As non-production traits (TOP) and classification season approaches, farmers are eager to know how their cows will rank on a national excellence scale.
Last spring, trained inspectors visited hundreds of farms across New Zealand to assess the characteristics and traits of more than 32,000 Holstein Friesian heifers and dairy cows.
The classification system, which aims to improve the general type and conformation standard of the New Zealand Holstein Friesian cow, recognizes the functional strengths and/or weaknesses of each cow by scoring 13 individual traits on a scale of 1 to 9 and grade it accordingly with a Ranking Award.
Registered Holstein Friesian animals receive a classification award between 70-90: Fair (70-74), Good (75-79), Good Plus (80-84), Very Good (85-89) and Excellent (90+) .
To be eligible for an Excellence Award, cows must have calved at least three times, be in their third lactation on record and be at least four years old.
All classified cows are also scored on a linear system for non-production traits (TOP), with a score on a scale of 1 to 9 for 12 conformation traits, a condition score and an “overall udder” score and “dairy conformation”.
Classifying members must submit all two-year-old heifers (pedestrian and grade) sired by a Holstein Friesian bull for TOP inspection, as the data is important for the calculation of bull proofs.
Classification allows farmers to make better breeding decisions because the more data recorded on an animal, the better. Classification and TOP scores can highlight strong traits, as well as weak traits that should be considered when selecting bulls for breeding.
TOP and classification scores are also valuable when marketing a heifer or cow; numbers can be printed in sale catalogs, providing a breakdown of individual traits and allowing potential buyers to get an accurate picture of the animal.
Wendy Harker, a dairy farmer from Waikato and board director of Holstein Friesian NZ, says classification has multiple benefits.
“Grading animals means more accurate breeding values are built into the system, especially now that udders are taken into account,” she says.
“It also means that breeders can track type improvements and improvements from generation to generation. For me, classification is the only time I look at each animal in the herd and see what I need to improve in them.
“Grading also increases the value of the animal’s progeny, especially when selling bulls and animals in the future.”
Holstein Friesian NZ presents the herd owner with the highest average classification score for two-year-old horses with the Sherriff Memorial Trophy at the annual HFNZ Awards.
In 2021, Belbrook Dynamic Vanessa EX6 (BWPF-02-38), owned by John and Robbie Wakelin of Belbrook Holsteins in Rangiora, graded EX6 at the age of 19 – believed to be the first EX6 grade in the history of New -Zealand.
For the 2022 TOP Classification Season, HFNZ has developed and has an exciting new way to record Farmer Trait Scores for two year olds.