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Genetic Advances: Keeping up with the Evaluations

Breeders like to have benchmark numbers that they can refer to when selecting bulls, buying embryos or selling animals. Numbers like 2000 TPI™ just a few years back were unattainable but now have been surpassed. Some breeders are saying that they cannot keep up with the fast pace while others are taking rapid breed advancement in their stride. The Bullvine decided to study and report on the genetic advancement that has been made over the past few years.

Continuous Turnover at the Top

Five to ten years ago TPI™ for the top USA proven sires remained the same in composition and value year after year.  Back then proven sires stayed current for three to five years. Well that has changed.  We have new norms on the rates of change and the length of time daughter proven bulls are used heavily. From April 2012 to April 2013 ten new bulls entered the top twenty TPI™ list and the average TPI™ of the top twenty increased by 44 points going from 2150 to 2194.  In Canada fourteen new sires were on the top twenty LPI list in 2013 compared to 2012 and the average LPI was 292 points higher. No longer can breeders pick a bull and expect him to remain a list topper for at least three years.

Expecting More of Young Sires

The rate of change is even more evident in the young unproven bulls. Table 1 contains the averages for the top twenty young sires by year of birth. The source for this information are the CDN files and reports as these were readily available for the young sires genomically tested and sampled or about to be sampled in North America.

Table 1: Average Young Sire Indexes

Birth yearLPIMilkFatFat %ProteinProtein%CONFMammaryFeet/LegsStrengthHerdLifeSCSDaus Fertility

Note * Not all young sires born in 2012 have yet been released for sampling
All indexes listed are on a 2013 base

From the top twenty young sires born in 2009 to those born in 2012 their LPI  increased by 80 points per year. The 2012 crop are significantly higher for their type indexes with higher values also for Herd Life and Daughter Fertility.

The top twenty young bulls born in 2012 and that will be sampled are all by high genomic young sires with fifteen of them from dams whose sires are proven bulls.  The genetics industry continues to change at the rate that bulls are used and then replaced by other newer sires that are superior.

Heifers Rise Higher Too

Our study and analysis on heifers could only go back to 2011 as by 2013 they are milking and their own performance forms part of their indexes. However Table 2 shows that the top heifers have higher fat and protein yields and percentages and high indexes for Herd Life and Daughter Fertility. These are important changes for breeders that sell or buy embryos or heifers. Many of the points that the Bullvine has been recommending are being seen in the top heifers: – hold on to milk yield but increase fat and protein yields and percentages and pay more attention to productive life and fertility.

Table 2: Average Heifer Indexes

Birth YearLPIMilkFatFat%ProteinProtein%ConfMammaryFeet/LegsStrengthHerdLifeSCSDaus Fertility

Note * Only includes heifers born January to April in 2013
All indexes listed are on a 2013 base

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Both breeders and marketers of dairy cattle genetics face the reality of faster rates of genetic advancement and animals remaining list toppers for shorter periods of time. The trends seen in heifers of holding the milk while increasing fat and protein and increased emphasis on longevity and fertility can be expected to continue.  Genomic evaluations have been a major contributor to these changes but so also has breeder acceptance of the need for long lived profitable dairy cows that are able to perform while requiring less labour. With each new index release run breeders can expect to see new list toppers. Use the best and move on from the rest.

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