Veepro news March 2021

Dutch dairy in figures
What does  the Dutch dairy industry look like in figures? At the beginning of 2021 ZuivelNL came up with the following list. There are 15,700 dairy farms in the Netherlands that together milk 1.6 million cows. So about 100 cows per farm and with that a production value of 4.8 billion euros.
Of all companies 62% get heat from milk and thus save energy, 31% have solar panels. A total of 84% of all cows are grazing outside, while 48% less antibiotics were used in 2019, compared to 10 years earlier.
Of the 14 billion kg of milk, 55% go into cheese, 14% are processed into milk powder. The dairy is processed in 52 processing plants. Of the dairy 35% remain in the Netherlands, 25% find their way outside of  the EU, with China, South Korea and Japan as the top-3 countries, and 40% of the Dutch dairy products remain in the EU, with Germany, Belgium and France being the largest buyers.

Genetic progress has doubled in ten years of genomic selection
Ten years after the introduction of genomic selection in practice, the annual genetic progress in the population of Dutch Holstein cows has doubled. This is evident from figures from the Animal Evaluation Unit (AEU) of the CRV Cooperative.
The AEU calculated the genetic trend for NVI over the past 20 years. This shows that until 2007 the genetic progress per year of birth was constant, around 10 points NVI. It has now risen to more than 20 points NVI per year, a doubling of the genetic progress. Practice shows that the genomic breeding values ​​are reliable, they give a good estimate of the hereditary predisposition of bulls. The young genomic bulls therefore receive every confidence from dairy farmers in their use, and breeding programs not only use these young bulls as sires of sons, but also use the daughters of these bulls at a young age as bull dams.

Inseminating later, higher lifetime production
Waiting longer before insemination can result in a higher lifetime production. This is what Anke Römer, researcher at the German Institut für Tierproduktion in Dummerstorf (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), stated during an international webinar by Trouw Nutrition about sustainable dairy farming. "Certainly younger animals are so persistent that you can wait 200 days before inseminating them,  without  a problem."
Calving three or five times in five years
Römer compared cows that calved five times in five years with cows that calved three times in the same period. On balance, the cows that calved five times in five years achieved a production of 53,757 kg of milk, while the three-time calved cows reached 55,264 kg of milk. This leads to an average daily production of 20 kg in the first group and 21 kg in the second group. "The daily production of cows that calve more often is higher, however, the dry period is also longer. That leads to more non-productive days," Römer explained. "In addition, vet costs are lower, because most costs are incurred in the first 30 days after calving."
Aiming for 20 kg of milk per day
On average, the daily production in Germany is at 14 kg of milk. "But from an economic point of view, dairy farmers should aim for an average of about 20 kg of milk per day," Römer said. To achieve this, the farmers should also carefully review their removal policy, the researcher indicates. "They should give young cows the chance to become old cows. Today, many animals are already being culled as heifers."
29 percent leave the farm as heifers
Römer investigated the removal data of 30 large, highly productive farms in Germany with a total of more than 43,000 cows having been removed. "We saw that 29 percent of those animals had already been removed in the first lactation. In addition, almost a quarter of them were removed in the first 30 days of lactation." The top 20 percent of the best farms disposed of their younger animals relatively less often. Of the removed animals 23 percent still were heifers. On these farms, 32 percent of the removed animals consisted of cows with four or more lactations. That number was at 26 percent across all companies.

European Commission aims for 25% organic agricultural areas
The European Commission (EC) has formulated a 'farm-to-table strategy' which will mean a contraction in agricultural production of 7 to 12 percent, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) predicts.
The EC wants to reduce the use of fertilizers by 20 percent and that of pesticides by at least 50%. Efforts are also being made to halve the use of antibiotics, and the EC is aiming for 25% of agricultural areas being organically managed. It is also proposed that 10% of the agricultural acreage contains diversity-rich landscape features and that at least 30% of the European land area is set up as a nature reserve.
This will weaken the competitive position of European farmers and increase food prices for consumers by 9%.

Better health of Dutch calves
Calves in the Netherlands have become healthier in the past three years, reports the GD, the Dutch Animal Health Service. About 95% of the dairy farmers participate in the calf tracking system that is called KalfOK.
The improvement in rearing is mainly due to a better status for Salmonella,  a reduced use of antibiotics, and an improvement of the index number Successful Heifer Calves from 56 days to two years.

30% more turnover due to secondary sales
Of the nearly 53,000 agricultural farms in the Netherlands, about 13.6% sell produce at the farm. This is evident from the data from the CBS, the Central Bureau of Statistics in the Netherlands. This means that the percentage has grown by almost 4%. The companies sell their products not only in a shop at the farm, but also directly to the catering industry or retail trade. The turnover of the secondary sales amounts to about 30% of the total turnover of the company.

Highest lifetime production at calving age of 22 to 23 months
Analysis of the figures of 35,000 heifers that calved for the first time in 2010 shows that the heifers that calved at 22 to 23 months achieved the highest lifetime production. This German study showed that heifers that calved at an older age, 28 months, did have a higher first lactation, however, they were not found to be more durable. Calving prematurely, at the age of 21 months or younger, had the lowest lifetime production. On average, heifers in the Netherlands calve around 26 months of age. When calving at a younger age, they not only give milk earlier, they also appear to achieve a higher lifetime production.

Data: the new stethoscope

"Genomics" or genetic data, is a development that makes it possible to manage the animal health on a dairy farm preventively. Nowadays veterinarians can go deeply into the genetic data of a dairy herd in order to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of that herd.
That is why it is important that, in addition to the breeding organizations - and in addition to clinical research – these days also veterinarians study the various data streams at a farm. For, the field of attention is increasingly shifting to preventive animal health care. Keeping the 98 percent healthy animals healthy. Then you need data to make informed decisions.
Insight into genetic capacity
One of the new developments in the data area is "genomics". Where it used to be a matter of feeling or assumption, it is now within reach for every dairy farm to get a picture of the genetic capacity of its herd based on concrete figures.
The missing link in the "phenotype = genotype + environment" formula is now available. This offers new possibilities, not only for the dairy farmers themselves but also for veterinarians, to optimize animal health and fertility through genetic selection.
It means that today there are more than 90 genomic breeding values ​​available for each individual animal. The data provide a neutral picture of an animal's aptitude for production, fertility, longevity, calving ease and health characteristics for cow and calf, amongst others.
Based on that information dairy farmers and the veterinarian can start to manage a herd in a very targeted way: ‘Which calves do I keep, from which animals do I want offspring and in case of illness, do I treat an animal or not?’
Also for those who trade in breeding stock, neutral insight into the genetic capacity is important. It exposes the strengths and weaknesses of a herd. That information is needed to set new goals. Especially when it comes to genetic progress in the area of animal health, it really is long-term work.
In addition to production traits, animals can differ a lot from each other in terms of daughter fertility and lifetime production. When you have that information on the table, you have got to the core.
Next it is important to rank the animals for individual decisions. This can be done, for example, with an index in which health is a major factor, in addition to production and fertility. For the animals that score high on this index, you make different decisions than for animals with a lower score, and this way the decisions you make are always based on facts.
For many dairy farmers, traders, exporters, and veterinarians, using genomics in this way is new territory.
Have a look at it. A world opens up for you. Our exporters will be happy to take a look with you.

Lianne van Dongen
Veterinary Director

Veepro movie about Dutch cow/
Dutch cow export

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