Herdlife Builder

For Long-Term Profitabilty Improving longevity can lead to improved profitability. Herds made up of longer-lasting cows have more cows milking during their peak production ages and require fewer replacements. USDA’s PTA for Productive Life (PL) has proven to be a useful tool but it still takes a long time for these values to reach high reliability. Type traits can serve as valuable indicators of longevity and in addition can be used to a select a more consistent and uniform herd.

The Herdlife Builder designation was introduced in 2003 and has served as a useful indicator of sires with the combination of type traits that lead to improved longevity in large, commercial herds. With an expanding database of PL information, Select Sires has revised the criteria used to determine Herdlife Builder sires. The revision was made after listening to customers who requested that we help them make cows that last longer in larger, commercial confinement operations.

To determine the new criteria, we assembled a database of 1,000 sires that most recently achieved high reliability PL values. This database was then analyzed to identify the combination of type traits that are most related to longevity. This analysis was used to develop an index that selects for bulls with shallow udder depth, high feet and legs score and lower dairy form. In addition, the index includes stature, rump angle and rear teat placement so that we can avoid breeding cows that are too big, have rear teats that are too close or have high pins. Sires that rank highest for this index and are not in the top third of active- A.I. sires for stature will receive the Herdlife Builder designation. Searching out bulls with this designation will help producers focus on those bulls that sire type traits that lead to long-lasting cows.

Holstein sires carrying the Herdlife Builder designation are chosen based on a composite of type traits that are predictive of productive life with the following relative weights:
•33% Udder Depth
•-33% Stature
•13% Feet and Legs Score
•-7% Rear Teat Placement
•7% Dairy Form
•Bulls in the top third for stature among active-A.I. sires do not qualify (=2.04 for December 2009)
•Bulls need to have PTA PL > 0.

Herdlife Builder status for Jersey sires is based on the following criteria:
•Top 50% for JUI (JUI = 4.18)
•Top 50% for Foot Angle (PTA Foot Angle = 0.5)
•Not among the top 20% for Dairy Form (PTA Dairy Form < 1.8)
•Above breed average for PL (PTA PL > 0)

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