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Cow PTAs to Include Additional Health and Fertility Information

10 December 2012

UK - DairyCo Breeding+ has announced that additional information will appear in cow genetic indexes with the aim of helping milk producers breed healthier cows.

The new information will bring cow Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) into line with those for bulls, which have included health and fitness traits for many years.

“PTAs for somatic cell count, female fertility and lifespan have not been included in published cow indexes until now, but will be part of all female indexes from this month,” says Marco Winters, head of genetics for DairyCo.

This information will be available through the ‘Herd Genetic Report’, which is available for any milk recorded herd through the DairyCo Breeding+ website (the cost is covered by the levy).

“Naturally, dairy farmers will be well aware of their herd’s healthiest and highest performing cows,” continues Mr Winters. “But they will also be aware that factors other than genetics have an influence on this performance.

“So, this additional information will give them the opportunity to identify their herd’s strong genetic lines for these important health and fitness traits, and hopefully help them to breed better cows,” he says.

“In addition to this, it will allow breeders to benchmark their herd against others, and to monitor their own genetic progress over time.”

This means that if they find they are lagging behind on either count, they should find it easier to take action.

“Breeding cows with good indexes for health and fitness traits is not expected to have an instant effect on their performance,” continues Mr Winters. “But the benefits are cumulative and build up over the generations, so by improving your herd’s genetics for these all-important traits, you are making your cows easier to manage over the long term, and stacking the odds against disease and infertility firmly in your favour.”

To access your report, go to and select ‘Herd Genetic Reports’. If you are not registered yet, select the option to register and you will be provided with login details.

Using genetic indexes for cows allows farmers to:
  • Monitor genetic improvement within their herd over time.
  • Benchmark their own herd against other milk recorded herds in the UK.
  • Assist in identifying superior animals in the herd to be used for breeding the next generation of replacement heifers.

Changes to cow PTAs

Changes to cow Predicted Transmitting Abilities (PTAs) have been made with the December 2012 index run for Holsteins and British Friesians. These bring cow indexes for yield traits into line with those for bulls (previously they were on a slightly different scale) and will bring cow genomic indexes that are based on the animal's DNA (to be published on a UK base later this year) into line with traditional indexes. These modifications reflect changes happening in other countries which have the effect of reducing variation across the yield PTAs. This means high figures will come down slightly and low figures will marginally increase. The differences are small and do not significantly affect the position of cows in UK rankings nor the position of UK cows in international rankings.

For more information on conversion formulae please email Marco Winters.

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