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Genomics is enhancing dairy sustainability

As food producers, processors, marketers, distributors, and consumers look to effectively manage their environmental footprint and social impact, the sustainability of the entire dairy industry is under examination. Fortunately, dairy has a largely untold portion of that story: genomics.

Genomics has enhanced sustainability as new generations of dairy cows need less land and water to produce more milk, butterfat, and protein via genetic improvement with each passing year. At the onset of genomics, the U.S. had 9.3 million cows; that number has grown less than 1% some 14 years later. Yet the national dairy herd produces 19.2% more pounds of milk and 32.2% more pounds of butterfat than it did in 2008. Genetics and genomics together have made a significant contribution as have better feeding, cow care, and other management attributes.

Taking a step back in time

Since the introduction of cryogenically frozen bull semen in the 1950s, dairy farmers have been using artificial insemination (A.I.) to improve the next generation of their dairy herds and enhance farm safety by eliminating mature bulls from their farmsteads.

Corey Geiger

Jan. 19, 2023



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