Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Startling presentation at Michigan Hay & Forage Council Annual Meeting

  CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route Newsletter               April-May 2023 

Daniel Olson of Lena, Wisconsin, active dairy farmer, owner of “Forage Innovations LLC” and a founding member of the ”Grassworks” initiative, was the keynote speaker for this years MHGFC annual meeting.     In his afternoon presentation he reported on an ongoing research project of University of Wisconsin, in which over ten years replacement heifers for the University herd are split between “confinement TMR” and “rotational grazing” until they freshen.    Those heifers who were raised outside on pasturage and winter fed mixed-grass hay are producing more milk (as much as 1900 pounds more!) in first lactations than the confined, bunk fed contemporaries.    Key reasons:   the grazed heifers develop more ruminant capacity, have more muscle tone at calving (thus calve easier), and less foot and leg trouble.    

One-sided research:  how it misleads us

There is a report in “Journal of Dairy Science” on another recent research in which Holstein heifers bred to Angus sires for their first calves were compared to heifers bred calving-ease Holstein sires.   There was NO loss of production or other economically negative results.

It has been part of the “sales pitch” for use of sexed semen on heifers from high genomic value sires that these heifers would somehow milk more from that service than if lower genetic value mating sires had been used.     The object here?    Clearly, to help justify the premium price for the sexed semen (and downplay the reduced conception rates from sexed product).

Ultimately, this same genetic acceleration theory would have you breed your matured cows to [sexed male] beef semen to produce a salable deacon calf, generally bringing a higher price at auction than a pure dairy blood deacon.    The sales pitch:  these old cows have lower genomic value, so focus producing replacements from your newest generation of heifers”.   

Maybe the beef semen should go into the “unproven” heifers instead?    And raise them out on pasture, so they milk more on first lactation?     Thus suggests the most recent researches


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