Cash boost to help dairy industry breed disease-resistant, climate-friendly cows

Artificial insemination is the backbone of New Zealand dairy, with 95 percent of heifers coming into the herd each year AI bred.

But DairyNZ says our system of identifying good genes needs to be better. 

"In the last decade our national system has fallen behind international standards," Bruce Thorrold of DairyNZ told Newshub.   

Today DairyNZ, MPI and the Livestock Improvement Corporation announced a joint $25 million boost to research programmes to breed better milk-producing cows.

The Minister of Agriculture, Damien O'Connor, is hoping they are more climate-friendly too.

"The world's moving on, we need to try and identify cows that produce less emissions," he said.

The earlier good genes can be identified, the better. The cash boost will allow a system to be developed to collect and store DNA information from younger bulls.

Quicker genetic improvement is worth millions to the industry.

DairyNZ believes it adds up to about 30 dollars per hectare a year over almost 2 million hectares - that's 60 million a year, and they believe using DNA from younger bulls could potentially double that.

The Government's plan has drawn praise from dairy farmers.

"I actually thought today was quite good. I'm not usually a Labour party person but I thought the Minister did a good speech," said one supportive dairy farmer.

"Any research and development is always money well spent," said another.

While that money will be invested in disease management, solving the mycoplasma bovis problem is not expected by the end of the seven-year programme.

"Breeding animals for resistance to those diseases will be more of a challenge, and that takes a long time. The timeframe that we're looking at over this programme, we'll just commence that sort of work," said LIC's Chief Scientist, Richard Spelman. 

They hope in the meantime it will at least allow M. bovis to be diagnosed more effectively.