€10 increase in EBI means 2% cut in carbon emissions

For every €10 increase in the Economic Breeding Index (EBI) of a cow, her carbon emissions can be reduced by 2% per kg milk solids (MS), according to Teagasc’s Donagh Berry.

He was speaking at Moorepark ’17 last Tuesday, July 4, at ‘the perfect cow’ station.

“It is possible to stock a herd of crossbred cows at a higher level than Holstein Friesians (HF),” Berry said.

As well as the additional profit of “€100-150/cow/lactation”, the crossbred is also one that is suited to an Irish system.

It’s a type of cow that is ideally suited to seasonal, pasture-based dairying. Benefits include: high yields of milk fat and protein; the animal is a moderate size; excellent fertility; high intake capacity relative to their moderate size; and high productivity per unit area.

It was said that the Jersey breed is also “highly complementary” to the HF due to the large genetic distance between the breeds. Hybrid vigour is then “maximised”.

Berry described the gains in EBI, from selecting the Jersey breed, as “modest”. However, the Jersey still offers “gains in the short to medium term, at least”.

Teagasc’s Donagh Berry

In the long-term, Berry said that a proactive, futuristic approach to deliver a continued supply of high EBI Jersey genetics would be needed if we are to exploit the Jersey breed and its proven synergy with our intensive, seasonal, pasture-based production system.

One such initiative is the recent establishment of an elite nucleus herd of Jersey cows by Teagasc (NextGen Jersey).

Also discussed at the station by Berry was milk composition, which he described as “key”. “Progress needs to be made in increasing the value of our milk,” he said.

Moreover, a cow should be able to last 5.5 lactations in the herd, according to Berry, who continued to say that a target replacement rate of 18% is sufficient.

‘High EBI more profitable’

Berry said higher EBI animals were more profitable than than their lower EBI counterparts.

High EBI cows are those that are of higher genetic merit than low EBI cows.

The EBI was introduced in 2001 and focused on: milk yield; milk fat; milk protein; calving interval; and survival. It places a monetary value on each of these traits. To date, there are 18 sub-index traits in total.

Increased fertility

High EBI animals tend to be more fertile than lower EBI cows, as the fertility sub-index is higher.

“A high fertility sub-index will reduce the number of cows that require treatments for anoestrous and endometritis (uterine infection), as well as shorten the interval to pregnancy establishment after the start of the breeding period,” Berry said.

He concluded: “Every cow is exposed to uterine infection after calving but it’s about how the uterus can handle this.”