UK licensing agreement to up dairy cattle health

Related tags Dairy farmers Uk dairy farmers Cattle

A leading animal sciences group has sold the gene rights of a new
breed of dairy cattle to a UK distributor which it claims will give
farmers the opportunity to increase their milk yields as well as
prevent the proliferation of cattle diseases such as mastitis,
Tom Armitage reports.

Green Acres, an Ayrshire-based company specialising in the distribution of Holstein dairy cattle, has acquired exclusive breeding rights from Norwegian animal sciences company Geno Global, which will allow it to distribute genetic materials and breeding knowledge to farmers across the UK and Ireland.

Geno, which currently has approximately 18,200 members across the UK and Ireland, claims the so-called Norstein cattle - a hybrid which combines selected traits from the Norwegian Red and Holstein cattle breeds - are expected to be "easy calvers, highly fertile, and resistant to mastitis,"​ although the company has yet to receive all its data from previous sire breeding trials in the US, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

"Norstein cattle are also capable of producing high milk yields, with fat and protein levels as good or better than many other breeds,"​ the company added.

Dairy producers have traditionally favoured the Holstein because of its ability to produce milk with high protein and fat levels. Conversely, the Norwegian Red has been proven to have lower calf mortality rates, higher fertility rates and lower incidence of disease.

Willie Tait, technical manager at Green Acres, told​, "until now, many UK dairy farmers have been slow to recognise the benefits of crossbreeding, especially when compared to beef farmers, for example. One reason for this is partly because there are a large amount of farmers with pedigree Holstein cattle, who have no desire to mix their gene pools."

"This type of application, however, would be ideal for commercial dairy farmers wishing to attain higher milk yields - and it is also suitable for organic dairy farmers,"​ he added.

According to the Vegetarian Society, a typical dairy cow is expected to produce 5,000-6,000 litres of milk a year, but with selective breeding and concentrated feed practices, cows are able to produce ten times more milk than under organic feeding conditions - a consequence of which can result in the proliferation of so-called production diseases - mastitis, for instance.

"The Norstein crossbreeding programme has been proven to lower the instance of mastitis, one of the biggest welfare-related problems affecting British dairy cattle. The need for costly antibiotic treatment is also reduced,"​ Tait commented.

Related topics Markets Dairy Health Check

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