Science and traditional skills lift the Holstein breed in Australia
Over the last two years the average BPI of the top 10 heifers on Holstein Australia’s monthly list of animals with their first genomic breeding value has increased from 301 BPI to 345 BPI, a factor of 15%. For all genomic tested females (irrespective of age) the gain has been from 357 BPI to 396 BPI, a 39 point increase equating to a 10% gain.
Holstein Australia’s Genetic Services Manager, Rohan Butler, says: “While there have been some outliers over the last two years, such as Donovans Griff 20107 in June 2018 at 342 BPI, at the time 28 points above the second ranked heifer, and Illawambra Lawson Dallas at 397 BPI in April this year, 39 points above the second ranked heifer, it is the rate of genetic gain across the entire spread of animals tested that tells the real story.”
The mid-point for the top twenty heifers from this year’s April and May runs is 325 BPI, two years ago it was around 285 BPI. The marked rate of increase is down to a couple of factors according to Rohan.
“It’s not so much about the increased number of breeders testing, but the way breeders are interpreting and using genomic data to focus on improving specific traits within their herds, making the science work for them and almost by default, helping lift the breed overall,” says Rohan.
A good example of this is Kaarmona Holsteins, owned by Rohan Sprunt, where genomic data has been used alongside traditional breeding know-how and expertise to make some strategic investments in recent years, with several cow families introduced that are now coming to the top of their ABV lists, such as Kaarmona Hotspot Destiny 16 at 325 BPI in April’s run.
“Destiny ticks a lot of boxes for us,” says Rohan Sprunt. “While 325 BPI is good, what is as pleasing is she’s also significantly positive for most of the major traits. She’s also polled which is awesome from both an animal welfare and practical perspective. Overall the investments we’ve made and the way we’ve decided on them have been great for us. They are performing well on the genomic front both in Australia and on the US base. A good example is Kaarmona Riveting Destiny at over 2800 GTPI. These two are both half-sisters to the Kaarmona Diamond (Karat) bull that is off to Genetics Australia.”
The other major factor is the impact of some of the genomic bulls now making their way into the system says Rohan Butler.
“Jeronimo, heterozygous polled, has had a big impact over the last 12 months, but I think as we move forward over the next few years we could see more Australian bulls making a real impact on the breed. The potential is certainly there. In April’s run Wilara Josuper Jo-ET was the highest production bull, topping the Australian Proven Bulls list at 341 BPI, and Vala Bandares Shaydon-ET and Carenda Sondalo featured in a group of eight bulls at over 400 BPI on the ABV list.”
Commenting on Carenda Sondalo and Carenda Tirano (370 BPI), Carenda Holsteins’ Ray Kitchen says: “The maternal line of Sondalo and Tirano P have consistently been some of the better performing cows in our herd over many generations with their high breeding values, classification scores and good longevity.
“The dam of the two bulls being Carenda Mainevent Vanda scored VG 88 points on her second lactation and won the 4 year old in the WA on farm judging competition. She produced 10,200 litres as a two year old and 11,400 as a three year old. Vanda is the 7th generation VG or EX to be bred at Carenda with her dam being an VG 86 Goldwyn that produced 102,000 litres lifetime, while the next two generations scoring EX-2E 20 Star brood cow and an EX-4E 25 Star brood cow.
“During her first lactation Vanda was flushed to the polled sire ABS Jeronimo with the two sons resulting. Both bulls should be of great interest to farmers with Sondalo ranking at number eight for genomic ABV’s with a BPI of 402, being the higher of the two for milk solids, (23 Protein and 42 Fat) and Tirano the better for Overall Type 104 and Mammary 109. He also carries the valuable polled gene.”
Ray also believes that the introduction of the new and updated health and type traits in April will be of benefit to breeders. “It’s really pleasing to see the continuing improvement and changes to Australian Breeding Values, particularly the added reliability to calving ease that should help with confidence when using genomic tested sires.”
With three sires out of the top twenty on April’s BPI list, Vala Holsteins Alex Arena is pleased to see Australian-bred bulls competing so strongly with overseas sires.
“At number two overall on the genomic ABV list at 420 BPI, Vala Bandares Shaydon is a Bandares son with a powerful sire stack of Bandares x Silver x Supersire x Snowman x Shottle x Oman out of the proven cow family of Wesswood-HC Rudy Missy (6th dam) and Pine-Tree Martha Sheen (4th dam). He is now the number one bull standing in Australia.
“Vala Bandares Lark is number ten on the same list at 398 BPI and is an A2A2 sire coming from another proven cow family with Comestar Laurie Sheik as his 11th dam. Vala Suits Bold-P, at 380 BPI, is an A2A2 sire and polled, the top polled bull on the genomic ABV list that is standing in Australia,” says Alex.
The way breeders are utilising genomics in their breeding programs is behind the rate of genetic gain for the Holstein breed in Australia believes Rohan Butler, coupled with good old fashioned cow knowledge and expertise.
“If you look at the animals we’ve got coming through and the breeders behind them, there is a focus on strong cow families as well as high genetic merit sires. This mixture of knowledge and experience, often gained over generations, allied to the science, will I think see this rate of genetic gain continue.”