It’s time to unpack the bull catalogs and shoulder length gloves – the breeding season is in full swing. Breeding decisions are among the most important that are made on the farm.
could spend hours bull selection. The Sire Advice Tool on ICBF is excellent – you can set specific EBI traits that complement your herd profile.
I have a love-hate relationship with EBI. There is a lot to love about the Irish EBI system; EBI is based on seven breeding objectives for Irish dairy farming, with production and fertility each accounting for 34 per cent of the overall focus.
Production traits are designed to conform to the A+BC Irish milk payment scheme, applying a negative to the volume aspect of production and a positive to fat and protein.
One of the best things about the EBI system is that when the weights are compared internationally, Ireland has the greatest emphasis on fertility of any comparable breeding program.
This reflects our seasonal calving system and the importance that fertility plays in grass-based dairy farming.
Given that production had a 70 percent weighting in the early stages of the EBI in 2000, the industry has made tremendous strides and the improvements are reflected in cow performance through fertility, survival and milk solids.
On the other hand, when I looked at the top 75 active bull list this year, I found it difficult to meet the criteria I have for our herd.
We want a cow that suits the system and the environment in which she lives. She needs to be able to walk steep hills, so size is a key factor.
The amount of money and feed that goes into keeping a cow can be significant and of course the larger the cow the higher the cost of keeping it.
When a cow is big, it has three times as much work to climb dirt roads. For every kilometer walked, a cow uses 2 megajoules of metabolizable energy, which increases to 6 MJ if she has to do it up a steep hill.
The average maintenance value of the top 75 bulls is €12, which corresponds to an adult live weight of around 580 kg.
When you consider that the average adult Friesian cow in New Zealand weighs 505 kg, a different perspective emerges.
Where are the bulls that fit the phrase “500kg MS from 500kg live weight” we’ve heard so many times?
Why are almost half of the bulls in the active bull list hailing from either Kilfeacle Pivotal or Ballygown Albert?
The answers to these questions are the same, and it all depends on reliability. There is great value in increasing the reliability of young sires for AI companies.
The greater the reliability, the greater the accuracy and less variation in the EBI as evidence.
The reliability of a young bull at birth is about 35%; in genotyping it could increase, but the magnitude of the increase depends on the amount of genetic information that is readily available from all aspects of ancestry.
Herds that place more emphasis on producing elite sires are often represented in sire catalogues, as most of the time the dams are genotyped and more targeted choices are made to produce sires with high genetic value and high reliability.
In comparison, the majority of dairy herds may not see the benefit of genotyping calves due to the costs involved.
So if we want to see a larger pool of efficient pasture sires, we need to encourage all herds producing these excellent genetics to genotype their cows.
We cannot complain about the reliability of EBI and genomic bulls if we are not willing to participate in the process of generating these bulls.
EBI has stood the test of time – compared to international breeding programmes, it has a solid foundation based on the key elements of a profitable Irish dairy farming business.
Increasing the pool of genotyped animals will increase the availability of the efficient pasture sires that many farmers would like to see. Just like the lottery – if you don’t participate, you can’t win.
Our adult herd weight averages around 530kg whilst OAD adds a little more live weight in body condition than a herd maintenance value of €31 would suggest.
Gillian O’Sullivan farms with her husband Neil near Dungarvan, Co. Waterford
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/dairy/dairy-advice/gillian-osullivan-i-cant-find-the-traits-i-want-in-the-top-ebi-bull-lists-and-ive-worked-out-why-41599108.html Gillian O’Sullivan: I can’t find the traits I want in the top EBI bull lists – and I’ve found out why