25 April 1997

Select on health too

SELECTING cows for milk yield has led to a reduction in health and fertility, reducing profitability.

According to Jennie Pryce, PhD student at the Scottish Agricultural College and Edinburgh University, analysis of data from 410 herds recorded by Scottish Livestock Services suggests that although health and fertility traits have a low heritability, they are high enough to be considered as a basis for future selection.

"A similar analysis of DAISY figures has given the same results, meaning its a nationwide concern. Rather than just selecting on milk yield, it would be better if producers could be given an indication of health and fertility performance."

According to Miss Pryce, rather than skewing the balance away from bulls which may have good milk production figures but poor health and fertility figures, the best way to use the additional information would be in an index such as ITEM.