Develop mastitis resistance by exploiting genetics

THE importance of genetics should not be underestimated when selecting for mastitis resistance, according to Marco Winters from DairyCo breeding+.

He said SCC could be used to select against mastitis with ‘about 70 per cent efficiency’.

“For long-term economic sustainability a balanced approach of selection for mastitis resistance alongside other fitness and milk production traits is needed,” he said.

Dr Winters said although farmers were more familiar with genetic indexes for milk, fat and protein, it was a common misconception that indexes only related to production.

“Genetic influences are available for many more than these alone and their application for non-production traits is becoming increasingly important.

“The advice for farmers is to avoid excessively high SCC bull (more than 15) and, when possible, favour the good SCC bulls (less than 0).”

Dr Winters said traditional mastitis control programmes had focused on managing environmental factors and while these were effective in controlling infections in the short term they were limited in controlling the disease long-term. Genetics, he said, could provide the long-term solution.

“Genetic improvements are very cost effective, are permanent and cumulative over the generations.

“Don’t ignore the genetic information out there. It only takes a minute to breed a cow but it can take a lifetime to breed out the problems created by poor breeding decisions.”

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