Positive year one results for Teagasc’s next generation research herd were announced this week by Principal Research Officer Dr Frank Buckley.
The herd which was assembled in 2012 represents a futuristic view of the national herd and is made up of two thirds elite cows with high EBI and a control group representing a national average.
Speaking at the Irish Grassland Association Dairy Conference in Kilkenny the Teagasc researcher said: “the most encouraging finding in year one is the fact that a large difference in fertility performance became apparent from early in the breeding season.”
“With the exception of incalf rate at the end of the 12 week breeding season, the various measures of fertility recorded were on or close to target values for with the elite cows.”
In terms of production in year one Buckley outlined that: “The cow’s performance was very much in line with the trends expected form their relative breeding values for production.”
The elite heifers had a lower milk volume but a substantially higher milk composition. The net effect was identical milk solids yield (kg fat plus kg protein); 340kg.
According to Buckley: “Ability to respond to concentrate supplementation would appear similar for both genetic groups.”
Over the course of the first lactation the control heifers were slightly heavier but had a lower condition score to the elite group. The difference in condition score was consistent throughout the lactation.
Buckley commented that while individual pasture intakes were not conducted in year one, results from grass measurement would suggest that intake levels were similar for both genetic groups.
He said: “This would suggest a slightly higher energy balance with the ELITE heifers which would concur with the findings relating to body condition score.”
In his speech Buckley noted that: there is a danger that the positive performance of the elite next generation cows during year 1 of the study may be viewed as an end to the fertility problem.
He noted while the results are very favourable they must be view in the context that the elite cows represent the very best of Black and White genetics available. He stressed that the average Irish dairy farmers are some generations from this performance.
According to Buckley: “The preliminary results in year one confirm that the EBI is taking us in the right direction, but Irish dairy farmers cannot afford to become complacent.”
He said: “the next generation herd is fundamentally good industry research and a project that will provide clear and precise indications of the compatibility of the EBI with future management decisions going forward.”