Basic Tips on Improving your Herd
The 2 main areas to focus on;
1. Use the best stock bulls possible
2. Cull/cross-breed the worse females
Use the best bulls possible
When selecting a stock bull for your herd, always try and select the very best bull possible as a bull is... ‘half your herd’
If selecting a mature bull be sure and check out that he is breeding off-spring of adequate quality. If selecting a young bull, try and choose a bull that is typical in colour, has a good growth rate (heavy 200-day and 300-day weights), has good confirmation, as well as having a quiet temperament. No defects of the testicles, eyes or mouth should be evident. Check out the sire and the dam of the bull to make sure they are both of good quality. The dam should be a regular breeding cow with a good udder so that the bull passes these traits on to his daughters. If using the type classification system to assist with selection, it is ideal if the dam, the maternal grandmother, and the maternal grandmother of the dam all have high classification scores indicating that the bull is from a really good cow family.
Other tools that may prove useful when selecting bulls are DNA genomic testing, DNA horn gene testing and the 5-star rating system. An inbreeding co-efficient check should be carried out with the females in your herd against a potential bull to make sure he will breed off-spring of a low inbreeding co-efficient.
Cull the worse females
As well as culling cows in your herd for the usual complaints of old age, mastitis, poor fertility, bad feet and bad temperament also cows of poor conformation or cows breeding off-spring of poor confirmation should be culled or at least cross bred with a terminal breed sire. Females of poor confirmation can be identified by your own visual assessment or by the type classification system. Replacement heifers should only be kept out of the best cows in the herd that are breeding well.
The ‘Breed Improvement Program’ sub-committee members;
Sam Smiley, Co. Down, N.Ireland
Derek Steen, Drumfrieshire, Scotland
Philip Mellor, York, England
Robert Boyle, Co.Down, N. Ireland
Mike Meharg, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland
Nigel Edwards, Co.Fermanagh, N.Ireland