Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The ART of Milk Production

Per Tillmann/Adobe

Credit: Per Tillmann/Adobe

By Tamara Leahy & Simon de Graaf

Assisted reproductive technologies play an increasingly important role in the genetic improvement of the high-yielding dairy cow.

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The most common rationale for the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in humans is to increase the chance of conception. Terms such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or artificial insemination (AI) have entered the lexicon of the layperson as society has become more familiar with the use of technology to assist reproduction.

What is less familiar to the general public is that assisted reproduction is common in agriculture, not only to correct fertility problems but more commonly to drive genetic improvement and enhance the production efficiencies of the next generation of farm animals. Assisted reproductive technologies are used in almost all animal industries but have been particularly heavily adopted by dairy farmers.

Take the case of the bull known as Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie (or simply Freddie). In 2012 Freddie was the top-ranked proven producer of cows in America. This ranking was derived from the production and health traits of Freddie’s daughters to determine an overall profitability score. In 2012, Freddie’s daughters were considered $792 more valuable over their lifetime than the average dairy cow, which made Freddie the most desirable bull in the country.

If left to his own devices, Freddie could pass on his valuable genetics to approximately 50 cows per year through natural mating. This would be beneficial to the one farmer...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.