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Genetic Strengths of LIC Bred Cattle

There are a few key elements that make cattle bred from LIC sires stand out from the rest.

Cow fertility is a major problem facing dairy farmers worldwide. Global farmers are reporting problems getting high genetic merit animals back in calf.

New Zealand’s seasonal systems makes it essential that cows get in calf within an eight-week window at the same time every year. Cows that don’t get back in calf, will be culled - as will bulls that sire infertile daughters.

A strictly seasonal calving pattern has ensured the indirect selection for fertility on New Zealand farms for more than 50 years. LIC sired cows have an average calving interval of 370 days, with over 50% of cows calving to first AI service.

Indirect selection for longevity is an inherent component of New Zealand's low cost seasonal production system. The inclusion of longevity breeding values highlights how influential this selection has been on the New Zealand domestic dairy population.

The average cow in New Zealand lasts 4.6 lactations.

With the average New Zealand dairy farmer needing to calve over 300 cows in an eight week period, it is obviously essential that calving difficulty is minimised.

It is rare for a farmer to assist a cow to calve in New Zealand - this is due to the fact that New Zealand has bred generations of easy calving sires. New Zealand semen should be the first choice for use over maiden heifers.

With little or no supplementary feed available and pasture also sometimes scarce, New Zealand cows have been bred for aggressive grazing behaviour.

Trials comparing the performance of New Zealand cows with international strains have shown that New Zealand cows perform well in TMR environments, as they do on pasture - and yet maintain better body condition in preparation for subsequent lactations.

New Zealand dairy farmers have received no subsidies since 1986. This fact, coupled with some of the lowest milk prices in the world, has forced farmers to ruthlessly pursue efficiency, both in their production systems and in their genetics.

LIC has been instrumental in the development of selection objectives and selection tools that promote the widespread use of the most profitable genetics in most dairy systems.

Most New Zealand dairy cows spend their entire lives outside and walk long distances to milk, daily. Strong legs and excellent feet are therefore critical to ensure they can keep up with their herd mates. Udders must also be well developed and strongly supported to cope with these rigours. 

Cows that graze outside all year must be able to perform at temperatures ranging from below zero to 40 degrees Celsius, and continue to produce milk from low pasture cover.

The average New Zealand dairy farmer will milk over 400 cows on approximately 144 hectares of land. Farm labour is scarce and in most cases a single labour unit will be all that is employed. It is essential that cows settle quickly into their milking routine, have a mild temperament and are fast through the milking shed.

Quick to recognise the pitfalls of an unbalanced approach to breeding, LIC has developed a unique range of highly profitable outcross genetics in the Holstein-Friesian, Jersey and Ayrshire breeds. LIC's KiwiCross™ sires, utilise the hybrid vigour gained from crossbreeding and high genetic merit through Breeding Worth.

LICs vision "To improve the prosperity and productivity of our farmers" sits at the hub of everything we do. The result is unquestioned: in a grazing environment, LIC-bred cattle are among the most profitable in the world.

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