Avoiding inbreeding from leading sires and dams

John Sayers, left , Genus ABS, chats with Gordon Hanna, who farms with his brother James at Tobermore Road, Draperstown about the genetic progress in the herd over the past 16 years. ?
John Sayers, left , Genus ABS, chats with Gordon Hanna, who farms with his brother James at Tobermore Road, Draperstown about the genetic progress in the herd over the past 16 years. ?

While Genomics has ensured that leading sires, dams and breeding lines are recognised and available to the dairy farmer much more quickly, farmers do need a detailed breeding plan and efficient record keeping to avoid inbreeding and thus ensure that the objectives they have set out are achieved, according to Ian Watson, Genus ABS.

Ian explained: “A lot of the genomic sires today are bred from a very small pool of the world’s top female families, farmers should therefore be studying both the sire and female lines. Some of the sires on the market are closely related and even pedigree breeders have to work hard to keep up to date and avoid inbreeding in their herd. Inbreeding can now come from both the sire and dam lines.”

Sixteen years ago. Gordon and James Hanna, who farm at Tobermore Road, Draperstown were planning to increase cow numbers but felt that they did not have a uniform base of cows to start with. They were also unsure about which bulls to mate with which cows to try and improve individual weaknesses whether that was milk yield, milk quality, feet and legs, udders, somatic cell count, overall size etc.

John Sayers, Genus ABS, their local adviser outlined the Genomate programme which would note all of these attributes in addition to durability, health and fitness. He also emphasised that it was important to avoid in-breeding.

Gordon Hanna said: “The system involved having the cows mated through the use of milk records and other herd records to build a complete portfolio of the herd. This information was entered into a database and we were then advised which bulls to use on which cows. This was work that we did not have either the time or the expertise to carry out.”

He added: “The full impact is always most noticeable in the groups of heifers coming into the herd – they are really uniform even though they are by different sires and they perform well in the parlour. We hope to be in a position to sell heifers in a year or so and we feel that the quality of animal that we now have will provide a useful income to add to our milk cheque.”

Ian Watson commented: “This mating programme has several unique features that contribute to it’s success. No other mating programme looks back over seven generations on both the common male and female lines to protect the herd against recessive disorders and to minimise the negative effect of in breeding.

“The mating is calculated by using a combination of the genetic information, milk yield, milk quality and health and fitness indeces. The durability index is the only one in the world to include health and fitness traits such locomotion, daughter fertility and somatic cell counts as standard.”

Of course, increased production and cow numbers must be matched with quality management to maximise the superior genetics. The Hanna Brothers have concentrated on improving housing, feeding and welfare.

Gordon stressed: “There is no quick fix. It is a long term programme where a combination of genetics and management can yield results.”

Ian added: “You are custom building your herd, one cow at a time with an easy-to-use mating programme.GMS GenoMate lets you custom-build your ideal cow. Your Genus ABS representative will sit down with you and customise a programme based on the goals you choose for your herd. Producing a number of easy to understand, yet informative reports, GMS GenoMate is a valuable herd management tool. Initially developed in 1968 and used in 34 countries worldwide, you can be confident that GMS GenoMate will produce the best possible matings for your herd.

 “Breeding better cattle means less replacement costs, more production 
and bigger profits, but who has the time to study every cow in the herd? Let GMS GenoMate do the work for you and make your semen budget more than just a short-term investment.”

To find out more about GMS GenoMate, contact your local Genus ABS representative or Ian Watson on 079 7111 8639.