The latest bull genetic indexes have been released today (Tuesday, 5 April) by AHDB Dairy. Farmers Guardian takes a look at the latest figures and tables to see which sires have risen to the top.
New genetic indexes for daughter-proven Holstein bulls reflect the continuing trend towards percentage fat required for many milk contracts, which also forms an important element of the UK’s main national breeding goal, Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI).
At the top of the ranking is Gen-I-Beq Lavaman, whose PLI of £626 moves him back into the leading position he has held before. Producers aiming to increase milk components will appreciate Lavaman’s positive fat (+0.10 per cent) and protein (+0.15 per cent) which he combines with a fertility index of +13.5. His modern type profile includes the transmission of modest stature which reduces the maintenance cost of his daughters (maintenance -8).
Ranking in second position with a PLI of £622 is former number one, Kings-Ransom Erdman. This bull’s daughters are among the least cost to maintain with feed in the top 20, reflected in his maintenance index of -19.
New in third position with a PLI of £591 is Teemar Shamrock Alphabet and No-Fla Emulate 30309 gains 40 £PLI points to make it into the top 10 (PLI £568), transmitting a high weight of fat and protein and solid fitness all round.
In fifth position is S-S-I Bookem Morgan (PLI £565), which has a similar breeding profile to his paternal brother, Emulate, and the highest Type Merit in the top 10 at +2.11.
United-Pride Erdman Evan ranks sixth (PLI £560), and just edges ahead of his sire, Erdman, for low costs of daughter maintenance, with a maintenance index of -20.
Two new entrants in seventh and eighth position are No-Fla Debut (PLI £559) and Tollenaars AltaMicro (PLI £556).
The high percentage fat and protein transmitter De-Su Ransom (PLI £552) ranks ninth, while rounding off the top 10 is new entrant, Delta G-Force (PLI £548).
Commenting on the genetic trends amongst the Holstein bulls, Marco Winters, head of genetics for AHDB Dairy says: “It’s encouraging to see bulls moving into these rankings which will help UK farmers achieve higher quality milk and potentially a better milk price.
“If producers look carefully within the rankings they will also find bulls whose daughters are smaller and more robust, some of them offering lower maintenance costs, all of which will help them produce milk more economically.”
For many in the Holstein breeding industry, young genomic sires represent the most eagerly awaited bloodlines, and this month’s index run will generate particularly keen interest.
Despite the long-term leader, Sandy-Valley-I Penmanship, retaining his number one position, with a genomic £PLI of £720, there are no less than three new bulls in the top five on the list and many more throughout the ranking.
Sharing the number one spot with Penmanship is new entrant, S-S-I 1stClass Flagship. Flagship is the higher milk and fat transmitter of the two bulls, with 828kg milk and a massive 40.1kg fat, and has an impressive Type Merit of 3.02.
Another newcomer in third position is Triplecrown Gatedancer with a PLI of £697 and transmits a marginally higher weight of fat than Flagship – and the highest in the top 20 – at 40.5kg.
Peak AltaPainter makes his debut in fourth position (PLI £693) thanks to outstanding daughter longevity predictions (Lifespan +0.7).
The very complete breeding pattern of Bacon-Hill Hurricane earns him fifth position and a PLI of £687.
Barbarossa is new in sixth place with a PLI of £682 and has the highest weight of protein in the top 10 at 30.4kg.
A more familiar name can be found in seventh position, in Apina Nadal (PLI £679).
Further new entrants can be found in eighth and ninth positions where Seagull-Bay-MJ Solaris and HY-JO-DE Troy Glaus have PLIs of £661 and £660 respectively.
“With a wide choice of high genomic young sires on offer, it’s not surprising over 50 per cent of all UK Holstein inseminations are now by this group of bulls,” says Mr Winters. “Without fail, the top £PLI genomic young sires will all transmit high lifespan, good daughter fertility and low SCCs, but producers are advised to pay attention to the bulls’ maintenance index, as the growing trend towards larger cows is particularly apparent in this young group, and can lead to higher feed maintenance costs.”
Producers calving in spring will be some way through the breeding process for next year’s calvings so may feel reassured to see stability in the across-breed Spring Calving Index (£SCI) rankings.
Intended for use exclusively by producers block calving in spring, operating grazing-based systems and targeting milk production of around 4,500kg/head, the £SCI ranking sees the Danish-bred Jersey, VJ Tester retain his existing lead.
Featuring negative milk volume with high percentages of fat and protein, Tester also transmits long lifespans (LS +0.6) and excellent fitness (SCC Index -15 and FI +10.8) as well as low feed costs for maintenance (maintenance -61). His SCI is £451.
Also retaining his position is the second-ranking VJ Link (SCI £413), another Danish-bred Jersey. The maintenance cost of Link’s daughters is also low (maintenance -62), while high fat and protein percentages again complement good daughter fitness, fertility and lifespans.
Even higher for daughter fertility is the highest ranking British Friesian, Catlane Caleb, which features the trait for which the breed is renowned. With a SCI of £408 and a FI of +14.5, he is the best fertility improver in the top 10.
The highest ranking Holstein, Gen-I-Beq Lavaman, weighs in with a SCI of £394.
“With a top 20 which features nine Jerseys, nine Holsteins and two British Friesians – and many other breeds in the top 100 rankings – there is plenty of variety across breeds from which grazing-based farmers calving in spring can make their breeding choices,” says Mr Winters.
“However, it’s important for breeders to remember the £SCI list is an across-breed ranking, which means the figures they see are very different from the same bulls’ figures on their own breed rankings.
“This means the figures are not comparable in any way to the individual breed rankings and they should only be used in the context of the Spring Calving Index.”
Dairy breeds other than Holstein see little change in the top five, with only the British Friesian seeing the emergence of two new entrants.
Beneath Catlane Chad, the existing number one British Friesian sire, is his stable mate, Catlane Caleb, still ranked in second position. Their PLIs are £410 and £391 respectively.
The newcomer ranked third is Rearsby Black Gem, a (PLI £297), and beneath Deangate Quaich (PLI £286), the second Friesian newcomer to become part of the leading quintet is Kirkby Premier (PLI £283).
The Jersey breed sees almost no change since the previous index run last December, with a few leading bulls subtley changing position, and only one new entrant in the top five. This number five bull is VJ Herodot, a son of Q Hirse, whose PLI of £392 reflects good PTAs for production across the board.
Rankings for the Ayrshire breed remain similarly static, with the only newcomer amongst the top five being the equal fifth ranking West Mossgiel Modern Reality. This UK-bred Reality son has a PLI of £346 and the highest Type Merit amongs the leading Ayrshire bulls at TM 2.4.
Other dairy breed indexes are also published on line (www.ahdb.org.uk), where the Montbeliarde, Brown Swiss, Guernsey, Shorthorn and Fleckvieh are all represented.
“It’s very important to use the UK equivalent indexes when choosing a bull, regardless of breed, as only then can UK breeders obtain a genuine comparison of their transmitting ability against all other bulls of that breed,” says Fern Pearston, genetics manager for AHDB Dairy.
“Without this comparison, it’s impossible to compare a bull from one country against another, and impossible to know which bulls would most suit any herd,” she says.