Monday, April 22, 2024

Is the trouble environmental? Or is it genetic??

CONCEPTIONS  Dairy route newsletter                 May-June 2024 

As the AI industry transitioned from an inseminator “service” focus into its growth phase as a “genetics marketing” focus, and the theories of “genetic ranking” created a framework for the competition between AI sources and their sires, the tendency grew to blame “environment” (or “herd management”)  for most things that occurred when individual animals failed to persist, or failed to stay healthy, or became harder to breed back, or just did not live long enough.

An entire new “hoof care” industry of full-time trimmers and foot bath engineers arose.  Getting cows to breed spawned “OvSynch” protocols.    Veterinarians adapted to “production medicine” techniques to cope with the health of cow herds transitioning from a hay-based to a corn-based feeding regime (fresh cow ketosis followed by D/As, for example).     Nutritionists steadily added new energy-dense additives to rations to cope with lack of body condition and slow rebreeding.

How did the AI industry behave through all this?    First, they took “genetic” credit for all gains in milk yield (ignoring the transformative feeding technologies you were adapting), -- and Second, denied all responsibility for bad legs, lame feet, bad teat placement, slow reproduction, difficult calvings, because “we have the best genetics, you just have to learn to manage them.”

Here is the basic rule of thumb for who you blame for what goes wrong.    If your entire herd has the problem, look for an environmental (or management) cause.   But- if only individual animals have the problem, while others do not, look to genetics as the cause.    At its basics, “genetics” is just comparative statistics.    Deviation above or below “herd average” for not just milk, but for any aspect of cow behavior (or anything you can blame on a lack of adaptation to your environment) has an inheritable cause.    Random sire selection can cause these problems.

The only time “genetics” could create a problem across the herd is the accumulative effects of “single trait” selection.   Whenever only one thing (for example, seeking the maximum “index”) dictates the sires you use, this allows all genes not considered to accumulate negative behavior.

No comments:

Post a Comment