8 August 1997

…streamlining is OK, domination isnt

DAIRY cattle breeders and industry analysts are concerned about some predictions in the Milk Development Councils report.

Although few doubt the industry will become more streamlined, some believe the pig and dairy industries are not directly comparable due to the difference in generation intervals.

Angela Taylor, sire analyst with Avoncroft Sires, applauds suggestions in the report for a more streamlined management structure for Animal Data Centre, that it should be the core source of all genetic information, and that more consultation is needed with industry before ADC introduces major changes.

But on the downside she would oppose domination by a handful of major players carrying out their own genetic evaluations.

"The shorter generation interval of pigs means that if the animal fails to perform farmers can vote with their feet. But the longer generation interval of cattle and short memory of farmers means accountability will be more difficult."

For this reason the industry needs independent monitoring by a body such as ADC to ensure animals are actually performing as predicted. "Otherwise what we have will be no better than an international form of breederproving."

Ms Taylor is also unhappy that the report plays down the role of genetic evaluation for breeders and commerical producers. "This is a retrograde step. It undervalues genetic information as a selection tool, and undermines efforts made to encourage producers to breed from the most efficient animals.

"It is trying to sweep the aspirations and goals of breeders under the carpet."

Top breeder Peter Padfield points out that ADC is funded by all milk producers. "We are just as entitled to request as much information as any of the large breeding organsiations."

Geoff Spiby, Olympian herd, West Sussex, would also be concerned if less help was given to individual breeders.

"Larger breeding companies are pretty well fitted up with their own geneticists, so I cant see they need an enormous amount of help. There is, however, a strong nucleus of cows in the UK that are of sufficient genetic merit to be used for bull mothers but are not being identified by the top organi-sations.

William Ley, of the Thubor-ough herd, Devon believes "theres still a role for the individual breeder in the UK – with the lower milk prices Im hiring or selling more bulls than ever".

Angela Taylor… trying to sweep goals of breeders under the carpet.

Peter Padfield… we are entitled to as much information as any of the larger AI companies.