No square on the milk cheque for EBI

The idea of picking low economic breeding index (EBI) bulls will be a foreign idea to many, but for one farmer, picking these bulls is resulting in high EBI cows.

Farming near the village of Emly in Co. Tipperary, Simon Breen milks 250 Jersey-cross cows in a spring-calving grass-based system.

The farm moved to the cross-bred cow a number of years ago, with Simon looking for a cow that would work in the system that he wanted to operate.

LIC KiwiCross® sires have been exclusively used on the farm for the last number of years, with excellent results being achieved.

Picking bulls on BW (breeding worth) along with advice from his LIC breeding advisor David Power has been key to Simon’s success.


The introduction of the EBI over 20 years ago changed the system of breeding dairy cows in Ireland forever.

With Simon’s herd having excellent EBI figures for production, this has been achieved by using bulls with low EBI.

The herd has an average calving interval of 364 days, with a six-week calving rate of 93% and empty rates of below 10%.

Animal groupNumber of cowsMilk kg
Fat % Protein %
Cows with EBI252-57
13.5 / 0.27
7.4 / 0.16
First lactation59-53
15.0 / 0.30
8.8 / 0.19
Second lactation47-75
13.4 / 0.28
7.2 / 0.17
Third lactation38-39
12.9 / 0.24
7.9 / 0.16
Fourth lactation29-46
14.1 / 0.27
7.3 / 0.15
Fifth lactation(+)79-62
12.4 / 0.25
6.1 / 0.14

EBI summary report

The continued progression of the herd can be seen in the figures for the young stock.

Animal groupNumberMilk kg
Fat percentage
Protein percentage
2022 calves80-100
16.4 / 0.36
7.7 / 0.2
2023 calves70-71
16.3 / 0.34
8.9 / 0.2

EBI summary for young stock

Simon describes the herd as being high efficiency, with mature cows weighing 490kg producing over 500kg of milk solids.

Herd performance

The low-EBI bull selected by Simon means that he is given a one-star rating in the co-op, but in the performance area, he is achieving five-star ratings.

This shows that although the bulls have a low EBI, they have good BW values which results in highly efficient cows.

This cow type suits the grass-based system that Simon is operating on this Co. Tipperary farm.

 Your herdTipperary averageTipperary
top 10%
out of 100
Milk performance for 2022 (Jan-Dec) based on Tipperary data     
Fat + protein (kg/cow)
Average fat and protein yield/cow
Average L of milk/cow from Jan-Dec
Fat percentage to end of December4.894.264.4899%*****
Protein percentage to end of December3.883.533.6599%*****
Average milk price c/L68.059.862.899%*****
Somatic cell count (SCC)
(,000 cells/ml)
Fertility and calving data     
Calving interval36438436493%*****
Spring 6-week calving rate93%72%88%97%*****
Percentage of known sires100%59%100%100%*****
Percentage of AI-bred replacements91%52%100%62%****
Percentage of heifers calved at 22-26 months100%78%100%100%*****
EBI statistics     
Herd EBI 2023€204€155€19097%*****
EBI of 2023 inseminations€211€268€32017%*

Dairy herd performance report

The data shows that although low-EBI sires are being used, it is resulting in highly efficient and profitable cows.

Sire selection

The importance of having good advice was also highlighted by Simon, with breeding advisors David Power’s knowledge of bulls being vital.

Simon has an aim to reach 5% fat, from its current level of 4.90% and 4% protein from its current level of 3.90%.

The bulls that have been selected for this year’s breeding season have an average figure of 5.5% for fat and 4.3% for protein.

A high-EBI calf is not important for his herd, according to Simon, admitting that he is instead looking for a high-EBI cow that will perform within the herd.

This article is part of Agriland Media Group’s farmer-focussed Breeding Series

by Michelle Lamerton
International Marketing Coordinator
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