EBI value set to change – What does this mean for your herd?

The ICBF has revealed that the base cow – the genetic reference point for the EBI of all dairy cattle in Ireland will be updated in August.

According to ICBF Geneticist Francis Kearney, the EBI of the Holstein Friesian base cow will fall by €71 and this will bring the EBI value of all dairy cows and bulls down by a similar figure.

Presently, the EBI is based on a cow born in 1995 with milk records in 2000, but from August on it will be based on a 2005 born cow with calving and milking reports received in 2007.

Kearney added that the new EBI will mean that there will be a reduction in the production and fertility sub-index values and this will cause the overall EBI to fall.

“Although the reduction in production and fertility is a positive reflection of genetic processes,” he said.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of improving there fertility of the Irish dairy herd, he said, but farmers are moving in the right direction.

“If the base cow was to remain the same then the figures would keep rising but they would be meaningless because they would not be a correct representation.

Really what farmers need to do is focus on looking at their EBI reports and see what issues they have within their herd.

“Farmers should ensure that the bulls they select are greater than the average herd genetic merit for traits of interest.

“If they want to improve a certain trait such as protein yield then they should select for a bull which will enhance the desired trait,” he said.

According to the ICBF, farmers can breed for key traits using the EBI system such as higher solids production, reduced calving interval and increased survivability in the herd.

Changes to breeding indexes are not uncommon

Kearney said that it is not uncommon for the base cow figure to be updated periodically and it is usually updated every five years in other countries.

But, he said that this is the first time that the Irish base cow figure will be updated in 10 years.

“This is because EBI has only being recently introduced and changes were being made to it.

“It would be difficult to change the base cow so soon when farmers are only getting used to the system. The change will not impact on farmers breeding policy,” he said.