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Plan to use teams of bulls equally

Plan to use teams of bulls equally

Teagasc and ICBF recommend that teams of bulls are used when breeding dairy cows. Last year we recorded Margaret Kelleher, ICBF and David Hannon, dairy farmer Meath discussing the issue. Their advice is as relevant in 2022 as it was in 2021. In a Dairy Breeding series breeding topics are discussed

Regardless of whether the bulls are genomically or daughter proven the message remains the same: when planning what bull to use, also plan 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.

David Hannon, dairy farmer with a 320 dairy cow spring calving herd and 80 replacements, speaks about picking a team of bulls using the sire advice and will pick 14 or 15 bulls to use on the herd. He aims to improve the reliability of the calves on the ground in this way.

In this short clip, Margaret Kelleher from ICBF speaks about when planning what bulls to use this breeding season, also plan how to use each bull equally across your herd.  

Keep an eye on Teagasc Daily over the next couple of weeks for more information on Breeding.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialists issue an article on a topic of interest to dairy farmers every Monday here on Teagasc Daily. Find out more about Breeding & Genetics here