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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Teagasc issues 2021 dairy breeding policy

Teagasc has published a dairy breeding policy for 2021.

The state agency is advising dairy farmers to select a team of high-EBI AI bulls taking cognisance of relatedness, reliability, herd size and suitability to their farm system.

It highlighted the importance of dairy farmers having a clear breeding policy as it will have a “significant” influence on farm profitability, sustainability and animal welfare performance.

Key points:
  1. Firstly, use high-EBI AI genetics to generate the required number of replacement heifers and in tandem increase the EBI of your herd. Target your heifers and highest EBI cows to generate replacements.
  2. Secondly, a balanced team of dairy AI sires should be used across the heifers and cows selected for breeding replacements. This will increase the reliability of the sire team as a whole. The optimum number of AI bulls to be used will vary with herd size; your Teagasc adviser will help you calculate this and to correctly match cows to AI sires.
  3. Incorporate a proportion of sexed semen into your AI strategy (if using Jersey or Jersey crossbreed genetics, use only sexed semen) while taking into account the considerations and guidelines outlined below – discuss with your Teagasc advisor.
  4. In addition, use the Dairy Beef Index (DBI) to select suitable beef AI sires. Use beef sires on your lowest EBI/ late calving cows and one satisfied you have achieved sufficient dairy pregnancies to generate your targeted number of replacements.
  5. Lastly, dairy ‘sweeper’ bulls should not be used. Use easy-calving short gestation length beef bulls with a high Dairy Beef Index should be used. An alternative to beef stock bulls is the use of vasectomised bulls in conjunction with beef AI.

In recent years, there has been a trend to use less beef stock bulls and use more AI. This, Teagasc added, is preferable due to greater reliability and reduced biosecurity and safety risks.

Teagasc breeding policy 2021

In conclusion, in Teagasc herds, the breeding policy for 2021 is as follows:

  • The use of high-EBI HF genetics to include a combination of sex-sorted and conventional semen.
  • Where Jersey or crossbreed Jersey genetics is to be used, it will be with sex-sorted AI only.
  • The number of low-value dairy calves will be reduced in the 2022 calving season by using suitable beef semen. Beef semen will be selected using the DBI with particular emphasis on easy calving, short gestation length bulls with good beef merit.
  • Also, no dairy ‘sweeper’ bulls will be used; in the limited situation where stock bulls will be used, it will be high-DBI beef bred.
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