Archive for May 2015

It Takes All Kinds…

I expect most of us can remember a time in school when we were selected last when it came to spelling matches or a pickup sports game. Not being much interested in spelling and being vertically challenged, I can remember both situations. Being excluded isn’t nice, no matter when it happens. So how does that relate to the world of cattle breeding you ask? Well, how often have you seen or have you excluded another dairy cattle enthusiast because they did not fit in or share your perspective?

I know. I was that Outsider

I grew up on a small mixed farm, mainly market garden. We had three cows and shipped milk in cans to a butter factory. My first calf was a Jersey that died at her first calving and my first 4H calf was a grade, ugly for type, Holstein.  She and I brought up the bottom end of the classes for both conformation and showmanship. I was made to feel that I was not part of the dairy industry. If it had not been for a very supportive youth-oriented extension worker, I might not have enrolled for a second year in dairy 4H calf club. He took me under his wing and helped me. A side note – he not only helped me as a 4H’er, but also as an MSc student and in several stages of my career. But this article is not about me. It is about how we need to help and include others and help our industry.

We Tend to Center Out Dairy People – Rather Than Include Them

Throughout my lifetime, I have witnessed many situations where dairy cattle breeders have been centered out because they did not conform to what the ‘in group’ was doing.  We see this a fair bit on the extremely popular Milk House, closed discussion group exclusively for dairy farmers on Facebook.  (Read more: INTRODUCING THE MILK HOUSE – DAIRY BREEDER NETWORKING ON FACEBOOK)

We tend to look down on those who operate differently:

  • they own grades, not purebreds
  • their herd has been graded up to purebred rather than descending from purebreds
  • they own a breed different from ours
  • they use herd bulls and not A.I.
  • they use on-farm systems or DHI owner sampler and not DHI or DHIR

We exclude those who don’t share the social side of dairying:

  • they do not attend breed events
  • they do not take animals to breed shows
  • they attend World Dairy Expo but only to walk the aisles of the trade show

We cannot even imagine breeding cows the way they do:

  • they use 100% young sires rather than using the higher priced top proven sires
  • they select only for production or for animals that maximize milk solids produced per acre
  • they choose solely on genetic indexes without concern for actual performance
  • they select sires using NM$ and not TPI (or its equivalent in other breeds or countries)
  • they select for traits that we do not consider in vogue – R&W, polled, beta casein, calving ease, calving interval, etc.
  • they mate their cows on a herd basis instead of mating each individual cow
  • they select based on genomic indexes and not progeny performance or pedigree indexes.

The eye-opening fact about many of these examples is that they have become, over time, the accepted practice for the majority of breeders.

Encouraging Other Breeders

The dairy cattle breeding industry has made significant advances in recent years, and that needs to continue. Each of us can and should encourage other breeders to make the future better than the past for this industry.  (Read more: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?)

Encouragement from respected breeders and peers goes a long ways in helping breeders, young and old, feel positive about themselves and the industry. Think about others, respect others, respect yourself and go the extra mile to find ways to give a pat on the back.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Whether it’s an individual or the entire dairy industry, success and one size does not looks the same for every breeder. There are many ways to get from A to Z and we can learn a lot from those who take a less familiar road. It takes all kinds.



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The 16 Sires Available in 2015 That Every Dairy Breeder Should Be Looking At

With weekly evaluations now being released, it can be hard to sort out exactly what sires are available and which ones you should be using.  To help you sort through the confusion, we have compiled the 16 sires that we think all breeders should consider using.  Instead of producing one generic list, we looked for the four top sires in each key breeding area.

Overall Production

When looking for the sire that will help improve your herd across the board, we looked for sires that have a balance of production and longevity and, most importantly, a proven pedigree that ensures that their performance will last. We also wanted high health and fertility traits that will deliver a low maintenance cow (Read more – Fact vs. Fantasy: A realistic approach to sire selection). Here are our top four:


Mountfield Ssi Dcy Mogul-ET  TR TY
Dorcy BY x Marsh x O Man

When it comes to all around producers, you have to start with Mogul.  Mogul has even the strongest advocates of genomics going back to using some proven sires, based on his outstanding numbers.  At +2532 gTPI, Mogul is within 6% of the top genomic sires available.  When you consider that he is 99% reliable, that is quite simply an outstanding achievement. As we mentioned last summer, Mogul is a sire that you can expect to be around for a long time to come. He could even become the youngest Millionaire sire in history (Read more: The 12 Genomic Sires Most Likely to Top the Proven TPI List in April 2016). Look for MOGUL to offer a strong balanced offering but he needs to be protected on his rump.   Furthermore, he will leave much greater dairyness and strength than this sire stack would indicate.





Supersire 0415Supersire

Seagull-Bay Supersire-ET   TY
Robust x Planet x Shottle

Similar to Mogul, Supersire is one of those sires that reaffirms his early high genomic numbers and has those breeders who missed him as a young sire, now using him heavily.   This Robust son from 2012 Golden Dam Finalist AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA VG-87-2YR-USA, really is a genetic wonder.  Not only does he have the highest genomic values in the breed for production, but he also has excellent functional type and health traits to go with it.  Expect Supersire to leave daughters that are all around solid cows.  While not show stoppers, he has a no holes type linear and strong production that make him an effective commercial sire.  He has had a tremendous impact on genetics around the world.  Supersire is living up to our prediction that he is a generational sire that will have an enormous influence for years to come.





Silver 415Silver

Seagull-Bay Silver-ET   TY
Mogul x Snowman x Planet

What do you get when you take a Mogul from Supersire’s family?  Well, you get Silver. He is another sire that all breeders should be taking a closer look at.  Silver is a Mogul from the Snowman sister to Supersire.  Like Supersire, Silver has the ability to leave extreme production.  Moreover, just like Supersire, he will have a significant impact as a sire of sons as well.  His ranking in the top 1% of the breed for Milk, Fat, Protein, Type, and Udders tells you that Silver is going to make much noise before everything is said and done. (Read more: The 10 Outlier Sires that will Accelerate Your Genetic Gain the Fastest)







Powerball-P 415Powerball-P

View-Home Powerball-P-ET  PC TY
Earnhardt P x Robust x Zenith

When running an effective seed stock or breeding program, there is no question that you need to look at where the market will be in 3 years’ time,  when these breeding decisions will be hitting the milk tank.  For many, that means breeding for such traits as polled.  When it comes to polled, there is no question that the extreme outlier has to be Powerball-P.  With progeny starting to get genomic tests, we are seeing more and more polled animals hitting the top of the overall genomic lists. From the WESSWOOD-HC RUDY MISSY EX-92 3E GMD DOM cow family,  Powerball-P is certainly in high demand (Read more: The 7 Most Influential Holstein Brood Cows of the Modern Era).  His outstanding production proof (+1113 PTAM, +51 Fat, +55 Protein), combined with his solid type numbers (+1.62 PTAT, +1.48 UDC) and high productive life (+4.4) and good calving ease (SCE 6.6%, DCE 4.5%) make Powerball-P the polled sire that will launch polled to the top of the genomic lists.  Powerball-P will need to be protected on his body depth and height at front end.



It might be easy just to take the top milk lists or combine the fat plus protein and say that those sires are the best for overall production. We here at the Bullvine would not want to forgo totally type as well as health and fertility, so we are looking for the sires that give you the maximum production gain, without sacrificing everything to get it

Denver 1426Denver 1426

Mr Mogul Denver 1426-ET   TY
Mogul x Robust x Planet

Denver 1426 and his two brothers Delta and Director topped the Genomic sires over one year of age list past round (Read more: April 2015 US Genetic Evaluation Highlights).  Denver 1426 is +2,074 for milk with positive components (+.08%F and +.01%P).  At over 2 points on all type composites and over 2,000 lbs. of milk and positive components, Denver 1426 is in elite company.  For those looking to sire high scoring two-year-olds, they will need to protect him on the height of front end and body depth.








Littleton 0415Littleton

Snowbiz Littleton   TY
Supersire x Snowman x Shottle

Littleton was bred to produce milk and milk, and this is what his daughters will do.  There is no question that a Supersire from a Snowman will milk, so it’s not surprising that Littleton is +2,639 for Milk, with solid components.  Tracing back to COMESTAR LAURIE SHEIK VG-88-5YR-CAN 23*, Littleton’s dam, FREUREHAVEN FGS LUCY VG-86-2YR-CAN, produced over 50,000 lbs of milk in her first lactation with a 4.0%F and a 3.2% protein test.  Her first two daughters by Uno have already scored VG in their 1st lactation.   Expect Littleton daughters to produce extreme amounts of milk, fat, and protein from well-attached udders, and walk on a great set of feet and legs.  One area that they will need to be protected on is their height at front end and for attachments.






Josuper 0415Josuper

Uecker Supersire Josuper-ET   TY
Supersire x Beacon x Jango

This Supersire son has been getting much attention since his initial genomic proof (Read more: The 16 Sires from the April 2014 Genetic Evaluations That Stand Out).  At +2585 gTPI, JOSUPER is the highest TPI sire over 2400 lbs of milk.  Combine that with positive deviations for fat and protein and there is no question that JOSUPER will give you a high production kick when needed.  While his type evaluation is very functional, a couple of areas to protect him on include his rump angle and the set of his rear legs.  With a strong maternal chromosomal contribution, JOSUPER should also be an influential sire of sons.  This is something we have found to be very typical of high production sires.






Supershot 0415Supershot

Cogent Supershot  TV TL TY TD
Supersire x Super x Shottle

The pedigree behind Supershot is certainly not well known among breeders, with the last 5 of his eight generations coming from Dutch breeding. Behind that is the US cow family at Vir-Clar Holsteins tracing through the highly acclaimed Tirsvad Patron Claire EX92. He hails from the same line as the famous Koepon Classy’s and Anderstrup Claire family, which is known worldwide for its ability to breed high-ranking females and bulls on numerous different bases.  Supershot has an extremely high genomic test and his pedigree indicates that he should be able to sire those extreme production daughters many breeders are looking for. Supershot should be protected on milking speed and dairy strength. (Read more: COGENT SUPERSHOT)




Longevity Improvement

While some would try to tell you that high type equals longevity, which is not necessarily the case.    When it comes to longevity, it’s hard to argue with actual performance indices like Herd Life and Productive Life.  (Read more: She Ain’t Pretty – She Just Milks That Way!) To give a more balanced approach to longevity, we looked at both and came up with the following top sires:

Monterey 0415Monterey

View-Home Monterey-ET   TY
Mccutchen x Robust x Zenith

Monterey is the Mccutchen brother to Powerball-P.  Monterey has a solid +3.00 PTAT, 3.03 UDC and +1.96 FLC combined with a strong +5.7 productive life.  Look for his daughters to be extremely low maintenance cows that will last a long time in most herd environments.  Though I would protect him on high pinned heifers and cows.










Main Event 0415Main Event

Stantons Main Event
Mogul x Super x Shottle

From the Crockett-Acres Elita-ET VG-87 GMD DOM cow family, Main event traces back to Whittier-Farms Lead Mae EX-95 3E GMD DOM.  Main Event is over 2.50 points on all major composites and has an outstanding +6.2 productive life.  He has high components with decent production but will need to be protected on his straightness of leg and overall frame and capacity.









Delta 0515Delta

Mr Mogul Delta 1427-ET   TY
Mogul x Robust x Planet

Delta is from the WINDSOR-MANOR RUD ZIP-ET 3E 95 GMD DOM family.  Delta offers extreme health and fertility traits with solid type and reliable production.  Breeders who are looking for tall framey two-year-olds will certainly not want to use Delta, but he does offer significant udder improvement.  Delta is among the breed leaders for productive life at +8.0. (Read more: Mr Mogul Delta 1427)










Piranha-P 0415Piranha-P *RC

Buck-H-Creek Mgl Piranha-P  RC PC TY T
Mogul x Secure-Red x LB P-Red

Here is a sire that may not be on many breeder’s radar but Piranha-P is polled, red and over 2 points for PTAT and UDC as well as +3.9 for productive life solid for calving ease.  If you have a high production cow that is in need of some longevity improvement and you are looking to introduce more polled animals to your herd, Piranha-P will give you that shot of longevity combined with polled that you are looking for.  He will need to be protected on his teat length and high pins.








Health and Fertility Improvement

With the constant improvement in the accuracy of health and fertility index calculations, more and more breeders are confidently including Health and Fertility traits in their breeding requirements.

Exemplar 0415Exemplar

Stantons Exemplar  TR TY
Jabir x Shamrock x Shottle

If you are looking to improve the health and fertility of your herd, you have to start with Exemplar.  With a high productive life of +6.3, low SCS +2.80 and outstanding calving ease (+5.9 SCE and +3.7 DCE) Exemplar is a great example of what strong conception rates look like  (+4.1 HCR and +6.7CCR) and +5.3 Daughter Pregnancy Rate.  (Read more: Dairy Cattle Pregnancy Rates: A CSI Investigation) From the same family as Main Event, Exemplar is a bit of an outcross being a Jabir from a Shamrock.  Exemplar will need to be protected on his rumps (pin setting and pin width) as well as his dairy strength (Body depth and angularity). But if you are looking for a high conception calving ease sire, Exemplar will get the job done.






altivo 0415Altivo

Co-Op Jabir Altivo-ET
Jabir x Super x Zade

Altivo is another Jabir son that should catch your attention if you are looking to improve the fertility of your herd.  Again with a  bit of an outcross pedigree, Jabir x Super x Zade, Altivo makes an excellent cross for those high production cows that are in desperate need of an outcross sire that can get the job done.  At +6.8PL, +7.2 SCE and +3.5 daughter calving ease, Altivo is the show stopper.  He is an extreme health and fertility sire.  He offers strong production with great components but will need to be protected on his pin width as well as his body depth and angularity.








Rosylane-Llc Altabowie   TY
Bowser x Ramos x O Man

AltaBowie is an excellent outcross sire that should help improve the fertility of your herd. He is from the exceptional breeding program at Rosy-Lane Holsteins (Read more: ROSY-LANE HOLSTEINS – “Don’t Follow the Herd!”), AltaBowie offers many plusses.  He is +1010 for lbs milk (though low-fat %), durable type (+6.9 PL), and high DPR (+4.8) and great calving ease (4.3% SCE and 3.7% DCE).  While his conformation break down will not wow you (+0.37 PTAT, +0.74 UDC and +0.88 FLC), he is correct where he needs to be, (Udder depth, fore and rear attachments, as well as foot angle and heal depth).  He will certainly need to be protected on his dairy strength and rumps.






Milford-P 0415Milford-P

Regancrest Milford-P-ET  PC TY
Ohio Style P x Snowman x Shottle

Another polled sire worth looking at is Milford-P.  His dam is Leaderwin Snoman Mystery-ET  VG-85 from Kevrel Shottle Mia 2E 93 then Brandt-View BW Marsh Mia-ET TV TL   EX-90 DOM.  At +6.8 EFI Milford-P is an excellent outcross sire that will deliver high health and fertility.  Milford-P will offer reliable production with great udders and sound feet and legs though he will need to be protected on his overall capacity.









The Bullvine Bottom Line

We have stated it many times. In maximizing your genetic gain, you can’t just pick from the top of the TPI or LPI list.  You need to make sure that your matings are the best corrective cross.  Breeding great cattle is part art and part science. You need to have both parts.   It takes careful consideration and generation after generation of corrective mating to produce great cow families.  That is why, instead of just giving you a list of the top 12, we have tried to provide you with insight into which sires will provide you with the maximum gain in each particular area.



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Is Your Dairy Up to Speed?

Everyone is in a race for success.  This weekend I couldn’t help but see the parallels between the Indy 500 and the dairy industry of the 21st Century. Change is happening all around us with lightning speed.  If you are to remain relevant to the modern dairy industry, you have got to adapt to the speed at many different levels.  Whether it’s the logistics of getting the daily milking done or calving intervals or accelerated feeding protocols, dairy managers are in a daily race to the finish line.

Dairy Speed Starts with Accelerated Feeding

On the racetrack, the focus is on the car.  In dairying, it’s on the calf.  A good start means making sure there is nothing that will reduce performance at any time.  It also means using every enhancement to get optimum performance.  Nutrition is the fuel, and the first goal is getting colostrum into the calf.  Acceleration is measurable, and many dairy managers now feed calves 3X per day in bottles or multiple feedings per day for calves on automated feeders.  Here is the first place that observation and fine tuning can produce a calf that is off to a competitive start.

A Good Race Position Depends on Speed to First Breeding

Having heifers bred by 10 to 12 month of age, is like earning the pole position in the Indy 500.  It doesn’t guarantee a win, but success is a lot easier from the front of the pack, then from the rear. In driving, it means maximizing the fine details.  In dairying, it means feed, handling, health, and housing must do nothing to delay the breeding maturity of the young animal.

Six ways to fine tune your breeding program for speed

Some breeders love the challenge of establishing an accelerated breeding program.  Others work with service technicians or veterinarians or other consultants.  Regardless of the person taking the responsibility, it is important that right decisions be made from the outset. There has been considerable research done on the methods and benefits of getting heifers to calve at 21 months.

Here are six points that are used by those who have consistent success in achieving this speedy goal:

  1. It starts the moment the calf is born.
  2. Nutrition that’s good enough isn’t an option. It must be the best possible.
  3. When selecting for accelerated breeding, use sires that are average or better for calving ease.
  4. Separate fresh heifers from fresh cows. Do not overcrowd pens.
  5. Observe all heifer pens at least twice a day.
  6. Have a state of the art vaccination and health treatment protocol.

Using mass housing and feeding strategies won’t get you the front of the pack

The Indy 500 consists of 200 laps, and drivers need a plan for every one of them. Strategic planning starts long before the flag goes down to start the race. As you do your research on how to reduce time to first calving, learn from those who have already been around the track on this.  Experienced managers have learned that it works best when fresh cows and fresh heifers are kept in separate calving groups. Some even keep their animals at a different location. While this could require both facility and calf handling modifications, it pays off. Depending on the cost of feed, the earlier calving could pay for the required logistical changes with the money saved on extra months of feed inputs.

A Successful Race Starts with Your Pit Crew

Winning the Indy 500 is a team effort that begins with speed-seeking car designers and engineers and continues to the driver and every member of the pit crew. Success on the racetrack requires seamless collaboration and communication.  Success in the dairy business is built on the same foundation. Everyone needs to know their job and do it to the best of their ability. From breeding decisions to health management and nutrition, every person who has a connection with the heifer makes a contribution to the speed and performance that will be achieved. Watching those Indy pit crews, it is obvious that training, technology and passionate commitment to perfection, are shared traits that make a win possible. Although the focus – and the cameras – may be focused on the one leading the charge, it takes a well-trained team to be successful and lead a dairy business forward.

You Must be Prepared to Persevere

Despite the financial and time-gained benefits, there are many who aren’t prepared to face the challenges of speeding up dairy management.  In the Indy 500, it means persevering through challenges while moving at 220 mph.  The same determination is needing in dairying if you are to maintain your resolve to succeed despite obstacles that come your way on a daily basis. It is necessary to be agile – adapting to change but not necessarily changing course completely. Many tools are available to assist you and your team.  From genomics and genetics to specialty nutrition, dairying is a constantly evolving science.

Being Fast Does NOT Mean Being Reckless

The first motivation for speed comes when dairy managers understand the cost of hesitation or delay. Successful dairy producers know that time is as valuable a resource as money in the bank or herd head counts. But you can’t give up smart for speed.  Even a brief reading of the discussions on the Milk House makes it abundantly clear that discerning dairy breeders are always seeking (and sharing) best practices that will save time and money. This never means change for the sake of change.  Rather — it means recognition that continual improvements are part of the race to the finish line.  Carmakers never stop innovating, designing and re-engineering. The Indy 500 represents the greatest in motorsports technology.  The evolving dairy industry can’t rest on our laurels either. It takes research and data and commitment to build speed that doesn’t hinder the long-term sustainability of the dairy industry too!

There Are Many Ways to Get to the Finish Line

For spectators and cheering fans, the Indy 500 is filled with excitement.  For passionate dairy breeders, the race to dairy success is much the same – but without the cheering and applause on most days.  Building speed into dairy breeding is not for everyone but to those who have tried it, they are excited about the potential for building repeatable successes. Whether it’s accelerated nutrition or accelerated breeding, it takes team commitment to make a winner — in the milk tank, the show barn or at whatever finish line means success to your dairy strategy.

There are NO Guarantees

Even with the best strategies, breeding plans, teamwork, and technology, dairying is not perfect all the time.  As in the Indy 500 unforeseen variables, equipment and strategy can change in an instant – and the outcome is changed too! However — whether you’re racing or producing milk – the passion for the finish line keeps you adapting, changing and showing up — every day – to start the next race to the finish. You can’t imitate a winner.  You’ve got to put in the hard work, sweat and tears. Furthermore — today’s win — on the spreadsheet, milk check or genetic evaluation – doesn’t mean that success is guaranteed for tomorrow. We look to dairy history for continuity but not for repetition. You have to change with the modern times.  And then be even better.

Long Term Wins Start With Every Short Term Race

Whether it’s daily protocols in the milk house or your strategy for breeding, you are in a race to perform at your best every day, every month, every year. What you do every day must combine seamlessly with your strategy for long-term dairy success.  What you are doing at this moment in time will determine when – or even if – you will successfully enter the winner’s circle.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Modern dairy managers must be prepared not only for constant change but also for increasing speed.  We are in a race to find the best ways to improve, to compete and to win.  Bigger, better, faster, more!  Are you up to speed?  From challenges to champions, are you up to speed?  



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Stud Wars Episode III – The Conflict for Control

There is no question when it comes to semen sales having a great product is key to financial performance.  In the Stud Wars the battle for top sires is key to maintaining market share.  With that in mind The Bullvine once again takes a look at just which artificial insemination companies have the power and what ones are falling behind.



Select Sires increases their stranglehold on the top TPI proven sires by increasing 5% over last year to now posses 31% of the top sires.  Dropping slightly is ABS global going from 22% to 16% but moving up to a tie for the #2. Showing a significant decline in the top proven sire rankings is former #2 and now #3 dropping 8% to 16% is CRI. (Read more: STUD WARS – THE BATTLE FOR A.I. SUPREMACY STUD WARS: EPISODE II – APRIL 2014)


Powered by their purchase of GenerVations the Select Sires Empire takes a jump going from 22% of the top genomic sires in 2014 to 30% currently.  (Read more: SELECT SIRES ANNOUNCES THE ACQUISITION OF GENERVATIONS INC. AND SIRE LODGE INC. and SAY GOODBYE TO SMALL A.I.  But the big story is how Sexing Technologies through acquisition of smaller studs and an aggressive sire acquisition program jumps to the #2 spot, up 9% from 2014. (Read more: QUESTION AND ANSWERS WITH TAG & SEXING TECHNOLOGIES – THE STORY BEHIND THE DEAL)


As a result of 3 factors, the purchase of GenerVations, an effective heifer program as well as an aggressive sire acquisition program, Select Sires increases their dominance over the top TPI offerings.  Of interesting note is the significant decline (6%) that CRI experienced over the past year as well as the aggressive climb that Sexing Technologies is making.



Not surprisingly we see the same big players dominating the proven NM$ sire line ups.  Though similar to the TPI proven sire listing we again see a notable decline in the number of top proven NM$ sires being offered by CRI.


What was a 3 way tie for top spot between CRI, Select Sires and Semex, now sees Select Sires moving up 6% to take sole possession of the #1 spot, and CRI and Semex both drop 7% to now stand tied for 3rd with ABS.  Jumping again to the #2 spot is Sexing Technologies.


Select Sires remains strong and once again possess that best NM$ sire line up.  Dropping slightly in numbers but still holding on to the number 2 spot is CRI.



Semex and Select Sires hold steady dominating the top proven PTAT lists, with more than 15 sires each out of the top 100 than their nearest competitors.  When it comes to top proven type sires it really is just a two horse race.


It’s not surprising that both Semex and Select Sires dominate the top type proven sire lists, because they also dominate the top genomic sire lists.  Proving that genomic type sires are something some type breeders need to pay a little more attention to.  (Read more: OLD SCHOOL DAIRY BREEDERS – STOP PISSING ON GENOMICS) Sexing Technologies continues their aggressive acquisition of genomic sires to come in 3rd on the list with 10 sires in the top genomic PTAT sire list.


There is no question if you are breeding for high type you are dealing with Semex and Select.  In previous analysis we started to see some smaller AI companies enter into the fold, but this round we see that these two studs have slammed that door shut, now possessing over 53% of the top PTAT sires (up 9% from last round).



The big studs have certainly taken notice of the emergence of polled sires and that has not been a good thing for the niche polled boutique Dairybullsonline,which drops from the top position into the #2 spot with ABS, Accelerated and Semex.  Jumping to the number one spot is Select sires, supported by the acquisition of GenerVations. (Read more POLLED DAIRY GENETICS: THE COLD HARD FACTS and POLLED GENETICS: WAY OF THE FUTURE OR PASSING FAD?)

PTAT R&W Sires


One area that seems to be a, we need to have something, but not carry loads of them is type red sires.  While most AI unites have something to offer in the category, there is no dominant player and over 20 studs have sires in the top 100 genomic PTAT R&W sires.

The Bullvine Bottom Line


Select Sires continues to have the strongest proven sire line up.  Dropping 6% and falling from #2 last year to tied for #4 is CRI.


Pulling out of the tie with Semex last round and increasing by 6%, Select Sires now possess the strongest genomic sire line up exclusively. Making a 9% jump and moving into the #3 spot is Sexing Technologies, and dropping 6% is CRI to fall into a tie for 5th, down from #3 spot last time.


With acquisition of GenerVations, Select Sires increases their #1 position in the stud wars, now possessing over ¼ of the top sires.  Semex holds steady in the #2 position, bolstered by their strong showing in the type segments of the battle.   With a strong proven sire showing ABS moves into the #3 spot.  Dropping from the #3 spot last round and now in the 4th place is CRI.  Making the biggest move up the list is Sexing Technologies who’s aggressive genomic sire acquisition strategy now finds them with 8% of the top sires, more than double what they had last year.



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NUTRITION and PREGNANCY. The Conception Connection.

A pregnancy is a pregnancy, right? Or is it? Where do you place your dairy pregnancy focus? On cows that are already pregnant?  On early lactation animals? Is your biggest concern that of matching energy requirements to maximize milk production?  Is your nutrition program defeating your reproduction rate? We need to go back to the beginning of the dairy profitability story and consider what happens between the breeding and a successful pregnancy.

The Incredible Conundrum

When we talk about breeding dairy cattle, the standard benchmark is two breedings to achieve one pregnancy.  For me, baseball is the only place where achieving 50% makes you an All Star. The dairy industry needs to step up to the plate. Let’s take every opportunity to change the breeding rate to a 1to1 ratio. If that were possible, it could save both time and money while increasing the number of pregnancies in dairy herds.

What factors – that are in your control – could raise your herd pregnancy success rate? We all nod in agreement that catching heats and preventing exposure to pathogens are ways to increase our success rate.  Are we nodding in agreement and taking action?  Or are we nodding off?  And what about nutrition?

The Proposition: Nutrition has a significant role in maintaining pregnancy immediately following conception.

Causes of Early Embryonic Loss

Researchers in Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming saw rises in early embryonic loss if either of the next two situations occurred:

  1. A significant decline in energy intake.
  2. Moving from stored feed to pasture.

Nutrition Indicators that Signal Problems Getting Cows Pregnant

Limitations. Every dairy farm has to deal with them.  Here are four that affect pregnancy rates.

  1. There are cows not showing heats and anestrus in early lactation
  2. Energy deficiency is the first limiting nutrient in your herd if your cows are not cycling.
  3. You or your adviser have identified a deficiency of minerals and vitamins in your ration
  4. You or your adviser have identified an excess of protein in your ration

It’s time to do something about eliminating these limiting factors.

The Sperm in the Uterus.  Take Care of It!

In cattle, the fetus does not immediately become attached to the uterus endometrium. This means that it spends several days in the lumen of the uterus. During this time, uterine secretions nourish and provide the enzymes, hormones and other metabolic factors that the fetus needs for development. These nutrients are comprised of glucose, fructose, some triglycerides and amino acids. Glucose is the primary source of energy for the developing fetus, and similar to pre-breeding, energy is probably the first limiting nutrient for fetus growth and development.

Supplement with Methionine to Prevent Pregnancy Loss

One way to improve both milk production and reproduction is to supplement rations with methionine for a lysine to methionine ratio (% of MP) of 2.8 to 1.

Researchers fed a methionine-supplemented diet to early lactation cows with 2,500 grams of metabolizable protein (MP)—6.9% of MP as lysine and 2.3% of MP as methionine. The methionine-supplemented cows had slightly less pregnancy loss following breeding than cows fed the same diet with no supplemental methionine (1.9% of MP).

How to Optimize Pregnancy Maintenance

Certain amino acids give rise to glucose as well as glycerol levels. Optimizing the amounts of and the digestion of starch is the best way to increase the glucose supply to the dairy cow.

Methionine, lysine, and histidine are considered the first three limiting amino acids in milk production and milk component levels. They also increase in uterine secretion as the embryo elongates and prepares for implantation in the uterus endometrium.

Wisconsin researchers report an increase of 14.4% for lysine, 12.4% for methionine and 11.5% for histidine in the pregnant uterus near the time of implantation compared to a non-pregnant uterus. Methionine is of particular interest in the early fetus stage because of its role in lipid metabolism and gene expression.

Current studies using DHA in lactating cows are aimed at enhancing the quality of the uterine epithelium, modifying and attenuating the release of prostaglandin F-2a and thus ensuring a higher pregnancy rate resulting from better maternal recognition of pregnancy and subsequent maintenance of pregnancy (Read more: 8 Things You MUST Know About The BLV Virus)

Get Ready to Formulate a Preconception Diet

We are well-prepared to monitor the nutrition of the pregnant animal, and to meet the needs of the milking cow, but too often we are overlooking the importance of the preconception diet!

Long before that heifer/cow is safely in calf, what she eats matters.  In fact, the right preconception diet can not only fuel fertility, but can also ensure that you get a healthier calf on board.

Not sure how to turn your dairy diet into one that’s beneficial for preconception and pregnancy? Follow these five easy steps:

  1. Commit to change. The first step to overhauling your preconception nutrition is to know exactly what you’re committing to and why. The why? Well, that’s pretty clear. You want to make the healthiest calf possible, as quickly as possible.  Your goal is to improve your current pregnancy success rate.
  2. Identify WHO needs to Change? So you’re willing to make changes.  It is important to know what change will produce the targeted result. Depending on what you have learned from an analysis of your records, you may also need to reconsider “who” is best suited to take responsibility. A veterinarian, nutritionist or feed consultant – or all three may have valuable input in overcoming pregnancy maintenance challenges.
  3. Identify WHAT needs to Change?  Even the most conscientious dairy manager may find themselves second guessing when it comes to formulating a preconception diet. Trying to scale down weight? (Extra pounds can decrease fertility.) Trying to gain weight (too thin may be having an adverse impact). Then you’ll probably have to work on quantity and quality.
  4. Get Ready to Pop a Prenatal Vitamin. No human preconception diet is complete without a prenatal supplement that’s packed with folic acid and other essential baby-making nutrients. What parallel are you using in enhancing the conditions in the uterus. Think of it as health insurance for your future calf.
  5. More feed. More often.  This isn’t the time for a hit or miss access to the feed bunk. You may want to consider trading up to the six meal solution that human pre-natal consultants advise when a woman is trying to conceive. Dairy cows should consume frequent, small meals spread out over the day.  To achieve this, we need to ensure they have good access to their ration throughout the day. This can be accomplished through the frequent delivery of feed,  frequent feed push-up, and by providing sufficient space at the feed bunk. Extensive sorting of feed should be avoided.

It’s a balancing act.  Any one of these five variables could be affecting your success. And this isn’t the entire list by any means.

The Bullvine Bottom Line –  “Better Endings Start Even Before the Beginning!”

Successful dairy operations depend on conception. It makes sense to look at nutrition that impacts that status. Despite many advances in dairy cattle breeding, there are still challenges associated with starting a successful pregnancy.  Take action now! The preconception diet can have a surprisingly significant impact. Success has to mean better than 50%.



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Are Breed Associations Missing Important Breeding Signals?

A primary purpose of breed associations is to provide genetic information and services that assist breeders in their cattle genetic improvement efforts that have a direct effect on breeders bottom line. Although some significant changes in genetic information and techniques have been made over the past decade, there is still much that many breeds need to do. They must provide leadership so that future seed stock breeders can be successful.

Breeding has Changed

The dairy cattle breeding industry has changed significantly in the 21st century. On-farm management sexed semen and embryos produced using have tipped the balance. IVF (Read more: MASTER BREEDER KILLED IN TRIPLE HOMICIDE and MASTER BREEDER’S ARE NOT HOME RUN HITTERS)  Today revenue generated from the sale of solid, but not outstanding, breeding stock has diminished. At the same time, milk producers are asking for new traits, a different emphasis on traits and improved levels of performance for existing traits. Life for modern dairy cattle breeders is far from same old, same old.

Genomic Information Has Helped

Genetic evaluation centres have done an excellent job of linking the DNA results with the previous genetic information to produce genomic indexes. In short, half a decade of genetic improvement was achieved the day genomic indexes were published. Today, seven years after the introduction of genomic indexes, we have proven sires that were selected for sampling based on their genomic indexes and that have proofs close to those of current top genomic sires. (Read more: THE TRUTH ABOUT GENOMIC INDEXES – “SHOW ME” THAT THEY WORK!, WHAT HAPPENS IF GENOMICS DOESN’T WORK? And THE BULLVINE PROVES GENOMICS DOES NOT WORK!)

Breed Societies are Missing a Key Role – Facilitator

Taking energy and resources to bash or promote genomic versus proven should be abandoned. The debate is over.  It’s like debating whether you should use a fax versus send an email. For the next decade, more focus needs to be placed on genetic improvement for all economically significant traits. Breeds have a role to play when it comes to helping breeders who have varying objectives but who need to work collectively and profitably.

Change the Emphasis on Traits

Over the next five to ten years, breeders and milk producers will not be satisfied with selecting only for the traits previously considered to be important.

In herds where 85-90% of the income is from milk sold, breeders are asking for genetic information that highly correlates to revenue generated or variable cost reduction. Revenue generation traits are usually fairly easy to identify. However, most data captured by breeds and herd recording agencies do not lead or have direct correlations to being available between genetic merit and key variable costs.  The top four variable costs that account for over 80% of the COP (cost of production) are: feed (50-55%); labor (13-15%); reproduction (11-13%); and replacement animals (10-12%).

Breeders want to have genetic information that relates to variable cost reduction, for their herds and the sires they use in order to use genetics for improving the farm’s bottom line. Even gains of 5% improvement in profit, using genetic information, would be significant.

Why Continue With Global Breed Groups?

Dairy cattle breeding has gone global. Breed research efforts no longer apply to one country, one breed or one breeder organization. Global breed organizations could better serve all areas of the globe by focusing on animal research and development, rather than breed purity, breed superiority or nice tours for breed officials.

Information Needed

Eight areas that breeders will require genetic information on and that breed associations could provide or facilitate are:

  • Breed 5-10 Years in the Future: Most total merit indexes are based on today’s circumstances and each country promotes their own total merit index as the best. Where does that leave breeders who want to be prepared for the future and want to use the best there is globally? It takes three generations or ten years of females to change a herd. Therefore, breeds need to provide leadership on total merit indexes for a decade down the road.
  • Heifers Need to Calve at 20-22 months: Male and female genetic evaluations for growth rates and age at first heat for heifers must be available. The longer it takes until first calving, the longer it will take for cows to show a lifetime profit.  Breed associations need to promote data capture for heifers from birth to first calving.
  • Animal Health and Disease Resistance Must Be Improved: Breed associations need to be promoting that all herds need to be capturing health and disease data at the farm level for both heifers and cows. With accurate data, genetic evaluations can commence. Recent research results indicate an association between genetics and tuberculosis.  Could that be true for leucosis, Johnes, etc.? We don’t know. But we need to know.
  • Labor for Animal Care Must Be Minimized: – For many readers labor may seem like an area where genetics cannot have an effect. However, when we think about how the animals that breeders work with impact how labor is used, it is indeed a significant cost factor.  In the future, individual animal attention for most herds will be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, most breed associations are silent about the relationship between genetic merit and labor required.
  • Milk Composition Needs To Be Addressed: The majority of milk is consumed in a solid form. The world’s population increase will be in the developing countries and there an even higher proportion of consumption will be on the solids side. Unique proteins (i.e. A2A2 Milk) and healthy fats need to be considered when breeding cows. Most breed associations do not store information on the unique properties of a cow’s milk and are not encouraging breeders to consider the components of milk in their breeding program.
  • Reproduction Must Improve: – For most breeders reproductive performance is both the biggest frustration and a big time profit eater. If breeders only wanted a cow to calve once in her lifetime then it would not matter. It is long past time for breed associations to incorporate reproduction information into their data files. Breeders need the facts on family differences for reproduction.
  • Conformation is More Than Beauty: Some progress has been made in moving away from an artistic perception of the breed ideal for type. Nevertheless, it is still quite far from form following function when it comes to most type classification programs. Traits such as style, height at the shoulder, angularity, sweep of rib and smooth blending of parts are still required for the Very Good first calf cow at the expense of a superior mammary system, superior mobility and the ability to function very well in her environment. Type classification programs need to totally divorce themselves from current show ring type standards. (Read more: SHE AIN’T PRETTY – SHE JUST MILKS THAT WAY!)
  • Breeds Need to Publish All The Facts:  Breed associations only publish data that they consider to be official. As well, breeds often charge for every data look up. Is that what tomorrow’s breeders will want and support?  The world has changed. Nothing is exclusive, and information is the driver. The breeding industry is moving more and more to information at the gene level. When will breed organizations provide all the facts, identify the data sources and let the reader determine if they trust the information or not?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

To date, most breed associations have taken the comfortable route and followed tradition. However, tomorrow’s world is coming quickly, and breeds are not reading the signals that breeders are giving regarding the genetic information that they want and need.

Tomorrow’s breeders will not accept the continuation of the outdated practices of their breed associations. The cart is before the horse. It is not about breeders funding a breed association. It’s about the association providing relevant and up-to-date tools and information, in order for dairy breeders to be profitable and sustainable.



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Used Car Salesman, Ducks, and the Future of the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry

If it quacks like a duck, looks like a duck and walks like a duck.…it is usually a goose.  That is how I sometimes feel when I attend certain elite dairy cattle auctions.  You attend some of these high-end auctions, and you see the top prices that some of these animals sell for, and you can’t help but be amazed.  But, something just doesn’t feel right.  You never see a complete buyers list from these sales. Heck, you sometimes don’t even see people actually bidding on these animals. And yet they get knocked down at $200,000+ for a 2-month-old? Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right.  It feels like you have been sold a lemon by a used car salesman. It just feels dirty.

The National Auctioneers Association has the following key codes of conduct that are requirements for membership:

  • Members must not build unreasonable expectations about the outcome of an auction in the mind of a potential Client in order to secure the Client’s business.
  • Members should conduct their business affairs so as to promote a positive image of their business and therefore the auction profession.
  • Members shall provide customers with a clear understanding of all the terms and conditions of the auction.
  • It is highly recommended that Members communicate terms and conditions of the sale in written form prior to the commencement of the bidding.
  • Members should, to assure better service to the seller and to prevent misunderstandings, enter into written agreements or, at a minimum, clear oral agreements that set forth the specific terms and conditions of the engagement.
  • Members have an obligation to conduct their business affairs in a professional manner, developing their contract forms with this Article in mind.
  • Members must ascertain all pertinent facts necessary to implement a professional marketing campaign.

For the most part, some elite dairy cattle genetics auctions in North America are like the Wild West and only choose to adhere to these codes when it suits them.  Things like full disclosure of buyers lists (a must for a public auction), no reserve or agreed upon minimums on lots unless publically disclosed prior to the auction, all monies must be paid out in full at time of sale unless mutually agreed upon by all parties prior to the sale.

There are some egos in the dairy cattle breeding industry that are as big as or even larger than real estate mogul, television superstar, and author Donald Trump. One of the things that has made Donald so rich is his ability to identify and close lucrative deals. The challenge is that in the dairy industry we have some who think they are Donald Trump, but their actions are more similar to a used car salesman.

Personally, I have the theory that ­­the bigger the “show” someone has to put on, the bigger the scam is that they are trying to hide. When the numbers makes sense and the potential investment pencils out well (Read more: The Bullvine Dairy Cow Investment Calculator), you don’t need to put on the extravaganza and make it into a “party” to get people to attend. Discerning investors will attend because that is exactly what good investors do. They buy investments that will make them money.   They don’t need to be plied with booze or schmoozed with parties to get them to open up their wallets. The smart investments do the talking for them.

Don’t get me wrong. There are often times at these sales where the investment makes sense.  That is why you see many AI companies coming and buying these animals.  They have penciled out that the cost of acquisition for these females, combined with the cost of producing elite bulls from this purchase, is a wise investment for their organization.  That is because they have done the math and realize that in the long run the cost of this program combined with the ability to control their own product development is cheaper than continually sourcing their bulls directly from seed stock producers (Read more: SHOULD A.I. COMPANIES OWN FEMALES?,  WHY GOOD BUSINESS FOR A.I. COMPANIES CAN MEAN BAD BUSINESS FOR DAIRY BREEDERS and MASTER BREEDER KILLED IN TRIPLE HOMICIDE).  Unfortunately, in the long run, it is actually a bad thing to sell to these companies as they will be buying less and less from seed stock producers as they produce their own bulls.

For the past few years, I have been writing about this very issue and how it will kill the seed stock industry. (Read more: WAS THE GENOMIC INVESTOR BOOM NOTHING MORE THAN A BIG PONZI SCHEME?WHO KILLED THE MARKET FOR GOOD DAIRY CATTLE? and HOW I KILLED THE DAIRY CATTLE MARKETING INDUSTRY)  However, this past week I was reminded why things may not entirely become controlled by the A.I. industry and other genetic corporations.  As I was visiting Oakfield Corners Dairy for a Bullvine TV Interview (Oakfield Corners Dairy (OCD) – Dairy Breeder Video Interview) prior to their Spring Sensation Sale (The Oakfield Corners Dairy Spring Sensation Sale) I was reminded that all is not doom and gloom for seed stalk producers. There are certain types of seed stalk producers that will not only compete with the large AI companies, they actually have a competitive advantage over them.  That is because they have a cost effective recipient pool. OCD milks over 6,000 dairy cattle. Even the large AI companies cannot compete with that when running their programs that cost upwards of $5,000 per live calf.

The other factor that became evident when I was chatting with the Lamb family, and the team at OCD is that they are just great quality people.  There was no sense that I was being “sold” a bill of goods.  They are great salt of the earth people, who are smart business people running a great business.  I was not being plied with booze, or being talked into joining some buyers group that never materialized.  And that’s probably why when one of the highest GTPI (+2765) heifers, OCD Delta Missy,  did not get knocked down at some ridicules price like $1,000,000 or even $300,000. Instead, she was sold for $190,000 to the Progenesis program from Ontario.  There was not some buyers group that needed to be pulled together after the sale, there was not some deal that had to be worked out afterward.  There was a clear, smart investment at a good price for all parties involved.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

These events have helped rebuild my faith in the elite dairy cattle genetics marketplace.  Sure there are going to be significant challenges, in particular for those running small to mid-size programs when it comes to competing with the large operators and the AI companies.  But it reminded me that even in today’s digital age, where you can see pictures and videos of animals selling in a public auction,  it’s still important to invest with  people you know and trust.  For me ,as a result of my personal dealings, that means people like Brian Craswell Auctions, Ferme Blondin, Pierre Boulet Auctions, Norm Nabholz, MD-Hill Auctions, Kueffner Holsteins, Jeff Stephens, The Cattle Exchange, Tom Morris and Blue Chip Genetics are all people that I know and trust. I don’t get that icky used car salesman sense when dealing with them.  I am not saying that you should only use these people.  What I am saying is work and invest with people that have good reputations. If you don’t know them personally, ask someone who does.  If you don’t get a good sense about it, remember Donald Trump’s famous quote “Sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make”.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old or heifer?
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Are you getting the Maximum Return for your Investment in Dairy Cattle Genetics?

It is a fact that dairy farmers do not need to own animals of documented and high genetic merit in order to produce milk. Many very successful milk producers use sires of more than one crossbreed to rotationally cross their herds. Purebred breeders planning to be profitable in the future should have a clear plan for how they intend investments in high genetic merit animals (aka purebreds) to augment the revenue from their farm.

Go Big or Go Home

The Bullvine has published articles on how to invest wisely in dairy genetics. Bruce Jobson’s article Roybrook Revisited on the famous Roybrook Herd contains Roy Ormston’s thought that “all breeders need to invest in the highest quality seed stock they can afford and life is too short to start with poor stock”. Andrew Hunt’s article “6 Ways to Invest $50,000 in Dairy Cattle Genetics” identifies that the best return on investment (+47%) comes when you invest $20,000 to $25,000 in the two best high genomic heifers you can find from top families. His second best (+38%) is the purchase of the very best, high genetically ranked, two-year-old. ALL other alternatives will yield a negative ROI.  In purely financial terms, you get more for your money by investing only in the best.

 The $10,000 Question

Pennsylvania dairyman John Kiser got the idea to poll dairy breeders on what how they would invest $10,000 in breeding stock.  He posted the following question to the over 3,000 members on The Milk House discussion group.

You have $10,000 to invest in cattle/embryos or semen. Which would you choose?

  1. Buy 50 embryos from genomic heifers” (basically high production commercial cattle)
  2. Buy 20 embryos from an Excellent cow to make show calves
  3. Buy 1,000 straws of semen from various bulls hoping to cash in later (like the folks selling Goldwyn semen)
  4. Buy one young foundation type of cow

Although John called it a hypothetical question, actually it is very relevant. It covers the choices that every breeder faces when investing to improve the genetics in their herd.

The Top 4 Investment Choices

Here is a summary of the first fifty-two responses to John’s $10,000 question:

  1. Embryos from genomic heifers (15%)
  2. Twenty embryos to make show calves (39%)
  3. Invest in 1000 straws hoping to cash in later (10%)
  4. Buy one foundation cow (36%)
  5. (10 responses selected an option other than those offered)

Clearly the majority of respondents from the Milk House survey are not thinking along the same lines as Master Breeder Roybrook and The Bullvine’s recommendations when it comes to getting returns from their investment in genetics. They fall more in line with another Bullvine article “Master Breeders are not Home Run Hitter’.

 Fantastic Opportunity? Or Waste of Money? How do you spend genetic investment dollars?

Although all dairy operations expect a return on investment, when it comes to genetics, the $10,000 question produced a variety of answers in targeting that goal. It is important to weigh the options in terms of success rate. We will look at them ranked on popular choice and then consider the financial implications.

Buy 1000 straws of various bulls hoping to cash in later: Many respondents mentioned that with the quick turnover of bulls these days this practice no longer made business sense.  One person suggested that ‘elite young sires start out at $100+ and likely with only one in fifty, at best, possibly being in demand in 3-5 years this was sure fire way to have a significant negative ROI.

Embryos from Genomic Heifers: Many commented that they, as yet, did not have enough confidence on genomics to go that route. Although many that did not select this option did say it may well be the best choice for the future. No respondents mentioned it, but investing in embryos from multiple heifers spreads the risk and gives the best opportunity to get a high outlier. Some did mention that $200 per embryo seemed low for unsexed embryos from top heifers, but they recognized that bargains could be had. After all, 2400 to 2500 gTPI heifers can produce 2700+ gTPI calves when mated to elite sires.

Buy a young foundation type of cow:  A popular choice for respondents, this option left open to respondent’s interpretation what a foundation cow is. Assuming that would mean a cow with pedigree, production, classification, cow family and genetic appeal it is a practice many breeders may be most comfortable with when it comes to building the genetic level in their herd. It also has the limiting factor, as some respondents mentioned, of having only one cow and cow family for the herd. As far as ROI, The Bullvines calculations, referred to previously, show an ROI of -77% for this option.

Embryos from an Excellent cow to produce Show Calves: The fact that this was the most popular choice identified that the majority of group members responding were thinking in traditional terms of breeding and generating revenue. None mentioned that only the very best show calves now command the top dollars and that many showy calves from Excellent dams sell in sales for under $3,000. Remember it cost $2,500 to get a heifer to milking age. For what is happening to sale prices consider reading An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions and An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013. Another fact mentioned by one respondent was the fact that putting all your eggs in one basket (one Excellent cow) may not be the wisest decision.

Other Options: 20% of respondents mentioned that they would use the $10,000 differently with the majority preferring to purchase two high genomically indexing heifers that have the indexes and are sound for conformation but they could be the least fancy heifer of a flush. And yes a couple of respondents mentioned using the dollars elsewhere including for other farm improvements or farm family purposes.

Keys to Genetic ROI Success

Success is not something that is automatic when it comes to breeding a top individual animal or an entire herd. Where once breeders determined their success in terms of a single individual animal, success has now moved to where it is not only about animals but also about business success (ROI).

Some keys to being successful in the future are likely to include:

  1. Be prepared for the industry to change as much in the next five years as it has in the past twenty years. The demand for genetics will be focused on the top 1 to 5%.
  2. Have a documented plan covering genetics, marketing and finances as measured by profit. (Read more: What’s the plan?, Flukes and Pukes – What Happens When You Don’t Have a Plan)
  3. Your plan needs to be dynamic, fit your farm, include the continual incorporation of new technology and contain a chapter on human resources to achieve the plan.
  4. A business plan for genetic ROI success also includes using opportunity, consideration of risk and keeping costs under control.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The sale of genetics from your herd in the next few years will change if it has not already done so.  It will be about selling superior not average genetics. Investing for your future returns from genetics needs to be all about business.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old or heifer?
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It is difficult to have a diet that is rich in all the components needed for healthy living. Many, including myself, turn to supplements to make up for what’s lacking in our diets. Modern food producers are looking for new ways to add nutrients to food products. This value-added is taking interesting turns in the milk production industry.

Adding supplements to food is not a new idea.

For almost 100 years, Vitamin D has been added to commercial cow’s milk in response to the rise in malnourished children and adults with insufficient amounts of this essential nutrient in their diets. Today another nutritional shortcoming of the Western diet has been identified. Despite having plentiful amounts of fat, the Western diet is lacking in a specific group of fatty acids called omega-3s, touted for their benefits to heart and brain health. Food manufacturers have started fortifying commonly consumed foods, including breads, cereals, and eggs, with these essential fatty acids.

The Benefits of DHA

One crucial fatty acid, is the omega-3 derivative, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

The benefits of consuming DHA omega-3 are


  • Enhanced cognitive function and learning ability in children
  • Benefits for children with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


  • Lowering the risk of developing cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s diseases
  • Lessening severity of depression.

The diet of mothers affects the content of DHA in breast milk. Adequate supplies of DHA are required for infant development.

Making up for the Shortfall

Supplementing the diets of food producing livestock with DHA-rich microalgae sources has successfully produced DHA-enriched meat and milk from livestock such as pigs and poultry. Now focus has turned to ruminants and the production of DHA-enriched food.

Cow’s milk is picking up Omega-3s in more ways than one

Milk produced by today’s dairy cattle has less omega-3 fatty acids than in the past when all livestock was pasture based. For this reason, researchers are looking to add the Omega 3s to dairy cattle diets with the intent of raising the proportion of healthy fats in the milk produced.

Studies Are Reporting Significant Results

Studies in 2008 (Boeckaert et al.) and 2012 (Stamy et al.) have examined the effects of feeding algal meal, high in DHA, on feed intake, enteric methane production, and milk parameters.  It has been demonstrated that feeding algal meal may inhibit voluntary dry matter intake and reduce milk fat concentrations (Moate et al., 2013).

Results from a Trial Study in Italy

In a recent trial in Italy, researchers examined the effects of feeding algal meal (Algae STM) on milk production and milk composition of lactating dairy cows. Maurice Boland (Alltech) reports as follows:

“The study was carried out with 36 Italian Friesian dairy cows in their average-late stage of lactation. Cows were allocated into two homogenous groups of 18 animals each, where the treated group received the supplementation (6 g/kg DMI) of the test product for 84 consecutive days mixed into one component of the TMR (corn meal), while the control group had received the same amount of corn meal without a test product.

The results of the study showed that the treatment with algal meal did not change the body condition scores and live weight tended to be a little higher for those cows. . Specifically “Milk protein content and production, lactose content and production, urea and somatic cell count were unaffected. The algal meal (Algae STM) significantly affected the milk fatty acid profile, increasing milk DHA (% of FA) from 0 to 0.37%. The researchers concluded that algal meal fed in a TMR to dairy cows enriched milk with beneficial DHA and increased conjugated linoleic acid. Milk yield increased; while milk fat and fat production declined without significant change in four percent fat corrected milk.”

DHA inclusion in the diet could also increase reproductive efficiency in the herd.

Another happily anticipated side effect is that, in addition to the benefits for animal and human health, DHA could help bovine reproduction. Maurice P. Boland is the research director for Alltech. He reports that current studies using DHA in lactating cows are aimed at enhancing the quality of the uterine epithelium that could modify and attenuate the release of prostaglandin F-2a. This could ensure a higher pregnancy rate because of the better maternal recognition of pregnancy and the subsequent maintenance of pregnancy.  The implications are huge for the dairy industry. Better reproduction starts the process off better, and laboratory studies are confirming that there could also be benefits in the post-pregnancy health of dairy cattle that receive DHA.

DHA Improves Immune Function of Dairy Cattle

After dairy cows deliver their calves, several immune functions — such as white blood cell proliferation and production of disease-fighting antibodies — are depressed. Recognizing this, the development of new feeding strategies in which the fatty acid composition of the diet is manipulated in order to prevent immune suppression after calving should contribute to decreased infection and disease in dairy cows. Preliminary results in the laboratory indicate that ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) can reduce immune stress as shown by decreased TNF-α (tumor necrosis factor-a) production in cultured blood cells from cows.

If these results can be repeated in the field, then strategic supplementation of early-lactation dairy cows with selected omega-3 PUFA may lead to improved health and reproductive efficiency. Such improvements could represent an annual savings of over $2 billion dollars through improved reproductive efficiency and reduced veterinary costs for treatment of postpartum metabolic disorders. These savings would undoubtedly improve the sustainability and profitability of U.S. dairy operations.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

One hundred years ago adding Vitamin D to milk had a profound impact on human nutrition. Modern dairy research is taking strides in further increasing the nutritional value of milk. As that process builds, much is being learned about making a positive contribution to the health, reproduction and performance of dairy cattle. It’s a winning formula that starts at the farm feed bunk and continues to enhance nutrition beyond the kitchen table.



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Oakfield Corners Dairy (OCD) – Dairy Breeder Video Interview

While many genetic programs are finding it hard to compete with the large A.I. companies that is not the challenge for Oakfield Corners Dairy (OCD), located in New York not far from Niagra Falls and operated by Alicia and Jonathan Lamb.  The challenge many programs have is that the expense and challenge of finding recipients becomes too large, and they cannot compete with the level of investment made by some of the large A.I. companies.  At OCD, they have a recipient pool of over 6,000 cows as part of the large three dairies run by Lamb Farms.   This provides OCD with the ability to implant over 4,000 embryos per year.

The Bullvine caught up with Alicia and Jonathan Lamb as well as key OCD team members Kelly Lee and Adam Dresser, just before their Spring Sensation Sale tomorrow. (Click here to view the online catalog)




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The KEY TO SUCCESSFUL DAIRY FARMING: Remember what your Mother Always Said!

Here at the Bullvine we spend a lot of time reporting on and recognizing achievements in the dairy industry.  Dinner table conversations often revolve around those who are successful leaders who spark our minds, touch our hearts and make us smile. It is only logical that we all have opinions on how these exceptional people rise to this level of recognition in the dairy industry.  One thing we all agree on is that it isn’t as simple as putting on a three-piece suit and carrying a leather briefcase. In my opinion, those who aspire to the pinnacle of dairy success, must recognize that, as in the genetic side of the dairy industry, success has a lot to do with who your Mother is. By that I mean it depends on what your Mother always says!  (Whenever I say this at home it causes excessive eye-rolling!)

According to my firstborn son and his two siblings, two things that are even more certain than “death and taxes” are me and my clichés. According to them, their mother is “faster than a speeding bullet” in whipping out the appropriate cliché to illustrate truths, design action plans or to prove the inevitability of daily conspiracy theories. No doubt you join them in noticing that in my writing for the Bullvine, clichés are “as thick as hair on a dog!” Whenever I urge them to “think outside the box”, they quickly respond that I have to stop clinging to jargon that no longer means anything in the modern world of dairy business. However, for me “Mother always said….” is a proven preface for discovering pearls of wisdom that I learned from my mother and that should never be forgotten as you seek success in dairying.

Mother always said, “There’ll never be a better time than right now!”

Waiting for the perfect time, conditions or horoscope isn’t going to make as big a difference in your situation as actually getting started will. There is positive momentum in every move forward. Furthermore mother knows that the place to start is where you are at today.  You cannot start where the previous generation ended off.  You cannot start where your successful neighbor already is. Know where you are in the growth cycle of your business. When you know where you are right now, you can decide where you want to be.  The difference between the two places is YOU! Take a hard look in the mirror and then get started at narrowing the gap.

Of course, you quickly recall the nuggets of wisdom gleaned from your Mother and hurry to speak up with one my mother used quite often.

Mother always said, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Words can be positive, giving encouragement and praise, or negative, delivering complaints, criticism or excuses.  But, at the end of the day, words alone cannot get the job done. You can’t talk a calving, a milking line or feeding program into a success.  Good managers focus on doing the right jobs.  They are NOT looking after the fact for excuses for failure. They are constantly looking forward and acting on their priorities.

Mother always says, “A loud noise denotes an empty head.”

Sometimes we build our courage with a lot of explanation, talking and excuses.  However, too much talk can hold back your business.  Of course, talk goes both ways, and we can be negatively impacted by listening to too much real or perceived criticism.  And then there are always some dairy managers are comfortable with the talking and planning but lag when it comes to actually putting a plan into action.

So now you see Mother’s wisdom, and you assure her that, “Good things come to those who wait!” WRONG!  Good things come to those who work their backsides off and never give up!

Mother always said, “Smart is as Smart does!”

It is a trend in farm families today that the younger generation is seeking education to support their agriculture careers.  My grandfather loved to say, “These kids have more degrees than a thermometer.” But, once again, mother wants the degree to do more than take up space on the wall. She knows that the real test of smart dairy farming depends on the choices you make. Those choices better be well thought out and analyzed before you make them. It will only be smart if it moves your dairy toward the goals you are trying to achieve.

Mother always said, “Hard work is the key to success.”

Mother didn’t believe in waiting around for something good to happen, “Don’t wish for it.  Work for it!”  It wasn’t good enough to submit a wish list or hope that Santa Claus would fulfill every longing.  If it meant something to us to have it, we had to be prepared to put in the work.  Many a dream (and even a horse or two) was built on the back of back-breaking work, whether it was on our own farm or picking strawberries, cucumbers, tomatoes.  It’s great to have more money, more land, more help.  But more successful farmers start pulling ahead of the rest by investing more “sweat equity” every day!!

Mother always said, “What goes around comes around.”

Whether you are dealing with crop prices or sale prices on calves, cows and bulls, if you’re in the dairy industry for the long haul you will see that there is a cycle to most things.  Discerning farmers don’t make huge capital investments on the basis of one good year. They also don’t sell when a tough year or two (or more) rears its ugly head. My father was a home builder, and he prepared for a seven-year cycle, always making sure that he had something “salted away for a rainy day”.

Mother always said, “Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

You wouldn’t be blamed if you felt that tough times seem to hit the dairy industry repeatedly.  There are even those who foretell the demise of this dairy company, that dairy sector or even the whole industry.  But “the past foretells the future! So rest assured there will always be dairy farmers but it will mean they will be the ones who toughen up.

To some, being tough might mean backstabbing or working over enough people to make it to the top.  This isn’t the kind of toughness mom was talking about. She means the toughness that sees you through hard times and even failure.  When you ask yourself, “Where do I go from here?” Mother’s toughness refers to having the courage to take control and triumph over adversity through your core strength that is built on integrity, personal honesty, and accountability.

Mother always said, “If everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you?”

Don’t follow the crowd.  You’ve got to stand up to stand out says Mother.  Just because it worked for someone else … or nobody else…. It only matters, if you let it stop you. Farmers are well known for talking over the fence, in the barn alley or on “The Milk House”. The best conversations are the ones that lead to actions.  There’s no real value in seeking out confirmation for what you are already doing. While it’s affirming to be part of a large group, it’s really important to make sure that “everybody’s doing it” doesn’t become your recipe for failure. Habit patterns and ways of thinking become deeply engrained.  It seems easier to follow the crowd than to cope with change. Before you jump off the cliff, do some independent thinking and research. Realize your own dreams.

Mother always said, “A woman’s work is never done!”

Having seriously considered the preceding motherly steps to success, you have a list that could truly help you on your road.  There are purpose and priority to everything on her list.  When you know why you do what you do, you’ll end up getting a lot more done but remember Mother’s message — not only for women but for every dairy manager – “work is never done!” Being “done” is a terrible myth.  Seeking to be finished stresses out many people.  And yet there’s absolutely no need for it.  Simply “do what you love and love what you do!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If you want to develop an eye for cows, and a head for the dairy business, you’ve got to start with your ears! The wisdom to see you rise to the top is out there.  Sometimes it comes disguised as a cliché from Mother that, if you really listen, makes a whole lot of sense.  In conclusion, always remember Mother’s bottom line:  “If you can list what you’ve done, you haven’t done enough! And, at the end of the day, “If at first you don’t succeed —– try doing it the way she told you to in the first place!”



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Kids and Calves Grow Better Together!

Do you want kids who are confident?  Kids who are responsible, hardworking and reliable?  Are your kids able to communicate their future goals?  Do they openly share their experiences and express their questions and concerns? If you answered, “Yes!” to any of these questions, maybe your kids need a calf project! The hypothesis is that doing a good job of raising one, will set a pattern for raising the other.


Dairy managers understand the importance of getting dairy calves off to a good start if they are to fulfill their potential later in life. The same is true of children.  The ultimate success is realized in dairy operations when young from both sides of the farm have the opportunity to work, learn and grow to their fullest potential….together!


Raising a Calf brings Respect for All Ages and Stages

A united front. Dairy families wake together and work together and during those days there is a joining of different viewpoints and experiences that  teaches them early on that there are many ways to get to the goal and often it is better, easier and faster when all minds chip in to make a plan.  It is also where the legends begin: “When I was a kid, I remember the time …..”  Soon they will have their own stories to chime in with. For siblings, it’s a great way to have them teach and learn from each other. Getting an early start happens when they watch older kids working at home, training their calves and showing them. This builds respect and trust between all ages.


Showring Success for Calves and Kids Starts at the Farm!

The work must be done first. For kids doing chores builds a repertoire of experience that will help them deal with whatever situation arises in the ring. For calves, the repetition and familiarity of working with their child handler further reduces the expectation of something unusual happening on show day. There is much to learn:  proper set-up; dealing with crowd noises; unfamiliar animals in nearby proximity. At the end of the day, there may still be problems.  The elusive trophy is not within reach.  Sometimes that means teaching your child about courage. That can be as simple as them learning from example and experience to say, “I will try again tomorrow!”


Learning to Weather the Hard Times is a Base to Build on.

This is when parental courage must step in to avoid taking over the project in order to “guarantee” success.  When we as parents cover up a child’s work with our own, we are teaching them that their best isn’t good enough. You have to lose to appreciate winning.


Let them learn from their mistakes. And then occasionally success may seem to come easily.  Success brings the other half of a valuable lesson: “Don’t let your victories go to your head or your failures to your heart!” Winning it all in year one, without putting in the effort can be a recipe for future failure.


Practicing Grace Under Pressure

The first lesson.  “The Judge is always right!”  Kids learn that the final lineup is just one judge’s opinion, but it is the only one that counts on show day. Part of the showring learning experience is that great kids learn to walk in other shoes.  They see the competition from the judges’ perspective and realize they must stand out from the crowd.  They watch other kids and learn from them.  They watch new kids and give them help.  Great kids learn to keep smiling even when the animal is acting impossible. Great kids learn to appreciate when their calf is doing its best under unfamiliar conditions. There is always something to appreciate.  Finishing the class.  Being a gracious winner and, even more importantly, learning to be a gracious loser. Great kids are always considerate of the calf, and they always thank the Judge.


Being Consistent is Good for Kids and Great for Calves

Consistently repeated routines of feeding, housing and handling build a firm foundation for future productive milking cows.  Calves learn to trust their human handlers, and this is invaluable when dealing with the events of their lives from breeding to calving to showing and all the myriad logistics of dairy cattle handling.  This nature of oft repeated and refined skills teaches kids too.  Over time, they learn how important it is to be consistent.  Whether it’s holding on to a halter or feeding their calf or clipping or training, kids learn that must be done with consistency. Even more important …. Never give in or give up.  This not only ensures success with your calf project, but it contributes to success in life as well.


Setting goals and aiming for possibilities. Kids and Calves need benchmarks.

Every calf born has potential. From picking a name to hearing that name called in the showring, taking responsibility for a calf is a process that is great for the calf and the kid. From the first time around the barnyard with a halter, the process is one of excitement.  From the short term goal of drinking from a bottle to eating grain, to halter training …. And loading up for the Fair.


Learning Good Judgment

Great kids learn early that they must focus on the calf. Depending on the teamwork between the kid and the calf they will enjoy the celebration and pride of achievement. Some are great at managing a frisky calf (overcoming the fear of being dragged), keeping heads up (calf and handler) and watching the judge.  Some just love the experience and find that is reward enough.  Furthermore, great kids learn from the whole process, which sets a good pattern to draw on in other areas of their life.  The same pattern setting is positive for calves too!


Kids accepting responsibility.  Calves on an aggressive growth path.

It takes a year to earn the rewards of a well-trained and cared for show calf. Kids work 365 days to feed and prepare for that short viewing by a judge in the show ring.  It may seem inconsequential to have someone else feed your calf, clip your calf, train your calf and then step in with style and attitude to take the halter only on show day. But the consequences are enormous.  Lost opportunity for the child.  Lost opportunity for the farm to build new strengths.


Kids who show calves learn how to handle themselves in public. We often hear how hard it is for anyone to speak in public.  Showing their own calf begins the process of learning how to become confident communicators.  The first time they are questioned by a calf Judge or an MC with a microphone, they are will build confidence. The first time they enter the showring at a local fair, they are in a non-threatening, supportive environment.  The “future farmers” class at our local fair has become a featured event, with competitors as young as three years old.  These partners in potential eagerly wait their turn to parade in front of the judge.  A kid-friendly MC gets down to their level.  With the questions about calf age, name and training taken care of, much is revealed to observers about the path this future dairy person took to winning a ribbon. We learn a lot from:  “Mom makes me do it!” to “Dad does the clipping!” The little calf handlers gain confidence in themselves and in the recurring event that will build their self-esteem and their calf-showing abilities. They may not be officially placed in these early events, but they do receive well-deserved recognition for a job well done! A cherished memory from Huntsdale goes back to when Andrew finished his first pre-4-H class. He walked out of the show barn and crossed through crowds on the fairgrounds to enter his calf in the “Pet Show”. He and his calf definitely stood out among the largely dog and cat turnout, and he earned a first place ribbon too!


Learning Good Judgement

Competition is a fact of modern everyday life.  Too often, we try to shield our offspring from the disappointment or effort involved. Yes, you could buy a winning heifer.  You could take over the training or pay an acknowledged expert to do it.  Nothing positive is gained for the child from these scenarios, even if it does capture first place in the line. At the other extreme is the cop out which states, “Just have fun. That’s all that matters.” Once again, that doesn’t build skills. Later on avoiding stress and being in it for the fun won’t pull them ahead in job hunting or problem handling skills. There is only one way to compete.  Give 100%.


Not only Training for Showring Success but Preparing for Success in Life too!

Ultimately the goal is to have a great milk cow.  Trophies and ribbons add color to the journey but, at the end of the day, the dairy business must take first place. That is why there are many young breeders who take justifiable pride in having bred and trained calves that helped finance a college education or gave them a start developing their own herd or both! Both kids and calves need to be trained in practical life skills. The logistics of calf training from chores to walking smoothly on a halter helps with this.  If we allow calves or kids to be unruly when they’re young, we can’t plead surprise when we have a teenager who is out of control.  Early training works for milking lines too.  Learning to obey, listen and follow rules works for children and calves. Make sure they receive the recognition for making their calf project something they can do well at and take responsibility for. Then, when they are out of sight of their parents, the lessons they have learned will see them through other choices.  That is the true reward of growing great kids and great calves.


A Shout-Out to All Dairy Moms and Mentors!

There are many who leave their mark on our herds and our families because of their dedication to dairying. Thankful for others who help influence your kids.  Thankful for those who know calves.  Thankful for the Moms, who wrestled kids, diaper bags, and strollers so that “being at the show” was part of their young children’s life events. So that there is a picture record of the whole family supporting each other. Here again, a pat on the back from Mom is where they learn how great it is to encourage others.  It’s worth the long hours and missing actually seeing the classes, to come home from the show and hear a young voice say, “That was the best day ever!”


The Bullvine Bottom Line

Congratulations to all those who recognize that our dairy future depends on our dairy youth – kids and calves together!!! Raising great calves means you’re giving them training that will prepare them for production as part of your growing herd. Raising great kids means you’re empowering their achievements and growing a family.  Raising both means you’re counting your dairy blessings and achieving dairy dreams!



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Quality Holsteins – Numbers that Still Count – Dairy Breeder Interview

Bullvine TV sat down with the team at Quality Holsteins to see what drives them to their success and what their future plans are.   Watch what they had to say.

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