Before the recent Kueffner Kows at Cowtown Sale Horace Backus, commented that he had never seen anything like it in all his years! “The quality of every animal and the homebred breeding was just so good. Just before the sale started, I took a moment to walk through one of the lines of cows while it was quiet and everyone was already gathered in the tent. I stood looking at a line of maybe 40 animals, and thought I was standing at Madison seeing that many great cows all together.” These comments reminded me of the ones he made before the 1998 Hanover Hill Dispersal where Horace said, “In the history of the Holstein Breed, there have only been four or five herds that have created a distinct blood herd. Today we are selling a distinct bloodline herd.” This got me think will there ever be another distinct bloodline herd?
Over the years, the marketplace has changed greatly. The improvements in technology have been incredible. It is now easier than ever to market, compare and transport your genetics to anywhere in the world. To get a better understanding how each of these will play into the potential of having another distinct bloodline, we decided to take a closer look at each one.
In the era of Hanover Hill era buyers did come in person from around the world. The world has changed greatly with the Internet. I often wonder what a great marketer like Peter Heffering would have done in today’s time. The ability to market to a much larger audience through the internet and Facebook is expanding the marketplace. You are no longer just selling to the person next door or in the same country or the few who are able to travel to buy. You are often selling to people half way around the world. And more importantly than where they are, is how quickly and easily you can reach them. You no longer have to run magazine ads in each country’s major breed magazine. Today you simply post a quick smartphone picture, or better yet video, on your Facebook page and share it with the world.
One of the things that contributed greatly to each country or region having its own distinct bloodlines was that the ability to compare performance data on in each country presented challenges. In previous generations, it was hard enough getting everyone to talk in the same units (ex. Lbs. vs. kgs.) let alone the fact that they had different methods of evaluating things. Then came Interbull and MACE proofs. That started to open up the marketplace, but for some the confidence in the MACE system was not there and for the most part most countries still had regionalized breeding and evaluating systems. Then came genomics that has given breeders around the world the confidence no matter where the bull was proven to use him on their cattle. We now see that there is no longer a negative stigma in North America on foreign proven bulls. Moreover, many of the great international cow families are gaining significant respect in the North American marketplace, especially as sons of these cattle have proven themselves well on the North American genetic base.
All the great marketing and evaluation systems in the world mean nothing if you cannot get the genetics to the consumers. Artificial insemination had a drastic impact on the ability of breeders to develop distinct bloodlines. Instead of just running your own breeding program where you sell the odd breeding bull, artificial insemination meant that when you sold that bull to an AI center, he would now be able to reach the world market. With AI companies also becoming less regional or country focused and more world focused, that meant you could sell a bull in Chicoutimi Quebec and his semen could be used in Kamifurano Japan. Breeders no longer had to develop their own bloodlines and could draw on the best bloodlines from around the world. Furthermore, as embryo transfer technology advanced you could also import and export embryos and further accelerate your breeding programs.
Today breeding herds like De-Su limit the amount of genetics they sell and AI organizations like Select Sires are entering the female animal ownership side in order to develop a distinct product in the marketplace. Nevertheless, I truly feel that with the overall changes in the global marketplace we have a much more level playing field through evaluation systems and technology and, therefore, it is highly unlikely that we will see the achievement of a distinct bloodline at the level reached by Hanover Hill.