Liquid milk producers have been ignoring the EBI system to the detriment of herd performance and profitability, delegates at the Teagasc National Liquid Milk Conference were told.
Every €1 increase in herd EBI in a liquid milk herd has been shown to increase profit by €6 a cow, Teagasc dairy expert George Ramsbottom told farmers at the event in Wexford.
"The perception persists that high EBI cows are low-milk producers who are best suited to spring calving dairy farms," said Mr Ramsbottom. "That is simply not the case."
A study of profit monitor and EBI data from 150 liquid and winter milk farms over three years showed that higher EBI herds made an average of €6 more profit per cow per €1 increase in herd EBI, he claimed.
When 579 cows in winter/liquid milk herds were ranked on EBI, Teagasc found that the top 20pc of cows (average EBI €114) spent 919 days in milk over the three lactations and produced 7,307kg of milk per lactation between lactations one and three.
In contrast, the bottom 20pc of cows (average: -€26) spent 107 fewer days in milk and produced 2,040 litres less milk.
"Part of the reason for the difference in milk production was the fertility of the top EBI group," said Mr Ramsbottom.
"They had an average calving interval of 408 days and at the birth of their fourth calf, 63pc of them remained in the herd."
In contrast, the lowest EBI cows had a calving interval of 441 days and only one third of them survived to the fourth lactation.
Mr Ramsbottom added that increased fat and protein content from higher EBI cows was also important for liquid-milk herds.
"With the move towards an A+B-C payment system for surplus milk, higher milk solids are becoming more relevant for liquid milk herds," Mr Ramsbottom claimed.
The dairy expert urged liquid-milk producers to use teams of high EBI bulls from the ICBF Active Bull List.
"Our advice is to select bulls with an EBI of greater than €200. It should be possible to select bull teams with greater than €80 coming from milk index and at least €100 coming from fertility index," he added.