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Letter to the editor

Dear Sir,

I would like to comment on the article by John Donworth, Teagasc, in your Farming supplement on Tuesday, March 27.

I agree with John that as the bull is 50pc of your herd, you need to have as much information as possible in order to make an informed decision when purchasing a stock bull.

However, I am bewildered by his remark on milk recording -- "I don't want to see milk recording figures" -- and to ignore the records.

With more than 450,000 cows milk recorded, this is potentially ignoring 50pc of the genetics in the female dairy population.

The Irish Friesian breeders pioneered milk recording in the early 1960s and this has made a valuable contribution to the improvement of our national herd in milk solids and milk quality over the generations.

The information which he refers to in the IHFA pedigree certificate that accompanies a pedigree animal at the point of sale is updated in accordance with the current genetic evaluations and bull proofs available through ICBF.

The certificate is easily read and gives generation information on both sire and dam. This ensures that inbreeding is avoided. The standard 305-day milk records, the calving pattern of the cows and the conformation scores in the pedigree certificate give confidence to the purchaser as to the performance of the bull selected.

After all, the female does contribute 50pc of the genetics. With the advent of genomics, there will be greater recognition and emphasis placed on the female.

At the IHFA bull sale in Nenagh Mart on March 28, dairy farmers were out in large numbers. IHFA staff were available to offer advice and answer questions on the bulls on offer.

It was one of the best sales on record with an average price of €3,700 paid for quality bulls. The top price of €7,500 was paid for Lisduff Marvel. This bull had an EBI of €162, the dam had consistent milk protein over her nine lactations to 3.5pc, with low cell counts and excellent conformation.

This consistency of information was to be seen in the catalogue going back to the fourth dam for all bulls on sale.

The pedigree information on this bull portrayed a well-balanced animal capable, like his dam, of breeding consistently to his offspring. The purchaser was prepared to hand over his hard-earned cash for the correct bull.

Over emphasis on single-trait selection, as we experienced in the past with EBI, may lead us to decisions that with hindsight we may regret sometime in the future.

I have high regard for all farmers and in particular dairy farmers in their decision-making skills. I find it very encouraging their ability to seek out information and achieve a balance in their breeding goals.

We need to strike a balance in making our selection and not disregard sources of information that have proven to stand the test of time.

Charles Gallagher,

Chief executive of the Irish Holstein Friesian Association

Indo Farming