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This NebGuide describes how to determine which trait(s) to select for, and how multiple trait selection affects genetic progress.
Dairy producers are often concerned with placing emphasis on different production traits in their breeding program. Selecting on only economically important traits should be the objective of every producer. The use of artificial insemination (A.I.) sires is the most economical and productive way to increase the genetic potential of the herd.
A cow's record is a measure of her genetic potential, which is modified by the environment in which she is kept. Environmental factors that directly influence a cow's record include types of housing, milking equipment, feeds and feeding, veterinary care, mastitis treatment, and climatic conditions. Only through control of these factors can the true genetic ability of a cow be expressed.
All environmental factors are in a constant state of change. Therefore, most changes made in the environment that influence production traits are not permanent. These factors must be monitored and adjustments made daily to maintain optimal production. Unlike environmental changes, genetic changes are permanent. You need only to breed to a top production A.I. sire to make genetic gain that is permanent throughout a cow's lifetime. The investment is made only once when breeding your herd.
One way to look at genetics is to consider it the key that unlocks the door to efficient production. Efficiency of production is truly the name of the game. In today's dairy economy, any increase in efficiency without incurring significant added costs is a program that should be followed.