Wednesday, 11 November 2020 10:18

Balanced approach to breeding paying off

Written by  Simon Worth, LIC livestock selection manager
A balanced approach to breeding is paramount for optimal on farm success, says LIC’s Simon Worth. A balanced approach to breeding is paramount for optimal on farm success, says LIC’s Simon Worth.

The motivation of dairy farmers to create herds that are more efficient converters of feed-to-profit is long-held, but a balanced approach to breeding is paramount for optimal on-farm success.

A balanced approach to breeding delivers profit on farm by ensuring productive cows have good shed-attributes, the physical capacity to compete (i.e. get their share of feed), and an ability to walk, conceive, and stay in-calf.

The feedback LIC has received from farmers is that they want us to breed bulls that sire cows with the above balance and attributes. In response LIC first incorporated an internal index, called the livestock selection index (LSI) about 20 years ago into our already-robust breeding programme to ensure we can graduate the desired bulls. Today it’s supporting our purchase of more young bulls sired by genomic sires than those sired by daughter proven genetics.

The benefits of LSI

LSI is highly-correlated to breeding worth (BW) and enables our selection team to allocate weightings across specific traits such as a heavier focus on udder conformation and adjust for things like protein to fat ratio.

Ultimately LSI enables us to better deliver the elite genetics our farmers are seeking and expect and its application is proving powerful when used with other data to better identify quality cow families, consistent maternal performance, conformation, and longevity traits.

As a result, and together with the powerful application of LIC’s genomic tools, we’re witnessing impressive trends over time for BW and the all-important conformation and workability traits 

We will continue to review our LSI to ensure it aligns with the changing needs and wants of LIC shareholders. For example, when it comes to optimal liveweight requirements, most farmers are now seeking a medium-sized Holstein Friesian, a consistent KiwiCross or a larger Jersey cow.

With genomics now adding more to the mix, our tool-kit for a balanced approach to breeding is quite formidable. 

LIC’s genomic model (the Single Step Animal Model) – launched in February – combines ancestry, phenotypic and genomic information all in one step. It’s already improving the efficiency of LIC’s breeding scheme and delivering farmers with clearer information on the most profitable and efficient cows on farm for better breeding and culling decisions.

LIC has invested $76 million over the last three decades to improve the accuracy of its animal evaluation system with improved data providing better predictions on breeding worth for our farmers and industry. As genomics continues to progress worldwide, our breeding decisions are also improving at faster rate of-knots benefiting our farmers, their herds and ultimately our economy as we move forward from Covid-19.

• Simon Worth is LIC livestock selection manager

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