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Selko HealthyLife | Programme for Sustainable Dairy Farming

Programme for Sustainable Dairy Farming

Increasing cow lifespan makes dairy farming more sustainable

Utilizing the full milk production potential by increasing cow lifespan with HealthyLife

To feed the ever-increasing world population in a sustainable way, the full production potential of each animal on a farm needs to be utilised. More milk needs to be produced, using less resources, to reduce the environmental footprint.

For dairy cows, this means increasing the average milk production per day of life, from birth to culling, otherwise known as their Lifetime Daily Yield (LDY)1,2.

Lifetime Daily Yield can be increased by managing the transition to lactation in an optimal way. The amount of scientific articles and information about transition management in dairy cows is however simply overwhelming. HealthyLife makes life easy, by translating the latest science about dairy cow transition management into simple and practical protocols to help you increasing cow lifespan and productivity.

The HealthyLife programme will increase Lifetime Daily Yield

The transition to lactation has an enormous impact on the immune system, the digestive system and the metabolism of a dairy cow. This requires 3 adaptations:

  • Immune adaptation3,4,5,6
  • Metabolic adaptation7,8,9,10,11
  • Digestive adaptation12,13,14

These 3 adaptations are not independent, they influence each other. The HealthyLife programme offers a holistic approach to these 3 adaptations and deals with some of the challenges a cow has to deal with during transition to lactation. The HealthyLife programme will help to:

Reduce age at first calving

Reducing the age at first calving, while still reaching rearing targets, will help to improve LDY. Studies carried out by the ILVO in Belgium18 showed that a reducing of age at first calving from 26 to 24 months reduces methane emission of dairy cows by 3.1%. It has also been demonstrated that heifers that calve at 22 to 24 months have optimal fertility and maximum milk yield in their first and second lactation19.

Increase milk production per lactation

To reach an optimal milk production per lactation, a dairy cow must deal with the transition to lactation. A resilient dairy cow is defined as a cow that deals with transitions successfully, increasing the chances to express all her genetic potential to produce milk. Studies carried out by the ILVO in Belgium18 showed that increasing the production per day by 3kg will reduce methane emission by up to 8.4%.

Manage the calving interval

Traditionally, a calving interval of 365 days is targeted, to ensure that cows can be dried off and prepared for the next lactation by the time their milk yield starts dropping. In highly productive herds, cows can be in strong negative energy balance after calving, making it more difficult to get them pregnant. Particularly if persistence of milk production is high, aiming at short calving interval may have a negative impact on farm economics and animal welfare20, so farm could also aim at a longer calving interval of up to 415 days.

Increase the lifespan of dairy cows

Functional longevity is defined as the ability of a cow to avoid culling due to reasons other than poor milk production15,16,17. Increasing cow lifespan by increasing the number of lactations per cow has a big impact on Lifetime Daily Yield and environmental footprint of a dairy farm. Studies carried out by the ILVO in Belgium18 showed that reducing the culling rate by 5% and increasing milk production by 3 kg per day reduces emission of methane by 11.7%. Good transition cow management is key to avoid involuntary culling later in lactation.

Calculate your profit!

See how sustainable dairy farming will result in more profitability of your farm

In contrast to common belief, it is very well possible to run a farm in a sustainable way while generating a healthy income.

Calculate your profit by influencing the 4 key HealthyLife indicators that help improve the Lifetime Daily Yield on your farm.

How farmer Peer Claassen reached a lifetime production of 50,000 kg milk per year

For Peer Claassen, sustainable dairy farming means increasing cow lifespan of his dairy herd. By giving his cows a place to eat, a place to rest and a place to calve, they have a smooth transition to lactation, the replacement rate of his dairy cows is low and his cows reach 5 lactations.

Making dairy farming more sustainable according to farmer Mathijs Meijer

According to Mathijs, sustainability of dairy farming can be improved by increasing Lifetime Daily Yield. Profits start coming in from the 3rd lactation onwards. The lifespan of of his dairy herd was increased by grouping cows according to their needs, which resulted in a serious reduction of the involuntary culling rate. Mathijs wants to make sure that it is him who decides when a cow should leave the herd.

Veterinary view on increasing Lifetime Daily Yield of a dairy herd

Lifetime Daily Yield and cow lifespan can be increased by improving health of a dairy herd. This requires a tailormade health plan for each farm that allows cows to reach their genetic production potential.

HealthyLife targets to increase the lifespan of dairy cows

To achieve a Lifetime Daily Yield of at least 20kg of milk per day, the following targets must be reached19,21,22,23,24,25.

Latest updates on the Selko HealthyLife platform...

HealthyLife science is always on the move.

Make sure you stay connected!

At Selko we are committed to put our scientific insights to work in order to achieve sustainable dairy farming for farmers who are looking to transform their milk production processes and meet 3 critical demands: reducing the environmental footprint, ensuring animal welfare and create an optimal financial performance.

Subscribe to our quarterly updates and we'll keep you informed about trial results, latest scientific insights and new legislative demands on environment and sustainability, specifically for the dairy industry

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Download more research and documentation

You can access all of our documentation about Selko HealthyLife protocols, increasing cow lifespan to make dairy farming more sustainable and latest research insights about dairy cow transition management.

How to increase longevity of dairy cows

The brochure: “HealthyLife programme to increase longevity of dairy cows” presents that HealthyLife programme including some of the scientific information that forms the basis for the programme. It also presents an overview of the support available to implement a HealthyLife programme.

Download our brochure and learn more about the HealthyLife programme for dairy cows

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