04 Apr 2016

The right breeding for your farm

The Dairy Industry in the UK is going through the most difficult time that it has for many decades. It is therefore more important than ever to breed the right type of cow for your system and your farm. Some systems and management can cope with the more extreme type of dairy cow while others on a more grass based system and less intensive require a stronger more robust type of cow.

I strongly believe that the black and white breed now has something to suit everyone on all systems.  Most farmers want a cow that has the right balance between strength and dairyness- milk and longevity. A cow that is not too tall, but has the length and good body confirmation. Legs and feet are not too sickled or too straight with clean bone and good sound feet with good locomotion, a mammary system that has good attachments and teats of a moderate length with good texture and veination.

Type Classification plays an important role in achieving this type of cow. The scheme was set up many years ago in order to identify the strengths and weaknesses in high yielding dairy cows. Classification identifies which traits need improving on cows, therefore giving the farmer an opportunity to use certain bulls to rectify these faults. Classification is no longer aimed at the elite pedigree breeder but is a very useful management tool for every farmer whether pedigree or commercial. Cows that are scored ‘excellent’ are the pride of every farmer. They are the cows who have stood the test of time, usually cows that are balanced in all the traits and box breakdown when they are scored.

Too many people are of the opinion that all excellent cows are the show cows. This is certainly not the case because show cows need style and ring presence and have a tendency of a little superior management throughout the year. There have always been and always will be a difference between show cows and commercial cows although the difference is far less today than it has been in the past. The amount of data that is collected during classification is immense, all of which is useful towards bull proofs and the overall management of cows.

The extra value on cows that are registered and classified is money well spent. Even when cattle prices are not as good as they have been, pedigree and classified cows always sell at a premium. The added value plus the amount of information available for management purposes makes classification a must in modern day farming. I believe that classification will work well side by side with genomics for the future. You can DNA your calves but the DNA is a prediction where classification is actual.

Looking into the future, milk prices certainly govern the day, but breeding a cow that has the right balance between strength and dairyness- the right balance between production and longevity, is a must and that cow needs to perform under fairly commercial management. Cows need to be of fairly high type because when you have cows to sell, the better looking ones always make more.

When it comes to selecting bulls, I have nothing against bringing new blood lines from other countries but I believe that every farmer should use some bulls that have been bred and proven in the UK. We need to promote and market ourselves and not depend on others to do it for us.

Type Classification is a service available to members to assist in breeding a trouble free, long living, high production cow. The assessment of 22 linear type traits to produce 4 composite scores and the analysis of 5 welfare traits has been proven to directly impact cattle productivity. In the past 5 years, there has been a 20% increase in classified cattle representing the direct link between breeding the right type of cow for your system and farm profitability.

Highly graded animals are proven to have a considerably higher value than non-classified animal. Specific strengths and weaknesses are highlighted allowing improved corrective breeding decisions to be made, and the general standard of conformation to be improved across the herd. Cattle of a better conformation are proven to be more productive, less demanding and longer-living.

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