Data drives the Biddulph’s better dairy breeds

Zach RelphCountryman
Cowaramup dairy farmers Jacqui and Bob Biddulph with daughter Hannah.
Camera IconCowaramup dairy farmers Jacqui and Bob Biddulph with daughter Hannah.

Cowaramup dairy farmers Bob and Jacqui Biddulph’s breeding decisions are driven by data.

The husband-and-wife team, alongside daughter Hannah, embrace using new bulls to keep their herd of 420 registered Holsteins genetically modern.

The family applies Australian Breeding Values — an estimated genetic merit of dairy cows — to improve their milker’s milking speed and fertility at their 475ha landholding, near Margaret River.

In addition to ABVs, the Biddulphs also use the Balanced Performance Index to determine a cow’s genetic merit based on the traits contributing to farm business performance.

Mrs Biddulph developed her own formula to determine an animal’s genetic merit.

It halves both the sire and dam’s breeding values to decide which home-bred bulls would be retained to mop-up after artificial insemination in their seasonal calving system.

Mrs Biddulph said the family had always focused on breeding strong cows.

I’ve reared bulls from maiden heifers now that we have got more information. Before they hit the dairy, we know a fair bit about them,

she said.

“We genomically test our home-bred bulls to confirm they are good enough. This early information puts us in front compared to where we used to be.”

The latest ABVs were released this week to help dairy farmers choose which sires to use over their herds.

Independent and industry-owned organisation DataGene’s Good Bulls Guide is a starting point for farmers in determining sire selection. DataGene chief executive Matt Shaffer said the guide was underpinned by breeding science and data.

“ABVs are based on Australian data to give the best possible prediction of an animal’s performance under Australian conditions,” he said.

“Other breeding values are designed to give the best predictions for performance under their local conditions.”

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