Could global warming incite interest in tropical dairy breeds?

Hamilton-based CRV Ambreed is ready to help New Zealand dairy farming confront the consequences of climate change.

The herd improvement company has widened the focus of its tropical dairy genetics scheme, which has sparked the interest of some Northland-based farmers.

Once only common in parts of Central America, South America, Asia and Africa, Sahiwal and Gyr genetics was introduced by CRV Ambreed to its breeding programme to meet a growing overseas demand for heat tolerance and tick resilience, combined with the added benefits of New Zealand’s grazing genetics.

A number of New Zealand farmers dealing with sub-tropical environmental conditions have since started using the crossbred option to build heat and parasite resistance in their herds.

Sahiwal, a popular high-merit dairy breed in Central America, South America, Asia and Africa, sires small, fast-growing calves that typically have good temperaments, ease of calving, heat and drought tolerance, and parasite resistance. Gyr, a common dairy breed in Brazil, displays similar traits to the Sahiwal.

CRV Ambreed genetic strategist Phil Beatson said while tropical breeds tend to have lower milk production than the temperate dairy breeds like Friesian and Jersey, their key strength is heat and parasite tolerance.

He explained that when crossed to the temperate breeds, the crossbred cattle have higher milk production than the straight tropical cattle. As the proportion of tropical make-up decreases, it is expected that milk production will increase. For example, 25 per cent tropical cows will have higher production than 50 per cent tropical cows.

Results show that in Northland, 34 per cent Sahiwal, 66 percent Friesian cows in a once-a-day system produced up to 1kg of milk solids per day for the first 100 days of lactation. 20 per cent Sahiwal cows produced up to 1.3kg milk solids in the same system, said Mr Beatson.

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