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Breeding Indexes Not Appropriate for All Farm Needs

29 January 2013

UK - DairyCo geneticist, Marco Winters has warned against the use of inappropriate breeding indexes in dairy bull selection, which are either designed for use in another country or would be better suited to a neighbour.

Speaking at an interactive workshop held during the British Cattle Conference last week (22-23 January), he said he was concerned about a reliance on guesswork, the selection of bulls that would be better suited to different farming systems, or a tendency to use indexes (such as the USA’s TPI or Ireland’s EBI) which are designed for use in other countries.

“UK indexes are the most accurate estimate of UK performance,” said Mr Winters. “And the UK’s own PLI (Profitable Lifetime Index) has been designed to maximise profitability in our own economic climate.”

However, he said there was plenty of scope to choose different types of bull for different farming systems within the extensive list of high PLI bulls and there was a greater selection of bulls available to UK producers today than ever before.

“Using the right bull is probably the most important choice you will make for your herd,” he said. “A top one per cent PLI herd will make, on average, almost £25,000 more profit annually per 100 cows than an average PLI herd, and have an even greater benefit over those with very poor genetics.”

From amongst the leading PLI bulls – which he said were those with an index of at least £110 – he recommended farmers selected bulls that would suit their own farm, and not their neighbours’ farming system or one in another country.

“Consider what type of cows you will need in five to 10 years’ time,” he said. “And think about your own needs based on your own cows.”

Assistance with this could be provided by DairyCo’s ‘Herd Genetic Report’ which he said every UK milk recorded producer was entitled to acquire for his herd as part of the levy payment.

“This report not only lists all cows in the herd individually and identifies their genetic merit, but also groups them by lactation, giving an instant picture of the progress the herd is making,” he said.

Remarking that this progress was documented for health and fitness traits as well as each component of milk production, he said it gave a clear picture of where a herd’s strengths and weaknesses lay.

For those who were contemplating cross breeding he said there were added dangers in bull selection as each breed’s indexes were published on its own genetic base so one breed must not be compared with another without the application of a conversion formula – available on the DairyCo website.

“Breeding is so easy and the tools are out there to be used,” he concluded. “So please use all of the UK information that is available to you and don’t ignore genomics.”

TheCattleSite News Desk

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