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Dairy industry’s next ‘All Blacks’ selected

Dairy industry’s next ‘All Blacks’ selected

In what's arguably the equivalent of making it into the All Blacks squad for a bull, a rigorous four-year selection process has resulted in CRV Ambreed's latest group of proven sires that are set to become household names.

Thirteen young superstars have just graduated as CRV Ambreed proven sires, which means they are considered to have the highest genetic merit.

CRV Ambreed's proven sires feature in the company's bull catalogue, which thousands of dairy farmers peruse each year to develop a successful breeding programme. They are sought after by dairy farmers in New Zealand and overseas and their production and performance traits make them an essential part of the success of New Zealand's dairy industry.

The elite bull calves selected for CRV Ambreed's breeding programme ultimately make sure dairy farmers' future herds are more productive and more profitable. That means they have to demonstrate they can pass on improvement traits to cows that are key to productivity and profitability.

Every year CRV Ambreed's sire analysts, the company's 'All Blacks selectors', visit herds around the country to find New Zealand's very best farmers and the very best cows that will produce the next Richie McCaws and Daniel Carters of bulls.

Farm visits in 2010 led to the new graduates being thirteen of the 1,275 bulls that year to be nominated for consideration into CRV Ambreed's premier progeny test programme.

Like the All Blacks, CRV Ambreed's breeding team uses several levels of selection. The top 600 of the 1,275 bulls go through a genomic selection process, which is a scientific tool that identifies genetic gain and limits any chance of genetic defect. They are also assessed using the breeding team's knowledge of the cows and their families.

In the end, 120 bull calves are selected for the progeny test programme and are sent to CRV Ambreed's new state of the art production and logistics centre where their semen production is carefully managed to be used in the coming spring.

Each of the 120 progeny test bulls' semen is distributed to a number of contracted progeny test herds around the country. This allows CRV Ambreed to measure his daughters' performance in a range of environments, and measure milk production and type.

The breeding team relies heavily on the farmers it contracts with to provide records and information on daughter conformation scores. That information forms CRV Ambreed's black box of breeding – the animal evaluation system.

In the end, only thirteen of the 120 bull calves selected for the progeny test programme graduate - the absolute cream of the crop that will provide the highest genetic gain for dairy farmers.

CRV Ambreed sire analyst Georgie Smith says the new bull graduates are about to get All Black treatment.

"Our graduate bulls get elevated onto a pedestal – what they need is what they get," said Smith.

They will live a lush lifestyle at CRV Ambreed's collection facilities and will be "wrapped in cotton wool and get extra special treatment because they are our star bulls."

If they turn out to be the next Firenze, one of CRV Ambreed's legacy bulls, the new graduates could each generate millions of dollars in revenue, produce more than half a million doses of semen for domestic and international sale, have tens of thousands of daughters, and have a long list of sons enrolled on the animal evaluation database for herd improvement in New Zealand.

Throughout their life Smith says their breeders will continue to be invested in their boys' progress.

"There is a lot of pride for the breeders in producing a bull that makes it into CRV Ambreed's catalogue. It's a true testament to their breeding programme and the quality of the cows in their herd," Smith said.