Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : August 2010 Contents 50 The Dairyman AUGUST 2010
RESEARCH at AgResearch's Tokanui Dairy Research Farm in
dairy cow productivity is further examining the role and inter-
relationships that environmental and genetic influences play in
The $6.5 million Waikato-based research farm, which has been
running for nearly 12 months, was established by AgResearch to fur-
ther research and development into environmental management, pro-
ductivity gains and differentiated or speciality milks that will support
a healthy, sustainable dairy industry.
Among the range of research trials being conducted at Tokanui are
two on milk production as part of a programme funded by the
Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST). Both tri-
als are studying the influences on molecular functioning of the mam-
mary gland and how it regulates milk production in cows.
Peter Benfell, science and technology general manager - agricul-
ture and environment group, says while the results of the two milk
production trials will only be known next year, the progress made so
far indicates there is capacity for more related research projects that
can benefit farmers and the dairy industry.
"Over the coming years Tokanui will prove to be a major asset for
pastoral research in New Zealand. Not only is there a large pool of
cows to select from, but this research and development facility has
been designed to carry out focused studies."
Dr Adrian Molenaar is leading one of the research projects. He is
looking at "lactation persistency", the volume of milk produced by
cows over the whole season. Dr Molenaar says that by-and-large
cows in New Zealand show poor lactation persistency, which cannot
solely be explained through nutrition.
However, some cows are more persistent than others and we have
selected two sets of cows, one set more and one set less persistent,
for more intense study to find out why they are like that. In these
groups the higher persistency cows gave 5 per cent more milk over
this last season than the lesser persistency cows.
'Performance can also be influenced by different management
practices such as milking frequency. Our goal is to understand the
Work at the Tokanui Dairy Research
Farm is progressing well
mechanisms within the udder that regulate persistency. When dairy
cows are milked twice daily the increase in milk yield after calving
is due to an increase in activity of each milk-secreting cell within the
udder. After peak lactation, the gradual decline in milk yield is due
to a loss in number of these cells.
"Understanding the mechanisms that regulate and govern cell
renewal will lead to the development of novel strategies and/or tech-
nologies to enhance productivity," says Dr Molenaar.
The second milk-production trial led by Dr Kuljeet Singh is an epi-
genetics study focused on understanding how the mammary gland
responds to different environmental influences. Epigenetics is the
study of how environment and genetic information encoded in an
animal's DNA together influence different traits.
"It's well known that factors such as nutrition and hormones influ-
ence the number and activity of the cells within the mammary gland
that secrete milk proteins which, in turn, influence levels of milk pro-
duction," says Dr Singh.
"In this case we're testing how nutrition affects the foetus during
pregnancy. The testing looks at permanent affects on lactation per-
formance of the daughter during its lifespan and whether affects may
be passed onto its offspring. The results could have a significant
effect on livestock management," says Dr Singh.
Cows in both trials were subjected to mammary tissue biopsies
twice during the season. The tissue samples allow changes in the
udder to be studied and the results will ultimately lead to strategies
and/or technologies to enhance the entire lactation cycle.
The projects have both entered the data and sample analysis phase
with results expected in 2011.
Dr Adrian Molenaar and Dr Kuljeet Singh of AgResearch.
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