Equipped with traits such as efficiency, health, and longevity, dairy producers now have access to more knowledge about breeding traits as they engage in the sire selection process. These additions have made sire summaries more complex, though.

Sire summaries can also be confusing to read because they include a lot of acronyms, abbreviations, and terminology. To help us understand, dairy educators Matt Lippert and Ryan Sterry broke down some of the basics of dairy sire summaries in a recent University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension article.

The main parts of a sire summary include:

  • Animal and pedigree information: Registered name, National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) code, breeder, sire, dam, and maternal grandsire
  • Production traits: Milk, fat, protein, and so forth
  • Type: Overall final classification score, udder, feet and legs, body composite, linear profile: detailed breakdown of body, udder, feet and leg traits
  • Fitness and additional traits: Calving ease, daughter pregnancy rate, productive life, sire conception rate, mastitis, metritis, and so forth

To point herds in the right direction, some indexes focus on traits such as production, fitness, and type to generate a number that is used to rank sires. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) utilizes merit ranking traits based upon research and how economic and heritability can add value to the dairy farm. The extension educators focused on heritable traits that are highly influenced by genetic decisions.

  • Net Merit Dollars (NM$): Designed to reflect the economics of the U.S. dairy industry. NM$ places a weight of 52% on production and efficiency, 35% on health and fertility, and 13% on type traits.
  • Cheese Merit Dollars (CM$): Places a heavier weight on milk components with a slight negative weight on milk. Best reflects the economics in markets pricing milk used for cheese production.
  • Fluid Merit Dollars (FM$): Pricing is reflected by the Federal Orders in Southeast U.S. where compensation is placed more on fluid milk production compared to certain milk components.
  • Grazing Merit Dollars (GM$): Prioritizes the need for mobility and cow fertility within grazing herds.

Another index to note is the use of breed-specific indexes. These indexes are put in place by breed associations based upon the highest priority traits that they have determined.

Undesirable traits such hair coat color, milk protein profiles, and horned versus polled can be avoided by utilizing sire proofs that contain genetic codes to help with mating decisions. Circumstances such as inbreeding can be prevented by keeping accurate herd records and maintaining the cows’ pedigrees. The extension educators denoted, “Many A.I., animal wellness, and breed organizations offer computerized mating programs that will take pedigree information into account and manage inbreeding for you.”

With an abundance of data and terminology, reading sire proofs can be overwhelming at times. Select an index that fits your herd’s needs and prioritizes traits you want to focus on. To make it easier, some producers assign this responsibility to their genomic testing provider, breed association, or A.I. company. Whatever route you choose, understanding the basics is a step in the right direction when it comes to making mating decisions.

To comment, email your remarks to intel@hoards.com.
(c) Hoard's Dairyman Intel 2024
June 3, 2024
Subscribe to Hoard's Dairyman Intel by clicking the button below