Darren and Sharon Parrish use Australian Breeding Values (ABVs) for workability and calving ease to help run a productive and profitable dairy business and make better decisions on their farm at Bodalla on the New South Wales south coast.
The ABVs help them identify bulls whose progeny are quick and relaxed milkers, while reducing the need for assisted calvings.
While these ABVs are on the checklist for any bulls used in the herd, the Parrishs also record the traits within their own herd so they have a measure on how each heifer and cow performs and how their herd is tracking.
Their herd's workability and calving ease records also go back to DataGene and are essential in building reliability in the proofs of the bulls they have used, a process which underpins ABVs and the genetic evaluation system.
"We've been keeping detailed cow records for a long time ù it's something I really like doing because the information we collect gives us feedback on our cows," Mrs Parrish said.
"While it does involve a bit of extra work, the information you get back on your cows shows you what they are doing, the gains we are making and helps us make better decisions."
The Parrishs milk 200 registered Holsteins cows all year round under their Darradale prefix.
The Parrishs have recorded workability traits for all two-year-old heifers in their first lactation for more than 20 years. Workability covers three traits that reflect how easy a cow is to have in the herd: milking speed, temperament and likeability.
The Workability ABV is included in each of the three indices ù Balanced Performance Index (BPI), Health Weighted Index (HWI) and Type Weighted Index (TWI) ù with the highest weighting in the HWI.
"Our on-farm software program makes it really straight forward," Mrs Parrish said.
"Once a heifer's calving date is recorded in the system, then 30 days later Easy Dairy will automatically flag that the heifer needs to be assessed for the workability traits.
"We calve 50-60 heifers at a time twice a year, so we will have two batches a year, which need to be recorded as they come through the shed.
"Once we have assessed the heifers for their milking speed, temperament and likeability, those records are automatically sent to our herd recording service, Dairy Express.
"It might seem like extra work but we are really interested in our cows and we want to know who is slow or nervous as they are not the types of cows we want in the herd."
The Calving Ease ABV is an indicator of how easily a bull's progeny will be born ù bulls with a calving ease ABV of 100 or more produce easier calvings.
"When we select bulls to use over the herd we look at calving ease because we want to minimise calving problems," Mrs Parrish said.
"Every time a calf is born we record the date, its dam, its size, sex, calving ease score and fate.
"Heifers that have unassisted calvings reach peak production faster and get back in calf sooner than heifers that need assistance.
"It's expensive to breed and grow out a heifer to the point of calving so we want our heifers to calve unassisted and come into production strongly and then get back in calf and stay in the herd."
Mrs Parrish said having systems in places to record data, meant collecting cow records became second nature and fitted in with other farm activities.
"I don't see it as extra work, but more of an investment ù the more reliable our records are, the more reliable the information is that we get back on our herd," she said.
"You can set things up so recording data is quick and easy. I've recently downloaded the HerdData app, which should make it easier to record data such as matings on our lease block and also calvings out in the paddock because I will able to use my mobile phone."
Mrs Parrish said the benefits of recording workability and calving ease data on farm were two-fold.
"Recording workability and calving ease gives us information on our herd, while contributing data back on the bulls we have used which improves the reliability of their ABVs," she said.
"The figures mean we can see the genetic progress we are making in our herd because we have accurate, objective data on the cows in our herd.
"If we want bulls to have meaningful and accurate proofs then we need to supply figures on their daughters' traits back through the herd tests companies to get accurate bull ABVs.
"The end result is that we know what we are breeding and can use the data from our herd and the bulls we use to make faster genetic gain."D
For more information, contact DataGene, phone (03) 9032 7191 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.