“A genetic selection index is like a steering wheel. It shapes the direction of the future dairy cow,” Jennie Pryce told those attending the American Dairy Science Symposium “The Dairy Cow in 50 Years.”

“In Australia, we have three indexes to help guide genetic decisions,” said the Agriculture Victoria and La Trobe University geneticist. “Dairy farmers can choose to use the Balanced Performance Index, Health Weighted Index, or Type Weighted Index.” Most breeders use the Balanced Performance or Health Weighted Index, she further explained.

While indexes may be the selective tool of choice given various weighting to traits, dairy farmers didn’t rank production traits as high as other priorities.

“Among the top five traits for genetic improvement, no production traits ranked in the top five,” noted Pryce when displaying survey data on the screen. “Mastitis, longevity, fertility, udders, and lameness were among the top traits Australian dairy farmers wanted to improve.”

To help dairy farmers make selection decisions, Australia’s genetic team created a phone app to go with the three new genetic indexes. “Farmers can now select bulls from their phones,” Pryce told those attending the ADSA meeting in Pittsburgh, Pa., on June 27.

There are around 1.66 million dairy cows in Australia, the dominant breed is Holstein followed by Jersey. Both breeds now have the opportunity to also select for feed saved (known as feed efficiency in the U.S.) and heat tolerance.

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July 10, 2017
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