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It’s about knowing your weaknesses and finding your strengths; and costing, benchmarking, classification and genomics are all things we get excited about





facilities that are kind to cows and a strong team who understands what the business is trying to achieve, are key. Every cow with a calving index over 400 days has a cost, so working closely with their vets, cows not served by 60 DIM are assessed and put on an appropriate fertility protocol. Whilst talking about health traits and the impact it has on the herd, Tim made a valid point about his perspective on longevity: “People think that longevity is about old cows but it’s not. It’s about getting all your heifers to reach four or more lactations, that makes more difference to your bottom line. I would like every cow to give 50 tonnes – there is too much wastage in this industry in young cows.”


Genomic influence


The forthcoming August proof run introduces the UK’s new updated Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI £); tailored specifically to the UK environment and combining production, health, welfare, fitness and lifespan; the index is weighted by its relative economic value and the resulting single figure represents the financial improvement an animal is, on average, predicted to pass on to its offspring.


Having a number of families, including homebred bloodlines, ranking high on today’s UK genomic PLI list it’s apparent that Tim must have followed genomics early on. Being Holstein UK’s Non-Executive Director (NED) Board Member for Research and Development when genomics were first being introduced coincidently put him in a prime position. Making it his business to understand and want to know more, Tim took time to study the technology and science behind genomics, as it utilises an index based on facts, it was a tool that really appealed to him. Tim explains: “I did a simple risk benefit analysis and realised that there is potentially big benefits from genomics, but you need to make sure that


Tim Gue


you mitigate the risks to take advantage of the benefits. How you use genomics is very important and this is what sometimes puts people off. “You need to be prepared to get it wrong and weigh up that if one bull out of 10s figures drop it is not a disaster – it just means that you are using a bull as good as a current proven sire.” PLI is used as a key performance indicator (KPI) at Huddlestone and one of the herd’s unique selling points (USPs) is that they genomic test all of their youngstock on the index so they can identify which are their most profitable females and just how good they are. The very best heifers are flushed and the best heifers are served with top genomic semen to accelerate the herd’s genetics. The bottom end are used as recipients or bred to beef. Year on year Huddlestone’s PLI average has increased as they are not breeding from their bottom end, Tim justifies his strategy: “Last year our youngstock PLI average moved up £40 PLI and currently out of 170 tested heifer calves there are only 13 not over £100 GPLI. Moving the bottom end up is just as important as developing the top. Along with our PLI the herd’s Type has improved with it as, for example, although we don’t specifically breed for VG two-year olds, over 20% of our heifers have scored VG.” Testing all youngstock obviously brings added cost implications,


84 THE JOURNAL AUGUST 2014


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