Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wanted: most efficient feed convertors

A trial run in New Zealand by DairyNZ is seeking cows that are the most efficient converters of feed to milk. Scientists say within a year they should be able to confirm a genetic marker can clearly identify such high performing animals.
The trial is being carried out at the Westpac Taranaki Agricultural Research Station (WTARS) at Hawera in conjunction with LIC and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise with funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation and DairyNZ.
It is being replicated in Australia under the auspices of the Department of Primary Industry in Victoria. The results of both trials will be combined to ensure sufficient scale to confirm the validity of results.
The trial started in 2008 with a special facility built at the research station. This consisted of 28 pens and feed stations for the 224 calves on the facility at any one time.
Kevin Macdonald, DairyNZ's senior scientist, has been supervising the trial.
"Initially we put calves that were between six and eight months of age through the pens for 60 days. We measured their live weight and their intake for 46 days and identified which were the most efficient and which were the least efficient. All told we put through about 1050 calves, and we've kept the 10% most efficient and the 10% that are least efficient," he says.
From the differences found between calves, LIC identified a likely set of gene markers for feed conversion efficiency (FCE). The markers were used to screen 3700 cows from commercial herds and 214 cows were bought as either efficient or inefficient.
Macdonald says they are now feeding the cows in the pens with the objective of validating the marker genes by conducting the same test. The feed intake, live weight and milk production are measured for 35 days. -Dairy News

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