This blog features some excerpts from the February Holstein International and USDA about the status of fitness trait leaders in Holsteins.

Holstein International ranks bulls on their national index in their genetic base, using aggressive minimum criteria for productive life, daughter fertility and somatic cell counts.  Here are some quotes from an article entitled ““Triple-Plus” sires: a global assortment of absolute fitness experts”:

  • In 2005, the Triple-Plus sire required a minimum of 0.0 PL longevity and 0.0  DPR daughter fertility and a maximum 3.00 SCS somatic cell score.
  • In 2014 the prerequisites are a minimum of 4.0 PL longevity and 1.0  DPR daughter fertility and a maximum 2.70 SCS somatic cell score.
  • Lamenting the lower reliability of fitness traits – –   “truly reliable are the Triple-Plus sires with lots of second crop daughters.” 
  • The bottom line is “how are the high fitness bulls selling?”   Devan Funk from Accelerated Genetics concludes, “Bulls with extreme indexes for fitness traits, but have modest figures for production and type, still do not sell all that well.  For strong sales, a bull needs to do well in all 4 areas: production, fitness, type and the calving traits.”
  • The February HI article also includes a quote from John Cole, researcher at USDA about the weight of fitness traits decreasing in the U.S. total Net Merit Index (NM$).  “Previous revisions have generally resulted in increased emphasis on fitness, but decreases in replacement cost, increases in beef price and successful reduction of somatic cell counts have resulted in decreases in economic values for fertility (-2%), longevity (-5%) and SCS (-2%), and SCS (-2%). while the value of milk yield increased slightly.”

So where do crossbreeders turn to for health, calving performance traits and especially for fertility?  Here are some DPR averages from bulls with 50+ daughters in the U.S.* from various breeds used for crossbreeding in the U.S. (values on the Holstein scale plus heterosis from April 2014 USDA sire summary): Finnish Ayrshire 3.7, Norwegian Red 5.7, Swedish Red 5.1 and Montbeliarde 4.6. Nordic breeds in particular have been bred for decades for health, fertility and calving performance.

And thanks, Holstein International, for publishing the second All Breed Issue covering breeds for crossbreeding in March 2014: Dairy Breeds International.  We look forward to annual  Dairy Breeds issues as stated in this year’s edition.

*April 2014 sire summary: The average active AI Holstein sire in the U.S. averages 0.2 DPR, while the average active AI Holstein genomic sire averages 0.7.   With heterosis and converted to the Holstein base, average active AI Jersey sires in the U.S. average 4.0 DPR and Brown Swiss sires average 1.7.




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