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Eye on the numbers as Brendon aims higher

WHEN Brendon Winter uses imported Holstein semen for his herd, his main priority is to check where the bull ranks on the Australian Breeding Value system.

“Over 300 BPI (Balanced Performance Index) is the starting point,” Mr Winter said about choosing sires.

“Even with Australian-bred bulls, that’s my cut-off at the moment, but with bulls rising each year that might be 320.

“There are lot of things each year that will change.

“Even with heat tolerance, two years ago that wasn’t a thing you would look at.”

Mr Winter, of Winaview Holsteins near Warragul, began milking cows eight years ago after completing a cabinet making apprenticeship. He originally had 40 cows but has built that up into a herd of 120, the peak capacity of his leased dairy.

A third-generation dairy farmer, he derives most of his income from milk, but also breeds bulls for genetics companies.

In last April’s ABV release, his Holstein bull, Winaview Superhero Avenger (known as Endgame), became the highest ever genotyped BPI sire standing in Australia.

At the time, Endgame’s BPI was 382.

When selecting sires, Mr Winter considers what Australian farmers want and need in a bull.

“I look at selecting bulls that are high in the ABVs,” he said.

“I aim to breed a bull that Australian farmers want to use. That’s why I’m using a lot of international bulls that stack up in Australia.”

Mr Winter’s core breeding objectives are simple.

“Health traits is one of the major things I look for,” he said.

“One thing with the Holsteins, when you are talking to the vets, it’s just about getting the cows in calf.

“Years ago, there was a lot of focus on production and the trait of fertility fell behind.”

Although there’s been a focus on health traits, Mr Winter ensures he continues to select bulls with positive milk fat and protein scores as well as a minimum of 104 for type and mammary.

For future sire selections Mr Winter will consider ABVs for new traits such as heat tolerance and feed saved.

Not only does he believe these will be beneficial to the Australian dairy herd and therefore in demand by farmers choosing bulls, his partner, Josie Garner, a research scientist at Agriculture Victoria Research, helped develop those traits at the Ellinbank Dairy Centre.

“She’s at one end of genomics, I’m at the other,” he said.

Mr Winter’s herd has shot up DataGene’s BPI ranking list.

“It’s ranked number 21 on BPI,” he said. “I’d like to make it on the top 10. I’ll be able to do that with top-end heifers coming into herd and taking over the bottom end.

“I’m coming up to having enough numbers at the end of this year, so that the bottom end of the herd can be replaced with higher ranking animals.”

The improvement, thanks to selecting sires with higher BPI rankings, has been evident in Mr Winter’s calves. Two years ago, all the calves he registered had an average BPI of

187. One year later, this had increased to an average of 250.

 

Article Courtesy of Genetics Australia - 21/08/2019