EFFICIENCY AT HEART…
THE French AI organisation UNECO based in eastern France, will expand its progeny test programme to 280 bulls this year – an increase of over 50 on last year.
The organisation now works with 16 farmer co-ops comprising 30,000 breeders, according to UNECOs Paul Yves Lanthoen.
Most bulls in the programme are selected from breeders herds. It is this dynamic nucleus of breeders that makes UNECO so efficient, says director of UNECOs AI Centre in Crehen, Louis Rouxel. And the co-op has no plans for setting up a nucleus unit of breeding females along similar lines to other AI organisations worldwide.
"We dont need a nucleus herd to be profitable. It is easy to make mistakes when you have invested in a nucleus herd as there is a temptation to work with it exclusively."
UNECO helps its members select matings – and then buys what they produce. Knowing the breeders and the production level of the herd helps guard against the risk of preferential treatment.
The co-op is also careful to buy only one bull from any one cow. If a mistake is made, it will be made once only.
The close relationship between co-op technicians and breeders – and the help of a computer database – allows UNECO to keep tabs on top females.
After the January proof run for example, technicians will check the figures to see which cows have improved and because they know where they are they can assess them as bull mothers very quickly, explains Mr Lanthoen.
"Genetics is just numbers, its about mixing cows and bulls and whether you are lucky enough to get a good one. Only one bull out of 20 has a good proof," he maintains.
UNECO has no first right to buy bull calves as in other French co-ops. It allows its breeders to sell bulls freely. But again the technicians have a good local knowledge of whats around to find top bulls before theyre sold, adds Mr Lanthoen.
UNECO buys 15% more bulls than will be progeny tested. This is because some will fail to produce semen or their parent average will fall by the time they produce semen.
Of the bulls bought each year 65% come from France, 15% from the US and the remainder from Holland, Canada and Italy. Bulls bought in France and Canada are live calves, but from the US embryos are imported.
The funding for this breeding programme – which costs £50,000 a proven bull – comes from the charge breeders pay for cow inseminations. Some 40-45% of the fee is paid to the UNECO programme.
• Working with local breeders herds.
• Tests 280 bulls.
• Bulls bought at market price.