Farmers with many cows that achieve high lifetime production, are convinced that this high lifetime production is in the genes. The Knoef and Winter families tell all about their vision of high lifetime production.
Big Boukje 192 produced a whopping 208,000 litres of milk with 4.64% fat and 3.86% protein. The cow, which belongs to Jos and Ingrid Knoef in Geesteren, is the champion par excellence of lifetime production. She reached the age of 19 years old, calved an impressive 15 times and also obtained an exterior score of 90 points. Jos is convinced: ‘This high production is due to her genetics.’ ‘At a production of 100,000 or 150,000 kilos of milk, you can just say it’s all down to nutrition, care or herd management. That Boukje managed to exceed 200,000 kilos of milk is undoubtedly due to her outstanding genes.’ He calls her pedigree–Cash x Labelle x F16 x Tops x Amos–a ‘dream team’ for durability. ‘These are all bulls who have proven to breed daughters that achieve high lifetime production.’ Her dam and great-granddam also managed to surpass the magic threshold of 10,000 kilos of fat and protein. Boukje’s performance may be unique and she is certainly a fine cow, but high lifetime production is actually a common occurrence among the Knoef family’s herd. As of now, 71 of their cows managed to produce more than 100,000 litres of milk, while 25 cows even achieved 10,000 kilos of fat and protein.
Better Life indexes work
Other dairy farmers also achieve high lifetime production with their cows, such as the Winter family from Vriezenveen. ‘We really like working with mature cows. They give more milk and thus more yield’, says Jan Winter. In 2016, the Winters Farm herd was awarded the ‘Best Herd in the Netherlands’. For eight consecutive years, they have been scoring a lifetime production of more than 50,000 litres of milk with their culled cows. They also have a remarkable number of cows that crossed the magical thresholds: 7 cows with more than 10,000 kilos of fat and protein and an impressive 29 that produced more than 100,000 kilos of milk. Jan and Tiny Winter are assisted in the breeding and care of their 230 cows by daughter Laura, a young stock specialist at ForFarmers feed company and son Frank, a CRV classifier. ‘The animals with the highest marks for Better Life indexes are the best performers,’ Laura found after comparing the genomic breeding values of their herd with the cows’ performance. ‘We see in practice that it works.’ The 73 cows with the highest score for Better Life Health also demonstrated the best health figures: 48% less subclinical mastitis, 63% less ketosis and a 33 days shorter calving interval.
Production and health
Our question to the expert farmers is obvious: what do you look for in the selection of bulls for breeding cows with high lifetime production? ‘We breed based on kilos of protein, legs, udder, and health traits. The Better Life Health and Better Life Efficiency indexes provide us with useful information’, Laura indicates. ‘Healthy cows are easy to work with’, Jan adds. Jos Knoef confirms the importance of breeding for achieving high lifetime production: ‘You reap what you sow. If you consistently hold on to your breeding goal, you will achieve the desired results. In addition to the production predisposition, we increasingly pay attention to udder health, persistence and late maturity. In doing so, you breed an exterior that will make the cows last for years. Optimal height and width, an excellent udder and very strong dry legs. Exactly like Big Boukje 192’s exterior, as it happens.’