Genetics

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Source: National Farm Animal Care Council Code of Practice for the care and handling of farm animals – Dairy Cattle, Section 3.12

Improved genetics and environmental factors have allowed for a steady increase in milk production per cow. However, increased milk production, has put additional demands on the cow, leading to an increased incidence of disease and higher rates of involuntary culling (56). There is a complex interaction between genetics, husbandry, and environment that affects an animal’s health and welfare status. However, it is important to recognize the impact that selection for high productivity can have on an animal’s overall well being.

Genetics companies develop genetic evaluations for several traits in dairy breeds, including many functional traits (e.g., herd life, calving ability, somatic cell score, conformation traits) (64). The choice of bulls may affect the health and welfare of the herd.

RECOMMENDED BEST PRACTICES

  1. select bulls for traits that contribute to animal welfare (e.g., calving ability, mastitis resistance, foot and leg conformation).

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