Last week (10 May), more than 300 people from across Australia descended upon Jelbart Dairy at Leongatha South to hear the results of the ImProving Herds project and the experiences of the farmers involved.
Project leader, Dr Jennie Pryce, said the popularity of the day was a strong sign of the level of interest in herd improvement and how it contributes to the bottom line of dairy businesses.
Tim Jelbart shared his journey over two years of co-ownership, using science to make profitable decisions. His business advisor, John Mulvany, also spoke at the Muster.
Both highlighted the value of having plenty of replacements to create genetic pressure and generate an additional income stream.
Tim Jelbart said having heifers DNA tested means he could select the best heifers for replacements which boosts genetic gain. “And the income from livestock sales provides a buffer against milk price fluctuations,” he said.
The ImProving Herds project analysed the herd and financial records from 27 commercial dairy farms. The results showed that making breeding decisions based on data pays.
Dr Pryce said the project provided concrete evidence that cows with a high Balanced Performance Index (BPI) perform better under Australian conditions. The BPI is Australia’s economic index of genetic merit of dairy cattle.
“On average, the top 25% of cows in a herd (based on BPI) produced a margin over feed and herd costs of $300 more than the bottom 25%,” she said.
The easiest thing farmers can do to improve genetic gain in their herd is to breed replacements from bulls that carry the Good Bulls logo.
Good Bulls meet DataGene’s minimum criteria for Balanced Performance Index, reliability and are available for purchase. There is a wide range of Good Bulls, giving farmers plenty of choice for Good Bulls that meet their priorities for specific traits, budget and company preferences.”
Jared Ireland, ImProving Herds focus farmer (genetics), Lockington, NVic
“We’ve got to where we are by breeding on a budget and choosing good, affordable bulls. We focus on Balanced Performance Index – BPI.” The difference between the top and bottom 25% of the herd is an extra $585/cow/year margin over feed costs, with the top cows producing an extra 104 kg milk solids/year and lasting an extra nine months in the herd.
Sam McCluggage, ImProving Herds focus farmer (genetics), Allansford WVIc
“Our ImProving Herds results have clearly shown that high genetic merit cows generate more income over feed costs than the cows with a lower Balanced Performance Index (BPI). The top 25% of cows have a marginal income over feed costs of $356/cow more a year than the bottom 25%; and they last three months longer in the herd.”
Brad O’Shannessy, ImProving Herds focus farmer (herd testing), Cooma NVic
Herd test data underpins our decisions about culling, drying off, mastitis management, pregnancy testing and more. Although these are day-to-day decisions, having herd data turns them into important business decisions.
Jennie Pryce, ImProving Herds project leader
ImProving Herds has shown that making decisions based on data pays. Performance data from herd testing and genetic data about the herd provide powerful information that can be used to make better decisions for dairy businesses.
Farmer presenters at the ImProving Herds National Muster: Tim Jelbart, Jared Ireland and Brad O’Shannessy
ImProving Herds is a Gardiner Dairy Foundation project in collaboration with Dairy Australia, DataGene, the Victorian Government, Holstein Australia and the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia (NHIA).