Australian dairy farmers have the opportunity to improve the genetics of their herds to assist in achieving more profit, better fertility and other trait improvements.
By introducing the right genetics into their farm business, farmers can permanently lock in the genetic benefits carried by good bulls into all future offspring. Small improvements in cow production, fertility, longevity and in other traits are obtained each generation, which add up over time to become substantial gains. A superior sire will improve these traits in a herd.
Consistently selecting superior AI sires accelerates the rate of genetic gain in a herd. Conversely, making a poor sire selection will lock in small losses for many years to come as their poor genes are passed down the daughter line. It takes the same amount of time and effort to choose a good AI sire as it does to select a poor AI sire.
A number of tools are available to help farmers identify suitable breeding bulls including the Good Bulls Guide and app.
About a third of the productivity improvements farmers have achieved in the last decade have come from better genetics and most of this is from using superior bulls. DataGene has a number of tools farmers can use to identify bulls suited to their breeding objectives.
Good Bulls Guide
The Good Bulls Guide is a simple way to choose bulls backed by strong, independent science. Bulls listed have been identified by DataGene's independent, scientific assessment using the world's best practice genetic evaluation. The guide helps farmers compare apples with apples, regardless of the company or country from which the bull is sourced.
The Good Bulls app was designed in consultation with dairy farmers and advisors. It builds on the Good Bulls Guide to make building a bull team easy for farmers. With detailed Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) on over 20,000 bulls, Good Bulls helps farmers to sort, filter, short list and export bulls to match their breeding objectives.
- View latest Good Bulls Guide
- Download the Good Bulls Guide App
Using the Good Bulls Guide is simple:
Choose your index
To support farmers in breeding a more profitable herd, DataGene presents three breeding indices which reflect the breeding philosophies of Australian farmers. For information on choosing an index, view the DataGene page on Australia's three breeding indices and then use the Good Bulls Guide to choose bulls on your index.
Using hundreds of thousands of mating records collected through data centres around Australia, DataGene produces Semen Fertility Values for bulls with more than 400 matings. Semen fertility values relate to the ability of the bull's semen to get cows in-calf. The results are released with ABV releases and published on the DataGene website.
Cow Breeding Values
ABVs are an estimate of the genetic merit of dairy cows and bulls. ABVs measure the traits or characteristics a cow is likely to pass on to her offspring and allow farmers to compare the genetic merit of cows between Australian herds. Cow ABVs are available for over 40 different traits.
Cow ABVs provide information to help breed the type of cows farmers want with data including milking speed, fertility, and type.
When breeding cows, it is usually bulls that stand in the spotlight. However, genetic information for cows is also useful. Use Cow ABVs to:
- Monitor herd genetic progress
- Prioritise animals to breed from (if excess replacements are available)
- Identify heifers for sale (if excess replacements are available)
It is now estimated that over half of artificial breeding purchases are from young genomic bulls. Genomics involves large-scale analysis of DNA markers which leads to being able to predict the potential performance of bulls and cows. Historically, the major use of genomics has been for bull selection but it is now being used more to identify the best heifers born and confirm parentage.
The dairy industry is aspiring to double the rate of genetic gain in Australia through the use of genomic selection.
Genomics is delivering significant benefits to the Australian dairy industry through:
- Improving the section of young bulls to progeny test by AI companies
- Providing more reliable information for younger bulls for traits like fertility
- Selecting superior females at a younger age to breed replacement heifers
For more info on how genetics works, check out this short video.
Genomics has been available in Australia since 2011. Genomic information is routinely used to calculate genomic Australian Breeding Values – ABV(g)s – for dairy sires and also for females. The analysis is primarily done from a hair sample, allowing animals to be tested from a very young age.
Cow ABV(g)s provide farmers with more reliable information to help breed the type of cows they want. Cow ABV(g)s estimate a female’s genetic merit for breeding the next generation. This means the information is useful when making decisions about rearing, joining, flushing, selling and purchasing both the individual and her progeny.
The Cow ABV(g) report provides breeding values using DNA data alongside the conventional pedigree and performance information.
More reliability means more confidence making breeding decisions. The reliability of cow ABV(g)s is significantly greater than conventional breeding values. Genomics adds the equivalent of seven lactations to the reliability of the cow’s breeding value.
Dairy Australia invests in organisations such as DataGene and DairyBio to assist farmers with decisions and resources.
DataGene is an independent and industry-owned organisation that is responsible for developing modern tools and resources to drive genetic gain and herd improvement in the Australian dairy industry, through research, development and extension activities. DataGene brings together many ‘pre-competitive' herd improvement functions under the one umbrella, including genetics, herd testing software, herd recording software and data systems.
Dairy Australia is DataGene’s primary funder. More information about genetics is available on the DataGene website.
Major new innovations in genetics are undertaken by DairyBio. DairyBio is a joint venture between Dairy Australia and the Victorian Government that invests in large-scale research projects to deliver improved pasture and animal options. This helps to build a more resilient and profitable dairy industry.
Visit the DairyBio website for more information.