21 January 2000

Global route to survival

MAINTAINING the level of genetic progress necessary to survive as commercial breeds means coloured dairy breeds must reconsider how they achieve genetic gain.

Maurice Bichard told the conference that UK populations of these breeds are too small to progeny test enough bulls.

"Jersey and Ayrshire breeders would pick up a large enough population for progeny testing if they went global," said Dr Bichard.

There are progeny tested bulls available to them on the world market. But they must question whether the breeding goals of these countries are the same, he advised.

However, Dr Bichard believes that if a team of young bulls is used there is no need to spend time and money progeny testing sires.

"Guernsey breeders have pursued a young sire policy for some years in the hope that young bulls will return a good proof to produce second crop daughters."

Selecting a team of young sires with genetic merit above the cow population average, and using them widely across the breed offers an alternative to increasing merit without progeny testing. This will improve the genetic merit of the national herd, he explained.

An individual sire may have low reliability, but by the law of averages a group of bulls should achieve their predicted proof.