By Lee-Ann Monks.
HA board member, Patrick Glass (Kerrick Park), and his son Brendan (Amburla) love researching bulls. But when it comes to selecting sires to use over their 600-cow herd, their passion is tempered by a good dose of reality. “Our system is driven by profit. Production is very important to us but profit is also affected by longevity in the herd, so we also have to consider type and health,” Patrick said.
To be profitable, their operation at Gundowring, Victoria must support two families – Patrick and his wife Kerrie and Brendan and his wife Sarah – and a full time and a part time employee. They aim to average 8500-9000L or 580-600kg milk solids per cow from a pasture based system. “We know from our business analysis that the profit from a cow’s first two lactations only covers her rearing costs so if she doesn’t last more than two seasons she’s a loss-making animal. “We want to breed medium-stature cows that are positive for protein percentage and have large capacity and good feet and legs. Some days our cows walk up to 10km so breeding for feet and legs is important."
Patrick has welcomed the three new breeding indices introduced by ADHIS with the April ABV release. “For most of our herd we’ll select bulls from the top 20 on the Balanced Performance Index (BPI) list. We are really happy that the BPI includes production, type and fertility because we need this combination of traits to breed profitable cows; those that will have a long, productive life in our herd.”
Patrick said he and Brendan planned to also buy a small number of straws from a couple of bulls in the top 10 of the lists for the Health Weighted Index (HWI) and the Type Weighted Index (TWI).They will use these ‘specialist’ sires for corrective mating over specific cow families. For example HWI bulls will be used over families that are persistently hard to get in calf and TWI bulls will be used to improve the type in a couple of cow families. “For those small numbers we are prepared to accept there’s a slight compromise in gains in production traits,” he said.
Having been involved in the process to develop the three new breeding indices, Patrick said he was confident each would help farmers achieve their breeding objectives. “The three new indices are relevant to the main breeding philosophies that were identified from the NBO review process. Every dairy farmer in the country had opportunities to explain the kind of cows they need to breed for today’s environment. The new indices were developed to meet these needs.
Patrick said improvements to data collection and transfer would result in more reliable breeding indices which would continue to build farmers’ confidence in them. “Data is a big industry challenge but the improvements that have been made so far are already making a difference. A good example is Fertility – more data, better models and genomics means there are triple the bulls with Fertility ABVs in the Good Bulls Guide compared to 3 years ago. I am expecting the breeding values to continue to become more reliable and that’s going to mean they’ll be used even more widely by dairy farmers and the genetics industry,” Patrick said.
For more information contact Michelle Axford, ADHIS Extension and Education Manager, ph 0427 573 330 email firstname.lastname@example.org or www.adhis.com.au