May 19, 2023
The tools dairy producers have at their fingertips today are far different than what was available 20 years ago. Advancements within our industry have revolutionized the way in which dairy producers run their operations—from nutrition to farm machinery to antibiotics to genetic selection.
Yes, that’s right! Even genetic selection!
Genetic selection in the past was driven by what could be seen on the outside. Today, genetic decisions are no longer handcuffed by visible and subjective conformation traits. With modern bull proofs, dairy producers avoid making estimated correlations of what is seen on the outside of the cow with internal traits. Selecting for traits like fertility or milk components was very difficult, considering they are internal traits and cannot physically be seen.
Advancements in technology have given dairy producers the gift of using data to make decisions that fast-track genetic progress and profitability. The evolution of technology has allowed us to accelerate genetic progress on specific, non-conformation traits.
To maximize efficiency and productivity, producers should shift their mindset from selecting for what is on the outside to making genetic progress with improving what is inside the cow.
Think about how much time, energy, and thought goes into your nutrition management protocols. Your genetic and sire selection should have the same priority. Selecting genetics is a simple cause-and-effect concept. Select for X and predict Y as an outcome. But remember, outcomes to nutrition changes are seen quickly after implementation. Genetics, on the other hand, will not create change until the next generation. That’s why investing wisely in the right genetics is so important because it will take at least one generation to begin fixing the wrong genetics in your herd.
If you aren’t breeding from the inside out, here are four key profit areas to consider in your genetic selection.
- Economic index: The best way to make balanced genetic progress is using an economic index with weightings on several individual traits relevant to your dairy’s income and expenses.
- Production: Make a product relevant to your milk market.
- Health and longevity: Understand why cows are leaving your herd and investigate what diseases are wasting time and money on your day-to-day operations.
- Fertility: While male fertility should certainly be monitored, poor conception rates are only partially the male’s fault, so consider ramping up female fertility with traits like Daughter Pregnancy Rate or Cow Conception Rate.
Every uterus is valuable.
Ensure you are putting a calf in the uterus of a cow who is going to give you adequate return on your investment from birth to production. Identifying the ideal cow for your operation will be key to maximizing returns. Breeding from the inside out is a good start to making that ideal cow.
Take advantage of using tools like ABS Global’s Bull Search to determine the genetics that get you closer to creating cows perfect for your system. Implementing a Custom Index designed specifically for your milk market, environment, and management system can give you the freedom to regulate who in your herd are your most valuable cows rather than who the industry deems important. Then, you can decide which females that will create your next generation and which should be producing a high-quality beef cross calf to market.
Learn more about breeding from the inside out by reading our article originally published in Progressive Dairy.
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