Temperament, ease of milking, calving ease and maintenance traits can make a difference to the smooth running and management of your farm.
Management traits allow a streamlined and undisrupted milking routine and have increased in importance as farm dynamics have changed over time. Let’s look at each of them in more detail.
Although rearing and handling are key to shaping a cow’s temperament, the clear genetic component to this trait has led to the calculation of genetic indexes for temperament in the parlour. This PTA is expressed on a standardised scale of -3 to +3, with the highest indexes indicating the predicted transmission of a placid temperament.
Ease of milking
Genetic indexes for ease of milking are also expressed on a -3 to +3 scale. Lower minus figures represent hard-milking cows, while high positive figures predict very fast milking and daughters potentially running milk.
The Maintenance PTA is published as a stand-alone trait that estimates the feed efficiency differences of animals and allows farmers to select bulls accordingly.
The cost of maintaining a cow is related to its weight, so a cow weighing 600 kg will have a lower feed requirement for its maintenance than a cow weighing 700 kg, even if they give the same amount of milk.
As we don’t routinely weigh dairy cattle, we’ve studied the traits most closely related to the cow’s weight. These are stature, chest width, body depth and angularity, and they’re used to indicate the costs of maintenance.
Figures for Maintenance Index are expressed on a scale of roughly +50 kg to -50 kg, giving an indication of the average difference in weight expected in a bull’s daughters. Negative figures are desirable, as they’ll help producers to breed cattle with lower feed costs.
The Maintenance PTA of individual bulls should be used as part of a broader breeding strategy.
Dairy Carcase Index
The Dairy Carcase Index (DCI) has been developed primarily for producers sending dairy youngstock to the beef supply chain or rearing their own beef.
It’s calculated from weight, age and carcase information from most major abattoirs in the UK, and it’s mainly based on average daily carcase gain and carcase conformation.
It’s expressed on a scale of about -5% (bad) to +5% (excellent), and an increase in the index predicts improved carcase conformation and average daily carcase gain in a bull’s progeny.
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