by Simon Worth, LIC bull acquisition manager
There is little doubt 2016 will be remembered as a year LIC was supreme on the Holstein Friesian scene. It’s a year the cooperative offers a wide array of choice – from those wanting bulls that dominate on protein, to those that want sires to excel in the fertility stakes. Should it be udders, capacity, or out-and-out index – the black n whites are certainly here! Although they’re physically at Newstead, Hamilton, the highest ranking sires belong squarely to LIC shareholders.
When we refer to highest ranking, that’s exactly what we mean, as illustrated by DairyNZ’s Ranking of Active Sires list, published after each Animal Evaluation (AE) update. Based on the AE run on 13 February, the cooperative is proud to bask in the fact the top 16 Holstein Friesian bulls are eating grass at Newstead.
In fact, when reviewing the top-50 bull list, LIC’s name is against 44 of them!
A genuine acknowledgement of thanks goes to the breeders that work with LIC to create this pool of (soon-to-be!) influential bulls. These elite bulls that look likely to become Premier Sires and Alpha selections should not only become household names, but are likely to go on to have a significant financial impact on the overall industry.
In terms of new bulls returning to service after being progeny tested, 2015-16 has been another exceptional year. No fewer than nine new graduates, from six different sires-of-sons, have made their way to the draft Premier Sires and/or Alpha selections. To see nine bulls emerge, forcing their way into this exclusive pool of likely players, is an impressive effort. The current draft Premier Sires team, selected after February’s Animal Evaluation update, boasts a phenomenal 241 BW.
Aside from the nine new graduates, what’s remarkable is that this BW will be met by 22 Holstein-Friesian bulls. Putting the 241 average into perspective – the highest, single, opposition bull has a current BW of 227. LIC believes shareholder investment in genetics must result in herds that are more efficient converters of feed to profit. There is little doubt the bulls available this season will deliver the kind of genetic gain demonstrated in the BW they offer.
While this is the ultimate goal, we remain mindful that cows require more than an ability to efficiently produce milk: This explains why not all bulls ranked highly on BW meet Premier Sires standards. For example, cows also need strong udder attachments – allowing them to cope with (i) the increased pressure that comes with higher volumes; (ii) the physical capacity to compete and get their share of feed, and; (iii) the ability to walk to the paddock, conceive, and stay in-calf.
Given the above, a ‘balanced approach to breeding’ is the focus of LIC’s bull acquisition team. BW is extremely important, but it is not everything. Obviously the bulls we market are at the upper end of the ‘bell shaped curve’.
In the diagram below, the blue line shows the variation when a group of bulls graduate with a proof. To the right, the coloured area indicates those that are selected to contribute to the national herd through Premier Sires and Alpha Nominated (‘national’ references the national herd).
The table below lists examples of bulls that are almost certainly available this year through Premiers Sires and or Alpha Nominated. These have been ranked on just some of the traits we understand to be important to dairy farmers – protein, fertility, capacity and udders.
The percentile relates to how the relevant bull ranks for the given trait against all other Holstein Friesian bulls (ie. bulls above 75% reliability). For example a 90% means he is better than 90% of all contemporary bulls for that trait.
On review of the ‘percentiles’ you can be assured your cooperative is delivering you the very ‘best of the best’
Article first published in The Bulletin, Autumn 2016 edition. For more stories, see The Bulletin webpage.