Rentabilité, longévité et taux de réforme chez les vaches laitières

Competitiveness of the Québec and Canadian dairy sectors is a key driver to reduce costs of production. Replacement costs (and therefore longevity) are a major component of the cost of production. Rearing a replacement heifer to first calving costs approximately 3000$, which cost has therefore to be amortized over the productive lifetime of the cow. Presently, both longevity and lifetime cow profitability are concomitantly sub-optimal. Culling rates are too high (particularly involuntary culling reasons) and the average longevity is less than three lactations. In addition to the negative impact of sub-optimal longevity, high culling rates may eventually become an animal welfare issue that could challenge traditional dairy-herd management practices.

A reason for poor longevity is that producers have not had a clear picture of the lifetime costs associated with each animal in their herd, and there has been an absence of tools to facilitate such an analysis. This is true especially for costs related to health issues (in addition to feed and others). Tools currently available from veterinarians and milk recording include herd reports of health events [for example CDN and Valacta reports]. However, none of them provides the integration of cow profitability and health events.

Since heath events are recorded on many farms for individual cows, we had an opportunity to merge that information with milk recording data in order to establish the impact of these health issues on profitability. In addition to the productive stages of a cow's life, we were also able to consider the period of growth from birth to first calving, since data on heifer are also recorded by Valacta. This allowed us to capture the progression of costs and incomes over the lifetime of a cow. We integrated feed costs over the period of growth together with events such as breeding and health issues.

There is a need for a decision support system to integrate large volumes of information, visualization (St-Onge et al 2002; Pietersma et al, 2005), different types of data (continuous vs event-based) as well as facilitating drill-down and aggregations at different levels (e.g., by parity, herd level). There is also the need to better understand the factors influencing longevity and lifetime profitability. Lifetime profitability measures and the impact of the different elements on costs and incomes for individual cows and herds assessed allow us to aggregate the data over many herds and try to understand what factors play a role on longevity and lifetime profitability.

Our hypotheses were:

  1. integrating health and milk recording data will allow to better understand and quantify the impact of health events or episodes on individual cow profitability;
  2. the incorporation of data collected during the heifer stage will make it possible to derive a continuous model providing lifetime profitability throughout the whole life of an animal; 3)& comparing the data for each cow at different life stages with standard values (e.g., model-generated or benchmarks) will facilitate the assessment of individual cow profitability;
  1.  it is feasible to build decision-support software using interactive visualization, that will help understanding how each animal in a herd contributes to the overall profitability on a specific farm, based on a lifetime approach integrating continuous processes (e.g., milk production and feeding) to important events (e.g., health issues, breeding); and
  2.  analyzing the lifetime data of many herds will allow for a better understanding of the factors influencing longevity and lifetime profitability. Les résultats/results

Milk recording data from Valacta and health event data from DSA were merged to produce information on 1100 herds and 230,000 cows, for the period January 2000 to December 2013.

  • A portrait of the longevity and profitability of each cow within each herd, updated after each event (test-day with milk recording, or health event).
  • A demonstration of the value of the integration of milk recording information (from Valacta) and health events information (from DSA) and its presentation in visual form, specific to each herd.
  • An analytical model and a prototype visualization software of the cumulative lifetime cow profit, which could be used by producers, veterinarians and advisors.
  • A model for the analysis of culling reasons, on a within-herd basis.

Chercheur responsable

Roger Cue, Université McGill

Équipe de recherche

  • Émile Bouchard, U. de Montréal
  • Jocelyn Dubuc, U. de Montréal
  • René Lacroix, Valacta
  • Daniel Lefebvre, Valacta
  • Daniel Scholl, U. de Montréal
  • Asheber Sewalem, Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada
  • Kevin Michael Wade, Université McGill

Année du concours



3 ans


107 079 $

Partenaires financiers

  • Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada
  • Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec
  • Novalait inc.

Appel de propositions

Innovation en production et en transformation laitières-V