19 April 1996

ITEM upgrade – profit boost

PLANNED improvements to the ITEM dairy breeding index could lift its economic benefit by 30% when used to select sires, Geoff Simm of the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, told the meeting.

The ITEM index was launched in January last year. It is the PIN (production only) economic index plus four linear type traits – angularity, udder depth, foot angle and teat length. These are thought to be the most important economically, with the strongest link to herd life.

ITEM is now to be upgraded to include direct evaluations of longevity (herdlife) and somatic cell counts over the next 12 months. "These will improve welfare and economic benefits of the index," said Dr Simm.

A further three-year research programme is to be conducted at the SAC and the University of Edinburgh sponsored by MAFF, the Holstein Friesian Society and the Milk Development Council.

This will examine the possible detrimental consequences of selection on tissue mobilisation/food intake capacity. Also indirect type measurements or direct evaluations for size, condition, health and fertility will be assessed which could yield a marked improvement in ITEMs economic relevance.

"It is important producers appreciate that these systems will continue to evolve to reflect the demands we place upon cows.

"There will never be a single permanent index, as more factors are included. For example the future may see national indexes published for producers targeting certain markets, such as a cheese ITEM or a liquid ITEM," he said. "Alternatively, bulls could be ranked on ITEM initially then selected on, say, predicted transmitting ability for milk," said Dr Simm. &#42

Geoff Simm: Research will improve the economic value of ITEM by 30%.