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Net Merit 2021

The national genetic index – Net Merit – was improved in August 2021 to select for a balance of traits that optimize profitability and efficiency.

Since its introduction in 1994, Net Merit has been periodically updated to incorporate new traits, new research, and current dairy market information. The 2021 revision is quite significant – with three new traits and important updates to economic weights.

What is Net Merit?

Net Merit estimates how much lifetime profit each animal will transmit to its progeny. This index drives genetic progress by promoting a balance of the available, economically-important traits to maximize cows’ profitability. Selection indices like Net Merit combine information on many traits into a single value to rank animals and make breeding and culling decisions.

With the 2021 update, Net Merit includes more than 40 traits such as milk, fat and protein yield, livability, and daughter pregnancy rate. Some traits are incorporated through a composite, like calving ability, health dollars, udder, feet and legs, and body weight.

What changed in August 2021?

Three new traits were incorporated – Feed Saved, Heifer Livability and Early First Calving.

There are also changes in the emphasis given to traits, with more emphasis toward longer Productive Life and smaller Body Weight Composite.

Net Merit 2021 more accurately reflects the differences in production costs between cows. The same research that allowed measurement and calculation of genomic evaluations for Feed Saved  also showed that cows’ maintenance costs were previously underestimated.

Net Merit Articles

Videos & Recordings

Slide Decks

Research References


Photo courtesy of GENEX