Leading dairy research organisations were proud to show off years of breeding research that could cut down farmers' feed costs.
Last Friday, Dairy Futures CRC and the Australian Dairy Herd Improvement Scheme (ADHIS) launched the Feed Saved Australian Breeding Value (ABV).
The new genomic ABV indicates the feed consumed for a given level of production and will be published from in April in all ADHIS publication including the Good Bulls Guide.
ADHIS general manager Daniel Abernethy told the group of about 80 industry representatives, including from commercial farms, studs, genetics companies and processors, at Ellinbank research centre that farmers had been making gains in feed efficiency during the last decade through better nutrition and intense selection on milk production.
Mr Abernethy said the new Feed Saved ABV allowed farmers to take this to the next level and breed for cows that had lower maintenance requirements, that is they wasted less energy on heat regulation and stressed behaviour, for the same amount of milk produced.
He said during ADHIS's 15-month breeding objective review, farmers rated feed use efficiency on par with calving ease.
This pushed ADHIS to include the Feed Saved in all three of its new indices: Balanced Performance Index, Health Weighted Index and Type Weighted Index.
Feed Saved has an economic value - by chosing bulls that are positive for Feed Saved from the top of the indices, the saving is calculated to be 50 to 100 kilograms of dry matter per cow per year in 10 years' time - so it contributes to, and could possibly switch, bulls' rankings on these indices
Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) research leader Ben Hayes said the Feed Saved ABV had a reliability of 36 per cent and that would increase as data from more animals was included every year, and DNA research constantly advanced. The Feed Saved ABV is most accurate for the genotyped Holsteins, for other breeds the ABV is based on maintenance observations.
Dr Hayes said the team was now working on a heat tolerance ABV that would allow farmers to select for animals whose milk production did not drop off in hot conditions.
DEDJTR research scientist in dairy genetics Jennie Pryce said the Feed Saved ABV was the result of about eight years of in-field research.
Originally 900 animals were included in the research and of them, groups of the most and least feed efficient were kept in the study.
Some of the cows were on display at Ellinbank despite the two groups of four-year-old milkers looking the same, the cows in one group eat less than the other group's to produce the same amount of milk.
DEDJTR research manager of dairy production services Bill Wales said there had been a few nervous moments during the research, but the team was proud to report that the feed efficiency was consistent through lactations in the study groups.
Brian Anderson, Bundalong Holsteins, Kongwak, was excited by the research.
"It'll like putting less petrol in a car for the same distance," Mr Anderson said.
"But feed efficiency has got to be in balance of other productivity traits.
"When going for something new, we're only tweaking the breeding program, but if I can get a couple of one per cent savers going my way than might difference using bull in a breeding program."
Con Glennen, White Star Jerseys, Noorat, said the genomic breeding values were very exciting and when a more reliable Feed Saved ABV was available for Jerseys, there was "no doubt" he'll consider it in his breeding decisions.