The age of cows on Dutch dairy farms was higher again in 2021. The average milk production per lactation barely increased, but the increased longevity resulted in higher than ever lifetime production. This has been revealed by the annual milk recording statistics of CRV for the 2020-2021 financial year.
Internationally unique performance
‘Dutch farmers are working towards durable, long-living herds. The importance of better health and higher longevity is valued more than higher milk production per lactation. The trend in the annual figures demonstrates that this strategy is working’, comments Jos Buiting, herdbook manager at CRV. ‘Average lifetime production has never been so high. And internationally, the performance of Dutch dairy cows is simply unique’, he says. ‘High lifetime production is only possible if the health and welfare of cows is good too. And it contributes to the efficient use of minerals and low-emission dairy production’, Buiting explains.
On average 48 days older
In the past financial year, the cows were on average 2180 days (almost 6 years) old at culling. That is 48 days older than in the previous financial year. Along with the higher average age, the lifetime production of these cows also rose by more than 1,600 kg of milk to total 35,600 kg milk with 4.37% fat and 3.57% protein (1,555 kg fat and 1,271 kg protein).
Many more 100-tonners and 10-tonners
The higher lifetime production is also reflected in the number of cows that exceeded lifetime production of 100,000 kg of milk last year. The number of Dutch cows that produced 100,000 kg of milk last year rose from 2657 to 3263. The number of cows that joined the ranks of the 10-tonners grew from 252 to a total of precisely 300.
Lead by example: Sixteen 100-tonners on the Knoef family farm
They are almost all older than ten years, have each produced more than 100,000 kg of milk – and some of them even 10,000 kg of fat and protein – and together account for a staggering 1.8 million kg of milk! This exceptional performance inspired CRV to make a video of these sixteen absolute champions in milk production owned by dairy farmers Jos, Ingrid and Ben Knoef in Geesteren. Eleven of these animals have a CRV pedigree or originate from CRV's breeding programme.
‘Aren't they just amazing? We milk these cows with immense pleasure every day’, says Ben Knoef. ‘If you are surrounded by cows like this, you can't help but smile. The fact that they have produced so much milk confirms that we are doing things right. It's why they keep on producing for so long.’
Just part of the herd
Despite their high age and high production, the 100-tonners and 10-tonners in Geesteren are just part of the herd. ‘These cows can cope easily with the work. That's why they're so special.’
The Knoef family already makes a selection among the heifers. ‘Basically, every heifer has the potential to realise production of 100,000 kg of milk later on in life. We make every effort to get them to a high age. We inseminate the cows a little more often and devote a lot of attention to them in the period around calving.’
Healthy, long-lived cows
According to the dairy farmers, breeding also plays a key role in achieving this level of performance. ‘Breeding really can make a difference in longevity. We select for milk production, strong legs and also good udder and hoof health. Good health is vital for high longevity.’
91 cows owned by the Knoef family have already smashed the 100,000 kg of milk barrier. And Big Clara 123 (s. Win 395) recently clocked up 200,000 kg milk. This makes her the second 200-tonner on the farm, after Big Boukje 192 (s. Cash).