What are the Key principles of dairy breeding?

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Breeding contributes half the performance gains in dairy herds. Genetic gain from good breeding decisions is cumulative and permanent. The Economic breeding Index (EBI) must increase year-on-year. This is recognisable in the younger animals in your herd as they will have higher EBI figures.

Genomic Selection 

Genomics selection is breeding using DNA to help better predict how well an animal will perform in the future. DNA is the backbone of genes which cause differences in performance among animals. DNA is passed from parents to offspring and is therefore fundamental to breeding. If we know how each piece of DNA effects performance, by taking a DNA sample of a calf, we can predict its performance later in life.  Reliability of EBI from genomic selection averages around 50%. This means that fluctuations in animals EBI’s may still happen, but to a lesser extent than previously.

How important is EBI?

EBI (Economic Breeding Index) is a measure of the genetic potential of an animal.  Research by Teagasc have shown us that for every €1 increase in EBI this will result in a €2 gain in net profit/ cow. So, cows with an EBI of €100 are leaving €200 more profit per lactation in comparison to cows with an EBI of €0.  The EBI is currently made up of seven-sub indexes.

How to increase Herd EBI?

Genetic gain can be achieved by selecting a team of bulls from the ICBF Active Bull List.  When selecting a team of bulls for your cows, you should pick bulls that are on average better than the genetic index for the traits you wish to improve. The genetic merit of the herd can be obtained from the HerdPlus® EBI reports.  Use the HerdPlus Sire Advice tool to allocate the selected bulls to the cows in your herd.

How to increase Bull Reliability?

Teams of bulls should be used equally not only on cows but on heifers as well. Over reliance on one or more sires is risky. By using bulls in a team (especially young GS bulls), this will minimise the risks of EBI figures fluctuating and will result in a higher reliability (95%) for the overall bull team.

Guidelines for Bull team usage