22 November 1996


Breeding on index does

pay as one Salop producer has discovered.

Jessica Buss reports

BREEDING for production using PIN pays on one Shropshire farm where improvements to herd efficiency are three times the average gain of costed herds.

The average Genus Milkminder costed herd has increased its margin by £118 a cow through efficiency calculated by using 1984 prices. In the same 12-year period Ian and David Nixon, Upper Farm, Ridgewardine, have increased their margin by £316 a cow to give a current margin over purchased feed of £1573 a cow.

Key to their success is the breeding policy that has allowed them to achieve the second highest herd average PIN in Shropshire at £31.

But to do this they havent had to use a large number of bulls over their 200-cow herd, claims the Nixons Genus consultant Ian Rutherford. Recent services were mainly from three sires – Tesk, Lexus and Black Romeo.

"Theyve concentrated on two or three bulls for each season. And all heifers are bred to black-and-white sires," he says. "So the mother of a heifer due to calve next month may only just have finished her second lactation."

Strict two-year-old calving and good heifer management are important to move these higher genetic animals into the herd quickly.

When the Nixons started to select bulls for production the herd had a PIN of £0 – similar to the national average at that time. But PIN has increased dramatically together with herd efficiency, adds Mr Rutherford.

Many producers are still sceptical about the benefit of PIN breeding. But the Nixons herd management policies allow the benefit to be proven, claims Mr Rutherford.

Their results show that daughters from higher PIN sires have had higher heifer lactation milk yields and that the average daughters actual PIN was around half the sires PINs plus half the mothers PINs (see table).

This demonstrates that using sires and dams PINs to estimate progeny PIN value is accurate and indicates yield potential when cows and youngstock receive no preferential treatment – as is the case at Upper Farm. Having over 20 daughters by each sire allows a comparison of daughter groups.

"The top PIN daughter in the herd has an £85 PIN, is due to have her third calf in August, and was born in August 92," says Mr Rutherford.

She is by Sunny Boy (PIN £93) and has completed two lactations. Her dam was an Elevation daughter with a PIN of £32.

But unfortunately the £85 PIN cows daughter born in 94 is by F16, and he caused her PIN to be below her mother at £77.

The herd is block calved from August to November and is flat rate fed an early lactation diet of maize and grass silage plus 7.5kg of concentrates. At 120 and 180 days after calving concentrates are stepped down.

Heifers are all close to two years old at first calving and calve in autumn or early winter.

Investing capital in the unit has also helped improve efficiency and has allowed the Nixons to keep the system simple.

"They have a diet feeder for presentation of the forage, but still feed in the parlour," says Mr Rutherford. "They are now finding it isnt such hard work as it once was." &#42


&#8226 Farm Size: Total 140ha (345 acres), grass 113ha (278 acres), maize 27ha (67 acres).

&#8226 Cow performance: Yield 7711 litres/cow at 4% fat and 3.3% protein, yield from forage 3437 litres a cow, concentrate use 0.26kg/litre, 1.98t/cow, margin over purchased feed 20.41p/litre, £1573/cow, calving interval.

Relationship between PIN and daughters production


PINin herd(litres)*(%)(%)Act PIN


Super Rocket




Marion Supreme


Thornwood Valiant


Sexation Bert


Sunny Boy

*Heifer lactation yields.