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4 Nov 2022

How can we help solve the climate challenge?

Barns fitted with new 3D cameras that monitor cows are helping dairy and beef producers save feed costs, reduce climate impact and improve animal welfare.

Consumer pressure is mounting on farmers to produce food more efficiently and with fewer greenhouse gases while at the same time ensuring good animal welfare is top of the agenda.

Farmers, retailers and food processors know they need to improve their businesses but the main issue is how to ensure income while pursuing this efficiency drive. The main questions focus on how agriculture can become more feed-efficient and climate-friendly.

The Danish Agriculture & Food Council launched the Global Climate Task Force and VikingGenetics is proud to be part of this effort to reduce the global carbon footprint.

The most important part of the future work of the Global Climate Task Force is to identify how the Danish food cluster can be part of the solution to the global climate challenge.

CFIT Saved Feed Index DAFC Climate Challenge

In the film made by the Danish Agriculture & Food Council “Climate challenge” smarter genetics is highlighted as one of the key areas that helps reduce the climate footprint of cattle farming.

David Stenkaer Ravnkilde, CSMO at VikingGenetics explains: “I definitely believe we have a role in the future. We expect to be able to reduce the feed intake by 10% to produce the same amount of milk over the next ten years.”

New tech increases livestock feed efficiency and reduces carbon footprint

Around 60-70% of the variable costs on a dairy or beef farm relate to feeding the cows. On average, 6% of a cow's energy is spent on producing methane rather than milk. However, this varies from 2-12% depending on how efficient the cow is in converting feed into milk.

To improve feeding efficiency and reduce global milk and meat production emissions, VikingGenetics has developed the CFIT technology and a Saved Feed Index for the dairy and beef industry. Based in the Nordic countries, the bovine genetics company has spent more than a decade on extensive data collection and R&D in this field.

The Saved Feed Index is based on data from the CFIT technology, a system where 3D cameras monitor and measure the feed intake at barns. This happens throughout the lactation of the cows from commercial herds, without disturbing the daily routine and cow's natural behaviour.

 

How to quantify the amount of feed

The 3D cameras and artificial intelligence identify the cows in the barn, estimate their weight and quantify how much they eat. Each cow is identified from pictures of its back. The cameras record the cow's distinct pattern of colours and body shape.

To quantify the amount of feed that each cow consumes during the day, the cameras take pictures of the surface of the feed. One picture is taken before the cow goes to the feeding table to eat, and one after she leaves. By subtracting the two images, the CFIT technology helps the farmer quantify the amount of feed that the cow consumes 24/7, all year round.

CFIT Saved Feed Index DAFC Climate Challenge

How efficient is each cow?

The Saved Feed Index shows you how efficient each cow is in turning feed into milk. Data from the Nordic farms shows that there is more than 200 euros to save per cow per year when looking at the most efficient versus the least efficient cows. Two cows with the same milk yield can have a difference in feed intake of more than 1.2 tonnes DMI. That has a huge impact on the farmer’s bottom line.

By using the Saved Feed Index, a farmer can find out which bulls will produce the best-performing and most climate-friendly cows. If you have a cow and a bull both with a Saved Feed Index of 110, the offspring will consume 70-100 kgs of dry matter less in one lactation. This will impact not only the farmer's bottom line but also the farm's carbon footprint and animal welfare because cows that are fed correctly live longer, thrive better and yield more milk.

CFIT Saved Feed Index DAFC Climate Challenge

Optimise feed costs

Is it possible to breed more efficient and climate-friendly cows and improve farm returns? The answer is YES. 

With the Saved Feed Index, you can find out which bulls will bring you the best-performing cows. Cows that are more feed-efficient and climate-friendly.

Reduce methane emissions by 33% per litre

According to an Arla report, the cow’s digestion and the cow’s feed account for over 80% of on-farm emissions. By improving the cow’s feed efficiency, the dairy and beef industry can reduce global carbon milk and meat production emissions.

By using the highest-ranking Saved Feed sires from VikingGenetics, farmers can reduce dry matter intake by 230,000 kilograms for a herd with 1,000 cows.

David says: “If a VikingGenetics cow replaces an average European cow, it gives a saving of 0.1 kg CO2 per kg of milk. On other continents, the savings can be even bigger and are expected to be 0.33 kg CO2 per kg of milk. If we add things up, with the current prevalence of our genetics worldwide, it gives an estimated saving of approx. 0.74 million tonnes CO2 per year.

"For us, it makes a lot of sense to be part of the solution and contribute with our know-how to this crucial effort. A dairy farmer in India can, for example, reduce methane emissions by 33% per litre of milk if they use our genetics,” he adds.

VikingGenetics is one of the leading companies in the industry that strives and invests heavily to reduce the carbon footprint from cattle breeding. The CFIT technology and Saved Feed Index provide the reliable data farmers need to breed feed-efficient cows, make a profitable dairy business and create a better future.

Learn more about the Saved Feed Index
CFIT Saved Feed Index DAFC Climate Challenge

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