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Why producers keep investing in dairy genetics

March 01, 2021
POSTED BY: Dave Erf | Geneticist | U.S. Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis

At the onset of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, we were reminded that adaptability can be a dairy producer’s best friend. As the pandemic continues to impact global economies, reevaluating and adjusting management strategies to optimize productivity and efficiency can help give dairy producers a competitive advantage.

For Tom Oesch of Swiss Lane Farms in Alto, Michigan, and Simon Vander Woude of Vander Woude Farms in Merced, California, the idea of strategic adaptation has been central to their dairy operations for a decade. They began using CLARIFIDE® Plus to better inform breeding decisions on their dairies more than a decade ago and haven’t looked back since.

Earlier this year, we asked Tom and Simon to share their insights on CLARIFIDE Plus and how they’re still finding value from using it on their dairies today. Here’s what they had to say:

The value of dairy genetics

“When I think about what genomic testing is doing for the dairy industry and will do for the dairy industry, probably the biggest factor in adding milk per cow to the dairy has been the widespread use of TMR [total mixed rations]. I believe that genetic testing and utilization of genomic data will be the TMR of this era, if you will.” — Oesch

“The overall health of the herd is what really feeds into bottom-line profitability, so a healthier herd is going to be more profitable. It [CLARIFIDE Plus] goes through the entire value of that cow, from breeding to milking longevity. We’ve gotten to a point that we have a much healthier herd than we would have just rolling the dice with conventional semen and buying whatever bulls the guy decided to drop off that week.” — Vander Woude

More than just milk

“The Angus opportunity was a way to add value and keep milking those cows. Instead of breeding third, fourth, fifth lactation animals that are still profitable to conventional Holstein semen, we could breed them to conventional Angus semen and create a higher value calf that then will carry some instant cash value.” — Vander Woude

Future plans

“We’ve made the investment in genetics. I feel like our genetic base is there, so now we're also looking at divesting assets and selling some real estate to reinvest in milking cows. I don’t think we’re going to stop the investment.”
— Oesch

“There’s nothing immune from scrutiny when it comes to running a business. There’s a lot of things that 10 years ago I thought I couldn’t live without that I don’t have today. I have to find the value in everything I do, and I still find value in CLARIFIDE Plus, so we’re going to continue to use it.” — Vander Woude

Advice for interested producers

“Have a strategy for how you’re going to use it. Don’t just spend the money out of curiosity to find out how good or bad your animals are. You have to have a strategy, whether that’s breeding beef or selling off the bottom end, just know how you’re going to spend that money.” — Vander Woude

“There’s no ROI [return on investment] unless you have a strategy to put the data to work. You have to invest time to develop a strategy that will make the data work for you.” — Oesch

Tune in to the Clarity At Work podcasts here or talk with your local Zoetis representative to learn more about how CLARIFIDE Plus can help inform your dairy’s management decisions.


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