With 600-700 cows in herd recording, John Lillico (Hindlee), has plenty of data. He recently discovered the Genetic Progress Report makes that data work for him as a management tool.
Drawing upon his herd recording data, the Genetic Progress Report shows the impact of John’s breeding decisions and tracks his herd’s genetic improvement over time.
John, and his wife Vicki, dairy near Smithton in Tasmania’s north west, with help from two to three employees. About three quarters of the herd calves in spring, with the rest calving in autumn. Production averages at 9000-9500 L/cow/year from a predominantly pasture-based feeding system. Cows receive about 2½ tonnes of concentrates in the dairy each year.
Although John has always taken a strong interest in breeding and genetics, it has been in the context of operating a commercial dairy business.
The herd’s Genetic Progress Report shows it ranks in the top 10% for Australian Profit Ranking and well above the national average for type, longevity, fat and protein.
The results confirmed that John’s breeding strategy over the years has worked. He selects bulls based on high APR and type.
“We have always believed in the science behind the APR system. We’ve always selected from the top bulls for APR while paying close attention to their ABVs for type. And our report confirms our experience: that following the APR for selection delivers us the most profitable bulls,” he said.
John uses a combination of bulls bred in Australia and overseas.
“When we are looking at bulls from overseas, I’ll use their ABV(i) if they are available. We find them more reliable than the breeding values from their country of origin.”
The Lillicos have traditionally used progeny test straws over a small portion of the herd but in the past 12 months have transitioned across to using genomically tested young bulls instead.
“We are looking forward to seeing the full proofs from these bulls when their daughters come into production,” he said.
John’s main interest in the report was the traits it highlighted for improvement.
“My initial reaction to the report was that it highlighted the traits we need to keep focussing on, particularly mastitis and daughter fertility. It also showed how mating decisions from year to year can quite dramatically affect the herd’s overall genetic trends and therefore profitability. It certainly puts a new perspective on the data from our herd,” he said.
John said he was both surprised and disappointed by the herd’s graphs for mastitis resistance and fertility, although both sat at about national average.
“Daughter fertility has become a big focus for us because we don’t want to cross breed. I think genomics will help us identify young bulls that rate well for both profitability and daughter fertility. I will certainly be taking a keen interest in our future reports to see if we are making progress with fertility.”
Like many herds, Hindlee’s graph for genetic progress for mastitis resistance fluctuates from year to year.
“The mastitis graph made us step back and look at what might have contributed to the curve going up and down. I think it may be due to using some promising young bulls that didn’t have a lot of daughter data and a couple of them fared quite badly for mastitis resistance. That dates back to the pre-genomics years and I’m hoping genomics will help us avoid those sort of mistakes in the future,” he said.
John is keen to see the herd’s Genetic Progress Report each year.
“It’s a good tool to keep us focussed on profitability plus I will be keen to watch the herd’s genetic trends for fertility and mastitis in the coming years.
Genetic Progress Reports are available through your local herdtest centre. If you’d like to learn more about what your herd’s Genetic Progress Report means, ADHIS is running workshops and attending field days across dairying areas. For details on the next event near you, to request an event for your group, contact Michelle Axford, ADHIS Extension and Education Manager, ph 0427 573 330 or email email@example.com.