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High PLIs, but variable linears (Sept 2021)

Updated: Oct 20, 2021

Twice NMR/RABDF Gold Cup runner-up and renowned pedigree breeder James Tomlinson gives us his verdict on the August bull-proof run and selects his stand-out sires from both lists.


The latest daughter-proven sire rankings showed promise, at first glance, according to Lancashire-based producer James Tomlinson. Top sire in the proven Holstein rankings, published by AHDB Dairy in August, is Westcoast Yamaska who certainly caught his eye. Moving up from sixth position, after adding 159 daughters to his genetic evaluation, earned him a Profitable Lifetime Index (PLI) of £776. This high components sire with predicted transmitting abilities (PTAs) for fat of +0.22% and protein of +0.16%looks like a great, balanced bull, says James. Yamaska also boasts the best lameness advantage score in the top-20 proven sires at 3.7.

Top proven sire: Westcoast Yamaska

“I’ve not used him yet, but I’m certainly interested. He’s slightly minus for straight legs, but otherwise I can’t fault him and I will be enquiring about some straws. He’s also from the Shottle Maui cow family, which has also whet my appetite, and he scores well on the new EnviroCow index too.”

Climbing to second position is Welcome Silver Griff, offering phenomenal PTAs for fat (60.1kg and +0.25%) and also a high score for EnviroCow, at 3.8. And he has a PLI of £760. “Again, everything is ‘right’ but he’s plus on SCC, so that’s a no-no for me,” says James.

Fertility score

Graduating from the genomic and into the proven list is Peak AltaZarek. This strong udder health bull with good lifespan figures has a PLI of £756 and EnviroCow of 3.7. And another Alta sire, Aurora AltaAntonio, moves into fifth position, and transmits the highest Type Merit of 2.17, with a PLI of £731. “But his fertility score, at 2.5, isn’t high enough for me. I’m looking for 6 or 7 – or even higher. Six is my lower limit and I stick to that because I really am seeing the merit of breeding for fertility coming through in my herd. It is making a difference – my cows are getting back in calf more easily since I started selecting for fertility.”

James adds that his linear – like that of most of the other sires in the top 20 – just doesn’t stand up to his scrutiny. “I have a problem with his minus scores for teat length and foot angle. But I am picky. He’d be a great sire across many herds, but not for me. I know exactly what I’m looking for, and need, to keep moving in the right direction. And, because there are so many fantastic sires to choose from, I can be really choosy.”

In equal eighth position are De-Su 14222 Kenobi and ABS Crimson. Both are successful sires of sons in the August genomic rankings, and continue to perform well on £PLI. But it’s Crimson who’s on James’ ‘enquiry’ list. “He’s a Spectre off a Rubicon – by a strong sire and out of a good breeding cow family. And his figures are all good, particularly calf survival at 3.3 and HealthyCow at 207. “His type score is 0.66, which is just on the edge of my cut-off point. But I’m so impressed with him that I will see if I can get hold of some straws.”

James admits he is slightly disappointed with this August bull-proof run: “The sires in both the genomic and proven lists just aren’t exciting me. It’s similarly to the previous run in April. The figures look good but, as a pedigree breeder, I dig deeper and I find linear scores that don’t suit my herd, such as poor teat length. So, for now, R2D2, Applejax and Leap are still the main sires in my AI flask.”

New index

Moving to the genomic ranking, Genosource Captain reaffirms his credentials as the leading sire in the genomic £PLI ranking. With a PLI of £944, he also stakes his claim as the leading sire ranked on the newly launched EnviroCow index, with a score of 5.1, as well as an impressive feed advantage score of 260. The latter means his daughters are predicted to save 260kg of dry matter intake during each lactation, compared with daughters of a bull of comparable production whose feed advantage score is zero.

Genosource Captain's dam: Genosource Sabre 35223-ET VG-85

Number two on the list is new entrant Wilra Knowhow with a PLI £909. This Kenobi son, transmits solid production alongside favourable health traits. Climbing to third place is Denovo 16219 Aladdin (PLI £906), with a huge PTA for fat at 57.1kg. Peak AltaPlinko consolidates the top-five ranking he achieved in April, with a PLI of £895 and superb production, including a PTA for weight of protein at 43.4kg.

Denovo 3303 Citizen moves up into fifth with a PLI of £880, thanks to strong indexes for somatic cell count (-21), daughter fertility (12.2) and lifespan (+159 days). Skipping to seventh place finds UK-bred Boghill Glamour Applaud, with a PLI of £871. His outstanding lifespan (+183 days) and daughter fertility index (12.9) are specialist features of this Appeal son.

“Again, the genomic list looks impressive on first glace – they are exceptional sires,” says James. “But I won’t be using any of the top 20 on my herd. They’re all fantastic for milk and other production traits, including fertility and somatic cell count. But five of the top 10 have linears that are minus for stature, chest width, body depth and body condition score.”

Ninth-place Siemers Brave, with a PLI of £865, did catch his eye. He’s a production specialist with 1,204kg milk and 44.3kg protein. “And his fertility and SCC scores are also good. But researching his pedigree puts me off. It’s built on good and good-plus cows. I’m looking for VG and EX dams. But, like I said, the huge choice of sires on offers allows me to be picky.”

James adds that one particular newcomer, just outside the top 10, is UK-bred Huddlestone Slindon. He has a PLI of £834 and a daughter fertility index of 14.7, which is among the best of the Holstein breed. Sired by Denovo Invictus and from a Seagull-Bay-MJ Applejax dam, this bull is from the Gue family’s Sussex-based herd. “His figures are exceptional and he has to be acknowledged as a UK-bred sire,” says James. “I’ll be keeping a close eye on him going forward.”

He’s already looking forward to December’s proof run. “Every third run tends to shake up the rankings and add more interest. So, later this year, I’m hoping for more sires that would suit my herd’s breeding programme as an early Christmas present.

“I’m aiming to breed cows that will last in the herd for six or seven lactations, so I can wait – I’m not in a hurry.”

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