Dairy herd reproduction and profit
The aim is to develop a model that can simulate herd dynamics that provides dairy research leaders and industry experts insights into herd reproduction problems in a more cost effective and timely manner than is possible through field research.
Driver for the research
Reproductive performance in dairy cows has declined since 2000. All major dairying countries have experienced a similar decline, and it has occurred across the full range of production systems and cow production levels.
Improved reproduction performance of dairy cows would reduce the proportion of the herd that is culled annually. Typically, 25% of cows are culled from a dairy herd annually for age, production, reproduction and health reasons. Extending the life of a cow in the herd from 4 years to 5 years produces a saving of $38, or 20% of the annual cow depreciation cost from a shorter productive life. We estimate that a one per cent reduction in dairy farm costs across the whole industry will contribute $41m annually to the economy, shared amongst farmers ($8m), processors ($1m), and consumers ($33m).
The world-leading InCalf project has been operating for approximately twenty years, but despite its focused RD&E efforts, the reproductive performance of Victorian dairy herds has continued to decline. Field studies to determine the most effective way to manage and use genetics whilst achieving reproductive goals will take in excess of twenty years to complete. Modelling of herd dynamics and risk simulation provides a cost-effective and time-effective way to address this problem.
Initially the project will focus on developing a model of herd dynamics. The model will be an individual animal stochastic event model with over-arching farm management guidelines. Different modules will allow different aspects of the farm management to be assessed with respect to the impact on reproduction and whole farm performance.
The project will then use the outputs from this model, when specific interventions are applied, to feed into a model that can simulate whole farm economic performance. The cost and benefits of the various interventions will be assessed over an extended period while also simulating the risks of various strategies.
- Deliver a working and flexible model of Victorian dairy herds that can be used to examine the dynamic effects of changes in reproduction efficiency in the context of the whole farm system
- Develop information on the benefits and costs of specific interventions (such as genetic selection, culling) and systems of herd management designed to improve reproductive and whole farm economic performance across the range of dairy production systems deployed in Victoria
- Provide guidance to the dairy industry by: informing the advisor and farming sector, assisting with RD&E investment decisions and providing information to the InCalf program.
An individual animal stochastic event model with over-arching farm management guidelines will be built and the individual model modules will be validated using industry data.
The model will be demonstrated to various researchers and extensive discussions will be held with relevant science groups to ensure model construction meets acceptance and use criteria.
An expert guidance group will be formed to define to focus of the research questions to be examined by the working model.
The whole farm economic modelling is based on the Dairy Directions Project. A case study farm will be selected to use as a base scenario that details the biophysical and economic performance of the farm system.
Data output from the animal model will input to the whole farm model to simulate the economic outcomes of the various defined interventions.
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
December 2013 – December 2015