Currently I believe that there is an over-emphasis of the importance of genetics on the profitability of our dairy farms and a lack of understanding of how change in the genetics of our cows plays out at a herd level. I believe genetics is important, especially for fertility and health traits, but the benefit derived from improved production is simply misguided and over-estimated. The most expensive part of my enterprise is my land and I strive to grow as much grass as I can from it. I calve my cows down at a time that allows me to directly harvest as much of this grass by my cows as possible. Consequently, I utilise all of my grass by converting it into milk. If I improve the production potential further of my cows which are already capable of good production, I don't believe that this will translate into a noticeable difference in the quantity of milk that is produced as I am already producing as much grass as I can. After all, for cows to produce more milk, they are going to have to eat more feed. I believe that there is some financial benefit derived from increased production potential, but I think that it is enormously over-estimated by industry. I get very frustrated when I hear how much more profit I am making due to a change in the production potential of my cows when I know that this isn't the case.
Industry has gone done a path of heavy investment in a particular area without understanding its application to the whole farm system. In the future, we need to leave the economics for assessing our industry investments to economists so we don't continue to go down misguided paths.
One of those misguides paths has been the messaging that 'high BPI cows make $300 more profit than low BPI cows'. The real question is: 'how much more profit would I make if I could swap my herd of lower BPI cows for a herd of high BPI cows if everything else stays the same?' The answer is, not much - certainly not $300 more per cow per year. This message has overpromised and will under-deliver. Industry needs more whole farm thinking in identifying research needs and in communicating results. Let's hope we can move towards this in the future.
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