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Getting the Best Out of Performance Recording
The quality of the Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) produced for your herd are only as good as the data that has contributed to them. Some herds put themselves at a disadvantage by not providing sufficient high quality data to reveal the quality of their cattle within the analysis.
By following the points outlined below, not only will you increase the accuracy of your EBVs – but you are also more likely to see the figures for genetically superior cattle within your herd increase.
When submitting calving records:
1. Submit clear, accurate and timely data
2. Where possible provide ET recipient, fostering and birth weight records
3. Check data coming back before the main analysis.
When submitting weights:
1. Try to treat all your cattle the same – where different management groups exist code them clearly
2. Check your weighscales (weigh yourself as a test)
3. Weigh cattle as close to the recommended dates as possible
4. Weigh them all, with the odd exception of any calves in very poor health.
Collecting the Best Ultrasound Scanning Data
1. Get your appointment booked in good time
2. Scan at an appropriate age, ensuring calves are at least 300 and not more than 500 days of age
3. Try to treat all your calves the same or ask the technician to subdivide them into different management groups (a show team, commercial team etc)
4. Don’t just scan the best or the males – it won’t lead to higher EBVs
5. Large contemporary groups are advantageous.
To make the ultrasound scanning day run smoothly remember:
1. Cattle are weighed on the day, so a weigh crate is required
2. The handling must take place undercover, preferably in a building without direct sunlight so the scans can be easily seen
3. Mains power is necessary at the scanning point. Generators can only be used if fitted with a voltage regulator and surge protector
4. A table is required for the scanning equipment
5. Handling facilities must be adequate and ensure adequate help is available to handle cattle safely
6. Please have your records to hand in case there are any queries relating to the identification of the animal being scanned.
More information is available in our factsheet Ultrasound scanning cattle
Making Recording Easy
Most of the records required for herd recording are already collected for registration and/or management purposes. It really is just a case of making the information available to us. However, some steps can be taken to simplify the process:
1. Collect records around other tasks.
There is no need to make a special job of weighings if they can be made to coincide with a time when cattle are being handled for another purpose. Many herds weigh at weaning, housing and spring turnout, which can cover three of the ideal four weighings in the year.
2. Recording birth weights is not essential.
Although having the data is important, where systems are extensive or there are potential difficulties with aggressive cows, the evaluation will work without it. Without an actual measurement, a Birth Weight EBV would still be predicted using its known correlations with the other traits that are measured e.g. growth rate, calving ease, gestation length etc. However, where this occurs, the accuracy of the EBV will be lower than if the trait had been measured.
3. Only collect additional data when there is sufficient need.
In particular, it is recommended that scanning should only be carried out when there are at least five animals in the management group (or ‘contemporary group’). Too few animals in a group means an insufficient number is available for comparison purposes which limits the value of the data in the evaluation.
4. Consider the use of labour saving devices.
In particular, in larger herds, cosider using devices such as electronic tags and weigh scales.
5. Involve your staff.
Breeding decisions and the associated work is often carried out partly or wholly by farm staff. Whoever is involved in collecting the records needs to be aware of the importance of accuracy and timeliness and ideally be made party to the results of their efforts.