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Genetic Progress Report case study: Paul & Louise Sherar

19/07/13

Gippsland dairyfarmer, Paul Sherar, was one of the first in the country to receive a Genetics Progress report for his herd. While the results confirmed his selection decisions are taking the herd’s genetics in the right direction, he’s looking forward to using this report as a benchmark, and future reports to track progress.

Mr Sherar and his wife Louise share farm for Phillip Ould at Loch in South Gippsland. They are also one of the GippsDairy Focus Farms, a discussion group where they share the details of their business with neighbouring farmers, service providers and a mentor.

While they currently milk 300 cows off 105ha, they have been expanding the herd by keeping all heifer calves. With 420 cows due to calve next season the couple need to access more land in the very near future.

Mr Sherar describes the herd as ‘liquorice allsorts’: it includes Jerseys, Holsteins, Brown Swiss and a variety of red breeds and crossbreds.

“Our focus is on profitable production. When we bought the herd in 2008 it was all jerseys, averaging about 4000-4500L/cow. We started cross breeding for hybrid vigour,” Mr Sherar said.

“Average production is now almost 6000L/cow with the three year olds out-producing many of the older cows.”

The Sherars retained a portion of the herd as purebred jerseys; and have two home-bred jersey bulls to mop up the heifers after AI and to hand mate to some empty cows.

“Regardless of the breed or cross, our breeding objective is to increase profit, components and type using bulls with higher reliability,” he said.

As part of their role as focus farmers, ADHIS produced a Genetics Progress Report based on the Jerseys in the Sherar’s herd. The report shows 10-year trends in a herd’s genetic progress for key traits such as Australian Profit Ranking (APR), fat, protein, type, longevity, mastitis and fertility.

“We only bought the herd in 2008 so much of the trend lines in the report reflect the breeding decisions made by the former owners, but the report does go up to 2012 so the trends since 2008 reflect our decisions,” he said.

Mr Sherar said that overall the report confirmed that their breeding decisions were taking the herd’s genetics in the direction he wanted.

“We generally choose bulls from the Good Bulls Guide that rank in the top 10 for APR. We don’t buy expensive straws; there’s always plenty of bulls in the top 10 that are reasonably priced.”

The report shows that since 2001, the genetic merit of the Sherar’s jersey herd has improved by 20kg protein, 8% longer survival and $220 more profit per cow per year.

Steady improvements in the herd’s genetic merit for APR have seen it climb from well below the Jersey breed average in 2001 to about breed average now. Fat, protein and longevity have followed similar paths.

The herd’s genetic merit for type has steadily increased and is well above breed average.

“Each of the key traits appears to be continuing to improve since we took over. The report confirms that using the APR as our main selection criteria is working.”

The APR accounts for traits which influence profit such as production, components, fertility, cell count, temperament, milking speed and liveweight.

“In the future I’ll be very keen to keep a close eye on these trends. If any trait drops down, it will be an alert to re-think our selection decisions.”

Mr Sherar has recently sent hair samples from two home-grown bulls for genomic testing.

“The results will give us an idea of how our home-grown bulls compare with bulls in the Good Bulls Guide. If they are not up to scratch, they’ll be going!” he said.

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