Top genetic traits to improve lifetime yield revealed

14 May 2019

AHDB has revealed the genetic traits that producers should focus on to increase their herd’s daily lifetime yields for fat and protein.

Recent research by the organisation has shown that the genetic indexes that have the most impact on average daily lifetime yield are £PLI, closely followed by fat (kg), lifespan, and protein (kg).

Important traits

Other important traits include fertility, milk yield and health traits such as mastitis, lameness and somatic cell count (SCC).

“Lifespan came out strongly in the research, which is not surprising as we are looking for animals that will live and provide milk for longer, says AHDB’s head of animal genetics Marco Winters. “So lifespan really is vital for producers who are looking to improve their herd genetics.

Healthy animals

“But health traits are also clearly important because healthy animals are more likely to remain in the milking herd and produce strong yields.”

Scotland-based producer Willie Baillie has recently made the decision to focus on improving the yield of fat and protein in the milk he produces. He already achieves high daily milk yields – 19.5 litres of milk per cow per day. But he feels that breeding for fat and protein is becoming increasingly important.

Fat-and-protein focus

“We are focused on fat and protein percentages because that’s one area where our herd scores low. This is probably because we’ve always been on a liquid milk contract and it wasn’t something we selected for in the past.

“While we are still on a liquid milk contract, I believe that fat and protein traits will become more important to the whole industry. So we now only select for pluses in those areas, as well as fertility. Fertility can be the difference between profit and loss.”

Genetic gains

During the past few years Willie has seen genetic gains through using this approach and his herd has moved from the top 20% to the top 15% of UK herds in terms of genetic merit, measured by the herd average for Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI).