DairyCo highlights top performing cows

Published 28 January 11

It's customary for dairy genetics rankings to focus on bulls, but this month DairyCo turned its attention to cows, and published a ranking of those with the highest index in the UK.

And while there's a wide range of cow families featured in the list, there are two families in particular which dominate the top 10 - the Ivorys from John Johnston's Sperrin herd in Cookstown, near Belfast (with the first and fifth ranking cows) and the Marie family from John Dennison's Denmire herd in Ulverston, Cumbria (with the second, fourth and ninth ranking cows). (See top 10 list below.)

"The animals at the top of this list are both the work-horses of the dairy industry and the seed-stock for future generations, so it's right that we highlight those that truly excel," says Marco Winters, head of genetics for DairyCo. "These are genuinely outstanding animals, whose genetic capabilities - both in terms of milk production and a range of secondary fitness traits - are the best in the breed. 

"So we're keen to highlight their genetic potential, which we hope will encourage milk producers in general to breed for the traits with the scope to earn them the greatest profits.

"These traits are enshrined within PLI [Profitable Lifetime Index], which is keenly focussed on milk production combined with good fitness and lifespan.

"PLI is increasingly proving its worth as a breeding tool, and it's gratifying to see some great cows of the Holstein breed demonstrating its values so admirably."

Top 10 average production

The average first lactation production of the top 10 PLI cows (305 days) is 11,604 kg milk at 5.05% fat and 3.56% protein, calving on average at 2.04 yrs.


Most represented sires

Although Oman, Goldwyn and Shottle are the three most widely represented sires in the top 1000 cows, there's a total of 771 different sire x maternal grandsire combinations within the ranking. The most successful crosses - with eight cows each - are the combinations of Oman x Principal and Goldwyn x Gibson.

The highest indexing examples of these are Chalclyffe Oman P Alison VG88 (PLI £239) and Grantchester Goldwyn Special 2 VG86 (PLI £231).

"It's great to see UK farmers choosing so many different combinations which will help to reduce the impact of inbreeding," says Mr Winters.

The top 10 PLI cows

No 1: Sperrin Champion Ivory VG87          Owner: J Johnston, Belfast

PLI £330

A third lactation daughter of Champion, Sperrin Champion Ivory VG87 is out of the EX Storm daughter, Inch Storm Ivory 2, who herself ranks fifth in the UK. Ivory is said by her owners to be a trouble free cow, always with a low SCC, tremendous fat and protein and good fertility, which are all typical of the Ivory family. Her production is: 1st: 2/3 13130kg (305d), 5.70% fat, 3.27% protein; 2nd: 3/6 17067kg (305d), 4.86% fat, 3.22% ptn.


No 2: Denmire Goldwyn Marie 52               Owner: J Dennison, Cumbria

PLI £321

A cow family that is even more prolific in producing high PLI cows is the hot Marie family. Highest ranking is second placed Denmire Goldwyn Marie 52. 


No 3: Prehen Goldwyn Froukje                  Owner: R J Smith, Londonderry

PLI £313

Third placed, Prehen Goldwyn Froukje comes from a high protein family which is not just successful in breeding top cows. Froukje already has 19 proven brothers ranking high in AI studs around the world. She comes from the father and son team of Robbie and Stuart Smith.


No 4: Denmire Shottle Marie 57                  Owner: J Dennison,             Cumbria

PLI £312

Niece to the Denmire Goldwyn Maries 51 and 52 (ranked second and ninth) is Denmire Shottle Marie 57. She's also the highest ranking Shottle daughter, and her full sister recently sold at the European Holstein show in Italy.


No 5: Inch Storm Ivory 2                              Owner: J Johnston, Belfast

PLI £301

Mother of the number one cow, this cow family traces back to the famous Robthom Ivory Mark in the US.


No 6: Riverdane PS Sara EX93                   Owner: Wills Bros, Cornwnall

PLI £296

In sixth place is the second Shottle daughter in the form of the well known Riverdane PS Sara EX93, who hails from the successful show family of Copywood Integrity Sarah.


No 6: Ballycairn Goldwyn Tina VG88        Owner: W McCollum, Co Londonderry

PLI £296

Ballycairn Goldwyn Tina VG88 comes from the McCollum family's herd in County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Here, their 296 cows rank as the number four PLI herd in the UK, with an average PLI of £103.


No 8: Justice Nl Yvonne                              Owner: T H Davies/Daniels

PLI £295

The first Oman daughter features in eighth place in the shape of the Daniels family's Justice Nl Yvonne, with a PLI of £295.


No 9: Denmire Goldwyn Marie 51 EX90     Owner: J Dennison, Cumbria

PLI £293

From the same top family as both the number two and number four cows is the EX90 full sister to Marie 52 - Denmire Goldwyn Marie 51.


No 10: Warnelview Goldwyn Ruby 2 VG88  Owner: KJ & CS Wilson, Cumbria

PLI £290

A Goldwyn from a very strong type family, Warnelview Goldwyn Ruby 2 VG88 comes from the from the Holstein UK Premier Pedigree Herd winner, 2005 and is backed by three generations of Excellent classified cows.


Dairy farmers interested in looking at their own herd genetic report with details on PLI and inbreeding percentages for the milking herd, can obtain free on-line access via the DairyCo Breeding+ webpages at www.dairycobreeding.org.uk.


Information of the cow indexes were also distributed to the milk recording organisations and herd books and can also be obtained from their reports.