New Zealand farmers have had to apply low cost and efficient farming systems in order to be competitive on the world dairy markets. The resulting farming system required specific genetics with focus on performance on grass, seasonal calving, longevity and easy care. This has resulted in the New Zealand genetics as we know them today.
New Zealand genetics characteristics
Generations of selection in the New Zealand environment have resulted in our genetics carrying the following characteristics:
- Quality milk: milk payout is based on kg of fat and protein with a negative for volume. As a consequence the fat- and protein % of our genetics is resulting in quality milk.
- Efficient converters of grass: the focus in our national breeding goal is for cows to efficiently convert grass into milk. Farmers focus on maximum output (kg solids) per kg of body weight. The best farmers realize 1 kg of fat and protein or more per kg of body weight per lactation.
- Fertile: most farmers let calve the cows once a year and will only use AI for 4-6 weeks. Empty cows are culled and this stringent selection in combination with focus in the breeding goal has resulted in the New Zealand genetics having the best fertility in the world.
- Robust: cows are outside day and night, 365 days per year. This means they have to cope with changing weather – and on top of that – they have to compete within larger herds. As a result NZ cows are robust. They will excel in hardy environments and look after themselves.
In comparison with Holsteins and Jerseys from North America and Europe, New Zealand genetics are:
- smaller in stature
- carry more body condition
- have wider muscles, more width of chest and deeper bodies
- slighly more set to the leg
- more aggressive foragers
- outcross to North American and European bloodlines