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A case study with Trevor Saunders & Anthea Day

March 2015
By Lee-Ann Monks

The April 2015 ABV release will see the introduction of three new breeding indexes giving Jersey breeders more choice for selecting bulls to use over their herds. The three new breeding indices 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.

Gippsland Jersey breeder, Trevor Saunders (Araluen Park), has welcomed the new indexes. “Having three indexes allows farmers to customise their bull selections to their individual breeding priorities.”

Trevor hopes that having three indexes to choose from will encourage more farmers to use a breeding index as some part of their selection process. “It doesn’t really matter which index you use. All the bulls on the lists are good bulls that will improve the genetic merit of your herd. Using the index makes it easier to identify good bulls that best suit your individual priorities,” he said.

Breeding priorities
Trevor, and his wife Anthea, plan to use the Balanced Performance Index to select sires for their 380-cow herd which averages about 530kg milk solids per cow and 1700kg milk solids per hectare. They make sire selection decisions together, with the aim of breeding functionally sound cows that produce high protein. “In the past we’ve selected from bulls in the top of the APR list, with protein as our highest priority. We also look at type traits, especially udders and frame,” Trevor said.

Breeding cows that are powerful, aggressive foragers is also important to Trevor and Anthea. “We achieve this by using mostly bulls with Australian proofs. It’s the best way to know they had been bred to suit the Australian environment. However we do use some bulls from the US, and the odd NZ bull, for genetic diversity.”

They are looking forward to seeing the first bull list based on Balanced Performance Index in the April ABV release. “The Balanced Performance Index is the best match to our breeding priorities. It is similar to the APR which we used in the past.” They are happy that the Balanced Performance Index places slightly more emphasis on fertility, cell count and survival and a little less on production. “It makes sense that our breeding indexes should evolve as our farm and business environments change. Fertility, cell count and survival are increasingly important to our system, so the changes make the Balance Performance Index more relevant,” he said.

While Trevor is eagerly looking forward to the April ABV release, he is also keen to see a feed efficiency ABV that includes residual feed intake developed for the Jersey breed. “Once incorporated into breeding programs, I believe a complete feed efficiency ABV will have a massive effect over the long term on the productivity of generations of Jersey cows going forward,” he said.

For more information contact Michelle Axford, ADHIS Extension and Education Manager, ph 0427 573 330 email maxford@adhis.com.au or www.adhis.com.au