Breeding for Efficiency - On Farm Experience

A spring-calving herd I work with, recently started weighing their milking cows.  They have then used this data, combined with 305-day milk solids production, to determine the efficiency of each cow expressed as kilos of milk solids, as a percentage of liveweight.

This will then be used as a primary selection tool for targeting sexed dairy semen to the most efficient cows.

The data was very revealing and changed the farmer’s and his staff’s perception of which are the best cows in the herd!

Cows were weighed at drying off (in future, a mid-lactation weight will be used).  Liveweight ranged from 352 kgs to 732 kgs, with an average of 500 kgs.  Milk solids production ranged from 218 kgs to 600 kgs, with an average of 458 kgs.

Efficiency ranged from 39% (a 574 kg cow giving 222 kgs milk solids) to 120% (a 407 kg cow giving 489 kgs milk solids).  The cows are flat rate fed and run as one herd, so no differences can be attributed to feeding.

The top 10% averaged 106% and the bottom 10% averaged 56%.  The best cows in this herd are nearly twice as efficient as the worst!!!  

We also plotted efficiency against liveweight, this showed a slight negative correlation – i.e. the smaller cows in the herd are slightly more efficient.  This herd is a Jersey x Holstein Friesian mix.  The correlation has given the farmer renewed confidence in using the Jersey breed as part of his breeding programme. 

Alongside health and fertility data, and with two years’ experience giving confidence in sexed semen, this promises to be a very powerful and simple tool for herd improvement.

To see how you can improve your dairy efficiency and profits, contact Tom on 07496 760242 or email