Bottom line boost for dairy genetics

The economic value of the UK’s chief breeding index Profitable Lifetime Index (£PLI) is worth £1.58 in pre-tax profit for every point of PLI, according to new analysis

For a typical 150 cow, top 10% £PLI herd, that equates to an additional margin of £30,099 per year.

The study combined data from Promar International, milk recordings and AHDB’s genetics figures to examine the income and costs on dairy farms which are influenced by genetics.

Marco Winters, AHDB head of animal genetics, said: “We’ve long known that animals with better genetics have a huge impact on a farm’s bottom line. This study clearly shows the benefits of effective breeding policies over recent years.”

The AHDB-commissioned study, undertaken by Promar, used their Farm Business Accounts data to look at the performance of 410 black-and-white herds representing over 104,000 cows.

A Genetically Influenced Margin (GIM) was created to explore the financial factors influenced by cow genetics, such as milk, calf and cull sales income and feed, herd replacements, vet and med, AI and semen costs.

“Assuming there is no relationship between genetics and any other costs, this will translate directly through to pre-tax profit,” says Promar consultant, Tim Harper, who undertook the analysis.

Herds were grouped based on their £PLI, with the top 25% of herds earning a margin of £1,818 per cow/year compared with average herds at £1,670 and the bottom 25% £1,529.

The improved financial performance of the higher genetic merit herds was due to the increased value of milk sales, amounting to an extra £283 per cow/year. However, this was partially offset by the use of concentrate, costing an extra £121 per cow/year.

“Good herd management clearly has an influence, but the role of genetics is unambiguous and gives farmers more confidence when making breeding decisions,” says Mr Harper.

£PLI is AHDB’s within breed genetic index designed for UK dairy farmers with all year round calving herds and represents the additional profit a high £PLI bull is expected to return from each of its milking daughters over her lifetime compared to an average bull of £0 PLI.

Dedicated breeding indexes are also available for spring block calvers (£SCI) and autumn calvers (£ACI).

Farmers can benchmark their herd’s £PLI using AHDB’s Herd Genetic Report ( which is available for all producers who are fully milk recording.

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