This section has valuable advice on using teams of bulls equally and using both dairy and beef AI
Using teams of bulls equally
Teagasc and ICBF recommend that teams of bulls are used when breeding dairy cows. This is the advice regardless of whether the bulls are genomically or daughter proven. The key message: when planning what bull to use, also plan how to use each bull equally
Invariably bulls are only proven for milk traits and not for female fertility traits which remains a key issue for dairy farmers. If you want to improve fertility and other traits related to fitness on your farm then you need to use teams of bulls.
Nationally, farmers tend to use a sufficiently large team of bulls. The common mistake made by many is that individual bulls in the team can be overused. Typically, 34% of calves in dairy herds are sired by one bull and this is too high. The risk is that if the bull should subsequently fall in EBI then the genetic merit of the progeny will also be affected.
The key message is when planning what bull to use the farmer should also plan how to use each bull equally across the herd. For herds of 100 cows or less a minimum of 7 bulls are recommended. More bulls are required for larger herds.
Update on the Dairy Beef Index
The Dairy Beef Index is a breeding goal for Irish dairy and beef farmers to promote high quality beef cattle bred from the dairy herd that are more saleable as calves and profitable at slaughter yet, they have minimal consequences on the calving difficulty or gestation length of the dairy cow.
Delivering easy calving for the dairy farmer and high carcass merit for the beef farmer and going forwards in the future it will have a greater impact as it is still early days for being implemented on farm.
The DBI is a great development as it will allow for the identification of bulls with the balance of traits needed to bring better integration of the needs of both dairy and beef farmers, and it will allow for individuals to be identified across a range of breeds, which will become important in flattening the supply curve of dairy beef animals born from a seasonal system.
A higher proportion of beef calves will bring greater system efficiency in terms of feed, carcass and probably younger ages at slaughter compared to pure dairy males.
It is especially important for the various bonus and QA pricing system which are in place, which generally require animals to be of a conformation score of greater than O-. Conformation is the number one to increase the value of every kg of beef, similar to our protein and fat in a milk pricing scenario.
Beef farmers need to insist that all beef calves are by high genetic merit beef sires to secure their investment and level of risk, so rather than premium prices, it should be a basic requirement.
Using both dairy and beef AI
Siobhan Ring ICBF gives advice about using both dairy and beef AI at the start of the breeding season which can lead to a more profitable system. In such a system, farmers can select the best cows eg. high EBI cows to mate to high EBI dairy bulls and use beef bulls with the high dairy beef index on their problem cows or on cows with a poorer genetic merit. This approach will increase the rate of genetic gain in the milking herd. It will also increase the no of high genetic merit beef calves born. This results in a more valuable beef calf produced. No extra physical work is required by the farmer to produce a better beef calf.
Using dairy and beef AI from farmers perspective
Hugh Egan is a dairy farmer from Co. Offaly he is milking 90 Spring-calving cross-bred cows, and has 20 followers, on a fragmented farm. He is focused on grass and producing milk from a low cost system. Breeding is very important to Hugh. He uses beef AI bulls from the start of the breeding system, choosing either Angus or Hereford bulls and crosses these with selected cows and the low performing dairy cows in the herd. It increases the calf sales and Hugh finds there is always a demand for the beef calf. See what else Hugh has to say in the following video clip.