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Tackle your weakest traits with good breeding decisions this autumn


Use the Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) to support your semen buying decisions for autumn and youll be well on the way to improving the poorest traits in your herd and increasing your profits, says DairyCo geneticist Marco Winters.

It might sound obvious but its important to look at your herds strengths and weaknesses, says Marco, consider what qualities the bulls need in order to improve your herd.  Qualities youre likely to include are Lifespan and Fertility. For Lifespan index >0 is good and for Fertility Index >0 is good.

Marco recommends following a six point plan to help make the best breeding decisions:

  1. Use the PLI as the initial screening tool in bull selection. The PLI represents the financial improvement an animal is predicted to pass on to its daughters in its lifetime.
  2. Focus on the top 50 percent of bulls available, ideally with a PLI of over 70, and try to avoid those with a PLI of less than 50.
  3. Look within this group for the traits youve identified as those that need most improvement.  Though this will vary between herds it should include lifespan, SCC and Fertility.  Consider health and fitness traits first, then type traits.
  4. Choose a group of four or five bulls with different strengths and weaknesses and pick at least one of these with a positive direct calving ease score for maiden heifers.
  5. Buy more semen from each of your high reliability bulls and less from each of the lower reliability bulls.
  6. Avoid inbreeding which can be checked using breeding programmes offered by most AI companies and breed societies.

Be aware when selecting bulls of different breeds that the PLI value is within that breed, so you cannot make direct comparisons across breeds.

For more information visit the Breeding & Genetics section in the Farm Info Centre at, or visit DairyCo at the Dairy Event and Livestock Show on stand MM357, hall 18.

DairyCos aim is to promote world class knowledge to British dairy farmers so they can profit from a sustainable future.

To achieve this DairyCo aims to: 

  • Ensure farmers have access to world class information needed to improve competitiveness, GHG reduction and productivity
  • Ensure farmers have access to direct and indirect support to help them improve their profitability through better business management
  • Ensure that dairy farming is reducing its impact on the environment
  • Ensure farmers understand the benefits of breeding and use the related tools

DairyCo is funded entirely by milk producers, via a statutory levy on all milk sold off-farm, at the rate of 0.06p per litre.  This provides an annual income of around 6.5m.

DairyCo is a division of the statutory levy board, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)

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