Archive for May 2012

Is Good Plus Good Enough?

For years GP-84-2YR was the kiss of death when it came to marketing and selling genetics.  However, along comes genomics and it seems that GP is good enough.  Nevertheless, the question it has me asking is “Is Good Plus Good Enough?”

I can still remember when Summershade Icebreak Luke, was the #1 LPI cow in Canada.  The problem was she was scored GP-83-2YR.  The A.I. companies where not sure if they should even sample bulls from her and how would they convince their members to use them in their young sire programs.  Then came along Summershade Igniter and Summershade Inquirer and A.I. companies took the chance.  While hindsight is 20/20, maybe they should have passed.  On the female side, Icebreak had 34 daughters classified and only 7 of them going VG.  We ourselves had one of those daughters Summershade Icemarti.  While she did score VG, it was not until her 2nd lactation, long past her peak marketing time.  In the past, we have purchased many daughters out of GP 83 and 84 two year olds, expecting them to go VG before our purchase calved in.  It has proven to be a risky move, but one that could have paid off big time.  On the male side Icebreak had six sons enter A.I. service but none where ever returned to service.

On the flip side, I can also remember when we first purchased into the Braedale Gypsy Grand family and many people around us had concerns about her GP-83-2YR dam.  While there was a very good reason why Moonriver never went VG, we still found ourselves having to explain things many times.  Then along came Second Cut, Baler Twine, Freelance and Goodluck and we found that changed everything.

As we all know genomics has changed the name of the game, and we now see A.I. companies sampling high genomic sires irrelevant of their score or the score of their dam.  With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the current high index dams that are NOT scored VG.  The following is what I found.

The Story in the US

In the US, there are three GP cows on the Top 25 GTPI Cows List (GP-83-or Higher).  Leading the way is BEN-AKERS PLANET LUISE26-ET, she the #3 GTPI cow and the #1 NM cow scored over 83 points.  While Luise is from the Ricecrest Luke Lisa family and has solid type numbers, her genomic values for type are actually lower than her parent average and yet she still has a son at Alta Genetics, Ben-Akers AltaRazzle.  Joining Luise on the top GTPI list at #18 is SURE-VIEW MP PLANET LEXI.  Lexi is from the M&M-Pond-Hill Leadman Luba family and is scored GP-83-2YR.  Similar to Luise, Lexi has high genomic values compared to her parent average but yet again has conformation scores that just meet expectations.  Unlike Luise, it appears to this point that Lexi does not have any sons currently in A.I..  The third member of the list is SULLY PLANET MANITOBA , this GP-83-2YR is out of the great brood cow, Sully Shottle May the former #1 GTPI and GLPI cow of the breed.  Of course May is believed to have more offspring genomic tested over 2200 & 2300 GPTI than any other cow in the breed.  Unlike the other two GP 2yr olds on the top list, Manitoba has outstanding type numbers and her genomic values are actually higher than her parent average.  It’s these outstanding values that have her with at least three sons currently in A.I., SULLY HART MERIDIAN-ET and SULLY HART MUNICH-ET at Semex, and SULLY ALTABRANDON-ET at Alta Genetics.

The Canadian Story

Much like the US list the #3 spot on the Canadian List is held by a GP-83-2YR, Benner Planet Jakova-ET.  Being a Planet from a Goldwyn, Jakova has strong parent average for type and has strong genomic values as well.  Coming from the Benner Luke Jean family, Jokava has yet to put a son into A.I.. Joining Jokova on the list is Delaberge Planet Lulu.  However, on April 25th Lulu was raised to VG-85-2YR, 244 days fresh.  Lulu comes from the Bryhill Lindy Lilly family and already has a son at Semex, DONNANDALE LUMI.  The third member on the list is Alexerin Oman 993. Of interesting note about 993 is that there are no VG dams anywhere in her pedigree, she has mostly production sires and yet her parent average for conformation is five and her genomic value is a six.  Not surprisingly, 993 does not have any sons currently in A.I.  The last member on the list is Calbrett Planet Empress.  Much like Lulu, Empress has since been moved to VG-86-2YR later in lactation.  Empress is from the WABASH-WAY EVETT dam of the popular genomic sire Genervations Eclipse and the same family as Epic and Highway.  Given the strong maternal pedigree, Empress has PA of +10 for conformation and actually exceeds that with a +12 for her direct genomic value.  Given her increase in score and strong maternal pedigree it is just a matter of time before she has sons in A.I..

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While GP-84-2YR use to be the kiss of death for many marketing and genetic programs, genomics has changed the game.  With genomics, we are seeing many GP 83 or 84 cattle used as dams that would have never been touched before.  While many will increase in score later in life, many do not, and yet that does not seem to be as big a factor.  Many A.I. companies and breeders are more concerned about their genomic values than that of their actual classification score.


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Nothing Sells Like Video

In the past, there was nothing better for marketing your dairy cattle than getting a great photo.  It has often been said that a cow needs to look great twice in her life, once when the classifier sees her and once when you take her photo.  Today’s problem is that, with the advancement in digital photography, some photographers have taken it too far (read “Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far”?), to the point where many people do not completely trust photo’s anymore.  This is why, in the future, video will be the #1 way to sell your dairy cattle.

Video is 100% Honest

While it is possible for photos to be touched up, in order to touch up a video it would take more resources than any breeder or A.I. organization could ever afford.  In a video, you are able to see all the strengths and flaws as well as how your cattle walk and move on their legs.  Many times I have seen a cow that would not classify well for feet & legs last 5+ lactations, just because of how they handle their feet and legs.  I have also seen the exact opposite occur as well.  A young cow or bull that has very fine feet and legs that would score well, but since they are not very mobile on them, they don’t last past their first couple of lactations or exits the A.I. stud early in life.  Watching an animal on video lets you see all this.

Check out this video by of Venture Proxy PP-Red.  Notice how with just a little intro, some music, and a little time, they were able to create a great video that really gives you a strong appreciation for what the strengths and weaknesses  of the bull are and how well he moves on his feet.

Video’s Help Sell in Live Auctions

Not every potential bidder can make it in person to the auction where you may be selling your consignments.  Not wanting to lose out on this potential revenue, Ferme Jacobs has done a great job of creating a cost effective video to help show how these potential show heifers continue  the success that Ferme Jacobs has been having at the major shows in North America (read Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family).

The world has gone digital, and that includes Holstein World.  Holstein World seeing the demand for video has even created Holstein World Productions that does a great job of covering auctions (for a cost) that helps sell the animals to a larger market.  Check out this video in support of the recent Impact of Ada Sale

With no retouching and just simply letting the heifer be natural, the potential buyers get a great understanding of what the animal is really like.  Something they could never get from a still shot.

Use Video to Promote Your Herd to the World

Have you ever noticed that most major big brand’s and company’s front page of their website increasingly resembles TV commercials?  That’s because television advertisers have spent billions over the years on what they know works and grabs people’s attention.  Advancements in technologies and increasing connection speeds have almost doubled in the past 2 years alone.  Websites are starting to catch up with what works on TV.  They don’t do it with text.  They do it with audio and video.  They know they have only 3-5 seconds to grab your attention.  Therefore, I pose this question, “what is the difference between a TV commercial and the front page of your website?” You want to grab attention and prompt someone to take time and look at your cattle, right?  Well, you’d better have video in some fashion up front in order to do that.

Taking their use of video to all aspects of their website, check out the video on Ferme Jacobs website ( welcoming visitors to their farm.  By watching that video, you are able to get a sense for what Ferme Jacobs is all about and because they have broken the ice, you feel as if you already know them and have an increased sense of trust.

Video brings with it a distinct benefit in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your site.  Recently, Google, Yahoo, and other search engines decided that they would rank a website higher in their SEO algorithms for having a video embedded somewhere within the site.  They even figured out ways to view the text within the videos themselves and use that in search engines.

The most common way to have video on your site is by using a service such as YouTube or Vimeo.  However, you do need to be smart about how to use these services if you go that route.  Your view rating will be a lot higher if you embed the video onto your webpage rather than just putting a link to show your video on YouTube or Vimeo.  Besides, why would you send someone away from your website when the goal is to keep them on your website for as long as possible?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There really is nothing better than video to help you sell and promote your cattle.  It does not have to be some big costly production.  In fact, it can be much cheaper than having a professional photographer come in.  You can simply use your hand held blackberry or smartphone and snap some quick snippets to share with potential buyers on Facebook or on your website.  Even good quality digital video cameras can be picked up at your local Best-Buy or Wal-Mart.  Most even come with some basic software so that you can add your own titles, images, and music.  While I am not saying you don’t need to take still shots of your cattle (they are still needed for ads, and such), what I am saying is think about how you can incorporate video into your marketing plans.  You will be happy you did.  See you in the movies!

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

INBREEDING: Does Genomics Affect the Balancing Act?

If you are like many of us you are alternately amazed, overwhelmed and confused by the barrage of information that is fed to you through your breed organizations, cattle committees and industry publications. As part of The Bullvine`s commitment to be an informative and understandable resource for cattle breeders, I have spent considerable time trying to get my non-scientific head around the 2011 paper in the Journal of Dairy Science entitled, “Novel strategies to minimize progeny inbreeding while maximizing genetic gain using genomic information.”  Was it worth the bother? Yes. Definitely.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

We can all agree that Genomic information is a tremendous breakthrough for cattle breeding.  With all the potential, it didn’t take long for the concern to arise that greater rates of genetic gain could lead to higher annual rates of inbreeding.  My wild imagination skipped to a picture of everyone breeding to the top bulls and ending up with a single family.  Even if that seems outrageous, it is definitely possible that generation intervals could be halved through taking advantage of the accurate GEBV’s available at birth and this could increase the inbreeding per year. Therefore, I definitely wanted to find out from this paper published by Pryce, Hayes and Goddard in Australia on how genomic information offers possibilities to control the level of progeny inbreeding.

Concern:  Are we moving from homogenized milk to homozygous cows?

Let’s take a look at the indicators that might lead us to believe the answer is, “Yes!”

  • Genomic predictions are both cost effective and highly accurate. Therefore there is the very definite potential to accelerate the rate of genetic gain beyond that achieved through progeny testing.
  • Shorter generation intervals could result in large numbers of animals who are similar in genetic makeup due to the sires used.
  • It’s human nature to aim for the best.  The uptake of genomics has been beyond anything previously predicted or imagined.  Not only is the playing field being leveled it is being dramatically narrowed down.

Strategies to Control the Rate of Inbreeding

An important part of this Australian study was to evaluate the effect of the three strategies tested on the homozygosity of deleterious recessives.  In other words, what can breeders do to limit the potential for negative effects of inbreeding? Before, we go further, it is interesting to note, that these researchers referenced more than twenty other research papers.  The focus on this subject is concentrated and that can only be good for the eventual outcome for breeder decision making.

The main limitation of comparing methods to predict progeny inbreeding is that, at this time, there is no best practice for measuring inbreeding.  Pedigree is flawed by errors and gaps and often, particularly in commercial herds, the depth of pedigree.  Genomic relationships calculated using SNP data could have errors from incorrect identification of samples.

The goal of these researchers was to compare 3 strategies for controlling progeny inbreeding in mating plans:

  • Pedigree inbreeding coefficients
  • Genomic relationships
  • Shared runs of homozygosity.

The Good News Is….

I know this all sounds very complex, but relax there is good news. The study found that both genomic relationships and pedigree relationships were successful strategies to control the rate of inbreeding under genomic selection. They also concluded that using genomic relationships instead of pedigree relationships “appears to be better at constraining genomic inbreeding under genomic selection.”  The unique part of their study was that they went a step further and proposed “using runs of homozygosity to control the rate of inbreeding.”

Again I know sounds very complex.  So let’s try and break it down. One of the underlying processes of inbreeding is that it increases the frequency of both favorable and deleterious homozygotes.  ROH stands for run of homozygosity.  If the occurrence of deleterious homozygotes is more likely to arise as a consequence of recent inbreeding (which is the potential of heavy use of genomics) then strategies to minimize ROH could be a way of reducing them. A novel approach, don’t you agree?

What did they do?

In the research simulation they used 300 cows with 20 sires available for mating, replicated 50 times.  Each of the 300 individuals allocated as dams were matched to 1 of 20 sires to maximize genetic merit minus the penalty for estimated progeny inbreeding and given the restriction that the sire could not be mated to more than 10% of the cows. In the discussion part of the paper, which, of course, is the easiest part to understand they offer this: “The results presented here show that using A GRM instead of pedigree in a mating plan is an effective way to reduce the expected inbreeding in progeny, with minimal effect on the genetic gain for the inbreeding objective.”  The breeding objective in Australia is expressed as APR and in Canada it is LPI and in the US is TPI.

What can YOU do Today?

Before we go on to look at the financial aspect of this discussion, you should refer to the Genomic Evaluation Details which are available from CDN (Canadian Dairy Network) or from your breed association.  In the CDN report there is a column that gives the percentage inbreeding (%ING) numbers for the Sire; Dam and MGS.  In general it could be agreed that 0-8 is good; 8 to 10 is okay: 11 to 14 watch and 15 or more take action.

What is the Dollar Difference of Inbreeding?

Inbreeding affects profitability by adversely affecting traits related to fitness and production.  Data from the US reported that the current cost of inbreeding over an average cow’s lifetime was US$24.  For this study a conservative value of $5 per year was used as the economic value per 1% increase in inbreeding. “These results demonstrate that using GRM information, a 1% reduction in progeny inbreeding (valued at around $5 per cow) can be made with very little compromise in the overall breeding objective.  These results and the availability of low-cost, low –density genotyping make it attractive to apply mating plans that use genomic information in commercial herds.”

By itself this economic benefit does not currently justify the investment in whole herd genotyping, if one considers that pedigree information is free and appears to do a pretty good job of controlling inbreeding, However, it may be economically worthwhile for dairy farmers to invest in whole-herd low-density genotyping in conjunction with other uses of genotyping. Examples could include confirming parentage, selecting the best heifer calves to keep as herd replacements, managing genetic defects, flushing and selling high-value pedigree stock. These researchers conclude: “Based on our calculations the value of genotyping to control inbreeding could be worth between $5 and $10 per cow.”  You do the math.


So this is my untrained, non-scientific understanding of this single paper on a subject that is growing faster than gossip on a grapevine.  Having said that, it is each dairy breeder’s job to be informed.  Use your network to find out who has the best answers to this question because when it comes down to the affect of inbreeding on YOUR breeding bottom line it’s YOUR money!
The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

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Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?

For some time now the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) has been working to establish a “Cooperative Agreement” with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) pertaining to the transfer of the USDA-­‐ARS dairy genetic evaluation service to the CDCB.  This has culminated in the recent release of a draft Cooperative Agreement for public comment.  The problem is that the draft lacks some of the core values that makes America great, specifically the ability for everyone to operate on a level playing field (access to information) and to be led by brave leadership driving toward a better future.

With these changes come many questions.  Some key issues follow.

Will everyone have access to the information?

Reading the agreement may require having a law degree to fully understand it.  This may be by intention, but it really doesn’t make for light reading.  Some of the language in the proposed agreement is very confusing. It talks about how the CDCB will have ownership and control of the information.  One of the reasons that the USA has been able to become the mega world power that it is was because it was founded on the belief that everyone is created equal and has equal opportunity to achieve success.  Looking at how the use of genomic information was handled in the past does not bode well for how everyone will get free access to the information.  Many smaller organizations are concerned that this will lead to a monopoly for a few A.I. studs.

The proposed wording is in stark contrast to allowing free access to the information for all those involved.  This actually causes a double edged sword.  On one side, the powers that be are limiting the small guy from competing at the same level.  However, there is also the interest about keeping much larger players, such as say Pfizer from entering.  In Canada, Pfizer is already offering genomic testing and what’s to stop them from using their many resources to use that information in new ways (read Are You Ready for Genetically Modified Cattle).

How do we maintain our integrity with breeders worldwide?

Similar to the views expressed by Greg Anderson of Seagull Bay Dairy, many breeders are concerned about the perceived integrity that comes from going away from a government organization (USDA) to a private entity.  Vice President of Holstein USA Glen Brown and Director Bill Wright also express these concerns,  Both men are also  dairy breeders and call for the need to develop  strong business plan, in the following video


While I do understand this concern, there are many examples worldwide, such as the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN), which has been able to maintain integrity and do it   without the political hurdles that come with government involvement.

One of the lessons learned from the CDN model is that you need equal representation from all parties involved, not just those who put up the most money.  CDN is majority funded by Industry and specifically A.I., but its board has equal representation from breed associations, breeders, and industry.  This is necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the organization and also to provide effective direction for the future.  One thing is for sure, it will take bold leadership through these times.  This makes me remember when Murray Hunt (Dad for disclosure sake) backed by the Canadian Genetic Evaluation Board, was facing a similar challenge in Canada. At the time he made some bold moves, hiring of Paola Rossi, and Gerald Jansen, Canadians working in Italy to do Canadian genetic evaluations, long before there was the full business plan, but rather had the agreement in principle.  Yes, this was putting the cart before the horse, but it also lead to the formation of the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).

Who pays the bills?

As Holstein USA Director and dairy breeder Leroy Eggink, points out in the video above, it has been a great scenario for US breeders having taxpayers foot the bill.  But, that gravy train is over.  In Canada when that ship sailed, it left industry footing the bill.  Since A.I. represents the most direct profitable gain from genetic evaluations, that means they are left holding the bag. Ultimately, this cost is passed on to the breeders.  And while the response comes that we pay for all the systems that track and record this information, there is still the cost to convert that raw data into actionable information (bull proofs).

The one area the CDCB needs to remember is that all costs should be expensed equally and should not play favorites with the larger A.I. centers, as happened with Genomic information.  In an interview with Ron Flatness, Flatness International, he repeatedly expressed the concerns around price for the smaller competitors and protecting against un-needed additional fees.  (Following comments are that of the writer and not Ron) Instead of higher membership fees that will limit the involvement of smaller organizations or independent breeders, all costs need to be handled equally.  One standard price per sire sampled vs. a much larger membership fees, would be fair to everyone.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Be careful what you ask for.  While many breeders want 100% free access to information, it isn’t always a good thing.  While there are many questions that still need to be answered, regarding a business plan, ownership of information and how to be as transparent as possible, I ask the question, “Is this a move to keep, not smaller players, but much larger players out of the marketplace?”

Here are some more great resources:

Dairy producers will have 29 days to comment on the Cooperative Agreement (May 7 to June 4).

If you have questions please contact any of the CDCB officers.

Contact information for USDA representatives:


Weekly Show and Sale Recap– 5/26/2012


  • Top prices at Regancrest
    At an average price of $12,207 (108 lots), the 7th edition of the Regancrest Command Performance Sale has been the highlight among last week’s auctions. And the top price was not half bad, too. Even twice, a lot was knocked down at $60,000. At first, Jeff Butler paid that price for Regelcreek Shmrock Amber (2562 gTPI) from the Chief Adeen family, and shortly afterwards a 1st choice from the Cosmopolitan family caught up: Mark Kerndt purchased a Supersire daughter out of Larcrest Cale, who in turn is a high Observer daughter out of Crimson. At the third-highest price, attractive Sandy-Valley Devrie (2429 gTPI) changed ownership. Devrie is sired by Shamrock and out of Regan-ALH Divina, the Boliver sister to well-known Goldwyn sons Danillo and Goldday from the Raven family. At $42,000, she went to Jeff Simpson. A Denim granddaughter to Sully Shottle Max, Sully Hart Denim (2431 gTPI) fetched the fourth-highest price ($40,000) paid by Daisy Farms. (
  • Coveted type pedigree
    An Atwood daughter of National Champion, Hoff September Paradise, was sale topper at the Spring Sale (average: €3,753) of Bra-Ko-Holsteins in Southern Sweden. At €10,600, that yearling heifer went to the Hoff brothers and Semex Sweden. A 1st choice Fever out of Hoff Linjet Marql and an Advent out of a Goldwyn sister to Integrity Paradise fetched €7,200 each. (
  • Strong premiere
    At the Lornlace Sale in New Zealand organized for the first time ever, several top prices were achieved. At NZ$26,000, the unchallenged Nr.1 on the price comparison list was a 1st choice of two Edition daughters out of the coveted bull dam Lornlace Extasy Dimple. She is the dam of the high young bull Dumpling who will receive his first daughter-based proof soon. A total of 48 lots averaged NZ$2,740. (
  • Northwest Illinois Spring Sizzler Averages $2512
    The Northwest Illinois Holstein club held their annual Spring Sizzler Sale Friday, May 4th. The sale was at the Stephenson Co. Fairgrounds in Freeport, IL. The nice weather brought out many Northern IL and Southern WI breeders to see a very nice lineup of cattle sell. The sale achieved a $2512 average! (
    • Topping the sale at $11,000 was Lot 1-  MS Alexis Colt Ali-ET, she is a 10/11 Polled RC Colt-P with a +1947GTPI  x VG-86 VG-MS Shottle x EX-95 KHW Regiment APPLE-RED! She was consigned by Apple Partners and purchased by Joseph O’Callaghan of Ireland.
    • The second high seller at $4700 was a 12/12 Reality-Red x OCD Contender Lonnie-Red-ET VG-86, 1st milking yrlg Royal Winter Fair R&W Show 2011. She was consigned by Milksource Genetics and was purchased by Meier Meadows of Ridott, IL.
    • Third at $4300 was Lot 28 a fancy 4/11 Apples Absolute-Red heifer x Erbacres Advent Candy-Red VG-85 VG-MS, consigned by Kevin Erbsen. She was purchased by Rachel Koehn/K-Lane Farms of Peotone, IL.

Are Other Dairy Publications Big, Fat, Lazy Couch Potatoes?

This article marks a great accomplishment for the Bullvine.  It is our 81st article in the past 3 months.  That is 26 articles a month.  That represents  more than double the number of quality articles of our nearest competitor and more than quadruples that of most dairy publications (note: these results do not include event or show reporting articles).  It has me asking if these results mean t we are working that much harder than our competitors are? or does it mean they are fat and lazy couch potatoes?

When we started the Bullvine, we said that we were not just an event-reporting magazine.  We would not be a billboard or promoter of whoever will pay us the most money.  We have already shown we are something different, something real.  We are providing what’s been missing for real dairy breeders. (for more read Twice the Bull, Half the S**t)  Moreover, our more than 3,000 daily visitors and 10,000 subscribers in just 3 months would say that breeders are responding.

Obviously, we are doing something right.  So then my question turns to what the others are doing?  Much as I anticipated after being part of the dairy industry for the past 30 years, nothing has really changed.  Sure, some of them are trying to use social media a little more and others are maybe trying to be a little edgier with their content, but in reality, nothing has really changed.  They are just sitting on their butts watching the world go by.

Is this a blatant shot across the bow of our competitors?  Yes, but that is because we did not start the Bullvine for fame or fortune.  We started the Bullvine to help educate breeders and provide them with un-biased information about the dairy industry.  Does that mean we don’t have an opinion?  Not even close.  We have expressed very strong opinions.  Over the past few months, we have stirred up a lot of conversation with such articles as:

What does this mean to you?  While we would not expect everyone to agree 100% with what we have said, we are making breeders think.  We are making them think about their breeding programs and the industry as a whole.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

What I ask now is, “Is it making the other dairy publications think?”  The very real possibility, is that they going to continue to just sit on their couch potato butts.  Neither you nor I should be responsible for raising couch potatoes – even though it sounds so agricultural.  Here at the Bullvine we are raising your expectations, your level of information and your hopes for the future of the dairy industry.  Thanks for supporting our opening quarter!

Doing Nothing Can Be Fatal To Your Farm

A picture is worth a thousand words and, thanks to YouTube, almost every new trend, scandalous leader and singing idol can be viewed after the tapping of a few keys. Today we are linking you to a cattle related video that deals with disease with TB in badgers. Before you raise your stop sign, keep an open mind for a minute. After all it could be TB in Canadian or American deer or wild bison. It could be brucellosis. After watching this 2011 film entitled, “Mayday at Heolfawr Cross” we hope you don’t remain on the fence, even though that is the final view we have of Dai Bevan as we see the destruction of his life’s work raising Longhorn cattle in Wales? Another stop sign? Longhorns are not Holsteins! Wales is not Canada or the US. Take a few minutes to see if there is anything to learn or, at the very least, who is to blame?

Oops! There’s the first mistake. If we decide that laying blame is the only outcome we seek, then there will never be a different ending to this sad story.

Ignore the problem or point the finger of blame

It’s hard not to feel empathy for Dai Bevan when he quietly acknowledges, “I am absolutely not in control of the situation.” Faced with the agonizing loss of his cattle who, though “not friends” are the individuals he cared for primarily all his life, he does get angry at those he feels caused this outcome “They are denying gravity. The world isn’t round it is flat. Why is a cow’s life so much less than a wild animal’s?” He asks the question and his veterinarian neighbours, also affected by TB, express their frustration. “We know what needs to be done, but politics is standing in the way.” They feel helpless.

Excuses, Blame and Status Quo

One video can’t possibly provide the full details of what has led to this situation. Of course, we see it through the filters of our own North American experience, which may only be arms length from such problems. Although this deals with wild animal vectors, we did experience the same agonizing decisions, finger-pointing and loss of animals and income, when we were in the negative spotlight of BSE. We could have said and did say the same words as Dai Bevan, “I don’t like that there’s nothing I can do.” But is that the final word?

Who’s Healthy? Who’s Sick?

The point that is touched on only briefly in this video, is that the badgers are hosting and perhaps suffering from TB. In North America deer are contracting the disease, as are wild bison. The end result is not just death for the cattle but also for the carrier. A good point is made that the general public has a fuzzy, sometimes fairy-tale view of wildlife from their far-from-the-farm vantage point. But at the end of the day, disease is disease. Ignored disease is deadly, whether it’s carried by wildlife, cattle or the person you meet for coffee today.

Timely Testing

We all would like to think we have our personal (and farm) health protocols working properly but how often do you hear that a friend or family member has just received bad news from a health test and that they are facing a dire prognosis. There is nothing timely about a vet visit that ends with the disposal of an entire herd of cattle.

Prevention or Cure?

In the film the veterinarian points out that there has been awareness that TB has been present in the longhorn and other breeds for years. Of course, it became personal when it affected his own herd. We can’t bury our heads in clouds of hopefulness that it won’t become personal. Even if it isn’t our own herd of cattle, it affects sales, loss of genetic material, financial costs and the image of an entire country, industry and each farmer. As we heard on the video it’s time to stand up and say “The buck stops here!”

Priorities or Partnerships?

You can’t watch the video without having a response to it. Evan Bevan acknowledges that we all enjoy “hours at times watching badgers playing and rolling down banks. The difference is they’re healthy (i.e. non-lethal) badgers.” We all have a stake in healthy wildlife as well as healthy livestock. It is discouraging that conservationists “take the view that (badgers) are an absolute priority (over cattle) rather than a partnership. The two have to exist together.” A solution has to be found that doesn’t lose both wildlife and the animals that provide food for our tables.


North Americans are well-aware of the term Bio-Security. It may have had an impact on your farm already. It isn’t the fault or responsibility of someone else. Each one of us is responsible for the health status that affects our farm, our cattle, and our family. You need to be hyper-vigilant. This starts with awareness of risks. Get in touch with OMAFRA or Department of Agriculture and find out for yourself what current risks may be present in your area. We have had unusual weather which affects our crops and cows. It affects the wildlife population as well. What impact could it have on you? What input have you had from your farm team? Be proactive not reactive because, as a nutritionist recently told me, “Reaction means dead cows!”


When it comes to diseases that could wipe out your entire herd, you absolutely MUST know the answer to the question, “Where do you sit?” Hint #1: The answer cannot be “On the fence!” Hint #2: The answer cannot be “Wait and see!” If you wait, it’s too late!

Does Canada’s Quota System Give Breeders an Advantage?

From the “milk wars” in the 1960’s that established Canada’s supply management system to the various rounds of World Trade Organization meetings, Canada’s quota system has always been a contentious subject for many reasons.  We decided to look at the issue from an animal breeding perspective.  We are not trying to analyze the pros and cons of the quota system, but rather what it means for dairy farmers’ breeding programs.

Various rounds of world trade talks have touched on this issue but, similar to US subsidies, it seems that even though they are counter productive to world trade, no one wants to broach this issue.  With that, we found that it has the following three effects on Canadian breeder’s genetics programs:

  • Limits Entry to Market
    Because farmers need to own quota in order to ship fluid milk, it limits who is able to produce milk.  Often times in a new operation the cost of quota is the single largest capital investment in starting a new dairy.  This greatly restricts herd size as well as often times this means that the next generation of dairy farmers have to go work in other industries in order to build enough capital in order to enter the market.  Many times these individuals never come back and are a true loss to the dairy industry.  Those that have the smarts to excel in other industries end up doing great things in other markets instead of helping advance the dairy breeding industry.
  • Provides Stables Pricing
    Evolution of farm prices in Canada and the US

    While the world price for milk saw a significant drop in late 2008, due to Canada’s supply management system Canadian dairy producers did not directly feel that effect.  This meant that Canadian breeders could continue to run their programs as if nothing had changed.  But many top breeders who’s “genetics” check is either the yearly vacation fund, or others whose genetic sales represent the majority of the farm’s profit, saw a significant drop in fresh heifer and even high end genetic sales to their major market, the US. “Big deal!” you may say.  Actually, this was very significant.  Having just come out of the BSE turmoil, Canada was looking to rebuild their world export markets and for many breeders their programs are not won or lost on the value of what the top animals sell for, but rather the cost of recipients.  With a low price for fresh heifers, many breeders went from making a profit on their recipients to taking a significant loss. So while the quota system helped protect them on their milk check, nothing could help them on their genetics check through this period.
  • Promotes Inefficiency in Production
    Any smart breeder knows how to breed for maximum profitability however, with a stable milk price that is higher than world market price, many Canadian producers have not been forced to maximize the efficiency of their dairy operations. Peter Slade found that when comparing Ontario Dairy Farmers operations to New York dairies that New York farmers where up to 17.5% more economically efficient in their milk production.  This efficiency did not only come from their operations alone but also their breeding programs.  Because New York dairies are forced to look as every aspect of their operations and look how they can maximize revenue, their mating programs are substantially more geared towards efficient milk production than that of Ontario operations. Canadian breeders have been able to focus on type more significantly for many years, and hence their distinct advantage in this area.

The Bottom Line

The quota system has been both a gift and a curse to Canadian dairy farmers. There is no question when you look at the big picture that the quota system has been great for dairy farmers.  However, when it comes to their breeding programs, it has had a bias and limiting effect.  Granted, it has allowed breeders to focus much more on type and breeding the Canadian kind, but, at the same time, it has also built a false market security and therefore, there has not been as much focus on production and efficiency that other markets have been forced to address.  The real advantage comes for many dairy operations when both opportunities are recognized and maximized by the savvy Canadian dairy breeder.

What do you think?  Share your comments below.

LESSONS LEARNED: 6 Dairy Cattle Investment Secrets Revealed

As hints of summer start to make their mark on farms and fields across Canada, future farmers look forward to the end of another school year, however, school is always in, when it comes to breeding cattle. There is always something new to be learned by those who want to move to the head of the class. How many checkmarks have you got on your breeding report card?



Gary Hazeleger of Hanalee Holsteins,  has 20/20 vision when he looks back on the success he and fellow-investors, Hazbro and Darcroft, have had since purchasing Mapel Wood Shottle Lili in 2010 at the International Intrigue Sale, hosted by Mapel Wood.

6 Dairy Cattle Investment Secrets

  1. Investing in cattle is not for the faint of heart.
    For most of us, it helps to analyze the success achieved by others and see what, if anything, applies to our own particular situation. Gary Hazeleger of Embro Ontario accepts the always changing aspect of cattle breeding. He notes that “Although Genomics has added a new measure of confidence to decision making, there is still nothing that guarantees a 100% sure thing when you’re investing in cattle.”
  2. Identify the most correct animal.
    Gary starts the report card on Lili by describing his own first impression of her. “I remember seeing her as a baby calf and thinking that she was the most correct calf in the sale. She was a little bit small to show as a calf but still very correct.” With his interest aroused, he goes on to explain what sealed the deal. “It didn’t hurt that both Comestar Goldwyn Lilac and Lylehaven Lila Zhad been two of my favorite cows over the past few years. So a few of us got together and decided to purchase Lili.”






  3. Expect a true winner to be a hard worker too.
    In the dairy business, it’s counterproductive if you have to baby your genetic leaders. Gary Hazeleger had no such problems after deciding to go with Shottle Lili. “Of course, the last two years have confirmed that this was the right decision. Lili is amazing to work with. She just does her thing every day. She milks a lot, doesn’t get sick and stands there looking great all day long. She is a real pet in the barn.” Who could ask for anything more? Nobody. But this VG-88 2 year old goes above and beyond ordinary. “She is a tremendous dairy cow with an amazing udder and a perfect set of feet and legs. As for production she is really using up a good chunk of the quota we have right now. Her 2 year old projections are 305d 14929 5.4F 951 3.1P 501 (BCA 375 657 398). She had 6.8% butterfat on her last test.”
  4. Learn to Deal with the Repercussions.
    Is there a downside to all this investment success? “Yes!” says Hazeleger. “She makes staying under quota very difficult.” And, wouldn’t you know, this overachiever doesn’t stop there. “We have only flushed her once in her first lactation and she produced 16 eggs by Lauthority.” Of course, this is having a very positive impact on Hazeleger’s herd. “Whenever you have a young cow such as Lili in your barn, it makes you more excited to get up in the morning and also brings more interest into the rest of your herd. It seems that it’s almost every day that someone new wants to stop in and see her and, while they’re visiting, they see all the other cows as well.”
  5. Spread the Good News
    Hazeleger confirms that the interest goes well beyond the immediate area of Embro. “We have had a lot of interest in Lili from all over the world. Some of the countries include United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, United States and also Canada. Ten eggs from Lili’s first flush were sold to the UK.” All this interest is starting to focus on her progeny, which now includes two December 2011 Lauthority bulls and her February 2012 natural heifer by Pine-Tree Sid.
  6. Share the Secret of Your Success
    It certainly seems that his experience with Lili has put Gary Hazeleger in a great position to offer advice to breeders who are looking to purchase top genetics. “My advice would be to stick to good cow families and heifers that are sired by good bulls. With genomics now moving so quickly there are cows and bulls that come and go, but the good proven families always keep coming back such as the Lila Z’s, the Gypsy Grands and the Laurie Sheiks.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Only time will tell if Lili’s successful report card can be repeated but Gary thinks you can raise the odds of making the grade if you study two complimentary indicators – genomics and physical traits – that worked in her case:
“You need to purchase animals that not only have high genomics but ones that also are very correct in their physical traits.” Gary Hazeleger



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Ten Ways to Turn Your Farm OFF!

Is spending every possible minute on farm work the best thing for your dairy business?

Is there room on your farm for work-life balance?

It seems logical that the more work you put into something, the more you will get out of it, right? If you work 80 hrs a week, you will surely make more money and be more successful than those less ambitious folks who are only investing 40 hours. That may be true for a certain amount of time but, eventually, it can actually have a negative effect on your cattle business and, even worse, on your life and those around you. Here are a few tips to help prevent the farm from taking over your life.

  1. Where Have All the Weekends Gone?
    Time was that farmers were the only ones tied down 24-7. Everyone else at least had weekends off. However the ongoing crises in the global economy and unreal lifestyle expectations have many people on a never-ending treadmill. Burn out no longer is that brush fire your mother started with her annual spring fence row cleanup. Today farmers have been joined by countless others who consider themselves to be tied to their job. The iPad, smart phones and other technological advances have expanded the working day until many are unable to distinguish between “ON” and “OFF”.
  2. You CAN Miss a Milking
    Observers of the modern day farm family have noticed that the younger generations do not have as much trouble getting away from the farm. They are more willing than their parents to take some personal time. We’ve all heard the stories of Dad or Grand-Dad (or Grandma too!) who “never missed a milking in forty years! It was a point of pride. Then, lo and behold, one day it happened that they did not make it to the barn. Surprisingly, the world didn’t actually stop turning. We can learn from their experience and, provided it isn’t a life-ending interruption, recognize that there’s no real harm done. Trusting someone else with chores is a good team building exercise. Continuity is a great thing but passing the baton to someone else builds pride, commitment and teamwork.
  3. Back Away from the Barn
    There is always work to be done on a farm. Mother Nature sees to that. It is up to you to find the time to be with others. Yes, this could mean working on the farm together but spouses or family members who work off the farm will appreciate it if you schedule your days in such a way that you can share some free time, when you both are not working. Sometimes farmers cheat on this and call all those community, sports and hobby commitments as “free” time. Having said that, even these are better than no time away from the farm at all.
  4. Keep the Cows out of your living room, kitchen and bedroom!
    It’s too easy to pull out the laptop while sitting and watching TV in the living room or catch up on emails at the kitchen table. Oops I’ll just take one more call before putting out the light. This can turn the entire house into your barn office and can easily lead to a never-ending stream of excuses for doing just one more minute.. one more … one more! That big sign on your barn or at the end of the lane announces to the world that you are endlessly accessible for sales calls, fix-it advice or even a neighbourly chat. All good in their own time and space, but not every incoming call needs to rise to the top of your priority list.
  5. Preserve Your Private Time
    Whatever time you establish as your time, make sure you don’t give it up. Let everyone know that there is a particular time that represents your time off. You will be more relaxed and the benefits to those around you will make everyone work to protect your personal time. The further removed from cattle breeding, the more your hobby will give you a boost. Take lessons to enhance one of your artistic talents, become a marathoner learn ham radio operation. The possibilities are endless.
  6. Are You Having Fun Yet?
    Granted raising animals, planting gardens and, even, building and repairing things are considered hobbies by some people. It isn’t what you’re doing that defines the hobby but whether or not it is a break from your daily routine. Many have taken up golfing and enjoy the opportunity to clear their heads for three or four hours. Fresh air, relaxation and time with friends and family – that’s not a “must do” but a “want to”. This is a grey area for those who love their chosen field and garden. The measure of a great hobby is that you come back to farm work refreshed.
  7. Don’t feel guilty
    Anyone descended from a long line of farmers has experienced the guilt when they take time away from the farm. You can always spot the farmers at vacation resorts or tourist towns. They’re the ones who are up at 5 a:m walking. Sure they’ll tell you they’re enjoying the sunrise or working up an appetite for breakfast but, just as often, they are feeling like fish out of water and not just a little bit guilty about the lazy beginning to each day. It’s okay not to work. Not working is actually beneficial. It gives you the ability to recharge and clear your mind. When you start to feel that guilt, immediately remind yourself that you need to separate from work and recharge so that you’re ready to go when you get back to work the next day or next week.
  8. Know when to stop
    There will always be barn checks, field work and repairs. Do you know when to stop working? Spend the entire evening not thinking about bills to pay, getting ready for a barn meeting or the drainage problem in the back forty. Leave that for tomorrow. You will do a better job of it in the morning. Stop and smell the flowers. It is important that you do this for yourself and, also, that you respect the time of the other farm suppliers you work with. Everyone does a better job when they are rested. Does it really make that big a difference if you call at 10 at night or early the next morning?
  9. Have a “Cow Free” Time
    It is hard not to share your passion for cows and, over time, the people you socialize with either share that passion or are interested in it because of their friendship with you. In farm families it can be quite easy to talk cows all the time. When you get into this habit you are cutting yourself off from being stimulated by something non-farm related. Actively seek out how other occupations are dealing with innovation, technology or whatever is the equivalent of the breakthrough of genomics. It is never a waste of time to hear about and be inspired by someone else’s passion for their work.
  10. Make time to accomplish non-farm related goals
    While it isn’t unreasonable to plan to farm well into your sunset years, it can be rewarding to establish non-farm goals as well. What you want to establish are your own choices. At the end of the day you want your options to be open and not to feel forced to either work when you don’t want to or to suddenly be forced to give up what has been your single focus in life. Farm – Life balance is the goal.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If you learn how to turn your Farm Off, you will also learn how to turn your LIFE on! Strive for balance in all things!


Weekly Show and Sale Recap– 5/19/2012


    • Western Spring National B&W Holstein Show
      Thursday, May 17, 2012
      Richmond, Utah
      Judge: Justin Burdette, PA
      • Junior Champion – LaFontaine Aftershock Arrie (Ms Atlees Sht Aftershock-ET), Westcoast Holsteins
      • Reserve Junior Champion – Greenlane Destry Laurel-Red-ET (Scientific Destry), Westcoast Holsteins
      • HM Junior Champion – Milksource Fever Goldgen (Crackholm Fever), T&L Cattle and Kingsway Farms
      • Junior Champion – Junior Show – Claquato-RHH Goldwyn Alexia (Braedale Goldwyn), Briar Jeg
      • Reserve Junior Champion – Junior Show – R-John Atwood Aspire-ET (Maple-Downs-I GW Atwood), Rocco Cunningham
      • HM Junior Champion – Junior Show – McClelland Sanchez Dolly (Gen-Mark Stmatic Sanchez), Rocco Cunningham
      • Intermediate Champion & HM Grand Champion – Pappys Goldwyn Rave-ET (Braedale Goldwyn), Westcoast Holsteins
      • Reserve Intermediate Champion – Lovhill Goldwyn Katrysha (Braedale Goldwyn), T&L Cattle Ltd.
      • HM Intermediate Champion – E-Evans-A Jasper Emma-ET (Wilcoxview Jasper), Eric Evans
      • Intermediate Champion & Reserve Grand Champion – Junior Show – Ms Exels Pronto Gianna 15614 (Windy-Knoll-View Pronto), Rocco Cunningham
      • Reserve Intermediate Champion – Junior Show – Pappys Goldwyn Texie-ET (Braedale Goldwyn), Lacey Papageorge
      • Senior & Grand Champion – Brainwave Goldwyn Lauramie-ET (Braedale Goldwyn), Westcoast Holsteins
      • Reserve Senior & Reserve Grand Champion – Paulo-Bro Dmion Candle 7917 (Erbacres Damion), Pat Conroy & Budjon Farms
      • Senior & Grand Champion – Junior Show – Rainyridge Regiment Jackie-Red (Carrousel Regiment-Red), Kade Harris
      • Reserve Senior & HM Grand Champion – Junior Show – Cache-Valley Delight Durham (Regancrest Elton Durham), Kade Harris HM
      • Senior Champion – Junior Show- Balland Extra Bunni-Red (Krull SS Extra-Red), Meredith Ball
    • Western Spring National R&W Holstein Show
      Thursday, May 17, 2012
      Richmond, Utah
      Judge: Justin Burdette
      • Junior Champion Red & White Show – Greenlane Destry Laurel-Red-ET, 1st fall yearling, Westcoast Holsteins
      • Reserve Junior Champion – Duckett P Lucy-Red, 1st spring yearling, Westcoast Holsteins
      • HM Junior Champion – Markwell-I Secure Rainee, 1st summer yearling, Westcoast Holsteins
      • Intermediate Champion – Ms Advent Cassidy-Red (KHW Kite Advent-Red), Chilliwack Cattle Co.
      • Reserve Intermediate Champion – T-C-G Debonair Reba-Red-ET (Scientific Debonair-Red-ETS), Seagull Bay Dairy Inc.
      • HM Intermediate Champion – Utag Redliner Gretchen-Red (Fradon Redliner-Red), Utah State University
      • Senior & Grand Champion – Lake-Prairie Advent Ava-Red (KHW Kite Advent-Red), Westcoast Holsteins
      • Reserve Senior & Reserve Grand Champion – Rainyridge Regiment Jackie-Red (Carrousel Regiment-Red), Kade Harris
    • All-Utah Holstein Show
      May 11, 2012
      Ogden, UT
      Judge: Nathan Thomas, Cable, O
      • Junior Champion: Heart-O-Rose Deuce Brac-Red (Scientific SS Deuce-ET),1st winter yearling, Justin Jenson & Jon Schuman
      • Reserve Junior Champion: Hamming Jasper Darla (Wilcoxview Jasper-ET), 1st fall yearling, Doubletree Dair
      • Intermediate & Reserve Grand Champion: E-Evans-H Jasper Emma-ET (Wilcoxview Jasper-ET), 1st senior 3-year-old, Eric Evan
      • Reserve Intermediate Champion: Utag Sanchez Elixir-ET (Gen-Mark Stmatic Sanchez), Wadeland Dair
      • Senior & Grand Champion: Budjon-Nitzy Danicka-ET (Comestar Stormatic-ET), 1st 5-year-old, Matt & Jordan Leak
      • Reserve Senior Champion: Country-Home Morty Sandy (Stouder Morty-ET), 1st Aged Cow, Doubletree Dairy


  • British topper
    During the dispersal sale of the British Moree herd, many great prices were noted. Top seller was Moree Bolton Marq I VG-87, in-calf to Numero Uno, and sold to the Lawder herd in Trillick for £5100. She was followed by Goldwyn daughter Moree Sweet, who went to Northern Ireland for £5000. (
  • Northwest Illinois Spring Sizzler Averages $2512
    The Northwest Illinois Holstein club held their annual Spring Sizzler Sale Friday, May 4th. The sale was at the Stephenson Co. Fairgrounds in Freeport, IL. The nice weather brought out many Northern IL and Southern WI breeders to see a very nice lineup of cattle sell. The sale achieved a $2512 average! (source:
    • Topping the sale at $11,000 was Lot 1-  MS Alexis Colt Ali-ET, she is a 10/11 Polled RC Colt-P with a +1947GTPI  x VG-86 VG-MS Shottle x EX-95 KHW Regiment APPLE-RED! She was consigned by Apple Partners and purchased by Joseph O’Callaghan of Ireland.
    • The second high seller at $4700 was a 12/12 Reality-Red x OCD Contender Lonnie-Red-ET VG-86, 1st milking yrlg Royal Winter Fair R&W Show 2011. She was consigned by Milksource Genetics and was purchased by Meier Meadows of Ridott, IL.
    • Third at $4300 was Lot 28 a fancy 4/11 Apples Absolute-Red heifer x Erbacres Advent Candy-Red VG-85 VG-MS, consigned by Kevin Erbsen. She was purchased by Rachel Koehn/K-Lane Farms of Peotone, IL.
  • Western Spring National Heritage Sale Averages $2,605
    The Western Spring National Heritage Sale was held Thursday evening, May 17th in Richmond, UT in conjunction with the Western Spring National Holstein Show. (source:
    • High seller at the sale at $6,400 was Lot 13 – Markwell Advent Darlie-ET, an EX *RC Advent daughter out of Markwell Luke Rapture (EX-92 4E GMD DOM) and her next dam is the legendary Markwell Bstar Raven-ET (EX-92 3E GMD DOM). Consigned by Andersen, Leak & Orisio, Darlie was purchased by Westcoast Holsteins of Chilliwack, BC.
    • 2nd high seller was Lot 46 – Poelman Fever Roulette, a 5/11 Fever out of a GP-CAN Howie dam, then a VG Leduc, then three generations of EX-CAN dams. Roulette was 5th in the spring yearling class earlier in the day. Purchased by John Wallentine of Utah for $5,300, she was consigned by Kingsway and T & L Cattle of Rosedale, BC.
    • Lot 11 – EskDale Amberly Amanda-ET, a 1/12 Shamrock with 4/12 GTPI +2280  +700NM$ -.1DPR +5.4PL +2.86T sold for $5,100 – good for third high. Her VG-88 Shottle dam hails from the same maternal line as Golden-Oaks St Alexander. Consigned by EskDale Dairy of Utah, she sold to Adam Tripp of Utah.
    • High selling Jersey at $3,500 was Lot 41 – Hawarden Eclipes Pixie, a 6/11 Eclipes-P out of Hawarden Jace Pix (EX-94), then an EX-91 and EX-94 dams.

Are You Ready For Genetically Modified Cattle?

The recent announcement by Canadian Dairy Network, Holstein Canada, Pfizer Animal Health, The Semex Alliance and its owner partners to support delivery of genetic services to the Canadian dairy industry got me thinking about what the future holds for the dairy breeding industry.  This alliance has me drawing parallels to what has occurred in the corn industry and the effects that had on consumers as well as producers.

While the announcement just covers the identification of genetic markers that has already revolutionized the dairy breeding industry, the part that catches my attention is a company the size of Pfizer entering into the marketplace.  When Monsanto entered into the corn breeding industry, it not only became a competitor to the other established players but it also used its vast resources to take the process to a completely new level.  While Monsanto had been a market leader for many years in the sale of herbicides this research gave them the ability to apply their expertise on the genetic level.

With Pfizer entering the genomics game, does that mean that we will start to see them  offer their own genetics available for sale that have been bred or rather modified to be disease resistant or even worse modified to produce more milk, or have better feet and legs.  If you thought the manipulation of photos to make cattle look better was an issue (read more here Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far), what happens when they can do it on the genomic level?  While the practical side of me sees how having cattle that are more disease resistant, that is polled and milk 20,000 kgs, for 10+ lacations would be beneficial, the breeder in me has concerns.  Part of what makes animal breeding great is the fact that it’s an art form.  What happens when that art form is handed over to science?

One thing that you will know for sure is that the sale of animal genetics will become a commoditized market place dominated by the big players such as Pfizer, Monsanto, and other multinational conglomerates.  While there is no question that these conglomerates will dominate over the average breeder, they will also dominate over the current major A.I. companies.  It has me asking myself “Is this move by Semex a step in building a partnership because they see the future coming?”  If so good on them for at least being proactive and at least trying to sustain their long-term viability.

If it’s more by chance, as I think it is, I think the whole industry needs to look at what the future holds and maybe have a wakeup call to where this is all heading.  Animal breeding is becoming big business, as evidenced by companies like Select Sires that have expanded their breeding programs to include owning females (read more about this at Should A.I. Companies Own Females?).  As the ability to deliver predictable results at a lower cost of development continues, larger and larger companies will enter the marketplace and begin to dominate the current players.

In the past, dairy cattle breeding has benefited from great moves, such as happened when T.B. Macauley, an insurance executive, started Montvic, when J. Rockafeller Prentice, from oil and banking fame, started A.B.S. and, likewise, when Peter Heffering, using outside industry investors, collected great cows and started Hanover Hill Holsteins.

There is also the consumer side to this equation.  We all witnessed consumer reaction to the use of rBST.  Over time while there has remained a small portion of the marketplace that actively buys non-rBST milk.  However, for the most part the issue has died off.  In the same way, the GMO corn issue has died off and much of the general public is not even aware that it exists.  Thus, there may be uproar as this “new technology” enters the marketplace, however, in time, the result will be the same for this commoditized product.  As long as the cost to consumer is lower, they will buy it.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

On the one hand, Thanks to genomics, the future of the animal breeding industry has never look brighter.  On the other hand, it also may be facing its greatest risk. Genomics has taken animal breeding from an art form to a science.  Furthermore, science will continue to define and refine the process.  With companies like Pfizer entering the marketplace this process will be accelerated at a completely new pace.  Those players that have the most resources available will also dominate it.  This means that the average breeder, as well as the current A.I. companies, need to realistically consider what the future holds as this happens.

So my question to you is, are you ready for GMC (Genetically Modified Cattle)?

Polled Genetics: Way of the Future or Passing Fad?

For years, there has been talk about polled genetics and their advantages, but, for the most part, they remain a niche market. This has me asking if polled genetics are like unicorns. Are they living in a fantasy world?

Breeders have known about the advantages for years and yet they have not endorsed using polled genetics in any significant way. While not having to dehorn your calves has economic advantages, many breeders see that job as just part of their routine and so don’t make getting rid of it a high priority. This, despite the fact that , one mating to a polled sire results in a minimum 50% hornless calves and could be 100%, if the bull is homozygous polled. These are much quicker results than breeding to get a red calf, for instance.

Why haven’t breeders adopted polled genetics?

Like any marketplace, producers must meet the demands of the consumer. When consumers wanted hormone free milk, or organic milk, producers followed. Until it becomes a pressing issue to consumers producers will not be forced to change. At this point, despite the fact that organizations such as PETA try their best to make this an issue, it has not gained significant market awareness.

Should breeders care?

Even though consumers have not yet cried out for change, that does not mean they won’t in the future. Much like tail docking, once consumers do gain awareness, they are sure to cry foul. When developing your breeding program, it’s not only about supplying the genetics that the market needs today, but also looking to the future. Similar to breeding for higher feed conversion (to read more check out Holstein vs. Jersey: Which Breed Is More Profitable?), you need to think about where the market is heading. Concerns about animal welfare as well as employee welfare are sure to become more prevalent in the future.

Are there any polled genetics worth using?

For many years, breeding for Red and White Holstein cattle or Polled genetics meant that you had to take a “discount” on the genetics. That was because there just wasn’t the same level of genetics available, when compared to the non-polled options. However, with recent increases in popularity, as well as the ability to get a polled son from a top genomic cow, there are now some great polled genetics available to most breeders. Even the major A.I. companies have started to see the demand and are sourcing polled bulls.

How can you tell if your calf is a polled carrier?

There are no such things as Unicorns or Polled Carriers! Polled is a dominant trait. Simply put, an animal only needs one polled gene for it to be expressed. Animals with horns do not have the polled gene. When the dominant gene is present you will see the trait expressed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While polled genetics seem like a niche market, and you`re not sure if it is for your breeding program, you always need to keep an eye on the future. That means not only looking for what potential buyers of your genetics want, but also what future consumers will dictate. . With the growing supply of top genomic polled bulls, as well as the relative ease to achieve a polled calf, it’s becoming harder and harder for breeders to ignore polled Holsteins in their breeding programs.

To read more check out They’re Sold On Polled.

It’s in her genes…..

There is no question that strong maternal bloodlines are the foundation of any good breeding program. But what top female possesses the best bloodlines and what bloodlines are the ones to watch in the future? In order to determine this, we looked at the top GPTI, GLPI, Polled, and Red cows and heifers. The following is our analysis.

Top GTPI Cows

Leading the way is LADYS-MANOR PL SHAKIRA VG-85 2YR-USA is also a full sister to the #1 Genomic Sire in the breed, Ladys-Manor Shamrock. She and her full sister LADYS-MANOR PL SHANDRA-ET VG-85-2YR-USA, who is #4 on the list, are from the seventh generation bull mother, Ladys-Manor Ruby D Shawn. The most impressive sire stack on the list (#6) goes to SULLY PLANET MONTANA-ET whose sire stack of Planet x Shottle x Justice x BW Marshall leads the way. Montana is also the most genomically gifted on the list, just slightly edging out the extremely popular genomic bull mother Shakira and AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA-ET.

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Top Genomic LPI (GLPI) Cows

Planet daughters dominate the list occupying the top 17 spots and 23 of the top 25. Topping the list is COMESTAR LAUTAMIRE PLANET who is from the Laurie Sheik family. She combines a solid sire stack and genomic values with a maternal power that is the Laurie Sheik’s trademark. The most impressive sire stack on the list goes to the SULLY SHOTTLE MAY daughter SULLY PLANET 935-ET VG-86-2YR-CAN who combines Planet x Shottle x Oman x BW Marshall. When it comes to genomically gifted, none can top ALEXERIN OMAN 993. This Justice daughter has DGV LPI of +3395, which is almost 2000 LPI points higher than her parent average.

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Top GTPI *RC and R&W Females USA

Setting the pace is KHW SHAMROCK ARALYN. This Shamrock daughter is from the popular RC bull dam KHW Goldwyn Aiko VG-89-USA and is among 6 Shamrock daughters to top the list. In fact, the top three spots are all trace back to Kamps-Hollow Altitude-ET EX-95-USA 2E DOM, who has had every bull she put into stud return to active service and is also the dam of the 2010 World Red Holstein Champion, KHW Regiment Apple-Red. This family has dominated the Red and White scene, demonstrating that they can get it done in the show ring as well as with genomics. The genomic leader of the list is CURR-VALE OBSERVER DELTA-ET. This Observer daughter traces back to Pineyvale Outside Apple another cow family that has it all, type, numbers and red factor. The strongest sire stack on the list belongs to MD-HARMONY SMRK CHRIS V1-E, Shamrock X Gold Chris X Shottle.
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Top GTPI Polled Females USA

There seems to be nothing more popular these days than polled genetics (read They’re Sold On Polled) and, with that, the demand for genetics from chart topper VER-HAGES TNT SABLE-P-ET could not be higher. This daughter from the Glen-Drummond Splendor family possesses an impressive sire stack – Shamrock x Lawn Boy x Lou – with strong genomic values. The only member of the list to surpass Sable-P for genomics is HICKORYMEA MANOMAN OPINE-P who also poses the most impressive sire stack on the: list Man-O-Man x Shottle x Bosco.
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Top Genomic Females in the U.S.

Shamrock daughters dominate the list with 18 daughters of the top 25 being sired by this outstanding son of Ladys-Manor Ruby D Shawn. Leading the way is a pair of Shamrock full sisters from the Genomic powerhouse herd De-Su. In the number one spot is DE-SU 1438-ET followed by DE-SU 1439-ET at #2 and not to be forgotten is DE-SU 1451-ET who is #6 on the list all from the popular genomic family Clear-Echo Hershl D Rac-822. In fact it’s 1451 that possesses the highest genomic values in the family. This family has proven to be genomic giants and, with these members topping the list, demand just continues to grow. Of interesting note is the 4 animals on the list owned by Select Sires (S-S-I SHAMROCK MENNA7392-ET, S-S-I SHAMROCK MAGIC7368-ET, S-S-I MOGUL MAYHEM 7963-ET, S-S-I SNOW MALENA 7514-ET) demonstrating this AI center’s strong desire to produce their own genetics (for more read Should A.I. Companies Own Females).
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Top GLPI Heifers

Similar to the US list, the CDN list is also topped by a pair of full sisters, Velthuis SG Snow Event and Velthuis S G Snow Evening. These Snowman daughters are from the Whittier-Farms Lead Mae family who has 6 daughters in the top 25. Event and Evening are from the extremely popular bull mother Calbrett Planet Eve VG-CAN-2YR. In fact, it’s interesting to note that 16 of the top 25 females come from three main families, (Lead Mae, Lila Z and Gypsy Grand). The Event and Evening sire stack of SNOWMAN X PLANET X SHOTTLE is also the highest on the list. With a DGV LPI of 4406, the split embryo sisters Event and Evening are also the highest genomic females on the list.
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The Bullvine Bottom Line

No matter how you look at it, when marketing top females, it comes down to their genes. Whether you are looking at LPI or TPI, genomics has put the spotlight on the females that truly have the best genes.

For more information check out The Bullvine Bull Book or our Genetic Evaluation Resource Center.

Seeking Success? Find a Mentor!

Ask successful dairy breeders how they got where they are and, chances are, many of them will cite a mentor.  Did they seek them out or did they realize they had one after the fact?  Probably, it was a little bit of both.  Having said that, there is nothing preventing you from seeking a mentor who could help you make the most of your opportunities.

“This is the Way We Have Always Done It!”

While you can’t foresee everything that might have an impact on the smooth running of your dairy cattle business, there are a few things that you can learn from the good – and bad – experiences of those who have gone before you.  Yes, I included “bad.”  Truth be told, you can sometimes learn more from your mistakes than from the relatively smooth successes that happen day to day.  Let’s suppose for a moment that there is nothing particularly wrong with your operation.  Is it exceptional?  Would you like it to be?  One way to move from ho-hum to humming along the path to success is to get a mentor who has already travelled, overcome problems, and succeeded on that path.

Mentors Are All Around You

It isn’t surprising that people in the dairy industry make great mentors.  Even those you may not have a long relationship with.  When well-known classifier Tom Byers first arrived in Canada, he would not have foreseen the mentors who would help him along his career path.  He speaks about the classification job that had been posted at the time.  “The ad had been in the Holstein Journal for a couple of months and I had not applied as I thought I would not stand a chance being an immigrant.  Glen Broadworth and Keith Heron, who were classifiers that came to Flettdale, where I was renting the farm, encouraged me to call Murray Hunt the Breed Improvement Manager at that time.  I did.  Murray said the applications window for the position was closed but he had heard about me and he would invite me to attend the hiring workshop.  I did.”  That was the beginning of three great mentoring relationships that impacted Tom’s career.

Seek People Who Share your Passion

Byers also points out that shared enthusiasm is a great way to meet your best mentors.  He points to two other mentors he also appreciated having in his corner: Maurice Jebson of Elmcroft and Neil Rains of Raivue.  These men shared and encouraged his enthusiasm.  “I had a love and passion for the Canadian Holstein cow which had brought me here from Scotland with my wife and three kids.  Talk about Holstein crazy.  When we landed in Toronto, it was blowing a blizzard and my wife Elizabeth looked at me and said, ‘What have you brought me to?’  I first worked at Paperman Farm in Woodstock then I rented Flettdale farm from Bob Flett and it was from there that I moved to Holstein Canada.” And as they say, “The rest is history.”

Learn from People who are Successful at What You Want to Do

Brian Carscadden juding the 2011 Royal passing some advice to David Crack Jr.

Brian Carscadden judging the 2011 Royal passing some advice to David Crack Jr.

Perhaps your interests lie in the direction of cattle judging.  Brian Carscadden attests to the importance of having an encouraging mentor to learn from.  Speaking personally, he shares his experience.  “I have had a few mentors.  Callum McKinven is one who gives young fitters a chance to work with his cattle and then promotes them as a judge down the road.  He did that with me.”  Brian also feels that good mentors can be as close as the person that you are working with.  He feels that way about Mike Deaver.  “I had the chance to be an associate judge with him.  He’s considered a great judge.  It was a tremendous experience for my confidence.”  Carscadden feels there have been many mentors who impacted the recognition and success he has earned as a judge of Holstein cattle.  “Lowell Lindsay hired me out of school.  He is one of the great judges of all time.  I was able to work side by side and learn from him.  Even though Lowell was not trying to teach, there were always things to learn.”  It is important to have a good mentor.  It is even more important to be a good mentoree.

Take a Close Look at Your Own Family

Sometimes you don’t have to go very far to find mentors that will guide you to dairy breeding success.  Len Vis of Mapelwood Farms Inc found his first mentors in his own family.  “My brothers and Dad always thought of an animal as an investment.  Back in the days of WOBI they would say, ‘I can sell four bulls from this animal, therefore she’s worth about $25,000.  They always knew what studs would most likely buy a son.”  These lessons have stuck with Len and are part of the foundation he has built his herd upon.  Family continues to be a sounding board for him.

Speaking personally, family can be a rich source of mentoring.  Currently, the Hunt family has a geneticist, a writer, a chief operating officer, a nutritionist and a serial entrepreneur.  The bonus is that, although different, each of these careers is connected to agriculture – specifically the dairy industry.  It would be foolish, if any one of us totally ignored the others in seeking to broaden our perspective, goals, or problem-solving abilities.  Do we mentor each other?  Yes.  No.  Some more than others.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the in-laws include a psychiatrist, a project organizer, and an ergonomist.  If we can name the problem, we can solve it.  At the very least, we are a great network for pointing each other to the people who know the answers.  That’s exactly what you want mentors to do.

Listen More.  Talk Less.

To find a mentor, you need to listen a lot.  A good mentor helps you think things through and provides the experience and savvy you’re missing.  You’ll get praise when you deserve it and a heads-up when trouble comes — probably long before you would have noticed it yourself.  Patty Jones feels that this was a characteristic of her mentor, Bob Miller.  He asked her if she had ever thought about cattle photography and forty years later she still loves her chosen field.  “Bob was a great man to be involved with.  He let you make mistakes.  He did not berate.  You had a discussion with him and you always learned something and grew to be better because of it.”  There is nothing better than a mentor who encourages your own ideas.  Patty learned this from Bob too.  “He taught the importance of trusting your instincts.  He gave me the freedom to shape ideas that didn’t always work.  Real achievement first requires that you have the courage to fail.”


Developing a profitable dairy cattle business is a lot of work, stress, and responsibility but you don’t have to go it alone.  Put together a power team of mentors with a variety of skills to guide you along the way.  There are co-workers, friends, family and industry experts who will gladly help you use your limited time and resources to the best effect.  It`s up to you to take advantage of the most powerful weapon a dairy breeder can have.  Find a mentor!  Do it now.

TAG – You are it! How and Why TAG Dairy Sales Are Successful

There has been growing popularity in TAG Sales and for good reason. TAG Sales offer benefits to breeders, buyers and sale management. While there are many similarities to traditional sales, there are also many ways that TAG Sales work much better. To get a better understanding read the following article about why TAG Sales are growing so quickly in popularity.

What Makes a TAG Sale Special

At first glance, a TAG Sale may look just like a traditional sale since the cattle are all clipped and trained, but, in reality, there are some major differences. The following are some of the key advantages of a TAG Sale:

  • TAG sales are typically 1 week long compared to an auction that lasts 2-3 hours
    The longer time frame gives both the seller and the buyer a chance to talk and potential buyers are able to gain confidence in their choice. Instead of having to make split second decisions as you are forced to in a traditional auction situation.
  • Buyer does not have to sell if they don’t want to
    I am sure there have been many times breeders have bought back their animal after a public auction (adding a new name to the pedigree temporarily) and even more times when breeders wish they had, TAG Sales give the breeders a chance to think about the offered price and make sure they are comfortable with it before agreeing to the sale. Frank Donkers of Fradon Farms points out “Being able to communicate with the buyer throughout the process is a huge plus.”
  • Expert Advice
    Many times at an auction when you are trying to decide if that heifer is good, great, or not for you, you are all alone. As Jeff Stephens who has run many successful TAG Sales points out, the sales staff can help you by guiding you through the pros and cons. While this may sound like a great opportunity for them to push the sales, many of these individuals know that, giving the correct advice, even if it costs them the sale, is far better than the wrong advice that tarnishes their name. These individuals are asked to work these sales for good reason. They have built a strong name that breeders know they can trust. They are not going to risk it for a quick buck.
  • Diamond in the rough
    While many of us have run the roads, hoping to find that diamond in the rough, show calf, or next great 2 year old. It is not as easy as it sounds. TAG Sales give a group of breeders an opportunity to get their cattle all in one place and have them washed, clipped, and trained to show them off to the best of their potential. This not only helps maximize the sale price but also helps build buyer confidence. As Barclay Phoenix, of Hanover Hill Sales and Marketing, points out “The worst case scenario is that for a couple of hundred bucks you get your heifer washed, show clipped and trained,” If that is the worst that happens, it is still a great deal.
Taste of Ontario - Lineup

Taste of Ontario - Lineup

What Makes a TAG Sale Successful

Running a TAG sale can be a little different as well. While it takes all the same marketing and promotion, Jeff Stephens, of Stephens Genetics,  points out the following key things to remember:

  • It Starts with a Great Line-Up
    It’s important that you try to get some animals that will attract all markets. Whether it’s genomics, local or state caliber show cattle, 4-H projects it’s important to have a strong lineup that can drive attention from many markets.
  • A Great Crew is a Must
    From the crew that is fitting the cattle to the sales staff, it’s important to get the best. Since a TAG sale is designed to help build breeder confidence, make sure that you have a crew that is well respected and well connected. As Frank Donkers has learned, “Surround yourself with hard working people. That will make your sale a success.”
  • Schedule it around an event
    In order to have a successful sale, it’s very important to make sure you have a draw in your area that will bring breeders. This can be a major show, meeting, bus tour, or even another auction. Many times two auctions in the same area at relatively the same time are great for both.
  • A Happy Crowd is a Buying Crowd
    Stephens points out that it’s critical to make sure that you provide the best hospitality possible. A crowd that is comfortable, relaxed, and feeling good is far more likely to spend top dollar than those who are afraid to even talk to the other attendees. Dairy breeders are very social so make sure your TAG Sale is as well.
  • Price them to Sell
    No one likes dealing with breeders who want twice as much as an animal is worth. This is where great sales management can help. They can advise you regarding the going price in the market and help you get a realistic understanding of what you can get for your animal.
Fradon Select Tag Sale

Fradon Select Tag Sale

The Bullvine Bottom Line

TAG Sales offer breeders a great opportunity to move some cattle as well as build their name. As Frank Donkers points out, “We have learned not to be afraid to take a chance and do something that you haven’t done before. Don’t be afraid to promote your herd in a different way. Make sure that you have confident and positive advice on how to run a TAG Sale. (which we had with Jeff Stephens). His experience with managing TAG Sales was invaluable to the success that our event obtained.”

It takes a team to make a TAG Sale a success. Assemble the best team you can and your sale if sure to be a profitable!

Check out our upcoming events tab for the next TAG sale near you.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old?
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Weekly Show and Sale Recap– 5/12/2012


  • Ocean-View
    During the Dispersal sale of Ocean-View in the US State of California, no less than 600 Holsteins were sold in the one day.
    • $15,200 – Lot 2447 Ocean-View Allen Zmora-ET EX-92 (Allen X Mandel Zandra) Buyer: Nunes, Mongini, Herzog, Deerfield, WI
    • $15,000 – Lot 2759 Ocean-View Gold Sheen VG-87 2yr (Goldwyn X Outside Sheen EX-91) Buyer: Legend Dairy Farms, Chino, CA
    • $14,250 – Lot 2785 Ocean-View Gold Roxette-ET VG-87 2yr (Goldwyn X Roy Roxann EX-91) Buyer: Kisst Dairy, Ripon, CA
  • Run for The Roses
    In Kentucky (US), the Run for The Roses Sale reached an average of $4814 over 93 animals sold.
    • High seller on the day at $20,200 was Calbrett Pronto Lovely (VG-87-2YR-CAN), a 3-year-old Pronto fresh again at the end of March out of Calbrett Goldwyn Lyndsey (VG-87-CAN), then EX-94 Lylehaven Lila Z. Consigned by Crasdale Farms and T&L Cattle Ltd of PEI, Lovely was purchased by Dan Hovden of Iowa.
    • Second high on the day was Lot 1 at $20,000 – a 12/11 Windbrook or choice of five more Windbrooks due in September out of Harvue Roy Frosty (EX-96 2E), two-time Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo. Kevin Jimerson of Kentucky is the new owner and the calf was consigned by Duckett, Junemann and Armbrust.
    • Lot 3 – $17,000 – Morsan Miss Allure-ET, Mar’11 Damion x Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy-ET EX-95 All-American and All-Canadian 5-Year-Old in 2011 Buyer: KY Bluegrass Genetics, KY
  • RSC-CH Spring Showcase Sale Averages $3,565
    Hosts Chris Honslo and Jim Stoutjesdyk graciously welcomed Holstein enthusiasts from near and far to their dairy in Maurice, IA on Friday May 4, 2012 for the RSC-CH Spring Showcase Sale.  Kicking off Thursday evening with cattle viewing and a prime-rib meal sponsored by Select Sires, the excitement continued into Friday where the sale achieved an average of $3,565!
    • Topping the sale was Lot 10- Rockport-View Shmk Palin-ET GTPI +2411.  Palin is November 2011 Shamrock daughter of Rockport-View Socrate Palin VG-87 that goes back to the Debbie Jo family.  She was consigned by Jim Vierhout & Jim Stoutjesdyk and purchased by Sexing Technologies for $21,000.
    • Second high seller was Lot 1- hot off her win at Wisconsin Spring Show, RSC-CH Advent Rene-Red-ET VG-87.  She is a Jr. 3-year-old Advent from Jen-D Talent Raeanna-Red EX-91 who is a show winner herself walking away with the Grand Champion title of the 2011 Minnesota State Fair Red & White Show.
    • $11,200 – Lot 4- RSC-CH Kite Reza-ET VG-85, a Kite out Jen-D Talent Raeanna-Red EX-91 who was Junior Champion at the Southern National in 2011
    • $10,500 – Lot 14- MS Brandys Bethany-ET *RC GTPI +2243, a Bookem out of MS Apple Brandy then Apple herself

Is Dairy Farming Dying?

In a world that seems to never stop changing, it used to be that the single-family dairy farm offered a bastion of security from the volatility of rest of the world.  However, with dairy farms getting larger and breeding programs becoming genetic organizations, it raises the question, is the typical dairy farm dying?”

There once was a time where a 30 cow-milking herd could produce enough milk to cover the bills and run a solid breeding program that would sell high quality young stock to pay for life’s extras.  I don’t see that today.  However, I do  see one or two other significant things that are happening.

Genetic Sales are Drying Up

New technologies such as IVF and sexed semen and tools such as genomics have created an abundance of top genetics available.  This has caused a drastic reduction in the demand for mid-level cattle.  Gone are those sales of $20,000 and $30,000 for a nice pedigreed 2 yr. old that might win the state or local show.  That  used to be the money that, for many breeders, paid for the kids’ education or purchased the new truck.

Today’s genetic marketplace now has a go big or go home mentality.   You either have a cow or heifer at the top of the list, or you might as well not  bother.  While there are some programs that have found their breeding niche, such as polled or Red carriers, for the most part, the strong pedigreed, maybe not top index, cow families are now finding it hard to get the much-needed return on investment that is required to run their breeding programs.

With the increase in the amount of money these top animals are demanding, there has also been an increase in what I like to call “Genetic Companies.”  No longer are individual dairy breeders flushing a few cows to increase the genetics of their own herd and then selling  some breeding stock to help pay the bills.  This end of the business is now handled by conglomerates or even corporations complete with marketing and genetics staff.  They are run with total focus on the bottom line and much greater resources than the average breeder can compete with.

But wait!  With all this change, money, and growth, where is the dead part of the dairy industry?

The Next Generation Is Not Staying Home

Maybe it’s the cost of entry or maybe it’s that the lifestyle does not suit many of today’s youth but more and more it seems like these highly talented young people  are heading elsewhere to apply their talents.  As the average dairy farm has had to grow in numbers it has also meant that the cost to start or take over such an operation has gotten very costly.  What other industry, relies on the next generation for survival?  If you can answer this question, you will know what the family farm needs to do to survive too!

The typical new dairy operation is no longer 30-40 head milking herd, but rather your 100+ plus dairy operation, here the name of the game is operating efficiency and profitability.  This is a much-needed change.  Having said that, it is not so easy for many operations to go from a lifestyle choice to a company.    It also has a huge impact on the next generation who are considering entering into dairy farming and taking on the necessary debt.

As the world has gone through a credit crisis, getting financing to start your dairy operation has gotten harder and harder.  For many talented and hardworking youth, their paths have been drawn to other industries where they can apply their efforts with more financial reward and less risk.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If you asked if   the stereotypical dairy farm is dead?  My answer would be a resounding, “Absolutely yes!”  As I watch many of the breeders I idolized growing up who focused on breeding generation after generation of foundation cattle now enter their retirement age, and their children are not there to take over the family operation, it makes me wonder where the future is?

The answer I am finding is, dairy farming is now not simply “big business” but, more accurately, “bigger   business.”  Through technology we are seeing  production operations that have grown to sizes I could have never imagined.  Add to this, the more recent dramatic changes in genetics programs and  dairy-farming 21st century style, looks very different from it did 20 or 30 years ago.  Is all this change bad?  No, in reality  change is good.  The key piece is that the dairy farmers of tomorrow must keep the passion for working with and breeding great cattle, and we must find a way to keep the next generation involved.  With that one piece from the past,  the industry we all know and love has a very bright future.  From the science of insemination, to machine and robotic milking to genetic analysis we never dreamed of, the dairy farm is not only surviving but thriving!


5 Tips to Make Your Next Dairy Magazine Ad the Best Ever

Are you having troubles getting your ads noticed? Does the money you spend on advertising your herd actually generate you money? These are just some of the questions many breeders have to consider when they are thinking about how, where and when to place ads for their farms in the major publications like Holstein World, Holstein International and Holstein Journal.

Dairy breeders are busier than ever and you only have a few seconds to make an impression with your ad. You need to have attention-grabbing design that reaches out and draws readers in. The following are 5 things to consider when designing your next ad.

Contrast is Good

Mapel Wood - AdSpace is at a premium for any print ad. How do you get your fellow breeder’s attention when working with such little room? With so much to say and so little room many breeders try to cram in as much text as possible and as many different animals as they can. White space is also an important element to include in your ad. White space is essentially empty space. While it may seem to be a waste of precious space in so small an area, white space actually will make your ad clearer and more easily understood. Remember that, although you are trying to squeeze in all your information, a solid block of text won’t be read at all. Plus, if your ad is clean and uncluttered, it will literally jump off the page when it’s surrounded by ads that are not.

Placing any type in all capitals is generally a bad idea as well. Text in all capitals has little contrast, as all the letters are the same height. Studies show that people’s brains process text written in lower case letters much better. In fact, the brain processes familiar words partly by the shape they form when written in lower case letters. By using all capitals, you slow your reader down, making it less likely he or she will actually read and comprehend your ad. Also, although there are thousands of fonts available now, it is still important to remember to use only one or two in an ad. Too many typefaces can distract the reader and make your ad difficult to read.

Roy - ABS GlobalA Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

There is no question that a picture draws readers in. Instead of just a boring side shot, try to get different angles of your cattle. Three quarter rear shots are great at grabbing attention. Show multiple angles of your cow, in order to gain maximum attention.

The best ads use images that are interesting and large! As a general rule, your graphics should take up at least a quarter of your available space and can go up from there. Small graphics are distracting to your readers and do not have enough interest to draw a reader into the ad.

(To learn more check out our interview with the best in the business, Patty Jones, about how to get the perfect picture).


Champion - AdBalancing Act

Just as it is with a great dairy cow, balance is very important. This doesn’t mean you necessarily have to center everything in your ad. In fact, it is often more interesting to place elements of your ad aligned all to the right or all to the left. Try to get balance from strategically placing elements such as cattle images, graphics, type, and logos in such a way that your ad flows well and is balanced across the space. If one side is heavy in type, place a large cow picture or logo on the other side. Most people read ads in a kind of reversed “S” pattern. That is, they scan an ad beginning at the top left and end up down at the bottom right. It is helpful to remember this pattern when you are laying out your ad.

(For more great thoughts regarding design, check out our interview with Pam Nunes about the fine art of marketing great breeding .)

Know Your Market

When considering placing your ad, it’s important to know what type of market you are speaking to. Each of the major magazines caters to different geographic marketplaces, which have different interests. When advertising in Holstein Journal focus on LPI, and type; in Holstein World, TPI and overall production, and Holstein International look for health traits and unique features like polled or Red factor.

Call to Action

When designing your ad, don’t forget the main purpose of the ad—to sell! You have to give the reader a clear path to take. This can be as simple as remembering to place a phone number in a prominent place in the ad. Alternatively, it can be more detailed and can include such elements as a web address or social media page. This should be both the starting and ending point of your print ad design. Know before you start what your objective is, and end by critically examining your ad to make sure that it meets that goal.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy genetics market is as hot as it has ever been. However, now more than ever, you need to get your breeding program known. One of the great ways to do that is magazine advertising. Magazine advertising represents a large portion of many breeders’ promotional budgets. It is no longer enough just to advertise. To attract the buyers you’re seeking, your ad must stand out and get attention.


Want to take your ad’s to the next level, check out our dairy ad design services.

JAPAN: Opportunity is Knocking

The longer you are in the dairy business, the more convinced you will become that, even though this is a cow business, it depends on people and the relationships that are built over time. For thirteen years, Bruce Smith developed a successful export business built on his relationship with the people at Genetics Hokkaido.  When he retired from the business, he passed the torch to Mark Butz, of Butz-Hill Exports in Iowa.  Mark tells how it came about. “Bruce Smith approached me several years ago about taking over as he wanted to retire. I was busy with Dairy Consulting Services; a nutritional consultant business that I had started, and didn’t feel I had the time to devote to both. Two years ago Bruce asked again and I decided to back off the nutrition business and take it on. I had met Tommy Araki and felt comfortable that he and I could build a relationship and continue to do business in the same manner as before.”

Learning from the Best

Good friendships and good partnerships are built on trust.  Such was the case with Mark and Bruce. “Bruce of course was more than a friend and business associate, I had over the years sold many embryos to Bruce and he had always conducted business in a fair, precise and honorable way. When we started working on transferring the embryo business, I got to know Bruce as the extraordinary person he was. His great mind, keen wit and willingness to explain the rationale behind decisions made him very dear to me on personal level. I sought out Bruce’s advice on many things and he (and Laura) were always very helpful.” When Bruce passed away, it was difficult for everybody. “Bruce’s death hit me very hard.” says Mark. “It also hit Tommy hard and through that experience Tommy and I became closer.  In a way, Bruce still guides me. Rarely do you find someone that lives their life with such dutiful purpose and strives to do the right things.  Bruce did.”

Japan is a Traditional Marketplace

In Japan, breeders like the same things that Canadian breeders look for. Mark sums up his perspective on the Japanese marketplace. “Japan to me is like stepping back somewhat in the Holstein business in the US 30 years ago. You see many tie stall herds, pack housing for heifers and now they are starting to expand with freestall/parlor operations. Input costs are high because much of the feed has to be imported.” He sees the Japanese dairymen are much like registered breeders anywhere, “They want good cows with deep pedigrees from proven sire stacks that will thrive in their environment. Longevity and high production with good components are valued where land resources are scarce.”  Examples of what has been sourced for the market are: Chassity, Barbie, Ashlyn, Atlee along with many national show winners embryos and daughters’ embryos.  Of course the list includes the Lyla-Z and Missy families and Lotto, Zita and Lyster Lyndsay as well as many others.

Impact of Genomics

Genomics is affecting the dairy business globally.  In Japan Mark sees the effects. “Genomics are starting to make a play right now. Some breeders are asking for higher caliber cow families and high genomic young sires and I think that trend will grow.” This is sending small ripples through Mark’s business. “While many things remain the same as before, with the genomics taking off some cow families are rising because of that and others are losing ground. I suppose it is a natural change.” He advises breeders to do their homework and study what the market is looking for.  He has a special message for Canadian breeders. “In many ways you are better positioned to take advantage of the market then we are in the States.  Your steady milk market moderates the income risk of genomics.  It is a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on the market.”

 What sells?

Mark is eager to show his view of the market in Japan. “Show embryos will always sell as breeders are passionate about the show ring in Japan. Genomics are playing as well as sexed semen and embryos from good maternal lines and popular sire stacks. There seems to be a market for cheap embryos as well. Years ago we got away with flushing popular heifers because of the cow family. Today, she has to be an exceptional individual as well.”

Promote!  Promote! Promote!

Gone are the days when Canadian genetics practically sold themselves.  It is a competitive global marketplace and Mark urges breeders to do their part in successful selling. “Keep current pictures and production as well as classification records up to date. Tommy sells to his customers based on the information he receives from us so the more complete it is the better the sale. If you get a bad picture, retake it. Sexed embryos sell 2x better that non-sexed. use popular bulls.” This is great advice but he doesn’t stop there. “Call and we can discuss what you need.” Teamwork is an important part of the promotion process. You’ve heard it before, but Mark hammers it home again. “Anything is better than nothing. Provide pictures, videos, anything you’ve got.” Buyers in Japan want to see the best pictures you’ve got.  They are up on the latest show winners and are “all over that cow family” says Mark. “You need to have outstanding pictures.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When you’re looking to export to Japan you need three things:

  1. Top genetics
  2. Good relationships
  3. Outstanding pictures

Opportunity is knocking.  Will you answer?  


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Holstein vs. Jersey: Which Breed Is More Profitable?

For years, Jersey breeders have touted their high fertility rates, calving ease, and greater milk solids than Holsteins as a viable alternative to Holstein breeders looking to increase their profits. A recent Holstein International article, Feed Conversion: Building a More Efficient Engine, adds another item to the list, feed conversion.

Jersey the More Efficient Engine

A recent research paper in the Journal for Dairy Science compared the input requirements of two different production systems, Holsteins and Jerseys to produce a given amount of cheese. In their research of over 13,000 herds spread across 45 states, Dr. Jude Capper and Dr. Roger Caddy found that it would take 109 Jerseys to produce the same amount of cheese as 100 Holsteins. What they also found was that they would have just 74% of the body mass and produce 81% of the milk volume, 80% of the Green House Gases and would only require 68% of the water and 89% of the land requirements. So in essence Jerseys would be more efficient at producing the same amount of cheese.

Jersey as Percentage of Holstein

In their article, Holstein International also points out another Dairy Science paper published last year that looked at feed intake studies for 4 breed groups: Holstein, Holstein x Jersey, Jersey x Holstein and Jersey where all cows were fed the same ration, were housed in the same type of pens and were milked together. The results found that Holstein had the highest intake and the highest production yield. However, Jersey converted a higher percentage of their intake to production than Holstein did.

Item Holstein










669 (6.8%)

599 (6.4%)

496 (5.2%)

334 (4.2%)


1,666 (27.25)

2,468 (26.5%)

2,425 (25.6%)

2,085 (26.2)


27 (0.3%)

32 (0.3%)

33 (0.3%)

21 (0.3%)


5,968 (60.8%)

6,057 (65.1%)

6,162 (65.0%)

5,259 (66.0%)

New Zealand Leading the Way

As the dairy industry moves away from focusing solely on overall production and starts to focus more on the overall profitability of their farming operations, key metrics like feed conversion are sure to gain increased importance in breeding programs. Similar to how Scandinavian countries lead the way with Health traits, countries like New Zealand are leading the way by using body weight as an indicator of feed intake and making it apart of the Breeding Worth (BW) index. Countries such as Australia have also started to incorporate weight into their national indexes by using type classification data as a predictor of body weight. While body weight in time may not be the best measure of efficiency, it is what is currently available. One of the interesting findings was that even under the New Zealand system the cows are getting larger, though at a slower than expected rate.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It is clear that the dairy industry is moving towards producing a more profitable cow. With low heritable health traits already gaining a great deal of focus, it only makes sense that the next step will include efficiency. For many Holstein breeders this may be a wake up call that they need. In the same way that other industries first focused on overall production and then had to put more focus on efficiency, dairy producers now have to do the same. For many breeders this may mean either cross-breeding with the more efficient Jersey bloodlines or putting greater focus on efficiency in their breeding programs. Never forget for one moment that feed costs represent 55% of the inputs on a dairy operation. Efficiencies gained here can be significant. It’s no longer about who can produce the most, it is about who can produce the most with the least cost.


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PREGNANCY RATES: More Pregnancies = More Profits

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a silver bullet that could magically improve fertility in your dairy herd? Unfortunately, that wonderful product hasn’t come down the pipeline yet.

What Rates are we Talking About?

When you look at today’s progressive herds you have approximately 60 days to 120 days to get them in calf after calving.  Rates vary from herd to herd from a low of 10% to a high of 30%.  This sounds low.  However you must consider that any dairy cow that has calved is now milking and getting pregnant is not high on her body’s energy use agenda.  First she must maintain her own nervous system, then feed her young (produce milk), build up her own body reserves, and then, and only then, does reproduction get taken care of.

Improved Pregnancy Rates are Up to You

According to recent research there are three primary factors affecting pregnancy rates:  nutrition, environment and management.  This means that you have the opportunity to affect your own success in this area.  First let’s take a look at the big picture.

What Traits Pay the Bills?

The primary incentive in the dairy breeding business is to be successful and there are many variables that go into that success. When using any management tool, you seek repeatable results.  Reliability rates of male and, even more so, female fertility ratings are low.  What this tells you is that you must work first and foremost with the traits that pay the bills, like milk, fat, udders, feet and legs, somatic cell scores and productive life.  It is counterproductive to place an overriding emphasis on only one area.  Remember Grandma’s old saying, “Everything works together for good.” Looking at fertility measures is best considered only after you have reached the point where primary selection traits between bulls you are considering are equal. Then you might consider raising fertility a point or two. So where do you start? With fertility?  With  conception? With pregnancy rates?

QUESTION OF THE DAY:  Why does it matter?

Once you have posed that question, ask yourself what you could do with five or six more healthy calves out of the next hundred breedings? That represents a 10% gain!  Here’s the potential.

  • More calves = More interest in females to sell from your herd = $$$$
  • More calves = More A.I. companies contracting bulls = $$$
  • More calves = More likely to have the next generation of great genetics in your barn. $$
  • Less semen used = More money stays in your pocket $$
  • Less vet expense = More money stays in your pocket $$

ANSWER of the DAY:       

  • More calves = More Profit

The difference between a low and a high pregnancy rate can be significant: anything from 5% to 30%.  Work the numbers and you will certainly find the incentive to improve in this area.


Remember it starts with nutrition, environment and management.  

  • Make sure that the heifers from 4-6 weeks of age are fed high quality roughage.
  • Secondly, we put too much focus on reaching energy goals when feeding heifers, without putting enough focus on protein needs.
  • Don`t forget the importance of quality water for heifers from weaning until they`re safe in calf.  It is the most essential nutrient for the development we want to achieve.
  • Check body condition frequently so you can adjust the ration, because too fat or too skinny means she will be less fertile. The ideal body condition score to feed for is recommended as 3.

YOU SHOULD TARGET MINERALS:  They’re central to success

Mineral intake is very important. This is an area to get your best possible nutrition advice and put it into practice.  Ensure that the animal gets the macro and MICRO minerals that she needs. This is where mineral form can pay off.  Chelated trace minerals may cost more but are more accessible to meet the animal`s needs. Consult with your veterinarian. An extra injection of vitamin E and selenium may be crucial at this period as these two are key elements for fertility. By starting to manage the minerals at a young age, you make sure the heifers over a few months develop a good, constant diet, ensuring they are healthy and fertile up to the moment of breeding or implanting.

Health Status

Having a healthy cow or heifer is the starting point for good pregnancy rates. Although health traits are multi-faceted, lameness management is crucial to fertility improvement.  Herds with rigid hoof care management have increased heat detection rates, increased conception rates, and therefore increased numbers of pregnant cows.

Proactive Advice

The impact of proactive veterinary and nutrition advice cannot be overemphasized. When the purse strings are tight, consultant costs are often targeted for reduction or elimination but the right veterinary and nutrition intervention will produce results that will pay for the cost inputs.

Records of Success

Each farm will have different fertility issues and it is important to identify these.  The starting point has to be recording.  Many computerised systems are available, but are often underutilized. Recording and analysis will pinpoint the weakness in fertility management and then you can take action steps.

Heat Detection

Improving pregnancy rates starts with animal health, nutrition and, then, heat detection. You must have all three of these in sequence. Nothing operates in isolation.    In Canada the average heat detection rate is low. We don’t have a good number. Of course, those heats that are missed are not recorded.  We must use technology to improve this area. The message is clear: heat detection either by manual observation, technology such as pedometers, or by hormonal manipulation.  Get it done.


Improving pregnancy rates comes down to one thing: Constant attention to detail.

*The Bullvine is not a nutritionist or veterinarian, nor do we play one on TV.  Consult your nutritionist and veterinarian to meet the specific needs of your dairy herd.

Weekly Show and Sale Recap– 5/5/2012


  • Ocean-View Dispersal Averages $2,742
    May 2, 2012 brought the end of an era in the registered Holstein circle as the long-standing and well known herd of Ocean View was dispersed in Windsor, CA.  Selling over 600 head in one day was no easy task, Dave Rama and Gary Estes shared the auctioneering duties while Horace Backus read pedigrees.  At the end of the day, the sale averaged $2,742.
    Generations and generations of well thought out breeding decisions stood behind every animal that went through the ring.  Topping the sale at $15,000 was Lot 2759- Ocean-View Gold Sheen.  She is a VG-87 point Goldwyn from Ocean-View Outside Sheen EX-91 then the famous Lindy Sheen herself.  Second high seller was Lot 2785, Ocean-View Gold Roxette at $14,250.  Roxette is a 86 point Goldwyn daughter of Ocean-View Roy Roxann EX-91, and sold due in July to Aftershock.  Wrapping up the top three was Lot 2447, Ocean-View Allen Zmora at $13,500.  She is a Canyon-Breeze Allen daughter of another famous Ocean-View cow, Mandel Zandra EX-95.
    Marvin Nunes worked hard at making Ocean-View a prominent prefix in the Holstein breed for many years.  While being very successful in the show ring, especially with cows like Ocean-View Lindy Sheen EX-94 who was nominated All-American four times in milking form, this California herd was also known for impressive milk production as nine Ocean-View cows made over 300,000 pounds of lifetime milk.   (
    • $15,200 – Lot 2447 Ocean-View Allen Zmora-ET EX-92 (Allen X Mandel Zandra)
      Buyer: Nunes, Mongini, Herzog, Deerfield, WI
    • $15,000 – Lot 2759 Ocean-View Gold Sheen VG-87 2yr (Goldwyn X Outside Sheen EX-91)
      Buyer: Legend Dairy Farms, Chino, CA
    • $14,250 – Lot 2785 Ocean-View Gold Roxette-ET VG-87 2yr (Goldwyn X Roy Roxann EX-91)
    • Buyer: Kisst Dairy, Ripon, CA
  • Record price for Apple’s daughter
    Bluechip Apple Spice-Red, a 3-month-old Destry out of KHW Regiment Apple-Red, fetched the impressive top price of A$101,000 at the Bluechip Genetics Invitational Sale in Australia. She went to Keith Peterson of Dundee Holsteins, Victoria. The second-most expensive animal (A$30,000) was Eclipse Shottle Paradise from the family of Integrity Paradise. A total of 71 lots averaged A$8,487. (
    • Lot 4B – Bluechip Apple Spice – $101,000 to Apple Investments
    • Lot 31 – Eclipse Shottle Paradise – $30,000 to Bluechip Genetics
    • Lot 8 – Bluechip Shottle Noni – $25,000 to Leigh Prout, Corra Lea Holsteins, Northern Victoria
  • Central PA Spring Spectacular averages $2,349
    The Central PA Spring Spectacular sale was held on Saturday, April 28 in Centre Hall, PA.   The sale averaged $2,349 on 69 lots including embryos.   MSI Duckett Jasper Magic, a fancy fall yearling from an EX-92 Goldwyn x 2E-92 Outside was the sale topper at $7,300.   The Black Magic Syndicate, Adamsville, PA purchased this consignment from Tom Uber.    Fetching the second highest price of the day was a Dec Gold Chip from 3x Jr All American Hillmont Durham Lyndi (3E-96).   Consigned by Hillmont Farms, she was knocked off at $5,500 to Hannah Bomgardner, Lebanon, PA.    The third highest seller was also from the Lyndi family, Hillmont Sanchez Madison, a full sister the 2011 HHM All-American Spring Calf.  Her dam is a 2E-92 Champion daughter from Lyndi.    Don and Angela Anderson, Centre Hall,PA were the last bidders at $5,200 on this spring yearling. Other top sellers included:
    • $4,700 for Lot 2- Sept Fever x 5E-94 Lili Starbuck- Anthony Fisher, Marbile, WI, buyer
    • $4,500 for lot 18- Polled R&W Lawnboy bred heifer x VG-86 Advent back to 3E-96 Tobi- Liam Daly, Russell, Ontario, buyer
    • $4,000 for lot 23- Dec R&W Durham-Red x VG-88 Tundel x 5 more VG/EX dams- Katelyn Taylor, Allenwood, PA, buyer

Why the Ability for Breeders to Test Their Own Bulls Will NOT Change the World

For years breeders have been saying how they would do things differently than the big A.I. companies.  In March of 2013 they are going to get their chance.  While many top breeders are already licking their lips at the opportunity, there are some key factors I don’t think they have considered that may not change things as much as they think.  The following is a closer look at these issues.


When Calbrett-I H H Champion hit for GenerVations, the biggest challenge was not marketing but rather distribution.  Here is a company who had been a distributor for many international A.I. companies that now had to turn the table and sell back to these companies.  Fortunately, for GenerVations they were able to do so and leverage the network they had already developed in order to get Champion semen out to the world.  However, what is the typical breeder going to do?  Sure, you may be able to move some semen through the internet or advertising your bulls in the major publications, but that will not pay the bills.  A global distribution network that can move your semen is a must.  Only one person can have the #1 bull, for all others you had better have a cost effective distribution network, or your dreams of becoming the next great Albert Cormier or Doug Blair will fizzle before they even start.

Frequent Genomic Releases

With new genomic bulls coming out monthly, you could be on the top of the list one month and not even in the top 10 the next.  This provides for a very short run for peak sales and means you will not always be able to sell your genomic young sire semen for $50+ a dose.  More likely, you are looking at a $20-30 average price, and that is assuming you are still in the top 50.  Fall out of the top 50 genomic sires in the world and you can kiss sales good-bye.

Cost of Production

Breeders wishing to prove their own sires will have to use one of the approved semen collection facilities.  Certainly, many of these facilities will offer competitive rates, but they need to operate at a profit too.  While working with the largest A.I. company in the world, we knew that the cost per semen collected averaged between $4 and $5.  To get your semen dose collected you are typically looking at $7 – $10 a dose.  Big deal you say, a couple of dollars less.  Well actually it is.  When large semen orders come in, they operate on blend price for the order.  Depending on the situation they are from $10 – $12 a dose.  That $3-$5 a dose difference could mean the difference between profit and loss.  Don’t think you need those large bulk orders?  Think again, you will find they are your lifeblood for cash flow.

Aggressive Lease Options from Current A.I. Companies

We have already started to see it.  Gone are the fixed sales price of $5,000 -$10,000 or the capped leases at $100,000.  The major A.I. companies have already started to get very aggressive on the lease options they offer.  Smaller A.I. companies have already been forced to get extremely aggressive in order to procure top genomic young sires.  It’s also for these reasons that we are starting to see more bulls being sold in top sales, as it provides the ability to set the bar higher for many breeders.  It’s also for these reasons that you have noticed many players starting to buy top females, as the cost to buy them is actually cheaper than the cost to contract their sons.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While the ability to test their own sires will certainly affect the lease agreements, they get from the A.I.  companies it will not be the total game changer that everyone is expecting it to be.  What it will do is make the current A.I. become even more competitive and have to trim their own fat.  Breeders sampling and selling their own bulls and not selling their bulls to A.I. seems a promising opportunity. However, the thought that it is going to totally change the way bulls are sampled and sold is farfetched.  From the cost of production to distribution there are many factors that eager breeders have not yet given enough consideration.


Is Your Breeding Strategy A “Field of Dreams”?

I can tell you the number of times I have seen top breeders spend hours upon hours deciding who to mate their top cattle.  While I understand the importance of this decision, often times I find that the final decision is based on traits that are so low in heritability the chance of actually improving the cow for that trait is extremely low.  As a result, the mating they were hoping to give them that next great one, turns out to be a field of dreams.

What is Heritability?

Heritability is a measure of the degree (0 to 100%) to which offspring resemble their parents for a specific trait. This definition can be extended to all genetic relationships such as half sisters sired by the same bull. Heritability measures the strength of the relationship between performance (phenotype) and breeding value (genotype) of an individual animal. Recall that “heritability” applies to a specific trait measured in a specific population of animals at a specific point in time. If the same trait is measured in a slightly different way in some other group of animals, the estimate of heritability can be expected to be different.

Why Should You Care About Heritability?

Heritability tells you the breeder how much confidence to place in the phenotypic performance of an animal when choosing parents of the next generation. For highly heritable traits where heritability exceeds 0.35, the animal’s phenotype is a good indicator of genetic merit or breeding value. For lowly heritable traits, where heritability is below 0.15, an animal’s performance is much less useful in identifying the individuals with the best genes for the trait.

This is where the problem lies.  The following is a breakdown of High vs Low heritability traits.

High Medium Low
Milk Yield (0.43) Fat Yield (0.34) Herd Life (0.10)
Protein Yield (40) Somatic Cell Score (0.27) Calving Ability (0.6)
Fat Percentage (est. 0.50) Milking Speed (0.21) Daughter Calving Ability (0.6)
Protein Percentage (est. 0.50) Conformation (0.26) Milking Temperament (0.13)
Lactation Persistency (0.40) Rump (0.23) Daughter Fertility (0.7)
Dairy Strength (0.36) Mammary System (0.25) Feet & Legs (0.15)

What Should You Do About Traits With Low Heritabilities?

Heritability can tell us how closely genetic merit follows phenotypic performance, but it tells us nothing about the economic value of better performance. Some traits with low heritabilities, such as the survival and fitness have low heritabilities but high economic value. Other traits, like stature, are moderately to highly heritable, but have insufficient economic value to be given much emphasis in selection programs. Low heritable traits of substantial economic value should always be targeted for improvement through better environmental conditions. This often has the most direct impact and often can be done much quicker than through breeding programs.

The dairy industry is increasingly interested in genetic improvement of health, fitness, survival, and reproductive traits. Milk production is more heritable than these traits, and genetic gains in milk production for the last 30 years have been substantial. Perhaps part of the reason for increased emphasis on equally valuable traits of lower heritability has been the genetic progress made in milk production. Many farmers feel that their cows have more genetic ability to produce than can be utilized efficiently on many dairy farms. The relative economic value of the fitness traits and milk production appears to have changed and selection objectives will change as well.

What is the Heritability of Type Traits?

As the follow table shows.  Trying to improve feet and legs is often better served through management than breeding, while stature and body depth would show a more rapid genetic gain.

Stature 0.42
Strength 0.31
Body Depth 0.37
Dairy Form 0.29
Rump Angle 0.33
Thurl Width 0.26
Rear Legs Side View 0.11
Foot Angle 0.15
Feet and Leg Score 0.17
Fore Udder Attachment 0.29
Rear Udder Height 0.28
Udder Cleft 0.24
Udder Depth 0.28
Front Teat Placement 0.26
Teat Length 0.26
Final Score 0.29

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Heritability is one of the most important concepts when it comes to your breeding program.  There are several working definitions, as heritability is used to help plan breeding programs, determine management strategies, estimate breeding values of individual animals, and predict response to selection. In general, traits related to fertility, fitness, health and survival have low heritabilities of less than 0.15. Production traits like milk or protein yield are moderately heritable, with values from 0.15 to about 0.40. So if you are looking to see significant gains from your breeding programs it’s best to focus on highly heritable traits, otherwise your breeding program is more of a field of dreams.


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

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Best Practices For Memorable Names

In the day to day business of dairy breeding there is one thing breeders use most but often take for granted: the Name.  Every great breeding – bull or heifer – starts and builds from the name. The average Canadian dairy farm has 175 cows and replacements.  This means you could be looking at almost 1000 unique names over a ten year period.  The potential for making a marketing statement every time someone walks through your barn and reads the sign above each individual is not to be overlooked.

In corporate board rooms, much strategy is placed on choosing the name for products.  Success is built upon name recognition and communicating with the customer.  “But this is a dairy farm not a board room!” you say.  Do you have a product? Do you need customers?  Do you want to make a profit? Answering yes to any of these questions means that the right name on the right animal will have an impact.  However, the time to be considering the best name for your new arrival is not at two in the morning when there is a big day of field work, a cattle show or any of the myriad other details that are part of the business of dairy farming. Keep the paperwork flowing!  For some this process is intimidating, or at the very least, irksome.  For others it’s a family undertaking that every generation has an opinion on – sometimes even crossing provincial and country borders to make sure their input is on the record.  Here are a few tips to help you get started.

#1 Make it Memorable

Do pick a name that is memorable – not only for possible customers but for yourself.  We all know how impressive it is when a dairy breeder in the barn, in the field or just in conversation has complete command of animal names.  This means choosing them in a way that works for you. You might base your naming on a distinguishing characteristic (Velvet), outstanding trait (Milky) or something new to your breeding line (Opportunity). When it’s memorable to your customers they will become part of your promotion team. You never want them to struggle to remember “Sornostri”. If it’s difficult to remember, it is counterproductive.

#2 Stand Out

In today`s competitive global marketplace, standing out from the crowd is becoming one of the most important aspects of the dairy breeding business. Make sure that list that is always being tweaked and added to contains those words and terms that people are looking for.  Use a thesaurus, popular advertisements, famous sports terms or even cars to drive your name home with your customers.  Today car companies take a positive word  and add a vowel to it: Astra; Innova; Sumo; Omni.  This works for cattle too! But I would not choose Typo!

#3 Know Your Customer

You can’t expect to sell to everyone, so narrow down your client list and make your names appeal to that group.  Are they looking for type? Longevity? Or simply fame and fortune? There are names that sell the features of each of these market niches.  All it requires is some research, forethought and preparedness and, when that star is born, you’re ready with the perfect name – perhaps borrowed from a real movie star (Gaga) or from heavenly stars (Galaxy). Once you have identified your target market or niche groups, the sky’s the limit.

#4 Focus on Your Strengths

Make sure, if you’re choosing descriptive words for names, that they are ones that describe what you’re selling.  You are not limited and may already have a lineup that includes “Incredible” and “Invincible”.  Everyone in the milk business has bred a “Milky” at some point.  If you are a trend leader, you might want to sign up the “Gene” family who could include “Encore” “Copycat” and “Repeater”.  If fertility is your focus don’t miss “Isis” – the goddess of fertility.  Mythology is a great resource for names.  On the other hand, don’t use misleading terms unless you’re very sure how you’re going to market that all white cow that you have named, “Midnight”!

#5 Make it Marketable

Advertising is easier when the name is visual.  If your farm already has a picturesque name  then you can focus on enhancing that as your brand.  “Spring” “Stream” “Wood” “Hill” or “Mountain” immediately present a picture.  When you’re running to a deadline and a harried editor is pinning you down to your “message”, it will be much easier if you have considered this aspect of the business and already have a plan in place. When that new calf is curled up in the straw, that’s a good time to consider the sales promotion, “Put Magic in YOUR barn!” or use colourful money imagery, “Take Goldie all the way to the Bank!”  Picking the right identifier from the start prevents headaches later.

How Hard Can It Be?

Just like everything else that can have a positive effect on your business, naming can also pose some difficulties.

As the creative juices get flowing, you may recognize that controversy can be promotional. However, DO NOT pick a name that is offensive or promotes illegal activities.  This may work for your favourite rock band but “ROAD KILL” might not be the best association to bring to your herd.

Once you have picked a name, try to keep an open mind. Sometimes you have so much invested in the naming process that it becomes a hurdle in negotiating with an A.I. stud.  You are so sure that the name you have chosen is a winner that any modification seems like an attack on you personally and your breeding.  However, as we are discussing in this whole process of naming, the job isn’t done until the sale is made.  It isn’t a competition between you and the A.I. company but teamwork that is going to get your animal selling in the biggest marketplace possible. Furthermore, they know things like “Nova” means “No Go” in Spanish. I bet GM wish they had considered that!

The Name of the Game

In business branding legend Marty Neumeier says that good names have 7 characteristics. They should be distinctive, short, appropriate, easy to spell, pronounce, likable, extendable, and protectable.  Although we may not get to the stage where we can license the names we choose, we can use words, language and the proper name to enhance our success.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The next time, someone asks you, “What’s in a name?”  be sure to answer  “Everything!”


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BEWARE: Your Customers Are Also Your Biggest Competitor

The dairy breeding industry is like none other than I know in the world.  Where else can your neighbor be your best friend, greatest customer, and potentially greatest competitor, all at the same time?  Think about it, the same person that you are working so hard to entice to buy your cattle or your genetics, instantly becomes your biggest competitor the second they do so.

The dairy breeding industry has so many things that make it amazing that this just seems to be another factor to it.  For years breeders have had to balance this challenge of how do you make money selling your genetics while not selling to a breeder who may steal all your future sales away from you.  I have seen it happen many times.  Breeders who have worked hard to breed generation after generation of great cattle, and who may not be very well known to the world, sell some of their top heifers at big name sales in order to get their name out there.  What happens?  Their heifer is purchased by a big name breeder who uses their connections and greater marketing ability to become your biggest competitor and pretty much steal the market away from you.  Of course, you might be saying, “It’s great to have them marketing my cattle family for me,” and yes it is.  However, with embryo transfer, IVF and other technologies, is it really that good?  What is the 10th best heifer from xyz family worth?  Is it really worth more than the best heifer from a family that may not be as well known?

But How Do I Pay The Bills?

I get that you have to sell some of your best animals in order to make money in this business.  The milk check alone will not cover the increased breeding program costs.  I also understand that if you don’t sell some of your top animals you are really never going to make any significant income.  That’s what makes this such a challenge.

The greatest example of this was Braedale.  For years, they did not want to sell any members of the Gypsy grand family domestically.  It was easier to pull a pull twin bulls out of a 2yr old storm daughter than it was to get a cow purchased out of that herd.  Then one day, they start just selling a “few” members.  Then the floodgates opened.  Early on, herds like Gillette, Rocky Mountain Holsteins and a few others got into this family.  These herds where able to get way more exposure for their members from the Gypsy Grand family and ultimately stole the marketability of the cow family away from Braedale.  While the family gained worldwide recognition.  Did Braedale make as much money as maybe some of these other breeders?

Is there an answer to this problem?  Well in reality there is not.  You can always say that you must breed them better than the others do.  However, is that enough?  If you don’t have the marketing engine that these other herds have, or the ability these herds have to get the cattle to the top of the list, then in reality you have just sold your best cow to your biggest competitor.


Does that mean you should never sell your genetics?  Well that is not financially an option.  What it does mean is that, if you are going to play in the genetic sales game, you better be prepared to enter it full throttle.  You need to not only breed great cattle, but you need to make sure you are able to market your genetics just as aggressively.


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