Breeding the right type of cow and breed selection causes much debate among dairy farmers, but how exactly can farmers breed the correct cow for their system?

According to Teagasc’s Dr Donagh Berry, the EBI is one of the most important factors to consider when selecting for the future genetics in a dairy herd.

The Quantitative Geneticist will present research findings at Teagasc’s upcoming National Dairy Conference, in Kilkenny on December 8. Farmers are asked to register for this year’s conference which has a new format of ‘breakout’ sessions for practical advice.

The message remains the same and the EBI will work to produce a profitable cow in the post-quota era.

EBI – The message is still the same, the EBI is still the right way to go, it is the only way to go

Berry added that he will further discuss how the EBI is key to reducing the impact of price volatility on Irish dairy farms through improving yields (kg of milk and milk solids) and fertility.

“EBI is still the right way to go, it is the only way to control costs during periods of milk price volatility.”

However, Irish dairy farmers should not lose focus on increasing milk solids yield and this can be achieved through three methods.

Three Methods of Increasing Milk Solids Production
  • Selection based on genetics
  • Selection for longer lactation length
  • Selection for a longer life in the dairy herd

Fertility also has an important role to play in cow selection, he added, as poor fertility is one of the biggest costs on the dairy farm and it can cost as much as 1.5c/L.

Poor fertility is one of the largest costs on dairy farms and it costs in the region of 1.5c/L, farmers should focus on moving from 4 to 5.5 lactations. This will also give a 40% increase in milk production.

“Five lactations is still too low farmers should aim for 5.5 lactations,” he said.

The potential of the Irish dairy herd will also be discussed and how further gains in milk solids production can be achieved as a result of milk quota abolition.

The Irish dairy herd has yet to met its full potential as restraints placed on production by quota canceled out the genetic gains made in terms of milk production, said Berry.

The genetic gain in milk production is 1%, but milk solids yield on farm has not been improving due to the influence of quotas.

Selection of milk production alone will not work and this will have a negative impact on the fertility of the dairy herd.”

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New Breakout Sessions for this year’s Dairy Conference

The format of this year’s Teagasc National Dairy Conference has been changed to benefit farmers, according to Teagasc’s Tom O’Dwyer.

According to O’Dwyer, the change will allow farmers to attend sessions that are relative to their own farming business. The new structure will also give farmers the opportunity to ask more questions.

Previously farmers had to sit through all of the papers at the conference, but now they can focus on topics that may be of interest to their own farming business.

“This move will allow more individual farmers the opportunity to ask questions that are relative to their farm business.”

The changes to the event include the formation of seven breakout sessions which will discuss a range of topics relevant to dairy farmers and each session will be repeated three times daily.

There will be seven breakout session carried out each day which will be repeated three times throughout the day. Farmers attending have the opportunity to attend three of these sessions.

Teagasc has also urged farmers to register for this upcoming conference to ensure they reserve a place at the breakout sessions relative to their business.