What makes us reliable
Artificial insemination has been common practice in the pig and cattle sectors for decades. Today, sales of semen are often associated with the potential to accelerate genetic progress. This aspect is so sharply emphasised in sales and marketing that we often overlook one of the other reasons that prompted these sectors to adopt artificial insemination, namely animal health.
When Goats AI NL was established by dairy goat farmers more than 20 years ago, the goal was exchanging genetic products without the risk of undesirable side effects such as introducing animal diseases. The purchasing policy prioritised the health status of goats. Goats AI NL has changed in many ways since its foundation, but health status remains our key core value.
This is reflected in our purchasing policy: the farms we purchase young bucks from are certified. Additional testing is also performed on bulk-tank milk at all the farms that house the dams before we buy any bucks. The parent animals are also given an extra test for Johne’s disease (JD), CL and CAE before the kid is born. The kid is taken away immediately after birth. It does not come into contact with the dam or the floor surface and is separated from the herd straight away. When they are seven days old, the young bucks are transferred to the AI station, where they are reared in the quarantine barn of Goats AI NL. At the end of their time in quarantine, all the bucks must successfully pass all health tests twice before they can proceed to the service barn. These tests examine the goats for the presence of many infectious diseases other than well-known diseases such as CL, CAE and Johne’s disease.
Goats AI NL is the only AI station in the Netherlands that is EU certified. This means we must comply with the strictest health and hygiene standards. To maintain this status, we are audited by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Products Safety Authority (NVWA) twice a year. In addition to the requirements imposed by EU certification, we test with a higher frequency for CL, CAE and Johne’s disease and also use PCR tests.
The rigorous animal health policy applied by Goats AL NL is unique in the world. We realise this approach sometimes means we have to make concessions in terms of genetic progress; however we believe that advancements should never be at the expense of the risk of transmitting diseases. The introduction of any type of disease will almost always result in higher mortality, production losses and has a negative impact on the value of the herd. Even if a farm has not double-tested free from certain diseases, there are still many other diseases that can cause these negative effects. It is therefore always wise to operate a closed-herd system. Using genetic products from Goats AL NL practically eliminates the risk of introducing disease via this route.
Selecting the new generation of bucks is a meticulous process. We work with experienced breeders who are passionate about their animals. Breeding a good buck starts with selecting the right male and female animals to mate. The females used for breeding must meet many requirements such as high production, high breeding values, good conformation and a pedigree with a new bloodline.
Young bucks also have to meet a list of requirements. As well as having double-negative test results for the relevant animal diseases, the conformation of the bucks is assessed, in addition to triple A and other production traits such as new breeding values and semen quality. In consultation with the breeding committee, bucks are selected to proceed to the production phase. This approach guarantees that only the very best bucks are used to breed the next generation.
The breeding values we use were developed by ELDA and Wageningen University and Research and are based on 730-day lactations. The aim of this is to breed goats that are supremely suitable for extended lactation.
The most important breeding value to examine is the selection index (SI). The selection index is a combination of the breeding values for kilos of milk, kilos of fat and protein and economic index values. The higher the ranking on the selection index, the more profitable the progeny of a particular goat will be.
Farm-specific influences such as feed, environmental factors and health status are filtered out of the breeding values of Goat AI NL, as the progeny are reared or in production on many different farms.
Excluding these factors places the focus firmly on the genetic potential. Your guarantee of the outstanding reliability of bucks from Goat AI NL.
The breeding value indicates the additional milk production compared with the average milk production of a baseline group from five years ago. This applies to the breeding values for kilos of milk, fat and protein, the fat and protein percentages and persistency for these traits.
“Dutch goat genetics are the most highly advanced in terms of efficient and sustainable production and guarantee greater longevity. We are happy to share these superior genetics with the entire national and international goat sector."
Genetic progress with AI
The main objective of Goats AL NL is being able to exchange genetics without the risk of undesirable side effects such as the transmission of animal diseases. In addition, another important aim is achieving genetic progress through the application of AI. Genetic progress is measured by calculating the breeding values of an animal. A potential buck is first used as a young buck before he is scored for these important breeding values. Once his daughters start lactating, a breeding value for this young buck is calculated and he officially becomes a proven buck.
The first time a buck is used for AI he is classified as a young buck. Young bucks are the latest generation of animals - from the best available parents - and carefully selected based on production performance, breeding values, conformation and other genetic traits. This generation always offers plenty of potential, but these goats still have to prove themselves in practice.
The advantage of bucks from Goats AL NL is that their daughters are found on a wide range of farms with different herd management systems. This benefits the accuracy of the buck’s estimated breeding value as the improved production is then a purely genetic factor and the influence of the management system is almost negligible. In addition, AI bucks typically have several hundred productive daughters who all contribute to the breeding values. This rapidly increases the reliability of the merit values.
The breeding values are recalculated every six months by ELDA in collaboration with Wageningen University and Research. The new information this reveals means we can offer better advice on the best buck for your farm.