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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: The Economically Optimum Grazing Dairy Cow

Author
item Rotz, Clarence

Submitted to: The Forage Leader
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: May 11, 2005
Publication Date: June 7, 2005
Citation: Rotz, C.A. 2005. Less milk, more profit. The Forage Leader. 10(2):4.

Interpretive Summary: An interpretive summary is not required.

Technical Abstract: When we visit grazing dairy farms, we often find at least some cows of mixed breeds and breeds other than Holstein. American dairy graziers are searching for the most profitable animal for their lower-input operations, but this interest is not unique to North America. Large studies are being conducted in Ireland to answer this question. Although their conditions are different from ours, we can learn from what they are finding. In their study, three types of Holstein-Friesian dairy cows with different levels for potential milk production were monitored for several years. Cows with the highest production potential were able to produce more milk, but they had the poorest calving interval and shortest useful life. Each animal type was supplemented with low, moderate, and high amounts of concentrate to determine their efficiency of feed use. A farm model was then used to integrate the various factors to determine the most economical animal and feeding combination. The most profitable milk was produced using the lower producing New Zealand type animal fed a low amount of concentrate. The high producing North American animals fed high amounts of concentrate came in second, but the least economical approach was to feed a low amount of concentrate to these animals. Another Irish study is underway where a variety of breeds and crossbreeds are being monitored to observe reproduction efficiency and milk production. The economic analysis is not complete, but breeds such as the New Zealand type Holstein-Friesian and crosses of this animal with Norwegian Red, Montbeliarde, and Jersey breeds seem to be showing the best potential for their grazing systems. Thus, American producers managing a pasture system with low levels of concentrate supplementation should consider moving away from our high-producing Holstein genetics. If these animals are used, then high amounts of concentrate should be fed to allow them to be profitable. As others in the world search for the optimum grazing dairy cow, we can also benefit from what they find.

Last Modified: 11/24/2014
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