27 Mar 2017

Special gene makes heat-resistant cows

3:01 pm on 27 March 2017

A New Zealand company has produced a new breed of dairy cow which can keep producing decent amounts of milk in hot and humid conditions.

The Kiwipole breed bull 'Slick Himeros'.

The Kiwipole breed bull 'Slick Himeros'. Photo: Kiwipole / Carl Finley

Most cows struggle to maintain milk production if they are under stress from heat. The "Slick" gene bulls are believed to be the first type of dairy bull in New Zealand to pass on heat tolerance to their daughters.

The bulls are named Slick Pathos, Slick Eros and his brother, Slick Himeros, after the Greek gods of love and sexual desire. Their genetics have been 10 years in the making.

New Zealand company Dairy Solutionz and STGenetics launched their Kiwipole breed in the US at the Tulare World Ag Expo.

Dairy Solutionz chief executive Derek Fairweather said the gene was a natural mutation found in some breeds in South America.

"You can breed it into all your mainstream dairy breeds so we've been breeding that mutation into American Holsteins, KiwiCross, Kiwi-Cross' Jersey, KiwiCross Holstein ... so we actually have that heat tolerance in what is pretty much a normal taurus animal."

Mr Fairweather said research had shown a heat tolerant cow could generate more money for farmers in hot and tropical climates.

"It's up to four litres a day (of milk) - so between three and four the evidence looks like - and an improved calving interval of almost two months.

"There's significant differences between Slick and non-Slick."

The business, based in Waikato Innovation Park, had its eye on South America, Africa, India and Pakistan.

Mr Fairweather said he thought the KiwipoleTM breed could make a big impact for farmers in those places.

He said New Zealand farmers were interested in the genetics.

"There's definitely significant heat stress here. Anything above 25 degrees and those cows are experiencing heat stress - we're working hard on getting a KiwiCross with a high index and heat tolerance."

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