Finding the show-winning sires of the future may well have become a little more difficult following the genomics revolution. Bruce Jobson reviews the show scene.
Over the past five years the cattle breeding world has focused on genomic technology and the ever-increasing use of science as a tool to deliver greater efficiency of production. Faster generation turnover has helped deliver these tangible results as the use of second generation genomic sires (unproven sires bred from unproven sires) becomes commonplace within the industry.
However, not every farmer wishes to use genomic sires as part, or wholly, as a method to breed replacement animals. For many farmers, the preferred option remains the use of solid, proven performers while limiting their use of genomic young sires. This option is doubly compounded in challenging times when, due to low milk prices, the cost of rearing a replacement heifer becomes more scrutinised. The cost of rearing a quality animal is the same as rearing an inferior animal – and using proven bulls reduces the risk.
In fairness the genomic bulls of today, even if they do not return to active service, are greatly superior to an on-farm bull and many a sire from yesteryear. We now live in an era of ‘population genetics’ and efficiency of production remains the name of the game. Within each section of the cattle breeding genre, the show winning animal remains – arguably – the most respected species of each individual breed. The Royal Shows and National Show winners provide the epitome of success – perhaps it is theatre – like bovine gladiators entertaining the crowds at the Coliseum. However, owing to genomics, it may now be more difficult to breed the ‘bigtime’ show winning animal. Numbers Few of today’s top type sires have the high production numbers to become modern day genomic sires of sons.
The pool of available sires is therefore ever decreasing as selection intensity depletes these bloodlines. In reality to be a show winning sire often requires the bull to be a secondcrop bull rather than unproven or proven genomic sire. Generally speaking, a bull has to be six years old with a record of performance on type and production. His daughters also have to have been classified – all this to give breeders the confidence of using a sire as part of a ‘complementary’ mating programme to correct the type (and production) faults of the dam. Looking at North America, we can monitor the elite sires delivering the 2015 show winners.
The US Holstein Association National Show listing features 162 heifers and 215 cows.
Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood (born 2007) was the leading sire of National Holstein winners, siring 63 daughters that took the top three places.
Atwood was also the leading sire of winning heifers and second leading sire of cows, with 33 and 30 animals respectively.
For the past five years, Braedale Goldwyn (born 2000) has been the leading sire.
This year Goldwyn slipped down to second place siring 53 winning daughters – but was the leading sire of cow winners with 40.
One bull coming up fast on the show scene is Pine-Tree Sid (born 2005) who is in third place overall with 32 daughters in the top three places, as well as the second leading sire of heifers. The combination of Sid and Goldwyn was the leading sire stack for all 2015 US National Show winners as well as heifers, with 21 animals listed in the top three places.
Breeding show winners was always considered an ‘art’. The great show breeders had the ability to know and understand how to use a bull to best effect in order to breed the cow with correct type – and have that show winning style. In time, some of the genomic bulls will come through and deliver show winners, but it seems unlikely we will see the prolific number of daughters coming through compared to the Goldwyns and Starbucks of the past.