Improving your herds figures is not just down to the bull, it takes two to tango. Andrew Southwell the SCC genetic data analyst looks at how to increase your herd figures.

When making breeding decisions for a suckler herd, it can be so easy to ignore the dam and focus all of the effort on picking the right bull. While this is positive, and a better bull will always progress your herd faster, it’s only half of the story! The genetics of a calf is made up of 50% of the sire and 50% of the dam, meaning the dam plays just as much a part in producing the calf as the sire does (or more via the maternal effect). Therefore, while sires are obviously involved in a lot more breeding (40 a year compared to 1 for a breeding female), you should be monitoring your breeding females and culling, replacing or adding as appropriate.

It’s easy to look at your breeding females average £Profit, and think you’re all good. But if you average £10,000 but spread from £2,000 to £18,000, then you’re still breeding and producing from those low £2,000 dams. If you invest in an elite bull or use top class genetics available via AI from Cogent, then it seems a waste to be using it on these bottom end cows that likely should’ve been culled out a long time ago!

Furthermore, just because a dam has good £Profit figures, doesn’t mean she belongs in a suckler herd, she must also have a strong Weaning Index, as this is where you can see the biggest difference in managing your herd. From easier calving, to better milking ability, the Weaning Index will indicate the profitability of the cow-calf unit from birth through to weaning. So along with the £Profit Index, the Weaning Index is extremely important to track in your breeding females.

It’s amazing how often I see some old cows still plodding on that are way below average, dragging the herd down and producing calves that drag the crop down. The old favourites may still look good and produce consistently, and I know they can be hard to let go, but if their numbers aren’t anywhere near right then they need to go!
Having more consistent breeding females at a reasonable £Profit and Weaning Index value or higher means you make better use of your bull, and it means you should have a much more consistent crop of calves, and therefore more potential breeding animals to pick from or sell.

When starting the process of sorting through your dams, you can see improvements in your herd and calf crop as large or even larger than you’ll see by upgrading your bull! So don’t fall behind, keep on top of your dam figures, and cull out those that are dragging you down. After all, we’re all here for the most profitable animal, but they must also be managed in the most profitable way!

The above graph shows the distribution curve of £Profit of 2 groups of dams. One averaging £10,000 on the £Profit (Blue) and the other Averaging £13,500 (Orange). These higher-value dams (Orange) will also produce higher value calves, providing more potential breeding stock. This is an extreme example but shows the benefits of culling out lower end dams and replacing with stronger dams.

If you would like to see how your dams are impacting your herd please contact Andrew directly on 01377 227790 or email him andrew.southwell@stabiliser.co.uk. Andrew will be able to asses your herd and put a report together for you, on the best way to improve your herd figures.

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