Our farm is changing

Several weeks ago, I wrote about how choosing a career in dairy farming requires education and knowledge like never before.

Technology keeps moving forward and changing what we know daily. Thank goodness Joey likes technology. He will need it if he ever returns to the farm.

Just like improvements in technology, there are many improvements to be made with actual dairy animals.

Steve and I are embarking on an adventure that I am quite sure would have seemed like science fiction 30 years ago.

The latest production-management tool available to dairy farmers has everything to do with science, although it’s not fiction by any means.

Steve and I, along with our herdsman Zach, are going to use DNA sampling as a management tool on our farm.

This tool will allow us to use only our top cows in the herd for reproduction, which should lead to higher production from all our cows eventually.

We already know who most of our top cows are in milk production and reproduction. For instance, cow 344, also affectionately known as Patty, produced about 130 pounds of milk on the last two test days. She has consistently gotten pregnant on her first breeding and has produced three or four daughters two of which are also being milked at this time. (Those two daughter cows are affectionately known as Patty, Jr. They have the same name.)

What Steve and I would like to do is get a sample of Miss Patty’s DNA. This will tell us if she is genetically as superior as we believe her to be. I suppose we will also get samples from her Patty Jr. one and two as well.

Normally, a sample of DNA is taken from baby calves. I guess, DNA retrieval yet, it’s quite a task.

According to the pharmaceutical company experts, the quickest and easiest way to collect a sample is from a wad of hair including the little bulb down on the end of the hair.

But I have talked dairy farm experts, and from what I hear, I may end up chasing a calf around the yard trying to yank a wad of hair out of said calf’s tail switch (end). I guess pliers are the tool of choice.

We’ll see who the experts really are. Sounds like collecting hair from an able-bodied, wild calf could be quite entertaining.

Believe me, when I have to collect a sample, it will probably end up as a story unless I am really on the ball and collect it before the calf can even walk.

Once Steve and I receive the DNA information back from a lab, we will then use it to choose the bull that we believe will be best suited to create an awesome milking and long-lived cow.

Because apples don’t fall far from the tree and daughters of Patty should be just as good as she is; we will then breed Patty to that chosen bull and pull an “Octomom” in hopes of conceiving between seven or eight embryos.

These embryos will then be harvested and implanted into recipient cows or heifers, in hopes of improving the genetic mapping and value of our herd.

The great thing about this science is that Steve and I will tailor our herd to what we want to see. To us, milk production, good feet and a calm demeanor are great traits in a cow. We will be able to identify cows that will meet those certain criteria. (I am not so sure on the attitude portion of my wants in a cow, but we’ll see.)

It’s another scientific tool we, as dairy farmers, have access to that can help maintain an acceptable bottom line and great herd of cows.

For questions, or comments, e-mail me at kahoffman@newulmtel.net.

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