The Board of Directors of VikingGenetics has decided to increase investment in the Cattle Feed Intake System (CFIT) where the feed intake of individual cows can be monitored by 3D cameras in commercial farms.
“The Nordic farmers will benefit from the CFIT 3D camera system by requiring less feed to produce the same amount of milk. We will see further genetic progress for feed efficiency that contributes to more climate-friendly cows,” says Lars Inge Gunnarsson, Chairman of the Board at VikingGenetics.
The CFIT technology uses deep learning and the world’s most cutting-edge 3D cameras to measure dairy cow feed intakes on a larger scale than ever before. The information is being collected to complement the Saved Feed Index, which was launched last year.
The amount of data collected for the trial that began in 2015 will increase to involve 7,000 cows and more than 20 commercial farms during 2021. The trials include information from commercial milking herds using genetics from VikingHolstein, VikingJersey and VikingRed breeding programs.
Reliable information driving development
Søren Borchersen, Chief Research and Development Officer (CRDO) for VikingGenetics says: “Having individual feed intake records on commercial dairy farms can be a game-changer in modern dairy cattle management. It is something we have always dreamed about.”
The Saved Feed Index provides a genetic measure of each bull’s ability to transmit ‘metabolic efficiency’ to his progeny, and other efficiency traits related to his daughters’ size. This index is already in use for animals bred in the VikingGenetics countries (Denmark, Sweden, and Finland).
This index has been developed by Nordic Cattle Genetic Evaluations (NAV) in collaboration with university and industry partners. Its reliability is expected to significantly increase as large amounts of data are added to its calculations.
Benefits for farmers and the environment
Jan Lassen, senior research manager at VikingGenetics explains that these developments are “highly significant as previous assessments of individual cow feed intakes have generally only been possible on experimental farms, under short spans of time, with limited animal numbers and expensive individual feeders”.
Validation undertaken during the research has shown that the cameras provide a highly accurate assessment of feed intake. The cameras are also able to accurately measure each animal’s weight, which is another important part of the evaluation.
“We will be able to have a lot of new data on cow behavior, feeding and health available. Use of digitalization in practice generates a lot of new and better ways to manage dairy production.” Mr. Borchersen continues.
“We are confident in the robustness of the technology which has now been rigorously tested in challenging conditions, including by kids on the Xbox and by cows on farms,” concludes Mr. Borchersen. “We believe it has the scope to transform dairy cow management as well as cattle breeding, cut the use of feed used worldwide and achieve commensurate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”
The effects of using the index will generate both environmental benefits and financial savings.
Feed represents 70% of variable costs and the difference between the most and least efficient animals has been shown to be a substantial one ton of dry matter intake per 305-day lactation for animals producing the same amount of milk. This offers enormous scope for saving feed and cutting greenhouse gas emissions – which, broadly speaking, increase in line with feed consumed – if rolled out on a global basis.
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