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Gewählte Publikation:

Knaus, W.
(2009): Dairy cows trapped between performance demands and adaptability

The tremendous increase in the lactation performance of dairy cows during the last 60 years has had dramatic consequences on fertility and vitality (fitness) of the animals. Unprecedented average lactation performance levels have resulted in an equally unprecedented reduction in longevity. Economic pressure to further reduce the age at first calving is still high, although the negative correlation between precocious maturity and longevity is well documented in the relevant literature. Ever more aggressive selection and feeding measures are being taken to shorten the rearing time of heifers in order to reduce the cost of replacement heifers. An additional decrease in the stayability of cows has to be expected when the age at first calving is lowered even further. For reasons of profitability, dairy cows should complete an average of at least four lactations. Cows from the most important dairy breeds in the United States and Bavaria, Germany, already dropped below that crucial threshold many years ago. The same phenomenon has been observed in dairy cows in Austria over the past few years. Holstein cows that were culled in Austria in 2007 had an average of only 3.3 parities. To improve this situation, dairy cattle breeding programs should put a much higher emphasis on selection for traits of longevity and lifetime performance and, in return, markedly reduce the emphasis on selection for lactation performance in general and early-lactation performance test results in particular. Over millions of years of evolutionary adaptation, cattle have acquired the ability to utilize fibrous low-quality plant substrate. Only a strongly forage-based feeding regimen is, in the long run, in accordance with their digestive and metabolic configuration. The massive use of concentrates (mostly grain) in cattle rations increases the risk of digestive and metabolic disorders in cattle and consequently leads to impaired animal welfare. Finally, the careful management of scarce resources demands that a closer look be taken at the food balance in dairy rations, i.e., an awareness of how much food that is edible for humans is being fed to livestock. (C) 2009 Society of Chemical Industry
Autor*innen der BOKU Wien:
Knaus Wilhelm Friedrich

Find related publications in this database (Keywords)
dairy cows
evolutionary adaptation
concentrate feeding
food balance
animal welfare

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