Two new studies have found that Jerseys have the attributes that can make them Australia's most profitable and sustainable cows.
The studies by consultants Steve Little and Scott Barnett show that Jerseys have higher fertility, higher production efficiency and greater heat tolerance and longevity than other breeds.
Modelling shows Jerseys have up to a 14 per cent advantage over Holstein Friesians in the cost of producing milk per kilogram of milk solids and provided a better return on assets.
Jersey Australia engaged Dr Little, of Capacity+ Ag Consulting, to review evidence in published studies on the attributes of the Australian Jersey compared to other breeds.
Following Dr Little's report Jersey - The Most Profitable and Sustainable cow? - Jersey Australia engaged Mr Barnett, of Scott Barnett & Associates, to undertake desktop economic modelling of Jersey versus Holstein Friesians in Australian dairy production systems.
READ MORE: Jerseys tick environment box
Jersey Australia chief executive officer Glen Barrett said the independent studies backed up what Jersey farmers had been claiming for years: that Jersey cows were more profitable and sustainable.
"We work on the principle that the Jersey cow is the most profitable cow in the dairy industry; this was an opportunity to gather hard evidence to support that," Mr Barrett said.
"We needed the facts to back up the call and now we have them. All the evidence is backed by research that will stand up to any scrutiny."
Mr Barrett said the studies' findings would be used to publicise the breed and inform farmers of the benefits of transitioning to Jerseys.
"Our ambition is to have 25 per cent of Jerseys in the national dairy herd by 2030," he said.
"It is achievable with the right strategies and these studies will help guide us to that goal.
"Farmers are looking for profitability and now we have the proof that Jerseys are the most profitable cow."
Jerseys currently make up about 15 per cent of the national herd and that figure has been steadily rising in the past decade.
Dr Little's review found that Jerseys produce 6-11 per cent more energy-corrected milk (ECM) than Holsteins per kilogram of dry matter intake; 26-31pc more ECM per 100kg bodyweight than Holsteins; have about 14-21pc higher feed intake capacity than Holsteins per 100kg bodyweight; and have about 5pc higher feed intake capacity than Holsteins per unit of metabolic weight.
"This review found that the Australian Jersey has several attributes compared with other breeds used in the Australian dairy industry that may contribute to the profitability and sustainability of Australian dairy farm businesses," Dr Little said.
"In doing this review, I've discovered Jerseys are remarkably different to other breeds in a number of ways. I wish I had known what I know now about Jerseys and how to manage their nutrition when I was a young farm adviser."
Fat and protein concentrations in Jersey milk are higher than those of Holsteins by about 1.1-1.4 grams/100 millilitres and 0.5-0.56 g/100ml respectively.
READ MORE: Jerseys thrive around Australia
Jersey milk has higher concentrations of calcium, phosphorus and zinc but a lower concentration of potassium.
Jerseys have higher fertility than Holsteins, which Dr Little said was likely due to genetic selection and energy metabolism, particularly in the transition period and early lactation, leaving Jerseys in negative energy balance for a shorter time. "Fertility jumps out as a significant advantage," he said.
They are also more heat tolerant due to their hair coat, skin structure, subcutaneous fat layer, and body surface area-to-volume ratio.
"Jerseys tend to live longer, produce for longer, and survive to later lactations more frequently than Holsteins in straight and mixed-breed herds," Dr Little said. "Increased longevity in a herd means the herd's average milk production is higher and fewer non-productive replacement heifers are required."
Their ability to eat relative to their bodyweight was higher and they spent more time grazing and eating more evenly across the day. There was also evidence indicating that Jerseys had higher neutral detergent fibre digestibility and might utilise dietary nitrogen more efficiently.
The review found that Jerseys appear to be performing well in mixed breed Australian herds, although those in straight Jersey herds produced more milk solids per year than those in mixed herds.
Dr Little found that Jerseys had demonstrated advantages in grazing systems, longevity,
productive life, calving ease, fertility, heat tolerance and hybrid vigour contribution, were better suited to walking long distances for grazing and could adapt to different production systems.
They also potentially had a smaller environmental footprint. "Several studies have suggested that the emission intensity of milk production is about 8-12pc lower with a Jersey herd compared to a Holstein herd when the life cycle analysis approach was used to calculate GHG emissions," Dr Little said. "However, there may be little difference between the breeds in emission intensity of milk production, as Jerseys emit more methane per kg DM intake compared to Holsteins."
The follow-up economic modelling to assess potential of Jersey cows to enhance the profitability of Australian dairy farm businesses found the Jersey breed is as well placed to deliver a profitable outcome as the other major pure breed cattle breed in Australia, the Holstein Friesian.
Mr Barnett said his report was based on broad assumptions and not definitive but was designed to guide discussions about breed selection and identify under which conditions Jersey cattle are able to be more profitable than Holstein-Friesian cattle.
Mr Barnett developed two models - one with a high proportion of directly grazed grass (HiGrass) based on dairy farming systems of southern Victoria, Tasmania and south-east South Australia, and the second with a higher proportion of purchased concentrates and purchased forage resulting in higher DM intake (HiCons) being fed reflecting northern Victoria, NSW, WA, and Queensland systems. The HiCons also had higher milk production for both Holstein Friesian and Jersey herds.
His study found in the HiGrass system, the investment cost was $17.24 kg/Ms for the Jersey herd compared with $19.67 for the Holstein-Friesian herd - a 14pc advantage, and in the HiCons system the investment cost was $12.30 kg/Ms for the Jersey herd compared to $14.38 for Holstein Friesian herd, a 13pc advantage.
He found Jerseys had a significantly higher income per hectare and feed utilised - an inherent advantage - however, their economic advantage was diminished by lower value per kilogram in the market.
"The major relative disadvantage the breed seems to suffer is the sale value of surplus stock (cull cows, bull calves and surplus heifers)," he said.
We work on the principle that the Jersey cow is the most profitable cow in the dairy industry; this was an opportunity to gather hard evidence to support that.- Glen Barrett
"This disadvantage may be overcome with current work being carried out on improving the dairy beef supply chain and educating buyers on advantages of dairy beef stock."
Mr Barnett said the export market was pushing up prices for Holstein heifers, creating a lower entry price for Jerseys, which improved their return on asset.
His modelling found that the comparative advantage of Jerseys was more apparent in lower
grazing intake systems than in the high grazed grass model.
"Based on Jersey's reported higher dry matter intake per unit of body weight coupled with Jersey's reported higher conversion of dry matter intake into ECM, it would be expected that under a higher feed intake model, the Jersey would be able to exhibit these advantages more readily," he said.
"It appears that the closer a Jersey is fully fed, the more she is able to fully express her comparative advantage," he said.
Mr Barnett said any advantage the Jersey breed enjoyed in EBIT performance was further enhanced when measured against return on asset.
"Jerseys are, at the very least, as good as Holstein-Friesians and have excellent production advantages that utilise their feed efficiency and follow through to an economic response," he said.
The full reports can be found at jersey.com.au/jersey-most-profitable-cow-project/.
Article supplied by Jersey Australia, website jersey.com.au/.
Want to read more stories like this?
Sign up below to receive our e-newsletter delivered fresh to your email in-box twice a week.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.