ONE Jersey breeders has used polled genetics to add long-term value to her herd, writes SIMONE SMITH
Choosing polled genetics doesn't necessarily mean other traits have to be sacrificed, according to one Western District dairy farmer.
Kerry McGarvie has been using polled Jersey semen at her 380- head stud Taughboyne at Gnotuk, near Camperdown, for a couple of years with the aim to cut costs, reduce labour and in the long-term "add value to our herd".
"My interest in polled genetics developed in 2010 when it was explained to me that a dominant gene was responsible for the polled traits - I was a lot keener on the idea once I realised how much easier it was going to be," she said.
"Every single time a polled gene is inherited, either from the dam or the sire, the calf will be polled."
Kerry and partner Lawrence Finney started with three polled sires Kirk-P, Eclipse-P and Carrel-P along with non-polled sires and then last year moved to five polled sires.
This year, 400 polled doses have been ordered from bulls such as Eclipes-P, Pro-P, Imagination-P, Motivation-P and Critic-P - all by mainstream sires and all have positive figures for either type, milk flow, components, cell count, productive life or Jersey udder index, according to Kerry.
"Our herd has been progressing up to date using the same breeding values I have chosen the polled sires on, so I'm confident nothing will change that," she said.
"My selection process has not had to change to select polled sires, I still use the same data bases and still choose sires with the individual traits we've been trying to improve in our herd."
"They fall into basic categories such as a milk bull, a component bull, a type bull or a health traits bull/good allrounder for the cows - I don't really want to change much in the next generation."
Taking a cautious approach, last year the couple achieved the 50 per cent polled rate that's expected from the heterozygous sires (where half the calves were expected to be polled), but following that success now believe the homozygous sires (100 per cent polled) had a lot of "appeal".
The only concern is that there needs to be more choice in the homozygous sires, a hurdle Kerry believes can be overcome by identifying polled females on-farm and using polled sires more often.
Proving polled is no barrier to industry adulation, Kerry explained how last year's Semex Jersey Australia Great Southern Challenge champion Broadlin Constance 2565-P (EX91) came from polled stock.
"For most likely five generations the polled gene has been ticking away in her family, and then suddenly you have a peer-acclaimed cow sired by one of Australia's hottest bulls in Alta VanAhlem, sending two sons in to progeny test programs by two of Australia's highest ranking (Australian Profit Ranking) bulls in Elton and Navara," she said.
"Neither VanAhlem, Elton or Navara are polled, but the sons have inherited the polled gene from the dam, so that they now combine some of the best genetics going around with the added bonus of potentially passing on the polled gene."
"It's a very exciting time for polled-genetics in the dairy industry."
"We are finally starting to catch-up to the beef breeds on this one."