Semen key to better B&W herd

6 March 1998

Semen key to better B&W herd

GENETIC progress in the black-and-white dairy industry could be increased given a better understanding and acceptance of the way genetic change takes place.

Geneticist Maurice Bichard told the conference that while many producers believed they were creating genetic improvement and called themselves breeders, genetic change is driven by the semen used across the herd.

"People do not realise clearly enough that genetic progress in the herd is controlled almost entirely by the calibre of semen you are bringing in," Dr Bichard said.

Everyone in the dairy industry tended to be a breeder and producer and there was a lot of confusion between the two which had gone in the pig and poultry industries. "This is only diverting effort from efficient milk production."

But Dr Bichard predicted that in time the industry would split into those who make genetic improvement and those producing milk.

Genetic improvement will be concentrated in the hands of a small number of internationally competitive, privately owned companies or plcs. They would concentrate their young bull proving in fewer, larger, contracted herds, often in several countries.

These animals will be recorded for more traits, and genetic evaluation would also be carried out in house. "Within five years all breeding programmes will be doing their own calculations – and industry must decide whether it wishes to continue paying for national dairy evaluations."

Dr Bichard said UK Holsteins still lagged several years – four to five — behind those of other countries, but were catching up. However, a lot of that catching up was a between population difference, the grading up procedure.

"This can only go on for so long – once we have caught up we get on to the difficult business of within-population improvement.

"For this we would need effective within-population testing and selection programmes."

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