Fertility matters in HHP$ index

News and Updates
As herds continue to fine tune heifer-replacement populations, the average age of the milking herd continues to rise. It takes three years before the pregnancies made today are in the milking herd, therefore precision-selection strategies are a critical component to the success of your breeding program.

By: Susie Martin, Records Analysis and Genetic Consultant, CentralStar Cooperative 

Here we will hone in on fertility, as it is among the most important components of your herd’s success. To get a sense of where we are, let’s look at the historical genotypic and phenotypic trends as reported by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) and then dive into Select Sires’ innovative Herd Health Profit Dollars™ (HHP$™) index and showcase fertility’s weighting.

Analyzing industry trends

In the chart below, you can see Holstein genetic trends for Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) have slowed the decrease in DPR and now are maintaining, while Jersey genetic trends show a continued decline. The phenotypic trend for both breeds show an increase, resulting from the combined impact of genetic and management improvements. Practices, such as synchronization and activity-monitoring systems, are key factors in improving phenotypic measures of fertility. Over time, the industry has seen a dramatic, positive increase in pregnancy rates.

Historical (2000 – 2018) Cow Conception Rate (CCR) phenotypic and genetic trends indicate an ongoing slight improvement for Holsteins. Jerseys show an increase for the phenotypic trend, and they are maintaining that trend. Once again, we can assume better management practices are contributors to the improvement.

The CDCB data suggests Holsteins have better fertility than Jerseys, but keep in mind breeding-value data is not apples-to-apples for the two breeds. That said, Jerseys currently continue to be more fertile than Holsteins.

As an industry, we should continue to focus on improving fertility traits. Reproduction is one of the primary reasons cows are culled, and consumer demands may decrease the use of synchronization procedures. DPR, CCR, and Heifer Conception Rate (HCR) are all fertility traits included in key genetic indexes.

HHP$ prioritizes fertility

While many composite indexes include fertility, HHP$ places a strong emphasis on fertility. Developed by Select Sires, HHP$ is designed to create cows that are productive and trouble-free. This present-day index focuses on areas that most frequently cause cows to leave the herd, such as failure to get pregnant, mastitis and low production. Fertility receives an 11% weighting in the Holstein HHP$ formula and a 16% weighting in the Jersey HHP$ formula. 

Selection indexes are a critical component of breeding programs. If you would like assistance in determining which index and genetic plan meets your herd’s long-term goals, ask your local Select Sires team member for a consultation today.

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