When genomic testing came on the scene in 2008, it was hoped that genomic results would make possible the identification of new top cow families. That remains a concern for the vast majority of traditional cow family breeders. However, for Alexerin Dairy, owned by the Nixon Family of Manotick Ontario it is a reality. Here is the story of their success despite not being traditional cow family breeders.
Alexerin – High Quality All the Way
Alexerin has been a well managed bottom line focused dairy for many years. Todd (son) joined Ron (father) upon graduating from agricultural college on the 45 cow tie stall purebred operation that Ron had developed converting from a high quality identified grade herd. It has been a fast climb to the top ever since Todd and Erin joined. Today they milk 150 cows in free stalls and parlor with a 200 kgs fat quota utilizing three family members and two full-time and two-weekend female part-time employees. All herd growth, for this 45-year closed herd, has been from within and today is both Leucosis and Johnes free. As well they are strawberry foot rot free, something very few herds can claim. Farm biosecurity and conforming to the requirements for a Canadian Certified Quality Management (CQM) farm demonstrate that Alexerin is committed to producing the healthy milk products that consumers want to buy. In the past five years, Alexerin has ranked as high as #2 on Ontario DHI’s Top Managed Herd list.
The Generations Work Together
All family members are integral to the operation. Erin (Baird), Todd’s wife, Ag Business educated and a former bank commercial lending rep, reports that the incorporation of technology is ongoing at Alexerin. DC305, robotic calf feeding, automated heat detection, 3x milking, and a strict insemination program are already in place. Expanded data capture in the parlor is planned for the future.
Todd and Erin have three young children (1, 3 & 5 years old), so both grandmothers are called upon on an organized regular basis to free time up for Erin to be part of the herd and business management team. Ron now devotes his time to machinery and crops. Todd and Erin much appreciate that Ron has handed over the leadership to them while retaining part ownership and being there to help out. Todd feels that Ron remaining involved has allowed for expansion, where total withdrawal would have required debt retirement instead of expansion.
The prefix Alexerin was chosen by Ron and Judy using the middle names of their two children, Todd Alexander, and Kylie Erin. That prefix continues to fit very well for Todd and his wife, Erin.
Alexerin – Planned and Focused
Goals and targets are in place for all areas. Sires are selected that will produce efficient barn cows. The minimum requirement for sires are high fat plus protein yields supported by functional udders and excellent mobility. Todd gives Erin credit when it comes to sires used based on an organized mating program. Currently, the sires being used are top genomic sires (80+%) and one proven sire, Brewmaster. Forage forms 70% of the TMR diets so producing high-quality forage get priority so that milk production can be maximized while maintaining healthy cows. Calves are housed in outside super huts and fed by robotic feeders. Heifers are in free stalls. Both calf and heifer development is carefully monitored to achieve first calving by 22 months. Milk cows are housed in free stalls, and dry cows are on open dry pack. Milk quota is purchased on a continual basis.
Todd and Erin mentioned to The Bullvine that “we wake up every morning with a distinct set of goals, and since we took over we have been breeding for a certain type of cow, one that may not win in the show ring, but is more than a commercial cow – the cow with the perfect blend of style and milk”. Now that is focused.
How Genomic Testing Got Started
Obviously recognizing their progressive approach to dairy farming, Alexerin’s vet encouraged them to take part in a study of heifers to verify the genomic testing system. It did not take much encouragement as Todd and Erin are always looking for ways to improve. The results were exciting for Alexerin as their Alexerin Oman 993 came out very high. It took awhile for the results to come out, so Oman 993 was already milking in her first lactation and bred back by the time she was identified as elite. With the goal of getting sons to enter A.I., David Eastman of Genervations contacted Alexerin and started working with Todd and Erin after Oman 993 calved for a second time Oman 993 has lived up to her genomic indexes as she is VG88 with all of her four records designated by Holstein Canada as Superior Lactations. Her latest record, calving at 5-10, was (305D) 19,503 kgs (42,985 lbs) milk 4.0%F and 3.2%P.
Hitting the Jackpot
Fast forward to November 2015. A granddaughter, Alexerin Monterey 1504, of Oman 993 topped the Sale of Stars at $170,000. Monterey 1504 has an outstanding DGV +3307 LPI, Pro$2681 and Fat + Protein 186 kgs. Going from unknown to a sale topper, the family has caught the attention of the Holstein breeding world. The owners of the buyer syndicate were impressed with the family and wanted to be in at the start of this potentially great cow family.
Let’s fill in from when Oman 993’s genomic results were publishable to when this granddaughter sold.
Oman 993’s first calf (GP80) sired by Steady has two Superior Lactations as does her second calf (GP83) by Windbrook. During 993’s second lactation she was started to be flushed. So far her best flush mate has been SuperSire with four very high indexing daughters and two sons in A.I. The four Supersire daughters have projected or completed 2-year-old records that average (305D) 14,843 kgs (32,718 lbs) milk 3.7%F & 3.2%P. In actual terms, they, on average, produce 7.4 lbs of fat plus protein per day. As well on the December 2015, CDN genetic index lists Oman 993, and her Supersire daughters were rated at #1, #2 and #5 for protein, #6 for fat and #8 for milk. Given all that, maybe The Guinness Books of Records should look into recognizing the family as top in the world.
Today Oman 993 is the #2 Oman in the world. And it very interesting to see that her Supersire daughters have the #1 Oman, Seagull-Bay Oman Mirror, on the paternal side of their pedigree. Oman 993 is the sixth generation born from a first calf heifer, calving at 1-10, 1-09, 2-04, 1-10, 2-00 and 2-00. That’s great heifer growth and age at first calving, and you don’t see that very often. As well another thing you don’t see often is a family, like Oman 993’s, that consistently genomically indexes high for heel depth. Todd does the hoof trimming for the herd and noted that he has yet to find a sole ulcer in the family.
Oman 993 can be described as every breeder’s dream. You start using a new tool, genomic testing, and you find you have a breed outlier who’s DGVs exceeds her pedigree index by an astronomical amount. Her Buckeye dam was a good herd cow with very good milk, but Oman 993 got great genes from her parents for fat and protein yield. After finding this out, it encourages you to use all improvement tools to the fullest extent. In Alexerin’s case, they went from only type classifying once in the first lactation to re-scoring all animals as they improve in type as they mature. Using all herd improvement tools to their maximum has added greatly to their dairy farm’s net value.
Family Well Respected
Now let’s ‘talk cow’ for a moment.
Brian Craswell, who co-managed and auctioneered the Sale of Stars, described Oman 993 as follows “I just love this family. They are outstanding barn cows. Someday this Oman may be scored Excellent, and definitely her SuperSire daughters have more points in them.” Craswell continues “Here is a family that meets the requirements of many many breeders. They have very high production and excel for fertility and functionality. All this while being housed and fed with the rest of the herd. I would love to have half my herd made up of that cow family” In other words the family members are not show winners, but they are big time winners when it comes to profitable lifetimes. They are the kind of cows that the majority of dairy breeders want to have in their herds. Dann Brady of Ferme Blondin agrees “Alexerin used the systems available to create a cow family that works for them and is also something that many breeders are looking for.” (Read more: FERME BLONDIN “Passion with a Purpose Builds Success”, Ferme Blondin – “Built on Teamwork” – Dairy Breeder Video Interviews and 10 Tips for Purchasing Dairy Cattle Embryos
Dave Eastman, the former owner of Genervations and a partner in Vogue, thinks highly of the family. “I have been telling people about the family for a while. Alexerin has brought attention to the family by consigning top family members to the Sale of Stars. Breeders and studs visited the farm prior to the sale and saw for themselves – seeing is believing. You cannot help but be enthused when you see the family in their working clothes – give them the feed and environment – no fuss just take the money to the bank.”
The success does not stop with the sale topper. Also sold in the Sale of Stars was Alexerin Capital Gain 1488, DGV +3270 LPI, Pro$ 2384 and Fat + Protein 185 kgs. Her dam is Alexerin Supersire 1338 a full sister to the dam of the sale topper. It could be that 1488 will also be a winner for her new owners, Vogue Cattle Co.
Will this be a New Top Family for the Breed?
Today we cannot say for sure that the Oman 993 family will continue to be a breed leader in the future. Nevertheless, the chances are that we have not heard the last from this family. At this time, Oman 993 is definitely one of a kind. Her four high indexing SuperSire daughters are now milking very well in their first lactations and classifying well. Confirming Brian Craswell’s thought “…. the SuperSires have more points in them yet”. Add to this the fact that these Supersires have many many daughters by top genomic sires including AltaSpring, Capital Gain, High Octane, Kingboy, Lottomax, Main Event, Monterey, and Pulsar. In fact, since the sale topper Monterey 1504 has seven full sisters at Alexerin and a full brother on his way to Cogent, it would seem to be for sure that the story has just begun. It is true that the family is not backed by the many generations of Very Good and Excellent cows that more traditional breeders believe is necessary for a family to be outstanding. However, it is becoming clear that we may just be seeing the start of a cow family that 21st-century dairy breeders will consider to be their ideal.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Great people, a very well-managed dairy farm, and functional high-profit lifetime cows have all come together at Alexerin Dairy. Their leading cow family burst into the limelight as a result of the decision to start genomic testing of heifers. This cow family came about as a result of many generations of identification and grading up and using plus proven sires. The family has moved to the top of the breed status by using top genomically indexed sires in the last three generations.
IT IS A PLAN AND DREAM COME TRUE. A plan that involved using systems and information to make wise progressive decisions. The outstanding result was not expected, maybe even unusual. However, getting results from hard work, focused breeding, and a clear vision are the keys to Alexerin’s success.