Dairy cow genetics in the spotlight (14 August 17, 550 words)

The rising popularity of genomic (DNA) testing of female dairy cattle means DataGene’s release of Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) puts the spotlight on the top herds and cows, as well as bulls.

DataGene’s Genetic Evaluation Manager, Michelle Axford, said the August ABV release saw more herds competing for the top genomic females lists than in the past.

When genomic testing first became available to Australian dairy farmers in 2011, a few leading dairy breeders tested a limited number of females. So, the list of top females was dominated by these herds.

With many dairy herds now routinely testing each heifer drop, the number of genetic tests ordered in the past year has increased by about 40%. There are now 66,355 females with genotypes (see table).  

“August’s top genomic female lists reflect this. For example, the Holstein top females list has an increase of 50% herds contributing top females compared to the April 2017 ABV release,” she said.

Australia’s top genomically tested Holstein cow is Glomar Goldwyn Lucky 4319, bred by the Johnston family of Sale Victoria, with a Balanced Performance Index (BPI) of 399.

The BPI accounts for the traits that affect profit, production and longevity in the herd. A BPI of zero represents the average of mature, Australian cows, so at 399, Glomar Lucky has the genetic potential to contribute an extra $399 a year in profit.

There’s stiff competition vying for other places in the Holstein Top 10 females. Several leading breeders have strong contenders: the Ireland (Redmaw, Lockington, Vic), Lillico (Hindlee, Smithton, Tasmania) and Lister (Calister, Calivil, Vic) families.

At a herd level, Trevor and Leah Parrish, Kangaroo Valley NSW continue to hold the position of Top Holstein Herd with an average BPI of 144. They are followed by Daryl Hoey (Beaulah Park, Katunga, Vic), Hogg family (Adlejama, Biggara, Vic) and Kitchen family (Carenda, Boyanup, WA).

Australia’s top genomically tested Jersey cow is Kings Ville SCD Belle 78, with a BPI of 337, bred by Rob and Kerrie Anderson, Drouin West, Victoria.

First place for Jersey herds is shared by Daryl Hoey (Beaulah Park, Katunga, Vic) and Con Glennen (White Star, Noorat, Vic) with an average BPI of 118.  

In the Red Breeds, the Graham family (Beaulands, Nowra, NSW) continues to hold the top spot with an average BPI of 107.

Mrs Axford congratulated all the breeders involved, recognising that their achievements were the result of many years of focussed breeding decisions.

“Every joining is an opportunity to improve the genetic merit of your herd. The impact of each joining decision is permanent and compounding. Each of these farmers have demonstrated what can be achieved by making every joining decision count.”

Mrs Axford said the easiest way to improve the genetic merit of a dairy herd is to always use bulls that carry the Good Bulls icon.

There are plenty of bulls to choose from that carry the Good Bulls icon. Bulls that meet the Good Bulls criteria in the August ABV release include more than 900 Holsteins, 135 Jerseys, 20 Red Breeds, 12 Guernseys and 40 Brown Swiss.

To qualify for Good Bulls status, a bull must meet the minimum requirements for Balanced Performance Index (BPI) and reliability and be available for purchase.

Look up Good Bulls using the Good Bulls App or by visiting www.datagene.com.au

DataGene is an initiative of Dairy Australia and the herd improvement industry.

ENDS

Stats about DataGene's August ABV release