Thursday, 28 March 2019 08:21

No longer so sure about BW

Written by  Hank Lina, general manager of World Wide Sires NZ and a former dairy farmer
Does NZ need a new BW evaluation tool? Does NZ need a new BW evaluation tool?

OPINION: Breeding worth (BW) was introduced decades ago and has served farmers well as a breeding guide – or has it?

The national herd is a good representation of its legacy: small cows which produce, on average, 380kgMS.

Times and demands have changed however: now farmers are faced with radical change because to maintain viability while protecting the environment they need to reduce the size of their herds and maintain or improve profitability. And that requires a new approach: fertile cows which consistently produce more than 550kgMS over a longtime.

The New Zealand Animal Evaluation Unit recently conducted a weightings change to the BW index which saw kg of fat increase – favourably impacting Jerseys and some crossbred cows with a consequent increase in Jersey and crossbred sire rankings.

Turning the tide in favour of Jerseys was welcomed by farmers who flooded social media with endorsing comments. It’s good to see the breed come back into the spotlight as it’s been the foundation of many highly productive Kiwi herds.

But that breed endorsement was drowned out by a clamour of confusion from farmers who, in the main, say BW doesn’t necessarily mean a profitable cow.

We all know farmers who will point out their top cows: sometimes they have high BW but more often than not they don’t.  Often they have low BWs because they are the offspring of an overseas sire or dam which doesn’t have a NZ ranking.

It’s a dilemma AEU has grappled with – how to provide a fair ranking which accurately guides farmers on which sires to use and which cows to bring into the herd.

The changing dynamic of dairy farming is, however, increasing the ‘weighting’ on providing farmers with information which helps them transition from high numbers of low or moderately producing cows to fewer highly fertile, productive animals which last in the herd.

We need to consider how quickly a farmer receives a return on his or her investment in a cow. 

I frequently talk with farmers who rear high BW heifers only to find that when they enter the herd they are weak and have poor udders and have to be culled within the first lactation; many more last no more than two lactations. 

Farmers – and the country – can’t afford that wastage. Farmers need moderately sized, robust animals bred to produce and last in the herd from day one. 

Over the past few decades, focus has been on numbers but nitrate leaching and increased environmental awareness is sending a very strong message that the tide is turning with the focus turning from numbers, to productive life.

The absence of an evaluation tool which suits all farmers is seeing a shift to a growing appreciation that it’s what’s in the vat (and the back pocket) that counts.

• Hank Lina is general manager of World Wide Sires NZ and a former dairy farmer.

More like this

The figures tell the story

The challenge for Kiwi farmers to reduce herd size while maintaining or building production is generating an increase in demand for overseas genetics, says World Wide Sires.

Getting hoggets ready for breeding

While breeding hoggets can potentially increase the number of lambs weaned and income – it needs to be well managed to be successful.

Featured

 

Fonterra back in the black

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell says 2019/20 was a good year for the co-op, with profit up, debt down and a strong milk price.

Strategy to reduce heifer mastitis

First calvers are more prone to mastitis than older cows. According to DairyNZ, farmers must choose a strategy that best suits their herd, farm team, and budget.

National

Live cattle exports in limbo

The fate of 28,000 cows in quarantine in New Zealand and supposedly destined for China in the coming weeks hangs…

Farm values down — REINZ

A floating and volatile situation – that’s how the Real Estate Institute of NZ rural spokesperson Brian Peacocke describes the…

Putting farmers first

The NZ agriculture sector is more than just a job for CRV Ambreed’s new managing director James Smallwood.

Graziers quitting!

Some Southland farmers who graze dairy cattle in winter say they will not do it next year.

Machinery & Products

Mowers get a makeover

Well known throughout New Zealand over the past 18 years, Pottinger has redesigned its rear-mounted Novadisc mowers to incorporate a…

Hardy spotlight

High quality, reliable lighting is essential for anyone involved in agriculture or the great outdoors.

Simmm twin water blasters

Italian made Simmm Power Cleaner 100/11 and Power Gun 100/11 single-phase (230 volt) electric water blasters are proving popular in…

OPD argument raging on

A stoush is brewing with the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) heavily criticising Farmsafe Australia’s recent Safer Farm Report.

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Cows and earthquakes

OPINION: It has long been suggested that animals have senses that humans don’t, and often behave differently than usual shortly…

Battle is on

OPINION: One of Australia’s biggest dairy businesses is back on the market after the Federal Government knocked back a bid…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter