September 27, 2023

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Whether it’s applied in a corn field or the nation’s dairy barns, precision technology is reshaping the agriculture industry for the better. From genomic technology to robotic milking systems, electronic identification tags to activity monitors, innovation is everywhere in the dairy business today. Dr. Jason Osterstock, vice president of Precision Animal Health for Zoetis, said the progress made over the past decade has been remarkable.

“It’s hard to anticipate where we are today,” Dr. Osterstock said. “I think, one of the things for me as a scientist – the way we thought we’d utilize the technology in 2010 is completely different than how we’re leveraging it today.”

Holstein Association USA and Zoetis have had a relationship for the better part of a decade. The partnership has expanded the utility of genomic technology, and it adds value to U.S. registered Holstein genetics.

“As we think about genetics, it’s really a very important component of how we’ll respond to sustainability challenges moving forward,” Dr. Osterstock said. “In many respects, the U.S. dairy industry and the Holstein cow is amongst the most sustainable animals in all the world.”

DNA samples collected from calves on the farm lead to data and predictions that are quite precise through “clarified plus” genomic tests. And now, you can perform many of the needed steps through a mobile app – taking photos and scanning barcodes with a smartphone.

“Our ability to look at each animal, identify, in real time, what’s her risk for condition X or Y?” Dr. Osterstock said. “What’s her potential, what’s her future contribution to the herd, what’s her value to the herd? So that, each and every day, we know who needs to be where, what’s the right next decision, and it’s seamlessly integrated across all of the given data sources within the dairy.”

Genomic testing is also a gateway for registered Holstein breeders to incorporate other technologies. Some of them include in-vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, and using beef bulls on dairy females to produce calves that are destined for feedlots.

So, what’s in store for the next decade? With the registered Holstein cow’s natural ability to efficiently produce high volumes of quality milk, the opportunities are endless.

“If she can stay healthy and her milk goes in the tank, that’s absolutely integral to us connecting her consumption of feed into consumable protein,” Dr. Osterstock said. “I think we’re also going to see our ability to select for feed efficiency, our ability to select for cows that produce naturally less methane, so those are all going to unlock opportunities for us.”

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