23 February 2018

Herd improvement and agri-technology co-operative LIC welcomes the announcement from Fonterra and The a2 Milk Company about their new partnership. 

As the country’s largest supplier of artificial breeding services, LIC’s bulls are responsible for up to 80 per cent of the cows grazing on dairy farms around the country. LIC has been providing farmers with A2 genotype testing for more than 15 years from its laboratory in Riverlea, Hamilton. Its first A2 bull was made commercially available to farmers for AI in 2002.

Chief executive Wayne McNee says the co-op is ready for any increase in demand for A2 genetics as a result of the new partnership.

“Who’s to know what will happen to the A2 milk market in the future, but yesterday’s announcement certainly means more options for farmers and that’s a good thing.”

McNee said many farmers, whether they know it or not, are actually already breeding towards A2, but genotype testing can provide the key to achieving a full A2 status much faster.

The frequency of the necessary A2A2 genotype across the national dairy herd has naturally increased over time; currently at 53% for cross-breeds, 66% for jerseys and 44% for Holstein-Friesian.

Some farmers have also already opted to breed their herd specifically to LIC’s A2 bulls, said McNee.

“The problem is most farmers won’t know which of their animals fall into this A2 category, which is where genotype testing comes in. To get an A2 herd, farmers need to know the A2 status of each of their animals. Then they can mate those animals with A2 bulls and they will know which replacements to keep and rear towards an A2 herd asset.

“It could take up to 20 years for the average dairy farmer to build an A2 herd by selective breeding alone. With genotype testing, it’ll take seven. Breeding has always been a long term game, and that’s no different with A2. It can’t happen overnight.”

It can be further sped up with stock trading; owners of multiple herds can also group A2A2 cows from across their ownership portfolio.

“Understandably some farmers will now be thinking about whether it is a good option for their farming business, and for some, the answer may simply be ‘well, why not?’,” said McNee.

For farmers who may be reconsidering their plans for this coming mating season off the back of the Fonterra and The A2 Milk Company partnership,  LIC has launched a new, dedicated team of high BW (breeding worth) A2 bulls this year as part of its Premier Sires offering, and has more bulls in the pipeline.