22 June 2001

Emphasis on longer lasting cows

FEET and legs, udders, milk production and type merit are still the top four traits in dairy cows producers want to improve, according to a survey.

There is increasing emphasis on breeding cows which last longer, says Cogents Richard Williams, following its survey of more than 550 producers. "More than 90% of producers surveyed want cows with improved legs and feet to cope with the stress of cow tracks and slurry covered concrete.

"These conditions are different to those in other countries, so producers should use bulls which have been adequately proven in the UK because conversions are inaccurate."

Holstein UK & Ireland director of breed development Dave Hewitt agrees that conversions do not stack up for some bulls tested, but it is the best data available for evaluating them.

"Multiple cross-country evaluation (MACE) was introduced earlier this year to replace conversions. This will bring some improvement, but bulls with UK proofs are still recommended because they have been tested in UK conditions."

Mr Williams adds that selecting bulls is a minefield with at least 28% of the 600 marketed in the UK being damaging to at least one of the four traits identified in the survey. "But there are 17 bulls which can be used with confidence to improve all four traits.

"Also remember that UK bulls are now as good as US and Dutch bulls for £PLI and two UK bulls are in the top 10 international ranking by the Animal Data Centre." &#42