The principle purpose of SA
Holstein (SAH) is to improve the breed. The maintenance of the
Society and efforts made to assist members with services and
products, are in support of breed improvement.
SAH is a Society of people interested in the ownership and
development of Holstein Cattle. To achieve any goals and / or
objectives, it is necessary that members place increased emphasis
on full participation in breed improvement programmes, especially
those related to increasing lifetime yield and improving
The 21st century in South Africa promises to be the age of
information. It is the Society’s opinion that planning will be
even more crucial in the next decade than it has been in the past
SAH therefore, provides this breed improvement policy as the
guideline for the industry for the next decade. Realisation of the
goals laid down in this document is a pre-requisite for South
Africa to retain its status in Africa, and to enable us to be part
of the rest of the world in dairy cattle breeding and in the
exchange of information.
To continuously strive for genetic improvement by focusing on
profitability traits for production and longevity, and to
improve feed conversion efficiency.
2. The Cow of the Future
3. Research & Development
6. Information / Promotion
Dairy cows are maintained to convert roughage's which are unsuitable for
human consumption into a high quality human food. Modern technology will
bring about the development of new dairy products and new methods of
utilizing nature’s most perfect food. However, the Holstein cow must
compete as an efficient factory along with man’s highly efficient
creation in producing food for tomorrow’s society.
Holsteins have over the past century, dominated the dairy cattle
population in most parts of the world. It can therefore be said, that as
a breed, they must be reasonable efficient converters.
It will be necessary to continue to produce a high quality product
(cattle and production) with increasing efficiency that suits the market
Holstein Breeders in South Africa have a major role to play in future.
They must be the industry leaders who guarantee that each successive
generation of cows is superior to the previous one, superior to the
extent that each decade at least a 10% genetic gain in yield (combined
fat and protein) and efficiency is realized.
THE COW OF THE FUTURE
Targets - To get as close as possible to the breeding objective,
we need to set targets.
SAH believes that the cow of the future will be the one that maximizes
returns to her owner. In genetic terms it will be the cow that has the
maximum genetic merit. As all owners do not have a similar definition
for genetic merit, SAH defines it to be “the cow that commences
production at about 24 months of age, calves annually, produces high
volumes of milk of good, consistent component value in a long lifetime”.
Quantitatively, the Society aims for an annual genetic gain for the
primary traits combined fat and protein yield plus conformation) of
7.5%. This rate of improvement is based on improving each trait at the
rate of 1% per year, increasing secondary traits at the rate of 2.5% per
year, and monitoring other traits in an attempt to ensure that the
population does not deteriorate in other aspects.
2.2 Primary Traits
Only traits that have a major influence on the profitability of SA
Holstein are considered to be primary. Additionally, since selecting for
more than two genetically independent traits limits the progress in any
one trait to less than 70%, the primary traits have been kept to two of
moderate to high heritability. These are:
Fat and protein yield, being on both an individual and lifetime basis,
(expressed in a value), and Conformation, evaluated on a biological
scale, (expressed in a value).
The breed policy for the next decade is to place emphasis on these
primary traits in a ratio of 2:3:3. Individual breeders may deviate from
this policy depending on their own circumstances and objectives.
2.3 Secondary Traits
Although butterfat percentage and protein are considered to be secondary
traits, the Society wishes: to increase protein percentage at an
annual rate of .005%, and to keep butterfat percentage on a 3.5% level.
All other traits currently kept record of, or being measured, are
considered “other” for a number of reasons. These include: low
heritability, not measurable, or lack of accuracy, etc.
These traits need to be monitored in the population but need not receive
emphasis in a programme. It assists in the fine-tuning of the breed which
contributes to the overall superiority of the breed.
Efficiency on a dairy farm necessitates the consideration of both
genetic and non-genetic traits. In relation to the improvement of the
breed, the following are recommended.
Calves that require minimal veterinary attention at birth and grow
at a rapid rate.
● Heifers death loss less than 5% at first calving.
● Heifers growth based on maximum utilisation of forages.
For optimum production:
Heifers to be bred at a weight of 360kg at the age of 15 months. Age of
heifers at first calving to be not more than 24 months, at which the
weight to be at least 580kg (or 83% of mature weight).
• Optimum rump height during first lactation to be between 142cm and
• Females should produce a live calf every 12 to 13 months.
• The number of heifers reared annually to breeding age to be 40% of
the number of milking cows, so that surplus heifers are available for
• Cows to be capable of completing at least six lactations. (Stay
ability should be defined within the boundaries of economics).
Research is considered to be a necessity investment. For research to be
effective, it must be a cohesive effort between members and the Society
alike. Members must play a significant role in determining the destiny
of the breed based on research. The Society considers its mandate to do
research of a genetic nature. That includes research into determining
the heritability of a trait and increasing the accuracy of the method of
evaluation and analysis.
Society research for the next decade:
3.1 Total Genetic Merit
The relative emphasis of traits in overall selection and the most
accurate method of ranking the population.
3.2 Conformation Evaluation
Ideal conformation as it relates to reproductive performance, measured
by both conception and calving ease, first lactation's evaluations as
they relate to subsequent evaluations and length of herd life, alternate
evaluations which more accurately predict a long herd life.
3.3 Herd Life
Ideal length of life as it relates to selection, economics, and maximum
3.4 Milk Yield
Traits as they relate to efficiency of production, accuracy of
evaluation methods for both males and females, relative importance of
single lactation yield and relative importance of lifetime yield.
4.1 Milk Recording
Future genetic and environmental
improvements are dependent upon
a dynamic milk recording
program. The Society supports
the need for a milk recording
program which responds to the
current and future needs of the
dynamic dairy industry.
For use in genetic
evaluations, overall accuracy is
of vital importance.
Measurements of yield and
determination of milk
composition should be verified
by an unbiased organization, and
conducted often and thoroughly
enough that the results can be
used with confidence for the
Performance recorded on program which do not meet the required level
of accuracy, although not verified, are considered only useful to
the herd owner.
Optimal utilization of milk recording programs in the
collection of information is recommended for the benefit of both the
herd owner and the industry. Production and management traits moderate
to high in heritability, are considered to be an essential part of every
milk recording program.
Genetic evaluation for production and management traits must relate to
the population as stipulated by Interbull, and based on the recommended
theory and methodology.
4.2 Type Classification
Conformation, as measured by the harmonized type classification
program, has been supported by members and has served to measure the
change in conformation of Holsteins in South Africa and abroad.
Accurate evaluations by experts comparing and measuring animals to a
specific standard, are essential to the type classification program. The
initial classifications should be made during a cow’s first lactation.
Subsequent classifications will indicate the degree to which the animal
achieves and maintains perfection as it matures. High scores expressed
in final class are not assigned until the animal has calved twice, and
had the opportunity to produce large quantities of milk.
The major areas requiring improvement in the breed are: rump width, rump
angle, as it relates to calving ease and reproductive efficiency, and
teat length. Traits which are on an acceptable level, but still need
continued improvement are: teat placement, median ligament and udder
The ranking of bulls for their ability to sire animals of superior
conformation should be based on comparisons with other bulls in the
breed, removing all factors that may tend to mask true genetic
differences between bulls. To ensure continued improvement, it is
necessary to adhere to the high standard on which the type
classification program is based. The percentage distribution of the
subjective evaluations within each category for Final Class, corresponds
with those of leading countries in the world. It is important that these
distributions be maintained through continuous high quality training and
monitoring of classifiers.
4.3 AI Industry
SAH and the AI industry share the responsibility for the genetic
improvement of the Holstein breed. For this reason, the Society supports
those organizations which can serve the dairy industry in a cost
effective and efficient way in supplying superior genetics and breed
The Society supports semen producing businesses and semen supplying
businesses which: follow the breed’s genetic policies, operate
satisfactory bull testing programs, have sires available or semen
available of sires, that allow dairymen to maximize the rate of genetic
improvement in their herds, and follow all codes of the Society.
The Society furthermore supports the exchange of young sires to be
tested simultaneously in and from other recognized Holstein countries.
4.4 Nucleus Moet Schemes
The Society supports the formation of Nucleus Moet Schemes which can
assist in increasing the rate of genetic improvement, increase
reproductive rate and shorten the generation interval of cows.
The awards programs of SA Holstein should be designed to recognize both
animals of superior merit and members who breed or own animals which are
superior. Individual animal awards should be based on single recordings,
lifetime results, and animals contributing significantly to breed
The Society and its members have a responsibility to inform and promote
to South African dairymen the benefits of ownership and membership.
Ultimately, the goal is to have the majority of South African dairymen
actively participating members of the Society.
A complete array of promotion and information literature on all aspects
of Holsteins should be provided be the Society. The literature should
reflect the overall breed improvement policy.
Shows are beneficial to both individual members who participate, and the
Society. The Society, where possible, will assist participating members
and promote shows. Shows may assist in achieving improvement in the
breed, but are not considered as an integral part of breed improvement.
The Society is of the opinion that shows get their maximum benefit when
the level of competition is high, where the numbers of animals are
large, and when judges select for the animals which accord with the
breed Standards of Excellence.
Similar goals are common to most dairymen throughout the world. The basis
of similarity is that of profitable returns from the production of milk
(as its components) and the sale of cattle. The differences are in how
these goals are achieved.
SAH approach to maximizing genetic improvement, must allow for
individual breeder decisions. Individual breeders may wish to develop a
herd of a sub-population of genetically superior animals for either of
the primary traits. This hopefully will also assist in achieving the
breed goals of an annual increase of .75% in total genetic merit based
on an annual genetic gain of 1% for both production and conformation.
While the Society should take full advantage of science, it still
respects the breeder for the unique mating which carry the herd and
breed to new achievements.
In conclusion, SAH stresses that breeding dairy cattle is a long-term
process, and to achieve maximum improvement in the genetic merit of
Holsteins, a balanced and proportional emphasis must be placed on