Genomics are being used in many dairy herds around the world and while debate rages about whether it is a good thing or not, Scott Ruby from Fir Ridge Holstein Farm, Oregon in the United States believes it is.
Mr Ruby runs two farms milking 650 cows which graze pasture for seven months of the year.
He spoke about how he has implemented genomics in his herd at a seminar at this year’s International Dairy Week.
Mr Ruby said he is in the business of improving the female population of the herd not selling bulls to AI, so that is where his breeding program is focused.
He has created his own index for bull selection, breeding 35 per cent for production, 35 per cent for type and 30 per cent for health and fitness.
All his bull choices are based on that index.
“I think it is important that you have your own index, what you want to achieve for your own herd, and follow that,” Mr Ruby said.
“We like to spread the risk and use many different genomic bulls, around 30-36 each year.
“We breed for type and production and we genomic sample the top 25-30 per cent of our calves each year. The top animals are used to create IVF embryos for transfer.”
Kevin Jorgensen from Select Sires said while there will always be a place for proven sires in the dairy herd, genomically tested bulls will help farmers achieve their breeding goals quicker by shortening the interval between generations.
“You can make quantum leaps genetically and there has been a lot of work done, particularly around polled bulls for example,” Mr Jorgensen said.
He said in-breeding was a problem that needed to be addressed and it was always important to look for unique matings and outcrosses.
“We live in the most exciting time in cattle breeding history. Decide which technologies help you achieve your long-term goals and if you select for what you want when it comes to breeding, you will make progress.”
Mr Jorgensen said it was also important to remember not to give up on breeding from the best genetics when times were tough. He said if you continue your breeding program you will be well rewarded when things turn around.