How to drive a spring herd genetic gains

Using genomics together with three breeding indices to pick bulls has positioned a Welsh herd within the spring on the high of the rankings for fertility and protein manufacturing.

Rhys-Davies, who milks 100 Holstein Friesians in Flintshire below the Ffrwd prefix, initially milked Holsteins, however began rearing their calves in 2001.

Nevertheless, a research journey to Eire as a part of a Farming Join administration change 4 years in the past satisfied him that strong breeding choice instruments might assist him breed better-performing black-and-white cows.

Rhys-Davies speaking at the conference

Rhys Davies © BCBC

See additionally: How a herd of spring calves bought began utilizing genomics

“The one cause we crossed was as a result of we wished a straightforward delivery,” explains Mr Davies.

A few of the disadvantages of crossbreeding, he says, is that he could not do genetic testing for these animals, and the whites and whites appeared to outperform the crossbreeds.

Farm Details: Moore Farm, close to Holywell, Flintshire

  • Milks 100 Holstein Friesian plus 80 Youngstock
  • He sells milk to Arla
  • Calves from March 1 to Could 10
  • Promote ​​breeding inventory
  • Free of charge from March by November
  • A mean of seven,500 liters with 4.59% fats and three.65% protein
  • A cow produces 618 kg of stable milk yearly
  • He purchased 10 hectares (25 acres) from the county council; He nonetheless leases 30 hectares (73 acres) from council and 40 hectares (100 acres) for silage from 4 house owners.

Davies determined to make use of a mix of Holstein Friesian genes from around the globe to hurry up genetic acquisition.

These included bulls with excessive breeding indices estimated from Eire, bulls that ranked effectively for breeding worth (New Zealand Breeding Index) and high bulls from the UK Spring Calving Index (SCI).

He makes use of AHDB’s Bull Finder to get a British evaluation of any non-British bulls, which he says turns all the pieces into “one language”.


Genetic cow calves are examined when they’re two weeks outdated after which graded in keeping with protein proportion, fertility index, upkeep and mastitis.

Calves are matched with one of the best sires to steadiness the traits accordingly.

“Genomic testing of calves has change into as necessary as weekly turf gauging. With out them, I do not know which calves to maintain. It is like going into the flawed area.

“If we get a cow that must be improved for cell rely, I might use a excessive SCI Holstein bull.

“If we’ve a calf with good well being traits, however they should enhance their elements, I might use a excessive proportion bull from Eire or New Zealand,” Davies says.

Surplus calves are offered at fortnight or on the bullfight for £250, £300 and £1000 respectively.

Sexual semen is used on calves and cows for the primary six weeks of breeding and traditional semen is used on any of one of the best repeat cows after the primary service.

Semen from Aberdeen Angus is used for the rest of the animals, together with the poorest animals from the beginning of the mating.

Cows that fail to conceive throughout the nine-week breeding interval are launched once more in November and offered to fall calves as soon as they’re confirmed to be younger.

“This makes £1,500 to £1,600 in earnings quite than losing them as a culling,” Davies says.

Collars are used to detect temperatures, with 84.7% of cows giving delivery at 9 weeks.

Cows graze from March by November, with calves skilled on electrical fencing as soon as they’re weaned from milk.

The milkers transfer to recent grazing fields after every milking, in 12-hour shifts. The grass is mowed beforehand, which Davies believes stimulates intakes, particularly in early lactation.


Alt and binary are actually within the high 1% by way of fats, protein and fertility, based mostly on the weighted age index from Mr Davies’ most up-to-date AHDB herd genetic report.

Sooner or later, he hopes to enhance cell counts, because the flock is at present ranked within the seventieth percentile for this trait.

He additionally needs to give attention to the EnviroCow trait, which will likely be launched in 2021. This contains cow age, milk manufacturing, fertility, and feed conversion.

Rhys-Davies was talking on the 2023 British Cattlemen’s Convention on January 25

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