Monday, November 29, 2021
HomePedigreeMaking accurate decisions about heifer breeding

Making accurate decisions about heifer breeding

WHEN making decisions about breeding the heifers on your farm how do you accurately rank the heifers and know which ones to breed from?

You will probably look at the parent averages and select a sire to complement these. This has worked really well in the past but, due to advances in technology, you can now make breeding decisions based on detailed aspects of the heifer’s individual health, fertility, milk quality, conformation, etc, by just taking a tissue sample from the heifer’s ear. The bonus is that this test can be done at a very young age providing you with the opportunity to sell excess heifers at this age if accommodation is limited or to breed them to beef sires.

In other words you are selecting on genetic merit rather than on parent average, which is the current selection process. Genomic testing provides a 70 per cent reliability compared to 33 per cent or less for parent averages, dependant on data quality.

This valuable selection service, Gene-advance, is provided by Genus ABS, which has spent the past 80 years helping dairy farmers maximise returns from genetic progress.

David and Stephen Jackson, who farm in County Down, have been making use of breeding technology for a number of years and have noted the difference genetic progress can make in a dairy herd. Constantly wanting to push to the next level, Stephen took the opportunity to start genomic testing with Geneadvance with a view to finding out more about his herd.

“Since testing the heifers it is clear to see the huge variation within our own animals. Some heifers will really suit our system going forward but others, whilst still good, will be bred straight to beef as they don’t fit our strict selection criteria.”

James Woods, Strategic Account Manager with Genus ABS, explained: “Geneadvance improves the selection accuracy of herd replacements and helps make more informed breeding decisions whilst optimising heifer numbers to fit the farmers’s strategy.

“We will provide a personalised genetic plan to meet the farmers’s specific needs and help him/her to achieve future goals.

“Our comprehensive reviews demonstrate the progress made, show the value of the different decisions made to keep us on track!

“The benefits don’t end there – the farmer will also receive corrected sire information on their females. This will allow for more accurate matings and the management of inbreeding and haplotypes.”

He emphasised: “It’s not just about genomic testing, our experts will be on-hand throughout. We will help identify the farmer’s goals, guide them through the genomic testing process, develop a customised plan and provide regular reviews to demonstrate progress made.

“Our team will utilise industry-leading genetic tools and provide the farmer with our world-leading genetics to ensure we help to accelerate genetic progress and improve future herd performance.

“We will consider everything from the milk contract, milk recording data, and herd environment to traits that are important to future herd plans.”

James added: “Our annual Genetic Review provided as part of Geneadvance will demonstrate the progress made in accelerating genetic improvement in the herd.

“We can show how genomic testing has improved the accuracy of selection decisions versus using parent averages and the impact of creating replacements from your best females.”



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