New Zealand's dairy industry breeding more climate-friendly herd

New Zealand's dairy industry is redefining what makes the perfect herd.

As artificial breeding celebrates its 70th birthday the country's leading specialists are looking to prioritise more environmentally and ethically friendly genetics for the next 70.

Dairy farming is in our DNA but it's come a long way since we realised what we want in a cow's DNA.

"The easiest way to describe that is going from a Morris Minor 1000 to a Ferrari in that 70 years, in regards to what today's cow can do compared to what they did 70 years ago," says Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) breeding manager David Hale.

Artificial breeding has seen Kiwi herds increase their annual milk production by more than 100 percent over those 70 years.

But times are changing and going forward it's not all about being productive - a great herd is now a climate-friendly one.

"We'll start testing bulls for their emissions around methane and nitrogen and then we'll be able to select bulls from that group that have the least amount of emissions," Hale says.

Livestock Improvement Corporation, or LIC, is a herd improvement and agri-technology co-operative which helps farmers improve the genetics of their livestock.

This year LIC created what they call the 'Hoof Print Index' so farmers are able to select a bull based on its ability to father a cow with a lower environmental impact.

"We're getting the latest and greatest bulls that have been proven by genetic evaluation," says dairy farmer Wayne Berry.

Berry started using LIC - the country's biggest artificial breeding company - to improve his herd 38 years ago.

"We started from scratch basically," he says.

Each year he picks from the 150 bulls on offer. His cows are then inseminated and when calving season arrives so too do the very best calves.

Soon that will also mean fewer bobby calves which are killed within days of being born.

"Bobby calves is a bit of an emotional topic obviously and it does hit the headlines now and again," Hale says.

LIC wants to reduce the number born in the first place by selecting the gender or breeding for beef.

"I think almost without exception, most dairy farmers just want to look after their animals," Berry says.

Looking after their animals and the planet at the same time - now more possible than ever  thanks to the science of farming.