Dairy’s Young Females Tick all Boxes

By Hari Yellina
Pic supplied

The current crop of young dairy cows in Australia is based on health factors like survival and fertility. These outstanding heifers, as the industry’s next bull mothers, exemplify the key lifespan, welfare, and milk quality attributes that Australian farmers require to run viable modern farms. The Balanced Performance Index (BPI) of some of these women is over 500. This list of Australia’s top 200 genomically tested dairy females, ranked by DataGene’s BPI, was revealed on Monday to coincide with the triannual official Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) bull ratings. According to Peter Thurn of DataGene stakeholder relations, Australia’s finest BPI females have a survival score of up to 116 and an average of 110. This suggests that the typical animal in this group has a 10-point advantage over an average Australian Holstein female.

“This focus on health—without compromising productivity—demonstrates how far Australia’s herd improvement has progressed,” Mr Thurn added. “Health qualities, which are crucial to profit, have never been more valuable than they are now.” However, since the BPI and Health Weighted Index (HWI) were introduced, increases in health and fertility traits have risen to the forefront of the market. The average Daughter Fertility ABV of the top 200 genomically tested Holstein cows in the United States is 113. “It’s excellent to see breeders taking on the task of enhancing Holstein fertility—it’s something the industry has been asking for,” Mr Thurn added. “And now we’re seeing the results,” says the researcher, “because the sons of these exceptional cows have a far higher probability of passing on better fertility to their daughters. This implies we’ll be able to keep breeding profitable and healthy cows in the future.”

Type, mammary, and survival were the notable qualities for Jerseys among the top 100 genomically analysed heifers, all of which are important for longevity. “At a time when there is a lot of focus on inbreeding, it’s encouraging to see that the top 100 genomic BPI Jersey heifers have 31 distinct sires represented in their pedigrees,” Mr Thurn said. Late last year, genomics became accessible in the Red Breeds, giving Red breeders and bull firms an extra layer of certainty when selecting the best bulls. “It’s early days,” Mr Thurn said, “but it’s encouraging to see our Red breeders engage with genomics.” They’re unearthing some pretty exceptional young females, so keep your eyes peeled.

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