Five hundred British milk producers will join a four-year project that uses data from milk tests to measure key health characteristics in cows. A key aim of the project is to use this data to develop new tools for improving production efficiency.
The project has been developed by NMR in partnership with Marks & Spencer and Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) and is co-funded by the Technology Strategy Board.
Twenty milk producers who supply Marks & Spencer have also been recruited to take part in more detailed milk testing and data collection for individual cows. This will include information on weight changes, condition scores and feeding systems and will be collected four times a year.
“More specifically, the project will carry out mid-infra-red tests on NMR milk samples to establish fatty acid profiles,” says NMR’s project manager, Rachel Williams. “The project will investigate the relationships between these profiles and aspects of cow health and performance. And from this we hope that new prediction tools can be developed for key parameters such as pregnancy, methane production and acidosis.”
In addition, the saturated fatty acid data may be able to deliver health benefits to milk and dairy products for human consumption.
“We are really pleased to be involved in this project,” says Anna Playfair-Hannay, agricultural technologist at M&S. “We have worked closely with the farmers in our milk pool for more than 10 years, through our Milk Pledge Plus agreement, to drive improvements in animal health and welfare. More recently we have developed and launched our ‘better for you’ milk, which is lower in saturated fat, and so this work ties the two elements together.”
All milk producers involved in the project and participating feed companies, nutritionists, consultants and vets will have access to regular project briefings and results.
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