One decision – but what is the impact!

Bolton daughters at Metcalf Farms.
Bolton daughters at Metcalf Farms.

How many decisions do you make where the consequences could be with you for around seven years?

Truth is, one of the few decisions of this magnitude taken on a dairy farm is made at the point of insemination when you decide which straw of semen to use on a particular cow.

Get the decision right and the resultant calf, hopefully a heifer, will have higher genetic merit than the dam, will have corrected possible deficiencies and will be well suited to the farm with the potential to live a long and productive life. Get it wrong and years of genetic progress could go backwards in the squeeze of an insemination gun.

Ervin McKinstry, Ireland Manager for Genus ABS points out that all farmers are used to planning, whether it is the annual budget, the winter feeding plan, the cropping plan or, in keeping with new legislation the nutrient management plan. But far too few have a clear plan for the most important part of their business – the genetic development of the herd.

“Ensuring 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 should be a priority. Using the right genetics can help farmers target production to maximise the price benefits within the contract to achieve the best available price.”

He says the globalisation of genetic availability combined with the development of more traits has given farmers access to far greater choice and the opportunity to fine tune the cows in the herd. But at the same time this can create problems of its own.

“What we are finding is that farmers who take a planned approach to their breeding decisions are able to better manage the genetic development of their cows because they have a plan, know where they are going and have sires selected for each cow in the herd.

“Farmers who have used the Genus ABS Genetic Management Service (GMS) have delivered a faster rate of improvement and we are building a database which clearly shows this.

“We take on the complexity and 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.”

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.

“The GMS results are regularly updated to allow new sires to be considered for use in the herd. It also means we take account of any new cow information such as yield data.”

For further information contact your Genus ABS representative on 028 3833 4426.