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Select Sires – Sire Tour 2016

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

In a Bullvine video exclusive join Select Sires Holstein Sire Analysts, Kevin Jorgensen & Herby Lutz, as they tours us through some of the top proven sires at Select Sires.  Including MOGUL, SUPERSIRE, MONTROSS, IRWIN & VALENTINO.  See these amazing bulls as the parade around the Kellgren Center.

MOUNTFIELD SSI DCY MOGUL  "Mr Customer Satisfaction" - The Modern Day Elevation

“Mr Customer Satisfaction” – The Modern Day Elevation

SEAGULL-BAY SUPERSIRE #1 NM sire in the breed A very special sire in the history of Select Sires Inc.

#1 NM sire in the breed
A very special sire in the history of Select Sires Inc.

BACON-HILL MONTROSS-ET One of the youngest sires to receive an official proof in history. The next great impact sire from Select Sires Inc.

One of the youngest sires to receive an official proof in history. The next great impact sire from Select Sires Inc.

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Categories : A.I. Industry

What started as The Battle for A.I. Supremacy back in July 2013, has seen many changes in the power struggle when it comes to sire lineups. Many of the smaller A.I. units have been purchased by larger genetic players, and the rate of change has accelerated considerably. Let’s see who has come out on top this year and who has fallen behind in the genetics race.



Select Sire’s dominance in the top genomic line-ups back in 2013 has helped them almost double the number of proven sires in the top 50.  Select has gone from a respectable 20% to sheer domination of the list with 52% of the sires.  While Select’s fortune shines as a result of their early adoption of elite genomic sires, ABS has suffered from not targeting these elite sires three years ago. As a result, they went from the strongest player with 28% of the market than to today’s discouraging record which shows that they have none in the top 50.


Continuing to work with what has been successful, and maybe seeing what has happened to ABS over the past few years, Select is not resting on it laurels and continues to invest heavily in providing the top Genomic TPI sires as well.  Also making significant investments in the high gTPI genomic sires, is Sexing Technologies, as they very aggressively seek to grow market share through product development.


Never in history has the breeding industry seen one force as dominant as Select Sires is today when it comes to genetic offerings.  Smart investments in procuring the bloodlines that make great sires has lead Select Sires to a 42% market share in the top TPI sires.  That is an increase of over 17% over three years ago and 28% higher than the next strongest TPI lineup at Semex.  ABS’s late change in implementing a genomic sire strategy has seen their once 2nd most potent TPI list fall to be tied for #6.



Select Sires’ progressive genomic approach back in 2013 has helped them maintain the lead in the top NM$ proven sires lists.  Conversely, ABS’s lack of aggressive procurement back in 2013 of top NM$ genomic sires has seen their 27% market share of proven sires drop to 8%.

TOP NM genomic SIRES

Select Sires continues their aggressive development and procurement of top genomic NM$ sires.  Also stepping up their programs is Sexing Technologies that has increased their share from 6% back in 2013 to 16% now.


What was once boasted as reflecting the great balance among the top A.I. organizations back in 2013 has now become a one horse race with Select Sires possessing 40% of the top NM$ sires in the world.  All other organizations have seen their share decline, except for Sexing Technologies, which has seen their market share triple to 9% on the strength of an aggressive genomic program.



Taking over the reigns as the top proven sire lineup for PTAT is Semex.  They have seen their 30% market share of the top genomic sires for PTAT back in 2013 become 30% share of the top proven sires in 2016.  Similarly, former #1 proven PTAT line up of Select Sires has fallen from 36% back in 2013 to 24% now, reflective of their 28% genomic market share back in 2013.  Due to the dominance that Semex and Select hold in procuring these top sires, it is now a two-horse race, with no other organization having over 10% market share of the top proven PTAT sires.


Seeing that a strong genomic PTAT line up is the best way to achieve a strong proven sire lineup, Semex has upped its game to now possess the strongest gPTAT line up in the world.  Flip flopping with Semex, Select continues to maintain a very strong lineup with the two organizations having almost 60% of the top sires and no other stud with more than 12% (ABS Global).


Although it had been a relatively dominant win for Select Sires back in 2013, it is now Semex that possesses the strong PTAT lineup.  The other clear point is that when breeding for type, it is a two horse race with no other stud owning more than 9% of the top PTAT sires.



While Polled was not included in our lists back in 2013, there is no question the larger studs have taken notice.  Today, the likes of dairybullsonline, that once had 20% of the top Polled sires, now find themselves with less than 5%.  (Note: for list we used the top 50 TPI polled sires)

R&W White


R&W sires are still the one area that has been the most diverse when it comes to the list of ownership by the top organizations. Select Sires looks to be changing that, going from 14% when we first looked at this back in 2014 to 32% currently. (Read more: Stud Wars: Episode II – April 2014)  This is a result of purchasing GenerVations that had the third strongest R&W line up back in 2014. (Note for list we used the top 50 PTAT R&W Sires)

The Bottom Line

TOP proven

The timely move to an extremely aggressive genomic program three years ago has taken Select Sires from 26% share in 2013 to a very dominant 42% today.  Benefiting from the 2nd strongest genomic line up back in 2013 has lead to Semex going from 8% market share to now possessing over 17%.  As a result of a genomic program that accounted for less than 8% of the top sires in 2013, ABS Global has gone from 18% market share of the top proven sires in 2013 to 5% currently.

TOP genomic

With these results Select Sires and Semex have seen from their previous investments in top genomic sires now becoming top proven sires, so it’s no surprise that they continue to be the biggest investors in top genomic sires.  A dark horse that is coming on very strong in recent years is Sexing Technologies that now possesses the third strongest genomic sire lineup at 14%. This is up from 6% back in 2013.

TOP overall

What was once a strong force with 28% of the top sires in the world, Select Sires has grown its dominance to where they now possess 33% of the top sires.  Semex continues to hold steady with the 2nd strongest sire line up with 18% share.  The biggest mover in this Star Wars episode is  Sexing Technologies that has gone from the 7th most potent lineup and 4% share back in 2013 to 4th strongest and a 9% share.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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Select Sires commitment to success began 50 years ago when four cooperatives, owned and managed by dairy and beef producers, began working together to achieve more than any individual cooperative could accomplish.

Built of the shared belief that “Your Success in Our Passion”, Select Sires and its federation have delivered products and services that have helped dairy and beef producers reach their goals. This has led to the fact that today more dairy and beef producers “Select America’s Best” more often than any other provider.

To celebrate 50 years of Select Sires helping the cattle industry reach new heights, Select hosted a celebration attended by past and present employees, media, and industry leaders to celebrate their anniversary. David Thorbahn CEO of Select Sires acted as the master of ceremonies introducing visitors from Japan, World Wide Sires, LT Governor of OH, and past general manager Richard Chichester. Memories from employees, board members from the past 50 years put Select’s passion and commitment on display for all those in attendance. The attendees were treated to a unique video presentation showing the history of the organization.















































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Categories : A.I. Industry

In an exclusive interview the Bullvine, David Thorbahn – President and CEO of Select Sires Inc sits down and chats with us about their 50 years, the achievements they have made, and the challenges that face them going forward.  Managing the largest artificial insemination co-operative in the world is not easy.  David’s shares with use how he became manager, the challenges he faces as well as advice to those who aspire to one day achieve similar success.  Watch this video and find out just what makes Select Sires special and why investing in top quality genetics from great people is the best decision you can make for your dairy operation.



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The Bullvine caught up with Charlie Will, Holstein Program Manager for Select Sires to discuss his 40+ years with Select Sires, their sire programs, and the many impact sires they have had over the years.  Charlie has been involved with the selection and sampling of some of the greatest bulls in the history of the Holstein breed.  In this exclusive interview with the Bullvine Charlie shares with us how he career got started, the turning point that rocketed him down the road to success as well as shares with us the they story behind the greatest bulls Select Sires has ever sampled, and just what sires are the next generation of impact sires.  Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from one of the best in the business as he shares with us his advice and experience.



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Select Sires – Sire Tour 2015

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2015

In a Bullvine video exclusive join Select Sires Holstein Program Manager, Charlie Will, as he tours us through some of the top proven sires at Select Sires.  Including PLANET, MOGUL, EPIC, GOLD CHIP and BRADNICK.  See these amazing bulls as the parade around the Kellgren Center.



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Categories : A.I. Industry
TAG by ST-2000

Juan Moreno (Co-CEO Sexing Technologies), Maurice Rosenstein (Co-CEO Sexing Technologies), Natalia Rodrigues (Vice-President TAG), Patrice Simard (President TAG)


More and more over recent years we have seen smaller A.I. companies being purchased by larger genetic organizations.  Most recently the world’s fastest growing dairy genetics company, Trans America Genetics (TAG), has been acquired by Sexing Technologies (ST) the world leader in sex-sorted semen.  (Read more: TAG Acquired by Sexing Technologies) We sat down with the executives of both these organizations to understand the artistry of this deal.

Patrice Simard (President TAG) and wife Natalia Rodrigues (Vice President TAG)

Patrice Simard (President TAG) and wife Natalia Rodrigues (Vice President TAG)

Patrice Simard, President Trans America Genetics

TBV: How did this deal come about?

P.S.: It came about as the result of some discussion we have had over the years.  We have known Juan Moreno for quite some time now, even before we launched TAG.  We have always been watching and inquiring about what Sexing Technologies has been doing. We always valued Juan as  person, as a visionary, for the great work he has been doing, and what he brings to this industry.  One discussion leading to another, we started to realize that there were certain synergies between TAG and ST that were very complimentary to one another, and that triggered some deeper discussions.

TBV: How does this affect the TAG brand?

P.S.: It is a mutual feeling that the brand and the name we have been able to develop here at TAG is partly what triggered ST’s interest in acquiring TAG. ST has some very high-quality products, high gTPI and gLPI genomic sires that are comparable, if not better, to the kind of products the TAG brand has been associated with. The plan is to maintain the name, with the addition of by ST at the end, TAG by ST. The name TAG has been well established in many markets and offers a premium brand to the ST offerings. Sexed semen has a broad range of marketplaces, but certainly is prevalent in the premium high index market where TAG has been able to ascertain its brand.

TBV: What changes can people expect as a result of this deal?

P.S.: As a result of this deal breeders can expect a much bigger presence of both companies. TAG has done substantially well for the resources that were available.  This arrangement enhances the reach and resources accessible to further build the organization.  The philosophy and the ideology behind the selection and the promotion of sires of the two companies are very similar.  As a result, there should not be any change in direction, but rather an acceleration of the process. This deal make it possible to do even more of what we have already started. In Canada, that means that we now have access to the entire offering of programs, genetics, and sires from both TAG and ST. Obviously this gives TAG an edge and a much larger portfolio to offer our breeders.

TBV: What changes will there be for current staff?

P.S.: The way the deal was structured permitted us to keep all our team into place. The current staff will keep on driving forward. The whole TAG team is excited and enthusiastic about the possibilities ahead. Through the worldwide TAG network, everyone is very excited by this opportunity.

TBV: What changes will there be for distributors?

P.S.: Nothing changes for our worldwide distribution network.  The TAG channels that are in place will continue to grow and develop. Of course with this deal there is the opportunity to improve and expand some of these channels. Certainly in the mid and long term there will be a desire to significantly increase TAG’s reach in new markets, as well as improve on markets where there are some weaknesses. For sure the TAG channels and networks have done very well for the organization.  They are almost entirely exclusive to TAG, so now the potential to move a much broader product offering is very exciting for the distributors as well. We expect this greater breadth of product offering to help grow the TAG distribution network.

TBV: Will there continue be TAG sires being sampled?

P.S.: There are still many details that need to be looked at under a microscope in order to make decisions for the long term. As of now, we need to go through a transition period, optimizing logistics, integrating inventories, discussing different types of bulls and their positioning in various markets.  Also, there is a need to look at the different philosophies, a mix of cultures and see how TAG can integrate into the ST network.  However, one thing for sure there is a lot of great genetics, so it’s never an issue to put an exceptional product offering out in the marketplace.   Now the how to and the branding them, and those decisions we still have a lot of work to do to put a comprehensive strategy together.

TBV: What reaction to expect for TAG shareholders?

PS: Well, over the last few months, little details of the ongoing negotiations with ST made it back to different partners, and they have inquired Natalia and I about it. Their reaction has been very positive. They have seen the company they helped to start, grow up before their eyes.  Just like a zealous mother looks after her growing child, our partners have been there, supporting us through each step in this maturation process. Most of them have been able to get some financial return through different incentives and programs.  Our semen discount program will remain for them, and we are very proud to continue this.  We expect them to be pleased with the many great TAG accomplishments.  And we certainly hope they will take advantage of their preferred pricing to acquire excellent conventional and sexed semen products to increase their herds’ profitability trough genetics!

(Read more at The TAG GAME PLAN – 5 Years from “Startup” to “Game ON!”)


Juan Moreno, Co-CEO of Sexing Technologies

Juan Moreno, Co-CEO of Sexing Technologies

TBV: What first caught your attention about TAG?

JM: I have been following TAG since it started.  I think the concept was a very very good concept.  They made tremendous strides in the marketplace in branding and image and also did a very good job with sourcing bulls.  So they had a good lineup of bulls with a strong brand.   On top of that they had some great people working with them.  Ultimately is always about the people.

TBV: How did this deal come about?

JM: Good questions, well I guess you hear through the rumor mill about changes going on at all different organizations and especially in the marketplace that affect all companies, and we saw an opportunity based on these market changes.  I have known Patrice for over 7 years, so we started some conversations, first kind of just scratching the surface and jokingly but then over time those conversations slowly progress and you begin to talk more and more.  You never know if it is possible to find a deal that works well for everyone and it can take a long time to reach that point.

TBV: How does this deal benefit Sexing Technologies?

JM: I think it all about trying to make sexed semen available from high genetic value sires in the hands of dairy farmers. TAG had certainly built a network of people who were achieving just that. In addition, there is the ability to greater progeny test sires through the system that TAG had developed was very interesting and will benefit the growth of Sexing Technologies.   The lineup of young sires that they have was very impressive, with many top genomic sires.  And the staff is young and energetic and a great group of people that see the changes that are occurring in the industry and have a lot of good ideas but have not had the resources to always execute on them, that now they will have that opportunity.

TBV: What will the structure be going forward?

JM: TAG will continue to operate pretty much the way it has operated in the past.  I think there are some things that we can add to TAG, most notably sexed semen in their lineup.  I addition I think there are certain things that TAG can add to ST, but for the most part it will remain as it has been.

TBV: How will this affect your international distribution?

JM: The network that TAG has built will remain intact.  TAG will continue to service their clients the same way they have in the past. If anything now they will have an even great product offering to provide their customers.  The addition of sexed semen and more sires offers their clients worldwide even more to get excited about.

TBV: What changes can breeders expect as a result of this deal?

JM: The biggest changes breeders can expect is the addition of sexed semen.  TAG did not have sexed semen in their pipeline in the past, so that is the most significant change that breeders can expect.  The number two change that most breeders can expect to see is that there will be a greater selection of sires available.

TBV: With many changes recently and ST continuing to grow, can we expect more changes coming soon?

JM: Our primary focus is on the technology side and the ongoing improvement of the technology. So from that aspect you can expect to see continued changes.  Our genetics part is not large, we are one of the smallest bull studs in the marketplace, so we are not large in respect to the genetic side of things.  The biggest changes to come are in the continued improvements in the technology, in both sexed semen and conventional semen. We are now starting to dedicate many resources to conventional semen improvements as well.

(Read more at: SEXING TECHNOLOGIES: Gender Vendors in a Changing Marketplace)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is certainly no question that the dairy genetics industry is going through it greatest changes in history.  Genomic, IVF, and sexed semen have certainly been major game changers.  With these technologies has come changes in how companies operate.  As the marketplace has changes, companies have had to react.  In the acquisition of TAG, Sexing Technologies continues to be a leader in this changing market.  Always looking for ways to move forward ST has been driving change instead of reacting to the action of others. This deal certainly demonstrates that those with technological differentiation are certainly going to be in the driver’s seat going forward.


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Categories : A.I. Industry

On September 12 The Bullvine broke the news that Sexing Technologies was suing ABS Global for fraud and breach of contract (Read more: Sexing Technologies sues ABS Global for fraud, contract breach), kicking off what has become a much debated discussion in the A.I. industry. This was the first public announcement of a legal battle that has been going on behind the scenes for some time now.

At the heart of the issue are two companies simply trying to do what is best for their business. However, as is usually the case in the passionate dairy industry, routine business procedures have turned into a heated debate.

In 2003 Inguran LLC., which does business as Sexing Technologies or ST, licensed the semen sexing technology from XY technologies who had performed considerable research in the 1990’s to optimize the efficiency of the sorting procedures first initiated in the 1980’s by USDA. The partners in the business eleven years ago went heavily into debt to obtain a license from XY Inc. Additional partners came into the business, and Sexing Technologies started its commercial sexed semen production ten years ago having Select Sires as its first large commercial customer.  The technology has changed dramatically, especially in the last five years. A considerable amount of time and resources have gone into developing new generations of equipment, changing procedures, making media improvements and raising user awareness. For example in the last five years we have gone through five different new models of sperm sorters, each one an improvement on the previous one. Thus, production efficiency has improved considerably, and the end user has benefitted by seeing a significant price reduction in the cost for their sexed semen compared to when ST introduced it in the marketplace ten years ago. Juan Moreno, Co-CEO of Sexing Technologies, (Read more: SEXING TECHNOLOGIES: Gender Vendors in a Changing Marketplace) shared the following stats:

  • 1984 to 2000
    Purity Under 80%
    Low Fertility (below 50%)
    1000 doses of conventional semen would produce 200 doses of sexed semen.
  • 2002 to 2012
    85% Purity
    About 80% fertility rate of that of conventional semen.
  • 1000 doses of conventional semen would produce 400 doses of sexed semen.
  • Current
    93% Purity
    98% fertility rate of that of conventional semen.
    1000 doses of conventional semen can now produce 1100 doses of sexed semen.

As a result of making these leaps and bounds in the efficiency and increased fertility, the marketplace has certainly taken a liking to using sexed semen (Read more: Sexed Semen from Cool Technology to Smart Business Decision).  This increased demand has also led to higher profits for ST and has propelled them into even more significant research as well as very aggressive protection of their license and their patents.  During this time there have been other attempted developments of sexed bovine semen sorting such as Gensel, Heifer Plus, Microbix as well as efforts by Monsanto, though ultimately it has been ST which has prevailed.

It’s these aggressive tactics that are in question in the legal proceeding between ABS Global and ST.   According to Jesus Martinez, ABS Global Director of Business Development “ST’s practices not only limit choices for genetics and artificial insemination companies, but more importantly, they inhibit scientific progress important to our dairy and beef customers” On July 14th  ABS filed legal action against Sexing Technologies in the U.S. district court of western WI, based in Madison. (Read more: ABS Global, Inc., files suit against Sexing Technologies) “We believe it is in the interests of both ABS and the whole bovine genetics industry to have free and fair competition in the market for processing sexed bovine semen.”

The counter suit filed by ST, filed in Houston federal court, claims ABS Global committed fraud by signing the five-year contract, and inducing Sexing Technologies to sign, with no intention of honoring the contract’s provisions. ABS Global breached the agreement, signed in 2012, when the company sought to avoid meeting some of its contractual obligations, the lawsuit claims. Sexing Technologies is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a ruling by the court that the contract is valid and enforceable. “We consider our customers to be our valued business partners in a relationship built on trust,” said Maurice Rosenstein, Sexing Technologies Co-CEO. “Based on that trust and on the certainty that long-term sorting contracts provide, we invest in sophisticated and expensive semen sorting labs on the customer’s premises to provide the high level of service demanded by the larger bull studs, such as ABS. This is a major commitment on our part, and we take it very seriously. ’We honor our contracts with our customers, and we expect our customers to honor them as well,’” Rosenstein said.

What it boils down to is that ST has been very aggressive in their research but also in limiting the development of competing products.  They have done this either by acquiring patents developed by competing organizations or signing contracts with those who  license their equipment that limit them from developing their technologies.  And that is the crutch in this agreement.  ABS contends that the contract that they signed with ST had provisions that would make it impossible for the development of a competing technology.  Something that ABS has now done.  ST contends that by signing the contract they had access to patented technology that greatly enhanced their ability to develop a competing technology, something that ABS did do.  So it really boils down to the fact of determining if  ABS breached their contract by developing their own technology, or was the contract null and void because  it contained provisions that should never have existed in the first place

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Whether the legal proceedings say it or not, at the heart of the matter is the situation where Sexing Technologies, through intensive research, patent acquisition, and aggressive legal defense of their position has developed a dominant position on the sexed bovine semen sorting business.  This has been a lucrative endeavor for ST as they can charge significant premiums for the use of their technology. Anyone who has ever run a business knows that the way to get the highest premium is to have no direct competitors. This is something ST has been able to achieve.  That’s just plain smart business.  Now ABS is trying to use the US laws that inhibit any company from having a monopoly on an industry to declare the contract null and void that they signed with ST.  Again smart business from ABS because they have to do something in order to decrease the expense and the only way to do so is to make sure there is more than one option available.  US laws are in place to protect consumers from being gouged due to monopolistic behaviors. In reality, you can see arguments from both sides.  ABS Global’s contention that ST has a monopoly on the marketplace would indeed appear valid though ST contends that sexed bovine semen is just a small part of a much larger industry, rather than an industry upon itself.  Sexing Technologies’ contention that ABS Global did not honor their contract and as a result had access to their patented technology that then enabled them to develop their solution also has merit.    So this really comes down to two companies who are doing smart business and trying to use the courts to uphold  their position or, in the case of ABS, remove the monopoly they contend ST has on the sexed bovine semen sorting business.

So, when you look at it objectively, the legal battle between ABS Global and Sexing Technologies are good business strategies. The courts will decide the outcome.




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Will there ever be another Millionaire Sire?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Over the past week, we have seen the announcements for two Millionaire sires.  Semex announced the passing of Buckeye (Read more: Semex Millionaire Sire Buckeye Passes Away) and Shot, from Select Sires, was noted as the youngest millionaire sire ever at Select. (Read more: SHOT Becomes Youngest Select Sires Millionaire) With dairy breeders using more and more young sires, to the point where young sire semen sales are now a larger portion of the overall sales worldwide than proven sires, it has us asking, “Will there ever be another Millionaire Sire?”

It is interesting to understand how Shot became the youngest ever. This is perhaps a sign of things to come.  You see Shot is not a total product of the “Genomic Era.” However “with the release of genomic data, SHOT was identified as one of Shottle’s most elite sons,” explains Rick VerBeek, sire analyst with Select Sires. “This helped drive his semen sales significantly.  SHOT has been the No. 1 selling bull for Select two out of the past three years and is on pace to be the No. 1 selling bull in 2014.  He has shattered nearly every semen production and sales record at Select Sires, including setting the record for yearly sales in 2012 with 311,824 units sold.”  The interesting part about this is that SHOT’s second-crop daughters are just entering his proof now.  So, for the most part, he has driven this level of interest heavily on his genomic proof and about 300 daughters (# of daughters in his proof in April 2013).  Unlike sires in the past that did not receive significant use until they had a solid proven sire proof, Shot has been Select’s top selling sire based mainly on a limited number of daughters in his proof but especially because of  his Genomic data.  This is certainly a sign that times are changing and young sires are indeed accounting for a much more significant portion of the overall sales for A.I. units.  The challenge with this is that, unlike the case with SHOT, most young sires are not great semen producers. Indeed it is very hard for A.I. units to keep up with the demand for these elite genomic sires.  So there is a supply and demand issue in the industry today. As is the case in any industry, when supply is less than demand, the price is sure to increase.  This has been the case for elite young sire semen in recent years.

Further sparking my thoughts on this matter is Alta Genetics recent advertisement in regards to the fact that Alta’s Top 100 gTPI bulls have achieved triple Millionaire status before their first daughter proofs.  This is certainly an indicator of the times.   Instead of a few proven sires being the headliners for A.I. units around the world, it is now a group of Genomic sires that are leading the charge, when it comes to semen sales.  According to our estimates, that is about 100,000 doses per sire per year (Alta has about 8-11 sires in the top 100 gTPI over the past 3 years).  So gone are the days when it was hard to sell enough semen to get a reliable 1st crop daughter proof. Now Genomic Young Sires among the headliners for each stud.

Alta September 2014 Ad

The one monkey wrench in this whole equation is the supply challenge.  It is a well-known fact that young sires do not produce as much semen as proven sires.  As we mentioned above, that limited supply in relation to demand does typically lead to an increase in price.  The challenge with that is the commercial milk producer, who represents over 90% of the marketplace, is not willing to pay more for their semen.  This leaves the A.I. units in a challenging circumstance.  With greater demand coming for their most costly entity, what can they do?  You see a young sire is like a 2-year-old cow. It costs money to get them there: Time and money in raising them (in the case of A.I. units, testing them and getting them into the unit. It takes time to get them to an output level that is significant enough to maximize their profitability.  So what are the A.I. units to do?  Well, the only logical thing…sample more young sires.  Yes, Genomics was first heralded as a significant cost savings for A.I. units because they would have to sample fewer young sires in order to get highly profitable proven sires. In the end, the opposite may prove to be true. It may change the industry to such a point that most sires are long since passed before they ever receive their first official daughter proof.  Which, due to semen production issues, may mean that many sires will never receive the opportunity to reach the Millionaire status. Most due to production issues will be lucky to hit 300,000 units and even the most elite may only ever reach 500,000 units.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While millionaire status is certainly an achievement to celebrate, it may not be a realistic expectation for top sires heading into the future.  The marketplace has changed to the point where genomic sire semen sales is now greater than proven sire sales and could reach as high as 84% market share (Read more: Why 84% of Dairy Breeders Will Soon Be Using Genomic Sires!). Combining that statistic with the fact that young sires do not produce nearly as much semen per year, we could be about to see the last few sires that will ever achieve this lofty benchmark.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

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

Download this free guide.





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Categories : A.I. Industry

Breeders are continually searching for Mr. Right when it comes to which sire or sires to use in their herd.  It is part of both the excitement and challenge of being a breeder.  Breeders pour over the sire listings, available on-line, and in the printed materials from bull owners, marketers or breed associations. However, according to female registrations, breeders do not closely follow the list toppers. The Bullvine decided to look at what happened in 2013 on both sires used and sires available.

Most Used Sires – 2013

The progress for a population is set by which sires are the most used. In this case, we are referring to the sires with the most registered daughters.

Table 1 Sires with Most Registrations- United States (April 2013)

Table 1 Sires with Most Registrations- United States (April 2013)

Table 2 Sires with Most Registrations- Canada (2013)

Table 2 Sires with Most Registrations- Canada (2013)

The data for Table 1 comes from April 2013 Holstein USA ‘High Registry Activity by Bull’ and for Table 2 comes from the 2013 registration activity report from Holstein Canada.  The TPI and LPI proofs used were their April 2014 indexes as CDN changed the Canadian base system in 2013 and thereby the number listed will more accurately reflect what readers see now.

Points of interest from this table include:

  • Genomic Sires – four of the US sires have genomic evaluations only while for Canada all ten most used sires were proven sires
  • Sire usage in USA and Canada does not follow the sire ratings for total merit indexes: gTPI, NM$ or gLPI.

Average Indexes for Most Used Sires

There is a significant range in the average proofs for the most used sires and for most traits the average proofs of the sires were not outstanding.

Table 3 – Average Proofs in December 2102 for Most Used US Sires

Table 3 - Average Proofs in December 2102 for Most Used US Sires April 2013

Table 4 – Average Proofs in December 2102 for Most Used Canadian Sires

Table 4 - Average Proofs in December 2102 for Most Used Canadian Sires

The overall observation from Tables 3 & 4  is that both US and Canadian purebred breeders place significant emphasis on type when choosing the sires for their herds and as we have observed previously. (Read more: Top Sires North American Breeders Are Using) Breeders have not considered fertility (DPR or DF) as being important when choosing their sires. Canadian breeders place significant emphasis on component percentages, fat +0.31% and protein +0.06%.

Once breeders select a sire they appear to stick with the bull even if better sires come along.

How Big a Sacrifice?

The question that comes to mind is what were the average proofs for the top bulls in mid-2012. Those were the bulls that would have been available for use that would have resulted in daughters being born in 2013. The question that breeders need to ask themselves is how much did they give up in genetic advancement and thereby on-farm profit by not sticking to popular instead of the top sires. In this example, top sires were considered to be the top ten proven and top ten genomic sires for TPI or LPI.

Table 5 Trait Averages for Top Ten TPI A.I. Sires Available in 2012

Table 3 Trait Averages for Top Ten TPI A.I

Table 6 Trait Averages for Top Ten LPI A.I. Sires Available in 2012

Table 4 Trait Averages for Top Ten LPI A.I

For North American purebred Holstein breeders was it worth giving up considerable milk, fat, protein, longevity, fertility and udder health to use bulls that are high for type?  Even if it is acknowledged that genomic bulls are considered to be somewhat over-rated, giving up 50+ pounds of fat, another 50+ pounds of protein, 1.5 to 2.5 months of herd life, cows open a month or two longer and higher somatic cell counts does not seem worth limiting bulls to only those that have high type proofs..

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Both daughter proven and genomically evaluated sires are available that will increase the genetic level of herds and give greater on-farm profit. By limiting sires used to the higher type ones, North American purebred Holstein breeders deny themselves the opportunity to move ahead at a faster rate. Having a breeding plan (Read more: What’s the plan?) and continually buying semen from the best sires, the ones that will produce the milking females that breeders want to milk, are practices that must be followed. Following tradition and using the ‘safe’ bulls will mean breeders are leaving money on the table.

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Say Goodbye to Small A.I.

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

The dairy genetics marketplace is becoming a “big” deal.  The introduction of genomics has changed the game for many Artificial Insemination companies.  While it was first thought that this would provide opportunities for the smaller A.I. companies, in the end it may be what puts them out of business.

Hearing rumors from semen salesmen is nothing new.  Almost as old as Artificial Insemination itself, semen salesmen have been a great source for the latest industry news and gossip.  Unfortunately, the “hottest” news lately has been the rumors about who is going bankrupt or what big A.I. company is purchasing what small A.I. company.  While there is no question that often the rumors have a way of getting blown out of proportion, more often than not there is some level of truth at the heart of the story.  That seems to be the case with the rumors about smaller A.I. companies.

Cash is King

While many thought that breeder’s ability to test their own sires would allow for more not fewer A.I. companies, the results have proven to be the exact opposite.  As was pointed out over two years ago, that is happening because the key issues in the A.I. world are distribution, cost of production and the cost of sire acquisition.  (Read more: Why the Ability for Breeders to Test Their Own Bulls Will NOT Change the World).  These three areas have been the most significant challenges for many smaller A.I. companies.  Most have had to invest large amounts of capital, while trying to compete with the larger A.I. companies in each of these areas.  As a result, three of the five hottest small A.I. companies now find their futures under a cloud.  Some are having cash flow challenges and others have become acquisition targets of the large A.I. companies.

As a small A.I. company, the challenges are real.  You need to be able to have a large enough distribution network that you can compete but, at the same time, you must keep your overhead low enough that you can stay afloat.  This is really what has separated those smaller A.I. companies that are still viable from the ones that are having trouble.  Two examples of this viability are St. Jacobs ABC and  Both companies have taken very different approaches.  St. Jacobs ABC has leveraged a mutually beneficial relationship with Genus/ABS Global, where they leverage the distribution power of Genus/ABS to get their semen exposed to the world.  This partnership is also beneficial for Genus/ABS Global as they then get an extremely strong brand in the high type market segment that is an area they typically do not focus as heavily on. has taken a different route.  Not having a large A.I. company to partner with, they too have focused on keeping overhead as low as possible and on choosing a niche to focus on.  While St. Jacobs has focused heavily on bulls from top show families, currently has the strongest polled sire line-up in the world.  (Read more: Stud Wars: Episode II – April 2014).

Both strategies are pretty impressive for companies with only three employees each.  Therein lies the key factor.  Both of these companies have intentionally stayed small while leveraging technology ( and relationships (St. Jacobs ABC did so in order to get greater distribution).  When we look at the smaller A.I. companies that are at the heart of the rumors these days, this is one of the key differentiators.  The ones that are finding their futures in jeopardy are the ones that have significant overhead invested in sales staff and marketing.  The cost of having sales staff on the road is not cheap and, if this is your distribution model, it can be very challenging to maintain cash flow.  (Read more: Are There Too Many Semen Salesmen Coming In The Lane?)  These are two key areas where tools like social media and the Internet can help keep operating costs down.  (Read more: Dairy Cattle Marketing).

Are we headed to a Oligopoly?

As the ability for large A.I. companies to differentiate themselves from each other becomes increasingly difficult,   we are noticing that more and more they are looking at new ways to do so.  For some of these companies, this may come from the acquisition of smaller niche market A.I. companies.  As the large A.I. companies start to see   these smaller competitors struggling, it opens up an opportunity for them.  They can come in and cost effectively acquire the smaller company’s unique product offering and, in some cases, the sales force as well.  In so doing, they are able to fill a gap of their own.  Larger A.I. companies are finding it harder to differentiate their genetic products and need to ensure that they can offer the greatest value to their customers.  (Read more: What the Experts Won’t Tell You about the Future of the A.I. Industry and A Wake-up Call to All A.I. Companies)

This is not the first time we have seen this large-swallowing-small scenario in the agriculture industry.  The plant seed industry provides a telling example.  Where once there were many medium sized competitors now there are only a few very large ones.  Interestingly it was technology, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) that changed the plant seed industry, in the same way that Genomics has changed the dairy breeding industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I am sure that observing the coming changes will set off alarms for some breeders as to what the future holds.  Less competition typically means higher prices and less selection.  However, in this case these decisions are smart ones as far as the large A.I. companies are concerned.  As noted they have very limited ways to differentiate themselves and they need to use their large distribution networks and cash flow/reserves in order maintain their position in the marketplace.  (Read more: Why Good Business for A.I. Companies Can Mean Bad Business for Dairy Breeders)  Genomics has changed the game, not just from a technology standpoint but also from an A.I. company operations standpoint.  Get ready.  Over the next 2-3 years, we will more than likely say goodbye to at least half of the smaller A.I. companies that are in the world today.



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Categories : A.I. Industry

“She’s pregnant!” Those are very welcome words for breeders to hear at pregnancy check time. The ideal is that the pregnancy occurs after one A.I. service in the time period 70 to 100 days in milk, while the cow is producing high volumes of milk, fat and protein. In a perfect world that single A.I. heifer service should occur between 12 and 14 months of age.  Getting to that success depends on many factors, not the least of which is the skill of the inseminator.

Do What you Know or Use a Pro?

It takes a wide range of skills to successfully run a dairy operation at a level that is both sustainable and profitable.  Professional A.I. technicians recognize that many breeders rise to the challenge of taking on this most vital aspect of their dairy business. They realize that many breeders want complete control of the reproduction program on their farm. Dr. Hernando Lopez, Global Technical Service Director for Genus ABS acknowledges that control is important and sums up the breeder perspective saying, “They believe that they can inseminate successfully themselves’. Dr. Ray Nebel, Senior Reproductive Specialist for Select Sires, outlines further reasons that breeders give for doing their own artificial insemination. “They want the flexibility of when to breed. They prefer having semen available from several different A.I. organizations in their farm tank and being able to change the mating right up to the last minute”.  Of course, both Dr. Lopez and Dr.Nebel are aware that cost is one of the strongest motivating factors in choosing who inseminates the cows.

Times have Changed

Thirty years ago there were many more dairy herds and most of them had less than 50 milking cows. Shorter travel distances and labor costs per cow bred by the technician were much lower than today. In that scenario, with only two or three breedings per week, breeders could not become proficient at inseminating. However, with the current average herd size in the US being 187 milking cows, with many miles between herds and with breeders focused on costs, they often choose D.I.Y. artificial insemination for expedience and cost reasons.

Is D.I.Y Really Cheaper?

The monthly bill for technician supplied A.I. needs to subdivided into semen costs and costs for technician services. It’s easy to quote the professional technician’s bill for arm service but expenses must also be pencilled in for the D.I.Y. tech on the farm and for all the costs leading up to the actual insemination.

Remember there is a labor cost for heat detection, including the checking of cows bred 21 days previously. There are additional time related expenses as well.  Time to check computer records or activity monitors. Time to check with all staff members for heats others may have seen. Time to call in for service and time to enter breeding information into the herd records.  Furthermore for on-farm staff there are costs associated with social security tax, insurance, workers compensation, sick time and other benefits that owners must provide.  These time and employment costs are not usually quickly remembered and easily quoted when we sum up the costs of getting cows and heifers in calf. Add in gloves, rods, training and re-training, semen tank purchase and semen tank maintenance and you are getting closer to the true total cost for A.I. Although, at first glance, D.I.Y. seems cost effective and faster, the real question in every dairy manager’s mind should be, “What is the return on the investment?”

Think about it.  In a herd of 200 milking cows, it may take a farm employee up to half their time to monitor animals and carry out other aspects of the herd’s reproduction. Some owners take the next step and assign the farm’s repro staff member to the job of doing the breeding. On the surface it sounds like a cost savings but who covers on days-off? What happens when the farm breeding person is needed elsewhere and he/she does not do all the daily reproduction duties including checking for heats? Only seeing 70% of the heats can soon become a major negative factor for the farm’s bottom line. Missed heats result in more days open, lower daily herd average milk production, more non-productive days in the dry pens and an age at first calving of 26 instead of 22-24 months. Add to this the fact that the on-farm inseminator must be trained and monitored and will need to spend time on skills upgrading and, very quickly, the savings from do-it-yourself insemination are rapidly disappearing.

A.I. Results: Are You Getting Professional or Passable?

Of course, if your pregnancy rate is 23+% and you are meeting or exceeding all your established targets, you can stop reading now.  However, if your results are not at that level, working with a professional technician could be a discerning business decision for you to consider.

Times have changed from when the only service offered by the technician was insemination. Today organizations providing A.I. tech services wish to provide their customers with a full range of services.  Both Lopez and Nebel emphasize that the professional technician becomes part of the on-farm production team, where the goal is to achieve a high pregnancy rate as part of a complete reproduction program.

Dr. Nebel notes that “Herds have gotten bigger, days on the farm have become more demanding, milk per cow has increased and more cows are housed in confinement than they were twenty years ago. These are all challenges when it comes to getting cattle pregnant.” Dr. Lopez also outlines how change is affecting dairy breeding. “Today there is more focus on cow welfare, cow comfort, the successful integration of reproductive technologies like synchronization and heat detection aids and the handling and compliance for large groups of cows. Today successful breeding goes beyond the proper insemination technique. It requires all aspects of dairy management to be correctly working and their needs to be great teamwork.” When breeders work with profession A.I. companies they have access to complete reproduction services including: full cow side services including, walk, chalk, synchronization and insemination’ data entry into herd management software including report generation; management of automated activity and heat detection systems and reproductive consultation.

With all of this potential information and support, one wonders why more breeders not asking for competitive bids from companies that provided genetic and reproductive services to dairy farms.

When it comes to pregnancy rate, whether you are your own professional or hire a professional, you can’t afford less than professional results.

Jack of All Trades or Master of Pregnancy?

Professional technicians employed by A.I. companies breed between 5,000 and 20,000 animals per year. They are continually being monitored for their performance.  As new techniques become available they receive training. Their only focus is on getting animals pregnant. Their livelihood depends of delivering top notch service. Dr. Lopez provides this very sound advice: “Most operations can economically benefit from outsourcing breeding or a total reproductive service to a professional technician not only because of the superior consistent results but also due to all the technical support and resources producers have access to through the professional breeding services”.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Every aspect of dairy farming needs to be penciled out as to cost and return on investment. Every breeder has an area of dairy farming that they like best and do to a professional level.  In the end, A.I. breeding is all about fewer breedings, less semen used, more pregnancies, fewer reproductive culls and the best use of time and services. There is too much at stake to be a jack of all insemination trades and master of none.

Breeders need to be totally objective about every step from heat detection to confirmed conception.  If you agree that insemination is all about the results, then ask yourself two questions, “How important is an excellent A.I. program?” and “Who performs artificial insemination best?”



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Stud Wars: Episode II – April 2014

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Just as we have learned with the Rebels versus the Republic in Star Wars, the Stud wars are far from over.  However, instead of clones we have Genomic Sires versus Proven Sires and large A.I. companies versus smaller organizations.  The April 2014 genetic evaluations have seen the gap between the haves and have nots decrease.  Many of the larger studs that had in the past not focused on Genomic sires greatly increased their genomic offerings and some of the smaller studs greatly increased their niche market offerings.  Stud Wars, like Star Wars, thrive on new releases, talent, unexpected changes and rivalries.



As we found in our initial stud wars (Stud Wars – The Battle for A.I. Supremacy), market share of the pre-genomic era correlates very highly with the big five being ABS, Select Sires, Alta Genetics, Accelerated Genetics and CRI.  Since the last proof run, Select Sires has taken over the top spot with two more sires entering the top 50, and CRI has doubled the number of proven sires they had in the top 50 TPI to move into the #2 Spot.  Former #1 holder ABS Global has dropped from 14 sires to 11 in the top 50 TPI and now holds the #3 position. A sign of the time is the way Accelerated has dropped market share.


Both our previous gTPI leaders from December 2013 have dropped but still hold the #1, Select Sires, and #2 Semex spots on our list.  Making a significant jump on the list is CRI who now holds the #3 spot on the list with 5 sires in the top 50 gTPI.  Also seeing an increase is Alta Genetics who now has 4 sires in the top 50 gTPI.


Select Sires continues to lead the way with top TPI offerings both Genomic and Proven. Making a jump into the #2 spot, thanks to an increase in their top TPI proven sires, is CRI. They are followed by Semex who continues to have a strong Genomic TPI offering.  .



It is no surprise that, for the larger AI centers, the focus on the commercial producer market continues to dominate the proven NM$ list.  Select Sires moves into the #1 position with the two additional sires in the top list, with CRI moving into the #2 position, almost doubling the number of top 50 NM$ sires they have to offer.  Dropping significantly was ABS Global who now finds themselves in the #3 position with 5 fewer  sires in the top 50 NM$ list.


A list that was dominated last round by Select Sires who had 32% of the top sires, now finds them tied with CRI and Semex – all with 18% each.  Also seeing a significant drop in top gNM$ sires is Alta Genetics who went from 9 last round to just 4 this round.


On the strength of their strong proven and genomic NM$ offering, Select Sires retains the strongest NM$ offering in the US.  Thanks to a significant investment in Genomic sires CRI now find themselves with the 2nd strongest NM$ offering.



Probably one of the most significant changes of this proof round is Semex moving into the strongest type proven sire offering in the world, with 5 more proven sires moving into the top 50 PTAT.  Former #1 Select Sires goes from having 18 sires in the top 50 to 11 and holds the #2 spot.


When it comes to the top 50 Genomic PTAT sires, Semex and Select Sires still top the list, but both have seen significant declines in totals.  Many small A.I. studs now find themselves with 1 to 3 sires in the top 50.


On the strength of a greatly improved proven type sire line up, Semex now find themselves on top of the overall PTAT list, followed by Select Sires.  However the ever increasing trend continues where more and more smaller AI organizations have a top 50 PTAT proven or genomic sire.



As we continue to see trends change in the industry, we see the sire line-ups in key markets are also starting to change.  Nowhere is it more evident than in the polled trend.  With that in mind, we decided to add two key niche markets to our stud wars analysis: (1) polled TPI sires and (2) Red type sires.  For both of these lists we are using the top 50 proven or genomic sires.

Not surprising the Polled specialists lead the list.  Followed by Select Sires and GenerVations.



As we saw in the overall PTAT list, Semex and Select Sires continue to lead the way in type offerings.  Also similar to the B&W PTAT lists, we find a number of smaller studs also offering 1-4 of the top red and white sires.

The Bullvine Bottom Line


Holding strong with the best proven sire line-up is Select Sires.  Seeing a significant increase and moving into the 2nd strongest proven sire line-up position is CRI.  They rise on the strength of their significant increase in top NM$ proven sires. Also seeing an increase and moving into the #3 position is ABS Global.  Semex finds themselves with 15 less proven sires on our top lists and drops from the #2 position in December to the #4 position currently.


Tied at the top genomic for genomic sires are Select Sires and Semex.  These are the same two studs that ranked #1 and #2 last round.  Moving up 2 spots from last round is CRI, powered by a significant investment in top gNM$ sires.  Also making a strong showing is the Sexing Technologies / Trans-World Genetics partnership powered by their agreement with the EDG group, who own many of the top genomic females in the world.


Retaining the title of as the strongest overall sire line-up is Select Sires, though it should be noted that Select went from 28% of the top sires in December 2013 to 21% this time.  Holding steady with increases in their proven sire line-up and slight decreases in their genomic sire line-up, Semex comes in as the 2nd strongest sire line-up.  Moving up to the #3 sire line-up with significant improvements in their proven TPI sire line-up as well as genomic offerings is CRI. ABS Global and Alta Genetics round out the top 5.

Join us in staying tuned to the next order of business in the expanding universe of the Stud Wars.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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The End of the Daughter Proven Sire Era

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

For almost sixty years dairy cattle breeders have relied on daughter proven sires to drive the industry forward. There was a time when over 70% of the genetic advancement depended on knowing which sires left the best daughters and using them extensively. However that era is fast coming to a close. The Bullvine sees changes in the not too distant future for both breeders and breeding companies, all of whom have built their business and breeding models around the daughter proven sire.

A Quick Look at History

Before the 1950’s unproven sires were the norm. Yes some of them may have had some limited daughter information but it was most often in a single herd and was actually just phenotypic observations (i.e. 12,500 lbs milk, 3.8%F, 5 VG & 10 GP daughters). A.I. was primarily a tool to get cows in calf without having to feed and handle a mature bull. Truth is that genetic progress, at that time, was only slightly above zero.  From the 1970’s onwards considerable progress was made, based on the use of proven sires. During that time breeders and breeding companies were more selective in which young sires were sampled, more herds were milk recorded and type classified, genetic evaluations used B.L.U.P. technologies (i.e. +1100 lbs milk, +0.25%F, PTAT +2.24) and high ranking total merit proven sires got extensive use.

New Technologies Will Turn the Tide

Now let’s deal with how new technologies will change the timing and accuracy of genetic decision making. Simply put ‘time waits for no one’ and ‘the future is in the hands of those that search out the new, decide and apply the best of the new”. That applies to all areas of dairy farming but just now let’s stick to the genetic component. Let’s focus on why daughter proven sires will become a thing of the past

Accurate and More Accurate

To date genomic genetic evaluation has resulted in a doubling of the accuracy of indexes for young animals. It will not stop there. With refined knowledge in the genome we can expect production indexes on young animals to go from 65-70% REL. to as high as 85-90%. in the next five years. As well with more on-farm data being captured and collected in Genetic Evaluation Centers we can expect the REL for productive life, type, health and fertility traits to approach 70-80%. Part of the increase in REL, from their current 50-65%, will come from more accurate field data and part from in-depth study of the genome. The end result will be that if total merit is known with 85% REL for young animals, then daughter proven bulls and older brood cows will not be used as the parents of the next generation. In short the pace of the trend of using younger and younger animals as the parents of the next generation will speed up even more.

Sexing Technology

Dairy cattle breeders are hearing that genomics is the biggest advancement in genetic improvement since the introduction of the proven sire.  Recent information on what’s ahead in sexing technology is on the brink of speeding up the rate of genetic gain. (Read more: Sexed Semen from Cool Technology to Smart Business Decision and SEXED SEMEN – At Your Service!) That does not even factor in epigenomics and nutrigenomics will hold out significant promise. (Read more: Forget Genomics – Epigenomics & Nutrigenomics are the Future) Proactive breeders will need to stay tuned to what’s ahead and be ready to adapt the breeding plans. (Read more: What’s the Plan?)

We know that young bulls do not produce large volumes of sperm per ejaculation as mature bulls do, so we’ll need to collect from extra young bulls but there will come a day when all young bull semen will be sexed. Having more young bulls being used will help to counteract inbreeding.

The changes could well go much further than that.  How much sexed semen will be needed in another fifteen years?  It could be that embryo and embryo transfer technology will advance to the stage that, once identified, the very top genetic ten to twelve month old heifers will have many oocytes collected and fertilized in vitro and then implanted into 99% of the females on a farm.

Of course exactly what will happen has yet to play out but we need to be prepared for major advances in the technologies relative to both genetics and reproduction. Regardless the use of daughter proven sires will be a thing of the past.

Maximum of 50,000 Doses Only

In the past superior proven bulls have remained active and in use well past ten years of age. They have produced, on average, 130,000 – 140,000 doses per year. In some cases they have sold more than one million doses of semen in their lifetime. Although profitable for their owners this extensive use has contributed to inbreeding and narrowing of the genetic base. The question that has always been asked ‘what do we do about too much Blackstar, Valiant or more recently Oman and Planet?’. We will not need to have that concern in the future as genetic progress will be so quick that the maximum a sire will get used in his lifetime is 50,000 doses. That does however change the value that any one sire will have. The industry savings on feed and maintenance costs beyond collecting 50,000, likely sexed, doses is significant considering the thousands of bulls that have been annually sampled around the world in the past.

It could be that 50,000 is far too high a number of doses. Take the case of Kulp-Dale Golden PP Red.  (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen and The 24 Polled Bulls Every Breeder Should Be Using To Accelerate the Genetic Gain in Their Herd) Five doses and $50,000 may be the numbers that will be attached to his contribution to changing the Holstein breed from horned to polled. Another factor to think about is that high genomically evaluated young sires are often used exclusively by breeding companies before general release and, when released, are priced at $200 to $1000 per dose. However after a few months their semen price is dropped to the $40 – $60 range. By the time they have been on the market for a year they are often down to less than $20. Why? Because their time of demand has passed. If the sire is no longer a list topper for at least one important trait he is history.

Alternatives Exist

A couple of months ago The Bullvine wrote about using all natural sires in a herd. (Read more: Natural Breeding – Could It Work For You?) These sires can quite easily have high genomic indexes. Think about it. A breeder focused on producing milk saving on labor to heat detect and inseminate his cows and heifers. Perhaps 10% of a herd’s labor cost could be saved. With robotic technology advancing quickly it could well be that the safety factor for workers by having yearling and two year old bulls around the farm may be minimized as there will be fewer workers to be exposed to the bulls. Definitely the need for daughter proven A.I. sires would be zero.

Are We Ready?

The pace of change is fast and will become faster. In a few years it could be that the only need for daughter proven sire information will be to check the accuracy of genomic indexes or to develop the formulae for indexing for new traits that breeders wish to include in their breeding programs. It could well be that breeders are more ready for the future than are some breeding co-ops and companies that have built their business model on having the vast majority of their revenue coming from daughter proven bulls. Having said that, progressive breeding companies are taking steps to control their costs and to specialize their product lines, including owning high ranking females. Daughter proven bulls will not be the focal point for those companies.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Having moved to daughter proven sires for accuracy and selection intensity reasons, we can now expect to see a move away from those sires for the reasons of speed of turning of generations and of having very accurate knowledge at the gene level. Anyone doubting these changes needs only to look at male selection in the plant, fish, poultry and pig industries. The downside for bull breeders is that their bulls will have less value. The upside for all other breeders is that they can continue to make rapid progress in breeding profitable healthy cows. Daughter proven sires were a major force in getting us to where we are but they will now be replaced by more advanced technology.


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Natural Breeding – Could It Work For You?

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The Bullvine has received the following question from readers – “Why does The Bullvine always talk about using AI and never refer to or talk about using natural sires?” After doing some research on natural use bulls, we decided to share our findings in story format.  We often list statistics and science, but we would like to present something closer to real life in order that other, like minded, producers can evaluate a possible scenario and consider it for their own operations.

Here’s The Scenario

“A couple runs, as they call it, a milk production factory of 400 (2x) milking cows. They have found that, for best results, they should have their four key (human) employees putting their focus on cow care. That means focusing on the close-up and fresh pens, feed mixing, caring for calves that are less than a month old and attending to cows that are sick. The remainder of their staff are mostly part-time and involved in milking, pushing up feed, moving animals, bedding, cleaning up and manure handling. The husband manages the operation and the wife manages the records when they are not skiing or spending time with their family of five very active high school and college students. A few years back they were having trouble catching cows in heat and the fallout from that was that they had too many late lactation cows, had too much non-producing time spent in dry pens and there were heifers calving over conditioned at 27.5 months of age. This meant not enough profit or ROI.  Their milking cow pregnancy rate was 9%, 4.1 pounds of fat plus protein were being shipped per cow per day and the cull rate was 40%. They needed to keep every heifer calf born on the farm for herd replacements. They knew drastic action was needed. So they went to focusing their attention on the most problematic areas and on using natural bulls for breeding both the heifers and the cows.

(CHECK THIS) The husband clearly understood that the system of using herd bulls instead of A.I., is not for every dairy farm, especially not for herds that do not have facilities that are bull strong, bull safe and where only one person is involved when groups are being moved or worked with in their pens.

How to Hire a Working Bull

For several years in the representative scenario, prior to the change to natural bulls, they had used 50% young sire semen. The main selection criteria had been NM$ (>$500) with the added requirement of +1.0 for both UDC and FLC. They wanted a blend price for semen of less than $20. The cattle were registered in the national herdbook so the DHI records could be used in sire proving. Numerous different staff were trained in A.I. but the results were just not there, even though they routinely used an off-sync program. Heat detection and breeding was a drag and it sapped energy from everyone.

The change to natural bulls occurred after the introduction of genomic indexes to the dairy industry. They found there were many high quality genomically tested bulls, that did not make it into A.I., that were available at a reasonable price. They have required that the young bulls, generally purchased at 9-12 months of age, are above average for size and have good feet and legs but cow families have not been considered when purchasing. They are now milking daughters of their first genomically tested bulls and find that they are, on average, quite superior to what their young sire daughters were in the past.

Their current requirements for their bulls are: NM$ >$650; FLC >+1.5; UDC >+1.5; and SCS < 2.90. But from here on they will also be requiring a positive number for DPR and >3.0 for PL.  Additionally under consideration are ways to avoid inbreeding, increasing protein percent, using only polled bulls and, if they could get it, some way of knowing the growth rate and body condition score. Definitely sons of sharp chinned, deep ribbed show cows are avoided. The reason for a higher protein percent is because the milk is shipped to a local specialty cheese factory which pays an incentive for protein content.

Cow Performance under Natural Breeding Scenario

The time formerly spent checking for and breeding cows and heifers in heat is now focused on close-up, calving and just fresh pens. These groups are housed close to the milking parlour and can be easily seen from the staff room and the office. All staff are encouraged to watch and make sure cows in these pens are getting up and eating. Temperatures are taken and recorded, twice a day, for the first three days after calving and before moving into the voluntary waiting pens. There are no bulls in these pens so staff can safely check a cow at any time.

Improvements obtained were in the magnitude of

  • average production 5.3 pounds of fat + protein per cow per day,
  • cow pregnancy rate from 22-24%,
  • cow cull rate 25% and
  • heifers calving at 22-23 months of age

Cows are grouped by staged of lactation or pregnancy. First calf heifers are housed separate from mature cows in close-up, voluntary waiting and breeding stages. Maximum group size, when cows are 150 – 300 days in milk, is 80 cows. Parlour size accommodates twenty and they like cows back to their pen within one hour.  Breeding pens are kept to 40 cows so that only one bull is needed per pen. Herd management software data is used and the movement of cows and bulls in and out of pens is recorded. All cows seen to be in standing heat are recorded but less than 50% of the actual heats are observed by staff. A milk weight is taken every Wednesday morning. Fresh cows are continually added to the fresh pens and stay there 3- 10 days. Otherwise any movement between pens takes place on Thursday after the morning milking. One staff member monitors on Thursdays for any bullying or fighting. The plan is to purchase ultrasound equipment and have two people trained to use it for pregnancy checking.

The Beef Enterprise Revenue Stream

An expanded version of the scenario sees the wife’s family owning and operating a small slaughter and retail beef business, specializing in marketing and selling lean beef that guarantees to its customers that all animals can be traced and for which there are no drug residues.

The dairy farm supplies animals to that beef processing business. As a result all calves are raised on the farm. Males calves are castrated and marketed when 1400 pounds. Heifers with poor feet and legs or not in calf by 14 months are finished for beef. Only about 60% of the heifers are raised for dairy purposes, as it costs more to raise them than they being when sold as a springing heifer or fresh first lactation cow. Young (<50 months) cows that have problem udders or feet and legs or that are not in calf are also marketed through that business. Settlement for their animals is on a weight and rail grade basis. All other animals are sold through an auction mart.

Where the beef side of the farm was once only a by-product, it now forms a significant revenue stream. It has meant that they want Holstein bulls that produce progeny that carry more condition and, therefore, go to slaughter at a relatively young age.

Other Specifics

Most details about the operation are unchanged when the farm converted to using natural bulls.  Bulls upon arrival are kept in isolation at a neighbor’s small barn that they rent. Bulls must be negative for TB, Brucellosis, Anaplasmosis and Johnes. Bulls not in use are housed in individual pens. As mentioned previously any pens with a bull in it must have two people present for movement or entry into the pen. Bulls slipping and injuring themselves during mounting has not been a problem. If and when herd expansion occurs, they are planning to use manure pack barns for the breeding pens. The bulls travel with their pen to, through and back from the milking parlour.

The farm in this scenario definitely benefits financially from less labour spent heat checking and breeding, from a younger age at first calving, from fewer days in the dry pens, and from more production per day. It must be stressed that, without genomics and 65% accuracy for the major indexes, they would not have been able to achieve the high percentage of high quality animals. All changes combined have helped them double their annual net returns from the milk sales side of their business.  This scenario strongly recommends not attempting natural breeding with bulls that only have a parent average index or much worse still have no known parental information.

Although this is a composite scenario, farmers moving to natural sires can expect to find that bull buying and maintenance expenses were balanced by  previous expenses for semen, labor for heat checking and breeding, vet checks and drugs. The higher production per day and the fewer non-productive days for both heifers and cows (without an increase in labor costs) are the profit makers.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Bullvine thanks our readers who have drawn our attention to this area of dairy operation management. Using natural bulls instead of A.I. is not for every dairy farm. Definitely it does not assist with sire proving by A.I. companies. However, it can allow for labor to be focused away from reproduction and more on that critical 2-3 weeks before calving and 3-4 weeks after calving.  The Bottom Line? If designed and operated properly natural sire use can return a greater net profit and that’s a scenario we can all relate to!


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There are very few who have looked at dairying in the first decades of the 21st century and then decided that it was a good time to start something new.  Few or not, that was the decision arrived at by Patrice Simard and Alan Bryson because as they saw it. “Industry priorities seemed outdated for the direction that the international marketplace was heading.”

One Size Didn’t Fit All. For Bryson and Simard It Also Didn’t Fit the Future!

In 2008 Bryson and Simard had the courage of their convictions to make the next move. They formed Trans-America Genetics or TAG as it is widely known five years later.  This new kid on the AI block was different from the others.  “Here was group of forward thinking breeders who were united to become the TAG Partners.  It was formed from an “unusual partnership” rather than the more common coop setup. We would win or lose together.” It was a bold no guts… no glory move but already the founders felt empowered. “Forming the partnership was a big challenge but it also represented the first success for TAG.” Founded on partnership, it isn’t at all surprising that Patrice’s life partner, Natalia Rodrigues, is also a business partner. Indeed the teamwork of the TAG President, Patrice, and Vice-President, Natalia, is the ultimate real-life example that shows how sharing the burdens of business and supporting each other are at the very heart of this new undertaking.

Ready! Set! Start UP!  TAG is into Game Changing!

“TAG was created to provide options that weren’t available in the market”   asserts Patrice who envisioned a framework that would provide realistic opportunities for breeders to make new choices. Today, with five years under its belt, TAG has the perspective to look back and gauge how well that vision has been implemented. “TAG has devoted our attention to helping dairy enterprises become more profitable through genetic selection and focus on quality products.” That attention has been successful for TAG. “Our unique philosophy of partnering for success is the “raison d’être” or reason for being that provides the foundation that Trans-America Genetics is building upon.”

“Success is a Whole Team Relationship”

TAG had a special vision in assembling an exceptional team as well. “It was imperative right from the early stages for the company to surround itself with quality people.” From the outside looking in, the uniqueness of the TAG team is readily apparent. First there are their varied backgrounds including American, Brazilian, French, French Canadian, English Canadian, and Cuban. Then there are the qualities they all possess: energy, passion, enthusiasm and commitment.” The entire team loves to demonstrate those qualities that have grown the vision and makes TAG partnership a reality for each partner, client and staff person!!”  Patrice sums up the learning curve of the first 5 years. “The most important lesson has been the value of relationships. Every success at TAG has been the result of relationships earned throughout life and treating those people with honesty and integrity.”

Seagull-Bay Miss America
One of the early stars of the TAG embryo and female program

The Global Game Starts “Now!”

Whether you’re looking at five years or fifty years, it’s easy to see that progress is not a straight road from start to finish.  When you throw genetics into the mix, you can be sure that there will be ups and down and sometimes even high speed. Patrice confirms how this impacted TAG. “The situation in the international marketplace demonstrated a need for a company with a focus on different priorities.” Having said that and recognizing that profitability is the ultimate goal for everyone regardless of their place in the dairy industry TAG was prepared to evolve into a more fluid business that could include multiple and varied options.  Simard is happy for the success of that model. “The international market ratified the ideals of TAG and demonstrated their support by the speed in which the markets developed and multiplied.”

Moving At the Speed of the Marketplace

The speed of change is the new reality of the dairy industry regardless of what country you are in and it can be a factor affecting everything says Patrice. “Speed has definitely been the biggest surprise!  If we look at the original business plan things have been bigger, better and faster than we ever imagined. The number of bulls we have marketed, the number of distributors in place and international influence achieved, five years in business we are at a very different place than what the original business model projected.”  Being able to evolve was important. “Our growth in developing business plans and financial models has increased exponentially.”  There are new questions and the need for new and better answers on a daily basis! For this young company change is no longer on the horizon it is here!

Putting the Genomics Pedal to the Metal

Nowhere is speed more apparent in the dairy world than in new technologies such as genomics.  TAG feels their growth has been similar. “We have exceeded our goals in every way.  We can look at TAG as the marketing parallel to how genomics has impacted the industry.” Nevertheless he remains clear sighted in his assessment of this new tool. “Genomics has brought many benefits. However, it also brought a current period of instability, due to the speed with which it impacted dairy breeding.” While technology can pave the way, it is not without its speed bumps.


TAG Success Growing by Leaps and Bounds

It is always reassuring when a new company successfully reaches five years. Patrice reports that there are many great successes stories that started right from the beginning. “One big success came with the August ’09 proof round. It was an incredible round for TAG and a turning point for the young company.” If TAG was writing a book about success the title would be “Domain, Domain, and Domain!” Simard explains, “Domain received his first genomic profile and ranked 3rd in the population for GTPI!” From there success continued on the sales front. “Sales have doubled every year for the past three years.  The company has had to expand the management team to respond to the every-increasing interest!” Looking back at goals set by the partnership the glow continues as Patrice points out an exceptional exploit for the young company. “In 2012 the milestone of one million doses of semen produced was reached.”

TAG is All About “Now You See Us!”

In a hugely competitive marketplace, where the danger can be that everyone looks like everyone else, TAG has had success in creating innovative marketing platforms. “TAG has managed or co-managed 4 sales to date for combined gross revenues of over $10 million dollars.” Those were profile raising opportunities to follow Domain’s success.  “The great success with Domain permitted TAG to contract a few more important sires and start moving ahead exploring possibilities abroad.” Of course, whether it’s sales, semen or sires you’ve got to have visibility to the consumer and part of that is in how you brand yourself. Patrice is proud of this growth area as well. “TAG’s distinctive marketing style became quickly recognized. Whether it was modern ideas for ads, clothing or new views for photos, breeders are vocal in their appreciation of TAG’s marketing products.”

TAG Game Plan = Continuous Transparent Collaboration

It doesn’t matter what stage your company is at there is never a time to say, “There! We have done enough!”  For TAG who began with the goal of impacting their partners’ success by providing something different, the challenge is ongoing. “The TAG philosophy means working with farmers to develop profitable genetic strategies for their herds.” In these first years market reaction has been favorable but there is always work to do. “TAG feels that as a company which from the start believed in genomics, they have a responsibility towards dairymen to help them understand the developments and possibilities that genomics bring to them.”  There are always new concerns. “Fertility has become one of the greatest impediments to commercial farm profitability and TAG’s objective is to put the focal point on fertility and health traits.

Wrong Way. Right Turns.  Quick Response

Of course, with growth come both challenges and opportunities.  Looking back is always easier than looking forward. “The original TAG model was based on having products to distribute which never materialized.” This could have meant game over but the TAG partnership is always prepared to respond to new issues. “We had to accelerate the search and development of our own products” Having the flexibility to change proved to be a key. “Change was quickly implemented. The original business model was to grow from a domestic oriented company towards international distribution.”  The speedy success in the international marketplace inspired a new direction.  By continually building on their goal of meeting the needs of particular breeding operations, TAG is confident that they will gain in the Canadian marketplace too. “The domestic market hasn’t been as receptive to the TAG philosophy probably due to the difference in the commercial dairy industry here in Canada.” TAG continues to be unique even when facing challenges. Many start-ups focus intensely on growth, sometimes to a business-ending fault.  “For TAG the focus now and in the future is based on the needs of the customer and then on follow-through. The only thing that will never change at TAG is the core belief of integrity and transparency towards partners and clients.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As TAG continues to innovate and make their mark in the dairy genetics industry, they have encouragement for others. “Ideas are important but TAG has learned that courage is the main ingredient for success. The courage to go forward with your ideas, the courage to face adversity, the courage to admit that you need to modify the plan and the courage to launch the next idea.”  Congratulations and High 5s all around. When it comes to dairy passion, enthusiasm and commitment “TAG You’re It!”


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Who is selling your bull?

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

So you have a high testing bull that all the A.I. studs want…Great! Now the headaches begin.  Sure the day you got the test results back it felt like you had won the lottery. But it’s not that simple. There is a lot more work to be done.  You see, picking which A.I. center to lease your bull to is a lot more complicated than most think.  It’s not simply figuring out who will pay you the most money.  Anyone who has read a sire lease agreement knows that you need a masters in law and mathematics in order to calculate just how much money you will actually get paid.  With that in mind the Bullvine decided to highlight some of the key factors that many breeders may not be paying enough attention to when they decide who to lease their bull to.

Market Share & Distribution

Bigger is not always better (Read more: Does Size Matter).  Having said that, when it comes to which stud to lease your bull to, size can’t hurt.  Think about it. The big 5 studs have more than 10 times the distribution of even the medium studs.  That would mean that you need to get 10x the % royalty that you would get from a smaller stud.  For example if Stud A has a 25% market share and offers a 10% royalty, a smaller stud that has say 5% market share would have to offer 50% royalty in order to deliver the same net revenue.

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Market Segment

Probably just as important as market share is market segment.   This means that you would not lease a high type sire to a stud whose core clientele is commercial producers.  They just would not have the correct distribution network to move the maximum amount of semen for you.  For example, studs like Alta Genetics, Genex and ABS have a strong commercial producer clientele, so a NM$ sire would be better to lease to them than a high type sire would be.  Conversely, studs like Semex and Select Sires have strong type lineups. Hence they have developed great distribution channels that work well for show and pedigree breeders.

ptat siressw

Taking this one step farther, it’s also important to see how strong that studs lineup is that would compete with your bull.  For example Select Sires has a strong all around line-up (Read more: Stud Wars – The Battle for AI Supremacy), so your bull may be one of many top sires to market in that segment.  Whereas studs like ABS and Accelerated have a strong market segment to the commercial producers, but currently do not possess as strong a lineup of NM$ sires in relation to their market share.  Leasing your high NM$ sire to one of these studs would probably result in greater marketing and distribution efforts for your sire, as it would be more unique in their lineup, and still be in that stud’s wheel house.

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Marketing/Lease Agreement

Seth Godin probably said it best “Never sign a contract or make an investment that you don’t understand at least as well as the person on the other side of the transaction.”

In reviewing many of the contracts offered by most studs these days, the wording is so vague about what you will actually get paid, and who owns the rights to what, that it can be hard for most non lawyers to even understand what you are signing.  You may know the stud’s personnel or the sire analyst that you are dealing with quite well. But what happens if they get fired?  What happens if new ownership or technologies come out?  Things like first release semen, cloning, etc are all key parts of any agreement. These are just a few of the details that you need to understand clearly.

We keep a law firm on retainer for all contracts we sign for the work that we do.  This has helped since starting the Bullvine for those interesting times when some threaten to sue us.  When I showed our lawyers the contracts that the major A.I. studs have breeders sign, they first laughed, and then said that breeders should never sign them.  Everything should be clearly put in writing.  Until you are crystal clear on how the agreement will work (in writing), you should never sign anything.

There are key questions you need to be clear on: what is their definition of domestic semen; what is the value of early release semen; and what is the difference between the retail and wholesale selling price?  Each of these terms can have a huge impact on the revenue you will receive.   For example many of the larger studs sell semen to their member co-operatives or sister organizations very cheaply and that is the rate you get your lease from.  Even though these studs then go and sell that semen for 5 and 6 times as much.  Since you are paid on what the originating stud sells it for and not their member co-operative or sister organization sells it for, you could be losing out on thousands of dollars.

One thing I am surprised about is that more breeders aren’t demanding and more studs aren’t delivering a full accounting of exactly how many units were sold and for what price.  In a sense they are asking you to trust them in blind faith that the numbers they tell you are correct.  Now I am not saying the studs are trying to cheat you, but for everyone involved an accurate accounting for total number of units sold and blend price is necessary to build trust in these partnership arrangements.

It`s also important to make sure that the agreement is a Win-Win for both sides.  You may think you have gotten the best of the stud for the arrangement you get, but if it is not a win for them they just won’t move semen, and that is an extremely key element in any lease.  You see if it costs them too much to sell your bull and they have other bulls that are close and cost way less, naturally they are going to move those other sires.

Also realize that in today`s genomic market, 6 months after a bull is released there is a good chance that the bull will no longer be in the top of the list, so an agreement that worked well for a list topper, may no longer work well for a sire who is in that no man’s land between early release and proven sire status.  Make sure you have arrangements and agreements in place with the stud that keeps semen moving and is still a win-win for both sides.  One arrangement I have seen work well is a % of net royalty for the first year and then a set price per dose after that.  That way you capitalize on the high value, early release semen and then agree to a very manageable set price for the stud after that. This way, they can continue to market and promote the sire.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The “aw shucks I am glad to be selling a bull to A.I.” days are over.  This is a business.  Big business. And with big business comes contracts.  In order to maximize your revenue, you really need to become adept at contract negotiations.  Only then can you know who is really selling your bull and exactly how much money you are making.


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Categories : A.I. Industry

A long time ago in a galaxy far away……Who are we kidding the A.I. stud wars are now and the battleground is the USA, the most lucrative genetics market in the world.  For years I have heard the debate from all sides about which stud has the best sire line-up.  The problem is most of it has been anecdotal and no one has really backed it up with numbers.  So, in true Bullvine fashion, we thought we would bring numbers to this galactic battle.

To settle this confrontation, we decided to let genomics and genetic evaluations determine exactly which stud rules the empire.  Specifically we looked at top 50 proven and genomic sires for TPITM, NM$ and PTAT to determine who are the studs and who are the duds.  The following is what we found.  (Please note we deemed a sire to be available if the had an NAAB Code)


tpi proven siressw

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It’s interesting to see how the percentages seem to be similar to market share, prior to the genomic era.  The big five being ABS, Select Sires, Alta Genetics, Accelerated Genetics and Genex.

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The top gPA TPI sires tell a very different story than that of the proven sires.  Studs like ABS Global and Alta Genetics do not have as large a portion of the top bulls whereas Semex and Select Sires have invested heavily in obtaining top gPA TPI sires.

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When it comes to strength of line-up from a TPI perspective, it’s interesting to see how Semex and some of the smaller studs have made a big push on getting the top genomic sires, in order to have that stronger line-up in the future.  On the other hand, some of the established studs are resting on their proven laurels. (Please note for top list we used the top 50 genomic and top 50 proven sires.)


nm$ proven siressw

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It is interesting how the studs that are more milk producer focused as opposed to breeder focused rise up on this list.  Specifically Genex, Alta Genetics and ABS have their best showings here.

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Even the studs who have not gone heavily into genomics, are at least sampling some high genomic sires for NM$.  When it comes to selling volumes of semen, nothing compares to a high NM$ sire.  Yes the top TPI sires will sell well, but the high NM$ will move in volume as they attractive the commercial market.


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The greatest spread of the top sires amongst the studs occurs in NM$.  This is not surprising since this is such a lucrative market for so many studs.  They all are trying to get the top sires.


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When it comes to the top type bulls, it seems like everyone wants a shot at them.  Type sires are a premium market delivering high margins to the units.  This is certainly one area where type oriented countries and their respective studs excel (Example, Semenzoo and Semex).

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Similar to the proven bull list, this is an area where everyone wants to play.  It is interesting to see that many of the type niche studs don’t have more on these lists.  That could be due to the fact that they are focusing on show type and not necessarily on sires who have high genomic tests for PTAT.

ptat siressw

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A subject of great debate on our Facebook page has been who has the better type sire lineup, Select Sires or Semex.  If you go by the numbers, there is no question that Select Sires has the advantage.  Looking deeper into this, we decided to take the top 5 proven and the top 5 genomic sires from each stud and see whose were better.  Select Sires averaged 4.14 PTAT and Semex averaged 3.72.  So Select not only has an advantage in numbers but also in quality.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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It’s always interesting when you get into the debate about which studs have the best sire lineup to see the perceptions people have.  Most look at it based on what their breeding goals are and state their opinion relative to that.  Nevertheless there are many that are guilty of looking at things through rose colored glasses for the studs they prefer and hence discrediting other studs because of it.  The one thing you cannot deny is that, when you look across the board,   the US sire line up at Select Sires has the largest market share and are a player in each major market.  Studs like Semex (type) and ABS, Alta Genetics, and Genex (NM$ and TPI) do well in niche segments.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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The amount of bragging and arguing that goes on among breeders about what country has the best genetics in the world is insane.  Because  many have no actual facts to back up their opinion, the Bullvine decided to take a closer look and see just who does have the best genetics in the world. We took a look at the top 50 proven and top 50 genomic sires (where possible) in each of the major north American  indexes (TPI, NM%, LPI, PTAT and Conf) to see just what countries have the top bulls on each. We used north American indexes since all other indexes did not publicly provide MACE lists for use to do an accurate evaluation. The following is what we found.


tpi proven sires

tpi genomic sires

When it comes to TPI, it’s not surprising that the US dominates both the proven and genomic sire lists.  Given that TPI is a US based index, it’s only natural that they would have such a large proportion of the list.  What is interesting about these results is that Canada does have 14% of the top genomic sires.  Maybe a sign that Canadians are starting to put more attention into TPI and are adjusting their breeding programs so that they can achieve high ranking TPI animals.


NM$ proven sires

NM$ Genomic Sires

Since young sire information between countries is not readily available, its not surprising the we have mostly US sires on the genomic lists.  What is interesting about these results is that the Nordic countries have 22% of the top proven sires for NM$.  This is a direct result of their heavy focus on health and fertility and thus leading the way in genetic progress in these areas (Read more:  What the experts will tell you about who is winning the genetic improvement race).


ptat proven

ptat genomic sires

When it comes to type it’s not surprising that Canada makes its strongest showing in this area. Years of intense breeding for this trait have led to Canada having a larger market share in this area.  What is also interesting is the diversity of countries that make the top proven sire list.


lpi proven sires

lpi genomic sires

Almost shockingly there are no Canadian bred proven sires in the top 50 LPI sires in the world.  Given that LPI is Canada’s national index you would think there would be at least a few.  While the genomic lists do have 22% Canadian bred sires, it shows that in the recent past Canadian’s have been lagging behind other countries.


conf proven sires

conf genomic sires

One area that has always been a great strength is the Canada’s ability to breed great type.  While they certainly have their largest market share in this area.  It is interesting to note that the Canada does have more of the top proven and genomic conformation sires in the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there is no question that the US has the largest  population of dairy breeders in the world, and hence they should have the largest market share, what is surprising is how they have so much of the world’s top genetics.   Well beyond just the size of their population base, the US is the world leader in producing top Holstein sires.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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top13of2013In an industry where a few major players dominate the world market, it can be very intimidating for new participants about to enter the marketplace.  I can still remember working with David Eastman and Albert Cormier when they launched GenerVations.  At that time, there was no such thing as genomics, and even though we had the #1 LPI sire, Champion, we still took a lot of heat about the reliability of his proof.  However, I learned then, as I know now, fortune favors the bold.

Fast forward 12 years and things have significantly changed.  Genomics has leveled the playing field.  Any company can market their genetics with the same level of confidence as those of the large A.I. companies.  For years everyone has talked about how, in 2013, the A.I. industry would change drastically when new players enter the sire sampling market, as a result of breeders being able to sample their own bulls.  However, the reality is changes have already started.  Since the introduction of Genomics back in 2008, there have been four significant players enter the A.I. business:  AI Total, DairyBullsOnline, Jetstream Genetics and Trans-America Genetics (TAG).  They have all made a significant impact on the A.I. industry in a short period of time.  Each has gone about their strategy in a different way but each has had their own level of success.

The AI Total Story

Since partnering with AI Service Zuid-West Friesland (A company that provides insemination services for Dutch dairy farmers) in 2010 Jan De Vries and the AI Total team have been very aggressive.  Many years in the embryo business (Diamond Genetics and Eurogenes) have provided them with a base of marketing operations that has served them well (Read more: EUROGENES: You Love It.  They List It!).  Looking to service the producer market, AI Total looks to produce productive, functional, healthy and sustainable cows.  For De Vries this means looking at sires that excel in traits such as calving ease and DPR, while not being too large in size for the environments in which they are housed.

At the moment AI Total owns about 15 to 20 bulls that are housed in Europe, and carry sires from GenerVations, Jetstream Genetics and others.  A highlight of their current lineup is Hood MOM Emmet, the Man-O-Man son from Tramilda-N Baxter Emily VG-2yr, the dam of the popular North American sire Epic.  His 2nd dam is Wabash-Way Evett-ET (VG-86, 2y) who is a Shottle daughter, out of Crockett-Acres Elita-ET (VG-87 DOM 2*) and followed by nine VG or EX dams.  Emmett sires cows that are not too big, transmit favorable components and have strong fitness traits.  These are all heavily sought after by producers around the world.

In an industry that requires bold moves to be successful, De Vries and his team are not afraid to make them.  By working in many different aspects of the dairy genetics marketplace, Diamond Genetics/Eurogenes and AI Total are able to stay ahead and be trendsetters instead of followers.

The DairyBullsOnline Story

Starting out in the R&W market but getting sold on polled, Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor have been extremely aggressive in developing DairyBullsOnline (Read more:  They’re Sold Polled).  They are promoting polled genetics as the solution that saves labor, reduces stress and improves consumer image.  “We know the breed will not be polled in 10 years, but we believe in 10 years bulls that transmit the recessive horn trait will be very hard to market.  Today there are about a dozen polled bulls over 2000 GTPI.  Next year that will double.  We expect that trend to continue for some time.”  Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor.

By leveraging technology both on the web through its marketing and social media platforms as well as by using technology for shipping semen internationally DairyBullsOnline is able to operate at much higher efficiency.  This enables them to pass benefits back to the producers and breeders that they source their genetics from (Read more: A Wake-Up Call to All-A.I. Companies).

Despite what they lack in market share, they are able to attract unique genetics through offering seed stock breeders a much higher royalty percentage.  A great example of this is the sale of Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red semen for $10,000 a dose, where the proceeds went straight to the breeder (Read more:  $10,000 a Dose Polled Semen).

MacGregor and Quanbury have not been afraid to blaze their own trial.  Not worrying what others would say about them, they have had a clear vision and have executed their plan very effectively.  They knew polled before polled was cool.  Being trend setters has it’s rewards, as anyone looking to get into polled in a significant way will certainly have to take a serious look at DairyBullsOnline and the trend setting moves they are making.

The Jetstream Genetics Story

With the arrival of Genomics, Jeff Butler and the ownership team at Jetstream, saw the opportunity for small AI-organizations that focus on top genomic genetics.  Having already heavily invested in some of the top genomics females in the world for his Butlerview operations, Butler already had a source of some of the most elite genetics in the world (Read more: Exciting Times For Butlerview).

Established in April 2012, theirs is the shortest story of these four bold, world-changing companies.  Nevertheless it has certainly been a very eventful one fourteen months.  Roger Turner, Sales and Genetic Manager for Jetstream Genetics, reports that it has exceeded expectations (Read more: Turner Moving Genetics Forward at Jetstream).

At the moment, Jetstream has about 15 bulls that are housed in Wisconsin.  Turner, a 15-year veteran in the AI industry, expects that number to increase by about 15 bulls per year.  A highlight of the Jetstream lineup are the Cash brothers, Farnear Cashcoin and Cashmoney, sired by the now popular proven sire Observer from MS Chassity Goldwyn Cash VG87 2yr, who is out of the 2012 Golden Dam Finalist Regancrest S Chassity EX-92 (Read more:  Regancrest S Chassity – 2012 Golden Dam Finalist).  Other popular sires include Colt 45 RC who is the top available type polled sire in the world.

Similar to AI Total and Diamond Genetics, Jetstream and Butlerview partner to be a complete genetics company.  In the Butlerview program, there are some of the most well-known cattle in the world, including the extremely popular show cows REW Happy Go Lucky and Cookview Goldwyn Monique.  Jeff Butler is definitely not afraid to make bold moves.  He has put his money where his mouth is and is blazing new trails in the dairy cattle genetics marketplace.  A clear example of this is how Jetstream is leading the way in online semen ordering (Read more: New sires available on easy to use Jetstream online order system).

The TAG Story

Of the four new AI companies profiled here, Trans-America Genetics (TAG) is certainly the oldest of the group, with their first sires already receiving official daughter proofs.  The road has been an interesting one for Patrice Simard and the TAG team.  Since starting TAG with Alan Bryson almost 5 years ago, there have been ups and downs, but the hard work is starting to provide dividends for all involved in the journey

Indeed the highlight has to be the success of Ronalee Toystory Domain.  Domain is the Toystory son that was among the top Genomic sires in the world for a long time and has now successfully transitioned into one of the top daughter proven sires.  This achievement is very important for a young AI company as breeders watch to see how their genetic programs turn out.  Success like this has positively helped TAG grow in the international marketplace (Read more: TAG Continues to Grow on the International Scene).

Talking about genetic programs, TAG is another company that has the complete genetics marketplace covered.  However, unlike the others, TAG does it all under one brand and has been well-rewarded from the great publicity this has received.  Many of their Genomic Giants Sales rank at the top of the yearly sales lists (Read more:  The 2013 Genomic Giant Sale was a Giant Success!).

Aggressive and energetic does not begin to describe the team at TAG.  They have had to weather the trials and tribulations of starting a business and investing your heart and soul into it, but the rewards are starting to pay off as the TAG brand is catching the eye of breeders around the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Starting an AI company is not an easy task.  It takes years before you receive your first daughter proven sire, and distribution can prove to be a nightmare. Add to that the fact that you`re under a microscope as everyone is judged each move you make.  In order to get ahead, you have to be bold and aggressive. Anything else will result in failure.  Fortunately, for these four AI companies, their progressive moves are turning heads and putting good fortune boldly in their path.


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What Color Do You Bleed?

Friday, May 31st, 2013

There is no question dairy breeders as a whole are a very passionate group.  For the most part, it’s not a “line of work” you get into for the money.  Between the equity burden and the long hours, it also doesn’t appear to be a “sexy” choice in the opinion of outsiders looking into the industry.  But the one thing that all those who are in the industry know is that breeders are also extremely loyal.  And the one area where most breeders demonstrate this insane loyalty is to the A.I. companies they purchase their semen from.  They pretty much bleed the colors of the A.I. company they support.

Such brand loyalty is something companies like Apple and Coke would die to have.  While these two massive global brands spend billions in marketing to build brand loyalty, A.I. companies have done it in a very different way.  They have done it through generation after generation of brain washing.  That’s correct brain washing.

Is there any difference in the major A.I. companies?

Recently my staff was working on some brand research for GE and I gave them the exercise to look at the Artificial Insemination market and look at each of the major A.I. companies and tell me how each company was different.  You know what they found?  Nothing!  For the most part they are all within 5% of each other for product offering.  While some do offer a few more services, they all, for the most part, offer the same service.

This really got me to thinking, and remembering my days of running the roads selling semen.  It actually made sense.  When I went into herds that were well established and had been operating for generations, they pretty much bled the color of their local A.I. cooperative.  However, when I went into herds that were new to the industry or herds where the operators came from other countries, I found them much more open to what I had to say.

While many of the companies are trying to position themselves differently in the market like Wal-Mart, Apple and Amazon in reality there really isn’t any difference.  (Read more: A Wake-Up Call to All A.I. Companies)  Even in our article, Semex – The Rise and Fall of a Semen Empire, we highlight how Semex grew rapidly and developed an extremely loyal following around the world by being different, by breeding “the Canadian Kind”.  However, as they got bigger they started to lose their focus on what made them different and now from an outsider looking in it would appear to be no different from all the rest.

Thinking about this I wonder how much breeders are limiting their genetic advancement due to loyalty to a certain A.I. company?  Yes there is not a great difference when you average out the top sires from each company, but why do you seek to be average?  Wouldn’t it be best to just use the best each company has to offer and forget the rest?

I think part of the problem is that there seems to be very little difference between the top sires.  Something I was shocked to see is that Canadian Dairy Network actually accentuates the issue.  Instead of promoting how the LPI formula was better at spreading out the top sires and differentiating them, they actually adjusted the formula to make them all closer?

Now I have had it said to me that this was done at the request of the large A.I. companies because they wanted to sell more proven sire semen and needed the genomic test sires to look less attractive.  There is some logic behind this, because young sires do produce less semen and there always seems to be a limited supply (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen and $750 Dollar Semen! Are you crazy?).  But the breeder in me says, “What’s more important marketing semen or genetic advancement?”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sure the A.I. companies will give you nice hats, maybe even a few coats and shirts, but is that enough to trade your future for?  As we have more and more options of companies to purchase semen from, and more and more ways to purchase the semen, I ask you three important questions.  ”How much of your semen purchase is dictated by tradition or brand loyalty?”  Moreover, “Is your decision based on what is genetically best for your herd?”  And finally “Who bleeds for your bottom line?”


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Just about a year ago we drew attention to  the fact that, when Dairy Breeders could genomic test their own bulls, it would start to cause the beginning of the end of the seed stock business (Read more: How Genomics Is Killing The Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry).These predictions were pretty easy to make because  these changes were  necessary in order for A.I. Companies to thrive in this new genetic environment.  With March 2013 now behind us and breeders able to genomic test their own sires, these predictions are coming true.  The challenge with these changes is that, while they make great business sense for the artificial insemination companies, they could spell the end of the seed stock business, as we have known it

At the recent Farnear Focus on the Future Sale, Alta Genetics paid $185,000 for a Massey daughter from Larcrest Case VG-86-2yr with a gTPI of +2505 (Read more: Farneer Focus on the Future Sale Averages $15,471 on 112 lots) .  While Alta Genetics owning females is not  new (Read more: Should A.I. Companies Own Females?), it does mark the resurgence of their program and certainly a significant investment by Alta Genetics probably indicating  that they are looking for new ways to control their sire procurement costs.  Of course Alta Genetics is not the only A.I. company that currently owns females.  Others, especially some of the smaller companies, have taken to owning top females in order to secure procurement of valuable and unique genetics and to differentiate their genetic offering (Read more: A Wake-Up Call To All A.I. Companies).  There are also those who have taken a very public stance against ownership of females (Read more:  Select Sires vs. Semex – A Contrast in Cooperatives).  This too may be a move to watch, as the competition for breeder-bred bulls will decrease with less competition for them from other A.I. companies.  Thus Semex and others too may start to see procurement costs subside.  Of course the market will decide just how low this price will go, as the other studs will always be watching the cost of production versus the cost of procurement.

What Has Caused This to Happen?

Since March 2013, breeders have had the ability to test their own bulls before negotiating the deal with an A.I. company.  This results in a much greater negotiating position for bull breeders.  The estimated effects of this change are as follows:

The number of young sires sampled will not change
The number of young sires sampled will not decrease further
The cost to actually sample a sire will stay low
The cost to actually sample a sire will stay low
With open ended leases and increased competition the cost of procurement could go way up and could even hit the $1M mark per proven bull.
With open ended leases and increased competition the cost of procurement could go way up and could even hit the $1M mark per proven bull.
Semen sales price will not change
Semen sales price will not change
Revenue will stay the same
Revenue will stay the same
With greatly increased procurement expenses profits will decrease drastically
With greatly increased procurement expenses profits will decrease drastically

How A.I. Companies are Reacting

There are not substantial enough profit margins in the A.I. industry to support such a change in profitability.  As a result, A.I. companies are being forced to take one of the following actions:

  • Increase semen price
    Since they now have greater expenses, A.I. companies will be forced to increase price.  As demonstrated in many other industries, the market will not respond favorably to this and ultimately will drive prices back down.
    END RESULT: No change
  • Cap contracts
    So if A.I. companies cannot increase revenues they will have to try and cut their costs.  The procurement of sires will become the major expense they will look to control.  One way to do this will be to cap bull contracts.  However, as the NHL has shown us, even if A.I.  could introduce a cap, some members will break that rule and other breeders will not stand for it. 
    END RESULT: No change
  • Produce their own product line
    If A.I. companies cannot buy the bulls at a cheaper price, then they will have to go out and buy females and produce their own product.  This will lead to cheaper acquisition costs.  A.I. companies can now buy the females for $50,000 to $250,000 and only need to have that female produce one son.  That will still be cheaper than leasing the son on an open lease.  This also allows them to have greater control of their bloodlines, accelerate their genetic advancement and develop their own distinctive product.
    END RESULT: Cheaper product development costs and a distinctive product.

What does this mean to YOU the average seed stock producer?

For the initial stage, which we are currently in, as A.I. companies buy into the female side, prices will rise.  Once they have the base genetics, they will not need to buy any more and they will stop buying.  Also currently we see top genetic breeding programs investing more in the top .1% of the genetics market.  The money for this is not coming as much from the female side as it is from the current or future revenue potential of semen lease deals.  The problem is that these bull breeders will be out of the market, as more and more A.I. companies STOP leasing from them, because they are now producing their own genetics.

With A.I. companies starting to own more of the top genetics, especially in the health and fertility and polled bloodlines( an area the market is heading to in the future) this will leave the seed stock breeder with a product or cattle that do not top the lists like they used to.  Also, now the A.I. companies will not release their new high genomic sires until they have mated them on all their own females first.  This will give A.I. companies a substantial advantage in generating list toppers.  Bull breeders, on the other hand, will not have the lease deals that they currently enjoy, so they will not have the same revenues from the sale of high index animals.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Nobody likes to be told “I Told You So” and the reason I bring this up is not to do that, but rather to open the eyes of breeders to what is happening and what the future still holds.  While there will always be a seed stock business selling females to other breeders, as the bull market continues to change, so will the prices for the top genomic females.  You will continue to see a spike for a few years, while the genetics companies stock up on top genetics.  However, after that, you will start to see prices drastically decline.  Your best course of action would be to ride the wave while it lasts, and then plan on all future sales/revenue (3-4 years from now) to start to be from females only, with only a very small, select group of sires being contracted by A.I. companies in the future.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

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

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top13of2013Three times a year every breeder and dairy cattle enthusiast pours over the newly released bull proofs or genomic indexes. We review the rankings to see if the bulls we are using or are planning to buy are near the top of the lists.  It seems every year we hear about another bull that has had a million doses of semen sold in his lifetime. All that is exciting information however it does not necessarily translate into the improvement that needs to occur in a population of dairy cattle. So what does tell the story of sires contributing to advancement?

Milking Daughters

In fact, in addition to the sons a bull has enter AI, it is the number of milking daughters of a bull that determines the contribution he will have on the breed. The Bullvine decided to investigate the female registrations by sire to determine which bulls breeders are actually using.

Population geneticists tell us that about 25% of the improvement in a population comes from the sires that produce the milking daughters. By comparison the contribution from the sires of AI young sires is 43%, the contribution from the dams of AI young sires is 25% and the contribution from the dams of the milking females is 7%. Even though the sires of milking daughters contribution is not the most important factor in an Al breeding population, it is the most important factor that breeders have control of in their herd.

Canada – 2012

The ten sires with the most registered daughters in 2012 in the Canadian Holstein Herdbook accounted for 23% of all female registrations. All ten sires were daughter proven and all listed in Table 1.

Table 1     Sires with the Most Registered Canadian Daughters (2012)


Click on image for enlargement

Every sire has his own merits and limitations. In our analysis the Bullvine decided to consider the Percentile Rank (%RK) each sire has for each of LPI and its three major components – Production, Durability and Health & Fertility. The ranges in and overall averages for %RK for these ten sires are very revealing. Even though these sires are 94%RK for LPI it can be seen that Canadian breeders put more emphasis on Durability (think Conformation) at 95%RK, moderate emphasis on Production at 79%RK and little emphasis on Health & Fertility at 54%RK.

Only one sire is below 94%RK for Durability and only two sires are below 75%RK for Production. However a very limiting factor to genetically advancing Canadian Holsteins is the fact that only four sires, Fever, Dempsey, Manifold and Jordan, are over 75%RK for Health and Fertility.  The fact is that little attention is being paid to Daughter Fertility when breeders use sires. That should concern us all.

What’s Happening in 2013

Holstein USA provides on its website a report called “High Registry Activity by Bull”. The report is updated daily and is for the most recent two week time period. The following is the report for April 22, 2013 (registrations April 08 to April 19).

Table 2             Sires with the Most USA Daughters (April 2013)


Click on image for enlargement


It is worthy of note that Mogul, McCutchen, Gold Chip and Supersire are all genomically evaluated bulls without any daughters included in their indexes. The other six sires are all daughter proven.

The Bullvine does not have the Percentile Rank tables for the USA bulls so the numbers in Table 2 are their actual index numbers. However the results are very similar to the top ten Canadian sires in 2012. TPI, PTAT, UDC and FLC are all relatively high index numbers on average. And the indexes for Net Merit, SCS and Milk are moderate to high. However standing out as being below average is Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR). So USA breeders, like their Canadian counterparts, are also not placing emphasis on a breed problem – fertility.

The Numbers Tell the Story

One question we had was “How much are genomic sires being used?”. Table 2 shows four genomic sires in the top ten in the USA. In fact in the top thirty most used American sires in 2013 there are eleven genomic sires. That compares to three in the top thirty in Canada in 2013. Breeders in the USA are making much more use of sires with genomic evaluations than Canadian breeders are.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The sires that advance a population are the ones that breeders use not the ones that top the ranking lists.

The Bullvine’s assessment on the sires breeders are currently using is:

  • Production – Maintain the current amount of emphasis
  • Type / Durability – the emphasis can be diminished
  • Health & Fertility – the emphasis needs to be increased

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Given that many breeders tell The Bullvine that they wish to genetically improve health and fertility in their herds, it is time for breeders and AI organizations to become much more discriminating in these areas. Young sires entering AI will need to genomically rank in the top 25% of the population for DPR or DF. Many sires currently getting use in North America do not measure up for health and fertility. The genetic merit of sires selected and used in the coming years needs careful re-consideration.

Indexes are like having a compass. First you have to know where you want to go. Then you have to USE the information or you could still wind up lost.


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Categories : A.I. Industry

Semen Prices Are Never Too High

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Many cattle breeders may be under-spending on semen. They have the mistaken idea that not spending is providing savings. What they are failing to consider is that short term savings could be causing expenses in the longer term.  While the old adage “It takes money to make money.” seems cynical, there are times when it simply means there is good cause for loosening the purse strings.

Heifer Costs TODAY

A check of dairy heifer rearing costs for North America reveals a range between $1900 and $2200. For today’s discussion, let’s assume that that is the cost to produce an average proven sire daughter. It takes five doses of semen to get a heifer calf (including repeat services and a ratio of 50% bulls and 50% heifers). Therefore the cost to get a higher quality heifer is $ 2000 + 5 times the extra semen dose costs. That is the simple math and the simple answer is “Yes!” It costs more and the numbers could range, on average, from $25 to $50 extra per female bred per year.

What’s it WORTH to YOU?

It would be wonderful if you could dial in a one-size fits all answer to the complicated business of dairy cattle breeding. Since we can’t, we have to constantly analyze our business and the marketplace. Each dairy herd ultimately has to make semen buying decisions based on the answers to questions such as these ones:

  • Where are the genetics of your herd at today?
  • Where do you want your herd genetics to be in the future?
  • What financial or logistics issues affect your sire choices (i.e. herd size; availability of semen)?
  • What market are you targeting as your revenue stream (sales of milk, embryos or breeding stock?)

A Closer Look at SEMEN

Looking at recent economic studies we found that, on average, North American producers spend about 1.5% of their annual expenses on AI costs. On average that is $76 per cow per year and that does not include the on-farm labour costs for herds that inseminate their own animals. If, upon reading this, you are happy with where you fit in relation to the average, let’s remember “Being average today means that you will be behind tomorrow!”

At The Bullvine we are interested in which sires get used.  We obtained the semen price lists for six major North American AI studs.  Each organization has different product lines and their pricing strategies and customer focus groups also differ.

Our next study was to determine average semen prices, depending on a bull’s merit. For each organization we determined a weighted average semen price and compared categories of bulls to that average. The following chart shows how much extra you would have to spend on semen cost to get the targeted results. (See below)

What’s the DIFFERENCE?

Targeted Results Extra Semen Cost per Dose
Average Proven Sire on Price Listings $ 0
Sexed Semen  + $19
Proven Sires  
Over 2200 TPI and PTAT >2   or  2500 LPI and CONF >+10 + $22
Over 2000 TPI and PTAT >1 or  2000 LPI and  CONF >+5 $0
Other bulls -$21
Net Merit > +$600  + $10
Unproven Sires
Genomics        TPI > 2200 or LPI > +2500 + $ 18
Genomics        TPI < 1800 or LPI < +2000 –  $ 11
Net Merit > + $750 + $ 12

Since neither Red nor Polled Sires on the price lists covered the genetic merit ranges listed above, a comparison for those categories was not possible.

An increase of $20 per dose is one thing when you’re looking at a 40 cow herd but it becomes quite significant in a herd of 500 cows.  Is it a good investment or a worrisome expense?

What Is The Sexed Payback?

At the outset you have to accept that any payback from using sexed semen or will be three to four years down the road.  With sexed semen, although there is lower conception and therefore it requires more doses per pregnancy, you are 90% sure of getting a female.  Some breeders limit the use of sexed semen to their higher genetic merit animals. The payback is that they get more heifers from cow families they want to build from. Consider that 100 cows require an average of 30 replacements (a range form 20 to 40 dependent of herd).  Using sexed semen on your top 50 cows will cost an additional $2850 ($19 x 3 or $57 in semen per cow). Your savings will have been in not rearing heifers from lower end cows. Those low end heifers can be sold at birth, vealed, bred for beef calves or used as embryo recipients. If you save $250 per cow per year in rearing fewer calves and getting some income from low end heifers calves, you save $25,000 for every 100 cows in one year. Why isn’t everyone using sexed semen?  Simple answer: Sexed semen is not available on unproven or all top bulls.

Proven Semen: Show Me The Money?

The difference in semen cost between an average and top proven bull is $110 (5 x $22) per heifer calf. By selecting to solve herd problems (Read more – Fact vs. Fantasy: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection and From Fantasy to Reality – Top Sires to Address Herd Culling Problems), here is what should you get for your money:

  • Less mastitis
  • Less feet problems
  • Less labour for calving problems
  • Less labour for health problems
  • Higher performance
  • Longer Productive Life

If you can save $250 per cow per year on these issues, you will net $14,000 per hundred cows.  So you have invested $11,000 to get $25,000 back.  A net of fourteen thousand is nothing to sneeze at. And, unlike with sexed semen, you should be able to target the bulls that provide the corrections that your herd needs.


There is a $29 difference (-$11 vs. +$18) between young sire with low genomics compared to one with high genomics. Here it gets into exactly which young sires you use. If you use the top ones, you reduce the risk of calving out the “dogs” from lower end genetic bulls. If it costs $2000 to raise a “dog” and she sells for $1500 (or less) you have lost $500 at the outset. On the other hand, the scenario of using the top genomics young bull produces a heifer with significantly more sale value than the $2000 cost to raise her. Using high genomics, you again have the potential for savings on mastitis, feet, calving and health problems. With genomic testing of your heifers, you also have the choice of not raising an animal that is undesirable for your target market. Granted there is an added cost of $45 but you potentially save on rearing costs, have parentage verified and you have a head start, if the numbers are high, of attracting interest from the marketplace.

Can You Bank On It?

Depending on your scenario, the opportunity to benefit from investing more dollars in semen can vary. Let`s look at different scenarios.

If you are heavily into ET and IVF, avoid sexed semen as it appears to give poor results.  You are going to have to make your money back from using non-sexed semen from the top sires and merchandising some progeny from them to cover the added costs and more bull calves. (Read more – $10,000 a dose polled semen and $750 Dollar Semen! Are you crazy?)

If you are milking 500 cows, you can use both sexed semen and semen from top proven and genomics sires. Your challenge is that you will have to manage more breeding events but your rewards are that you do not need as large a heifer herd around for replacements and the ones you do have will be of a higher quality.

If you are working with robotics, you may feel that semen isn`t a big issue that you are more concerned with cows that work within your system. However, you have already got the savings on labour and you can invest some of those dollars back into raising the genetic level of your herd. This could be a new revenue stream to assist your bottom-line. (Read more: Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd management)

Low Cost Semen Actually Costs More Money

If, over several years of breeding, you consistently choose your semen based on low cost, you are not only falling behind the genetic curve but you are also not solving the problems that your herd has.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The bottom line is that if you really want to move forward in today’s dairy breeding business, you’re going to have to invest money in semen! Lose the death grip on your wallet.

When the sires you use meet your on-farm needs, semen is never too expensive!! 

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

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$10,000 a dose Polled Semen

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

First it was LIQUID GOLD that caught everyone’s attention when GenerVations released him and his brothers in a limited offering for $750 and $500 (Read more – $750 Dollar Semen! Are You Crazy?).  That gave all breeders the chance to have equal access to early release semen, instead of playing favorites with preferred herds or contract mattings.  Now it’s GOLDEN PP, Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red that is getting everyone’s attention.  When his first five units of semen sold for $50,000, it generated heaps of discussion around the industry.

The Dairybullsonline Story ad ad

To get a better understanding of the GOLDEN PP story, it’s best to trace it back to its roots.  In March 2011, Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor started DairyBullsOnline (Read more – They’re Sold on Polled!!) by developing their website, and placing the ad at right in the major dairy publications.

You see these two risk takers had spent many years in the dairy industry and they were very confident that polled was more than just the new red (Read more – Is Polled The New Red?).  They were not only confident that the market would come to demand polled genetics, they wanted to be at the front of it (Read more – Polled Genetics: Way of the Future or Passing Fad).  Recent sale results have confirmed that they are achieving their goal   (Read more – An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).

What these two men saw was a different way to sell and promote bulls.  Leveraging a different distribution model compared to traditional Artificial Insemination companies, was looking to be more of your than your Wal-Mart (Read more – A Wake-Up Call to All A.I. Companies).  As well, they could offer a larger portion of the revenues back to the breeders of the bulls who had been forced to sign very limiting contracts in the past (Read more – Top 10 Questions to ask Before You Sign That A.I. Contract)  Hence  they developed the ad to attract breeders who were looking for a change.

The Golden PP Story

It was this wanting to partner with breeders and to become champions for polled that led them to help in arranging the sale of Kulp-Dale Snow Gold (Sister to Golden PP) from Kulp Genetics to Benner Holsteins, Steinbach Manitoba.  The trust they built up while working with Kulp’s earned them the privilege of sampling and marketing Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red.



GOLDEN PP came back with high initial genomic index tests.  With bulls you are only able to see genomic results every proof round compared to genomic indexes for heifers are released monthly.  Both Dairybullsonline and Kulp’s had to wait to see if they would indeed have the #1 Homozygous polled bull in the world.  When Elm-Park Geisha PP-Red topped the World Dairy Classic sale (Read more – World Classic 2012 Highlights) with lower genomic numbers than Kulp-Dale Golden PP Red, they were sure he could be the highest PP bull.

The Power of Social Media and Smart Business Decisions

Golden PP ad from Facebook

Golden PP ad from Facebook

Now here is where the story takes an interesting turn.  While we were working on preparing a Facebook page to help promote GOLDEN PP, things started to swell.  First breeders from all over the world started “liking” the page, while it was still being developed.  Then the most unexpected thing in the world happened.  They were offered $50,000 for the first five units of semen.

Actual Facebook Conversation

Actual Facebook Conversation

The offer was made by Jerry Jorgensen of Ri-Val-Re Holsteins.  The offer came with the condition that no other semen could be sold or used outside his herd for 90 days.  This effectively guaranteed that he would have the first progeny on the ground.  Even more importantly, his progeny would most likely have a full proof round on the index lists before others would be on it.

Now $50,000 is a lot of money, “How can he ever make it back?” you ask.  “Especially on five doses?” Take a closer look.

Let’s say he uses those five doses for IVF.  That means he can flush about five different cows 5 different times, or for a total of 25 flushes.  Now let’s say that he averages 10 eggs per flush.  That would mean that they have about 250 eggs.  (Note: On the first round of flushes, Ri-Val-Re made 77 transfers off one unit of semen from nine donors).  They would only need to get about $200 more per egg to break even.  This is very achievable for a herd that already has some of the top gTPI B&W, R&W, and Polled Genetics.

Take it one-step further.

Let’s say they were to implant all these eggs and end up with 120 pregnancies.  If 60 are female, that means they would only need to get $1,000 more at the time of sale.  And that does not even factor in the potential revenue that having the next GOLDEN PP could bring.

When you take a closer look at the offer, it really is a very smart business decision.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I am sure it seems like some of the prices you see top animals selling for these days are unrealistic and that $750 for a single dose of semen doesn’t make sense.  I agree that for most breeders it doesn’t.  However, if you are in the high-end genetics game, these prices are not only realistic they actually make good business sense and prove that “All that glitters is definitely Golden”


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Categories : A.I. Industry

Semex – The Rise and Fall of a Semen Empire

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I have seen men who once screamed EBI green turn to the dark side.  Men who used to bleed WOBI blue now openly criticize the organization that was the epitome, half a century ago, of everything Dairy in Canada.  The Semex Alliance that once dominated, no longer owns the Canadian marketplace.  There is criticism from within.  How did the organization that once defined the Canadian marketplace lose control of it?

I’ll establish my personal allegiances before the hate mail commences.  I grew up with the belief that the Canadian cow was the best in the world and that the Canadian dairy cattle improvement system was second to none.  This was so heartfelt for me that I have the Holstein Canada logo tattooed on my chest.  I believed that the likes of Moe Freeman, Roy Snyder and George Clemons were super heroes who could leap tall buildings in a single bound.  At that time, there was leadership, teamwork and cooperation that pulled differences together for the common good.  Today?  Not so much.  (Read more – Select Sires vs. Semex – A contrast in cooperatives) The reason for this decline and fall has gradually kicked in for me.  When Doug Blair and Alta Genetics decided to purchase Landmark Genetics, the foundation of what was Semex and the partnership and cooperation that made Canada great, started to crumble.  That was the first crack in the cooperation and teamwork that had lead Semex and Canada to global prominence.  Later, when GenerVations, a stud other than Semex, had produced the #1 sire (Calbertt-I H H Champion) in Canada that further ate away at what was the core of Semex.

Canadiens vs. Nordiques

As I was thinking about this a situation came to my mind.  Like most Canadians, I am a huge hockey fan and I am reminded of what has been the downfall of the once mighty Montreal Canadiens.  The Canadiens once had it all. They had hockey dominance all to themselves, just as Semex had controlled the Canadian marketplace.  However, in hockey, when the WHA launched, one of the first steps made by the Nordiques was the hiring of the Canadiens legend, Maurice Richard, as their coach.  It didn’t work out – the Rocket’s personality was no fit at all for the job and he lasted a couple of games.  However, the strategic move of his signing was a golden one that set a precedent, much like Blair’s and the leadership team at Alta Genetics.  There was now another option in Canada.  Hockey fans had a choice.

The other part that I think is even more telling for the Semex fall from dominance is that they no longer always had the best Canadian product.  This compares to the Canadiens having to give up their territorial exemption in 1970.  You see in the days of the Original Six, the Canadiens had all but exclusive rights to any junior player in Quebec.  That singular grasp over one of the greatest sources of talent gave the Canadiens a significant advantage in assembling talent.  It was as if they were starting every poker game with an ace in hand.  Semex had a similar success story.  But when GenerVations had the #1 LPI sire, there was a clear message that Semex was not the only option. Even today GenerVations works at showing breeders there are other options (Read more –$750 Dollar Semen! Are you crazy?).  Even in Quebec with the great work Trans America Genetics (TAG) is doing they are not even the only option in the hockey and genetic heartland of Canada.

Furthermore, today’s generation of active breeders hasn`t grown up with Semex as the impenetrable force.  There was a time when merely uttering a negative thought about Semex was considered high treason.  But think about how things have changed. Through MACE, Genomics, social media and a globalizing of the marketplace, today’s generation of breeders has not known Semex Sires as the only super stars.  This is the same as today`s Quebecois growing  up with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Luc Robitaille, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis or Martin Brodeur not wearing a Canadien’s jersey.  Even one Canadien who did rank among them, Patrick Roy, demanded a trade out of Montreal.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Semex’s superior place in Canadian and global dairy cattle breeding history remains almost unequaled.  However, that position is less secure today than many would like to admit.  I am not saying they can’t regain prominence or even be a major global player.  What I am saying is that we all need to remember that cooperation is what made Canada great in the first place.  All players working together will build a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is what made Canada great and that is what will help Canada rise back to the top of the genetic empire.


$750 Dollar Semen! Are You Crazy?

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

When you first read the recent Limited Offering  from GenerVations for Liquid Gold, Fuzion and Gizmo priced at $750 and $500 and $500 respectively, I am sure some breeders will think: “Are the bulls dead? Are these guys crazy?  Are they expecting to get rich?  Who the heck will buy that semen?”

Limited Offering  from GenerVations for  Liquid Gold, Fuzion and Gizmo

Limited Offering from GenerVations for Liquid Gold, Fuzion and Gizmo

What Makes Them So Special?

In reality, it may not be as crazy as some would think.  According to David Eastman, what GenerVations is trying to do here is to give every breeder access to their top Genomic Index sires at the same time albeit at a premium price.  Now you might say that premium is hefty and it is.  When you consider that sires like Numero Uno, Supersire, McCutchen and Cashcoin can be purchased for under $100, the $750 price tag for Liquid Gold seems pretty steep.  Are these sires that far ahead on his genetics? Let’s take a look.

200HO7450AMIGHETTI NUMERO UNO-ET1196960.2530.062.553.172587
7HO11351SEAGULL-BAY SUPERSIRE-ET25241120.08780.012.772.732564
7HO11477DE-SU BKM MCCUTCHEN 1174-ET1488740.08570.052.754.012525
534HO10FARNEAR-TBR-BH CASHCOIN1375740.1490.033.272.922495
250HO1049GENERVATIONS LIQUID GOLD15971020.17800.122.83.482543
250HO1047GENERVATIONS FUZION1355850.14720.122.792.372460
250HO1048GENERVATIONS GIZMO1902800.03690.052.813.372475

As you can see by the numbers above, these GenerVation bulls are not any higher than the current top GTPI sires.  The biggest difference is that breeders who take this offer will get instant use of the semen.   This is unlike some of the other sires on the list that have contract matings that will produce daughters that are 6 months older than the daughters from the first publicly available semen. If you look at the first registered daughters of each of these other sires you will see that they are all for contract matings or with preferred herds.  Instead of making breeders sign an agreement for the sampling rights from the resulting progeny from the selective early released semen, GenerVations is giving each breeder the opportunity to be ahead in the marketing of the genetics they have purchased.

Big deal you say.  Well actually it is a big deal.  In the past, contracts were signed when heifers were 30 months of age, after they had calved, been classified and were 60 days into production. Now high indexing heifers are being flushed at 12-14 months of age. So a six month head start is a big deal!

Marketing Potential

Think about it. According to GenerVations,”Progressive breeders will have the opportunity to access the latest genetics and would likely use them immediately on a variety of mates..”  In other words breeders  get  a unique product and can charge more for the resulting embryos, bulls and heifers. How long would it take to make up the $1,500 (2 doses of semen per flush, though often with IVF it only requires one dose) on a flush?  That’s an extra $200-$300 per embryo.  On the elite females that these bulls will be used on, that is easily done.

Another interesting aspect of this offering is that GenerVations is limiting the semen to North American breeders.  This is more a result of health protocols and semen access than anything else.  Ordinarily, by the time these sires clear all tests and protocols, breeders outside of North America would already be behind on getting the semen.  So it is much better for those breeders to purchase embryos from top North American breeders from these sires.

How will this affect their bull proofs?

With the current  practice of selective sampling of  top genomic sires (selective early release and semen price) the issue of sampling bias will come to light long before any of these three sires get their proofs.  Also, if you look at these three bulls, they are only 83 TPI points apart. Given the current range of genomic sires and where they end up with official proofs, it is hard to say which one will actually be the higher one, once they all have daughter information.

Are they doing it to get rich?

Well yes and no.  Anyone who tells you they are doing it for the good of the industry is blowing smoke up your butt.  What they are actually doing is trying to help the breeders of top sires like these get the market reward they deserve.  In the typical scenario with most studs, this highly valuable early release semen is given away for contracts and the breeder of the sire sees none of this in their royalty contracts. Something GenerVations could easily do since they are a private company and own their own females. (Read – Should A.I. Companies Own Females)

GenerVations is taking it to the other extreme.  They argue that the first released semen  is  the most valuable semen that the sire will ever produce and they are  pricing it accordingly.  Does that mean that after the 6 months the semen price will drop?  Most definitely. But for those breeders who want to stay at the cutting edge of the genomics race, they can afford and pencil out paying these prices. (Read – The Genomics Advancement Race)

What this move also does for GenerVations is that once the market for bulls opens up in March 2013 GenerVations is showing breeders of top sires that they “have other options to maximize their revenues”.  No longer do you have to sell your bulls to a stud where they might sell 30,000 doses at $40 a dose. The GenerVations model is 1,500 doses at $750 or $500 a dose.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

From a marketing viewpoint  there are many aspects to this story that catch my interest.  First that someone has the gumption to stand up and take a risk. Dave Eastman, throughout the years that I have known him, has always been thinking of ways to advance his sire selection programs as well as how to grow GenerVations.  This is just another indication of David thinking outside the box and looking for new ways to improve the system. Simply crazy? Or simply smart? Breeders will decide.


A Wake-up Call to All A.I. Companies

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Lately, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding March 2013 when dairy breeders will be able to genomically test their own bulls.  (Read – How Genomics Is Killing the Dairy Industry)  One thing for sure is that it is forcing many Artificial Insemination companies to re-think their corporate strategy.

Probably one of the greatest areas for executives at the AI companies to look at for examples on how to position their companies is the retail industry.  There are many similarities between A.I. and retail, especially considering the need for product differentiation as well as being a service organization.  Three great retail examples to look at are Wal-Mart, Apple, and Amazon.


If you look at the large artificial insemination companies, you can already see that many of them are heading toward the Wal-Mart model, where they try to offer the highest quality product at “always low prices.”  Companies like Alta Genetics, ABS Global, Accelerated, and CRI have identified the largest portion of the marketplace, the commercial producer.  This is where they can sell the highest volume semen and maximize profit not through the semen prices they charge but rather through how efficiently they can operate.

Similar to the Wal-Mart, one stop shopping model, many of these A.I. organizations now try to be a complete solution to their customers offering such services as, herd health, feed & nutrition in addition to their genetic and reproductive services.

When it comes to their genetic offerings, the key here is that they are selling shelf space.  No longer is it as much about the product they are selling, as it is about the complete package they are trying to offer to the commercial breeder.  That means that they are looking to provide  a consistent product rather than seeking  to have the #1 TPI or LPI sire.  Therefore, they do not have to go out and source the top sires but, rather, they need to provide consistent reliable genetics that can help advance their commercial partner herds.  This means they will not have to get as aggressive on their lease deals and can still focus on their efficiencies and volumes as opposed to the ultra-aggressive sourcing of top gPA TPI and gPA LPI sires.

Once the world’s most dominating retail entity, there is no question that the Wal-Mart model works, Although  it was once believed that only one company could survive and thrive in the ultra-competitive big box store world.  The recent performance of companies like Target does hold out some hope for the many A.I. companies looking to battle for this large market segment.


In  contrast to the Wal-Mart model is Apple.  The most admired company in the world has built its market position through developing, marketing and direct selling their own unique product to what most would consider a niche market.  They key part to this model is having a very clear vision who your marketplace is and developing an extremely differentiated product in the eyes of their customers. A.I. companies that seem to be emulating this model are GenerVations with their work with the Lylehaven Lila Z and Wabash-Way Evett families, JetStream Genetics with their work with Regancrest  S Chassity, and Select Sires through their Aggressive Reproductive Technologies (ART) program, though to a much larger audience that the first two (Read – Select Sires vs Semex: A contrast in Cooperatives).

Similar to how Apple has received widespread criticism for some of their own business practices, companies like Select Sires have received criticism for owning females (Read –Should A.I. Companies Own Females ). Though as the Apple model demonstrates you need to have a distinctive product in order to survive. The biggest thing that all three of these companies have learned is that, in order to compete in this ultra-competitive marketplace, they need to cost effectively source their genetics.  That means producing their own sires and accelerating their rate of genetic advancement so that they can have a product that is unique in the marketplace. (Read – The Genomic Advancement Rate – The Battle for Genetic Supremacy)

There are two main lessons I think many of these A.I. companies can learn.  First always be innovative and at the front of the marketplace.  If you are not pushing the front end of product development/sire sampling, you will fall behind your competitors and get lost in no man’s land.  The second lesson is that you have to control the license to your product.  Apple has never allowed other companies to come in and license their product.  They also did not create the iPhone or iPad and then the next day let their competitors take their products and designs and create their own versions knock off versions.  Companies that did allow this to happen, like Microsoft, have developed much larger market share, but have fallen on financial challenges. For A.I. companies that means you need to control your young sire sampling so that you have the next generation of genetics before your competitors do.  While some would say that is not fair, in order for these companies to compete they have no option but to do so.  While having negative sentiment in a small segment of  the marketplace is not ideal, the risk of not having a differentiated product is a much bigger gamble.

More recently, I have seen the emergence of online semen retailers akin to the model.  Companies like DairyBullsOnline in North America and Dairy Daughters in the UK, are able to compete not on their size and scale, or their own distinctive product (though DairyBullsOnline does have a strong segment in the polled and red and white market) but rather through their efficiencies.  These companies do not have large facilities with great numbers of staff, but rather they are extremely efficient in their operations and source their product direct from breeders or smaller A.I. organizations.  Leveraging technology both on the web as well as for shipping semen internationally these companies are able to operate at much higher efficiency, passing benefits back to the producers and the breeders they source their genetics from.  Despite what they lack in market share, they are able to attract unique genetics through offering seed stock breeders a much higher royalty percentage.

The interesting part about this model is that Amazon was able to stay competitive and fight off many competitors by developing private labels and exclusive marketing arrangements, including being the online e-tailer for many large retail companies.  As many of the organizations are forced to get more efficient will they be able to reduce costs and develop their own platforms that will take away the advantage these companies have?  You can already see it in the retail world with traditional companies like Wal-Mart and Best Buy committing significant resources to their web properties.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The artificial insemination world is changing very rapidly.  While many companies have already identified what part of the market segment they are going to try to occupy, others seem to be taking a sit and wait approach.  The problem is, if they have not already identified whether they are going to be a Wal-Mart, Apple, or Amazon, it is too late, as many of the other companies already have a significant head start.


While many would think that all farmer-owned cooperatives would have the same challenges and the same mandates, there could no greater contrast than the approaches taken by Select Sires and Semex.  Select Sires is a federation of nine farmer-owned-and-controlled cooperative and Semex is a partnership of three breeder owned cooperatives.  So structurally they are quite similar with perhaps some significant differences in mandates.  However these two artificial insemination companies are headed in very different directions when it comes to approaches to communications and product development.

The Art of Sire Sampling

GLEN-TOCTIN BOLT LUCILLE VG-87 - one of the dams selected for the ART program

one of the dams selected for the ART program and dam of S-S-I DOMAIN LITHIUM

There no question that how an AI company defines its genetic mission, contracts young sires and proves bulls will greatly affect the profitability of the company.  In 2009, the Select Sires board saw the writing on the wall with genomics, the new tool on the scene.  The Board directed management to find new and better ways of procuring additional high-ranking, uniquely bred genetics in the most cost effect manner possible.  This lead to the development of Aggressive Reproductive Technologies (ARTTM), a program that involves the ownership of a small group of elite females (Read – Should A.I. Companies Own Females).  The females were purchased with plans to purposely breed them to create new and unique genetics for Select Sires, a product that would help differentiate them in the marketplace.

While Select insist that “the bulls resulting from the ART program compliment, not replace, bull calves that we continue to purchase from seed-stock producers” explains Jeff Ziegler, Genomics Program Manager at Select Sires.  Semex, on the other hand, have made it very clear that they have “no interest in owning females” and decided that they would stick to what they know best, sire sampling, and let the breeders specialize in breeding the cattle.  That may be a great brand position with their traditional seed-stock breeders, but if they cannot procure and prove they have the top genetics, it will mean nothing and prove to be a very costly mistake.

The Golden Rule – He Who Has The Bulls Has The Power



So how has this been working out?  Seventeen of the top new 200 new release females for October are members of the ART program at Select Sires (Read – Top 200 New Release Females for October).  In fact, this is a growing trend with 10/200 in September and 8/200 in July.  There are also early genomic young sires making their mark, including MOUNTFIELD SSI DCY MOGUL (purchased as an embryo) who is already being used as a sire of sons.  Two recent success stories from the female ownership side of ART are S-S-I BOOKEM MORGAN and S-S-I LITHIUM. Both are top 10 bulls on Holstein USA’s August active genomic young sires for GTPI at +2495 and +2470,respectively.

However, Select Sires ability to perform at an A+ level does not just come from the ART program.  In recent August 2012 sire summary, Select Sires leads the industry with 36 sires on Holstein USA’s Top 100 Total Performance Index (TPI) list with at least 97 percent reliability for milk and type.  In addition, Select Sires is home to 10 sires over +3.00 for PTAT including the new #1 Type sire, MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOOD EX-90.  They own the No. 1 TPI sire above 97% reliability for milk and type, Ensenada Taboo Planet EX-90-GM.  The future is also looking bright with 24 of the top 50 GTPI active genomic young sires coming from the Select Sires Super SamplerTM lineup.

So how has Semex policy of partnering with top breeders instead of owning females being working for them?  According to our analysis of the August 2012 New Release sires in Canada, a few of Semex’s partner herds have not been delivering the product.  Two key Semex partner herds Stanton’s and Claynook saw nine sires proven with an average drop of 418 LPI points when compared to the GPA LPI’s.  Those same two herds have seen an average drop of 635 points on over 40 bulls since the introduction of genomics back in August 2009 (Read – The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling).

In fact, Select Sires owns the #1 LPI sire, Ensenada Taboo Planet EX-90-GM.  Even in the market where Semex dominates in the number of young sires sampled it only have five out of the top 10 GPA LPI young sires from the August 2012 release.  Remember they sample over 70% of the sires in Canada.   and they only has three of the top 30 GPA TPI sires.  By comparison GenerVations, which has been very active in the ownership of females, has four of the top 30 GPA LPI sires and they sample a small fraction of the sires that Semex does.

No Longer a Dictatorship –It Is Now A Two Way Conversation

In today’s business world, if you don’t have a better product, you had better do a great job of marketing your product.  For years, Semex has been able to market and sell based on the ‘Canadian Kind’.  However, genomic evaluations has pretty much all but removed any customer loyalty and regional advantages that may have existed for AI companies in the past. Breeding programs have been adjusted by most major AI companies so they can deliver product that will satisfy breeders individual breeding strategies.  AI companies, the world over, have had to redefine their business model  over the past few years and rebranding has had to be addressed. Recent print ads and website changes would suggest that without the top of the list product to sell Semex has started to rebrand itself.

Yet, as the world becomes more social,  information, access to it and the ways the product will generate more customer profit as driving forces in today’s dairy cattle breeding world. It is no longer about control it is about accurate and new information.  It’s about open two-way discussion.  No longer can you dictate what people are to think, but rather you need to engage them in open honest conversations.

In the Bullvine’s recent articles about 7 Sires to Use in Order to Breed the Next World Dairy Expo ChampionThe Top 12 Holstein Genomic Young Sires To Use for Maximum Genetic Gain and The Sensational 6 Top 6 North American Genomic Holsteins We Would Invest In, Select Sires not only allowed us to share it with their readers they actually posted it themselves on Facebook and Tweeted it as well.  Semex either deleted our posts or did not even respond.  It’s no wonder that Select Sires has the larger social following.  Gone are the days when the one who pays the most control’s the media, as is evident by us here at the Bullvine.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The marketing place is evolving, those companies that evolve and adjust will survive and thrive, those that don’t will fizzle out.  I am not saying that Semex needs to run out and buy females, nor am I a saying that Select Sires is doing everything correctly.  However, there are some significant differences in how these two companies procure and market their genetic products. These differences are leading the two companies in very different directions.


As I watch how the dairy industry has changed over the recent years, and more specifically the dairy breeding industry, I find myself asking the question “is the tail wagging the dog?” Specifically I want to know, “Are dairy breeders dictating to A.I. companies what bulls they want to use and what trait they are looking for, or, is it the other way around?

So much has been made of how genomics has changed the dairy breeding industry lately, and yet, it still seems as though the large A.I. companies are trying to tell dairy breeders what they should be interested in, instead of dairy breeders, who know their own needs, telling the A.I. companies what’s important to them.

In any marketplace it should always be the consumer dictating to the producer what’s important. For the dairy industry that means that “Joe public” should dictate what’s important. Do they want hormone free milk, do they want milk that is from non-genetically manipulated animals. All this should be and, ultimately, will be determined by the end consumer.

Then as the milk producer, based on your own goals or strategy to deliver a product that is of high value to the end consumer you manage your herd appropriately. That means selecting of sires and genetics that will help you satisfy “Joe public.” Too often, I find that A.I. companies are caught up in themselves. They either have a new hot sire that they want to push, or they have developed what they think is a “distinct” differentiation from the other A.I. companies and want you to buy into that.

Your breeding program should not be dictated to you by who the popular sire of the moment is or what is the cheapest semen you can get. Dairy cattle breeding is not a popularity contest. It is something you should put time into and carefully consider based on your overall farm/herd goals and where you’re genetic programs fit into that. You can then decide what traits are important to you and what sires will help you achieve the desired results. As a progressive dairy breeder you need to be in charge of your genetic programs, not the local semen salesmen who get their marching orders from someone who does not know your specific needs and goals.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The biggest thing I have learned in my years working with various large corporate entities is that it all starts with the end consumer. Look for what they want and work your way back. For dairy breeders who want to be market leaders, that means looking at milk consumption. What trends are happening there, what trends are going on in animal welfare? By looking ahead instead of behind you will not only not be caught in the latest fad, but rather you will see the rewards in your pocket book.


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



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


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

Frequent Genomic Releases

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

Cost of Production

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

Aggressive Lease Options from Current A.I. Companies

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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



Comments (9)

Having grown up working with the Canadian Association of Animal Breeders, to working directly with some of the largest A.I. centers in the world, to running our own genetic programs that had many top LPI cattle, I have had the opportunity to learn the semen sales and marketing world from a variety of perspectives.  From this frontline view I have never seen as much change as the A. I. industry is now experiencing with Genomics.  With all these changes, the question becomes “What does the future hold for the AI industry?”

Genetic Advantage

It used to be that every artificial insemination center could claim an advantage in a certain product offering.  Semex would claim a type advantage that over the years converted to a longevity value, in order to appeal to the much larger commercial market, instead of just elite breeders looking for the next great show cattle.  ABS global added product lines and partnerships such as Judges Choice to counter moves such as Semex’s and included strong type offering to their very commercial product line.  Every AI center jockeyed back and forth to show how their genetic product offering was different.  Even when they overlapped, they would claim greater reliability or stability based on the country or system of origin.

Then along came genomics and wiped all that out. 

Today when you look at all the major A.I. centers products, you could take the name and stud code off and you would be hard pressed to notice any difference.  They all try to offer a complete product line.  Moreover, with the reliability, and ability to take the system or country of origin out of it, they all have pretty reliable product.  This almost completely eliminates any genetic advantage that any A.I. center has.

It has been very interesting to watch companies like Select Sires take to owning top bloodlines in a big way (to read more check out Should A.I. Companies Own Females?).  This may be the only way that A.I. companies can differentiate their genetic advantage.  Buy owning the top females these genetics companies (at this point, they are no longer just an A.I. company), are able to develop distinct bloodlines that none of their competitors can have.  This is only going to change more when breeders have full access to genomic information in 2013 and may start to sample and prove their own sires.

Think about it.  I remember back when I was working with GenerVations, and Champion hit as #1 in Canada.  We marketed the heck out of the fact that he was the best in Canada.  We relied on the world’s confidence in the Canadian system to promote that this new, small A.I. center had a reliable product.  We blasted that message around the world making sure everyone knew that GenerVations had the #1 in the world.  Because we all knew that there was about a 2-3 year window before competitors would have their own Champion sons, or he would no longer be the top bull.  Today we are looking at an even smaller window of opportunity. .  With new genomics bulls coming out pretty much monthly, things can change in a heartbeat.  The Select Sires program at least gives them 8 months advantage on the sires and total control over the dams (since they own them).  This gives them the ability to offer their customers a distinct advantage by doing business with them.  Some may look at it negatively and yet, from a purely business perspective, it makes total sense.  In the end, it will look like a very shrewd investment in a market in which it   so is hard to differentiate yourself.

Service vs. Price

Therefore, when you can no longer differentiate your company on product, it only leaves you two other options, service, and price.  You are either going to become the Wal-Mart of the A.I. world or you are going to become Nordstroms’s.  Both can exist in the same market place you just have to become extremely great at what makes you different.

If you want to become the Wal-Mart of the A.I. world, you are going to offer the lowest price for a very commercial product.  This means you need to have your production facilities running super efficiently and your overhead at a bare minimum.  This position plays extremely well to commercial producers who are looking for the lowest costs possible.  For years, companies like ABS, Alta Genetics, and Select have battled very aggressively.  Since most of these companies more or less were just selling a commodity, there really was not any brand loyalty.  Since most large herds did their own insemination work, they eliminated the close link that is developed between producer and the A.I. center through the regular visits by the technicians doing the insemination work.  While the major A.I. companies tried to lock in that connection again by offering mating programs and other services, since they all were pretty much the same and, often, not used by producers, they were only able to gain marginal difference.  And like the Wal-Mart model, margins are tight and profits are slim.

Therefore, if you cannot compete on product and you cannot compete on price, that only leaves service.  With the majority of the marketplace doing their own insemination, A.I. companies have to look outside the scope of traditional marketplace to provide services.  While this has been the case for many years in the commercial marketplace, it is also fast becoming the case in the entire marketplace.  While you may be able to get a slight premium when you have the #1 bull, otherwise you will live and die by the quality of service you offer your customers.  We have already seen this happen.  Many A.I. companies have gone to offering many non-genetic products in order to become a complete service organization, rather than just a supplier of genetics.

Also of interest, is how the roles of sales and sire analysts have also changed.  While many have called the modern sire analyst a glorified tail hair puller, they are now becoming more of a breeding advisor mixed with a negotiation specialist.  This is exactly what they have to do.  They can provide insight to breeders about the daughters of the top mating sires and maybe a little insight that his proof will not tell you.  Even more so, they are now the chief negotiator for their A.I. center.  If I were a GM of an A.I. company, I would invest heavily in negotiation and relationship building training for these individuals.  Realistically, unless you run a program like Select Sires, this will be your only way to get the top sires from many breeders.

The Bottom Line

Like most mature market places, there is little room for grey areas when it comes to the future of the A.I. industry and where the major A.I. companies position themselves.  It will take strong action now either to develop very aggressive genetic programs like Select Sires has, or you will need to decide if you are going to be the lowest cost provider or offer the greatest service.  And yes, I know there are many small micro A.I. companies that will be able to turn a profit.  I get that, they are able to keep their overhead so low that they will be able to offer a niche product to small segments of the market place.  However, when it comes to the big players, they need to ask themselves, “Am I going to get aggressive and develop distinct bloodlines?”  “Are we going to be the lowest price provider?” Alternatively, “Are we going to become legendary for the quality of our service?” Anything that is a smorgasbord of these will only end in extinction in the end.  Don’t think so?  Look what happened to your local hardware store, when Home Depot moved in, or the independent grocer, when Wal-Mart put up one of their super centers in the same community.  Where do you shop today?  Who will be your provider tomorrow?

What do you think?  Comment below our join the discussion on our facebook page.


Getting a contract to supply a top young sire is a rite of passage on the journey to becoming an elite dairy breeder. You`re about to sign on the dotted line with an A.I. company. Do you know exactly what you`re getting into? Before you give a quick answer that might cost you money, take a look at these 10 areas that smart breeders get all the answers to:

  1. What kind of contract am I looking for?
    a- Is the contract for the mutual benefit of you the “breeder” and the A.I Company or is it one sided in nature?
  2. Where do Genomics fit in?
    a- Do you get to see his genomics first before you are asked to sign the contract? If not what is the reason?
    b- If you can test your own bull in 2013 what advantages are they offering you to sign now before genomics are known?
    c- If your bull has a higher PA than his genomics, will they take him?
  3. Ask yourself, “Should I take this risk?”
    a- Does the contract come with any guarantee, or are you taking all the risk to hopefully get your ROI from the female side, if things don`t work out?
  4. Where’s the Money?
    a-Is the contract for cash, or is it a per dose, or “NET” royalty option or any combination of these?
    b- Does any amount of semen given away at the start count in regards to the total amount that needs to be made before your per dose royalty kicks in?
    c- If semen sells for $10 or $20 and your royalty is 10% of the “NET” what are you likely to receive?
    d- What if your bull’s semen is exported for $2 or $4 what will your “NET” be then?
    e- Will each sale be made transparent? Number of doses sold, and value per dose?
  5. What about royalty agreements? When to say, “No!”
    a- Is your royalty capped, and if it is what is the reason?
    b- If they are offering a “NET” royalty have they fully explained what a “NET” royalty is? (A very, very important question to ask)
    c- If they give you a down payment say $10,000 does the per dose royalty kick in after 10,000 doses are made or does it start immediately?
    d- **Does it say anywhere in your contract that your royalty only kicks in after your bull makes the “Proven line up” or the “Active line up” If it does do not sign it until it is removed.
    e- Do you receive any sort of bonus or royalty on the “early release” and most valuable semen used to fill other contracts? If not, do you know how many of these early doses are not included in your contract?
  6. Advertising pays. Who does it?
    a- Will they promote and advertise your young bull to help him reach his bonus?
    b- If they do, where will they advertise him? Does that come with a guarantee?
    c- What is their typical advertising budget in for a young genomic bull or any bull under 30 months, and do they typically advertise only their best young genomics bulls?
    d- If they don`t typically advertise, or market their young genomic or unique bulls, what is the reason?
  7. It’s all about semen sales. What are the details?
    a- If his first and most valuable semen is given away for free for future contract considerations how does this benefit you?
    b- As the “breeder” do you receive your bull’s very first semen, and are you free to use it how you wish without conditions? If not, why not?
    c- Is there a bonus in your contract for the number of doses produced? Does it start at 20,000 doses or 50,000 doses or more?
    d- How much semen does an average young bull produce in his first 30 months of collection?
    e- What is the percentage of young genomic bulls that produce (and sell) 50,000 doses of semen before they are 30 months old?
  8. What happens if you have a bonus bull?
    a- If your bull calf has higher genomics then his PA, or is better than his sire and he is also Red, *RC, outcross, polled or any combination of these to make him truly unique is there any extra compensation or bonus offered?
    b- Does your contract have a bonus if he is the #1 Red, *RC, outcross, polled or #1 for type? How much extra? You should think about what a #1 female equivalent would be worth.
    c- Is there a bonus if your bull is in the top 10 for Red, *RC, outcross, polled or type?
    d- Is this bonus paid for your bull if he reaches the top 10 at any time, or does this only count if he is still in the top 10 at the time of his first collection, or even later at the time of his first release? (very important to know when your bonus actually counts, could be in top 10 today but unlikely to be top 10 at time of first collection with 1,000s of bulls being tested every month)
    e- Does this bonus only count for the top 10 of the stud you’re working with, or is it for the top 10 of the entire population?
    f- Is there a different bonus if he reaches the top 10 of the entire population? Again – think about what an equivalent top 10 female would be worth.
  9. Are there other benefits that should be considered?
    a- If your bull is good enough they are requesting contracts on his early semen there is a good chance your young bull will have his own son producing semen before he is 30 months old. Once he has to compete with his own sons how will this affect his semen value at that time?
    b- If you sign a bull contract before your bull is born what if any benefit does it provide you?
    ***and here is the single most important question that you MUST be able to answer:
    If your sire analyst does not know the answers to these questions, or is unable or unwilling to answer them, you need to speak to the person in charge who does. Do not sign or agree to any contract you do not feel comfortable with or that you do not fully understand.

As 2013 is approaching very quickly it is possible many other options will become available. There could be differences depending on whether you are negotiating in Canada or the U.S. Who knows, it may be possible to test your bull and then sell him at auction to the highest bidder.

It is important to weigh every option, but if you are uncomfortable with the way a contract is presented, or if you do not understand something it is in your best interest to ask questions. There are many unknowns going forward, but hopefully this helps to answer some of those unknowns for you, and you can print this off and have it handy when they call to contract your best animal.


It takes more than great genetics to make great A.I. Contracts.


Comments (0)

With high gas prices and little perceived genetic diversity is there really a need to have 5+ different semen salesmen coming in the lane?  This has been a tricky question for many years.  They all want a piece of your genetic dollar, but are they taking up too much of your time to just shoot the latest company line and share the local community gossip?


As technology has changed how most breeders get their information, there really is no need to get all the information from the “local” semen salesmen.  In the past. in order to get the latest sire proofs or daughter pictures. You needed to get a shiny brochure with all the fancy pictures to determine what sire you would use.  Today most breeders already know who the latest top sire is and have looked at daughter pictures online or in the trade publications.  It has gotten to the point where you can even order your semen online and have it shipped to you.

Gas Prices

Gas is not getting any cheaper, and trust me those nice fancy F-160’s or GMC Sierra’s don’t come cheap.  Hence, the change for some AI companies to switch to Ford Rangers.  Add up a $40,000 to $70,000 a year salesmen, plus truck, plus gas, plus insurance and that trip in the lane becomes very costly.  Ultimately, this cost is paid by the breeders through increased semen costs.  Do you really want to be paying extra so the local semen salesmen can drive a fancier truck?

Genetic Diversity

In the past, each semen salesmen had a very distinctive product line.  Semex had your type and “balanced cow” sires, ABS and Select had your production sires, and the International sires had your outcross pedigree’s with high components.  However, that has all changed.  Looking up and down each of the major A.I. companies sires line-ups shows little genetic diversity.  They all try to offer something to everyone.  This has blurred the line between the companies and only made the need for less of them to come in the lane.

Wasted Time

Probably the biggest cost that most breeders don’t think about is how much time it takes to talk to each semen, seed, equipment, ag-products person that comes in the road.  Now I understand that on the typical operation can be pretty lonely.  Not too many other breeders are coming in the lane, and social interaction at times can be limited.  Trust me I have been there.  In my career, I have had the opportunity to cover a sales territory and I know how long this can take.  I understand that these people coming in the lane can be a great break.  However, you need to ask yourself which ones bring value and which ones waste time.

As the role of a semen salesmen has changed, they are now more breeding advisers than salesmen.  The “good ones” understand when to spout the company line and when to say it like it is.  It’s these ones that bring you value and earn your trust.  The ones that keep pushing their newest or most expensive sire are just wasting your time.  Maybe it’s time to start telling those time wasters,” Hey instead of coming every week/month, how about you just wait until I call you?”

The Bottom Line

There is no question that the semen sales game has changed and I am not just talking about genomics.  Technology, gas prices, and limited time have breeders asking themselves “Are there too many semen salesmen coming in the lane?”  The answer really comes down to whether you feel they bring value, or are they just making a social call.  Your time is too valuable to be wasted on social calls.  Next time it feels like your local semen salesmen is just wasting your time, throw him a real pitchfork and say, “Let’s both get some value out of this time!”

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