Thinking of using next-generation bulls for the 2021 breeding season?

With the 2021 breeding season just around the corner, Progressive Genetics recently published its G1 Dairy Sires catalogue for the coming year.

These bulls are at the very early stage of their production cycle but a limited number of doses will be available this season, the company says.

While there’s always a risk using G1 bulls, given there’s no field fertility or calving data on them, their impressive EBI figures are sure to be a major draw for lots of farmers – but should be used sensibly.

AgriLand spoke to Deirdre Toal, cattle breeding advisor with Progressive Genetics, for more on this subject.

Teams

“The way we’ve presented the G1 catalogue this year is slightly different in that we’ve presented them in [specialist] teams of bulls,” Deirdre explained.

“We would encourage people to base these teams depending on what their own objective is to improve – whether it’s the high EBI team, or the fertility team etc.”

Noting that the catalogue presents the teams in table format, providing the average sub-index and production scores across each team, she explained the importance of choosing what complements your herd best:

“There are over 100 high-ranking genomically selected young bulls in the catalogue; the highest-ranked bull in it has an EBI of 362 – but there’s over 56 bulls with an EBI of over 300 there.

So, look at them all: Decide what you as a farmer want from your team of bulls this year; prioritise what you really want to improve by using these young bulls – or any selection of bulls – and then pick from the teams, keeping in mind that there won’t be high availability of any one of them.

“You can’t have everyone looking for the top bull because you won’t have enough semen of the top bull for everybody.

“Also, just because he’s the top bull doesn’t mean he’s the best bull for everybody. He mightn’t have the exact criteria that everyone is looking for, just because he has the overall highest EBI.

“Spread it out depending on what you’re looking for.

We have them in different teams: the high EBI team; the fertility team; the maintenance team; a health team; an EBI and type team; a percentages team; crossbred team; and a high milk and solids team.

“There’s 57 bulls there with a fertility sub-index there of over 130, there’s 100 bulls with a mix of 34 different sires – that’s important as well, that you’re spreading the genetics as well.”

Genetic diversity

Highlighting the importance of genetic diversity – where everyone is not picking from the one gene pool – the advisor added:

“They’re coming from a broad range of cow families as well. That’s reflective of the whole policy behind the breeding programme, to promote a genetic diversity as much as possible and still use the best sires and dams that are available out there to us.

In terms of why farmers should use these, obviously they’re the best genetics available out there; they’re the next generation of bulls and there’s a wide variety to suit everybody no matter what their criteria is.

However, Deirdre warned farmers to “spread the risk” due to a lack of field fertility data, stating that best practice is that people should use a team of them – and not use any more than 10 of any one particular bull.

“We have seven of the top G1 bulls available, including the number one.

“There’s bulls there with a production subindex of over 120, there’s a lot of bulls with over 40kg of combined fat and protein; there’s black and white bulls there with a plus 0.30 on fat percentage, plus 0.2 on protein percentage, so there’s some really excellent bulls there,” Deirdre concluded.