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Pat and Sean Kelly - Cow and bull selection

Pat and Sean Kelly - Cow and bull selection

The focus of the second part of the breeding series is on the key targets when selecting sires and dams of the next generation of dairy replacements. Dairy Specialist George Ramsbottom details what needs to be considered.

Bulls

EBI

On the bull side it’s easy to establish the targets for the bulls selected because all are compared against each other in the national database. We’re aiming to use a high EBI team of AI sires – target an average EBI of €270 or greater for the team. Within this the primary focus is achieving a high fertility sub index in the team. We recommend aiming for a heifer average of €100 or greater for fertility sub index in the next generation of replacements to help support a calving interval of 365 days.

Milk sub index

Secondly we recommend a high milk sub index – a team average of at least €80 for milk sub index with a focus on kg of fat and protein rather than on kg of milk. For most herds selecting a team of bulls in the -100kg to +100kg milk is recommended.

Health

Finally we’re recommending that farmers select a team of bulls with positive health sub index – with a target average of €5. As cows last for longer, breeding animals that are genetically resistant to mastitis and lameness is important. Cows that survive for longer in the herd need to be more resistant to such challenges so that they remain healthy into old age.

Cows

Breeding

On the cow side, we recommend breeding from cows and heifers that are genetically superior. Select those with an EBI of greater than €150 to breed higher EBI replacements from. Select earlier calving cows and the maiden heifers and breed the majority of replacements in the first three weeks of the breeding season. Having your replacement heifers born compactly in early spring gives them a better chance of being ready for breeding themselves the following year and makes their management easier than if they are born over a prolonged period.

Milk recording

In addition to selecting on EBI and calving date, use the Lifetime Profit report, generated from the milk recording data, to select the most profitable cows to breed the next generation of replacements from. 

See also the first of the series here Herd details and performance