Updated breeding indices help fine-tune breeding objectives

Health and business performance underpin refinements to Australia’s dairy breeding indices, as the industry improves how animals are evaluated to reflect the evolution of the nation’s herd improvement priorities.

These updates make it easier to choose animals to fast-track breeding priorities such as fertility and mastitis resistance.

DataGene has retained its Balanced Performance Index (BPI) and Health Weighted Index (HWI) but adjusted the emphasis of specific traits. It has also removed the Type Weighted Index (TWI) and replaced it with a top list ranked by Overall Type and Mammary. These updates were implemented in the 7 December release of the Australian Breeding Values (ABVs).

Breeders wanting specific type information can access the new Type Tables in DataGene’s Good Bulls Guide.

DataGene Chief Executive Officer, Dr Matt Shaffer said the changes reflect industry feedback and should make it simpler for farmers to achieve their breeding goals.

“The top animals for BPI are quite different to the top animals for HWI,” Matt said.

“This allows farmers to identify animals with greater strength in fertility, for example, if that’s a breeding priority.”

Some changes to animal index values and reranking has occurred. The increased emphasis on health sees animals that are strong for health traits rise in BPI and HWI values and rank.

This doesn’t mean production isn’t a priority though, with bulls which excel in health and production coming out on top.

“It’s raised the ranking of animals with superior health traits such as mastitis and survival, but they must still have good production ABVs to reach the top of the breed list,” Matt said.

The updated BPI remains the best option for choosing animals based on a balance of traits which contribute to a farm’s bottom line, such as production, health, fertility, type, workability and feed efficiency.

Review process

The updated breeding indices follow a six-month review, including an industry survey, analysis of farmgate and commodity values for fat, protein, feed and labour as well as a scientific review.

Results from the National Breeding Objective survey earlier this year showed daughter fertility was the highest breeding priority.

Australian indices were used by more than three quarters of respondents. BPI was nominated as the most useful index by 71 per cent of respondents, 24 per cent favoured HWI while 16 per cent chose TWI. Only 4 per cent of respondents said they relied exclusively on TWI.

Economic values for feed, labour, fat and protein have been updated to reflect recent markets.

The fat and protein price ratio remains at 0.50 as the Dairy Australia analysis couldn’t identify a significant long-term change in farmgate and commodity pricing to warrant changing the ratio. If a significant and lasting change occurs, the indices will be updated to reflect this.

For more information contact: www.datagene.com.au.
DataGene is an initiative of Dairy Australia and the herd improvement industry.


Media enquiries: Lee-Ann Monks 0419 349 244 lmonks@datagene.com.au

Farmer comments

Janet Auchterlonie

"As a seasonal farmer, improving my herd’s health and fertility has increased the milk solids per cow. A focus on breeding for these traits has extended my cow’s days in milk because they calve earlier. Knowing they will get back in calf every year, the herd has more days in milk over a lifetime. Cow efficiency underlines my business profitability. The new HWI is designed for a seasonal calving herd like mine. An index with a strong weighting towards health and fertility will help future-proof my bottom line.” 

Janet Auchterlonie, Gippsland.

“The HWI is more positively weighted towards fertility, survivability, and mastitis resistance. From my perspective, if you are operating a pasture-based seasonal calving herd, the HWI has a lot to offer.”

Tim Humphris, south west Victoria.


“The indices are a breeding tool designed to help farmers and breeding advisors make the best business decisions. For those farmers who want to hone their breeding focus and make selections based on specific traits in combination with the BPI or HWI they have that capability.  Equally, the BPI and HWI as standalone indexes are suitable for those who want to simply select good bulls with ease and confidence."

Simone Jolliffe, Wagga Wagga, NSW.




























datagene About DataGene: DataGene is an independent and industry-owned organisation responsible for driving genetic gain and herd improvement in the Australian dairy industry. DataGene’s activities include genetic evaluation, software development for herd testing and herd improvement and data systems. DataGene is a Dairy Australia and industry collaboration.
www.datagene.com.au Ph 03 9032 7191
E: enquiries@datagene.com.au