A NEW leader sire ranked on Spring Calving Index (£SCI) is one of several black and white bulls which are challenging the domination by the Jersey breed in this across-breed ranking proofs.

Selected by his American breeders to suit grazing systems, the leading bull, Rickland Pickford 765, earns his position on the strength of his daughters’ small frames, high quality milk, outstanding fertility and breed-leading udder health. As such, this son of Rickland Predestine becomes the first Holstein to lead on £SCI – an index which was formulated specifically to help grazing-based producers select sires for block calving in spring. Pickford has an SCI of £490.

In taking this lead, Pickford shunts every bull in last April’s top five down one place, beginning with the former No 1 sire, the British Friesian, Catlane Caleb, now in second position. Caleb retains his place by virtue of high quality milk and outstanding daughter fertility. His SCI is £471.

Another Holstein ranks third, in the shape of Larcrest Commend, the bull which also leads the Holstein ranking on £PLI. Commend’s SCI is £466.

The first Jerseys in this ranking emerge in fourth and fifth position, where Danish VJ Link and Danish VJ Tester both transmit high quality milk, low costs of maintenance, excellent udder health and exceptional daughter fertility. As such, they weigh in with £SCIs of £465 and £464 respectively.

“As with all economic indexes, £SCI is recommended as a starting point from which to drill down and look in more detail at each bull’s predicted breeding pattern,” says Marco Winters, head of animal genetics with AHDB Dairy.

“The list inevitably includes bulls of different types which will suit different breeders, who are advised to study the detail. The Holsteins, for instance, may suit those who seek to inject some production into their cross breeding programme, while others, who aim to keep milk volume down may be better directed towards alternative bulls.

“However, in all cases, if they’re calving in a tight block in spring and producing milk predominantly from grazed grass, they are strongly advised to use £SCI as their primary screening index,” he says. “This will give them a good balance of both production and health traits which should put them on a strong footing.”

Those producers who calve in autumn may be heading towards completion of their breeding decisions, but for those still in process, there are superb health and fitness bulls from which to make their choices, according to the new rankings published by AHDB.

Leading the way on Autumn Calving Index (£ACI) is Larcrest Commend, which confirms his all-round profitability in a cross-section of farming situations, and has an ACI of £653.

In second position, Teemar Shamrock Alphabet shows high production, relatively low feed costs for maintenance and exceptionally good daughter fertility. His ACI is £643.

Then comes Rickland Pickford (ACI £634) and Hoanster Zanzibar (ACI £614), both of which also feature high in the £PLI list.

S-S-I Mogul Multiply completes the £ACI top five, offering a balance of production, fertility and health. His ACI is £604.

Mr Winters added: “The £SCI and £ACI have been formulated specifically for use in UK farming conditions, so are the best starting point for genetic selection for herds which calve in a tight block in either spring – if grazing – or in autumn. They reflect not only the climatic and production systems prevailing in the UK, but also the country’s economic and market conditions.

“Like the £PLI, both indexes are formulated to help producers increase their herds’ profitability, such that extra value in a bull’s £SCI or £ACI will be mirrored by extra lifetime proifiability in each of his daughters.”