The promotion of high-quality genetics improves herds for years to come
When a producer breeds their livestock, they should ideally be striving to produce the highest quality animal possible.
While each operation will have varying goals and desires, most can agree that a quality animal will have correct conformation for the chosen breed (or at least be conformationally sound for health and ease of movement if crossbred), have an appropriate temperament and produce a large amount of milk.
Long-term promotion of good genetics in the herd can ensure that nearly all the animals on that operation will be high quality.
For dairy cattle, utilizing artificial insemination (AI) can drastically improve genetics. Reagan Bluel, field specialist in dairy with the University of Missouri Extension, explained many AI companies provide a service where they will evaluate a producer’s herd and study pedigrees to select the most efficient sire match. AI comes highly recommended by Bluel and she advised producers to reach out to their area Extension professionals for information.
When breeding for quality, it is important to know what you are working with, Bluel said. Genomic testing will give a producer incredibly beneficial data to make decisions.
“This will allow you to amplify your impact,” Bluel explained.
Using the information from genomic testing, a strategy to promote the best quality animals is to breed the best of the herd with two services of AI to sexed semen, the middle quality animals with one service of sexed semen, and breed the bottom quality animals to a beef bull.
“This way you’ll be less tempted to keep her offspring,” Bluel said.
She explained using sexed semen will produce more heifers in the herd and will help balance out the lower-end cows. Bluel also advised that producers be mindful of how many heifers they retain.
“Ask yourself, do I need this many heifers?” she said.
A more cost-effective strategy is to select a smaller calf crop of high-quality heifers, and feed and develop them well, as opposed to spreading resources for a larger calf crop of mixed quality.
For dairy goats, some of the same breeding strategies can be utilized to produce high-quality kids. AI is an option for goats, although many producers opt for natural cover.
Pedigrees, especially on the sire, will give important details about milk production.
Dairy goat shows are a way for producers to see and compare a lot of quality animals in one place to aid them in their breeding considerations.