A Million Reasons Why Conformation Matters - Cowsmo

A Million Reasons Why Conformation Matters

Holstein Association USA study shows clear relationship between desirable functional conformation and economically important traits.

What should a dairy cow look like? How does physical conformation in today’s dairy industry relate to economically important traits? A recent study completed by Holstein Association USA staff aimed to answer these questions using a large dataset with matching data from official linear classification evaluations and DHIA production records. The dataset covered almost 20 years of data and included over 1 million cows*.



Final score for first lactation cows can range from 50 points to 89 points, with higher scores being more desirable. For all analyses, all cows were divided into four quartiles based on final score where the highest 25% of cows were in the top quartile and the lowest 25% in the bottom quartile.

breakdown3_cowsmo22How does physical conformation impact longevity and lifetime production?

We all want to breed cows that produce large quanties of high component milk across their lifetime. Comparing the top quartile to the bottom quartile, the highest scored cows produced 13,389 more pounds of energy-corrected milk (ECM) across their lifetimes than cows in the bottom quartile (Figure 1).

Using a long-term milk price, of $20/cwt, this difference represents $2,678 more in lifetime gross revenue per cow.Cows with better physical conformation provide more lifetime revenue to a dairy.

The data tells us that part of this difference in lifetime ECM is because those cows in the highest quartile based on first lactation classification score simply stayed in the herd longer.

Breakdown4_Cowsmo22In Figure 2, cows in the top quartile had 142 more lifetime days-in-milk (DIM) than cows in the bottom quartile, or almost five extra months. Getting several extra months of lactation out of cows helps spread the fixed cost of raising each heifer over more time, reducing the effective cost of raising heifers.

The bottom line is – the data clearly shows that cows with more correct, functional conformation live longer and make more milk.





Click the links below to view the complete and detailed results of our study

Provided by Holstein USA

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