PUTTING in place the building blocks for on-farm profitability and sustainability is the overarching theme that runs through every aspect of the 2022 Dairy Sire Catalogues, recently launched by Ai Services (Northern Ireland) Ltd.
And, yes, we are talking two separate catalogues rather than the single, all-encompassing publication that has been the norm up to this point.
Ai Services’ breeding services’ manager Ivan Minford takes up the story: “We have published two separate catalogues this year: one to reflect the specific developments taking place within the world of Holstein genetics and the second to reflect the fast growing demand for other dairy breeds.”
He added: “Cross breeding is growing in popularity across Northern Ireland and it is important that Ai Services gives the entire gamut of coloured sires their proper emphasis and profiling.
“The milk sector can look forward to a very sustainable future. But making this happen will require farmers to assess their current situation and then agreeing clear goals, or building blocks, for the future.”
According to Ivan, these objectives will only be secured in the medium to long term.
He said: “Sustainability must be assessed from the perspective of increasing profitability per cow. And there are many factors coming into play in this context, chief among them being that of improving cow longevity.
“If a heifer calves down at 24 months of age, as opposed to 30 months, and stays in the herd for an increased number of lactations, this represents a win:win scenario for farmers.
“And the good news is that heifer calves that are reared to meet their required calving weight at 24 months, or even younger, have the potential to deliver on these production-related objectives.”
Heritability lies at the heart of every breeding programme. However, some traits are far more heritable than others. For example, all milk production traits – output, butterfat percentage and milk protein percentage – have a heritability rating of around 50 per cent.
Where type traits are concerned, for example foot angle, this figure drops to around 10 per cent. But for many health traits – including mastitis and lameness – this falls back again to five per cent and below.
Ivan again: “This is why it takes a number of years for farmers to build up the traits that they want featured within their herds.
“The nature of heritability also dictates why farmers must identify a clear breeding policy for the future and then stick to it. Chopping and clanging a strategy in mid stream is a road to nowhere.
“Ai Services’ staff are available at all times to advise on how specific breeding programmes can be developed to meet the exact needs of individual farmer-customers.”
Ivan confirmed that block calving is fast becoming a reality on many dairy farms across Northern Ireland. This is particularly the case during the months of September, October and November.
He explained: “By taking this approach farmers can dedicate their time more efficiently to calf rearing. It also allows them to make best use of so many other resources that come into play within the businesses.”
But block calving also paves the way for a much more defined breeding season.
“In this instance, dairy farmers can make very effective use of a technician service when it comes to inseminating their cows and heifers,” Ivan commented.
“Sexed semen is now widely used on both heifers and mature cows. If a cow has an appropriate body conditions score, is on the right plane of nutrition and has been physically examined by a veterinary surgeon, there is no reason why she cannot be considered within the group of animals on which sexed straws can be used with confidence.”
He added: “Sexed semen is allowing dairy farmers to select their herd replacements from the highest merit animals within their herds.
“It’s an approach that also allows for the greater use of beef semen within a herd.”
Ai Services’ 2022 Holstein Sire catalogue contains a number of new and exciting genomically assessed bulls.
Alta Regulus is a case in point.
Ivan again: “He has a current PLI value of £885. The bull will deliver exceptional milk components and has excellent daughter fertility.
“VH Ascari is another Holstein bull with a tremendous future. He is a top daughter fertility sire. His current PLI value in this context is +11.6.
“The bull is also positive for milk components and his daughters have excellent udders.”
Pelligrino is another new Holstein sire within Ai Services’ listings for 2022. He is a top production and type bull. Significantly, Pelligrino will also act to improve all fitness traits.
Alta Booyah is a component specialist. In addition, he will deliver leg and feet improvement while also increasing longevity and daughter fertility.
The new Ai Services’ Holstein catalogue also features a wide range of daughter-proven sires.
These include Brook, Topshot, Praser, Antonio and Ranger.