• Choice of artificial insemination beef bulls used to mate with female dairy cattle

      Berry, Donagh; Ring, S.C.; Twomey, A.J.; Evans, R.D.; Science Foundation Ireland; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; 16/RC/3835 (Elsevier for American Dairy Science Association, 2020-02)
      Understanding the preferences of dairy cattle producers when selecting beef bulls for mating can help inform beef breeding programs as well as provide default parameters in mating advice systems. The objective of the present study was to characterize the genetic merit of beef artificial insemination (AI) bulls used in dairy herds, with particular reference to traits associated with both calving performance and carcass merit. The characteristics of the beef AI bulls used were compared with those of the dairy AI bulls used on the same farms. A total of 2,733,524 AI records from 928,437 females in 5,967 Irish dairy herds were used. Sire predicted transmitting ability (PTA) values and associated reliability values for calving performance and carcass traits based on national genetic evaluations from prior to the insemination were used. Fixed effects models were used to relate both genetic merit and the associated reliability of the dairy and beef bulls used on the farm with herd size, the extent of Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbreeding adopted by the herd, whether the herd used a technician insemination service or do-ityourself, and the parity of the female mated. The mean direct calving difficulty PTA of the beef bulls used was 1.85 units higher than that of the dairy bulls but with over 3 times greater variability in the beef bulls. This 1.85 units equates biologically to an expectation of 1.85 more dystocia events per 100 dairy cows mated in the beef × dairy matings. The mean calving difficulty PTA of the dairy AI bulls used reduced with increasing herd size, whereas the mean calving difficulty PTA of the beef AI bulls used increased as herd size increased from 75 cows or fewer to 155 cows; the largest herds (>155 cows) used notably easier-calving beef bulls, albeit the calving difficulty PTA of the beef bulls was 3.33 units versus 1.67 units for the dairy bulls used in these herds. Although we found a general tendency for larger herds to use dairy AI bulls with lower reliability, this trend was not obvious in the beef AI bulls used. Irrespective of whether dairy or beef AI bulls were considered, herds that operated more extensive Holstein-Friesian × Jersey crossbreeding (i.e., more than 50% crossbred cows) used, on average, easier calving, shorter gestationlength bulls with lighter expected progeny carcasses of poorer conformation. Mean calving difficulty PTA of dairy bulls used increased from 1.39 in heifers to 1.79 in first-parity cows and to 1.82 in second-parity cows, remaining relatively constant thereafter. In contrast, the mean calving difficulty PTA of the beef bulls used increased consistently with cow parity. Results from the present study demonstrate a clear difference in the mean acceptable genetic merit of beef AI bulls relative to dairy AI bulls but also indicates that these acceptable limits vary by herd characteristics.