A recent article in Cow Management got me thinking. It was discussing whether one can select cows to breed from for traits such as eating lots of grazed grass, which of course is the cheapest food for a dairy cow.
Plainly, it is not a factor that can be selected for at the moment. While dairy farmers will be very used to selecting for traits such as feet and legs, fertility and longevity, all of which are crucial in a successful grass-based herd, there are no measures of ‘quantity of grass a cow eats’. But researchers may be able to devise one in future, based perhaps on sensors detecting the actual grazing time of cows.
An interesting idea, but the opposite of this is choosing not to breed from cows that do not graze as much as others. That may be quite a brave thing to do, at least at present. I do know that some farmers do notice which of their cows appear the best grazers, as they walk amongst them. The article did suggest that one could perhaps informally select to breed from cows that appear to be very eager grazers.