially if they are worried about the information being used against them in some way.
Despite these challenges, genotyping the national dairy herd could have many benefits for the dairy sector. By improving milk quality, identifying beneficial genetic traits, and ensuring the accuracy of CBV data, this scheme could have a significant impact on the profitability and sustainability of dairy farming in Ireland.