By Lee-Ann Monks
Tim Humphris from Northern Victoria is one of the many dairy farmers keenly awaiting the new Health Weighted Index (HWI) which will be available for the first time with the April release of Australian Breeding Values (ABVs). Tim and his wife Lyndal run a 3-way cross breeding program with Aussie Reds, Jersey and Holsteins for their 330-cow herd, located near Tongala. “We have about 30 registered Aussie Reds and I’ve always held a strong interest in breeding, especially selecting bulls,” said Tim.
When making breeding decisions, Tim gives higher priority to health and fertility traits over production. A vet for 15 years before turning to dairy farming, he was well aware of the declining fertility in Australian dairy herds. “Improving health and fertility in our herd was the main reason we opted for the three way cross program. In the past I’ve selected primarily on fertility and longevity, giving next priority to production,” he said.
Tim says the new Health Weighted Index embodies what he’s been trying to breed for. He is expecting the HWI to take away the hard slog of the research dairy farmers have had to do in the past. “As soon as the Good Bulls Guide comes out I’ll go straight to the bull list sorted by Health Weighted Index for each breed. I’ll be able to quickly make a short list of bulls that are potentially suited to our herd. Then I will evaluate bulls on my short list a lot more closely.
Although he has his animals classified, Tim doesn’t take much notice of type when selecting bulls. “Our breeding program is very focussed on improving health and fertility. All bulls in the Good Bulls Guide will deliver gains in production, so that’s a given. We believe that improving health and fertility as well as longevity are the next most important contributions breeding can make to improve our dairy business.”
While Tim is excited about the potential benefits for his own herd, he believes the biggest benefit from introducing the three new breeding indices will be for the industry as a whole. The three new breeding indexes are:
· Balanced Performance Index (BPI): focusses on maximising net profit through production, fertility and type; replaces the current Australian Profit Ranking (APR).
· Type Weighted Index (TWI): focusses on improving overall type, mammary system, udder depth and fore udder attachment.
· Health Weighted Index (HWI): strongest focus on fertility, cell count, feed efficiency and survival.
“Three indices will give farmer more choice. We all have different breeding priorities and having three indices will allow us to customise our bull selections to our individual needs. “Farmers will be able to follow a single index for a number of generations to make significant gains in their herd for their chosen priority. Collectively that’s going to result in more consistent and sustainable gains across the national herd.”
For more information contact Michelle Axford, ADHIS Extension and Education Manager, ph 0427 573 330 email firstname.lastname@example.org