Understanding genetic values key to boosting profits

Taking time to understand and improve dairy bull genetics could help farmers boost profits in the face of rising input costs and milk price cuts.

Andy Smith, Cogent Breeding product support manager, said producers could secure thousands of pounds every year in additional margins if they spent more time choosing bulls which would have the greatest impact on their production goals.

He said learning to understand the genetic index – the measure of an animals’s ability to pass genes on to the next generation – was vital to helping businesses become more profitable.

“You need to decide what your business objective is,” Mr Smith told farmers at the Dairy Technology 2012 event at Harper Adams University on Tuesday (2 May).

“Whether it’s improving milk production, improving longevity and fertility, reducing somatic cell counts and mastitis or reducing lameness, these are all included in the Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) and can be used as selection criteria.”

Mr Smith said PLI (measured in pounds sterling) accumulated over generations and each PLI pound was worth an additional £4.21 a year to a cow’s margin.

Investing in bulls with a higher PLI to improve overall herd PLI scores was a relatively cheap way to making businesses more profitable (see table).

“You need to look at semen as an investment and not as a cost,” he added.

“With milk prices so volatile and costs of production going up, genetics is a place where you can invest for not a lot of money and improve the profitability of your business.”

  Profits to be made in investing in better bull genetics:

Farm 1 Farm 2
100 cows with £10 PLI  100 cows with £10 PLI
Bull average £170 PLI 

£100 PLI 

Next generation cow £90 PLI

£55 PLI

Aditional margin per point every year: £378.90 £23.15
Over 100 cows:


Aditional margin per point every year: Over 100 cows: Difference = £14,735





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