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With the breeding season now only weeks away, farmers are starting to make decisions on what bulls to use this Spring. To get a better understanding of the best advice to follow, it would be useful to study the attached slides which are summarised in the text below.

Dairy Breeding Update; Does Genomics Work?

Recent research, presented by Pat Dillon (Teagasc Moorepark), clearly shows the gains that are being made through the adoption of EBI.  It highlights that since its introduction in 2002, the average EBI for first calving heifers has been increasing at an average of €8 per year.

In the same period milk solids have increased by 75kg and fertility has seen gains of ~10% units on the key metrics. These gains equate to between 4-5 cent per litre of milk produced.  These gains have also been evident in the various HerdPlus reports.

With about 75% of AI usage to young genomic bulls, it clear that farmers are confident in the genomic technology and are seeing the improvements on the ground in the stock they are breeding.

While previous work by Teagasc has indicated that proofs for individual young GS bulls can change by +/- €110, proofs for the initial daughter proven bull can also change by +/- €90. Even the well proven bull can see a movement of +/- €50 in EBI.

ICBF are also seeing evidence of some over-prediction in more recent evaluation proofs. These differences are apparent across all categories of AI bulls, as all categories still have genomics included in their proofs, especially for fertility traits. The average drop in EBI across all categories of bulls was €17, with the largest drop (-€35) coming for imported Jersey bulls with a daughter proof. This over-prediction is consistent with experience internationally and work is ongoing to account for this bias.

If farmers were to only use fully proven bulls this Spring (i.e. greater than 90% for female fertility evaluation), then they will be at a distinct disadvantage in terms of EBI. The top 20 proven bulls are about €70 poorer in EBI when compared to the top 20 genomic bulls.  This equates to about €140 per animal in terms of extra profit as previous research from Teagasc has shown that for every €1 increase in EBI, there is a €2 increase in profit!

In summary, farmers are advised to choose the top EBI bulls from the ICBF Active bull list. While proofs can fall for genomic selected bulls, they can also fall for proven bulls. Using a large team of bulls (minimum of 8 bulls) will minimise any risk from a bull proofs falling. Finally, farmers should use the HerdPlus Sire Advice application to apply the best mating combinations to their herd.

Wishing you well in the breeding season.