Dan O Riordan, ICBF gave a talk ‘how to manage your breeding season’. He spoke at a 2019 Arrabawn/Teagasc dairy spring farm walk at Enda & Maura Barrett’s farm in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway.

The following should be considered when managing your breeding season:

1. Identify your herd’s genetics

Firstly, you should identify where your herd is at. In order to improve and make progress you need to identify where your herd’s performance is currently. This can be done by using your EBI report and Dairy Herd Performance report.

2. Define your breeding goals

Once you have identified where your herd’s performance is at, the next step is to define your breeding goals. Maybe your herd needs more kg’s of milk solids, maybe you want to improve your fertility. You need to identify these goals for your own herd as individual herd’s will have different areas that can be worked on to breed for balance.

3. Select a team of high EBI bulls from ICBF Active Bull List

The ICBF Dairy Active Bull List is a list of the Top 75 dairy AI bulls ranked on dairy EBI. This list includes bulls with an EBI reliability% > 35%, a calving difficulty reliability% > 70% and > 50 calving records included in their evaluation. This is a useful tool for selecting your team of bulls for the breeding season. Note; a team of bulls should be selected in equal porportion.

4. Breed from your highest EBI females

When selecting which animals to breed from, it is advantagous to select your highest EBI females. A lot of herd-owners choose not to use dairy AI on their maiden heifers. This can slow the rate of genetic gain as your heifers in most cases are your highest EBI females.

5. Using a stock bull? – Ensure he is genotyped

If you choose to use a stockbull this breeding season. It is important to choose a genotyped stock bull. By choosing a genotyped stock bull, you will be using a bull with as much as double the reliability on his figures. Did you know that a genotyped stockbull can have as much reliability as a new AI sire in test?

6. Use the Dairy Beef Index (DBI)

If you are choosing to use some Beef AI, use the ‘Dairy Beef Index’ (DBI). This index is for Irish dairy and beef farmers to promote high quality beef cattle bred from the dairy herd that are more saleable as calves and profitable at slaughter yet, they have minimal consequences on the calving difficulty or gestation length of the dairy cow.

7. HerdPlus Sire Advice

Once you have selected your bull team, use the HerdPlus Dairy Sire Advice application. Sire advice aims to:

  • Maximise EBI
  • Reduce inbreeding
  • More balanced herd

8. Use a team of bulls EQUALLY

Final step and possibly the most important of all is to use a team of bulls equally. Bulls figures flucuate up and down as data comes in to ICBF every two months. As the data increases so does the reliability of the index which reduces the amount of flucuation. As bull become proven, there is always the risk of figures dropping as data comes in on progeny. To address this risk and ensure that you make genetic gain year on year, a team of bulls should be used equally (e.g. 100 straws = 10 straws x 10 bulls).