ABC's polled breeding snub leaves dairy farmers fuming

ABC's polled breeding snub leaves dairy farmers fuming

Dairy
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An ABC news story has left dairy farmers fuming after it overlooked gains made in the breeding of polled dairy cattle.

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An ABC news story has left dairy farmers fuming after it overlooked gains made in the breeding of polled dairy cattle.

"It is possible to naturally breed a hornless dairy cow," the ABC report said.

"Angus beef cattle don't have horns, and when they mate with dairy cattle, half of their offspring won't grow horns either.

"The problem is this compromises the quality and yield of milk production - something that can only be corrected through decades of further breeding."

Polled dairy cattle have actually been bred for decades.

Indeed, the fourth-ranked genomic Holstein sire available in Australia with a very handy Balanced Performance Index score of $399, Jeronimo, happens to be polled.

According to the National Herd Improvement Association of Australia's 2019 Semen Market Survey, polled represent 5.4 per cent of total semen sales.

But the ABC report ignored conventional breeding entirely, instead telling the story of gene-edited dairy semen used to create polled bulls in the United States.

That gene-editing process was later found to be contaminated with DNA from bacteria but semen from the bulls had found its way to Australia.

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Cohuna, Vic, dairy farmer Heather Campbell said the ABC report told only half the story.

"They dismissed all sorts of pain relief are available and said the disbudding scraped the bone, which is wrong," she said.

Ms Campbell said genetic editing for polled characteristics was unwarranted.

"It's going to take years to get that kind of technology through the system and by the time we get there, with the pace we're setting in polled breeding we'll probably be ahead anyway."

Datagene group leader Michelle Axford said there were 86 polled bulls in December's Good Bulls Guide, a number that was likely to jump again in the next edition.

Australia's top two polled Jersey bulls, Kings Ville Bashful and Madill, were bred by Rob Anderson, Drouin, whose farm has had polled dairy cattle since 1993.

"It's always been a bit of an interest for us and something we've tried to concentrate on but it always has been a bit of an issue getting good polled bulls to use," Mr Anderson said.

More high-ranking polled bulls had become available in the last five years.

"At the end of the day, people want to move forward genetically and if a quality polled sire is available then I'm sure it makes sire selection a lot easier," he said.

Michelle Axford said genomic testing had boosted the availability of high-quality polled semen.

"As we can genotype bulls and heifers, we can get a much better handle on their traits earlier," she said.

"It's easier to amplify a breeding program by having that information at a very young age."

The story ABC's polled breeding snub leaves dairy farmers fuming first appeared on Stock & Land.

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