Health and management driving dairy selection


Health and management traits are now as important as production criteria when it comes to selecting the sires that are used in dairy breeding programmes across Northern Ireland, according to Ai Services (Northern Ireland) Ltd’s breeding services’ manager Ivan Minford.

“These include daughter fertility, lifespan and reduced somatic cell count levels,” he said.

“In addition, there are a number of other important health and management aspects relating to each bull featured within the new catalogue.

“But it’s a breeding strategy that requires a consistent selection commitment. Many local milk producers, who have taken this approach, are now finding that they can calve heifers at a younger age and that these animals will remain in their milking groups for a considerably longer period of time than would previously have been the case.

“Improvements made in this regard can be built on over a period of years, provided the appropriate bull selection is made on a repeated basis.”

Ivan made these comments at the launch of Ai Services’ Dairy Catalogue for 2019. The new publication is available on-line while hard copies are available from all the company’s technician and sales’ teams.

The launch follows the company’s confirmation of a record turnover for the year ending September 2018.

Ivan continued: “The new catalogue contains all of the information farmers need to assess the relevance of the bulls featured within it.

“An investment in proven genetics remains the best value-for-money decision that any dairy farmer can make from a business development point of view.”

The 2019 dairy catalogue features 12 new Holstein bulls, from a total breed selection of 28. Once again, the Ai Services’ team has succeeded in selecting a grouping of truly elite sires from the world’s main dairying regions.

Where production is concerned the 28 bulls have an average Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) of £652 with VH Brook Topping the poll at £849. Nineteen of the 28 sires are over +500 kg in Milk with Alta Montana the top ranking selection at 1088kg.

Significantly, 26 of the 28 sires are positive for both butter fat and protein percentages. Delta Skyline comes in at 0.16% protein with V H Brook sitting at 0.25% butterfat. Adding to these impressive figures is the fact that 20 of the 28 bulls are over 50kg in terms of combined butterfat and protein. Montoya Hotspot, AOT Blowtorch Handle and Nihao are all over 70kg.

The health traits of the new bull line-up are equally impressive. Half of the 28 sires are +8 and over for fertility with P.H. Praser and Alta Recoil both exceeding +13. Meanwhile, 17 of the newly catalogued bulls are + 0.5 for lifespan with both V H Brook and Born P both + 0.7.

All 28 sires are showing an improvement when it coms to reducing somatic cell count and mastitis resistance.

Where type is concerned, the new catalogue has an equally impressive story to tell. Eight bulls are showing +2.0 points or more with Velvet and Recoil pushing +3.0. Blowtorch, Handle, Nihao, Nitro, Ranger and Recoil are all showing tremendous legs and feet improvement with excellent locomotion.

“The new catalogue features seven bulls that are specifically recommended for robotic milking systems,” said Ivan Minford.

“These include Brook, Bouncer, Ranger and Topshot.”

Of the 28 Holstein sires catalogued, 15 are available as sexed semen options.”

Ivan concluded: “The new catalogue reflects the fast-changing needs of dairy farmers in Northern Ireland when it comes to breeding for the future.”

For further information, telephone (028) 90833123. To view the new Dairy Sires’ catalogue on-line visit: