What is hindering progress in your dairy herd?

A group of Levi, Ingenious and Pello heifers all bred through GMS.
A group of Levi, Ingenious and Pello heifers all bred through GMS.

There are many aspects of success in the dairy herd that farmers comment on - production, milk quality, fertility, milk from grass etc.

This is very satisfying when one considers the amount of effort and the hours worked on a dairy farm.

But could there be some hidden aspects that are not achieving maximum potential or indeed could be hindering even further success?

Could practical improvements in heat detection, AI technique etc. provide even more success? Could some individual cows be holding back progress because they have not been bred to the ideal sire? Have all of the statistics for the herd been fully analysed to detect weaknesses and opportunities for further improvement?

Surely it makes sense to develop a plan which will increase the likelihood that sustained progress will be made, especially as data now makes decision making more involved with greater potential benefits but equally greater risks of a poor decision?

It is important to ensure that the herd is comprised of animals with good production and type, that are suited to the farming system and housing, and produce milk in line with the contract that the milk purchaser has in place. As a basic first step using the right genetics can help farmers target production to maximise the price benefits within the purchaser’s contract.

How do you decide where the balance should lie between production, type and management traits? What are the priorities for improvement or fault correction? How do you minimise the risk and consequences of inbreeding? How do you know you are making steady progress and how do you manage the process?

In 2012 Jeffrey Tinsley who farms at Dromore Road, Kinallen discussed these aspects with Brian McCarron, Genus ABS and made the decision to join the Genetic Management Service (GMS) in order to get an in-depth analysis of his herd and a breeding plan for the future. In order to ensure that he maximised the benefits of this plan he also decided to join Genus ABS’ Reproductive Management Service (RMS) whereby a professional technician visits the herd every day carrying out heat detection and inseminating the cows at the optimum time.

Commenting on the results of this decision Jeffrey said: “Having started on Genus’s Reproductive Management Service (RMS) back in 2012, all our 1st and 2nd calvers have been bred through the GMS mating programme and we are exceptionally well pleased with the uniformity and consistency of both groups. Our heifer group comprises mainly progeny by Ballycairn O Pello, Morningview Levi and Bomaz Ingenious and since calving into the herd last Autumn, their production performance has been very impressive, whilst also holding body condition and going back in calf easily. By having every cow GMS scored and then mated to a suitable sire we are undoubtedly seeing the benefits coming through in our herd.”

Commenting on the GMS programme Brian McCarron said: “All the cows in the herd are evaluated on production information, 15 type traits along with 11 supplementary characteristics and details of full pedigrees going back seven generations. The GMS programme ranks the cows in the herd on the data provided and produces a list of first and second choice potential bulls that suit each cow, correcting type faults, improving management and production traits and eliminating any risk of inbreeding.”

Brian went on to point out that the RMS complements the GMS program in that the ideal matings are then followed up with professional heat detection and AI technique – a professional technician who is carrying out these tasks every day of the year has the skills to optimise fertility rates and build on the success of professional breeding decisions.

He added: “We take on the complexity of all the data handling aspects of the decision making process to generate a plan. The output is a simple and easy to follow report based on the best information available which leaves the farmer free to concentrate fully on the management of the dairy herd in the knowledge that his hard work will be making progress in the business.”

For further information on the GMS and RMS systems contact your Genus ABS representative or phone the office on 028 3833 4426