The mysteries contained in a drop of milk
Adding value to livestock farming
“In the medium term, the entire value of livestock farming could be affected by a strategy like this one," insists Hélène Soyeurt. “For the farmer it becomes easier to select a breed and individuals within that breed. In short, it becomes easier to know exactly which bull and which cow to breed in order to obtain the desired result, with the ultimate goal that the cows will give birth to calves possessing qualities which are identical to their own.”
“The basic idea is to supply these management tools to farmers who want to get involved in a programme aiming to rationalise their herd’s feeding programme and to develop milk which is of a higher nutritional quality, thanks to “good”, robust cows requiring no, or little veterinary care,” explains Hélène Soyeurt, who remains very aware of the possible repercussions of genetic selection! “To avoid any later disappointments, it is crucial to take a global approach", she warns.
“Milk has a natural balance: if we modify one element, we necessarily change others”, reminds Hélène Soyeurt. “This could have consequences for both human and animal health. A European study which is underway entitled RobustMilk enables us to check whether a cow with a profile which is rich in unsaturated fats remains in good health. Despite our desire to improve the value of production, we must remain prudent and consider the possible impact of the choice made during genetic selection. The animal's longevity, fertility and long-term health or, quite simply, the various parameters of the milk which it produces, can be affected, and not necessarily in a positive way. It is not enough just to produce milk which is richer in minerals or in good fats: the milk still has to be of a good overall quality. Similarly, it would be detrimental to select animals and then see, fifteen years later, that they have a whole host of problems! I would like to carry out a study to see if, in terms of DNA, certain cows are better than others," she finishes. “Without mentioning all the other things about which we still know nothing in relation to milk and which remain to be discovered." More than enough reason to continue filling up these little milk pots.