NZAEL updates economic values for dairy cattle

dairy cows stock image

Economic values used to calculate dairy cattle breeding worth (BW) are being formally updated by New Zealand Animal Evaluation Limited (NZAEL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of DairyNZ.

The February 2019 NZAEL update reflects an increased global demand for high fat dairy products, with milk price and the relative value of fat and protein being two of the biggest factors in the calculation of dairy cattle BW. Dairy farmers were informed of this update in September 2018 and it is now in effect.

Economic values (EVs) are an estimate of a trait’s value to a New Zealand dairy farmer and contribute to an animal’s BW – the industry index which ranks cows and bulls on their ability to breed profitable and efficient replacement dairy heifers.

DairyNZ’s strategy and investment leader Dr Bruce Thorrold says the value of milk fat has steadily risen in recent seasons due to strong consumer demand for milk fat products.

“This rise in milk fat value is now reflected in BW so, for BW in 2019, milk fat and milk protein have almost equal weighting,” said Mr Thorrold.

Farmers can expect that the cows bred from high ‘BW2019’ bulls will have an increased ratio of fat to protein in its milk. The price changes for fat relative to protein have produced large shifts in BW, both between and within dairy cattle breeds.

Breeding decisions have a permanent and compounding effect on dairy herd profitability and the aim of NZAEL is to identify animals whose progeny will be the most efficient converters of feed into farmer profit. BW is the index used to rank cows and bulls according to their ability to meet this objective.

“This information gives farmers insights into which bulls can add the most value to their breeding programme in a market where fat is a high value component. Ongoing development of our breeding programme is essential to improving our national dairy herd and the genetics behind how our cows produce milk, profitably and efficiently.”

Economic values are updated by NZAEL every year to reflect changes in values, ensuring BW remains relevant in an ever-changing market environment.

Calculations of economic values account for milk production, historical, current and forecast milk prices, income from culls, surplus cows and bobbies, the cost of generating replacements and general dairy farm expenses.

Of the top 200 bulls ranked by BW in 2019, 70 percent are Jersey, 25 percent are crossbred and 5 percent are Holstein-Friesian.

Source: DairyNZ

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