Producer highlights herd's genomic success during UK roadshows

09 Sep 2019

Genomic testing has helped to halve the vet bill on one US-based dairy unit.

Producer Tom Oesch, from Swiss Lane Farms in Michigan, milks 2,200 Holsteins and all are genomically tested using CLARIFIDE Plus.

UK roadshows

And he’s been sharing the resulting improvements to his herd’s health and productivity during a series of UK roadshows.

Since starting using Zoetis’ genomic test in 2012 he has seen fewer herd health issues – the result of  genetic improvements and management changes.

Milk yield

And these have seen the herd’s vet and med spend fall from $230 to $130 per cow per year.

Genomic testing has also highlighted a difference in milk yield of 2,864 litres between animals in the top 25% and bottom 25%.

“Cows and heifers performed exactly as the genomic test predicted, despite the same management conditions,” says Mr Oesch.

Breeding decisions

“The animals that showed increased health issues were the ones that the test also identified as being potentially problematic.”

His first genomic test on a batch of 500 heifers, back in 2012, highlighted poor breeding decisions.

Genomic sires

“We had 48 different bulls in the AI tank at the start of breeding. We now never have any more than 21 units of semen on the dairy. We have also increased the number of young genomic sires we are using from 10% to 50%.”

The test includes the bespoke Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP). DWP is based on lifetime productivity and health, giving an overall view as to how profitable a cow will be.

Cow health

By highlighting cows more prone to metritis, the herd has seen a 77% reduction in prevalence from the worst group to the best group.

Mr Oesch has also tweaked heifer management, calving them slightly later at 24 months instead of 22 months.

Metritis rate

“In the top 25% of heifers we are only seeing 9% of metritis compared to 39% in the bottom 25%. In 2016, though, the bottom 25% had a metritis rate 55%,” he says.