There has traditionally been a two-tier approach to breeding cows between liquid and manufacturing milk herds.
Spring calving herds have tended to use more commercial, functional bulls regardless of background while liquid milk herds have focussed more on pedigree, type and milk volume.
Considering that the majority of milk being produced by liquid milk herds is used for manufacturing and paid a manufacturing price and that most milk is produced off grass, it’s important that the tail doesn’t wag the dog when it comes to picking bulls on liquid milk farms.
For me, the Economic Breeding Index is the best barometer of this as it is focused just on economics. Using predominately low EBI bulls in a breeding programme is therefore not commercially focused.
Putting too much emphasis on milk volume, to the detriment of fertility, fat and protein percent and cow size is not demonstrating a commercial focus.
These traits are as important to liquid milk farmers as they are to spring milk producers and so there is really no reason why the same or similar bulls are not used in both systems.
Maintaining a pedigree status is possible while using high EBI bulls.
Here are a few pointers when picking bulls;
Substantial changes to the Nitrates Directive are likely to have a disproportionate impact on winter milk producers.
This is because higher yielding herds such as winter or liquid milk producers will be deemed to have a higher organic nitrogen excretion rates per cow meaning each hectare can carry less cows.
Any herd producing more than 6,500kg (6,300l) of milk per annum on average will be deemed to be in the top band for nitrogen excretion rates at 106kg N/ha.
With an upper limit of 250kg N/ha under the derogation, this means that the maximum stocking rate will be 2.35 cows/ha. When the upper limit in the derogation falls to 220kg N/ha in 2024, the maximum stocking rate will be 2.07 cows/ha.
Importantly, milk yield is being taken as the average of the last three years and is calculated based on total milk supplied to milk processor divided by average cow numbers.