How to breed towards lucrative milk components to handle the milk base

Are you confronted with a milk base and worried about farm profitability? The obvious answer to this challenge is to shift focus from milk quantity to milk quality. In this article, you can read about the best way to increase milk quality. You’ll learn how to breed towards lucrative milk components.

A strategy for more and sustainable profit?

In this whitepaper you’ll discover 4 more profitable breeding decisions, such as crossbreeding with beef, how these strategies decrease your carbon footprint and how to choose and implement the best strategies for your dairy farm.

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Why are US dairies confronted with a milk base?

Because of a long-term decline in fluid milk consumption and increasing consumer preferences for plant-based milk, the demand for raw milk has shrunken. Add the covid19 crisis to the mix and the demand is even lower. Dairy operations that directly sell their raw milk to processors were already held to a milk base, as the processing company can sell only so many products. Some US dairy coops have also installed a milk base price for their dairies. Other US dairy coops are expected to follow soon.

What to do if confronted with a milk base?

A milk base will directly influence dairy farm profits if the dairy farm produces more milk than is requested with the milk base. The obvious answer to this challenge is to shift focus from milk quantity to milk quality. To creating premium milk instead of much milk. Premium milk is milk with high component percentages. It is called premium milk, as it commands a better milk price. Today, fat and protein are the most lucrative milk components - real moneymakers. Increasing these milk components is therefore a goal of many farmers, especially when they are or anticipate being confronted with a milk base price.

“We used to make a lot of milk with really big cows. When Tim came in, we looked at what we wanted for a genetic strategy for the future. We did the math and we realized how much money we were losing. We wanted cows of a smaller breed that produce high quality milk. It’s just more efficient. The cows are just more compact and they don’t make quite as much milk, but they’re making a lot more solids, which is better for how we get paid. I never thought we would get butterfat up to 4.5. From what I understand, this is pretty rare for Holsteins. With the pandemic and everything, we’ve been penalized for making pounds of milk [ed: via a milk base price structure]. But we’ve been able to stay very profitable.”

~Brian Robbins, North Harbor Dairy

Why will high milk components make you money?

Firstly, because of the decline in fluid milk consumption, cheese and butter manufacturing drives raw milk demand. Secondly, a processing company profits when farmers can consistently sell them milk that matches the profile of the processed end product - whether it is high butterfat, low fat or high protein. This is because a match in milk components will result in increased processing efficiency and a higher product yield at a lower finished cost. This is worth a price premium. That’s why, today at least, the milk components fat and protein are the main drivers of cow milk profit.

butter and milk

“The dairy is very profitable since we adapted the new genetic strategy. I definitely think it has a big part in it..”

~Brian Robbins, North Harbor Dairy

Discover your
profit potential

Limited offer: Contact us to discover your dairy herd potential and get 0.2 units of elite sire semen per milking cow for free!

Do you want to reveal the true potential of your dairy herd? CRV can give you the genetic insights to make a future-proof decision which genetic breeding strategy works best for you to secure your farm's profitability.

How much can you profit from better milk components?

At CRV, we’ve seen that farms can increase cow milk profit by breeding for specific milk components. They each became profitable and were able to stay economically sound despite the introduction of a milk base price and plummeting milk prices during the pandemic. For instance, we’ve seen heifers from elite sires producing 0.48% more fat and 0.41% more protein. That increased the farmers milk revenue with $233,20 per lactation. That’s $23,320 more cow milk profit per 100 cows per lactation.

Profit from breeding for milk components

Which milk components will be profitable in the future?

The dairy production sector continues to segment into premium and specialized products. That’s why in the future, demand and supply of milk with specific milk components or ratios will create milk price premiums. Dairy farms can differentiate their milk based on micronutrients, f.i. used for high-spec infant formula or prescription dietary supplements. Or even milk that is different at the genetic and molecular level, like is the case with A2 milk and kappa casein. A2 milk only contains A2-type beta-casein proteins that are easier to digest. Kappa casein is a milk protein that results in higher cheese yields. Working genetics into their breeding programs allows farms to be able to supply milk that is easier to process in these specialized products in exchange for a premium price. Of course, a closer collaboration and a more direct long-term relationship with milk processors will keep this genetic strategy profitable.

How to increase butterfat and milk protein in dairy cows

Breeding towards higher components in milk is the most sustainable and cost-effective way to achieve milk price premiums and withstand financial issues from the introduction of a milk base price. How does that work? You need to know the genetic predispositions of cows and bulls to produce (daughters generating) higher milk components and make a good match. The heifer that is born will produce slightly more milk with increased butterfat and milk protein percentages. In one generation, the results are a slightly higher average milk production per cow per day that generates more profit. Every generation, milk components like fat and protein can be increased every generation, which accumulates to extraordinary percentages.

milking CRV dairy cows

“In 7 years, the herd produces 45% more lbs of fat and 40% more lbs of protein. And butterfat went up from 3.4 to 4.7%. “Focus on high quality milk has truly paid off. Since introducing CRV genetics into the herd, there's been a tremendous increase in fat and protein.”

~The Branagans, Woods Hill Farm

How to breed towards higher milk components

  1. The key to vast and fast genetic progress towards better milk components is knowing which cows to breed with or not and which bulls to breed with. Luckily, genomic tests provide reliable data that simplifies these decisions. Because millions of genomic markers are mapped, we have been able to identify thousands of SNP’s (single nucleotide polymers) that correlate to specific phenotypic expressions. This means that genomic tests can predict the genetic potential of cows and bulls across several criteria, such as milk component percentages.
    a. CRV genetically tests its sires on those genomic markers, and tests for verification purposes also their offspring.
    b. CRV also genetically tests the cows and heifers on the farm. In the last few years, the costs of these tests have dramatically decreased from $200 to just $30-50 per cow.
  2. Then, CRV ranks the milk cows on the predictions for specific breeding values - basing their priority on the business goals of the farm. This ranking enables the herd manager to determine a heifer’s genetic potential for producing milk components before it enters the milking herd. He now can easily decide which calves should be kept for replacement purposes and which can be sold for beef.
  3. CRV recommends the herd manager which heifers to keep or to cull. If the results of a genomic test suggest that the potential performance of a calf in the milking herd is enough of a benefit to the farm goals to offset the cost of raising it, the calf should be raised into the milking herd. If not, the calf can be sold. This means he can keep only the heifers that will produce a lucrative milk component ratio and easily maintain the optimal size of their milking herd.
  4. CRV timely advises the herd manager on breeding matches - which cows to breed with which bulls.
milking CRV dairy cows

“CRV helps us with selecting calves to keep in the herd and the calves to sell. They help us with the numbers of animals we need to maintain. So, they make things pretty easy for my herd manager. Basically, CRV gives him a very straightforward Powerpoint with advice and he can make decisions upon it.”

~Brian Robbins, North Harbor Dairy

CRV. Better Cows > Better Life.

CRV is here to help you breed a healthy and efficient dairy herd that produces a lucrative milk components percentage. CRV lets you take advantage of genetic technologies and proven breeding practices by offering top quality dairy genetics, smart breeding management apps and personal advice on breeding strategy and dairy herd management. CRV experts know exactly how to select the right breeding goals, identify genetically superior milk cows, breed towards those goals, and calculate and monitor your return on investment.

Since 1795, CRV improves milk production by optimizing breeding practices at dairy farms. Not only do CRV cows produce a phenomenal amount of butterfat and protein, their feed efficiency and lifetime production is also unparalleled.

Learn how to design and implement a future-proof breeding program

Want to know exactly how to design a breeding program that meets the current and future challenges of dairy farming? The CRV Breeding Guide includes practical tips on how to create an optimal, future-proof breeding program, proven profit calculations and testimonials from our customers.

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Discover your profit potential

Limited offer: Free genomic tests

Together, we can implement a future-proof dairy cow breeding program that secures your farm's profitability. Request a farm visit today and we will offer to test a group of animals at no cost to you! With this information we will determine the genetic potential of your dairy herd, calculate your profit potential and help you decide which genetic strategies work best.

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