7 February 1997


FUTURE bull mothers for the URCEO breeding programme based at Rennes in north-eastern France may come from its new producer group – Alliance Genetique.

Members can use top bull semen before its fully proven providing they give URCEO the option to buy any bulls born, according to the co-ops Thierry Simon.

Alliance Genetique signed up 300 producers in its first year and hopes to increase membership to 500 breeders in the URCEO co-ops.

"We want to work more closely with producers who want top genetic merit cows and heifers – building a strong relationship to make more embryos and to progress genetics quickly," says Mr Simon.

Genetique Alliance members will have priority over non-member breeders for semen that is in short supply and will be the only breeders allowed to use semen before a full proof is available. URCEO will also help them swap genetic material with other Alliance members to spread cow families.

Producers in the scheme will work with technicians to select matings. And technicians will follow the progress of any high genetic merit cows to assess their potential as bull mothers.

However, Mr Simon claims that URCEO will still aim to select the best bulls in the world for its progeny testing scheme – whether from Holland, France, USA, Italy or Germany. It buys 425 bulls a year and selects 145 a year for progeny testing.

Selection pressure is so high because the co-op works with young animals and many of the dams proofs are not confirmed until the bull is a year old.

"To improve genetic progress half of all bulls come from first lactation heifers," says Mr Simon.

From the 425 bulls bought each year, 70% are from French breeders in the URCEO co-ops, with 10% of Bulls coming from Holland and 20% from imported US embryos.

Mr Simon claims that, five or six years ago, 60% of the bulls tested were from the US. But now it is more difficult to assess animals in that gene pool, he suggests. "The reliability and accuracy of US dam proofs is poor – because of BST and poor record keeping," he suggests. Results from home-sourced animals are more predictable.

Last year URCEO decided to use young sires without proofs as sires of bulls for progeny testing.

"These sons are selected on pedigree index and they will be producing semen when the sire gets his first proof. We can then decide if the bull should be progeny tested," he says. But only one in eight bulls bought may be progeny tested using this high risk strategy.

The aim is for about 30 bulls a year, jointly owned by OGER and URCEO, to be tested with half the daughters of each bull born in each area. This will spread the risks over both co-ops, he adds.

Semen entering URCEOs progeny testing scheme must be used by farmers in one to three months.


&#8226 Members of Alliance Genetique to breed future bull mothers.

&#8226 Using young sires as sires of sons.

&#8226 65% of young bulls selected in France.

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