Thursday, 28 March 2019 08:21

No longer so sure about BW

Written by  Hank Lina, general manager of World Wide Sires NZ and a former dairy farmer
Does NZ need a new BW evaluation tool? Does NZ need a new BW evaluation tool?

OPINION: Breeding worth (BW) was introduced decades ago and has served farmers well as a breeding guide – or has it?

The national herd is a good representation of its legacy: small cows which produce, on average, 380kgMS.

Times and demands have changed however: now farmers are faced with radical change because to maintain viability while protecting the environment they need to reduce the size of their herds and maintain or improve profitability. And that requires a new approach: fertile cows which consistently produce more than 550kgMS over a longtime.

The New Zealand Animal Evaluation Unit recently conducted a weightings change to the BW index which saw kg of fat increase – favourably impacting Jerseys and some crossbred cows with a consequent increase in Jersey and crossbred sire rankings.

Turning the tide in favour of Jerseys was welcomed by farmers who flooded social media with endorsing comments. It’s good to see the breed come back into the spotlight as it’s been the foundation of many highly productive Kiwi herds.

But that breed endorsement was drowned out by a clamour of confusion from farmers who, in the main, say BW doesn’t necessarily mean a profitable cow.

We all know farmers who will point out their top cows: sometimes they have high BW but more often than not they don’t.  Often they have low BWs because they are the offspring of an overseas sire or dam which doesn’t have a NZ ranking.

It’s a dilemma AEU has grappled with – how to provide a fair ranking which accurately guides farmers on which sires to use and which cows to bring into the herd.

The changing dynamic of dairy farming is, however, increasing the ‘weighting’ on providing farmers with information which helps them transition from high numbers of low or moderately producing cows to fewer highly fertile, productive animals which last in the herd.

We need to consider how quickly a farmer receives a return on his or her investment in a cow. 

I frequently talk with farmers who rear high BW heifers only to find that when they enter the herd they are weak and have poor udders and have to be culled within the first lactation; many more last no more than two lactations. 

Farmers – and the country – can’t afford that wastage. Farmers need moderately sized, robust animals bred to produce and last in the herd from day one. 

Over the past few decades, focus has been on numbers but nitrate leaching and increased environmental awareness is sending a very strong message that the tide is turning with the focus turning from numbers, to productive life.

The absence of an evaluation tool which suits all farmers is seeing a shift to a growing appreciation that it’s what’s in the vat (and the back pocket) that counts.

• Hank Lina is general manager of World Wide Sires NZ and a former dairy farmer.

More like this

The figures tell the story

The challenge for Kiwi farmers to reduce herd size while maintaining or building production is generating an increase in demand for overseas genetics, says World Wide Sires.

Getting hoggets ready for breeding

While breeding hoggets can potentially increase the number of lambs weaned and income – it needs to be well managed to be successful.

Featured

Merlo goes greener

Obviously not wishing to get left behind by some of its competitors, Italian manufacturer Merlo is planning to add to its green-liveried telehandler range- with another set of green credentials in the shape of an all-new, all-electric battery-powered Merlo e-Worker model.

 

Growing a family legacy

What started with planting some acacia trees 25 years ago has become a multi-generational passion for the Hunt family in Te Awamutu.

Moves to improve winter grazing requirements

DairyNZ says it supports recommendations to the Government from an advisory group looking to improve winter grazing rules for farmers and achieve better environmental outcomes.

National

Expat workers ready for NZ

Dairy industry recruitment company Rural People Limited is seeing a huge increase in overseas interest to fill New Zealand farming…

Machinery & Products

Kubota ROPS tractors here

Kubota New Zealand product specialist Shaun Monteith says Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) tractors make up 30% of all tractors in…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Dung paint

India now has its own cow dung paint, a world-first. 

Fresh for 60 days

A Queensland-based company is set to release its own production of milk this year that stays fresh for at least…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter