High priority on health: A case study with James Neal (Dec 2014)

James Neal is looking forward to using the new Health Weighted Index as a tool in selecting sires to use over his 600-cow herd.
Of the three new breeding indices to be available with the April ABV release, Mr Neal believes the health index is well aligned to his selection priorities. He dairies near Taree on the NSW mid north coast, with his wife Katrina and parents Peter and Cheryl. “Ultimately we want an easy care, efficient cow that lasts longer in the herd, and the two big contributors to that are improving mastitis and fertility,” Mr Neal said.
With a herd that is 70% Holstein, 22% crossbred, 5% Jersey and 2% red breed, Mr Neal says his breeding decisions are commercially focussed. “I spend quite a bit of time researching the options before buying sires. I like to use the data from the Good Bulls Guide because the information is independent. I download it from the ADHIS website so that I can sort sires in a number of different ways,” he said.
Mr Neal creates a short list of potential bulls sorting for protein (kg) and fat (kg) and secondly by excluding any that are negative for fat or protein per cent. He then examines the sires remaining on the list in detail, paying particular attention to longevity and some type traits. He usually ends up selecting three or four sires for each of the breeds in the herd. “I think the Health Weighted Index is going to help me short list sires that are well aligned to our breeding priorities.”
By selecting bulls from the Good Bulls Guide, Mr Neal knows he is using bulls that will improve milk production and components. Mr Neal says there are many benefits from breeding for longer lasting cows. “Cows last a long time in the herd because there’s no reason to cull them. They are the cows that require less attention – they get back in calf easily and they are healthy and productive, year after year. As well as being a pleasure to have in the herd, long lasting cows bring the added benefit of needing fewer replacements.
For more information contact Peter Williams at DataGene ph (03) 9032 7191 or email