Top health and fertility bulls dominate new £PLI rankings

The first proof run based on the revised Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI) has been published by DairyCo today (12 August) and it’s no surprise to see the proven Holstein sire rankings dominated by bulls which transmit significant improvement to their daughters’ health and fertility and reduce their costs of milk production.

The new number one bull, VH Tirsvad Goldwyn Grafit, is a case in point, transmitting exceptionally high daughter fertility (+10.5) along with low cell counts (-19) without compromising on milk and milk solids production. Formerly in second place, Grafit is a Danish-bred son of Goldwyn out of an Oman and tracing back to the American cow family, Tui Onyx Nick. He has already been heavily used in Scandinavia based on his early genomic predictions. At £623, Grafit’s PLI is far higher than cattle breeders will be accustomed to seeing, as the index’s new formula recognises the high financial value of the best genetics in the current economic climate.

The number two bull, Prehen Omen, is a complete newcomer, and originates closer to home, in Northern Ireland. Now owned by the McLean family (Relough herd) and from the Dutch Froukje cow family (which has many high ranking females on the genomic rankings), this bull is a components specialist at +0.12% fat and +0.14% protein. His PLI is £579 and he is currently only marketed in Northern Ireland.

Another new entry at number three is the already popular, Gen-I-Beq Lavaman. Straight into the proven list having formerly led the young sire rankings, Lavaman builds confidence in the DNA technology behind genomic young sire indexes, and now comes through with high components (+0.1% fat and +0.15% protein) and good fitness on the proven list. His new PLI is £545.

Hammer-Creek O Man Kody climbs up the rankings into fourth position, also with good daughter fertility at +12.8 and a PLI of £542, while former number one £PLI sire, Ladys-Manor RD Grafeeti now ranks in fifth position. Grafeeti is the highest type bull of the top 50 sires, at Type Merit +3.34. His PLI is £538.

Sixth ranking Kings-Ransom Erdman has the highest Lifespan Index in the top 20 at +0.5, meaning his daughters, on average, milk for half a lactation longer (around 150 days more) than a zero lifespan sire. This Planet x Ramos x Bullet benefits from the changes to the £PLI formula, throwing daughters with lower costs of maintenance and high levels of fitness. His PLI is £531.

After seventh ranking Morningview Levi (PLI £529), the number eight bull, Welcome Oman Paco is the highest climber in the top 20, siring daughters with low maintenance cost due to their smaller body size as well as high components (+0.25% fat and +0.11% protein) and the best fertility in the top 10 at +14.3. His PLI is £522.

ABS Simon is another climber to benefit from the new £PLI formula, being rewarded for his daughters’ lower costs of maintenance and their high fertility (+10.2) and earning a PLI of £513.

Ballycairn Oman Pello holds on to his high ranking, and is now both the highest production bull and the best cell count improver in the top 20. His Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) for milk, fat and protein are 850kg, 31.9kg and 26.8kg respectively while his SCC Index is -24. His PLI is £501.

Just outside the top 10, the second Danish bull to make an impression is the Mascol son, D Mason, with a PLI of £498, while Gran-J Oman McCormick is now the highest reliability sire in the top 20 with over 5,000 UK milking daughters. Their exceptional fertility earns McCormick a sky-high Fertility Index of +16.3, while his PLI of £497 ranks him in 12th position.

Thirteenth ranking Marbri Facebook (Man O Man) is another former genomic sire to make his proven debut, whose index is noted for high type (TM +2.98) and decent weights of milk, fat and protein. His PLI is £496.

More from the UK

Fourteenth ranking Laurellhill Classic provides another triumph for Northern Ireland, as this Oman son was bred in the Province by the Mawhinney family and moves up the rankings with good daughter cell counts and fertility. His PLI is £495.

Also UK-bred and just outside the top 20 are Wintersell Milo at PLI £455 and Ballycairn Tiergan at £427, both continuing to do well.

Commenting on the rankings, Marco Winters, DairyCo’s head of genetics, says: “The subtle changes to the £PLI formula for August 2014 have seen bulls whose daughters’ costs of production are low – whether through lower maintenance costs or better health and fertility – move up the rankings.

“It’s no surprise to see Oman [O-Bee Manfred Justice] and his sons, playing a significant role in these sires’ pedigrees as these bulls are renowned for exactly these traits.

“The influence of Oman continues to be felt some 16 years after his birth and as a result, the UK dairy herd as a whole has benefitted from noticeable improvements in health and fitness.

“I would urge any dairy producer who is not using £PLI as a breeding tool to consider doing so, and to look at its component traits to address specific issues in any herd.

“It is now well-proven that this will have a worthwhile impact on farm profitability, and as with all genetic improvement, the benefits will continue to accumulate over the generations.”

Base change

A further shift in this August proof run comes through a base change which has also been implemented this month, as it is every five years.

“This has no impact on the £PLI ranking but all bulls see a reduction in their PTAs for production and fitness traits resulting from the change in base – or the recalculated breed average,” explains Mr Winters.

As a consequence, breeders should be aware that a slight drop (eg a 168kg drop for kg milk PTA) does not mean the bull’s performance has declined, but merely that all production and fitness figures have shifted downwards as the breed average is realigned.

Full details of the new £PLI are on the DairyCo Breeding+ website at www.dairycobreeding.org.uk.

A table of the top 20 available Holstein bulls ranked on the latest PLI (August 2014) appears below. Type Merit is supplied by Holstein UK.

‘G’ indicates that the bull has been genotyped and this information is included in the evaluation. For daughter-proven sires with a limited amount of daughter information, this helps to increase the index reliability.

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