Breeders of red-factor dairy cattle are using the weeks ahead of the first international conference on home soil in two decades to rally for unity in hopes the commercial breed can continue to excel, particularly in the genetic space.
Australian Red dairy cows, third in population behind Holstein and Jersey with more than 9000 registered, belong to a society made up of 22 member breeds from Ayreshire and dairy shorthorn to Illawarra Red, although the latter were the instigators of the offshoot that has become ‘Aussie Red’.
Breed secretary Graeme Hamilton, who farms 500 Australian Red dairy cows on his Mt Gambier property, said the international conference, to be hosted in South Australia in March, would help catalyse the breed’s future direction and piggy-back off a European Union project that is helping secure the genetic future of European Red dairy cattle.
Visiting professor Professor Georg Thaller from Kiel University said the genetic diversity in red factor dairy cattle had shown them to be more resilient, fertile and able to produce higher fat and protein. However, there was not enough common focus on genetic gain among the various member breeds.
“The Reds’ diversity is an asset that we need to cultivate,” Mr Hamilton said, emphasising production gain plus genetic diversity as qualities to progress.
He said the breed needed ideas from geneticists and input from artificial insemination companies who trade in those offspring.
Mr Hamilton said breed unity was a major focus because historically not everyone had pulled in the same direction.
“There is no need to amalgamate the different breed societies,” he said.“But we do need to talk about the best use for our genetics. First we need to get people talking. We need shared visions, shared goals.”
Down the track genomic evaluation would help find the most efficient cows but whether extra funding would be sought for that part of the project was something to be decided at the conference.
“While there has been no comparison of cows between breeds, we only have anecdotal information that suggest the reds are hardier,” he said. “We tend to think of them as the “invisible cow” because she is less of a problem.”