The National Best Elite Cow award category considers only the actual performance data of participating cows. These cows should exhibit exceptional reproduction figures and other economically important traits, such as maternal ability and pre-weaning growth rate (weaning weight).
This category is also contested, as in the past, among cows across all breeds, and only one cow per breed is crowned as the top female animal of each participating breed. The Agricultural Research Council’s (ARC) valued partner, Farmer’s Weekly, has been the sole sponsor of this award category for 44 consecutive years.
Registered and commercial cows are eligible to participate, and specific qualification criteria include age at first calving; the average intercalving period; days since last calving; completeness of records for weaning weights; performance records (breeding values) regarding wean direct and wean maternal; birth maternal (where available); and the number of calves with reliable weaning weights.
For commercial cows where no BLUP breeding values are available, the criteria evaluated include, in addition to those already mentioned, the weaning index of the cow’s calves individually as well as for all calves weaned.
Additional criteria used to identify the best performing cow per breed include breeding values at birth and weaning; average efficiency index (if available); approval ratio (percentage of her progeny approved for registration by the relevant breeders’ society); reproduction index; and the percentage of performance-tested calves.