25 December 1998

Aim for right goals

SELECTING appropriate breeding goals is a key concern for Shrop-shire milk producer John Downes.

Discussing with researchers at the seminar whether his goals were correct, Mr Downes said that his herd averaged 6500 litres from swards high in clover and was fed just 800kg of concentrates a cow a year. Vet costs were £20 a cow.

He has used some Dutch sires on his British Friesian cows and is now using New Zealand bulls, selected in lower-input systems. But he is unsure whether to aim for higher yields or longer lasting cows fed less concentrate.

SAC researcher John Bax said Mr Downes biggest potential cost was replacements. "Selecting animals which are healthier, even at the expense of milk yield, may be better. But it is still difficult to know which bulls to choose."

Mr Bax welcomed the new PLI index which built in more economic traits. But to see benefits of selecting by PLI on-farm, producers needed to record the right parameters.

"Not enough cows are condition scored, but it can help management and allow quick reactions."