The William H. Miner

Agricultural Research Institute

Miner Institute
Farm Report

THE VALUE OF A HERD MATING PROGRAM

“I’m glad we don’t have a corrective mating program for people” once stated a veteran of the AI industry. A tall, lanky fellow who felt… well you can guess where this is going. Today, herd mating programs are more than a corrective type mating program.

There are several reasons why a dairy producer may decide to utilize a herd mating program. As the dairy industry has striven to select the best genetics possible, the cattle population has become more closely related. For every 1% increase in inbreeding, milk production drops 790# milk, 25# protein lifetime, +.36 days of age at first calving, +.26 month first calving interval and -13 days productive life (Cassell, VPI). With inbreeding levels approaching 6% or higher in the Holstein and Jersey breeds, it makes real economic sense to limit the inbreeding levels within a herd yet strive to maximize genetic gain.

As DNA technology has developed to further identify the best genetics available, it has also uncovered new undesirable recessive genes within the cattle population. You want to use the best sires for your herd, but may be avoiding some elite sires because they are a carrier of a recessive gene that may be of low economic importance. Many herd mating programs will allow the use of these sires by avoiding carrier to carrier matings.

Corrective mating your herd has proven to increase the lifespan of your cows. Positive type traits correlate to the longer life of a cow and an improved bottom line. According to herd life research conducted by Holstein Association USA, Inc. every +1.0 STA (Standard Transmitting Ability) increase in Foot and Leg Composite results in 9 more days of productive life. Udder Composite proves to be even more influential as every +1.0 STA increase yields 18 more days of productive life. For example, if your herd average is 25,000# milk and the milk price is $18 cwt, every +1.0 change in Foot and Leg Composite is equal to $133 increase per cow per year. For Udder Composite, this amounts to $266 per cow per year. In today’s economic environment, this amounts to a significant savings!

Not all dairy producers have the same goals in mind for their herd. Whether your goal is to maximize profitability, produce elite seed stock or exhibit cattle at a show, mating programs generally allow producers to select the right sires to meet their herd goals. To maximize gains it’s important to define your herd goals, develop a plan and then stick with it. Minor adjustments along the way allow for changes within the industry.

In addition, a mating program can be a labor and time saving addition for a dairy producer. Instead of spending extra time trying to decide what sire to breed a particular cow to, mating programs can provide an easy to follow guide for producers with busy schedules.

So why consider a mating program for your herd?

1. Inbreeding management.
2. Recessive gene management.
3. Added herd longevity.
4. Selection of the “right sires” to meet your herd goals.
5. Added labor and time savings for busy dairy producers.


— Jerry L. Emerich
Dairy Coordinator
Select Sire Power, Inc.

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The Miner Institute Farm Report is written primarily for farmers and other agricultural professionals in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada. Most articles deal with dairy and crops topics, but also included are articles dealing with environmental issues and global agriculture as well as editorial commentary.

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