Record graduation rate a testament to genomics: 27 young bulls join LIC’s AI teams

A record number of young bulls have joined LIC’s elite bull teams this spring, with twenty-seven bulls making the cut and ready to help sire the next generation of profitable and efficient dairy cows.

The 2018-born bulls secured their spot in the team after their superior performance that was predicted by genomics was validated by herd testing data from their first crop of daughters which are now being milked on farms across New Zealand. 

LIC Livestock Selection Manager, Simon Worth, says the co-op’s continued investment into genomic science is helping to drive profitability on farm by identifying elite artificial breeding sires at a young age.

“With genomics we combine a bull’s DNA and ancestry information to get a more reliable prediction of its performance at a young age. We’ve been investing and refining the use of genomics in our breeding programme for decades, and this year’s graduation rate is a testament that this cutting-edge science is delivering results and predicting star performers with accuracy.”

Worth says this time of year is always a highlight for his team who are responsible for LIC’s breeding scheme; from the contract matings through to selecting young bulls to join the co-op’s Sire Proving Scheme. 

“It’s a phenomenal graduation rate, there’s no doubt about it. We’re really pleased that these selected graduating bulls were sired by 17 different bulls so in addition to turbo-charging the genetic merit of our [bull] teams, they’re also ensuring genetic diversity.

Worth says being selected for a Premier Sires bull team is no easy feat.

“The bar is set extremely high, and rightly so. When we select our bulls, it’s first and foremost about how they rank on Breeding Worth (BW). If they tick that box, we then assess them for a range of other traits farmers are looking for in their cows.

“The addition of these bulls is based on extreme indexes, and a balance of production efficiency, udder conformation and management traits that help farmers breed better cows.”

Worth says using elite bulls to sire the next generation of replacements is an important tool to help farmers tackle climate challenges.

“Breeding the best cows, faster is key to helping farmers remain profitable and sustainable. A strong focus on herd improvement and consistent use of high-BW bull teams will deliver results on-farm by breeding cows that produce more and are more emissions efficient.” 

Worth says not only did this year’s Spring bull graduates break an LIC record, they also made an impact on the NZ dairy industry’s Ranking of Active Sires (RAS) list, which ranks bulls from all breeding companies according to their Breeding Worth.

Of the top-30 bulls across all breeds*, 13 are the co-op’s new Spring bulls with two of the new graduates occupying the number one and two spot – KiwiCross bulls Gordons Flash-Gordon and Schraders Trader.

The record number of bulls drafted into LIC’s NZ elite teams also gives more genetically superior options for LIC’s UK bull teams. In the new year, a selection of these new graduates will be available to British dairy farmers.

*data as at 28 October Animal Evaluation run

by Michelle Lamerton
International Marketing Coordinator
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