Let’s take a closer look at domestic
Jersey semen sales, and the key reasons that have driven 10
consecutive years over 1 million units, a 130% decade sales increase
to reach a market share of 10.8%, and an unprecedented period of
annual gains dating from 1994, interrupted only once by the economic
downturn of 2009.
Accounting for the turn to Jersey
genetics in the U.S. is not complicated. Jersey genetics perform,
and nowhere is this clearer than in recent analyses of national
production, reproduction and culling data by the USDA Animal
Improvement Programs Laboratory.
Compared to cows of other breeds
calving in 2011, Jerseys posted the largest gains over the previous
year—23 lbs. fat and 19 lbs. protein per cow—to average 19,004 lbs.
milk, 893 lbs. fat and 688 lbs. protein (305-day, 2x, m.e. basis).
For reproduction, Jerseys had the highest first-service conception
rate (41%), averaged 2.2 breedings per conception (for an overall
conception rate of 37%), and had the shortest calving interval of
all breeds at 396 days, 15 days shorter than Holstein. Then, in a
study of the reasons cows enrolled in DHI programs exited the herd
in 2012, Jerseys had the lowest cull rate among all breeds and
crossbreds, the difference from other groups varying from 1% to
nearly 9%. Compared to Holstein, there was no difference in culling
rate for low production (5.5% Holstein, 5.4% Jersey), but notable
differences for reproduction problems (5.1% vs. 2.9%, respectively)
and mastitis/high somatic cell score (4.0% vs. 2.8%).
This performance has been driven by
genetics bred and developed for A.I. service. And, as shown in Table
1, though we have fewer bulls in active A.I. service compared to
Holstein, they are competitive. On average, Jersey bulls have an
advantage in combined PTAs for fat and protein, as well as for
Productive Life (PL) and daughter pregnancy rate (DPR). The years of
putting selection pressure on the things that matter most to the
bottom line—efficient production of milk components, fitness and
longevity—have delivered not only bottom-line performance and
customer satisfaction, but also breed growth.
The challenge for achieving our
potential growth is growing the number of Jersey bulls in A.I. that
will satisfy the expectations of dairy farmers who will continually,
always expect more: higher production of milkfat and protein,
superior reproductive performance, better udder health, and longer
productive life. And while Table 1 shows that the number of
genomic-evaluated Jersey bulls (NAAB code G) is growing and
that they hold an advantage in combined fat and protein PTAs
compared to G-code Holstein bulls, Holstein is stepping up its
selection emphasis in key traits and has widened its advantage for
Let’s concede the obvious. A bigger
population affords greater opportunities to find the extremes. With
a smaller population, one has to search harder among its members to
find the exceptional genes.
Genotyping makes "searching harder"
easier, much easier, more efficient and, importantly, more
accurate than pedigree alone. As widely as genotyping has been
utilized in the Jersey breed, it is being used far more among
Holsteins. Table 2 tells the story. For the most recent month
(March 2013), registered Holstein females are being tested at a
rate more than double of Jersey (roughly 45% of average monthly
registrations, vs. 20%, respectively).
The genes that will maintain Jersey’s competitive edge are out
there. They need to be found. Increasing the pace of Jersey
genotyping will help locate them, and bring them to market, and
drive continued breed growth.