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Cow selection for 2022 breeding season

Cow selection for 2022 breeding season

Each year bull selection is discussed at good lengths & rightly so, but what about cow selection? The genetic potential of an animal initially comes from the average of both sire & dam figures. Dairy Specialist Martina Gormley has advice on cow selection.

Both bull and cow selection are of critical importance to the genetic potential of the next generation.

So how do we select cows for breeding?


EBI is a single figure profit index aimed at helping farmers identify the most profitable bulls and cows for breeding dairy herd replacements. It comprises of information on seven sub-indexes related to profitable milk production. These are:

  1. Milk Production
  2. Fertility
  3. Calving Performance
  4. Beef Carcass
  5. Cow Maintenance
  6. Cow Management
  7. Health.

Figure 1 below shows the bottom 10 cows on EBI and Milk sub index. This herd is in top 5% for EBI therefore this farmer should pay particular attention to individual traits that are low. For example, the milk sub index. The cows highlighted below with the lowest milk sub index should not be selected to produce replacement heifers.

Figure 1. Bottom 10 cows on EBI

Milk recording lifetime report

Another tool to use to select cows for breeding replacements from is the milk recorded lifetime report, which illustrates both profitability and performance of cows within a herd. This report is available after each milk recording test. Cows are ranked within a herd based on milk-recorded lifetime. Dry days are included to rank cows. The margin per day brings all of your milk recording data into one figure. This is a within herd comparison considering, production costs, dry periods and month of calving. Figure 2 below shows the margin per day for the top, average and bottom for a herd. Excluding 1st lactation cows, there is a €1.86 per day difference from the top and bottom of this herd.

Figure 2: Milk recorded margin per day


Figure 3. 3rd lactation + cows per performance


Figure 3 from March 2022 milk recording shows that all three cows are in the bottom 20% for margin per day when compared to all the cows that were milk recorded on that day. This report shows the current milk recording test milk production and scc, long with the year to data production and lifetime milk performance. The quantity of milk recorded lifetime data available will vary depending on how long the herd is being milk recorded. Looking back on the last milk lifetime report for 2021 is also beneficial, as this report will include all current milk recordings for that year and this will give a clear picture of how each cow performed throughout the full year.

Using individual EBI figures, milk-recording reports along with the farmers own knowledge on individual cows will give a much clearer picture on which cows to breed replacement.

Read more about Breeding and Genetics here