Friday, January 19, 2018

Helping Make the Ideal Commercial Jersey Cow a Reality

Scott Carson, GENEX Director of Dairy Procurement, is a longtime Jersey enthusiast and former Jersey producer and breeder. He led the team that formulated the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index for Jerseys. His background provides unique insight into this new index which was released following the December 2017 sire summaries.

Our goal was to create an index that would enable producers to select bulls that will positively impact their bottom line. The idea was to emphasize traits that are really important to our customers and weed out extra information that doesn’t really impact farm profitability.

Over the past couple decades, the Jersey breed has changed significantly. The population has grown remarkably. With that, the Jersey cow grew taller, stronger and added a lot more width. Udder confirmation improved dramatically in the 1990s and then deteriorated a bit before improving again over the last 5-6 years.

While Jersey producers have selected for these traits as well as enormous gains in yield traits, there has been a significant decline in fertility traits. That’s a natural tradeoff of selecting aggressively for yield traits. Today, that decrease in fertility is a real cause for concern among Jersey producers. It’s one of the concerns the ICC$ index for Jerseys addresses.

From my perspective, one of the things the index does best is provide producers with a way to rank bulls on fertility traits and on health traits. Through its sub-index structure, the ICC$ index is setting a framework for the industry. The sub-indexes provide producers with tools to focus on their traits of interest. The ICC$ index gives anyone interested in brown cows – the smaller cows that are more feed efficient – the tools to breed cows that are ideal for a commercial setting.

Cheese Maximizer (ChMAX$) focuses on component yields and provides equal weightings on both Fat and Protein pounds. Unique among Jersey indexes, the ICC$ index is neutral
on milk – instead focusing on total Combined Fat and Protein.

50% Protein
50% Fat

Sustainability (SUST$) consists of traits that are critical to keeping animals healthy and in production. One is a new GENEX proprietary trait, Calf Survivability (CSRV). Also included are udder traits that impact culling rate (35% Udder Cleft, 30% Udder Depth, 25% Fore Udder and 10% Teat Length). Selection for the SUST$ sub-index emphasizes udder
health, longevity, functional udder traits and calf survivability.

35% Productive Life
15% Udder Traits
14% Livability
12% Calf Survivability
12% Mastitis Resistance
12% Somatic Cell Score

Fertility (FERT$) contains five measures of cow and heifer fertility. This sub‑index includes the GENEX proprietary trait Age at First Calving (AAFC) to meet the needs of producers looking to emphasize reproductive efficiency. Selection of bulls with high FERT$ rankings results in optimal age at first calving, reduced days open and shorter calving intervals.
50% Daughter Pregnancy Rate
25% Heifer Conception Rate
15% Cow Conception Rate
5% Age at First Calving
5% Fertility Haplotypes

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