ABS launches the first genetic solution for healthier transition cows

It grew out of a simple question from an ABS customer: “We already record disease cases, why don’t genetics companies use that data?” he asked.

A straightforward question that led to ABS Global developing the world’s first genetic solution to transition disease problems. The transition period is one of the riskiest and most costly cow health periods facing dairy farmers the world over.

TransitionRight Genetics Australian launch 0116 from ABS Global on Vimeo.

“Every dairy producer globally is faced with challenges of transitioning each female that enters the milking string from non-lactating to efficiently producing enough milk to generate profit,” ABS Global Dairy Brand Manager, Mitch Amundson said at the launch of TransitionRight™ Genetics at International Dairy Week last week. “The easier the female transitions, the more optimistic we are of her future.”

Mr Amundson told an audience of 100 dairy farmers, advisors and industry experts that 75% of disease in dairy cows occurs in the first 30 days in milk with as many as 50% of high producing cows affected.

Breaking the cycle 
“While research on the transition period for dairy cattle has been evolving for more than a decade, and involves academia and allied industry, until now there has been little or no focus on the role genetics plays in this.”

“We asked ourselves, “What if this cycle could be broken over time, and the herd’s cows could be pre-disposed to better health during this period?”

The result is TransitionRight, a genetic tool developed by ABS Global, from many years of original research, which uses ABS Real World Data* to identify bulls with greater transition disease resistance traits that can be bred into future progeny.

“We would expect to have about seven fewer daughters out of 100 that had a case of mastitis in first lactation if a five star TransitionRight sire was used in place of a one star sire,” said Mr Amundson.

Current evaluation of progeny performance demonstrates that five star TransitionRight sires create on average $100 in value per cow per lactation through reduced health costs.

Increased risk of disease 
A 2010 study on Transition Cow Management by Dairy Australia’s Grains2Milk and InCalf programs described the transition period as being “characterised by greatly increased risk of disease”.

During the first 30 days in milk up to 50% of a herd can be affected by one or more of the common post calving diseases, which include metritis, ketosis and mastitis. The cost per case varies from around $150 to $350 depending on the disease and its severity.

“Up to 10% of a herd can be lost in the two months after calving due to health issues,” Mr Amundson said. Metritis or inflammation of the uterus, often called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), costs on average $350 per cow and an average of 20% of all calving cows are affected.

A preventative approach 
“Typically, the transition period has been handled through management: changes to nutrition, vaccinations and physical treatment of the cow when she comes down with one or more of these common transition diseases,” he said. “Now we are able to look at the transition period from a genetic perspective, we can take a preventative approach rather than a reactive one.

“ABS has created a genetic evaluation for transition cows that is truly revolutionary. We are the only company that is able to offer a genetic solution specifically for the transition period.

“Sires that transmit these traits produce progeny with greater resistance to typical transition diseases such as metritis, ketosis and mastitis,” Mr Amundson said. “The result is healthier cows going through the most vulnerable period for health issues and making a good start into their most productive period.”

ABS original research 
*ABS Real World Data® comprises more than 22 million records provided by 1500 dairy herds from around the world. The data for the traits of mastitis, metritis and ketosis goes back to the year 2000, providing an analysis of more than 18,000 dairy sires: 60% are other companies’ bulls and 40% ABS bulls, making the rankings very robust and reliable.

ABS Real World Data was used initially to identify bull fertility and is now being put to further good use identifying TransitionRight sires.