Better On-Farm Health Data Would Improve Sire Evaluations

Calving ease data is only being reported on about 60% of cow records submitted to DHIA. ( Maureen Hanson )

As U.S. and global sire evaluations continue to evolve and improve, a lack of on-farm data continues to hinder both the type and accuracy of health data that could help farmers better select the sires they use.

H. Duane Norman and Kristen Parker-Gaddis point out these shortfalls in article published this week by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB). Norman is a CDCB technical advisor/industry liaison and Parker-Gaddis is a CDCB research geneticist. This absence of data is preventing real progress and is a missed opportunity, they say.

As an example, they point to calving ease and still birth data. Calving ease sire evaluations have been provided for U.S. Holsteins for 40 years, stillbirths for 12. “Records for stillbirth and calving ease were available on 1,140,000 and 1,340,000 cows (respectively) in the latest year, which is only 50 to 60% of those having lactation records in the Cooperator’s national database,” they write. “Health records were supplied on even less—513,000, and primarily for Holsteins.”

They also note that culling reasons are not being supplied on 30% of DHIA cows, even though culling has been part of the DHIA program for more than half of a century.

There are other issues as well. Transfer of information from on-farm computers to the national data base can sometimes be difficult. “Perhaps an even larger issue is that agreements need to be negotiated to permit the data to flow between organizations. These concerns need to be addressed, otherwise benefits are likely to be absent for a long time….

“Resolution is not likely to come unless there is considerable interest (pressure) from producers who will benefit the most. Dairy producers are at the core of all these organizations, so cooperation means helping yourself,” conclude Norman and Parker-Gaddis.

You can read the full article here.