Dairy farmers face a decision these days about how heavily to use young bulls with exceptional genomic proofs in herd-breeding programs, says Bennet Cassell, Virginia Tech extension dairy genetics specialist. To find some direction for producers, scientists from USDA’s Animal Improvement Programs Laboratory recently conducted a study that compared selection for several groups of 20 Holstein bulls — those that had genomic information, those that did not have genomic information, bulls with daughters and bulls without daughters.

Their results found that the best group of 20 bulls for Net Merit was the group of young sires chosen on genomic evaluations, and second best — $53 behind the best group — was the group of proven bulls with genomic data, says Cassell. Therefore, he suggests it’s OK to rely on bulls with genomic evaluations and expect good results. To increase your odds of success, use a group of young sires with genomic proofs, along with a mix of proven sires, rather than relying too heavily on a single sire and a single genomic proof.