DEAR SIR: Aidan Brennan’s concern that the dairy breeding programme is now “breeding tall, milky cows” is simply not factually correct and risks undermining confidence in the EBI, at a time when farmers are considering their breeding programme plans for the spring ahead.
The reason why high-EBI teams of bulls now have a slightly higher milk volume compared to previously, is simply a function of the A+B-C pricing formula that the EBI has adhered to since its introduction in 2002.
Despite a very heavy penalty on milk volume (-9c/l), it is impossible to get gains in both milk solids output and milk constituents, without additionally “dragging up” milk volume.
To give a practical example of this, the G€n€ Ire€land programme this year contained 87 high-EBI bulls (EBI of €307), with a predicted gain in milk production of their progeny of +12.5kg fat and 8.7kg protein per lactation, compared to the national average.
This additional milk solids output will come in 74l of “water” (the increased milk solids output has to be carried somewhere).
When expressed in constituent terms, this equates to increases in fat and protein percentage of 0.16% and 0.11% respectively.
The fact that these teams of high-EBI bulls are now also coming forward with excellent fertility sub-index figures and with no change in either their beef or maintenance sub-indexes (ie, cow size staying largely the same) gives us absolute confidence that the EBI and the G€n€ Ir€land breeding programme will not simply breed “tall, milky cows” as was inferred, but instead will continue to deliver increased profitability and sustainability for Irish dairy farmers.
To date that has delivered almost 5c/l for farmers in terms of increased milk price. We look forward to growing that even further in the future.