A LEONGATHA dairy farmer has improved daughter fertility rates in his herd with the help of genomic testing.
Tim Jelbart, who manages a 1000-cow dairy farm, said four years ago he knew nothing about genetics.
“Now I have a decent amount of knowledge on the topic, but it is not rocket science,” he said.
Mr Jelbart was a participant in the Improving Herds project and now generates about 500 heifers a year through a targeted breeding program.
A key focus was daughter fertility rates.
“In 2015 we had a really strong push for daughter fertility because we thought it was something as an industry and as a farmer, we were struggling with,” he said.
Bulls with no less than 114 Balanced Performance Index and up to 116 and higher were targeted in the breeding program.
“In a very short space of time, we have lifted two points in daughter fertility on a fair chunk of our heifers,” he said.
Mr Jelbart said the program also displayed how the herd was performing.
“It showed us our animals were solid performers and that 50 per cent of our herd was over 10 years old,” he said.
Mr Jelbart said this was due to a number of cows in the herd continuing to perform.
After some analysis, he found his top BPI cow was in calf the first time for the last two lactations and had no health problems.
“The statistics showed the program was having impact on the ground,” he said.
With daughter fertility rates on track, Mr Jelbart is now using genomic data for bull selection, and verifying parentage.
“We can use it to see if a cow is light on fat or protein — or to pick a bull that has high solids components,” he said.
“We still don’t want to drop the daughter fertility, but we want to improve other things as well.”
Reports are also used to determine dam and calf data to minimise inbreeding.
“It assists us to make the right breeding decisions,” Mr Jelbart said.
With stock selling, data has been used to select the lowest end of a herd to take to market.
“Genetic improvement is real, I have seen it first hand,” Mr Jelbart said. “There is as much in it as you want to take home.”