Dairy progress not
Improving performance of dairy and beef breeds was the
focus of last weeks Cattle Breeders Conference in
Cambridge. Jessica Buss and Simon Wragg report
DAIRY cow breeding is progressing too slowly. By 2005 an average cow could be producing an extra £150 in margin if breeders change their sire selection policies.
Genus breeding business director, Steve Amies, said UK dairy producers need to improve PIN by £25 a cow to achieve this extra £150 in margin.
Using figures from SAC Edinburghs Langhill Farm, comparing selected and control breeding strategies, he calculated that a difference of £1 PIN or ITEM is worth £6 in margin over purchased feed.
This meant that across its 1.7m milking cows the UK industry could gain £255m a year by improving genetic merit by £25 PIN. These cows should yield 6650 litres in 2005 compared with the 1995 average of 5330 litres.
Dutch breeding progress has been better. He said that in 1994, the average UK calf born was £28 PIN, but the average Dutch calf was £36 PIN higher at £64.
Between 1990 and 1994, the UK had only managed to close the gap in genetic merit of calves born by £1 PIN a year, so was not catching up. This indicated that sire selection in the UK was at fault, said Mr Amies.
In 1996, Dutch breeders selected sires above £100 PIN for about 80% of first inseminations, whereas about half the semen doses sold in the UK by Genus were below £100 PIN.
UK producers seem to have chosen to push harder on type. Genus semen sales were higher in type merit, above 2 UK TM. This is reflected in Holstein Friesian Society registrations, he added. "But that type is not compensating for the loss in production.
"Farmers should be setting minimum purchase standards, based on PIN, reliability, udder composite, feet and leg composite, management traits and price.
"Without standards and objectives it is difficult to handle the semen salesman with flashy pictures. Good objectives would help producers make a decision from the mass of paper and would improve the quality of semen being sold," said Mr Amies.
Achieving the improvement of cow PIN values needed more extension of information from the Animal Data Centre and Milk Development Council.
But given there was a great deal for farmers to gain he suggested that spending £250,000 for the next two years to help producers understand breeding indexes would be worthwhile.
The UKdairy industry could gain £255m a year by improving genetic merit by £25 PIN- Steve Amies.
• Improve PINvalues.
• Reconsider suckler breeds.
• Better management vital