‘It had been hoped that genomics would provide the possibility of identifying ‘outliers’ or ‘outcrosses’ within the population. This concept now appears unlikely to occur due to the increasing pressures of selection intensity.’ Bruce Jobson - Dairy Farmer, October ‘15

From the moment that index-breeding and, more explicitly, PIN in the UK, became the tool for the ‘enlightened’ breeder, we had forecast a disaster waiting to happen. Not only was PIN heavily weighted in favour of yield, but angularity was also included. True to prediction, yields increased, cows got thinner, fertility got worse, herd life shortened and male calves became an embarrassment. Obsolescence was built in, in that it encouraged the breeding from younger animals, as yet unproven in the herd, in order to speed up so-called ‘genetic gain’. The effect of Base Changes on the Index also discouraged breeding from the older cow. Adjustments needed to be made and PLI promised to do better!

However, the boundaries of sheer common sense have been repeatedly disregarded by the AI industry’s continuous, narrow selection of high indexing animals, inevitably leading to ever higher inbreeding percentages. The predicted problem of recessive genes has been confirmed through genomic testing of the Holstein population. The list grows ever longer.

So what’s to be done? No prizes for guessing! We, in the UK, do have access to other black and white genetics. They are called British Friesian, providing an immediate outcross for the Holstein, and with all their known benefits of good fertility, longevity and body condition.

Since British Friesian breeders value the longevity of their cattle (much reduced replacement cost) and continue to breed from the mature cows, we hope to avoid falling into the same trap!

Inbreeding % for males and females is now included on the registration certificates for British Friesians and on the Animal Data lists.