13 October 2020

Breeding for the shareholder

There’s a sustained determination among the breeding team here at LIC to ensure our shareholders access the most-elite genetics that both deliver on the national breeding objective, and last within the herd.

While the motivation is to create herds that are more efficient converters of feed-to-profit, we’re always mindful that a balanced approach is paramount.

The balanced approach to breeding not only delivers profit on farm, but ensures that resulting cows have good shed-attributes, the physical capacity to compete (i.e. get their share of feed), and an ability to walk, conceive, and stay in-calf.

Shareholder feedback has urged LIC to breed bulls that focused on the above balance. As a result LIC incorporated an internal index, called the Livestock Selection Index (LSI) within an already-robust breeding programme to ensure we would graduate such bulls.

Below are a few examples of bulls available through Premier Sires and / or Alpha this year. These are the sorts of bulls that epitomise our breeding philosophies – more profit from quality cows:

Examples of quality breeding bulls

The LSI is highly-correlated to Breeding Worth (BW), but it allows the selection team an ability to allocate weightings differently across specific traits – such as a heavier focus on udder conformation, for example.

Ultimately the LSI assists in the delivery of the elite genetics our shareholders want and expect.

The application of the LSI index can be powerful.

The LSI weightings reflect this desire, as indicated by the trend lines over time:

Liveweight BV

Breeding worth

To illustrate this point, and to show how powerful the application of LIC’s genomic selection tool is, the graphs above represent a snapshot of LIC’s Sire Proving Scheme with respect to (i) BW and (ii) liveweight.

These graphs reflect a great story with an impressive trend line in BW over time, but the graphs are also an excellent example of LIC’s ‘shareholder voice’.

If we consider liveweight, the majority of shareholders express their ideal as a medium-sized Holstein Friesian, a consistent KiwiCross, and a larger Jersey cow.

The LSI is continually reviewed to align with changing needs and wants of LIC shareholders: It is used in conjunction with other data that allows the breeding team to focus on quality cow families, consistent maternal performance, conformation, and longevity traits.

Add genomics to the mix and the team’s tool-kit is indeed formidable. The new genomic model (the SingleStep Animal Model) now utilised by LIC is state-of-the-art and we have the utmost confidence in the tool.

Genomics continues to progress worldwide and having this ‘stepchange’ improvement in the technology should allow the industry to move at a faster rate of-knots.

It’s interesting to note, for example, that LIC now purchases more young bulls sired by genomic sires than those sired by daughter proven genetics.