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J Dairy Sci. 2007 Mar;90(3):1493-505.

Economic comparison of divergent strains of Holstein-Friesian cows in various pasture-based production systems.

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  • 1Moorepark, Dairy Production Research Centre, Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland.


The objective of this paper was to compare the economic efficiency of 3 divergent strains of Holstein-Friesian cows--high-production North American (HP), high-durability North American (HD), and New Zealand (NZ)--across a variety of Irish pasture-based production systems: Moorepark (MP), high concentrate (HC), and high stocking rate (HS). Physical performance data were obtained from a 5-yr study conducted previously. The economic performance of each strain and feed system was derived for 3 production scenarios: European Union (EU) milk quota applied at the farm level using predicted future prices and costs (S1); EU milk quota applied at the industry level, thus permitting quota leasing at predicted future prices and costs (S2); and EU milk quota applied at the industry level with a limitation on land availability (S3). The economic results showed that in a fixed milk quota scenario, the NZ strain in the MP and HS feed systems returned the highest profitability. The HD strain in the MP and HS feed systems proved the next most profitable, whereas the HP animals were least profitable in all feed systems. Similar to S1, in S2 the NZ were most profitable; however, the difference between the MP and HS was much smaller. The HP strain proved least profitable in all feed systems. In S3, the NZ strain was again most profitable; however, within that scenario the HS feed system was optimal. These results show that exclusive genetic selection for increased milk production results in reduced farm profitability because the productivity gains achieved are outweighed by associated increases in reproductive wastage costs in a pasture-based system. These results reinforce the economic value of genetic improvement based on a selection index encompassing traits of economic significance pertinent to the production environment.

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