When will Indian veterinary community and our Govt wake up to this reality and asset of India?

A2 milk seen as key to the nation’s dairy future

By Malcolm Burgess

The future of the New Zealand dairy industry lies in replacing the national herd with cows that produce a type of protein controversially linked with health benefits, an agribusiness expert says.

Lincoln University farm management and agribusiness professor Keith Woodford said switching to cows whose milk contains the A2 protein variant was one of the moves necessary for the sector to stay on top of the economic wave it is riding.

“I am going to make a prediction that in less than 20 years, if you are not milking exclusively A2 cows – that is, cows which do not produce A1 beta-casein – then you will not be in business,” Woodford wrote in the latest issue of the Institute of Primary Industry Management’s journal.

Although a 2004 review of the research into the link between diets high in the A1-beta casein protein and type 1 diabetes and heart disease commissioned by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority concluded more study was needed, Woodford, a former sceptic, has since criticised the scope of the review. He said while there was initially no clear explanation for the link, the science had become clearer.

“Now we know that when A1 beta-casein is digested, it releases a protein fragment … that has wide-ranging effects on human health that go well beyond diabetes and heart disease.”

The beta-casomorphin-7 fragment was an opoid linked to mental health conditions and some forms of autism, he said.

“It is a particular problem for anyone who, for a range of reasons, has an intestine which allows these partially digested fragments to leak through into the blood supply.”

As such, moves to increase the proportion of A2-producing cows in the national herd were a “risk management strategy” for a sector currently looking forward to record dairy payouts.

Coincidentally, while the majority of New Zealand’s cows produced A1 milk, most of the country’s top bulls were genetically A2, he said.

“So, quite by accident, our national herd is drifting away from A1 beta-casein and towards A2.”

He said that around 500 farmers in New Zealand were now intentionally mating their cows using A2 bulls as a “risk management strategy”, and suggested Australian farmers were being left behind on the issue.

Woodford’s call for a stronger backing of A2 milk comes after the A2 Corporation, which licenses the technology to test for A2 milk-producing animals, reported an annual loss of $5.08 million, around four times greater than the previous year, in part due to the cost of expansion in the US.

Woodford says that while he does not own A2 Corporation shares, members of his family do.

Why make the move towards a2?

A leading agribusiness expert predicts dairy farmers will need to be exclusively milking cows that produce a protein linked with health benefits within 20 years to stay in business.

While an NZ Food Safety Authority review in 2004 found more evidence of A2 milk’s health benefits was needed, Keith Woodford has criticised that review and says the science has since become clearer.

He says dairy farmers are already moving towards towards A2 herds as part of their “risk management strategy”.

By Malcolm Burgess