15 September 2000


Acquiring ABS last

November made Genus

one of the largest progeny

testers in the world.

Marianne Curtis reports

on what this means for the

future of UK breeding

PROGENY testing 360 bulls worldwide rather than the current 100 will widen the choice of sires available to UK breeders. Marrying Genuss MOET nucleus herd to this vast scheme will also increase the power of selection which should speed genetic progress.

It has been a year of change for Genuss breeding programme. Moving to Reaseheath College, Cheshire, last year improved accessibility of the MOET nucleus herd to visitors and is working well, according to the companys Mark Smith.

"Over the last two years UK dairy breeding has come of age. It is obvious that farmers are now keen to buy UK genetics and bulls such as Contest, Dependable, Franchise and, more recently, Knighthood."

There will be 20,000 Painley Knighthood daughters born next year and Grosvenor has been the number one seller this year, attracting international interest from the US and Canada, he says.

Although the MOET herd has been running for eight years, it has taken a long time for consistently good bulls to come through as the UK had to catch up with foreign standards, admits Mr Smith.

"In August 1996 we had no proven bulls with PIN values of more than £100, whereas shortly before the base change this year there were more than 40. Similarly for type, more than 25 proven bulls now have type merit scores of two or more."

Cheaper semen

The take over of ABS by Genus last November will allow UK producers to purchase semen from former ABS bulls at a more competitive price and increase the range of bulls available, according to Mr Smith.

"For example, internationally, in New Zealand, medium to small cows which are never housed are required, whereas in Canada breeders are more type conscious and in Brazil they want high yields. The extent of the progeny testing programme will enable us to better address different breeding goals."

Each year Genus will progeny test 200 bulls in the US, 20 in Canada, 30 in Italy and 10-20 in Australia in addition to the 100 tested in the UK. Previously, ABS had no nucleus programme so the availability of the MOET nucleus herd should assist in identifying more suitable bull mothers on an international basis.

"MOET evaluates 200 heifers a year: Of these 50 are sourced from UK breeders, 45 from US, Canadian, Italian or French embryos, 80 from the existing MOET herd and 25 from Holland Genetics Delta nucleus herd."

Heifers in the programme calve at 24-26 months old and are recorded for the first 120 days of their lactation to obtain data for assessment of their suitability as bull mothers. Only the top 10% of heifers are selected based on factors such as yield, solids, type, temperament and milking speed.

"Using a nucleus programme to select bull mothers is more reliable than selecting them individually from herds, as it eliminates environmental influences. All heifers in the nucleus herd are fed the same and milked with the same frequency."

Accuracy of bull selection is three times greater when a nucleus herd is used to source bull mothers compared with conventional methods.

Although MOET is currently only one of a handful of nucleus herds across the world, Genus is considering developing another in the US. However, the large geographical distances to be covered to source breeding stock pose a challenge, says Mr Smith.

Meanwhile, MOET will broaden its remit to cater for more diverse selection criteria. "Heifers in the nucleus herd will be more varied to cater for differing international market requirements and giving breeders greater choice."

But this will not compromise British breeders requirements, according to Mr Smith.

"It is surprising how similar overall breeding goals are across the world and it is likely that an increasing number of British prefixes will begin to appear in overseas rankings as sons of MOET heifers enter progeny testing schemes abroad." &#42


&#8226 Tests 360 bulls a year.

&#8226 MOET herd more diverse.

&#8226 International British bulls.

MOET will broaden selection criteria for animals entering the herd to meet differing international bull requirements.

Full of promise? Mark Smith

with some of the 200 heifers evaluated by MOET each year.

Top 10 available Holstein Friesian bulls based on PLI (Aug 2000)

PIN PLI Type merit Price Supplier

Manat 66 77 2.94 38 World Wide Service

Eastland Festival 76 73 0.33 POA Avoncroft

Delta Gerris 67 70 NC 14 Livestock Improvement

Jesther 61 69 1.7 40 Avoncroft

Delta Webster 60 69 1.5 35 Avoncroft

Woudhoeve Russel 71 68 0.97 14 Avoncroft

Ricecrest Brett 71 68 1.61 27 Genus

V Boye 67 67 NC 12 Topline Sires

Fatal 53 67 1.62 28 Supersires

Joyce Mountain 64 66 0.24 18* Cogent

Source: Animal Data Centre and Holstein UK and Ireland.

NC: No conversion available. POA: Price on application. *Half price to Cogent members.