How to improve cow breed from existing stock

How to breed heifers of higher quality than parental stock

Many ambitious dairy farmers already have one or two cattle in their backyards and for them, it may not always be feasible to buy superior animals but they would rather want to upgrade from what they have.

Genetic improvement of dairy cattle starts from the establishment of selection or breeding goals, which are dictated by farmers through market requirements.

dairy cow

When coming up with breeding goals, we ask ourselves what type of animal do we want and which traits are involved? Realization of the goals is achieved by;

• Recording of genealogic and performance data, including characteristics of economic importance of each individual. Given the fact that most traits of economic interest are expressed only in females and have moderate to low heritability, a reasonably large number of progeny records is necessary to estimate the genetic merit of a bull with an acceptable accuracy.

• Use the data to perform genetic evaluation of the animals to determine the best performing in line with the breeding goals.

Records needed to evaluate dams include those on milk production history, type traits assessments and fertility. For sires, production records of its female relatives and including the overall performance records of its daughters’ are mainly used.

With artificial insemination (AI) though, one can ask for a sire catalog (a booklet containing evaluated performance and expected transmitting ability of important traits in a bull) from AI service providers to identify the best semen to upgrade the cow. Note that the right semen to upgrade the future offspring of one cow may not be right for another cow.

• Actual selection of the best performing animals to be parents of the next generation.

• Dissemination of selected animals’ germ-plasm (genetic material) using reproductive technologies that include artificial insemination and embryo transfer.

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