Breeding Improvement

​Breeding for improvement in dairy cattle

Modern dairy cattle breeders can be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of breeding data available to them from many different sources. NBDC aims to guide breeders through this data minefield to help them make informed breeding decisions.

Cattle breeding data can be divided into two distinct categories, phenotypic and genetic.

Phenotypes: Classification scores, milk records, lameness records and show results.

Genetic: PTA breeding values, PTA type linears for conformation, genomic test results and genetic traits such as coat colour and polled status.

The NBDC database holds a vast array of phenotypes and genotypes.

Genetic Evaluation Publication Dates

  • - Tuesday 8 August 2017
  • - Tuesday 5 December 2017

How should a breeder use these resources?

Phenotypes should be used to inform management decisions such as culling, feeding and general husbandry. For example, a high yielding, trouble free cow, regardless of its genetic merit is worth keeping on the farm as an efficient milk producer. Phenotypes therefore tell us about actual dairy performance.

Genetic data should be used to make breeding decisions such as sire selection and mating choices. Genotypes tell us about potential performance in the average UK dairy herd environment. The best breeding animals can be more accurately identified by using genotypes rather than phenotypes, as the effects of different management, such as feeding for example, are removed from the genotype data.

The Breeding Toolbox

In order to make best use of phenotypes and genetics, NBDC offers breeders a suite of breeding software applications within the Breeding Toolbox. These applications help breeders make informed decisions on breeding and management.

General Advice

NBDC is at your disposal to guide you through the minefield of cattle breeding data. Please do not hesitate to contact us for pragmatic and impartial advice.

 

PERFORMANCE STATISTICS

NBDC has collated the results recorded in the UK for Registered animals from lactations produced over the two forage seasons from spring 2013 to autumn 2014. Spring 2013 was itself unusually cold, late and harsh, limiting forage availability early on. More recent grazing and forage conservation conditions were generally more favourable.

Evidence also suggests that milk yields of English herds, were also suppressed by the effects of the Schmallenberg virus during the summer of 2013 (Prof. Joe Brownlee, Royal Veterinary College, London). Breeding indices for all breeds have continued to move further from focussing on yields, and more towards the selection for health, fertility, fitness, conformation and longevity traits. (AHDB, 2014). Average yields for 2014 have recovered to near previous levels for all breeds, influenced by both improved climatic conditions and economic factors.

 

THE BREEDING TOOLBOX LINKS

 

The Breeding Toolbox incorporates useful tools to aid with informed breeding decisions. Capitilising on years of experience within the industry, these NBDC tools are designed to increased efficiency of day to day on farm activities. The tools encompass elements of management, education, breeding and benchmarking, resulting in a rounded support package for users. 

Please click on the links below to explore each of the breeding tools.