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17 Jan 2024

Breeding and technology: the future of dairy farming

Dairy farms will have to make changes to remain productive and profitable in a more sustainable future. Innovative genetics can help breed cows that fulfil these criteria, but what other issues will farmers need to address in the future? Continue reading to get the full insights.

Customer demands are changing, and farmers have to adapt to stay in business. Dairy farms must change with that demand, but only if that is logical and feasible.

Farm technology is also evolving as tech buffs race to introduce new tools ahead of their competition to dazzle farmers with better features and benefits.

To get to the bottom of this, we sat down with two experts to discuss what dairy farms might look like in the year 2040.

Lars Nielsen, Chief Breeding & Production Officer at VikingGenetics, and Chris McCullough, an international, award-winning agricultural journalist with 20+ years of experience.

Dairy Farming Technology Future Cattle Genetics

Faster genetic progress

Like technology, cattle breeding has quickly evolved over the years. More and more farmers aim to breed "the perfect cow" that suits their conditions and systems.

“Over the last 20 years, the most significant change has been the introduction of genomic selection in 2008, which has developed extensively since then. We now have more detailed information on the genetics we use,” says Lars.

Genomic selection has enabled breeders to see faster genetic progress, allowing for new breeding goals.

“The acceptance of the Nordic style of breeding, as we say, with the focus on the health traits, and the functionality has been developed a lot, and it has been much easier to introduce with genomic selection,” he adds.

Dairy Farming Technology Future Cattle Genetics

Consumers drive the market

Consumers have significant control over the markets, as processors and retailers jump to give them what they want.

“There is currently a big emphasis on what consumers think and what they say and want. And it's influencing the supermarkets and the processors,” says Chris.

Among many trends, traceability is one of the key issues of the day, as consumers want to know precisely where, when, and how their food was produced.

“That puts big pressure on processors, supermarkets and farmers to do that, to get that knowledge to them,” he adds.

Dairy Farming Technology Future Cattle Genetics

Big data = better quality

Technological advancements in cattle breeding can help farmers breed healthier and more efficient animals, resulting in higher-quality food. One method of achieving that is using the power of big data in national herd databases.

 “All the data we collect in our national cattle databases benefit the consumers a lot because we are, based on all that information, able to detect the right breeding animals, breeding for the traits that the consumers ask for, so more healthy and more efficient animals,” explains Lars.

This data serves as the base for various improvements, such as reducing the use of antibiotics and offering better food safety. At the same time, technological advancements, such as feed efficiency and methane sniffers, can reduce carbon footprints.


Learn more about the Saved Feed Index
Cattle Breeding Technology CFIT Feed Efficiency

More genetic possibilities

With new technologies emerging faster, more genetic possibilities become available to help farmers breed better cattle. CRISPR genetic engineering is one of these, but what is it?

“CRISPR is a tool where you start to play with the genes, where you neutralise some single genes and take them out of the equation. Or, in principle, you also move genes from animal to animal,” says Lars.

This allows scientists the possibility to remove undesirable genes. This can improve animal welfare by introducing polled genetics in horned animals and reducing the need for antibiotics, among other things.

There is, however, significant ethical and legal discussion on this subject, which will continue to develop in the coming years as technology continues to evolve.

Dairy Farming Technology Future Cattle Genetics

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