Performance index called into question
Northern Victoria has been recognised for its breeding prowess, achieving the number one herd in four of the six breeds calculated under Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) — including a nationwide first.
But despite being recognised as the best herd in three breeds, one dairy farmer said he was not putting too much weight in the results and has called for an independent analysis of the index.
Katunga’s Daryl Hoey achieved the top Holstein, Jersey and Australian Red breed in the release of the December results in a never-before-achieved feat.
Mr Hoey has previously held the number one Jersey herd and the second-best Holstein herd, but said he was surprised by the latest results.
“It does take years and a certain amount of luck … I knew I was there or thereabouts but I fully expected not to be the top Jersey herd, so I was a bit surprised to hold onto that one,” he said.
Mr Hoey’s 300-strong herd is a mix of about 70 per cent Jersey and 15 per cent each of Holstein and Aussie Reds.
Yet he said it was still the milk cheque that paid the bills and he would rather have an extra three tonnes per hectare of feed.
“I don’t believe it adds anymore to my bottom line, it doesn’t drive profit,” he said.
“I do think I’ve probably changed my thinking in the past 10 years or so, but I don’t believe ABVs reflect what is best suited for Australian conditions. I think they’re more designed for American conditions.
“I think we need a completely independent analysis of the index.”When it comes to introducing new genetics into his herd, it is a focus on fertility, mastitis resistance and greater emphasis on fat than protein that influences his decision-making.
“It’s all about profit,” he said.
“For me when I look at a farming system, it’s about control. (Split calving) cows give me better control and I think it’s about being disciplined and not continually changing the system to suit the cows, but making the cows fit the system … I think that’s part of what’s diluting the profit in dairying,” he said.
“I think an assumption that a cow that produces more milk than the next cow is better is wrong and flawed.”
And, with three breeds making their way through the dairy, Mr Hoey said for his farm management it was key that the Holsteins and Reds were made to compete in a Jersey herd, rather than altering the system to suit the naturally larger breeds.
Rochester’s Restdown Pastoral was again recognised as the top Brown Swiss herd in the ABV release, with Dingee’s Ben Govett’s herd ranked second.
Trevor Saunders and Anthea Day from Araluen Park in Gippsland were recognised for the best Ayrshire herd in the country, while South Australian L and J Cleggett took out the top Guernsey breed honours.
The rankings are based on Balanced Performance Index, a blend of ABVs for the traits that influence a dairy cow’s contribution to the farm business — production, fertility, functional type, survival, cell count, workability and feed saved.‘
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