The successes of Discovery Project, past and present, were highlighted at the recent Open Day held 21 March on the host farm of Robin & Pixie Moss near Te Awamutu. Attendees at the Open Day listened to a number of speakers about different aspects of the programme as well as view the current crop of heifers under test for the 2011/12 season. The 34 heifers in the 2011/12 Discovery Project were selected from all around New Zealand.
Farm Manager, Douwe Ykema, talked about the system under which the heifers are farmed explaining the heifers were milked in a herd of 600 Holstein Friesian and Friesian Crossbreed cows. He talked about the quirks of various heifers in the group. Discovery Project Chairperson Wendy Harker introduced each heifer and highlighted their production and genetic values.
LIC Sire Analyst, Simon Worth, spoke about the successes of the programme from the breeding company point of view, since its inception eight years ago. “We have had four sons from Discovery that have been daughter proven and from the group of four, one was returned and has been marketed in the Premier Sires team,” he reported. That bull was Westland CL Jasper-ET S2F, bred by Nelson Cook of Westland, and was marketed in the 2010 Premier Sires team. “A one in four strike rate is really good, especially when we [LIC] expect a one in 15 strike rate.”
Worth also reported that another bull, Barlee HD Pegasus-ET S3F, bred by Brian Hughes of Hawera, the result of another mating at Discovery Project, was marketed as a DNA Proven sire in 2010, “He got about 15,000 inseminations on top of his daughter proof inseminations.” Worth noted that this bull’s initial proof could be the equivalent to a reproof for older daughter-proven bulls.
Worth commented that for the first time ever the animals selected had been genomically screened and that to date the group had improved on their ancestry prediction as the genomics had anticipated, “Although not all of them have improved as individuals, there have been other factors such as health and environment that has taken them backward.”
Discovery Project Committee member, Tony O’Connor, spoke on behalf of the project’s analyst Terry Hughes, about the progress of the Discovery Project over the eight seasons it has been running.
Hughes’ analysis had found to date that the groups of genetically superior heifers selected had produced more each season compared to the host herd (Host farms have been commercial large herds in Ashburton, Palmerston North and now Te Awamutu). Concerns in earlier years regarding the conception rate of the heifers had improved and it seem to depend on the condition of the animals at the beginning of the season, pre-calving – as condition improved so did the conception rate.
O’Connor continued the celebration of successes in the programme through noting bulls that have been marketed by either LIC or other breeding companies, were as a direct result of the breeder taking advantage of the breeding technologies (IVP and MOET) offered by Animal Breeding Services whilst the heifers have been at Discovery Project, “Breeding is a gamble and we thank those breeders for taking that gamble.”