January 1 2008 ~ "...businesses have an interest in selling the seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and machinery that push the cow to the limit of her potential yield.."
A (former) dairy farmer writes from Wiltshire to explain why calves are imported; it is becoming more and more difficult for our UK dairy cows to produce enough heifer calves to replace themselves. As the letter below also pointed out, we have deviated from the traditional farming of the past - and this is not what many farmers themselves want. This latest email may enable non-farming readers to grasp why the seemingly mad import/export situation has arisen - and who are the ones who make the profits - and why the word "former" is added to the emailer's profession as dairy farmer. Read in full below. (He and his son now keep beef cattle and have a business pressing apple juice on contract for individual customers, and for sale at farmers markets along with the preserves and cakes made by his wife. See Wiltshire Farmers Market. )
email received Jan 1 2008
Why do we need to import dairy cattle?
It's because milk yields are calculated for 305 day lactations, which if a cow calves every year gives her 60 days dry and around 80-90 days milking but not in calf.
A cow milks better when she is not in calf, so that if the calving interval is lengthened by extending the in milk but not in calf period, better looking 305 day lactation figures are achieved without actually having a more productive cow.
If the cow has 2 or 3 unsuccessful services before she gets in calf then she will produce better looking figures and a nice profit for the semen company that sold the semen used in the unsuccessful services.
So the semen company has an interest in selling semen of bulls that sire not particularly fertile offspring.
Various other businesses have an interest in selling the seeds, fertilizers, chemicals and machinery that push the cow to the limit of her potential yield, thus reducing her life expectancy, and even with the benefits of sexed semen (with the handicap/benefit, depending on your point of view, of reduced fertility) it is becoming more difficult for our dairy cows to produce enough heifer calves to replace themselves. So we have to import . . . .etc etc.
Bulls for breeding are bred from the cows with the best records, and furthermore the technique of embryo transplant is used extensively in top breeding stock. This requires the cow selected for breeding to be injected with artificial hormones to get multiple ovulation producing more embryos per treatment, and consequently will not discriminate against a less fertile cow that does not naturally produce a normal level of hormones. This treatment will extend the period that she is in milk but not in calf, and so her milk production records will look even better, and so on.
Best wishes for 2008