Archive for February 2012

Ocean View Genetics: The Fine Art of Marketing Great Breeding

When it comes to marketing dairy cattle, Pam Nunes leads the way.  Pam became the driving force behind this part of the business at Ocean View Genetics because of her background as owner and designer of Westwynde Communications.  “Since my company is an advertising firm, the marketing aspects for Ocean View pretty much became my job over the years. Marvin and Daryl always advertised in the World and believed in marketing, but as time and my company evolved I took on a larger role in the different aspects from advertising, showing and even sales.”  They were happy to make, milk and take care of the cows and let me handle the marketing.” For the last sixteen years, Pam and husband Daryl worked together to take strings out to the shows, put on the Harvest sales and helped evolve the marketing into what many people think of today as Ocean View.”


The impact of great advertising has had a very positive effect on Ocean View. “I’m always amazed at the number of people who comment on our advertising. It’s good to know it gets noticed.” Getting noticed is the bottom line in the cattle business. “I remember the year Lindy Sheen went to Expo, and it was interesting how many people knew the cow at a glance. These were people not from our area who could have only ever seen her in print ads. That’s when you know advertising can be powerful.”


Powerful advertising is everyone’s goal.  We put a lot of worry, time, consultations, proofing and reviewing into ad creation.  Pam says there can be a lighter side too.  “The funny thing is that so often our own ads are thrown together. Kind of like the shoe makers kids with holes in their shoes. There have been some instances where our ads actually started as horse ads and I needed an idea quick because our ad was due. So voila – out goes the horse and in goes the cow!”

Oceanview Mandel Zhandra EX-95-2E

Oceanview Mandel Zhandra EX-95-2E EEEEE Gold Medal Dam, Dam Of Merit


You always want to attract attention with your marketing. Pam’s ads are good at that and she points to Mandel Zandra to illustrate. “She has been the easiest cow to ever work with over the years. She captured a lot of attention in the show ring with her style and it transmitted not only to her photos but also her offspring. She has 12 Excellent daughters so far. She lives in Wisconsin now and will turn 16 in March. She was the subject of many photos this fall during Expo. We had her in a pasture with 10 of her grand-daughters. It never failed that when people drove in they asked if that was her. We even had a gentleman from Japan show us the screen saver on his phone…it was Zandra.  If she had never been shown or advertised I doubt anyone would know the name today.


Having said that, Pam knows the time it takes to stand out. In the cattle business most ads are done by the publications still. They can usually spend about an hour on an ad with all they do. “Our ads usually average three to five hours.  A magazine can’t spend that amount of time on each page they have. I am happy to say that I am really seeing more effort put into ads these days on the cattle side and there are some magazines now that do a great job with their ads.

Pam’s years of experience have added up to some clear ideas about what works.

    “I also think you can’t have a successful ad without a great image. Making sure you have the cow looking the part and lots of help and a great photographer will make all the difference in successful photos. You can’t have a good ad without a good photo!”
    Once you`ve got good photos! Make sure you get an eye-catching ad developed to go with them. Remember…the purpose of an ad is to attract the reader’s eye enough to get them to read it…and want more.
    “A pet peeve of mine is if it’s unreadable. You can have the greatest looking ad but if you can’t READ it – it’s a failure. Too often you see design overwhelming the subject.  That’s always a recipe for disaster. It’s not a showcase for Photoshop effects or crazy backgrounds or fonts etc – it’s about the cows!
  4. K.I.S.S. and TELL
    Modern cattle advertising now needs to go one step further. It’s time to kiss and tell. K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid.  Pam feels strongly about this. “Keep your ad simple and put the detailed information on your website. Don’t try to tell them the entire history of your animal in the ad. It defeats its purpose.” The telling part happens on the internet. These days websites are essential to selling. For effective advertising, remember K.I.S.S. and TELL.
    Use what you know to decide where your advertising dollar is best spent. Just like you shop around for the best corn or hay prices – do your homework on your advertising dollars too. Don’t be afraid to try different advertising venues and find out what ones work. Ask people where they saw your ad when you get calls or emails.” Use what you know to decide where your advertising dollar is best spent. With websites these days you can track where your traffic comes from. With print ads there is no way to easily measure your return, but if you do your homework you can get a feel for where you get the most response.


You know when your advertising is working because the success is right there in the sales’ figures.  Pam reports. “Our last two Harvest sales were exciting events to plan and execute. We did all the marketing and event planning for them, as well as lining up the fitting crew and deciding what the farm would consign. We’re super pleased with the number of success stories that have come from these sales with Reserve All-Americans and even 94-pt cows having gone through the ring.”


Today Pam and Daryl have started “OCEAN VIEW GENETICS”. “We look forward to continuing the same path we have been on, only in Wisconsin.” And what a path that has been!

The accomplishments the Ocean View herd has made over the years are huge with over 330 Excellent cows that carry the prefix, 90 Gold Medal Dams and 11 cows over 300,000 lifetime. Pam sees more tributes in the future. “I think you’ll hear stories for years to come about success with animals purchased in Marvin’s dispersal on May 2nd. It’s going to be an opportunity to buy foundations.” Looking ahead she adds, “Although we’re not involved in the sale, we plan to attend and possibly add a few more cows that we weren’t able to buy before our move to Wisconsin.”


Going from 350 free stalls to 38 tie stalls has been the biggest challenge for “Ocean View Genetics”. Recalling the process, Pam says, “It really makes us focus on what animals we add to the milking herd. Our focus will be a little different from in the past.” Of course, each decision is already providing results to look back on. “What really shocked us was that we brought an old Outside that was dry with over 250,000 and figured we’d get the calf out of her and have to sell her. She actually had the first heifer on the farm for us and is now over 290,000 and just went Excellent. She just KNEW what her job was and took right to everything without a second look.”


The Nunes’ are excited about their plans for the future. “We figure we need to sell twenty head a year to keep at our size. We also have both said we don’t want more than either of us can milk by themselves. When the milker did not show up in California, it was a lot cows to milk, but we did it. Now it’s much less daunting if someone oversleeps! Actually our cows surprised us with how easily they adapted to the change.” Obviously, adapting is good for cows and good for people too!


“As we move forward, we are not going to be afraid to sell the good ones. Our plan is to keep the factories and sell the offspring that we need to allow us to stay in business.”
Pam Nunes, Ocean View Genetics


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Mapel Wood Farms – Invest in the Best! Forget the Rest!


Len Vis, owner of Mapel Wood Farms, says his motto has always been:  “Invest in the best and forget the rest”. It was the driving force behind his first investment in 1991 in Mark Diamonds who became the brood mare of Mapel Wood Farms and it is what led him and his partners to invest in Bombi and Lilac.  “Investing in top cow families never lets you down.  You may not get it this generation or the next generation but those genetics always breed through eventually.” On any measurement scale, records, show ring, progeny or the bottom line these two families represent where Len sees his farm going in the future!


Len points to the dramatic changes happening in the dairy industry not only in the past five years, but in the last year.  He says, “The biggest change is that 90% of people coming to Mapel Wood are interested in heifers.” This was not previously the case when people wanted to look at cows. “I have never flushed so many virgin heifers as I have in the last year and we are getting big money for their embryo’s.”  Knowing what the market wants and providing it for them is another part of aiming for the best!




In every area of running the Mapel Wood operation, Len relies on getting his homework done right.  This means investing in the right people to work with. He speaks with pride about his full-time employees, Chris Naves and brother Harold Vis and that he can rely on them 100% to keep things running smoothly and sale or show ready every day. Choosing the right investing partners is more homework done right that pays off.  Len says it is important for partners “to have the same philosophy, goals and commitment.” For him it has been a great experience.  “My two best partners have been GenerVations, Dave Eastman, and the O’Connor Brothers, Sean and Kelly.”


When you get to the real homework behind success in the cattle business Len is emphatic. “I never go to a sale on a whim.  If I’m in the market I have animals that I’ve got premarked in my catalogue.”  This is only the start of the decision-making process. For him the next thing is conformation. “I look at the ones I’m interested in.  If they don’t make it on conformation, they’re scratched!”  He has the steps clearly prioritized. “Cow families first.  Then sire stack. Then I start doing history on flush history.” Vis says there is nothing worse than buying something that doesn’t flush. You can be sure he always asks the seller about the flush history of the family. He looks at records. He thinks Holstein Canada’s free service is great. “A lot of times you just go on Holstein Canada. If you see 10 daughters from one mating, you know the family flushes.” Homework isn’t finished until he has checked out pictures. “For marketability, I like to see the dam and granddam all pictured.” Having said all that, the real test of getting your homework right is that final decision, to buy or not to buy. Len cautions, “Remember the Calf in the sales ring has to look the part. Conformation is still the most important thing when it comes down to the final bid. If she’s in the ring and you gut says something isn’t exactly right. Pull back. You’ve got to love that calf 100%!”

GEN-I-BEQ SHOTTLE BOMBI VG-89-6YR-CAN 2*, Shottle x Champion x Baler Twine, GLPI +2750


Success for Len Vis and Mapel Wood Farms means making sure that all the numbers add up! Years of experience have given him some benchmarks for investing.  Investment benchmarks have changed pretty dramatically. “It used to take 1 kilo of quota to buy a good animal.  Today it takes 3 or 4 kilos of quota.” He feels the right animal will pay for your quota.  “When I started out in the business, if the right animal came across I would be willing to sell a kilo of quota to buy her.” He explains, “Your investment can triple in one year. A lot of guys don’t know that. Quota takes forever to pay off but buy into the right cow family you can have it paid off in no time.” That’s MapelWood math.


For better or worse, Genomics is on everybody’s page these days.  “You can’t be in the dairy business without genomics affecting you.” Regardless of all the controversy Len hears and wonders about he says, “Genomics have helped every farmer because hopefully Semex or your semen company is not buying those bulls that don’t have a chance ever to make it.” That’s the good news. He goes on, “Five years ago I did not sense Genomics was going to be this big. I don’t think anybody did.  What studs thought they would be selling young sire semen for $100?”  He knows it is the ongoing debate.  “There are so many different army camps of people… some are all for it …. Some are sitting on the fence waiting to see.” Waiting is not a key part of Len’s goal setting.


Len’s goal is that people will come to Mapel Wood Farms as the “one stop to shop”.  He aims to be the “Wal-Mart of the cattle investing world.” The aim is to offer the best in several areas. “We want to have high genomic cows and heifers, show cows, red and white genetics, and polled genetics.” Aiming to have the best he is very enthusiastic.  ”Currently we’re buying embryos from Europe and still buying heifers and cows. Just recently we just sold a six year old cow for big money.” It pays to do your homework!


Len is looking forward but he points to his own history. “Diamonds was a good investment but it was three generations later that I realized what a great investment that was. Sometimes when you invest you don’t reap the benefits the next day. That doesn’t mean you just sit and wait.” Obviously Len feels you must have a timeline like he and his partners did with Bombi and Lilac. “Five years ago we had a game plan. Today we are up to 300 head. We have been buying recipients.  We’re constantly flushing.”  From the beginning there was a target. “We are gearing up for a sale in November 2012.  Nothing has been done on a whim. We are going to see the results of our five-year game plan.” 

BOTTOM LINE:  Aim to be the Best!

“When you invest in the best – cow families, embryos, and heifers – your farm will rise to the top.” Len Vis, Mapel Wood Farms. 




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The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle for Genetic Supremacy

In the race to have the next great sire, there comes a point where you have to ask have we taken it too far.  Analysis performed by Holstein International of the 33 popular genomics bulls of 2009 showed that only one has managed to maintain his breeding value: O-Style.  Even with those facts, why are so many A.I. companies now basing 70%, 80%, and 100% of their genetic programs on genomic sires?

Partly due to the “shortage” of new daughter proven sires of sons, and partly due to the increased confidence in genomics since it started in 2009 the percentage of breeding programs that are using genomic sires has increased from 40% to 50% on a global basis.  Moreover, just like a great outlier sire, the difference between the AI’s is substantial.  With Accelerated Genetics, Genex-CRI and Alta Genetics all sampling over 90% genomics sires.

So why are these studs putting so much weight in genomics?  Do they know something the rest of us don’t?  Have they just gone cuckoo?

In reality is actual goes back to the genetic advancement formula that has been around for many years.

Let’s take a close look at each piece of this equation and the effect genomics has.


The effect that genomics has on accuracy is very significant.  According to CDN the average gain in accuracy in LPI due to Genomics is as follows:

Sub-Group for Holstein Breed

Average LPI Reliability (%)




Direct Genomic Value (DGV) Weight

50K Young Bulls and Heifers
(Born 2008-2011)





3K Heifers
(Born 2008-2011)





Younger Cows in 1st or 2nd Lactation





Foreign Cows with MACE in Canada





1st Crop Proven Sires in Canada





Foreign Sires with MACE in Canada





Selection Intensity

In the past AI companies would have sample multiple sires from the same cross, and try multiple crosses to find out which one was the genetically gifted.  That does not even take into account the need to sample from a larger portion of the top females to discover which ones where genetically gifted and which ones where “artificial” in their breeding values.  With genomics, they can pre-screen these sires and crosses to see which ones will have the highest chance of producing the next top-selling sire and which ones did not get the best their parents had to offer.

By eliminating the need to sample such a large number of sires, allows the AI companies to focus on a more intense core group of sires, and push the limits on genetics advancement

Genetic Variability

This is one area than many breeders do not pay enough attention to.  Certain traits, such as Milk Yield, Protein Yield, and stature are much more heritable than others (i.e. Rump and Feet & Legs).  What this means is, if you spent all your time breeding for feet and legs, you will see less overall genetic gain than say focusing on production traits.  That is why production sires will typically offer the greatest genetic gain, since most type traits have a much lower heritability.  It’s also why breeders always need to be conscious of production when building your breeding program and don’t mate for low heritability traits.

The following is Holstein heritability estimates used for genetic evaluations in Canada

  • Production Traits
    • Milk Yield 43%
    • Fat Yield  34%
    • Protein Yield 40%
    • Fat Percentage 50%
    • Protein Percentage  50%
  • Functional Traits
    • Somatic Cell Score  27%
    • Lactation Persistency 40%
    • Herd Life  10%
    • Calving Ability 6%
    • Daughter Calving Ability 6%
    • Milking Speed  21%
    • Milking Temperament 13%
    • Daughter Fertility 7%
  • Major Type Traits
    • Conformation 26%
    • Rump 15%
    • Mammary System 25%
    • Dairy Strength 36%


In order to cut down the genetic intervals many AI companies are now using genomic sires themselves as sires of sons.  This means that there are sires of sons that don’t have any daughter information yet.  The company taking this to the extreme is Alta Genetics.  Their breeding program is made up by no less than 70% of genomic bulls that are sired by genomic bulls.  The greater you can cut down the interval from the birth of the parent to the birth of the progeny the greater the average genetic gain per year.Yes, you will run the risk of sires that drop, but overall on a large breeding program you will come out ahead.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Many AI companies, especially in North America, are pushing the edge with genomics to maximize annual genetic gain.  While they will run the risk of a sire not turning out, or dropping significantly from his pre-proven prediction, when you look at the net result over the generations of their whole breeding program they will come out way ahead.  By leveraging the effect Genomics has on accuracy, selection intensity, focusing on highly heritable traits, and making the interval between generations as low as possible, these studs stand the greatest chance of consistently producing the best genetics available.
The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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Lylehaven Lila Z : Was She Really Worth $1.15 Million?

When the hammer dropped for $1.15 million for Lylehaven Lila Z  EX-94 9* at The Triple Crown Sale, many in the crowd wondered was she really worth it?  Or was it a marketing ploy?  As someone who was involved in the marketing of the sale, many came and asked me if she really did sell or was it all BS?  My answer was, “If anyone can make her worth that, it’s Albert Cormier and Dave Eastman.”  When you add to that team Comestar, Whittier, ADI, and Kelser Hill, you have some pretty big names backing a big sale tag.  In the end, you could argue that she is worth twice that.

Having worked first hand with Dave and Albert in the promotion and sales of Calbrett-I H H CHAMPION, I knew the potential this team had to maximize the revenue.  They had a semen distribution and marketing engine that was taking the world by storm, combined with a proven track record of maximizing the revenue of top females as well.

Love at First Site

According to Albert Cormier, it was love at first sight when he saw Lila Z and her dam Laura at a Quebec show in 2003.  He loved her conformation.  He loved her cow family.  He recognized that he had found the right cow at the right time.

In Lila Z they saw the next Skys-The-Limit Claire  EX DOM 12*.  Like Claire, Lila Z came from a great pedigree with generations of performance.  However, unlike Claire, Lila Z came from a family of great embryo producers.  Something that will make or break you in the genetics game.

With 67 registered progeny in Canada alone, you cannot really doubt her ability to flush.  Lila Z has eleven sons in AI.  Globally there are another 35-40.

Some notable highlights:

#28 GLPI Cow in Canada


Daughter of Lexicon

#29 LPI Sire in Canada

Let’s look at the numbers?

When we are talking about $1.15 million, the only numbers that matter are the ones that are on the profitability column.   When it comes to Lila Z, there is no shortage of that.

Using our return on investment calculator, we took a deep dive into the numbers. Let’s assume the following:

  • Boarding fee per day $10
  • Years of productive embryo production 6
  • Flushes per year 5
  • Flush strike out ratio 25%
  • Base cost per flush $650.00
  • Cost per embryo $150.00
  • Recipient price $1,500.00
  • Conception rate of recipients 45%
  • Sale price per embryo $5,000.00
  • Sale price per live heifer $50,000.00 (Very conservative considering CALBRETT GOLDWYN LIZA VG-88-2YR-CAN 2* sold for $175,000 in the ADI 2nd edition sale)
  • Advertising expense/year $4,500.00
  • Other promotion expense $1,000.00
  • Number of embryos per flush 20 (Flushed 21 embryos in her first flush Cedarwal, Bradner Farms and T&L Cattle when they first purchased her)
  • Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
  • Ugly duckling rate (they can’t all be pretty) 40%

The results are as follows:

  • Total Revenue per flush $52,500.00
  • Total cost per flush $10,400.00
  • Total profit per flush $42,100.00
  • Total heifer sales per year $111,780.00
  • Total boarding expense $23,722.50
  • Total promotional expenses $26,000.00
  • Total Revenue $1,933,680.00
  • Total Profit $733,957.50
  • Return on investment 64%
(Please note: these are our estimates and not the actual numbers)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When you see that Lila Z can generate $1,933,680 in revenue over 6 years, and that allows for keeping half of the females for the next generation and no semen sales, it’s easy to see why Lylehaven Lila-Z could easily have been a steal at 1.15 million.  The reason? High demand combined with a prolific ability to flush.  That is the magic combination when dealing with such extreme cattle.



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What do you think? Was she worth it?

Weekly Show and Sale Recap– 2/26/2012


  • Quebec Spring Show Champions
    Starbrite Lyster Lyndsay - Grand Champion Quebec Spring Show 2012

    Starbrite Lyster Lyndsay - Grand Champion Quebec Spring Show 2012

    Judge Brian Carscadden judged 198 head.

  • Quebec Spring Red & White Show Champions
    Judge: Melanie Boulet judged 61 head
    • Junior Champion: Sildajak Tristan Monopoly (Karona Tristan), 1st junior yearling, Sildajak Holsteins
    • Reserve Junior Champion: Sejane Touchdown Venus (Rosedale Touchdown-Red), 1st intermediate yearling, Crasdale Farms, Wilsim Dairy Farms & T&L Cattle Ltd
    • HM Junior Champion: Sildajak Ritzy Mexico (Buckhorn-Acres Ritzy-Red-ET), 1st fall calf, Sildajak Holsteins, Chris & Jen Hill & Richard Green
    • Grand Champion: Monoak Kites Ribbon (Markwell Kite-ET), 1st 4-year-old, Mt Elgin Dairy Farms
    • Reserve Grand Champion: Sunnylodge SS Tara-Red (Pursuit September Storm-ET), 1st 5-year-old, Lookout Holsteins, Les Davis & John Beerwort, Jr.
    • HM Grand Champion: Jericho-Dairy Ad Cayann-Red (KHW Kite Advent-Red-ET), 1st senior 2-year-old, Crasdale Farms, Wilsim Dairy Farms & T&L Cattle Ltd
  • New success for Bonnyfarm
    In October 2011, the Chiappini family managed to capture the Italian National honors with its Bonnyfarm Veronique. This time they captured the Grand Champion title at the provincial show of the Italian city of Montichiari with another talent, the Goldwyn daughter Bonnyfarm Marta. Reserve Champion was Zani Bolton Viola from the Zani herd.


  • Top-selling Niagra
    In 1912, the Airoso family emigrated from the Azores to California: 100 years ago. This anniversary was celebrated with an auction, where Niagra daughter MS Air-Osa Alli sold to Seagull-Bay for $31,500. An Apple clone went to Mexico for $30,100. The average in California: $4,968 over 98 Holstein and Jersey lots.
    • Ms Air-Osa Nia Alli14537 (GTPI+2248 Niagra x Ms Air-osa O Man 10250 VG-87- same family as AltaAirenet) $31,500
      Buyer: Seagull Bay Dairy, ID
      Consignor: Joey Airoso & Hank & Carolyn Van Exel, CA
    • KHW Regiment Apple A3 (Dec 2010 clone to KWH Regiment Apple EX-95 DOM) $30,100
      Buyer: Elias Torres, Mexico
      Consignor: Apple Partners II, IL
    • 1st Choice Destry Female x Whittier Farms lava Red EX-92 (Nominated All-American & All-Canadian 2011) $17,200
      Buyer: Joey & Laurie Airoso, CA
      Consignor: Van Exel, Airoso, & Milky Way, CA
  • Pride of Washington Sale
     The sale was held on Feb. 17th at the Skagit Valley Casino in Bow, WA. It averaged $9,182 on 22 lots.
    • $28,000- a first choice MAS x Ronelee Toystory Darva (EX-92)
      Consigner: Sherman Polinder, Lynden, WA
      buyer: Morsan Farms, Ponoka, AB.
    • $20,000- a first choice Co-Vista Atwood Desire x Scientific Deluxe Rae (VG-87)
      Consigner: Velthuis, Riverdown & Hovden, Osgoode, ON
      Buyer: The Desire Syndicate, Warden, WA.
    • $18,000 Roylane Domain Mir 4670-ET
      Consigner:Daisy Farm, Paris, TX
      buyer:Gary & Bruce Roylance Warden, WA
  • Vision-Gen & Partners Averages $3,504
    Hosted in Lebanon, PA, the sale grossed over $410,000 and averaged $3,504. The high seller at $12,000, was lot 8 – Applouis Jet Stream Alda-ET, a VG-85 2-year-old that is the #2 GTPI Jet Stream daughter.
  • Top prices for British Ross daughters
    More than 550 animals were auctioned off during Hafesp’s Dispersal Sale in Wales (Great Britain). The top price was for Ross daughter Hafesp Gay 2nd, bought at £3700 by Jim O’Neill. The sale had many great Ross offspring, including the second  highest (£3050), Hafesp Lady, a daughter of Durham son Ross.

The Judge’s Choice – Investment advice from Tim Abbott

“What’s the plan?” We hear or refer to that question several times every day.  It’s the driving force when growing a business, or when you’re a resolving problem in the board room or, for those of us in the cattle industry, when you’re in the barn.  People like Tim Abbott thrive on finding the answer. The owner of St. Jacobs ABC knows that having a good plan, from the barn to the board room, is the cornerstone of success in the dairy cattle business today. Whether you are starting out or have more than twenty years in the business like he does, Tim says the first step must be, “Chart a plan”. That comes first. Then, you have to “know how your investment can accomplish your goals.” He sums it up clearly, “I think you need a plan for any investment in our business.”

“One size does not fit all!”  When it comes to investing in the dairy cattle business this can be modified to,” One plan does not fit all!”  You have to have a plan and it has to be a focused plan. That’s where the critical differences come in for someone like Tim Abbott.  “Whether it is show cattle or genomics or great maternal lines” he insists “You must have a plan for what you want to achieve”.

“Know what cattle you are focused on.” “For us we really prefer to buy cows.” He recognizes “There certainly is good money in buying the right heifer.” But he returns to his point, “At St. Jacobs ABC have focused on show animals, so milking cows are our preference.”

 “Investment cows need star power.” Here Abbot continues to fine tune what St. Jacob’s is looking for. We want “a cow that can become iconic as an individual”.  You might be wondering how they find that winner.  Tim explains, “The cows must have a sire stack that tells us they can be great and a maternal line that has proven to be successful.” You can never have too much information.  It is the basis of decision-making and good planning. “We always try to figure out how many daughters it will take to pay off our initial investment. We like to stay in the range of 10 or less daughters to get the purchase price back.”

Which brings Abbott to how important budgeting is to the planning process?  “Be sure you can afford to pay for what you buy.”

“Is that in the budget?” It seems a no brainer but the devil is in the details and in the budget too! Tim cautions” You need to budget for the expenses after your purchase.  IVF, flushing recips, advertising – these will add up no matter what your investment level is. Be sure you have the money for all of this.”  The money and what you spend it on is the key to success. “Over the years we have spent too much on average ones.” Although hindsight is 20/20, when looking at some past decisions he says he wishes “we had stayed with the great ones.”

“Stick with the great ones!” Tim feels that in today’s market, “There is very little middle ground.  Cows are commercial or very valuable.” In the last five years genomics has had a huge impact on the cattle business. “The genomic business is fantastic right now and the upper end has great value for the next generation and embryos.”

“Weigh In on the Genomics Debate” Tim’s view on this phenomenon is “Good breeder, type cows and heifers don’t have enough value in my mind but that is reality. IVF has had a huge impact because you can make daughters so efficiently and I think that is why the middle ground cattle have lost some value.

“Where’s the focus for St. Jacobs ABC?” Abbott summarizes the key issues. “We have chosen to stay out of the genomics game and focus on cows that are like our bulls … high type, great sire stacks and good female lines.”

 “Stay positive. Be careful.” “I think the good ones, whatever your focus, will continue to have tremendous value.  I think people will have to be careful with IVF not to make too many daughters of certain cows and watch the market very closely”. He sees three possibilities:

  • Big herds that have great access to recipients will have some success for sure.
  • Show cows will remain very valuable
  • Top genomic animals will be great property



As things change with testing bulls, the value of top genetics could keep going because of the potential for breeders to have very valuable bulls.  I think we will see some similarities to when there were many breeder proven bulls….the VERY top will make top dollars.” Tim Abbott, St. Jacobs ABC.



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Not Sure Which Genomic Young Sire To Use?

If you are like many, this whole genomics thing can be very confusing.  While it might be just simplest to pick the top five genomic young sires.  Who knows what could happen.  In order to get some clarity on just what young sires you should use we took a deeper look at the top 50 genomic young sires available in Canada and here is what we found.

GLPI vs Parent Average

In the past most would have just simply used the top parent average young sires and gone from there.  It’s interesting to see that only one of the top GPA LPI sires (DE-SU PHOENIX 588-ET) would have even been considered a top LPI sire before genomics.


Genomically Gifted

With DE-SU PHOENIX 588-ET jumping to the top of the list, we then wanted to see just who else has been genomically gifted with the best genes his parents have to offer. What we found was the following:

Sire GPA LPI PA – LPI Difference Direct Genomic Value
CABON FERNAND 3239 2492 747 3655
DE-SU ALTAROGERS-ET 2816 2159 657 3167
COOKIECUTTER HEFTY-ET 3211 2591 620 3211
DE-SU ALTAMELHOR-ET 3013 2413 600 3296
SHEEKNOLL ALTAVITTEK 2905 2307 598 3291

Bitch Slapped With the Ugly Stick

Since we took the time to see who was gifted we thought it would be equally important to see what bulls full-out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.  Here is what we found:

Sire GPA LPI PA LPI Difference Direct Genomic Value
COMESTAR LAUTAMARCUS 2879 3020 -141 2806
GIBBS M-M DENALLI-ET 2913 2909 4 2847
COMESTAR LOBSTER 3048 3020 28 3094
GEN-I-BEQ LAVAMAN 3116 3070 46 3317
GENERVATIONS LINGO 2938 2888 50 2899

(Please note: this does not mean they are totally ugly they are just not as pretty as the could have been)

When in Doubt Go To Sire Stack

One thing I have learned from your tried and true breeders, is whether you are breeding for index or showing, nothing beats a good sire stack.  With that in mind we prepared a 4 generation sire stack of each sire and here is the cream of the crop.

Sire Sire Stack Sire Stack Index
DE-SU PIERRE 649-ET Planet x Bolton x Shottle x Justice 2638
PIROLO SOLEMIO-ET Man-O-Man x Goldwyn x Justice x Jacko Besn 2617
GENERVATIONS ENSIGN Man-O-Man x Baxter x Shottle x Justice 2582
ESPOIR Man-O-Man x Goldwyn x Champion x Jesther 2573
GALLAIS FEELING Man-O-Man x Bolton x Shottle x Trent 2565

Girl Power

The following are the bulls that are getting it done from a strong female (dam) side of their pedigree.

Sire GPA LPI Sire Stack Index Difference
DE-SU ALTAMELHOR-ET 3013 2084 929
LESPEREE GLOBAL 3009 2099 910

The Bottom Line

Depending on your propensity for risk you can take those sires that are the extreme genomically, such as CABON FERNAND or DE-SU ALTAROGERS-ET, or you can go for the sire with great blood lines, such as DE-SU PIERRE 649-ET and PIROLO SOLEMIO-ET.  But as my wife tells me every day, behind every good man is a great woman, so maybe you try MAPEL WOOD BREWMASTER or MISTY SPRINGS SUPERSONIC.


The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

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Morsan Farms – Money Well Spent

Imagine someone comes up to you and says, “Make a huge commitment of your family, your money and your time.  Put it all into the Holstein dairy business. In less than ten years you will have one of the country’s largest dairy herds and your farm prefix will be recognized around the world.” It’s quite probable that you would assess that person as a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

Is it hard to believe? Yes!

Could it happen? Also, “Yes”.

The proof of this success story is Morsan Farms Ltd. owned and operated by Morris and Sandra Thalen.  They are living the dream.  When they moved their dairy operation to Ponoka, Alberta in 1996, they milked 200 commercial grade cows. Today 80% of the herd is purebred. They milk between 1600 and 1800 cows and own about 250 dry cows, as well as 3500 head of young stock. They have genetics from 300 cow families and provide breeding stock to dairy farms in 21 countries. While it may sound like an “as seen on TV sales pitch”, their success is actually based on their skills as producers and business managers.

Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy - Grand Champion WDE and Royal '11

Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy - Grand Champion WDE and Royal '11

Don’t Waste Time Looking in the Rear-view Mirror

The minute we are faced with outstanding success, human nature makes us ask, “Yeah but.  What mistakes did you make along the way?” It could also be human nature that successful businesses don’t spend a lot of time on their mistakes or the would’a, could’a, shoulda’s.  Chris Parry, who manages the genetics and marketing side of the business at Morsan Farms Ltd, points out, “there is something to be learned even with those few purchases that could have worked out better”.  He recommends that you “Do your homework. Make the decisions.”  That is probably what led to one of their biggest successes. Chris points to Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy. “She has to be the biggest name so far.”

Teamwork is Your Best Investment

With obvious pride Morris and Sandra say, “It’s been a great privilege to work with our children and see their interests in Morsan Farms develop.” The Thalen’s know that this family teamwork is mirrored by their eighteen full time staff and is the foundation for their continued success. The dairy business is all about relationships – cattle and people – on the farm and off.   Morris says, “Our philosophy is complete customer satisfaction. I can tell you that for every 1000 animals we sell, 950 of them are sold over the phone.  That has everything to do with trust.”

With their rapid growth, exacting attention to detail and over-riding goal of delivering the very best, it isn’t surprising that Morsan Farms Ltd. has attracted many partners. In the business world, volumes have been written on the pluses and minuses of business partnerships. Chris Parry has a positive outlook on this part of the business. “Investing with partners can be extremely beneficial to long-term business as long as all management matters are clearly defined ahead of entering into any investment agreement. There are many examples of successful partnerships and a few examples of unsuccessful partnerships”. He considers and then adds, “I think partnerships that don’t work are the ones where partners receive unexpected surprises which cause friction.  In most cases our experience with partners has been exceptional.” He sums up the partnership discussion by saying, “We have a lot partners who have now become great friends of the business.”

It is an exciting time to be in the dairy cattle business and Chris was emphatic that the first step in investing in dairy cattle is to know your own goals first.  He offered many possibilities. “I think if you are looking to invest in genetics the key is to decide what your expectations are? To improve your herd? To market genetics? To market the business? To bring in a direct or indirect return on the investment? To put bulls in AI and work in the genomics market? When these questions are answered then it’s time to do your homework”. Doing the homework is what Morsan Farms Ltd. is obsessive about.  The “first step is to identify the consistent cow family and the best member of that family you can find. Then it is simply down to the investment level you are comfortable with and your expectations on the return on that investment”.

Where is the Excitement in Cattle Investing Today?

MS Chassity Goldwyn Cash

MS Chassity Goldwyn Cash

Everyone is talking about Genomics.  Morsan Farms Ltd. has a plan.  Chris Parry’s personal view is “I look at this as a positive not a negative. Lots of investment has been made in this new area of the industry which would not have been made before. A good percentage of this investment has come from outside of the industry and this is a good thing”. He cautions, “The danger here is again down to expectations. Know the science and know this part of the industry and your investment will be justified” He throws in a word to the wise, “Make sure you invest in genomics backed by a good sound cow family so if you don’t get the number you still have something to work with.” When pressed for examples Chris pointed out, “Over the past two years or more the majority of the purchases have been based on genomics most notably in cows like MS Chassity Goldwyn Cash, MS Atlees Shottle Aubry, MS Atlees Goldwyn Ariel just to name a few”. Chris summed up this discussion by looking to the future. “I would say the genomic investment will continue to be the driving force in the industry but I see the investments made will have a higher degree of calculation and understanding.”

THE BOTTOM LINE: From Day One, Set Yourself Up for Success!

Everyone involved with Morsan Farms Ltd. shares real enthusiasm for their work.  They see breeders as dedicated people, like themselves, who are passionate about the industry. “We have to be. To work the long hours we all put in 365 days a year in all-weather conditions takes a unique breed of people. This is normally the same drive that makes your business investments succeed”.  It all comes down to teamwork.  Good information.  Trust you’re your first impression when looking at a potential investment is normally the correct one. Talk to people in the industry whom you respect.  Get good information.  Don’t fall for the hype.”

Morsan Farms is an example of exactly that path. Relatively unknown just six years ago and now a well-respected brand name in the industry backed by an extremely dedicated family and motivated professional staff.  



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Twice the Bull – Half the S**T

Some people may think I am crazy.  Others may think I am arrogant.  They could all be right!  It doesn`t matter. I am tired of sitting back, depending on gossip and watching as the all the news comes in the same old way.

Maybe it’s from the years of watching risk takers like Albert Cormier, Doug Blair, and Pete Heffering, learning that you have to risk to move ahead of the herd. On the other hand, maybe it’s from working and debating side by side with my father that has developed a passion for great cattle; I can’t sit on the sidelines and not take action.  Dairy breeders need a chance to have a voice. They deserve to get more than just a listing of what happened.

That is why I am launching!  We want to give progressive dairy breeders a chance to join the 21st century.  Every day, we will seek to provide insight and host lively debate about the people, the cattle and the story behind the story that makes us have a passion for this the dairy industry. To prove this, we have already created  “The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics” and a great tool for when you invest “The Dairy Cattle Return on Investment Calculator.” One is easy to read the other easy to use!

“The Journal” has been an institution since I was born. At our house, it was pored over as soon as it arrived. The problem is the message doesn’t look that different from it did some 33 years ago.  Throw  in a few more colours, shorter hair and get rid of the bell-bottom whites that Lowell Lindsey used to wear and nothing has changed.  But trust me the dairy industry and especially the progressive dairy breeder has. Computers! Blackberrys! Instant messaging! The facts are at our fingertips!

And yes I know there are more magazines out there than just “The Journal”, there is “The World”, And “International”, but one looks more like a billboard for those who will pay them the most money and the other has great insight, but is under lock and key, that  makes it hard for most breeders to truly find what they want.  A diary is great for looking back.  What happens next is where the action is! It’s goes way beyond who you know from the cattle ring and the breeder awards.  You’ve got to know what is happening on the leading edge. What makes the difference? Who knows? Who cares?

Over the next few months, we plan to add the following items:

  • Breeder directory
  • Chat forum (bring back some of the greatness that was
  • Donor directory

Ultimately, we are going to let the breeders tell us what they want.  Through your feedback and our  advisor board we are going to seek to give the type of content that breeders want.  Not what we think you want.  While my odd rant article (such as this one) may be mostly the opinions of the editor,  we will strive to bring you fresh perspectives:

  • Breeder profiles such as Morsan Holsteins
  • Cow family profiles such as Lylehaven Lila Z
  • Investment advice from experts such as Tim Abbott

In addition, there will be more great insights from such well-known experts as:

  • Patty Jones – on what is takes to get a great picture of your cow
  • Pam Nunes – on how to market your cattle
  • Barclay Phoenix – on what it takes for you to find the next great one

In the end, we are going to strive to give you the modern dairy breeder with twice the amount of great content with half the amount of BS.  We are looking forward to the challenge.

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