Easy milking thanks to balanced conformation

7
Jul
2020
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Emiel Willems, stock manager at the Abbink dairy farm in Vriezenveen.

‘Breeding with an emphasis on conformation is still an important factor’, according to Emiel Willems, stock manager at the Abbink dairy farm in Vriezenveen. ‘Cows with balanced conformation perform better across the board and have a longer productive life’, he explains. Classification, SireMatch and HerdOptimizer are tools that help farmers to work effectively on their breeding goals.

Take a cow like Wilskracht Warsi 879. Emiel Willems’ enthusiasm for her knows no bounds. She is one of his favourite cows in the 300-head dairy herd at the Abbink farm in Vriezenveen, where Willems is in charge. This daughter by Groenibo Bram – a breeding bull who has recently started building a fine reputation – produces plenty of milk with ease and registered a heifer list of 11,623 kg milk with 3.51% fat and 3.44% protein (lactation value 138). She is listed with 88 points for conformation and has claimed several prizes in the show ring, including a third place in the champions class at the HHH show in 2019.

Balanced cows come out on top

‘Warsi personifies all the traits I like to see in a cow’, explains Willems. ‘She has a high capacity for milk production which is combined with width in her frame, super udders and incredibly strong legs on sturdy claws. Precisely the balanced type of cow we’d love to fill the barn with!’

The apple of Willems’ eye – who bears his own prefix – is dam to the red-and-white bull Wilskracht Warhero. He recently joined the ranks of CRV’s InSire Select Bulls and has already sold out! The breeder naturally utilises this son of Delta Goal to the full. Scoring 354 Inet, his offspring inherit excellent production traits. He also scores 110 for conformation and offers good health traits.

‘Cows with balanced conformation perform better across the board’

Conformation contributes to longevity

As well as Warhero, top bulls for conformation like Delta Jigger, Delta Abundant and Peak Hotline are all given a chance to add their qualities to the Abbink dairy herd. ‘Breeding with an emphasis on conformation is still an important factor’, Willems believes. ‘Cows with nicely balanced conformation perform better across the board and have a longer productive life’, he explains. He interprets balanced conformation as the correct proportions of stature, chest width and the rump in relation to each other. He also favours legs that are not too sloping from the side and with a parallel placement from behind ending in well-angled claws.

Rapid advancements in breeding

The Abbink farm started eight years ago and the herd mainly comprises purchased animals. ‘We are still at an early stage and want to make advancements in breeding as rapidly as possible’, is how the manager describes their ambitions. ‘That’s why we have classifiers visit the farm so we have an objective insight into how the conformation of our cows is developing. Our mating selections are based on SireMatch recommendations’, he explains. For the younger animals, the SireMatch advice is based on the genomic marker breeding values generated by HerdOptimizer. ‘We harness all the data we can get our hands on to work effectively on our breeding goals’, Willems concludes.

Bulls with conformation qualities
CRV has a wide and varied range of bulls, including many bulls that combine high breeding values for production and durability traits with outstanding conformation. In the current offering of black-and-white bulls, for example, ten qualify for a breeding value of 110 or higher for overall conformation. Nine bulls score 110 or higher for udder traits and eight bulls 108 or higher for feet and legs. In addition, these bulls offer wide frame variations in their linear traits. This allows you to breed cows with balanced frames who are able to handle high production with ease.