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Breeding 2017

Breeding Update from Carbery / Teagasc Joint Programme

As provided by John Mc Namara of Teagasc

There is a certain amount of confusion about the EBI breeding figures for 2017. This is because the ICBF updated the figures with the latest data after a lot of the AI sales brochures had been published. We are where we are with the figures at this stage and I don’t look at the previous figures anymore. The current figures  (March 2017) we have are the most accurate and up to date and they are the only figures you should look at when choosing your AI sires for this season.

There is a great selection of AI sires available. You should choose bulls off the ICBF active bull list. These are bulls that all have produced calves so they have a survey of calving difficulty. I recommend never using a Sire of greater than 1.5% calving difficulty (based on actual calves born) on a heifer. A heifer is doing enough of a job for you in her first lactation in calving at all and producing milk without running the added risk of a difficult calving. In fact my personal preference is to only put heifers in calf to Jersey, to guarantee an easy calving.

You are making decisions now choosing sires that will affect how easy or difficult next year’s calving season will be. Again I recommend only using bulls with less than 3% calving difficulty on mature cows, and this figure applies to any beef bulls you may use too. Of course big mature cows can calve AI sires with higher calving difficulty but you are increasing the risk of a difficult calving and all the subsequent labour problems that will cause next year. One cow down creates more work than 20 extra cows calving.

You are paid for the Kgs of fat and protein you sell off the farm and there is a charge for the milk (or water as I say) that this floats in. This charge is to cover the cost of transport and processing of this water. So you should concentrate on selecting bulls that have more kgs of solids than your herd has already. Choose bulls that have at least 0.1% for both fat and protein if you want to make real progress in improving your milk composition and therefore milk price. Sire Advice on the ICBF website is a great tool for choosing bulls. You can choose the main areas you want to improve and it will suggest the best bulls for this.

Most of the bulls available have a genomic proof only. This is the average of their parents plus their genomic information. A bull will be 7 years old before he will get a high reliability daughter proof, especially for his fertility as his daughters have to calve down for a second time to get high reliability. So it is vital that you always use a team of at least 5 genomic bulls, to spread your risk. Too many farms have been only using one or two genomic bulls and this can lead to a big drop (or increase) in the EBI of their replacements.

Herd Fertility is still the biggest factor in determining how much money the herd will leave you in any year. Compact calving to fit in with your grass supply, with a long lactation is the way to maximise profit. Until you are happy you have fertility of 85% plus calving in 6 weeks and less than 9% not in calf after 12 weeks breeding, then your first priority in choosing bulls is their fertility index. I suggest using no bull less than €100 for the fertility sub index.

The same criteria one uses for selecting AI sires should be used if you are buying a dairy stock bull that will produce heifers that you will milk. EBI is an economic breeding index so cows of €100 EBI are leaving €200 more per lactation than cows with an EBI of €0.  (Twice her EBI as her EBI is half her genetic merit, the amount she will pass on to her calf, and the calf gets the other half from the sire).  A lot of stock bulls have very low EBI.