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BREEDER’S FORUM
BREED ADAPTABILITY
MEMBERS PARTICIPATING:
Alistair Dobson - Crosslanes, Malpas, Cheshire
Nick Cobb - Chalclyffe, Dorchester, Dorset
Richard Gibson - Loftburn, Tiverton, Devon
William Jenkins - Ember, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire
Q
What type of cow suits your farming system and are your breeding goals
dictated by the feeding or milking system you have?
Alistair (left): We are looking to breed the same type of cow now that we have been for years.
On the production side, we select sires with positive milk PTA and high fat and protein. With
regard to type, we are looking for cows capable of a high forage intake and cows that have
good locomotion. I also now feel that we need to breed a rear leg set with more sickle. The
introduction of our robotic milking system has also placed more emphasis on teat placement and
teat length as these are important in aiding teat cup attachment.
Nick: A Holstein cow that is robust enough to get on with the job, stay healthy and not need
any preferential treatment. I believe that she needs to be average in size, with good chest width,
excellent mobility and a mammary that is easy to milk. I am not sure anyone actually knows what
the perfect cow should look like yet; it is a very subjective and emotive subject! We hope not to
breed a system-specifi c cow as the industry will continue to change so the production systems may have
to alter; breeding is too slow a process so we need an adaptable animal.
Richard: A less extreme Holstein that is medium sized and is able to carry some fl esh. Breeding goals are more
dictated by our environment, which is 900 feet above sea level with over 60 inches of rain.
William: The type of cow that suits our farming system needs to be hardy, fertile, robust and able to produce good
quality milk from grass. They also need to produce good yields from a semi TMR ration in the winter. In the past, self
feed silage and a simple system suited the British Friesian but recent refurbishment means that any type of cow would
suit, although we are committed to the Friesian breed.
Q
What do you perceive to be the strengths
and weaknesses of the black and white?
Alistair: Strengths: Ability to convert feed energy into high volumes of milk. There is a wide variety of genetics from
which to choose a suitable sire for management traits such as lifespan, SCC and locomotion. The versatility of the breed
makes it suitable for any milk contract. Purebred black and white bull calves are starting to be recognised
for the quality of their beef.
Weakness: High producing cows have a tendency to put themselves under a high level of stress by
putting all their energy into milk production rather than into body condition or reproduction,
despite attempts to prevent them doing so!
Nick (left): A major strength is that the breed has a huge gene pool and many passionate
breeders across the world with its best interest at heart, conversely this can also be a weakness!
The breed has made unprecedented improvements in mammary quality and
milk yield. Main weaknesses would be fertility and SCC; now we are becoming
more confi dent about using fi tness traits, we will hopefully see dramatic
improvements here over the next few years.
Richard: The sheer effi ciency of the Holstein to produce milk providing
management is correct is undoubtedly a big strength. Their weakness is their
intolerance to management shortfalls in either the long or short term.
William (right): I believe the strengths of the British Friesian are good fertility, long productive
lifespan, good foot health, low cell counts, mastitis resistance and a higher male calf value! The
weakness of the breed is the availability of good quality breeding stock.
34 THE JOURNAL JUNE 2009
e3-09 Breeders Forum.indd 2 27/05/2009 11:48:45
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