5 genetic strategies that increase dairy farm profits

Want to increase your dairy farm profits? In this article, we explain which 5 genetic strategies will significantly influence the profitability of your dairy operation and why.

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In the CRV Breeding Guide 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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1 - Breed towards specific milk components

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 - as it will result in increased processing efficiency and a higher product yield at a lower finished cost. That increased processing efficiency is worth a milk price premium. That’s why, today at least, the milk components fat and protein - are the main drivers of cow milk profit.

Want to know what components will be profitable in the future? Read this article or request a farm visit

At CRV, we’ve seen that farms can increase cow milk profit by breeding for specific milk components. They each became very profitable and were able to stay profitable 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

“In 7 years, the herd produces 45% more lbs of fat and 40% more lbs of protein. And butterfat went 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

2 - Breed towards a healthier dairy herd

You can also increase dairy farm profits through breeding for a healthier dairy herd. Breeding for hoof health is proven to result in a lower incidence of digital dermatitis . By breeding with a bull that deviates more than standard on hoof health, incidences of digital dermatitis decrease with 3-9%. Cows will be less susceptible to injury and will see the hoof trimmer less. We’ve seen Holstein farms save $550 to $1,650 per 100 cows per year on vet bills and other expenses.

Same goes for udder health. By selecting for a healthy mammary system, there’s 2-6% less occurrence of clinical mastitis, which saves the farm between $660 to $1,980 per 100 cows per year. Cows thus need less vaccine shots and antibiotics.

There’s another reason to breed towards health, namely food safety and taste. Healthier cows produce milk with lower somatic cell count, which increases shelf life and flavor. Healthy cows are happy, so they will give more milk of a better quality.

Lastly, breeding for health also impacts the fertility and the longevity of the milk cow. With longevity, we mean in particular that the milk cow stays profitable during a greater number of lactations: she has a greater production lifespan.

Profit from breeding for improved hoof health Profit from breeding for improved udder health

“They’re good healthy girls, you know. And, since we are using CRV and select on calving ease, I’ve noticed a big difference. I seldom have a first calf heifer that has to be helped. That helps a lot with vet expenses.”

Emily Branagan, Woods Hill Farm

3 - Breed for a longer production lifespan

A breeding program to lengthen the productive lifespan of a dairy cow is a smart way to increase dairy farm profitability, when you know that replacement costs (of either raising heifers or buying them) are the third-highest cost on a dairy farm, behind feed and labor.

Using a bull that deviates significantly from the average genomic score for Longevity will increase the profitable productive lifespan of a dairy cow’s daughter with 35-405 days, because the number of profitable lactations increases the milk yield per cow. The farm will need less replacement heifers to keep up milk production.

This is beneficial for profitability in two ways. Firstly, replacement costs decrease, i.a. feed costs for the calves that you would otherwise have kept as replacement heifers. Secondly, the revenue from selling calves of genetically inferior heifers increases. Together, this amounts to $4,100 to $12,120 per 100 cows per year. And don’t forget that this amount increases when you use the semen on heifers that also have a genetic predisposition to live long, productive lives.

Profit from breeding for a longer profitable productive lifespan

”There are several profitable cows on Woods Hill Farm that are in their 9th lactation, so they are really paying their way. We can raise less heifers, because the cows are lasting so long.”

Tim Fargo, CRV

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.

4 - Breed to improve fertility

Breeding for more fertile dairy cattle can also increase dairy farm profits. Using genetics that focus on fertility will create daughters with 3-9% higher percentage non return on 56 days and a 23% shorter calving interval on average. This amounts to a saving of $850 to $3,000 per 100 Holstein cows. And using their semen on cows that also score well on several fertility traits increases savings even more.

Profit from breeding for improved fertility

“The calving interval has fallen from 412 days to 388 days.”

Kees Simons, De Groote Wildert

5 - Breed towards feed efficiency

Maybe the most profitable genetic strategy to implement is to breed towards feed efficiency. After all, the costs of the feed ration account for 52-58% of all the variable costs involved in milk production of dairy cows. There is a wide variation in feed efficiency or feed conversion between cows and herds. We’ve seen that the best-scoring cows need a quarter less feed for the same amount of fat and protein corrected milk than the worst ones. On average, a breeding program for feed efficiency either results in a reduction of 10% of feed costs: an average of $3,000 per 100 cows per year. Or - when you keep feed intake the same - it can result in 25% more milk. The average is 2-6 kg more milk per kg dry matter, equal to $6,800 in milk revenue per 100 cows per year.

Learn how your herd scores on feed efficiency and how much you can profit from breeding towards better feed conversion. Request a farm visit

Profit from improved feed efficiency

“I would rather milk more profitable cows, than just have a bigger herd. I think it’s worked out well for us. We can be really profitable with 1.400 cows and I don’t really need to milk 3.000 cows to get the same profits.”

Brian Robbins, North Harbor Farms.

How to breed towards these particular breeding values

In the last 7 years, we’ve seen that breeding towards particular genomic values and sticking to that goal significantly increases dairy farm profits. Genomics enables companies such as CRV to make predictions on these breeding values for their sires. It also allows the herd manager to determine the genetic potential of a cow or heifer on these breeding values before it enters the milking herd. This makes it easy to decide which animals to keep or sell.

We rank the animals from their herd on a custom selection of breeding values, based on farm goals. Then, we advise them which cows to breed with which bulls and which calves to keep or sell. This speeds up the genetic progress and decreases the number of replacement heifers needed as they only need to keep the best animals in that herd. This results in lower replacement costs and higher profits from calf sales.

“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

How to choose the right strategy

The key question in choosing the right strategy to increase dairy farm profits is to learn which of these monetary improvements is achievable with the genes of your herd. On which genetic markers does your herd already score well? On which breeding values should you focus to achieve your farm goals?

CRV is here to help you increase dairy farm profits. CRV lets you take advantage of genetic technologies and proven breeding practices by offering top quality genetics, smart breeding management apps and personal advice on genetic strategies and dairy herd management. Request a farm visit.

“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

Why you should not wait with data-driven breeding programs

The less a farm waits to make use of genomic testing and data-driven breeding programs, the more the dairy farm profits. Why? As the costs of genomic technologies decrease, and word spreads about their effectiveness, more and more dairy farms will begin using them. Farms are currently using these technologies to achieve premium prices, either for their milk, or for increased revenue on the beef side. According to US market research of Rabo AgriFinance, this is working as a short-term strategy, but it will soon become critical to long-term success. Farms who are not adopting these technologies will increasingly fall behind and see their efficiency lag compared to their peers. Design and implement a profitable breeding strategy with us.

“The level of profitability we’re achieving now is just something I never imagined. I really think that CRV’s genetics have played a part in that. Having Tim at my disposal, answering every one of my phone calls, and being there every time we need something and helping us build this herd of cows that we set out to build 4-5 years ago has really been the biggest thing.”

Brian Robbins, CRV

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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