3 August 2001

Computer systems aids bull selection

SELECTING which dairy bull to use is often confusing with more than 580 bulls on offer and dozens of different traits to select on.

To combat this confusion, a new computer-based decision support system has been introduced by ADAS to help producers select the right bull for their herd, says ADAS Directs David Petit.

"Dairy bull interactive contains all bulls available in the UK with a reliability value of more than 65%, about 130 bulls. The main difference with other databases is it also includes semen prices from all suppliers."

Setting criteria

The decision support model allows producers to narrow down bulls by setting desired criteria for type merit, £PLI, milk yield and quality and semen price. Selected bulls are then ranked according to profit/straw.

"Profit/straw is an indicator of £PLI adjusted for semen costs to produce a heifer and benefits passed to future generations. Its a measure of value for money," he explains.

Mr Petit also points out the simplified key to udder, and legs and feet composite traits. Its based on a five-point scale with the lowest score of -2 indicating a significant regressor, +2 a significant improver and zero for no change.

"Once producers have selected a dairy bull, ADAS Direct will negotiate with the supplier to get the best price. Discounts are typically about 15-20%, depending on order size, and ADAS charges £1/straw for the service." The decision support is currently free, accessed through the ADAS website www.adas.co.uk

Important traits

Shropshire-based producer Robert Kynaston used ADAS Direct to source more than 75% of semen for inseminating his spring-calving dairy cows.

"Its a simple way of buying semen backed up with advice from consultants, outlining pros and cons of each bull. Profit/straw also ensures that value for money is being obtained."

Mr Kynaston considers udders, feet and legs as the most important traits when selecting bulls. "My priority is to improve cow longevity without increasing capacity because the old parlour and cubicles are unsuitable for larger cows." &#42