When it comes to designing and implementing breeding strategies, members of the American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) are keeping profitability squarely at the forefront. “The Jersey cattle you see in the showring today are more modern, functionally-correct cows,” says AJCA executive secretary and CEO Neal Smith. “They’re obviously more productive.”
“Members have been focusing on breeding a more efficient producer of milk solids. We emphasize maintaining an optimum body size, while at the same time increasing production and component levels.”
AJCA records from 2017 attest to how well members have been doing in meeting their intended mark. “For actual production in 305 days, we saw 17,666 pounds of milk, 867 pounds of fat and 650 pounds of protein,” Smith notes. “On an energy-corrected fat basis, 99,161 Jersey cows averaged 21,977 pounds of milk last year.”
He looks for the pace of change in the breed to accelerate in the next 10 years. “There are new, more powerful tools available to our breeders, such as genomic testing, that influence positive change more rapidly than anything we have seen before,” he says.
To encourage rapid and widespread adoption of genomic testing among breeders, AJCA’s board of directors set aside more than $100,000 in 2009 to supplement the cost of genomic testing. In 2017, Jerseys were 12% of the national genomic testing effort, a substantial gain over 2016. “We are continuously working to incorporate genomic predictions into our computerized mating program,” Smith says. “Genomics have also been a significant tool for inbreeding management in the Jersey breed and will lead to the development of more effective health traits and increased herd life and profitability.”