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Dairy Cattle Show Photographs are NOT Free

Friday, October 21st, 2016

This is probably one of the greatest show ring pictures I have ever taken.  It cost me $11,875 to produce, and it has been stolen over 1,000 times.

$100 in gas to go from home to Madison and back.  $175 in hotel room charges while I was there. The camera I took this with cost $4,800. The lens was another $2,300. The flash I used to take this picture cost $800. When I got home, I uploaded it to a computer that cost me $2,800 and then the program I edit this photo in cost me $900.


So when other dairy magazines, sales managers, AI companies steal it or ask if they can use it for free or in exchange for credit or “exposure,” I politely decline the offer. The Bullvine is the most read daily dairy publication in the world…I have enough exposure already. Your companies have an advertising budget, and this is what it’s for. You obviously don’t expect your writers to work for free, or your secretary, or your boss. No one is going to publish it for free. Just because the picture is digital doesn’t mean it was free to make.

Now some of you might be rationalizing that this single photo didn’t cost me $11,875, but if you wanted to create it, from scratch, that is what is involved. So I consider that to be the replacement value if it’s stolen, or how much my lawyer will send you a bill for if it’s found being used without my permission.

Similarly, I understand that it takes more than the $30 entry fee to exhibit the animals at the shows that I am taking the pictures of.  That is why I do make my photos free to those exhibitors and the breeders of the animal exhibited.  I understand that there is a cost to clip, prep, feed, truck, etc. the animals that are in the ring.  But that does not give permission to other exhibitors, sales managers, AI companies to steal the pictures.  In addition we have now changed our policy that if you are sponsoring the coverage of that show with one of our competitors our pictures will no longer be free for your use.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So next time you are snagging that picture from Facebook or creating that ad with pictures you “Found online,”  I would like you to try this, next time you’re at dinner, tell your waiter you’ll tell all your friends how good the service was if he gives you dinner for free.



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United we stand divided we fall.  That simple statement explains the reason many milk producers are finding themselves at the short end of the stick.  Dairy processors understand that if they work together their fortunes rise, while dairy farmers seem to think, “As long as I just work harder and produce more milk, things have to get better…..right?” Wrong!

While a rebalancing of world supply and demand appears to be underway, with milk prices starting to rise around the world, there is still one major issue, at least from a producer standpoint that is holding producers down. Producers have no power.  You see producers are trying to do what they think is best from their viewpoint/operation.  The challenge is this micro perspective sometimes causes macro problems.  Stated simply, producers are trying to produce more milk to help drive revenue. In doing so, they are creating an oversupply to the industry and hence a lower overall milk price.

With increasing supply and static to decreasing demand worldwide, milk prices have plummeted.  But these losses have not been felt throughout the entire industry.  In fact, consumer milk prices worldwide have been stable, while prices paid to the producers have hit record lows.  So who’s making all the money? The processors.  Despite these economic conditions, many of the top processors in the world are reporting 60+% increases in profits.

Furthermore, certain markets have seen drastic reductions in the price at which milk is sold to consumers.  Such as Australia where milk is $1/L.  Everyone there wants to blame the grocery stores or the processors.  In fact, it’s the producers that are to blame.  We cannot blame the likes of Coles or Woolworths because someone had to sell them the milk in the first place.  You see they are not going to sell it at a loss, so someone had to sell it to them cheaper.  Then the blame shifts to the processors…. but, there again, someone had to sell them the milk cheaper in the first place.  And hence the challenge.  You see processors are more than happy to work together and drive milk prices lower, because they know they can drive prices lower to the producers and still protect and, in some cases, even increase their margins and profits.

The pain producers around the world are feeling is a direct result of the fact that we as an industry have always worried about our bottom line.  I find it interesting that as a community we are great about supporting each other and boast about how well we all get along. Yet its producers not working together that has lead to the processors having the power and the profits in our industry. Instead of uniting to give power back to the producers, we produce more milk trying to undercut our neighbours.  More worried about staying afloat ourselves than solving the bigger issue.

We are all waiting for someone else to solve the problem for us.  The thing is, the industry has shown us how they are going to handle this.  They are just going to drive the price down to consumers and ensure that their bottom line is protected.  And no matter how much consumption increases or decreases its always going to be the producer that is going to feel the pain.  We are takers, not dictators.  And hence we complain, but ultimately nothing changes.

Even now as we start to see a slight increase in milk prices. Milk processors and co-ops in New Zealand and Europe are beginning to increase payout prices to farmers. Producers will ramp up quickly with that price signal, and this would stall the needed supply contraction before it even gets started.  You see as long as the processors get enough milk at current low prices there is no incentive to them to increase farm gate milk prices significantly.

Milk prices are not going to change dramatically over the next few years.  Sure we see slight increases.  But that is just the market taking the decreased supply into account.  That means that we will see a one-time increase in price which we have, but this will not be a trend going forward.

One of the only changes I do see happening is that we are losing the next generation of dairy farmers.  Young people these days are seeing the cost to get into the industry combined with the long hours resulting in minimal income and are choosing to go work in other industries instead.  This is a problem we may never be able to overcome.  Sadly, it might result in less milk production long term, and it will have irreversible effects on our community as a whole.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

History has shown us that wars are not won by those who are the strongest.  They are won by those who can work together the best.  In the dairy wars, processors have proven they can cooperate to protect their bottom line.  This has resulted in even great producer pain as producers keep playing into the processor’s hands by producing more and more milk at lower and lower prices.  For a community that is strong in spirit, dairy producers are weak on economics.  We have proven to be easily divided and hence conquered. Until we start to direct our futures, we will always be feeling producer pain.



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Are daughter-proven sires still popular?

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

A quick look at the US Holstein sires with the most registered daughters would have you believe that proven sires are still more popular than genomic sires.  Currently all three of the top-3 with the most registered daughters are daughter-proven bulls (Mogul, Supersire, and Yoder).  However, coming to the conclusion that proven sires are therefore more popular, would mean that you don’t understand how much the dairy artificial insemination industry has changed with the introduction of genomics.

To understand the trends in sire usage, you first need to understand semen production.  It is a well-known fact that young sires do not produce as much semen as proven sires.  A top producing young sire might produce 20,000 units in their first year of production, whereas a top producing mature sire can produce about 200,000 units in a year.   Young sires are much like teenage boys, who are full of “energy”, but have not yet reached maturity when it comes to sexual reproduction.  In fact, they are just learning how to regularly produce semen.  On the other hand, a mature sire has reached their sexual maturity and they not only produce more semen per ejaculate, but they can also be collected more frequently. On average mature sires produce up to 10X as much semen per year.

Thus we must conclude that the reason top proven sires fair well on the top registration lists has more to do with semen production than with sire popularity.  In fact, it is well known that a substantial production sire, with a decent type proof and who is also an excellent semen producer, will have much larger sales than most people would expect him to have. Die-Hard, the millionaire sire at ABS Global, is a great example of this.  Cost effective price setting, excellent distribution, and solid performance can all have a tremendous impact on an individual proven sire’s sales.

To answer the question of proven sires’ popularity vs. genomic sires’, you need to look at the overall sales.  While the US studs do not release their overall semen sales numbers, Canada, that has a very similar market, shows that Holstein genomic sires are the breeders’ choice, when it comes to usage.  Additionally, in Canada, the same pattern of sire usage also applies for the Ayrshire, Brown Swiss and Jersey Breeds.

Source: Trend in Genomic Versus Proven Sire Usage - Canadian Dairy Network 09-AUG-2016

Source: Trend in Genomic Versus Proven Sire Usage – Canadian Dairy Network 09-AUG-2016

Over the past four years, the ratio of Holstein Proven Sires to Genomic Sires in Canada has gone from 48:52 to 69:31.  That tells us that semen sales for genomic sires have risen from being equal almost 70% of the current market share.  This trend is in line with an August 2014 article in The Bullvine where we wrote that genomic sales would cross Malcolm Gladwell’s tipping point of 84% in the next two years. (Read more: Why 84% of Dairy Breeders Will Soon Be Using Genomic Sires!)

What the top registration lists in the US tell us is that there is a chance that we will continue to see Millionaire sires.  (Read more: Will there ever be another Millionaire Sire?)  However, they will be a different type of Millionaire than they have been in the past. It used to be that sires that came up with a  high proven sire proof and who were also high volume semen producers made this distinguished category.  The Millionaire sires of the future will be the sires that start with high genomic indexes. They will be able to stay in the top 10 TPI sires throughout their genomic test period. They will come out with a strong official daughter proof, when they can most capitalize on their increased semen production.  Another change will be that their sales, once they are proven, will most likely be to secondary markets. Today most major markets, similar to North America, will have moved to mostly genomic sire sales.  Fortunately for AI companies, there are still many countries that don’t yet allow genomic sires to be imported into their countries.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the dairy breeding industry is changing very rapidly.  As the AI companies have learned, genomics has been one of the greatest developments ever seen.  However, along with this great change, have come great challenges.  One of the biggest issues AI companies now face is the limited semen production from genomic young sires. For this reason, top lists can be miss-represented to say one thing, even though those that understand the dairy breeding industry know that genomic young sire usage is certainly more popular than proven sire usage. It won’t be long until the tipping point of 84% will be crossed!



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An Open Letter to All Dairy Farmers

Friday, August 5th, 2016

To the hard-working dairy farmers who get up before dawn every day so that the rest of us can enjoy wholesome, healthy milk on our cereal and in our morning coffees, “Please sell your cows!”

At first, I know that may be a hard pill to swallow.  Dairy farming for many is more than just a job. It’s a way of life.  The thought of not being able to help feed the world would make many of you sick.  But you see as an industry we are currently producing so much of the good stuff that we are killing the industry for producers everywhere.

Every day we see headlines in the news about record low milk prices.  Prices considerably below fair market rates and in many cases the cost of production.  Producers around the world have taken to the streets to protest.  However, none of us en mass have done the number one thing that will help solve this problem.  “Stop producing more milk than there is demand for.”

I am definitely not an economic expert, but I do remember a little from my courses in university.  The main message I retained is that “When supply is greater than demand, the price goes down.”

Sure there is the fact that many processors are making record profits. Trust me that makes me outraged at a time when there are producers that have gotten so desperate that they have taken their lives.  However, as an industry, we have given the processers this power.  Because we continue to produce more of the silky good stuff, and the processors, have been able to drive the price the average producer receives way down.

Now let’s not deny that there are many great reasons that we are producing more milk than ever:  An increased rate of genetic improvement (Read more: The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle for Genetic Supremacy), the fact that sexed semen has lead to a greater number of females (Read more: Sexed Semen from Cool Technology to Smart Business Decision) or that our understanding of nutrition and environment have made significant advances over recent years (Read more: Dairy Herd Managment) All of these progressive improvements have contributing to this debilitating situation.

However, the fact remains that, unless we start producing less milk, we are going to continue this bad situation.  If we don’t start to produce less milk, the choice will not be ours to make.  You see as we continue to over-produce, farm gate prices are only going to go lower or, at best, remain at the current record lows.  This will lead to more producers going deeper in debt to the bankers, and in some extreme cases, cause more producers to consider the drastic measure of suicide. 

We have the power to right this situation.  Look at the oil industry.  When gas prices get too low, the major powers simply just produce less crude.  It’s not that they can’t produce more.  They understand how to maximize their revenues and when prices get too low, they simply produce less.  Prices increase and then they start to increase production again.  It’s a simple solution to a major problem.

Many of you will say, “Well if I produce less my neighbor is just going to produce more.”  Moreover, that’s true.  But unless we, as a group, start to work together, the processors will continue to have control over us, and we will always be in a poor situation.

So while I know it sounds harsh to decrease production at a time when the world’s population is growing,  the simple fact remains that rate of consumption is not as high as the level we have increased production to.  Until we change this situation, we are only going to see this situation get worse.  So I ask you….no we plead with you…please sell off some of your cows, maybe feed them a less potent ration.  Maybe even use some less productive genetics, but whatever you do, please start producing less milk. United we stand, Divided we fall.


Andrew Hunt
Founder – The Bullvine




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Bovine Beauty Goes Viral on Facebook

Monday, July 25th, 2016

One of the perks of being a dairy enthusiast is the way it makes us look closely at the work we do every day.  You can’t be successful on a dairy farm or in the show ring by walking with your head down and not noticing the dairy girls who are are at work right beside you.  We all love it when something we are enthusiastic about goes viral on Facebook. Having said that, it isn’t any wonder that there has been huge enthusiasm and support for the “Bovine Beauty Challenge” which asked challengers to post a picture of a favorite cow for 7 days (and nominate 1 person each day) and, thereby to inundate Facebook with Bovine Beauty. When we see how much others appreciate the beauty inherent in raising cattle, it gives meaning to every day work and reminds us why we love doing what we do. Here are some highlights gathered from the stories, memories and pictures from “The Bovine Beauty Challenge” 2016.

This “Sassy” Bovine Beauty Sparks Priceless Friendships!


One of the stories that highlights the reasons why we love beautiful dairy cows came from Brent Howe who gave the background behind his selection of “Howes BC Sassy”.  Of course, there are many who recognize her name and recall seeing that cow.  What makes this selection special, however, is Brent’s well told story of the friendships, both working and in the showing, that sprang directly from the breeding and sale of Sassy. The story flows smoothly from the interest in Sassy “by a young Frenchman”, Donald Dubois.  When Dubois, the breeder of Boulet Charles, came to the farm in Aylmer Ontario to see the heifer, Sassy definitely passed the test. Before he left, he had purchased Sassy as a springing heifer for $10,000.00 along with 3 other VG cows on top of that price!  Brent sums it up. “It was a very big deal for Howe’s Holsteins!”

“Sassy’s Beauty is Special for the Boulet Family Too!”

bbc Pierre Boulet

In a later posting on the “Bovine Beauty Challenge, Pierre Boulet who had accompanied Dubois added photos and his own comments about the transaction that began this journey. “I tried to drop your price and negotiate but you remained firm in your offer!  We went to lunch and the more I thought about it the more I wanted that Charles heifer to come home with me.  A heifer like that with a sire stack like she had (Starbuck, Sexation), there was no going wrong! So we shook on it and the rest was history!” Pierre credits her as being “my first big time cow and she took me on a ride I will never forget”.  To this day, a lasting tribute to her beauty and impact remains. ”The painting of her is still on the front of my barn, 23 years later.” Reports Pierre “I have lots of amazing cows but she will always have a special place in my heart.”

“Beauty Goes Beyond Financial Benefits”

Sassy definitely lived up to her potential. Brent explains in reporting Sassy’s result that spring, “1st Sr 2 and HM Champion at Quebec Spring show!” The icing on the cake was that Sassy’s picture was the centerfold in the Holstein Journal promotion by W.O.B.I. The fame and friendships continued to grow. “The Dupasquier family at Guelph had purchased a share of Sassy from Pierre and enjoyed success for some time also.  She was All Canadian & All American ’94,’ 95, ’96!!!” Without question, this obvious bovine beauty had tremendous impact on Brent.  He sums it up this way. “I learned never to be afraid to sell a homebred good one because she will always carry your prefix! 

Serenity’s bovine beauty was even greater because she met adversity and overcame it!  Sometimes the beautiful bovine is part of a journey that has many key events that we might not identify as they are happening.  That is the case with another nomination in the Beautiful Bovine Challenge. “Miss Triple-T Serenity is special to me.” Says owner Jennifer Thomas.  Her favorite cow nearly didn’t make the trip to Madison because she became sick. “We said she had to show several signs of improvement in order to go.  I am not going to lie. I sat in the barn and cried. She has kind of always been my pet and has never been sick before that.  She must have wanted to go to the show because she started to show improvement.  She ended up 2nd at WDE. Then in November, I was 8 months pregnant and took a truck and trailer with 4 Jerseys to Louisville with a curly headed 3-year-old in tow.  Thankful for Renee Pierick and her ability to help entertain Kendall!  Nathan was in Canada at the Supreme in Quebec and the Royal with the HOLSTEINS.  Serenity ended up Winning her class and Reserve Grand that day.  It was probably my proudest moment in the show ring. Thanks to my good friend and partner Cybil Fisher and to every else who helped me that week…it was a memorable one!”

Bovine Beauties Inspire Teamwork

bbc Richard Caverly

For Richard Caverly the “Bovine Beauty Challenge” inspired him to consider not one but two cows. He gives an interesting explanation of his double choice. “My choice is not because I have spent countless hours with either of them, or because I have made a difference in either cow’s legacy, but because of the people involved with these two cows and how their passion to see these animals succeed should inspire those who share their dream.”   He gives a basic outline of the events. “ The two weeks I spent with “Monique” and “Hot Mama” in Canada last year was two weeks getting to know some special people. They may not have had the biggest names on these cows’ registration papers, but they are the individuals that through countless hours of dedication, hard work, and never ending effort that put two cows in a light which sometimes casts shadows over those behind the scenes.”  Richard highlights that it takes everybody to make a winner. Their commitment to showcasing Bovine Beauty was achieved through hard work, talent and passionate determination to excel. This team which included the likes of “Joey” and Amber Price, Chris Curtiss, Eddie” Acesse MilkShow, and Mat Smith brought together an interesting array of personalities, who by sharing a common goal gelled into a dedicated team working towards a common goal of “team success”.

“Good Mothering is at the Heart of Bovine Beauty”

bbc Megan Hill

The nomination of Four-Hills Gold Jaslene-ET” given by Megan Hall provided yet another interesting perspective on the many facets of Bovine Beauty.  Megan points out, “I would be lying if I said she didn’t have a Goldwyn attitude, but she sometimes can be calm and loving.  These calm and loving traits comes from her mother, one of our family’s favorite cows, Sequa Linjet Jamie. I’m sure the woman who raised Jasmine also had a little something to do with this.  Sue Brown raised Jaslene when she was born prematurely and helped develop her into the wonderful cow she is today.” For Megan, it took two mothers to realize the full potential of one Bovine Beauty.

“Winning is Beautiful!”

bbc Katie Kearns

As Facebook filled with beautiful pictures and stories, it was easy to ask the question, “Which comes first Dairy Show Ribbons or Bovine Beauty?” For Katie Kearns the show ring was very important to her beautiful bovine nomination  “Ernest-Anthony Thriller EX 95 –on a gorgeous fall day in Springfield in 2010 won the Sr 3-year-old class, Intermediate Champion, Grand Champion, Best Udder and Bred and Owned at the Big E.” She balances that with acknowledgement of her other talents. “There were a lot of special memories with her including other show days and the day she scored 95.  It always puts a smile on my face when I think of her. A sweetheart to work with.”.

“The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express!”

bbc Abe Light

At the other extreme from the show ring is the type of Bovine Beauty described so eloquently by Abe Light. You won’t recognize the cow pictured below.  As a matter of fact, neither do I. In the past six days of recalling some of the best cows that have touched my life, it has reminded me of the many, many cows that shaped my life who won’t have a name or a face that is recognized through the years.  The cows that will never be seen by a kid flipping through an old Holstein Journal or World.  The cows who maybe never got picture, maybe never went to a fair, and maybe never had a special calf to carry on their bloodline.  The silhouettes in the horizon of our memories.”

Passion for Bovine Beauty Starts Young!

Abe treasures many cattle that some might call ordinary but one particular herd had a big influence on his dairy life. “  The cows of Dairysmith Holsteins were the cows that cemented my passion for the Holstein cow.  Citamatt Sapphire, and Skybuck Memphis are the first that come to mind, but at that time I could have given you a name and a pedigree for every one of those 106 stalls.  Jimmy V said a good day is a day that you laugh, a day that you think, and a day that you’re moved to tears.  By that measure, these two cows provided me with more than one Good Day, and I hope that one day I’ll have cows like them in my life again who bring out only the purest form of passion I’ve ever know’ the passion for good cows.” Abe was particularly moved by the responses to his posts. “One message really set itself apart from the other.  It was from a young person in Canada, who messaged to say they were loving the stories and hoped that they would have their own stories like mine to tell one day. Doesn’t get any better than that.  Keep passing the torch.”

 The Bullvine Bottom Line

And so we hope you too will pass the torch and share with dairy and non-dairy friends and neighbours all that is beautiful about the cattle we work with. After all, at one time or another we have felt like Brent Howe, who enthused, “She was the cow of a lifetime, a breeders dream and the opportunities and friendships she created were priceless.”

Our Bullvine wish for each of you is that you can find the BEAUTY in every BOVINE DAY!



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Show supporters can quote many reasons for why the time, effort and resources that they put towards exhibiting cattle are positive. At the same time, there are detractors who question why breeds and sponsors should support cattle shows. The detractors see no benefit to dairy cattle improvement from the show circuit.

What is Relevant Today?

What is seen as relevant differs over the entire spectrum of dairy cattle breeders?  Something that is relevant to one group is not as important to another.  The show competition is not about focusing on a win or lose for one of these groups over their differently focused peers.  It’s about having a showcase not only for breeders but the consuming public.  To stay relevant dairy breeders and breed associations must take the opportunity to be the kind of leaders and visionaries that advance the dairy industry. Being relevant requires that new ideas are continually being brought on board as times and circumstances change. The Bullvine offers some thoughts for dairy show organizers to consider in raising the bar for the future of the industry.

Minimum Production Required

Since type is the deciding factor in the show ring. Ways to include production in shows has been tried in numerous ways.  Over fifty years ago, The Honorable Harry Hays, Canadian Minister of Agriculture, initiated a federally financial supported program that required that cows or dams of heifers meet minimum production requirements. The program lasted for many years until a subsequent government looked for areas to reduce the federal government agriculture budget and eliminated the support. While it lasted, the program assisted with more official milk recording and breed improvement.

Just two years ago Holstein USA raised the minimum production from 125,000 lbs to 150,000 lbs for cows to be eligible for entry into Production Cow Classes at Holstein designated shows. This move reflects the increasing levels of production.

It was fascinating at the 2016 Swiss Expo to see a twenty-year-old that had produced 200,000 kgs. Back when she was a heifer she had been a class winner at the very first Swiss Expo. Now that is not a class that shows might consider, but it was interesting to see this grand matriarch paraded.

Best by Age

For perhaps two decades now, show have had an Intermediate Champion or Best Junior Cow. This category has been very well received. Could the champion categories be extended to have a Champion Calf and Champion Yearling?

Recently, at two high-quality North American Spring Shows, Junior Two Year Olds have been named Grand Champion Female. That has not been without controversy.

Often judges state that they give preference to mature females. The words often used are that ‘she has stood the test of time”.  And, by comparison, the more junior cows which have not calved as often will have their day in the bright lights when they mature.

So what is the purpose of naming the Grand Champion Female? Is it to reward age or to identify the best in the show without bias related to maturity. In fact, it may even be a question of using maturity for placings of first and second lactation cows.  It is our observation that lack of body depth in first and second lactation is not all that bad. Young cows should look like young cows.

Best by Index

The organizers of the recent Canadian National Convention Holstein show took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and introduced a class for genomically indexed heifers.  The show was organized by members of Holstein Canada from Western Canada. The concept for the class was put forward more than two years ago by Dr. David Chalack of RockyMountain Holsteins. An interesting side note is that Harry Hays and David Chalack, two show class innovators, both originate from Calgary Alberta.  The Hays and Chalack Families have been long time supporters of Canadian Holstein improvement and foreign cattle marketing. David puts it this way “Shows must be relevant to not only today but also in the future. Genomic indexes are twice as accurate as the old Parent Average Indexes. Our shows need to be leading by example in bringing out the quality of animals that will meet the future needs of all breeders”. He continues “ The show organizers considered making the requirements higher for individual parts of the LPI but in the end decided to set the LPI at a reasonable level. I was thrilled to see the interest in the class. Western Canada Holstein breeders throw the torch to shows, anywhere on the globe, to take the show ring to new heights.”

The class was truly a success. The top two placing heifers, with at least 2600 LPI, from the first five heifer classes paraded before the show judge. The Champion Index heifer was Barclay Doorman Cobra exhibited by Hamming Holsteins from British Columbia, and reserve was also exhibited by Hamming Holsteins. Winning both Champion and Reserve Index Heifer indeed gives this owner a great marketing opportunity.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

With much talk about shows becoming less and less relevant in dairy cattle improvement, it rests on the shoulders of breeds and show organizers to put in place new classes that extend the reach from type only to include all aspects of dairy cattle breeding which includes production, durability and health and fertility. The time has come for highlighting modern dairy relevance in the show ring.



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I am a huge fan of crime and punishment television shows.  The juicier the episode headline, the more I am prepared to make time to watch and learn how, in under an hour, murder and mayhem can be solved and the guilty parties brought to justice. Unfortunately, even TV shows are not maintaining clear distinctions between black and white, guilty and innocent.

One such program, “How to get away with Murder” leads you to believe one thing while something quite the opposite is closer to the actual truth. 

Which brings me to the charges that activist groups lodge against farming practices. Misdirection is one thing, as long as you have no personal stake in the outcome but when headlines imply “Farmers are Murderers” we are no longer spectators only.  It isn’t that long ago that undercover videos and animal right activists capturing headlines with their horrifying revelations, which would have been considered ludicrous when applied to the dairy industry.  Not so today.

We Can’t  Change the Channel or Wait for the Season Finale

TV series “How to Get Away with Murder” can win ratings by revealing the truth in the last episode.  Unfortunately, real life on dairy farms means you have to go beyond the Neilson ratings.  To remain viable, the ratings that our consumers apply to us really do mean life or death to the longevity of our dairy industry and our self-respect.

There’s No Easy Out!  Be Prepared to Answer Difficult Questions

Once you’ve managed to reign in that first desire to give back as good as you’re getting, it’s time to respond smartly. If you’re attacked on social media or through live news or written media, give yourself a cooling down period and then respond with something positive, something pro-active and, at the same time, recognize the position of the challenger. Don’t let negativity fill you with anger.  Taking attacks personally only allows your emotions to cloud your judgment. Nothing good will come of acting irrationally. Of course, all of this assumes that you are running your dairy ethically and responsibly.  There is never any excuse for cutting corners on human or animal health, care, and management.


It rarely happens that an attack comes along when you have everything at hand to diffuse the situation. By their very nature attacks are meant to blindside you. Thinking on your feet when emotions are running high is difficult for anyone.  When you feel that it is unjustified, you are at an even further disadvantage.  Having a good game plan is one way to be prepared.  Sinking to the level of the accusers, is rarely successful, so let’s use the word ATTACK itself as a six-step acronym for the best response:

A: Always Answer and Acknowledge:

When it comes to attacks on farm practices, both producers and consumers have a vested interest in making sure that food is healthy and safe. Acknowledge that we share the same goal and attempt to answer their concerns.  Running for cover is not a solution.

T: Take Time.

When someone gives you the finger verbally or in actual fact, try your best to respond with a thumbs up. There must be something positive in the situation that you can build upon. At the very least, it is an opportunity to begin a dialogue instead of a beat down.

T: Tell the Truth.

Sometimes the simplest response is the best response. All dairy managers have put serious thought and effort into providing good conditions for their dairy herd. Honestly sharing the planning that goes into making it possible for each dairy animal to live up to their best potential is a terrific way to move toward less angry observers and to influence supportive dairy consumers.

A: Agvocate with Anecdotes.

We all have stories about the work we do. Anecdotes always gain more ground than anger. Tell stories that speak honestly to the concerns of the attacker.  When there is fear that you’re uncaring, respond with examples that they can relate to.

C: Connect and Change.   

Ultimately you want those who have attacked your farming practices to have a change of mind. The best thing you can do is to try to determine what is igniting their negative viewpoint. When you know the situation that is influencing their perceptions, you have an opportunity to answer in a way that doesn’t demean their concerns but, at the same time, helps them to grow their understanding.

K: Know when to quit

It is one thing to welcome, give and take viewpoints with those who have genuine questions and concerns, but it is important to know when to draw the line. If things get out of hand, and shouting or name calling begins, it’s time to stop.

Will you be able to fix everything? Probably not.  But a positive attitude and outlook can be a game-changer over time.

Many of the concerns raised by non-farm people stem from the fact that they humanize cows.

They attribute their feelings to the needs of the dairy cow. Rather than debate the inherent differences between people and bovines, it is a much better idea to build on the understandings they can relate to. Everyone understands needs for food, warmth and comfort.

Social Media and Angry Outbursts

The online dialogue we enjoy with most people on The Bullvine or through The Milk House is enriched by the varied perspectives of those who bring their concerns to the forum. When discussion goes too far, we have the ability to moderate the conversation or ban or delete those who merely want to use the page as a platform for their attack viewpoint. We have also had a face to face confrontations, where the only choice was to agree to disagree and excuse ourselves from the situation. The majority of our audience is interested in moving forward not tearing apart. Our time and energy is for those who consume the dairy products that dairy farmers are so passionate about providing. Walking away may leave the door open for better discussion another day.

Where Does Misinformation Come From?

Everyone is entitled to hold their own opinions and concerns, and that includes strong feelings about the way the food they eat goes from the farm to the table.  It is only natural to seek out information on how that happens.  Unfortunately, with all the benefits of modern day information exchange, there are opportunities for error. What sources do attackers use?

Newspaper headlines?  Undercover videos?  Emotional outbursts from activists? Only after getting a better grasp of where the question is coming from, you will you be able to give the best answers. The key to increasing their understanding is learning what practical experience they have had up until now.  If it’s all through media or hearsay, it would be great for you to set up an opportunity for them to visit a farm.

Reflect their concerns with examples they relate to.

For example, we are often asked why animals are taken from their mothers, raised in hutches, undergo clipping or hoof trimming and many other questions usually arising from seeing animals at local fairs or cattle shows.  There are numerous ways to relate each of these concerns to many of the health and safety protocols used by responsible parents.  The main goal is to manage bacteria, infection, and clean food issues in a farm setting — whether it’s in a barn or a field. Calves are not born in sterile hospital rooms and throughout their lives, decisions must be made to prevent them from being infected by environmental pathogens or by germs from other animals.  Nutritionists, Veterinarians, dairy staff, work 24/7 to give them the best opportunity for healthy growth and to eventually become producers of healthy milk.  Most people can relate to this responsible team approach.

Turning Foes into Friends

For the majority of activists, their hope is that they can sway public opinion away from supporting farmers.  Always respond with a calm, level head. You probably can’t change their opinions and can only hope that your responsible actions will be seen by those who are reasonable in their evaluation.  It is unfortunate that there are extremists who go beyond verbal challenges to tactics of harassment and intimidation, and this too greatly diminishes public support for their position.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When you’re under attack, there is a rush of adrenaline in the hurry to defend and respond.  The key thing to remember when responding to attacks is to LISTEN. Always try to diffuse drama with dialogue.  After all, neither side wants the other to “Get away with murder!” Hear! Hear!



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There is no question that most members of the dairy industry are very passionate about the sector we work in. Often we get so wrapped up in ourselves that we occasionally lose sight of ourselves. No better example of this is what happens when it comes to the show ring. Breeders and Exhibiters and even just ringside enthusiasts can get emotionally wrapped up in the industry we are very passionate about. Having said that, events over this past week have made me pause and reflect that there are more important things in life than a cow show.

Logan Chalack 1,jpg

Now that may sound like heresy to some, but I came to this realization as I was getting worked up about having my credibility threatened on social media. I got so wrapped up in it I lost sight of a bigger picture. It took a phone call with a man I have great respect for to bring me back to reality. In talking with Dr. David Chalack of Rocky Mountain Holsteins & Alta Genetics, I realized that you know that there are bigger things in life than the show ring. David and I had been talking about the great day they had at the Canadian National Convention Show, about how they had held this first ever genomics class at a show. But what David and I had been discussing was how great a day it was for his Family and specifically for his nephew, Logan. And that’s when my world came crashing down, and I realized there are more important things in life than a cow show.

Logan Chalack 5

Back in December Logan found out that he has cancer throughout his body. Married just over a year, he and his wife Charity just had a beautiful baby girl.

I had been fortunate to know the Chalack family and Logan for nearly my whole life. Their western hospitality is legendary and something my family has had the good fortune to experience many times. The Chalack’s are among the nicest people you will ever meet. And to hear this sad news about Logan certainly forces you to put life into perspective, especially as a father of young children myself.

Logan Chalack 4

Archbishop Desmond Tutu once said “There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.”

Logan Chalack 3

Nobody ever wants to die. But as far as I know no one has ever found a way to cheat Death. But I think there is a way to cheat death; I think if you can live on in the minds and hearts of the generations who will follow you is to cheat death. To make a difference through the way you live your life and show up is to find immortality. Watching Logan Chalack’s courageous battle with cancer has inspired everyone who knows and loves him. Logan is having an impact on his friends and family and members of the dairy community around the world. While at the recent Canadian National Convention Show his families Wendon farms bred not only the Grand & Supreme Champion but also the Reserve Grand of the Holstein Show the real champion was Logan. Logan was there despite being in a battle for his life, His being there was an inspiration for all those in attendance and members of the dairy community around the world. He was there showing all of us what is important.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

To paraphrase Mel Gibson’s character in the movie Braveheart, “Everyone of us will die. But so few of us really live.” Take a lesson from Logan Chalack and use your strength to live well and be an inspiration to others. Let’s all add Logan Chalack and his family to our prayers, this battle will not be an easy one, but it will not be fought alone. It will certainly remind us all that there are more important things in life than a cow show, but also how a cow show can certainly help in the healing process.

DONATE FUNDS directly to Logan & Charity...

1.) Visit your local ATB branch, & give to ‘Jillian Hastie in Trust’ account.
2.) If you’re unable to get to an ATB, make donation cheque payable to ‘Jillian Hastie in Trust’, & mail to: Jillian Hastie, 35261, RR273, Red Deer County, AB, T4G 0E2

(Photos by Barn Girls Photography)



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10462709_1021928441187387_967791446083398029_n[1]It has been 662 days since Reese Burdette entered Johns Hopkins Hospital fighting for her life after being pulled from a house fire. She has spent almost two years in Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, recovering from the severe burns she suffered in a fire at her grandparents’ home over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. Reese and her younger sister, Brinkley, were staying with their grandparents Patricia and Mike Stiles at Waverly Farms in Clear Brook, Virginia, when the fire apparently started with an electrical cord and quickly spread in the two-story home.

Patricia Stiles was a hero for running into the fire to save Reese. Both were burned and suffered smoke inhalation. Stiles was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Reese was airlifted to Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was burned on over 35 percent of her body and sustained damage to her heart and lungs from smoke inhalation. (Read more: PATRICIA STILES –DAIRY FARMER, GRANDMOTHER, HERO, FIGHTING FOR HER LIFE!) During her time in the hospital, she has endured five cardiac arrests, daily blood transfusions, internal bleeding, collapsed lungs, and surgeries to repair holes in her lungs. She emerged from a medically induced coma after almost four months, then ticked off a list of surgeries, recovery milestones, and therapies in her quest to return home.

Today is that day.

“I’m going to be in a parade,” said Reese.

Reese grew up on a dairy farm with one special heifer, Pantene; that gave birth this week.

“I want to go to the farm to see my cow,” Reese said Wednesday.  We were all touched when, earlier this year, the family brought Pantene on a surprise visit to see Reese at the hospital. You could not help but shed a tear when Pantene was named Reserve Grand at Pennsylvania’s State Holstein Show, and Reese was able to see it all.  Through the advances of mobile internet, she was able to watch the whole show through FaceTime. (Read more: EXTRA SPECIAL DAY FOR REESE BURDETTE – PANTENE WINS RESERVE GRAND)

Asked what she plans to say to the cow, Reese said her message will be “I miss you.”

That same sentiment is already being expressed by the hospital staffers who have grown to love the Burdette family. Close to 400 people were invited to a going-away party.

Dr. Kristen Nelson, director of cardiac critical care in pediatrics, cries when she thinks of not having daily interaction with the Burdettes. Nelson said she will carry Reese in her heart.

“I say to people: ‘I could retire today and be fulfilled,’ she said.

Reese’s treatment will soon be featured in medical journals. It is discussed already at conferences about the machines that supported her heart and lungs as they healed. She spent longer with ventricular assistance than any other known patient.

“She persevered and succeeded at everything we asked of her,” Nelson said.

Justin and Claire Burdette consider Nelson to be part of their family, as does Reese. That means the doctor can’t escape Reese’s trademark sassiness, like the eye-rolling that accompanies Nelson’s tears about the pending goodbye.

The Burdettes have split their time between the farm and hospital for the duration of Reese’s stay. They developed a schedule to ensure their daughter had a family member with her every moment.

“We wouldn’t do it any other way,” Claire Burdette said.

The family was called the hospital too many times in those first several months to say what doctors thought would be their goodbyes.   Reese’s first four months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was like a nightmare the family just could not wake up from.  They had no idea throughout those long months if Reese would still be Reese when she woke up.  It was suspected that all the heart attacks might have resulted in a loss of brain function. Would their spunky little girl who loves her family and friends, music, her cows, belly laughing and being in 4-H still be there? Yet, Reese is here today so full of spark and life; doctors say she is a miracle child.  For Reese’s father Justin, the turning point in her recovery — when he knew she would recover — was the successful open-heart surgery she had Dec. 7 to remove the ventricular assistance device.

Burdette said he knows being at home on a new schedule without the professional caregivers will present its own challenges.

“It’ll be a big learning curve for everybody,” he said.

The family hopes to take a few days of quiet, personal time before welcoming guests to the farm.

“I think that’ll be an adjustment because she’s a people person,” Claire Burdette said, pointing out that Reese has had people buzzing around her 24 hours a day for two years.

Those two years have changed many lives.

In situations like this, it is important to advocate for your child, keep the faith and work to keep strong your relationship with your spouse, Justin Burdette said.

“Never give up on hope. I could tell you stories all day long where God has shown himself,” Claire Burdette said. (Read more: THE BURDETTE FAMILY – TRIUMPH AND TEARS, PERSEVERANCE AND PAIN LEADS TO HOPE AND HEALING and GRACE UNDER PRESSURE)

Her school and the surrounding community have rallied around her all along, forming “Team Reese” and raising money for her medical expenses and just keeping her spirits up.  Burdette’s elementary school is also decked out in her favorite color, purple. Everyone, there is anxiously awaiting her return.

“I’m excited for her to come home because she’s been away for almost two years now and we just miss her a lot,” said Daisy Donahoe, Reese’s friend.

Despite the injuries and recuperation, Reese has been able to attend school at Mercersburg Elementary School using a virtual presence device to view what was taking place in the classroom. Reese has been using the robot since last October. This all came after Reese missed more than a year’s worth of school due to her injuries. Burdette’s resistance is teaching her teachers a lesson.

“I think that we all just see her as our hero because she’s been through so much and she’s just shown us that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” said Jaimie Pine, Reese’s teacher.

Initially, Reese was supposed to have several police and fire departments escorting her home from the hospital. According to Reese’s elementary school principal, Ryan Kaczmark, Reese decided that she didn’t “want to be tied down” and hold anyone up on the family’s way home, so there will not be any escorts until she arrives in Mercersburg.

“She declined her motorcade,” Kaczmark said.

However, Reese will be escorted by the Mercersburg Fire Department through town once her family arrives. The family will meet the fire department at Montgomery Elementary School first and will then head north, stopping at Mercersburg Elementary and then on through downtown Mercersburg before finally returning to her family’s home for the first time in almost two years.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

“It was sort of her goal this year to try and be home before her birthday,” said Mercersburg Elementary PTO President Kelly Sanchez.  Reese will celebrate her 9th Birthday this Sunday, at home. Happy Birthday, Reese we Love You!”

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Your Baby Is Ugly

Friday, March 11th, 2016

It’s not something many of us want to hear.  If you’re like most dairy farmers, your farm is your baby.  Moreover, hearing that your baby is ugly could be the hardest thing anyone could ever say to you.  However, it could be the best thing that ever happens to you as well.


If you are like most dairy farmers or parents, the hardest thing you could ever admit is that your child/business is ugly.  We all want to believe that this entity that we have poured our heart and soul into is the most beautiful thing in the world.  But it takes that ability to realize that your baby/business is not perfect that allows us to help them/it become the best it can be. One thing I have realized in the many businesses that I have run, and now as a parent is, my baby is not beautiful, but it is amazing.  And it’s my job as the parent/business owner to do all that I can to make that ugly baby become the beautiful person/business I know it can be.

Sure dairy farming is a way of life for many, but it is also a business.  And maybe because we have trouble separating the two, is why most dairy farmers have a harder time understanding our baby is ugly compared to other industries. Well except 20 something tech startups, they all seem to think they have the next great Billion dollar idea, that they don’t realize is ugly until they have spent 2 million of their parents, grandparents and family members hard earned cash.

The weak among us, love to fool ourselves that everything is fine, everything is going to be ok.  The thing is everything is not fine.  Milk prices are low relative to input costs, and the industry is probably facing some of the toughest challenges it has ever faced.  However, we all want to believe that is external and that our baby is beautiful.  The thing is, those who are most successful understand that their baby is not beautiful.  They understand that their business that they are so passionate about is not perfect.  That there is opportunities to improve their business in order to make it beautiful.


We can all see the flaws in other people’s babies, but yet can not even begin to understand the challenges our babies are facing. We all have the fear that if you react negatively to your own baby, it will die.  But I am not saying you can not love your business.  You have to.  This is a tough industry, and you have to love what you do.  But you also need to be able to look at your business objectively.

Because people are inherently nice. We all want to be loved and treated with respect, so we usually do the same for others. We all love to surround ourselves with those people who will tell us how beautiful our business/farm is.  What parent/business owner does not like to listen to praise about how pretty their baby is.  Even the meanies and shit-stirrers will wait until the parents are out of hearing range before turning to a friend to say, “Wow, that baby was fricking ugly!” The thing is you are cheating yourself.  The problem is that does not bring about change.  That does not force you to make the changes your business needs in order to be the best it can be.

You cannot see the ugly because it’s your baby. What you need is to surround you and your business with the people who are willing to tell you the truth and what you need to hear, no matter how uncomfortable. The best advisers help you understand the changes you need to make, why you need to make them, and how to make them in order to improve your results.

Over time, the businesses that are led by people who would rather hear what they want to hear run into big trouble. The baby gets uglier and uglier. After they limp along for a while, the responsibility to make a decision falls to someone who wants to hear what he needs to hear. If you are wise enough to listen to the input of others, you can determine which parts are pretty and which parts need some work.


The difference between the literal baby and the metaphorical baby, your farm, is that the real baby cannot be changed.  You cannot alter a little human’s appearance, so pointing out his or her ugly traits won’t help anything, and just makes you look like a total asshat. But when it comes to something that can be changed, and when constructive criticism may save someone from wasting even more time and money, then does it make sense to speak up and give your opinion?

Dairy farmers need to have thick skin. They need to persevere. They can’t get too attached to their baby because it may very well be hideous. Dairy farmers need to be able to take all the feedback they can get—the positive and the negative—and keep driving forward along the most appropriate road. If someone building a dairy business runs home crying after their baby is criticized, then as far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t be in business.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Your baby is ugly, but understanding that, and being willing to make the changes necessary help makes for a much prettier baby.

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We have all been there. We go to do something but, before we can even start, we begin to worry about what people will think.  That’s because everyone wants to be liked and accepted.  The dairy community likes to think of itself as an all friendly and happy community.  The challenge is that, when your goal is to bring about change, you need to understand that you cannot be liked by everyone.  You have to learn how not to be concerned with what everyone else thinks.  Here at The Bullvine, we don’t care what everyone else thinks.

Editors note: The orginial post used the word F*** due to respect to readers of all ages we have changed this public post to be appropriate for all readers.

I am proud to say that since starting The Bullvine I have been able not to not care.  I have not had to care what everyone else was doing, what others were saying about me, or what people thought about me.  That’s because I did not care about what they thought I was doing for since day one I have been clear about what I wanted to achieve.  (Read more: TWICE THE BULL – HALF THE S**T, I’m Sorry, But I’ve Had Just About Enough Of… and THE BULLVINE HAS BITE!) We wanted to make a difference in the dairy world.  We wanted to be different give dairy breeders a voice.

misinterpretNot to Be Confused with Indifference

Not giving a f* does not mean being indifferent, in fact, we have been anything but indifferent. There have been many issues over the past four years that we have been very concerned about.  From photo ethics to the future of the breeding industry and, of course to the challenges breeders face every day, we certainly have had a strong opinion on these issues from day one.  Moreover, we have not been afraid to share our opinion with our readers.  What it does mean is that we have to be comfortable with being different.  We have to comfortable when we go to cow shows, and some closed minded people snicker at you.  You have to be comfortable when people attack your very soul on Facebook.  You have to be comfortable not giving a care what other people think.

When most people envision giving no care whatsoever, they envision a kind of perfect and serene indifference to everything, a calm that weathers all storms. That is very misguided.  Don’t confuse my indifference for passion for our ultimate goal.  Indifference would mean that we don’t care.  That we are some form of couch potatoes just sitting here not willing to stand up for their goals.  In fact, we have been on the front line many times, slugging it out, for the very issues we are most passionate about.

Indifference is the other publications that were so afraid of what others thought of them that they were paralyzed to act and now find themselves struggling to pay their bills.  They didn’t want to say anything to offend anyone because they were not sure if it would cost them, advertisers.  Funny thing is by doing nothing it has led to that exact result. Some of their key advertisers, ones that they coveted, have now become strategic partners with us here at The Bullvine.

To Not Care About Adversity, You Must First Care About Something More Important Than Adversity

Success is achieved when you stare failure in the face and shove your middle finger back at it. We certainly have proven that we don’t care about adversity, failure or about taking heat for our actions. We just sucked it up and then did it anyway. We know what has to be done to achieve our ultimate goal. Sometimes you have to have the guts to stand alone.

Sure we have had the odd lawsuit or two.  But we have also brought about the change we desired.  We have given breeders a voice. We have spoken about the issues no one else would touch.  Moreover, along the way we have developed the largest community of dairy breeders who are actively talking about the key issues we all face.  (Read more: Introducing The Milk House – Dairy Breeder Networking on Facebook).

In life, our time must be spent on something meaningful. There is no such thing as not caring about anything. The question is simply how we each choose to a lot our time. You only get a limited amount of time to give over your lifetime, so you must spend them with care.  When we’re young, we have tons of energy. Everything is new and exciting. Moreover, everything seems to matter so much. We care about everything and everyone — especially about what people are saying about us.

As we get older, we gain experience and begin to notice that most of these things have little lasting impact on our lives. Those people’s opinions, which we cared about so much before, have long been removed from our lives. We realize how little people pay attention to the superficial details about us and we focus on doing things more for our own integrity rather than for others. Essentially, we become more selective about the time we’re willing to give. This is something called ‘maturity.’ It’s nice, you should try it sometime. Maturity is what happens when one learns to only care about what’s truly worth caring about.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In my life, I have care about many people and many things. I have also not cared about many people and many things. And those times I have not given have made all the difference.  Since starting The Bullvine, I have tested my ability to keep the eye on the ultimate goal and not care what people think about us, but rather understand what we are trying to achieve.  As we enter our fifth year, I am very proud of the work we have done and the actions we have taken, because it has led us to the position we are at today.  A voice for breeders during uncertain times.

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Top 12 Editor’s Choice Articles 2015

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Today it is my pleasure to select a dozen personal favorites from articles published in 2015. The readers of the Bullvine are passionate about every area of dairying and they too have favorites that they appreciated with their interest, comments and feedback. Now I have the opportunity to dig deeper and reveal even more of the loves and even the un-loved issues that hit close to home for all of us this past year. With twelve articles in hand, I see that they appeal to me because they show how dairy breeders are seeking the best for their cows, their families and the dairy industry. I hope you will join with The Bullvine and be inspired by the heartwarming stories, passion and leadership that motivate our days all year round.

#12 – Smoking Is Good For You! 

I never know exactly what will be coming across my desk but it’s never dull and the titles regularly range from catchy to controversial.  That was the case with “Smoking is good for you.”   This article about Genomics put attention on what was one of the biggest recurring focus points of 2015.  It was noted that breeders feel that “AI companies ‘are forcing’ genomics down their throats, in the same way that the tobacco companies ‘forced’ smoking down the throats of millions, by using the weight of doctors’ credibility.” However, what I like best about this article is that everyone was encouraged to take a more reasoned approach, “Unlike cigarettes, where there is certainly no question left about the health risks of smoking, genomics and cigarettes are not interchangeable.  There is significant proof that genomics does, in fact, provide good ‘health’ for your dairy breeding program.”  To genomic detractors, The Bullvine asks “Where is your smoking gun? Where is your proof that genomics does not work?’ (Read more)

#11 – When Good Drugs Go Bad

Many of the issues in the dairy industry require each one of us to make a personal decision about how we feel about them.  Having said that, the health of our dairy cattle is less subjective and The Bullvine takes the reporting of accurate information as a serious responsibility and we always encourage breeders to act responsibly. “Regardless of who is the “most” right or wrong, if you are anywhere on the spectrum between production and consumption, you must share the responsibility. And the appropriate ACTION!” (Read more)

#10 – Dairy Girls ARE Making a Difference in the Dairy Industry

While The Bullvine doesn’t hesitate to put the spotlight on the controversial issues it is obviously much more satisfying to bring attention to positive and inspiring people and events.  Both came together at the Dairy Girl networking evening at World Dairy Expo in October. Laura Daniels Dairy Girl Network founder and president from Heartwood Farm in Cobb, Wisconsin welcomed one hundred and eighty women and expanded on the goals of The Dairy Girl Network.  It was exciting to applaud the many ways that dairy women are making a difference, not just because they are different, but because, especially when networking together, they share and expand the same dairy passion.”   (Read more)

#9 – Teardrops on My Work Boots

Spending most of your life working in and connected with the dairy industry, means that you directly experience a full range of the joys and sorrows connected with working with cattle.  The entire Hunt family has personal experience with those emotional times but Murray and I were particularly moved by Andrew’s heartfelt perspective on the sale of dairy cattle at Huntsdale. We loved the way he summarized the beginnings, development and ongoing legacy of Huntsdale Farms in a way that made us appreciate the life work and legacy of generations of our family. (Read more)

#8 – The Lighthearted Side of the Bullvine

Balance is important in cattle breeding and in life. The next articles that struck a chord with us both expressed the themes of love, marriage and humor – not necessarily in that order.  Last week we published “Take that Off!”which was a follow up piece to one we posted earlier entitled, “Take This Farmer and Laugh Ever After” Judging from the feedback received on both these pieces, it seems clear to me that there are many parts of the dairy community that everyone relates to.  That common experience brings us together and I am thankful that Murray is such a good sport and great husband.

#7 – Are Breed Associations Missing Important Breeding Signals?

It probably isn’t surprising that the next article, “Are Breed Associations Missing Important Breeding Signals”, continues to highlight how important relationships are in the dairy industry.  In this case, the issues move out of the family and into the leadership of the industry. Although it isn’t about marriage it is about trust and shared goals. “The relevance of “right” or “wrong” depends on where the reader sits.  It isn’t a battle to claim victory.  It’s an effort to initiate conversation and, where needed, promote active change.” (Read more)

#6 – Could Breed Wars Be Heating Up?

Change is difficult.  Change when it comes to the cattle we love is an even more threatening concept.  Having said that, a sustainable dairy industry will depend on how well we deal with issues that can help us grow, regardless of where our specific breed focus currently is. “Today breeds are more than color markings, unbroken lineage, and tradition. Breeds in the future, on a global basis, will be about their genetic makeup and how they serve the needs of the dairy food industry. “Accurate visioning, strategic planning, research and development and effective service provision are all integral to what breeds need to do on a continual basis. If that means there will be increased competition for market share amongst breeds, so-be-it.” (Read more)

#5– Rump. Is it Beauty or Utility?

Standing in fifth place in The Bullvine Editor’s Choice 2015 selection is “Rump. Is it Beauty of Utility?” One of the most exciting aspects of writing articles about the dairy industry happens when we are able to research the answers to questions raised by dairy breeders.  In this case, years of experience had us asking the question ourselves.  We brought together the information and summarized, ‘In short, the reason rump may be significant is because of its role in ‘getting the cows in calf and getting the calf out’. It does not require beauty to do that. It’s about utility when it comes to the rump. Why should breeders emphasize rumps at the expense of other body parts known to have more influence on profit?”  (Read more)

#4 Gene Editing – Is It the End of Dairy Breeding?

With so much access to and experience with the dairy industry, there is always a temptation to look into a crystal ball and forecast the future. “In 50 years the world population will require 100% more food and 70% of this food must come from efficiency-improving technology.  Unless someone discovers how to dairy on the moon, we are going to have to become significantly more efficient in our milk production methods.  Gene editing offers the potential to meet this demands.  Current genetic advancement rates will be hard pressed to meet in 50 years what gene editing can offer in under ten years’ time.  Sure a small number of very vocal consumers will be opposed to gene editing, but the masses want cheap, safe milk.  Gene editing, since it is not transgenics, offers this possibility.  This raises the question, “Are the dairy breeders of the future actually scientists sitting in labs?” (Read more)

The Top Three Editor’s Choices of 2015!

#3 A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Number 3 on my list is not actually inspired by the written word of an actual article.  In 2015 we at The Bullvine challenged ourselves to go to the next level in making information fast, informative and relevant for our readers. This meant attending meetings, shows, sales and dairy farms and, simultaneously, the creation of a huge data base of pictures, videos and audio interviews. I am always astonished at the way a great picture adds that real time reality that inspires even greater passion for dairying. You can write articles ‘until the cows come home’ but then it’s the pictures like the ones taken at World Dairy Expo, The Royal and Le Supreme Laiteir and more.


#2 The Bullvine as Hosts, Tutors, Students and Teachers.

When The Bullvine began, the goal was to initiate give-and-take with dairy breeders.  We have been honored and delighted to share the insights, questions, hard work and vision of dairy enthusiasts. In 2015 this communication became even more real time when we began hosting webinars.  This has been particularly effective in answering questions around Genomics.  Now those in the labs and those on the farms can raise their concerns and work together to make sure that everyone knows where the other side is coming from. Check out our webinars section to see how this new interactive feature allows us to give, receive and discuss information.

First Place On The Bullvine Editor’s Choice List Brings Us Back To Our Most Important Dairy Asset …. Dairy People!

#1 Oakfield Corners Dairy

With the 24/7 nature of dairy farming, all of us have been asked what keeps us going.  Of course, the cattle are at the center of everything, but the key to success is the people. Whenever there’s a challenge, we turn to those with experience.  Every year the most viewed articles and largest body of feedback is for those about people who describe the passion, methods and vision which has brought them to where they are today. At Oakfield Corners Dairy, Alicia and Jonathan Lamb and key team members Kelly Lee and Adam Dresser are a great team and they shared their perspective with The Bullvine. With 6000 cows and three dairies, it is fascinating to learn how they face the issues and challenges of modern dairying.  Through the video interview we can learn and be inspired (Watch video here)

The Bullvine Bottom Line for 2015

Throughout the year we loved reflecting the innovation that takes place in the dairy industry.  We thank you for your ongoing support and wish you all the best as we continue this amazing journey together in 2016!



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While we always try to be as forward thinking as we possible can, it’s at this time we take a look back.  Once again we had a record year with the largest number of visitors in the dairy industry.  While our innovative show coverage this year certainly attracted record setting visits with the top 10 viewed shows all receiving more views than the 2014 World Dairy Expo Holstein Show, here are the top 15 articles (non show results) from the past year.

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

#14 – Australia misses its quota prices
Much has been written about what goes on in the market free-zone of the southern hemisphere. The truth in 2015 is that unless the farms have no mortgage, private price contracts with niche companies or no paid staff, Australian producers are as exposed as any other nation’s to low milk prices. It is hard to generalise on the producer’s position in the world’s third-biggest milk exporting country, because of its size and diversity. The state of Victoria produces 66% of the country’s total milk production (and 86% of the country’s export milk). So it is Victoria that gives the most complete focus to what the bulk of Australia’s dairy farmers face up to every day. (Read more)

#13 – Introduction to Genomics – Zoetis Webinar #1 Video
For decades, much has been known about the bull’s side of the pedigree while little information was available for dams. Now, genomic testing helps us discover much more about females. The first webinar in the series focuses on the basics of genomics to provide producers with a better understanding of the benefits of knowing more about their heifers. (Watch video)

#12 – Donnanview – The Culmination of a Lifetime Journey in Dairy Farming
The Bullvine sat down with Donny Donnan of Donnanview Holsteins to discuss his journey in developing this amazing herd that will be offered for sale next week. Donny and his wife Bev have spent their lifetime breeding great dairy cattle. Opportunities to invest in herds like Donnanview are few and far between. Not only a Master Breeder Herd, home of the 2014 Canadian Cow of the year, sires in AI, but they are also 90% VG and EX cows. These achievements have been built over years of intuitive, selective breeding choices. Not since the likes of Hanoverhill’s complete dispersal have we seen a herd of this size and quality, sell all at once in a public auction. Join us in watching this video as Donny explains how they have achieved this success and who has helped them along the way. (Read more)

#11 – 16 Sires That Will Help Limit Inbreeding – October 2015
Genetic diversity is a critical problem in the Holstein dairy cattle breeding industry. On the one hand, the rate of genetic gain has accelerated but also has the rate of inbreeding. With $23 lifetime cost per percent inbreeding, it is easy to overreact and try to avoid inbreeding at all costs. The trick is not to use sires that are inferior, but rather to have a balance of genetic improvement and enough of an outcross not to accelerate the inbreeding. These 16 sires will do just that and help control the rate of inbreeding in your herd. (Read more)

#10 – Immunity+ Does It Actually Work?
Since we first heard about High Immune Response, now marketed as Immunity+*, the Bullvine has been a big fan of the theory behind this research. But, as with all things that are proposed in theory, there comes a time when you need to put the numbers to it to validate the theory. As the saying goes “In God we trust. All others bring data”. So here at the Bullvine we did just that. (Read more)

#9 – Are Dairy Cattle Shows Holding Us Back?
Dairy cattle shows started out as a breed awareness tool. They then became an improvement tool. More recently they primarily function as a marketing opportunity for breeders and a training process for youth. Today many breeders are thinking that shows have gone beyond their best before date and are not serving a purpose for the vast majority of dairypersons. Let’s talk about show standards and show procedures. (Read more)

#8 – Select Sires – Sire Tour 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. (Read more)

#7 – Roybrook Revisited
Legendary Holstein breeder Roy Ormiston celebrates his 100th Birthday in a few weeks hence. Bruce Jobson and Roy recount the legacy of Roybrook in an exclusive interview. In this unique conversation, Bruce included some additional datelines for reader clarity and understanding. (Read more)

#6 – Culling for $$$ – The Six Animals You Need To Cull Immediately
Today I drove past a crew of highway maintenance workers and one was pounding in a stake, one was holding the stake, one had a white hard hat and was obviously the crew chief and three were watching. Like most Bullvine readers, my mind reacted by saying – “Now isn’t that an inefficient use of our taxpayers dollars!” Fifty percent of that crew were taking their pay check but not giving back. You could be correct if you were to say that I judged too quickly. Perhaps I did not have all the facts. Most of us are quick to judge outside situations. However when it comes to our own milk producing work force are we business like, when it comes to the number of workers required to get the job done? (Read more)

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

#4 – The 12 Sires You Should Consider Breeding Your Show Winning Goldwyns To
Let’s face it there are two undeniable facts in the international show ring; One, that Goldwyn has the most show winning daughters over the past ten years, And two, that if you have been using Goldwyn you were pretty much breeding for a unique show type animal. But the questions becomes what do you breed you current Goldwyn’s to in order to breed the next generation of show winners. With this challenge in mind the Bullvine took a closer look.  (Read more)

#3 – Grace Under Pressure
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. Who we are as human beings presents itself more fully at times of adversity than at times of ease. I have had the pleasure of knowing the Burdette and Stiles families a long while know and always found they to be great people, but over this past year I have learned through their actions after the horrible accident that happened to them, that they are also people of extraordinary character.  (Read more)

#2 – Show Ring Ethics: Cheater’s Never Prosper….Or Do They
When we were young, we were always told to be honest and never to cheat. The phrase “Cheaters never prosper” was ingrained in us from an early age. But, as we grow older, we begin to wonder about this statement. We all know people who have cheated and were not caught and they sure seem to have prospered. This phrase also baffled me when seen in the show ring. At my local county show, the exhibitor that took all the big awards might also be known as one of the greatest “cheaters” in the history of dairy cattle showing. So how can we say that cheaters never prosper? (Read more)

#1 – The 16 Sires Available in 2015 That Every Dairy Breeder Should Be Looking At
With weekly evaluations now being released, it can be hard to sort out exactly what sires are available and which ones you should be using. To help you sort through the confusion, we have compiled the 16 sires that we think all breeders should consider using. Instead of producing one generic list, we looked for the four top sires in each key breeding area. (Read more)

Top 15 News Stories of 2015

With over 33,000 subscribers and the most daily subscribers in the world…The Bullvine Daily has become the #1 source for news in the dairy industry.

  1. The World’s Largest Dairy Farm Will Be Home to 100,000 Cows
  2. ‘Murdering’ farmer turns over new leaf
  3. Austin Ayars Killed in Farming Accident
  4. Dairy Farmers in China dumping milk and putting cattle down as milk prices plummet
  5. Three sisters killed in tragic farming accident
  6. World’s largest robotic dairy barn produces happy, high yielding cows
  7. Wisconsin father and son died after falling into a manure pit at their family farm.
  8. Animal abuse alleged at major dairy company
  9. Woman Made Her Favorite Cow a Bridesmaid at Her Wedding
  10. Reese Burdette and Patricia Stiles Update – June 22nd 2015
  11. Smurf Completes World Record Career
  12. 250 Animals Die in Barn Fire at Quebec Dairy Farm
  13. Washington and Oregon Dairy Farmers Evacuate Cattle After Rising Flood Waters
  14. Barn fire at Stoneden Holsteins
  15. Still no charges after video showed cows being beaten on dairy farm

Top 15 YouTube Videos of 2015

What a year for Bullvine TV. In the past year Bullvine TV had over 1 million viewers, that is almost 40 times the number of viewers as any other dairy publications videos.

  1. The Royal 2015 Supreme Champion
  2. World Dairy Expo Day 1 – Tuesday September 29th 2015
  3. Junior Champion 2015 Northeast Fall National Holstein Show
  4. Grand Champion — 2015 Northeast Fall National Holstein Show
  5. Intermediate Champion – 2015 Northeast Fall National Holstein Show
  6. Quality Farms – April 2015 – Dairy Breeder Interview
  7. World Dairy Expo – 2015 International Holstein Show – Post Show Interviews
  8. Gen-Com Holsteins – March 2015 Dairy Breeder Interview
  9. World Dairy Expo Day 5 – Saturday October 3rd 2015
  10. World Dairy Expo Day 2 – Wednesday September 30th 2015
  11. All-American Dairy Show 2015 Supreme Champion Parade
  12. World Dairy Expo Day 3 – Thursday October 1st 2015
  13. World Dairy Expo Day 4 – Friday October 2nd 2015
  14. Select Sires Sire Tour 2015
  15. Junior Champion Ontario Summer Holstein Show 2015

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We certainly appreciate all of those who have helped us make this year a record setting year in the dairy publication industry.  Without your support we could not deliver the most wide reaching thought provoking articles, interviews, videos the dairy industry has ever seen.

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Dairy Farmer Fashion – TAKE THAT OFF!

Friday, December 11th, 2015

I don’t consider myself a clothes snob of any kind. I even enjoy what some would call strange outfits.  I don’t turn up my nose at hand me downs. I shop discount racks.  I’ve been known to take scissors and re-design a dress into a skirt, a blouse, or even a shawl. I like to think of myself as being almost as creative as the blogger lady who wrote about turning a dog sweater into a skirt! Well. She goes a little further than I would, but you get the picture.  I am broadminded in the area of fashion.

Having said all that, today the point of my rant is my hubby’s clothes choices. As you know, he’s a senior citizen and his name is Murray.  However, if you are visiting Huntsdale or you are a neighbour within hearing distance (anything up to 4 km) you wouldn’t be blamed if you were convinced that his name is “IsThatWhatYou’reWearing?” “AreYouKiddingMe?” or “WhyIsn’tThatIntheWash?”

Now actually, Murray can appear to be quite attractive. But don’t let this trick you the way it does me. He has me fooled with his thick white hair and his twinkling eyes and his big smile. He is a great hugger, and 99% of our daily interactions are just right.  But today we are talking about his choice of barn clothes. That’s where the attractive part becomes challenged. Now … it’s only fair to acknowledge that for the last three months the fields and barns at Huntsdale have not held a single cow. Nevertheless, chores are still a major part of the daily routine. Every day Murray needs barn clothes.  Moreover, every day it becomes an issue between us, especially if I catch him before he gets out the door.

You are probably asking, “Does he have a choice?” Yes.  He has lots of barn clothes.  Six Rubbermaid tubs to be exact. All sorted by specific item: jeans, overalls, sweatshirts, t-shirts, etc. As well there are several wall hooks in his personal work changing room.  And, furthermore, a washing machine is the first thing that he sees, when coming in from the barn or when going out to the barn.  My point?  He lacks for nothing in the “How-to-have-clean-barn-clothes-department!” However clean barn clothes for Murray are as rare as a good hair day is for Donald Trump.

So how does this scenario happen so often you ask?

Well. Sometimes, it starts when he is walking rapidly past where I am involved in my daily routine and says something like, “Hey! I’m going next door to pick up some fresh eggs!” Helpful. Yes.  Eat local?  Great!  But…he has a strange pair of pants on … the legs look like they wear shortened using a dull knife …. They are held up with a belt (also too big) that he has tried to “tie” because there are no holes in the right place.  When he turns around … there is something fresh and fragrant hanging from the shirt that he’s been wearing for longer than my memory reaches back  It is obvious that  he didn’t quite clear the area when he was housecleaning in the newly cow-free stable.

“Are you going like that?” I ask.  “Of course!” is the short reply. “I’ve been working.  They are farmers too! No problem.”

Yes!  For Murray, when it comes to clothes selection, that “I’m working” part covers a lot of dirt, grime and dairy airs!”

And of course, he’s right. This egg picking up outfit is probably not a big deal.  But the same outfit, or one very like it, also makes the suitable list, when he heads out to the feed store, a fast food restaurant or choir practice!

If he saved pennies like he saves clean clothes, we would be laughing all the way to the bank, and I probably wouldn’t care what he was wearing! Wrong!  I would care.

However, he is only stingy, when picking out barn clothes … He refuses to change them before they are standing waiting for him jump in. His argument, “Why put on clean clothes, when I am only going to get dirty?”

My argument … the embedded dirt is so ground in by the time I get to it with my super Washing-Soda-Oxyclean-Tide” treatment that I’m fighting a lost cause.

In frustration, I have pointed out the choices folded and waiting and he says incredulously, ““But these are all good. Why would I wear them?” “Because they are clean.” I reply and add. “No one is going to whip their head around, when you go by and ask, “What is that smell?”

To give him credit, he keeps his hair tidy, his teeth clean, he helps in the house and provides social and work outings that are vastly entertaining …. But this smelly Freddy the Freeloader look alike always sends my wife meter into the danger zone. And it’s not that I don’t have ragged fragrant days of my own … But … the world is still sexist enough that when he looks so unkempt… I imagine I can overhear observers saying. “Poor Murray.  His wife obviously doesn’t keep his clothes clean!” Well, I would if I could get at them!

So what is the answer?  Well, I always say, “Name the problem and you have the solution”.  And I have a plan. Gradually those wretched barn clothes handed down from the cousin, father-in-law or uncle twice his size are gradually reducing in numbers until, like the cows that necessitated wearing them, they will eventually be gone to greener pastures.

But, so far, he isn’t fooled. I am now starting to hear, “You threw out my good overalls!”  “Would those be the ones with the binder-twine strap and the ripped off pocket?” I innocently ask. “Yes!” is the horrified explanation. “They were broken in just the way I like them! I loved those ones.”

So now it’s my turn to listen and be understanding and sympathetic. We all have our quirks.  It isn’t really too surprising that I find myself standing over a washing machine in an attempt to “break in” a load of blue jeans, coveralls and sweatshirts picked out for his role of a general handyman. They look and feel even older than they already are.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Who says there’s nothing new after 46 years and 4 months of married life? If old is what he wants … I am ready to become an expert at old looking. That’s what married teamwork is all about. He wears a better fit, and I don’t have a fit!  It’s a win-win!



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The 2015 Dairy Farmers Christmas Wish List

Monday, December 7th, 2015

While some would wish for 12 doses of Goldwyn semen or a higher milk price, with 18 days left till Christmas here are 18 realistic Christmas gift ideas for the dairy farmer on your list:

  1. 2015 World Dairy Expo and 2015 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show Photo Books
    Due to the extremely popularity over the past two year’s photo books, we brought them back for 2015. These 80 page 10”x 8” coffee table books each contain over 150 hi-resolution photos.  You can relive all of the action and excitement of the 2015 World Dairy Expo Holstein Show and The Royal Winter Fair 2014 Holstein Show with these one-of-a-kind photo books.  Check out these photo books here.
  2. Paintings by Gary Sauder
    Since the first time I saw Gary’s work on Facebook, I was amazed by the super-realism of his paintings. His passion and understanding of what great dairy animals look like comes through in each and every one.  We had the chance to interview Gary in our feature article – GARY SAUDER: The Muse in His Studio. To order some of Gary’s wonderful artwork visit Cow Art and More.
  3. Get the gift of maximum genetic progress
    Why not give the dairy breeder on your list some embryos from their favorite cow or even a gift card for semen for that young sire they have always wanted. Check out our mating recommendations section for some ideas, or Sire Proof Central to find that needle in a haystack sire to change your breeding program.
  4. A Special Lady from Steel Cow
    Although she is neither a dairy breeder nor a show ring competitor, artist Valerie Miller of Steel Cow is, nevertheless, completely hands on in her relationship with cows. This passionate painter not only paints her girls larger than life but she also aligns their bovine characteristics with dear family members and friends. These paintings are admired by all and make a great Christmas gift for the dairy breeder on your list.  Steel Cow’s Valerie Miller: Larger Than Life With Her Cow Girls.
  5. The Chosen Breed and The Holstein History by Edward Young Morwick
    Anyone who likes history, even in the slightest, will greatly appreciate either the US history (The Holstein History) or the Canadian History (The Chosen Breed) by Edward. Each of these books is so packed with information that they are each printed in two separate volumes.  We had a chance to interview Edward – Edward Young Morwick – Country Roads to Law Office and you get a real sense of his passion and quick wit and they also come shining through in his books.  Be sure to get your copies of an amazing compilation of Holstein history in these books.
  6. Prints by Emma Caldwell
    Probably one of the most talented young artists I have ever come across, Emma Caldwell is well on her way to becoming a worldwide household name. Although she is just starting out in her career, she has already done some amazing paintings of Hailey, Smurf, and Francesca.  Check out our feature interview with Emma, Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart, as well as her many great prints available from her web shop.
  7. Legends of the Tanbark Trail by Tim Baumgartner
    Dairy cattle have been on exhibit for nearly 200 years and taking home the coveted title of National Grand Champion has always been a compelling force. Tracing the first 100 years of U.S. national dairy cattle shows, Legends of the Tanbark Trail is a remarkable account of the people, the places, and the superb and unparalleled animals that have graced the show ring throughout its history.  Be sure to get your show enthusiast their copy of this special book.
  8. Prints by Bonnie Mohr
    For a long time, Bonnie Mohr has been the industry standard for excellent dairy Like many, our family has had the opportunity to appreciate Bonnie’s great work.  My wife has purchased me a Bonnie Mohr print every year on our anniversary.  That is why when we had the opportunity to interview Bonnie – Bonnie Mohr – Science and Art Together Creates a Holstein Love Story; it was an honor for us.  Be sure to check out her website for more extraordinary fine art from rural America.
  9. Millionaires in the Cornfield: The Glory Days of the National Dairy Cattle Congress by Norman Nabholz.
    For me, Norm is probably one of the greatest cattle minds of the past 50 years. It only takes a few moments of chatting with Norm to recognize his passion for this business we all love.  His book is easy to pick up but hard to put down.  Not only does it recount the achievements of legendary breeders and showmen with words and countless pictures, the background information and this behind-the-scenes look are most entertaining and interesting.  The Bullvine had a chance to sit down and interview this multi-talented man in our feature article – HALTER, PEN and GAVEL.  That’s Just the Norm.
  10. Facebook Page for Their Farm
    Instead of wasting hundreds of dollars on a web page that no one will ever read, give the dairy breeder in your life a Facebook page that will reach the world. The best part about it? It’s free!  That’s correct, it will cost you nothing.  All you need to do is download this simple guide, The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook and you will be well on the way to helping the dairy breeder in your life market to the world.
  11. The Dairy Queen: A History of the Jersey Breed Worldwide
    This 300-page book is a great Christmas present for anyone interested in the Jersey breed. It chronicles the origins and development of the Jersey breed through detailed text and photos.  Be sure to check out our interview “THE DAIRY QUEEN” HAS ALL THE ANSWERS! with Co-Author Derrick Frigot.  He tells how this book came to be and what makes it so unique.  Supplies are limited, so be sure to check out their Facebook page and order your copy for the Jersey breeder in your life.
  12. A True Type Model of their Favourite Cow
    Give them that special gift that will stand out for years to come. When ordering from Holstein Canada you can even get these items painted with the same markings as your favourite cow.
  13. A New Smartphone
    If there is one thing we have learned since starting The Bullvine, it is that Dairy Farmers love to check out the latest news on their smart phones. More than half our web traffic comes from a mobile device.  So make life easier for the dairy farmer on your list and get them that smart phone that makes reading the last news on The Bullvine, or gossip on Facebook that much easier.  While your at it, be sure to join the world’s largest community of dairy breeder discussion, The Milkhouse.  There are over 5,000 members, and 20-30 posts every day about all the issues that face Dairy Producers from around the world.
  14. We Need a Show – 50 years of World Dairy Expo
    World Dairy Expo will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016, and to celebrate this milestone, journalists have collaborated to create a historical book reminiscing on 50 years of Expo memories. The limited edition commemorative book, We Need a Show, gives insight into how the show began, explores the struggles and successes over the years, and looks into what the future might hold. Order Here
  15. Coupons for relief milking
    It may seem silly to some, but dairy farming is a 365 day per year job, and sometimes you just need time to step away for dinner with their partner. Coupons for 2 or 3 milkings might just be the gift they never forget and greatly appreciate.
  16. A Show-Cation
    Taking relief milking to another level, how about giving the Tanbark enthusiast on your list a vacation, or as we like to call it a Show-Cation to World Dairy Expo or The Royal. Better yet maybe you can send them to IDW in Australia or European Championship show in France.  If you cannot be there be sure to check out The Bullvine for coverage of all these great shows and more.
  17. A Great Pair of Work Boots
    Never underestimate the power of a pair of comfortable, warm work boots. When mucking around chasing that fresh heifer who just doesn’t want to go into the robotic milker nothing beats a pair of great work boots.
  18. A Subscription to The Bullvine
    For those that are tight on budget, go for a FREE subscription to the largest dairy breeder publication in the world. Filled with over ten daily news items and feature articles, this subscription is the gift that keeps on giving year round.
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Allergy Free Kids Need More Cows and More Dirt

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

An interesting hypothesis has come out of Ghent University. It suggests that farms have the best germs for preventing respiratory problems and allergic reactions later in life. The Bullvine and our readers will be happy to know that “it is statistically proven that growing up on a dairy farm is a good way to have fewer allergy and asthma problems than the rest of the population.”

Now granted I am a small sampling of one but until I read this article in The Post, I assumed that coming from a house construction and horse rearing family, I had much more hacking, coughing, and wheezing than anyone else in the whole world.  Miraculously after getting married into a dairy family I suddenly became wheeze free. I’ve always attributed it to love, but it could be that cows and dirt were just not in the right proportions in my earlier years.

The FACTS:  Seasonal allergies make an estimated 50 million people suffer.

The HOPE:  Early exposure to cows and dirt may hold the key to preventing allergies in children.

The Hygiene Hypothesis: More Cows + More Dirt = Less Allergies

This new perspective proposes the hypothesis that allergy and asthma result from a lack of exposure to microbes as a young child. While I am not ready to “roll kids around on the floor of the subway” as suggested by some microbiologists, I do recognize that it’s counterproductive health wise to insist on (germ-free).  In fact, there is growing data used as evidence that “farms have the best germs for preventing respiratory problems and allergic reactions later in life.”  As well, reports from Southern Bavaria and Switzerland report that only 25 percent of children living on farms in those countries reacted to allergens such as dust mites, pollen, animals, and mold.  In contrast, 45 percent of children in the contemporary general population reacted. Researchers also looked at the Amish and discovered that allergic reactions in Amish children are at an incredibly low 8 percent or less.

Research is proving that epithelial cells of the lungs are more important in the development of allergy responses than previously considered.

A report published in SCIENCE on September 4, 2015, under the heading, “Farm dust and endotoxin protect against allergy through A20 induction in lung epithelial cells.” In short, they feel they have pinpointed the mechanism for allergy protection.  In trials on mice, they concluded that the immune system isn’t the affected area to watch but, rather, the structural cells that make up the lining of the lung.

Furthermore, they have pinpointed A20 as the beneficial protein.

Do you remember how your body reacted the first time the air that you breathed in triggered an allergic response?  As we search for cause and treatment, we have tended to believe that the immune system is responsible for this unpleasant process. Now Bart Lambreht and Hamida Hammad of Ghent University proposed that the first receptors are not the immune system but rather the structure cells that make up the inside of the lungs. To prove this, they worked with mice.  They induced them with dust mite allergies and then by exposing them to dust from a dairy farm early in life they discovered that they were able to make them immune.

Building on this success, they studied what exactly was protecting the mucous membranes of the mice.  They identified a protein called A20 that was produced by the mice that were exposed to farm dust. When A20 was not present in the subjects’ lungs, the farm dust ceased to protect them from allergic reactions.

Of Mice and Men

Having tested the hypothesis, researchers had the impetus to go to the next level. They were able to test 2000 farm children.  Some children, despite their farm backgrounds, still suffered from allergies.  The breakthrough came when researchers were able to prove that these children suffered from a mutation in the gene related to A20. There is certainly much more to discover, but the first steps to a solution have been taken.  How allergies develop and finding ways to prevent them – especially in children — is a challenge that Lambrecht and his colleagues are eagerly seeking solutions for. They are hoping that the cells of the lung itself will get more attention in research. He proposes that “This could be a sign that allergy and asthma vaccines need to be administered by aerosol instead of injection to be truly effective. Moreover, it may mean that epidemiologists need to think twice before focusing on blood samples alone in their allergy studies.”

“It’s time to enjoy a roll in the hay OR drink from the well, the hose or the stream!”

So to experience the benefits, find that dusty haymow and have a cold drink from an old farm pump because it may be exactly what the allergy specialist ordered. Yes, it’s time to cut back on hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and take a deep breath of that dust-filled and smelly breeze blowing over the barnyard. Those fragrant airs laden with cow dander, dust, pollen, and bacteria could be carrying beneficial effects to your respiratory system. It may not be quite that simple. But it could be a sniff in the right direction.

The Good News and the Bad News

The good news is that early exposure to dust and cows may have a beneficial effect in protecting against allergies.  The bad news is that prolonged exposure to “non-allergenic” factors … for instance non-allergenic factors such as chemical exposure may modify that early protection. Nothing works in complete isolation from all other factors.  Finding the links and triggers is the challenge ahead.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It is time to stop stereotyping all germs as bad.  No one wants to see children suffer from allergies, so we constantly seek methods for reducing their discomfort and increasing their enjoyment of healthy living. Young and old both welcome the good news that suggests that there is a positive allergy suppressant between two things kids are already attracted to …. Cows and dirt.  Go out and start inhaling those dairy airs!



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As a sister, mother and grandmother, I am well-aware of the battles that can arise between siblings.  On the one hand, this frustrates me because I think it’s inherently a great thing to have a ready-made playgroup, captive audience or blood-is-thicker-than-water defender.  On the contrary, I don’t care who “started it” because I enjoy a good fight that moves things forward. Having said that, I hate arguments that are solely for the sake of a power trip by an individual or a group. To me, they are a complete waste of time! Furthermore, I don’t limit my position on proper fighting to family only.  I think a good fight is even more important in the business world.

How does the dairy industry deal with fighting?

Dairying is by its nature competitive in many ways.  We compete for genetics. We compete for sales. We compete for recognition. This can naturally expose us to many contentious issues. There is nothing wrong with that.  In fact, when two or more co-workers or competitors recognize a problem and have differing viewpoints, it sets up the potential for a solution that could end up being better for everyone. However when anyone puts their own interests above the dairy operation or the association or business they represent, fighting erupts and becomes counterproductive in every sense of the word.

How NOT to pick a GOOD fight

If we are looking for examples of how not to pick a good fight, we can all point to dairy industry operations or family farms, competitors or dairy suppliers, who are so single-mindedly focused on putting down their competition that they end up shooting themselves in the foot. When it’s all about, “Me. My job.  My people. Pay me”, it closes the door to sharing of progressive ideas that keep the industry as a whole relevant.

Agreement Masks Problems

We think we like it when everyone appears to agree. It might seem to be working when everyone is chummy all the time. After all, harmonious agreeable teamwork is a dream we would all like to live with on a daily basis.  However, there is a danger of becoming too agreeable and too loyal.  It backfires when people are content to follow even when they have concerns about the final destination. When harmony is the over-riding goal, signals of impending trouble will not be acknowledged.  Nobody wants to be the whistle-blower, drama queen or lone wolf. Everyone is afraid to point out the elephant in the room.

Beyond Contented Cows

A peaceful, harmonious milking line is the dream workplace for productive cows.  However, it can be the worst thing in the world for a progressive dairy business. While we want contented cows, complacency in other areas of our dairy business becomes one of the first indicators of trouble ahead. For example, why is it that we continually say the dairy industry is healthy when farms passing to the next generation are steadily declining? Or — Why is it so hard to find a pool of labor for agriculture? Maintaining a façade of harmony can become a mask for behind-the-scenes problems.  Essential work is overlooked because nobody wants to rock the boat.  Those who try to “fix” everything to maintain the outward look of teamwork, eventually burn out, as they become dissatisfied with the lost potential. Too much harmony doesn’t work.  Friction and in-fighting don’t work. It’s a fine line, and it’s one that is too important to be ignored.

How do you pick your battles?

There are ways to determine if you are picking the right fight.  First and foremost you must be fighting to gain value.  There are three value propositions that are worth fighting for:

  1. Saving 15% a year. This could be 15% of your resources.  It could be 15% of your time.
  2. Adding 10%. Will the change you’re fighting for allow you to charge more?
  3. Faster growth. The fight is a good one if it enables you to grow sales or market share faster than the current market.

If you answered “Yes!” to one of the above three questions, your battle passes the value test.  If all three answers are “No!” you need to reassess either your business plan or your action plan — perhaps both!

Are you ready to FIGHT for a change?

Change is a hard concept for everyone to get their heads around.  There used to be an advertisement showing a black-eyed smoker who said, “I’d rather fight than switch!” This has so many issues, but most of them are better addressed another day.  Today the key to knowing whether it’s better to fight can be solved with another 3 point checklist.

Will the change you’re fighting for

  1. Require the team, farm, board or business to work in a way that is fundamentally different than the current process?
  2. Will the change require new training, different perspectives or specialized knowledge that is not being used currently?
  3. Change always turns on communication. Will the proposed change require a different real-time information flow between various parts of the dairy operation, team or advisors than the way information is managed now?

You have picked the right fight if you answered “Yes!” at least once.  If all three questions earned a “No!” response, then you are ready for a task force, not a fight.

Turning pain into gain builds dairy strength

We all know that, if there is a fight, not everyone will win.  Winners and losers must both find the way to move on. Not all ideas are good ideas. Not all strategies work. Communicating the outcome to the ones whose position lost can be hard. How it is handled can damage relationships and affect the milking line, the board meeting or the management team. Good leaders find a way to turn disappointing news into an occasion for personal development.

Fighting the right fight is a discipline, not an event.

When one fight ends, the best leaders will be looking for the next fight. That’s not to say that the workplace should be an environment of constant turmoil. Progressive dairy managers know when to give people rest. But they continually seek ways to push people to the point where they find their energy and enthusiasm to seek the next way to move forward.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Always remember that in order to make dairy progress, “It’s not important whether you win or lose. Its how you fight to get it right that makes all the difference!



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We all recognize leaders when they are at the head of the line … but are we astute enough to pick them out when they are among the pack. Who is on your leadership short list?

What is the Short List?

Every group, industry or sport has a short list of people who stand above the rest. Who do you instantly think of when you hear the words baseball, money or politics?  Does it work when you think of dairy industry leaders?

Imagine that you’re sitting around the table discussing an upcoming sale or show booth design. “Maybe we can get Bonnie Mohr to design it?” Or you need an upcoming ad campaign for your selling your heifers, cows or embryos.  “Maybe Michael Heath or Charlie Will could give us an endorsement…” or if you’re having a downsizing sale, “Wouldn’t it be great if Norm Nabholz was reading the pedigrees and Brian Craswell calling the auction?”  Do you see the trend here? The shortlist are those folks who are recognized as industry “household names.” They’re known for excelling in their field. When you think about today’s dairy industry, who would you put on the shortlist of people who have that kind of recognition in their area of expertise? Who are the people who have achieved excellence and are setting an active example for the rest of us? ALL the time?

Let’s Identify Short List Leadership Characteristics

What do stubborn and trustworthy have in common, if anything?  They are two characteristics that put exceptional people on the S.H.O.R.T list of dairy leaders. Let’s look at the top five characteristics: 1. Stubborn 2. Humble 3. One-of-a-Kind 4. Resilient 5. Trustworthy.


Leaders are selectively stubborn.  There’s a difference between stubbornly moving … and stubbornly stopped! Leaders are stubborn about maintaining a sustainable level of improvement.

Lots of us are good at something.  Fewer of us are the very best at anything.  Leaders stubbornly work to continually improve the level that they perform at. For the rest of us, I think it’s a crime that we all stop short.  We never test how good we could have been. We GO BUST before we allow ourselves Reach BEST.  Getting to the shortlist is like your favorite cows in the milk line … it takes persistence.  Not only do they have the genetics but they have the will.  Not only do they have the potential but they show up and produce.

Only the persistent manage to achieve and maintain leadership.  It’s a daily job that requires working in the right-place-in-the right way day after day for a very long time. It takes the stubborn will to meet and outlast the challenges — not for just one year — but for a decade or three. Those who are running from confrontation or fearfully seeking the widespread consensus will forever find themselves detouring around progress. Valued leaders accept the harder road and stubbornly work through problems to the solutions.


We don’t often associate leadership with humility. Often those who tell us they are leading … are merely emphasizing the size of their egos, not the distance they can take us toward the future.  Of course, recognized leaders are especially good at something but they are also exceptionally good at seeing what is great in those around them.  They aren’t threatened by others strengths … Nor do they seek to steal other’s work and claim it as their own.  True leadership recognizes everybody’s short list of strengths.  Whether it’s bringing out the best in cows, facilities, processes, employees or organizations, real leaders do so by example and work to raise everyone up to a better standard.  They lead by example and have very little concern for the title or badge.  Too often we experience the complete lack of results produced by those who want the badge before they’ve done the work.  Instead of seeking the number one solution, they are only interested in themselves being #1.


Being “the same as everyone else” is NOT a short list trait. Take the daily very good and lift it to remarkable. They stand up, and they stand out.  They encourage others not to be the same as everyone else… or even anyone else.  Be better.   Dr. Seuss is right. “Why fit in, will fall when you were born to stand out?” You can’t walk where the crowd is and make the short list.  Regardless of how you measure ‘best’, it is almost never present in the thing that is the most popular.

One of the things wrong with today’s marketplace is that there is far too much rehashing of old ideas spun as new.  Great leaders aren’t copycats.  They abhor me too!  Leaders have no patience for the status quo.  They focus their efforts on shattering the status quo.  Game changers refuse to allow their organization to adopt conventional methods and bureaucracy.  They challenge norms, break conventions.  The encourage diversity of thought.


They don’t cry.  They create.  Leaders don’t complain when times are tough.  They create, improve on and innovate in order for things to get better. While they believe in and develop best practices, they don’t stop there.  They move on to next practices. Have you ever wondered how some people come up with the proverbial big idea? To put it simply, “They never settle for the way things are today!” They are not stopped by those who say, “We don’t do it that way” or “it might not work.” They aren’t just dreamers; they are doers.  Successful leaders are persistent.  They are never stopped by the setbacks.  They realize that potential is of little value if said potential fails to be realized.


You can get through anything if there is trust.  However, once that is broken, it’s hard to move forward.  Leaders have to communicate.  They don’t have to be perfect.  They don’t have to have all the answers.  But they have to inspire trust in the fact that they are doing the best they can and will always tell the truth.  That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the character to do the right thing. Some so-called leaders who are charged with confronting problems only grow them because of their lack of accountability and questionable motives.   Sometimes real leadership means changing direction.  People follow a leader because of trust.  That’s the real meaning of charisma.


If you hang around long enough, you get the thrill of experiencing the game-changing moments in the dairy industry. Those are the ah-ha moments when the industry takes a leap forward – and moves from ordinary to exceptional. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.

In the past, we had individuals!  We have them today, but we may be too timid to recognize them.  The industry is at a crossroads.  Leaping ahead because of science.  Held back because of economics.  World issues and local issues are each having impact on the way dairying is done. Today we need groups:

  • Scientists and researchers continually breaking new ground
  • Breeders acting outside the box
  • Boards of Directors investing in innovation

Yes, we need leadership.  We know we need it.  Do we know where to find it?


Being a leader isn’t easy.  It’s hard.  Until success is realized, many will label and malign you.  Some people, despite their potential for leadership, are so afraid of ending up on this short sh*t list that they will do anything to avoid landing there.  This ultimately undermines any chance to do something good for the industry, themselves or their dairy. If you are wondering where today’s potential is …. Who can you name that is being labeled “black sheep” “troublemaker” or “pot stirrer”?  Now. Name a leader you admire and respect.  Were they appreciated in their own time? When they started out? If not, why not?


Now we have five punchy adjectives that at first glance might suggest that leadership characteristics overlap. While the characteristics are shared, the areas of excellence are varied.  It takes a broad range of talents to excel in dairying, and there is a need for excellence in every one of them. We need leaders in breeding, advertising, business, sales, showing and fitting, pedigrees and any of the myriad of details that inspire our passion to improve this industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Leadership starts with each recognizing and fulfilling a need.  Everyone in dairying needs to stand up for what will take us forward.  We can’t rest on what got us here.  Now we have to move in a dynamic growing direction.  Look for the leader that’s needed.  True leadership is a short list. Don’t be surprised if you find them – or yourself — standing alone. That’s where all the leaders are!!



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Friday, October 16th, 2015

Today more than one of us at The Bullvine was interested in reading about “the jobs where people are most likely to marry each other.

We all liked the statement that “farmers, fishers, and lawyers are more likely to find true love among their own”. Having said that, I was a student from a construction family when I married a student from a dairying family. And two of my dairy offspring married outside the farm family. The other one married into a vegetable growing dynasty.  Nevertheless those of us who chose to “have and to hold” a farmer are always interested in having our choice validated. Will it last?  Are farmers good for the long haul?  Here’s my answer to the question, “Do you take this farmer?”

A Simple Love Story

More than a few know the story of me falling in love with my dear husband Murray at a very early age.  The legend is that at 12 I discovered he lived on the same road as I did, albeit at the other end and a whole county away. I then proceeded to chase him until he caught me.  For a while, it looked like higher education was going to win all his affections but just before he ended up with more degrees than a thermometer, I got the chance to marry my favorite farmer. That was a dream come true for Murray and Karen.

Moo-Roo and Kow-ren together forever.

Even though I knew from older and wiser family members that the “girls” in the barn would always be #1 on the list of his affections, I felt up to the task even if I did occasionally rank somewhere between number two and number forty. That positioning lasted until Murray was hired by Holstein Canada to run the Type Classification program.  At that point, the list of girls became much larger and spanned several countries. All that analysis.  The charts.  The computers. The True Type Models.  Believe me I learned never to ask, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

The only thing worse than being married to a classifier is aging alongside a former classifier.
A confirmed “boob” man, my husband, never ever looked me in the eye … but these days he’s looking so far down that people think he has fallen asleep standing up.  In fact, we both have concerns about failing and falling body parts, and it is showing up in our farm management.  When we named the last two genomic heifers “Plummet” and “Nosedive”, we recognized our growing preoccupation with gravity was affecting our marketing.

It’s A Stage We Are Going Through

What isn’t serious in our marriage is the fun ways we have found to adapt to life’s changes. After all, here was a cow loving geneticist married to a story telling carpenter`s daughter who is allergic to the hay, cows, horses and dogs.  It was soon evident that there would be many pratfalls taken during my extensive tractor and animal husbandry training.  From the calf pan to the ink pen, we both have learned to laugh at ourselves in the barn, in the house, and on the stage.  For 32 years, I wrote scripts for local musical comedy productions, and we both acted up in them. Of course back then inspiration was easy to find. It was simply a matter of taking my daily diary and setting it to original tunes such as the,”I Raise Couch Potatoes” waltz or “They Call Them Offspring because they Leak” symphony. These days I’m branching out into Seniors Stand-up Comedy and an exercise video entitled, “Stand up Vacuuming for the Dusting Impaired.”

There is once again excitement in being dairy farm comics.

We are always breaking new ground at Huntsdale, Wellspring, and the Bullvine. Just yesterday I was working on an improv piece entitled, “Looking like a Farmer!” that I thought might work for a skit in a talent show. I asked Murray for enlightenment. Do old farmers wear boxers or briefs? ” His clever reply? “Depends!” I think he is onto something there, as we both are fighting the continuous fashion feud better known as the battle between body and clothes.  Speaking personally, there was a time when a bra used to keep everything up where it was perky — now the holdups are slipping out under the wire!  Along with every other ailment, following fashion in your later years can make you sick. Murray says he’s spent more than sixty years trying to avoid furniture disease.  “You know! That’s when your chest keeps falling into your drawers!”

Even our faces betray us these days.

Have you ever had one of those busy days on the farm, when you had no choice but to sneak a little nap? Unfortunately, although you wake up refreshed, you have one of those deep lines across your face.  Inevitably, that’s exactly when the doorbell rings. It’s the veterinarian, “Are you all right Mrs. Hunt?”  he asks while staring at this new wrinkle.  Of course, I think humor will save face, so I reply, “It’s not mine. I’m wrinkle sitting for my mom.  She’s always losing things, so I offered to mind this one while she goes to Bible Study!”  This didn’t get far with the vet. I can’t imagine how it would go over with my daughter-in-law at the door.  She is a psychiatrist. (Note to self: Never answer her if she asks, “How are you today Mrs. Hunt?”)

Of course, farm wives have to live up to the fabulous cook reputation.

My recipes although not always tasty are earning a reputation for being legendary. For instance, there was the raspberry pie I made for visiting non-farming relatives. No one could get their forks to cut through the piecrust.  One gallant cousin tried so hard that his fork went right through the pie and sent the piece flying across the room. Mom’s Rocket Dessert has become a legend that is recounted at every family reunion.

So once again I’m sharing the errors of my daze.

Throughout forty plus years, I not only have stayed in love with my farmer husband but I’ve fallen in love with cows too! Because of course “Cows don’t shed like dogs and cats do…they won’t chase the cat or bark at the neighbors.  A cow will not bring you dead mice, or spend all night singing on the fence post!”  Here I am talking myself into loving cows, and we just sold the last twenty-one of them last Saturday.  Better late than never I always say!!


With everyone focusing on picking the right mate and staying together longer, I think there are many years left in my adventure with animal husbandry. For the two of us, our marriage and our humor has benefitted just like our crops from being homegrown – or is that home groan?  We’re putting a “Laugh Local” sign at the end of our lane and, my answer to the question, “Do you take this farmer” is now and always will be:  “Yes. I do. Forever.”



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dairygirllogoNetworking with the hopes of starting or expanding your career opportunities is a nerve-racking experience for anyone.  But when you’re a woman in a man’s world, the tension can ratchet up even further.

Last week I was in Madison for World Dairy Expo and attended the Dairy Girl Network Dinner which was held off site. As a member of the media (The Bullvine) and representing a publication that positions itself as a somewhat radical, I was worried that some might have a problem with my Canadian loyalties or what they might assume them to be. My worries were the only thing about the whole evening that was proven to be narrow minded. At the end of the day, this networking experience was the enthusiastic start I needed to make my trip to “Dairy in our DNA” a success from both a social and a business leads point of view.

Laura Daniels Dairy Girl Network founder and president from Heartwood Farm in Cobb, Wisconsin welcomed one hundred and eighty women and expanded on the goals of The Dairy Girl Network. She explained “Dairy Girl Network is growing rapidly and working on future opportunities for women. A mentorship program will be starting soon to bring together women on both professional and personal levels.”  Laura then worked the room and made each one feel that they could have a personal impact on the future of women in dairying.


After that very enjoyable evening of introductions, I had common ground whenever I walked up to any of the “dairy girls” manning booths in the commercial buildings or seated beside me at the showring. I was never disappointed.  Ladies’ who work in agriculture were eager to share not only how they became involved with the companies they represented, but also how deep their dairy passion ran outside of work.  Many were raised on dairy farms or had tapped into their passion through romantic or educational connections. For several showing cattle — the premier feature of World Dairy Expo – has been the starting point for both careers and family. Agricultural jobs have wide open arms to those who can bring their expertise and put it into terms that are relevant to dairy farmers and their suppliers.

“If there’s anything that Dairy Girl Network can provide, it’s the confidence that dairy and agricultural connections offer an undeniable advantage when attracting clients or providing service to the dairy industry.”

Inside the large room at the Monona Terrace in Madison it was exciting to see that, along with the well-known champions of woman in agriculture, there was a whole platoon of enthusiastic girls that were drawn together. There was no question that it was planned to have a non-threatening agenda.  No one was required to stand up and account for their right to be there. Quite the contrary.  With enthusiastic encouragement from the energetic and personable Laura Daniels, we had as much time and freedom as we could use, to meet, greet and connect with other dairy girls. It was exciting to hear the variety and passion of the stories that brought girls from all over the U.S, Canada, and Europe to spend time together at the greatest dairy cattle show in the world.  It was proven time and time again over the next three days that those few hours of glad-handing were useful in making contacts relevant to my dairy work, and I’m sure the same was true for many others. Overall we soon recognized that “Everybody knows somebody and developing a colleague relationship allows us to share our list with others.”


Not only were the doors to friendship open, but the very relaxed nature of the setting also provided an opportunity to discuss problems or issues.  Along with the delicious hors oeuvres and dinner,  I learned how other peers are dealing with gender bias, salary issues and problems getting a foot in the barn door in a predominantly man’s world.  Some had no problems at all.  Others recognized that it could take time and would be up to them to earn respect.  Others said that being a girl could be an asset but that it had to be followed up with the knowledge and action that would build and support a long-term positive business relationship.

The entire evening and the days that followed were also a great opportunity to share valuable connections in media relations and problem solving.  It was inspiring to learn of the many other “value-added” services that woman are providing in the dairy industry.

At the end of the evening, my animal nutritionist daughter, Heather Hunt, and I felt that the event had been a real energizer.  We agreed that “It’s important that we understand how different stakeholders feel about different dairy issues.  Coming together from a broad range of dairy backgrounds and companies, it’s helpful for women who have been in different situations to share insights and solutions with other dairy girls. Kudos to The Dairy Girl Network for their plans to develop mentoring.  What a great resource sharing expertise. “It builds confidence to know that we aren’t one woman trying to make a difference on farm or in the boardroom.  We aren’t just wives and daughters but leaders with gifts and skills to share.”


Laura Daniels is enthusiastically receiving feedback and working with the first Dairy Girl Network Board of Directors to empower dairy women everywhere. “It has been a momentous year for the Dairy Girl Network.  We have truly moved the group nationwide.” From my point of view, it could become international.  Dairy girls from Canada and The Netherlands were also motivated upon hearing the plans as shared by Laura. “Our mission of connecting dairywomen across the nation becomes clearer every day.  I am proud of this network we’ve developed.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Dairy women are making a difference, not just because they are different, but because, especially when networking together, they share and expand the same dairy passion.  “It is exciting to look forward and imagine where the Dairy Girl Network will be five years down the road.” Better make that three!!! This group is on the move.



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Immunity+ Does It Actually Work?

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Since we first heard about High Immune Response, now marketed as Immunity+*, the Bullvine has been a big fan of the theory behind this research. (Read more: Your Cattle Are Under Attack!)  But, as with all things that are proposed in theory, there comes a time when you need to put the numbers to it to validate the theory.  As the saying goes “In God  we trust. All others bring data”. So here at the Bullvine we did just that.

With over 50 Immunity+ sires now with official proofs, we decided to take a closer look to see if the theory behind Immunity+ has proven itself.  When analysing the performance of health traits the key factors are specifically Productive Life (PL), Somatic Cell Score (SCS), Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) and Daughter Calving Ease (DCE).  For our analysis, we compared the top 10 current proven sires from two lists.  We first looked at the top 10 proven Immunity+ sires for NM$ to  the top 10 Proven NM$ sires and found the following:

Table 1 Proven NM$ Immunity+ Sires vs August 2015 Proven Sires

Proven Immunity+ for NM$ 2226 484 95 4.3 2.82 2.1 6.4
Proven NM$ 08/2015 2526 715 96 5.9 2.94 1.2 4.9
Immunity+ vs. Proven Aug 2015 -299 -232 -1 -1.6 -0.12 0.9 1.5
-13% -48% -38% -4% 42% 23%

At a quick glance we see some key trends.  Immunity+ sires have performed well for SCS, DPR and DCE but are  significantly lower in PL, TPI and NM$.  However,  since this is a comparison of current top proven TPI sires, it is unfair to compare the top Immunity+ sires with the top NM$ sires  because  no one could have 100% accurately predicted what sires would be the top 10 proven sires back in 2011, when most of these sires would have been used.  So instead we decided to compare the top current Immunity+ sires to the top Genomic Sires from December 2011.  In doing so, we found the following:

Table 2 Proven NM$ Immunity+ Sires vs December 2011 Genomic Sires

Top 10 Proven Immunity+ for NM$ 2226 484 95 4.3 2.82 2.1 6.4
Genomic NM$ 08/2011 2176 509 98 6.0 2.76 2.3 5.7
Immunity+ vs. Genomic 12/2011 50 -25 -2 -1.7 0.06 -0.2 0.7
2% -5% -41% 2% -11% 11%

In looking at the results, we find that the performance of Immunity+ sires compared to the top NM$ genomic sires from December 2011 was lower especially  for the key health traits PL (41% lower), DPR (11% higher) and DCE (11% lower).

We wondered if this performance only occurred with the top NM$ sires so we decided to compare the top Immunty+ TPI sires.  In doing so we found the following:

Table 3 Top 10 Proven TPI Immunity+ Sires vs August 2015 Proven Sires

TPI Proven Immunity+ 2241 471 95 3.9 2.81 2.1 6.1
Proven TPI 08/2015 2511 684 97 5.0 2.92 1.1 5.4
Immunity+ vs. Proven 08/2015 -270 -214 -2 -1.1 -0.11 1.0 0.7
-12% -45% -29% -4% 47% 11%

Similar to the comparison of the top current NM$ sires, we found that the Immunity+ sires performed pretty well for SCS and DPR but performed significantly lower for Productive Life and Daughter Calving Ease.  Again, as we pointed out earlier, it is best to compare these sires to the sires of 2011 to see how they really stacked up at the time of the breeding decision.  The results are as follows:

Table 4 Top 10 Proven TPI Immunity+ Sires vs August 2011 Genomic Sires

TPI Proven Immunity+ 2241 471 95 3.9 2.81 2.1 6.1
Genomic TPI 12/2011 2290 499 98 5.4 2.76 2.5 5.6
Immunity+ vs. Genomic 12/2011 -49 -28 -2 -1.5 0.05 -0.4 0.4
-2% -6% -40% 2% -21% 7%

Similar to the trend with the NM$ sires, the Immunity+ sires performed significantly lower for Productive Life and Daughter Pregnancy Rate.

For a complete listing of sires and calculations click here

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that breeding healthier long-lived cattle is the ultimate goal of all dairy producers.  Ultimately, the most accurate measure of how long a dairy cow lasts in a herd is Productive Life (PL). (Read more: SHE AIN’T PRETTY – SHE JUST MILKS THAT WAY!)  In theory Immunty+ or High Immune Response sires should also be higher Productive Life sires.  The challenge with  the performance of the top current Immunity+ sires is  that they are performing over 29% lower than non-tested sires.



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*Immunity+ is a Trademark of the Semex Alliance 
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Teardrops on my work boots…

Monday, September 14th, 2015

27 years ago I stood videotaping the sale of our family’s Master Breeder herd, crying the whole time. It was especially heart wrenching when my first 4-H project (and the only one to carry our Huntsdale prefix) sold, I cried even more, but the heifer sold for twice as much as she was worth.   The sale would become the highest herd sale of the year.  I told myself that one day I would rebuild that herd and make my grandfather and father proud. Today, as the Huntsdale animals once again leave our farm for the last time, I find myself feeling very disappointed for not fulfilling the promise I made.


When we sold in’88, we knew there would be animals coming back to the farm.  My older brother had already made arrangements to purchase some in the sale and keep them on our family farm.  We knew then that it was not the official end of Huntsdale, as there were three  young children (brother, sister and myself) that were so passionate about dairy cattle that we would rebuild and make our grandfather and parents proud.

IMG_0085-2To get an understanding of why I feel that I have failed my father and grandfather, you first need to understand why there is Huntsdale Farms exists in the first place. You see my grandfather was not a livestock farmer. His passion was never the cows.  It was the passion of his young son who loved visiting his grandfather’s mixed breed herd that led my grandfather to purchase his in-law’s farm and start a new career as a dairy farmer.  My father would visit his grandparent’s dairy farm so often s that he ended up spending more time there than he did on their own market garden operation.  Upon moving to the farm, they transitioned to Holsteins and Huntsdale Holstein was started.  While in University, and later when dad graduated, it was always dad who had the passion for the dairy cows and my grandfather for the crops.  At university his Masters thesis was entitled, “A.I. Breeding Schemes”. It included “The Dollar Difference Guide”, which was the precursor to the Canadian LPI system.  Dad’s Masters was implemented by Canadian A.I. organizations that went from sampling less than 50 bulls per year to over 400.

Like so many  talented youth, my father was recruited by the dairy industry side and dad started his career, working  for the Ontario Government in a division that would become the Ontario Dairy Herd Improvement organization. He then joined Holstein Canada where he managed type classification and breed improvement for 18 years, Dad certainly was making changes in the dairy industry.  But that did not cause him to lose track of his first passion which remained the dairy cow.  In partnership with my grandparents, and some great hired help, Huntsdale Farms, had many great achievements, including Master Breeder status, class extra sires, many superior production awards and star brood cows.  But when the time came for my grandfather to retire in the late 80’s my father was traveling the world helping implement the Canadian Classification system in many countries, including  Cuba Australia, Argentina, and other regions.  He had to make the tough call to either leave that and start farming full time or sell the herd.  Though my parents did purchase the family farm and the Huntsdale prefix, the milking herd was dispersed.  Thus was born my dream that maybe one day, one of us children would continue the legacy.

IMG_0104My brother, who was about to start university, had big plans for building on the base that was provided by Huntsdale.  He started with 10+ animals that were purchased during the sale.  But once again plans changed. Upon graduating from University, Paul was offered the incredible opportunity to work with Dr. David Chalack and Doug Blair at Alta Genetics. An opportunity he could not refuse.  Twenty years later, Paul is still with Alta Genetics serving as their Chief Operating Officer with  key focus on projects in Russia and the Peak female program, very similar to the work that was my father’s Masters work.  He certainly continues Murray’s Dairy Industry Legacy.  My sister and I like to call him Murray and Karen’s “Golden Boy” who can walk on water.  Perhaps that frozen water will melt someday….

My sister, also the princess of the family, in true princess style  started out for 3 years of university with the goal of becoming an animal geneticist. Then in a last minute non-princess move, she threw her father a curve ball and ended up becoming an animal nutritionist.  Nevertheless, like all good princesses, she retained her shine and has developed a very successful career in a challenging and sometimes gender biased industry.  (Read more: IS THE DAIRY BREEDING INDUSTRY SEXIST?)


As the third and last hope, the dream of being the 3rd generation Master Breeder at Huntsdale was certainly one that I have had over my lifetime.  As a teenager, I worked as a fitter, with the dream of one day showing a homebred Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion.  However, once again life threw us a curveball, and I developed such severe allergies that my eyes would swell shut and start to puss every time I was fitting cattle. This quickly ended my fitting career, although I did continue to fit for 4-H shows until I was done.  It was at that time that a new opportunity presented itself, I was contracted to do the marketing for GenerVations and their soon to be #1 LPI sire, Calbrett-I HH Champion.  From the start that I got with   David Eastman and Albert Cormier, I was able to build my first company.  Side note: it is for this reason it is fitting that the last Huntsdale cattle will sell as part of the final sale for Albert Cormier and his Cormdale herd.  It was also the lessons I learned from Albert during those days that helped me develop many companies over the years. In my corporate presentations, I like to credit Albert for helping me lose my inhibitions about starting a business.  I would say, “Albert Cormier taught me that if you can make a $1, start a business. If you can make $2, start two”. It is the motto that has helped me launch many successful companies.  (Read more: Cormdale Genetics Legacy Sale 2015) Then, it seemed like my dairy career was over, when I found the love of my life and we moved to Toronto, where I started doing demand generation for Fortune 500 companies.  (Read more: HOW I USED EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT ANIMAL BREEDING TO CHOOSE MY WIFE, THE OTHER WOMAN, THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTNERSHIP IN THE WORLD, THINKING ABOUT ENDING IT ALL…)It is the success that I found there that has provided me with the opportunity to launch The Bullvine and do my share in continuing the legacy my father started.  Ironically, it is also this legacy that has contributed to the end of Huntsdale Holsteins , as Murray is now a key member of our team here and that keeping the cattle on the home farm is actually very challenging, considering  the amount of travel required by The Bullvine. (Read more: THE BULLVINE – COMFORTABLE MAKING OTHERS UNCOMFORTABLE)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

And so, it is with mixed emotions that I will watch as the final Huntsdale bred cattle will sell once again at Brubacher’s Sales Arena.  While I am certainly very proud of the impact our family has had on the dairy industry around the world, a little piece of my dreams are going to die. .  As I reflect on this, I see this occurring on many farms these days.  Often the best and brightest get called to careers off the family farm, draining the dairy breeding industry of some of its greatest talent.  While there are certainly those that don’t answer that call and carry on  the passion on their family farm, for our family, the calling was too strong and thus  the Huntsdale prefix will end  shy of its next Master Breeder award.  Regardless of this turning point,   the impact that Huntsdale will have is far greater than any top sire or great brood dam could ever have provided

Murray loves to talk about impact and change.  How many “industry” executives can say that they were also Master Breeders and produced class extra sires and many sires into AI?  Often in his career he has had to make the tough choice that meant forgoing his own personal success and doing what was best for the industry as a whole.   While Huntsdale Holsteins will end, the legacy and impact on the industry will continue stronger and better than ever, with children living their dairy passion through AI, nutrition and the media industry.

This Saturday, at the  Cormdale Genetics Legacy Sale 2015, there will definitely be teardrops on my work boots once again as the last Huntsdale cattle are sold…but .I can promise you this, “The legacy has only just begun.”



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Could Breed Wars Be Heating Up?

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Various dairy media reports, including recent Hoards Dairyman and breed journal articles, have documented differences between breeds in both performance and trends. The question remains “What factors will influence breed choice in the future?”

Tradition Has Ruled

We often hear breeders and show judges say “A good dairy cow is a good cow no matter what the color.” Is that true? Do you agree? If passion determines your answer, then you will not likely agree with the ‘anything works’ philosophy.

Breeders are usually not color blind when it comes to seed corn, haybines, barn cleaners or computers. Our forefathers were not tied to breed when they started move from dual purpose to milk production breeds in North America, one hundred years ago.

For this article, I ask that you set passion aside and consider the factors that may determine the breed of choice in the future.

The Players

Although there may be ten or a dozen dairy breeds around the globe, it basically comes down to two breeds. Holsteins and Jerseys. These two now account, in North America, for just short of 99% of purebred animals on the farm.

Table 1 Percent by Breed of Cows on DHI

1988 2013
Ayrshire 0.6 0.2
Brown Swiss 0.9 0.8
Guernsey 1.4 0.2
Holstein 91.4 89.1
Jersey 5.3 9.5
Milking Shorthorn 0.1 0.1
Red and White 0.3 0.1


So the breed of choice is between the Holstein and Jersey breeds. Why have Jerseys gained in popularity? Was the gain because of what Jerseys did or Holsteins did not do? Why have the other breeds dropped in market share? Think about that – it could be a combination of many factors.

Jersey Breed Not Standing By

Almost twenty years ago Jersey Canada had a slogan ‘a brown cow in every barn’. Moreover, during the last two-plus decades American Jersey has put considerable resources into marketing of Jersey milk and promoting payment based on the component content.

In 2014, Jersey Canada and a University of Guelph economics professor published a study report that claimed that Jersey herds can be slightly more profitable in the Canadian supply management system. Recently Hoards Dairymen published an article showing Jerseys yield $66 more profitable per cow per year in the large herd environment of California.

Holstein Breed Satisfied

While Jerseys have been aggressive about competing for market share, Holsteins have seemingly looked the other way. Holsteins have been satisfied, confident and perhaps even complacent. They are assuming Holstein dominance will prevail without the need to: 1) promote the strengths of Holsteins; and 2) remove from their breeding population animals with significant limitations (i.e. negative DPR, negative PL, lower component yields, …, etc.).

Why Crossbreeding Happened

It is estimated that 4.5% of dairy animals on DHI test in the USA are crossbreds. The proportion may be even higher in non-recorded herds. Based on the numerous reports on crossbreeding it is obvious that cross breeding came about because of limiting factors of purebreds. Even though the benefits of heterosis are short lived, one generation or two generations when a three-way crossing program is used, crossbreds have provided dairy enterprises the opportunity to increase profit in a short period.

The F1 black beauties sometimes called Hojo’s, as the Holstein x Jersey cross is known, have been popular for dairy farmers focusing their attention on fertility, component percents, younger calving age for heifers, less time spent in dry cow pens and the cost of maintaining larger body mass animals.

If there was some way for Hojo’s to breed true perhaps both Holsteins and Jerseys would be challenged for market share. That could be possible once we know more about how to use the DNA information. Time will tell.

Future Challenges for Breeds

The future of dairy farming and the genetic makeup of animals on a global basis promises to be much different than in the past. How breeds prepare genetically, beyond solids yield and productive life, will be significant in determining which breed comes out ahead.

Here are a seven change makers to think about:

  • New Breed
    Some Holstein breeders currently will not use a sire that does not have 100% North American lineage. And it is only within the last few years that Jersey Island breeders have allowed the registration of animals sired by Jersey sires from outside of Jersey Island. Are breeds so sacred that they cannot be improved upon? Perhaps purebred breeders have missed an opportunity in the past to bring new genetic material into their chosen breed. Then again could there be a move to a new composite breed in the future? It has happened in beef, why not in dairy?
  • Genomics
    Gene level study of the gene makeup of animals is here to stay. Realistically it is even more than that. It will be the driving force to moving genetics forward at a very rapid pace. (Read more: Forget Genomics – Epigenomics & Nutrigenomics are the Future) From the Holstein Canada 2014 Annual Report, it can be seen that about 8% of animals being registered were also genomically tested. That percentage is far too low given that parentage can be verified, genetic defects can be tested for, 60–70% accurate transmission patterns are available and that in the future genomic information will be used to make feeding and management decisions. Breeds need to be progressive and move the percentage genomically tested up to 50% by 2020. This is the Information Age and the breed with the facts will have the advantage.
  • Animal Nutrition
    Considerable work has begun to study the role that genetics can play in enhancing feed conversion efficiency in dairy cattle. In 2014, Holstein USA started rating bulls for FE (Feed Efficiency) which considers the extra production of a bull’s daughters less feed and maintenance costs. We can expect to learn a considerable amount about the topic of feed efficiency over the next few years. Some believe that there are breed differences but as yet that is not proven. However, if one breed shows superiority for converting feeds to milk, then it could be a big leg up for that breed.
  • Reproductive Ability
    We already know that the Jersey breed, through the bloodlines they have used, out-do Holsteins reproductively. Jerseys breed at an earlier age and have higher conception rates. The race is on. For Holsteins to identify bloodlines that are reproductively superior within the breed ….. for Jerseys, through genetic selection, to improve their already lead position. It behooves both breeds to give reproduction added attention. If they stand still then, a composite breed might ride to the lead position for reproduction.
  • Environmental Factors
    Dairypersons are familiar with information on carbon footprint, pollution, water usage, heat and cold stress, nutrient management, the cost of transporting the water in milk… etc. Although today we do not have facts and figures on animal or breed differences on these matters, our industry can expect that we will learn more about them in the future. Breed associations need to assist in the development of animal and breed information in these areas.
  • Health & Immunity
    Breeders have, for some time, had information on animals and breeds about Holsteins have the advantage in number of breed leading sires that have low SCS ratings. Immunity to disease information on sires is now being used or watched by breeders. We are in the infancy of knowing more about breeds and their ability to resist diseases, including production limiting diseases. Breeds need to be prepared to retain accurate health and immunity genetic information on their data files and, no doubt, to include them in total merit indexes.
  • Animal Maintenance
    All breeders want a cow that does not require special attention. High maintenance pampered cows must be a thing from the past. We often hear about cow families that are promoted as low However, there is usually little hard data to support the promotion. If a breed can genetically identify that their cattle require less labor and attention across a whole herd, then it would have a selling point.

Breeding Strategies

Currently, Holstein and Jersey breeding strategies are mainly limited to production and conformation. The breed, which expands its breeding strategy to include some genetic information for the factors mentioned previously, will position itself for increased market share.

One total merit index (TPI, LPI, JPI, NM$, Pro$… etc.) will not satisfy all breeders within a breed. I read with interest the comment on The Milk House by Hei-Bri Jersey (Iowa, USA) “Jersey is a breed that is two breeds within one. The show or the go. We see an enormous drop in first lactation production when using showring bulls. I think producers that buy the wrong style for their operation are the ones missing out on the true Jersey cow.” Can the same be said for Holsteins?

The Immediate Future

Predicting the future, as to breed dominance, is not a perfect science. However, the proportion of current semen sales is a good indicator.

Table 2 USA Dairy Semen Sales*

Holstein 83.50%
Jersey 12.60%
R&W / Red & RC Holstein 2.40%
European Breeds (3x) 0.60%
Brown Swiss 0.40%
All Other Breeds 0.50%

*Total sales 23.64M doses (Domestic 98.8% + Imported 1.2%)

Table 2 shows that Jerseys, at almost 13%, has the potential to grow in market share. Having said that it could be that a portion of the Jersey sexed semen sales may now be used on Holstein cows to produce crossbred females. At the very least, the increased proportion of Jersey semen sales should be taken seriously by the Holstein breed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Today breeds are more than color markings, unbroken lineage, and tradition. Breeds in the future, on a global basis, will be about their genetic makeup and how they serve the needs of the dairy food industry.

Accurate visioning, strategic planning, research & development and effective service provision are all integral to what breeds need to do on a continual basis. If that means there will be increased competition for market share amongst breeds, so-be-it.



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Are Dairy Cattle Shows Holding Us Back?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Dairy cattle shows started out as a breed awareness tool. They then became an improvement tool. More recently they primarily function as a marketing opportunity for breeders and a training process for youth. Today many breeders are thinking that shows have gone beyond their best before date and are not serving a purpose for the vast majority of dairypersons. Let’s talk about show standards and show procedures.

Show Standards

The following standards may need revision or rethinking:

  • Stature: The show ring has moved to the stage where an animal must be extremely tall to place near the top at state, provincial or national shows. (Read more: Are Today’s Holstein Cows Too Tall? And 15 Strength Sires That Will Still Fit In Your Stalls) Often there are very high classifying cows, which are 58 to 62 inches tall, down the line that have high gTPI’s. In heifer classes the requirement for excessive stature is even more evident. From a spectator perspective, there appears to be a 25% emphasis placed on stature in the show ring that has a 5% weight in the scorecard. This over-emphasis is being challenged by many lifetime profit improvement focused breeders.
  • Mobility: Recently some judges have been placing emphasis on how an animal walks. That’s a good thing. Could we take this one step further and have judges designate the best in class for mobility, just like they do for best udder? (Read more: Mobility – The Achilles Heel of Every Breeding Program and Cow Mobility: One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?)
  • Maturity: As I listen to judges’ reasons for heifer and young cow classes I hear comments that one animal is placed over another for depth of fore or rear rib. Bullvine research (Read more: She Ain’t Pretty, She Just Milks That Way) shows that young animals do not need to have deep bodies at a young age to be long-lived and profitable. They do need good mammary systems and sound feet and legs.
  • Dairyness: It seems to me that exhibitors and judges confuse ability to produce large volumes of milk with an animal being railed off (skinny). There is a difference. Skinny cows do not have body reserves, usually do not get in calf easily, and cannot cope with hot weather, herdmate competition or other adversity. Placing a dairy cow 200+ days into lactation, and three months pregnant, down the line because she has put on some cover is not what breeders want or need. The definition of dairyness needs to be reconsidered by show judges.
  • Over Filled Udders: Yes we like to see a capacious well attached udder. But is that actually what happens? With more and more cows milked 3x or milked 4-5 times per day by robots do we need to show mature cows with 100 lbs of milk in their udders to demonstrate that they can produce a high volume of milk? On-farm the breed ideal is changing to a cow that can produce 4 pounds of milk per hour at 22 months of age or 6.5 pounds per hour at 72 months of age and be milked every eight to ten hours. Cows with over filled udders loose definition of cleavage, walk with difficulty and are under significant stress.
  • Cow Class Determination: Dairy cows exist to produce milk. It is our opinion that using age is an out-moded method to determine cow, After the first lactation classes, classes could be divided by pounds of milk already produced as follows: 1) 20,000 to 40,000; 2) 40,001 to 65,000; 3) 65,001 to 95,000; 4) 95,001 to 135,000; 5) 135,001 to 185,000; and 6) Over 185,000. Basing classes on milk produced would be a more appropriate method than birth date given the ideal of breeding for lifetime production.
  • First Lactation Classes: First lactation cows go through many stages from calving until day 305 of lactation. After calving, they have more udder depth, lack body depth, need more udder quality and are low front ended. By day 305 they will be markedly changed in all these areas. With many first lactation cows at most shows, it is the Bullvine’s opinion that having four classes would be an asset. The four groups could be determined by stage of lactation as follows; 1) Less than 75 days in milk; 2) 75 – 150 days in milk; 3) 151 – 225 days in milk; and 4) over 225 days in milk.

Show Procedures

Some ideas that may also enhance cattle shows could also include:

  • Information in Catalogs: Spectators want to know performance as well as pedigree as they assess the animals on parade. Without performance information it can be a quite boring exercise for all but the keenest. I want to know more and perhaps I can use my cell iphone to search for more details but that is costly. In today’s information age show catalogues can contain DGV’s for heifers or calving date, number of lactations and pounds of milk, fat and protein produced for Surely we are past treating spectators as mushrooms and keeping them in the dark when it comes to animals in the ring.
  • Message Delivered: Most shows have youth, domestic and foreign breeders and consumers watching. Why not have five of the 15 – 25 minutes while the class is being judged used to deliver a message about dairy farming. All shows have announcers who presently give a very limited amount of information. Why not have them deliver interesting and useful information? After all dairy farming is more that just watching a runway beauty contest. Awareness and education would be a great addition to the show.
  • More Winners: Presently beside the class winners, best bred and owned and best udder winners are awarded. Considering all the effort that breeders go to exhibit their animals, awards for mobility, milk, fat, protein, gTPI, etc would give exhibitors more opportunity to promote their animals. I fully understand that this takes more effort at entry and checking time but if exhibitors are going to the effort why not expand their marketing opportunities and, at the same time, educate and inform?
  • Milk Outs: At one-time milk outs were required for the top few of each milking class. That was abandoned due to the time needed and cows not having milk in their udders in champion parades. Milk outs have been replaced by ultra sounding of udders. The question should be asked is ultra sounding serving a worthwhile purpose? If so, why is ultra sounding not used at all shows?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Shows and showing have remained quite static for the past twenty years during which time the breeding goals have changed significantly. With fewer and fewer exhibitors and interested, involved people watching the shows, it is time for a re-assessment. Not since the birthdays for classes were changed from January and July to September, December, March, and June and the milking senior yearling class was added have there been changes to align shows with genetic advancement. It is time that a North American across breeds task force be named and charged with the responsibility of bringing forward standards and procedures that will make shows relevant to the breeder needs for the future.



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When we were young, we were always told to be honest and never to cheat. The phrase “Cheaters never prosper” was ingrained in us from an early age. But, as we grow older, we begin to wonder about this statement. We all know people who have cheated and were not caught and they sure seem to have prospered. This phrase also baffled   me when seen in the show ring. At my local county show, the exhibitor that took all the big awards might also be known as one of the greatest “cheaters” in the history of dairy cattle showing.  So how can we say that cheaters never prosper?

I have come to the realization in life that you can tell the true measure of a person by what they do when they are under the greatest pressure.  Nowhere have I seen this to be truer than in the show ring.  As the stakes and intensity of the competition get higher, for some, their ethics begin to deteriorate.  Now there are those that say, as long as you don’t get caught, it’s ok.  But I wonder if some of the exhibitors who test these limits think about the bigger picture that is being created, whenever their ethics are being tested?

Media Headlines – Killers to our industry

Recently a headline from the Indiana State Fair, “Drugged animals disqualified, kids punished at Indiana State Fair” not only caught the attention of exhibiters but also the general public.  Those consumers  buy our milk and we are dependent on their good will.  Dozens of Indiana State Fair contestants have been disciplined in the past four years, after their show animals tested positive for drugs.  Most of those disqualified were top prize winners in the sheep, cattle and swine competitions. They earned an automatic disqualification for each “doped” animal and harsh penalties for the children who raised them. In some livestock categories, the drug problem among top contestants is considered epidemic – but, usually, it all happens away from the crowds and cameras and it’s not detected until long after each fair is over.

The Indiana State Fair started testing show animals for banned substances and illegal drugs in 1992 – and the program was strengthened a few years later in response to a cheating scandal discovered nearby.  After the 1994 Ohio State Fair, meat inspectors found that the Grand Champion and Reserve Grand Champion steers were tainted with banned substances. One of the animals was injected full of vegetable oil to make its muscles appear larger (a violation of federal pure food laws),and the other tested positive for an illegal drug that makes animals gain muscle instead of fat.

Last year they detected two unapproved drugs in last year’s group of winning sheep. The first is Zilpaterol (brand name Zilmax), a common feed additive that builds muscle mass in cattle but is not approved for use in sheep.  The second is methylprednisolone, also known as Depo-Medrol that can be used to treat pain associated with arthritis, tendinitis and other musculoskeletal conditions in horses and dogs. It is not approved for use in lambs, where some competitors inject it under the skin to help hide and reduce wrinkles when sheep are sheared for competition. “Depo-Medrol to a sheep is like Botox to a supermodel,” explained an Indiana sheep breeder. “To a judge, the smoother the hide, the better,” he said.

When it comes to positive drug tests at the Indiana State Fair, sheep are not the only animals affected.  In 2013, the fair disqualified five champion beef and dairy cows for failed drug tests, and in recent years, multiple swine have tested positive too. Fair records show 42 animals were disqualified due to drug residues detected since 2011.  That represents approximately 3.7% of all the animals tested during that time – a small percentage, but still a significant concern.  The problem is not unique to Indiana. Information from state fairs and livestock expositions across the US,  such as Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas, Missouri, Utah and Louisiana all say they too, like Indiana, disqualified recent winners for failed drug tests.

It’s Not Just a Dairy Issue

The problem stems from the fact that anytime you have competition, you are going to have those people that will do whatever it takes to win.  Just like Tom Brady and the New England Patriots and the “Deflate Gate” scandal, or steroids in baseball, you are going to have those who push the envelope. Moreover, there will be those that step over the line.  But where is that line. Is it just when you get caught?

There is no question that when they do get caught  and it makes national headlines it’s very detrimental  not only to the show ring but also to the industry as a whole.  While the animals exhibited at shows only represent a very small portion of the industry, the effect this publicity can have enormous impact on the industry as a whole.   As an industry, we cannot afford to risk the public perception of the food we produce.

That is why the Indiana State Fair and 4-H spend about $16,000 each year to test for drug residues in livestock entries at the state fairgrounds, and why they’ve implemented strict guidelines and harsh penalties for violators.

At major dairy shows across North America, there are ultrasounds and other rule enforcement methods that are trying to protect, not only the equality and ethics of the competition, but also the industry as a whole.  It’s our job as an industry to not only keep a fair playing field for all but also to protect the food chain and the public perception of our industry.  But even severe penalties – losing significant prize money and being banned from future competitions – have failed to eliminate cheating from our industry.  Maybe the unwritten code among exhibitors is no longer enough? (Read more “The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Dairy Cattle Show Ethics”) There are many exhibitors over recent years that have not been able to exhibit at some major shows because they are banned from those shows due to ethics violations.  Sure they may not make the media headlines for these actions, but young people see these people win, and yet they never realize that they have been caught cheating and are now paying the price.  Instead, they think that these cheaters are hero’s and seen as “winners” something they also aspire to be.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Anytime you have intense competition, there are going to be those who want to push the limits.  Add to that the financial considerations and the pressure to perform increases that much more.    When you’re dealing with the potential to make six figures, and you’re dealing with that much pride and competition, some exhibitors will step out a little too far. I think the ones that do step over this line are forgetting that even if they don’t get caught and make the headlines, or even if they don’t have children of their own, they are affecting others. There are  young people watching them and those who are raising children. You want to teach them the right values and you want to make sure they do things the right way.  Most may never end up in the dairy industry, let alone showing cattle, but the values you are teaching them at this young age, are they values they will have for the rest of their lives.  We need to remember why we all love this industry and show cows in the first place. (Read more “For Love of the Ring!”)  Competition breeds jealousy in any business. We have  very gifted people in the industry, but sometimes the competition does drive some  to go too far and,when that happens, it does give a black eye to the industry and has long lasting effects on our youth.  There is no room for cheating.  I hope more attention on this issue will bring more awareness, more education and more confidence to our food supply. Without excuses.  Without exceptions. Cheating must be stopped!



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Grace Under Pressure

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.  Who we are as human beings presents itself more fully at times of adversity than at times of ease.  I have had the pleasure of knowing the Burdette and Stiles families a long while know and always found they to be great people, but over this past year I have learned through their actions after the horrible accident that happened to them, that they are also people of extraordinary character. (Read more: WHY THE DAIRY COMMUNITY IS THE GREATEST IN THE WORLD….)

Robin Sharma once wrote, “Anyone can be positive, polite and kind when things are going well.  What distinguishes people with an extraordinary character character from the rest of us is how they respond when life sends one if its inevitable curves.”  Some would give up and surrender, some who claim woe and complain how life sucks.  But those people of extraordinary character don’t crumble, they don’t surrender.  Like the Burdette and Stiles families have exhibited over this past year, they reach deeply into themselves and present even more of their true nature to the world, and shine bright at times of great adversity.

This past week the family and friends of Reese, brought her favorite cow, Pantene , to come and see her and help her through her healing process.

This past week the family and friends of Reese, brought her favorite cow, Pantene , to come and see her and help her through her healing process.

Nobody is perfect, and nobody has the perfect life.  I am certainly not, and my life certainly isn’t.  We all face challenges on a daily basis that are both large and small. But when we are facing these challenges it helps to keep this in perspective.  Every minute of every day their are people dealing with the death of a loved one.  There are people dealing with problems much greater than the once that I face.  I find myself at times of great stress and challenge, having to step back and look at people who are dealing with these situations, and take perspective on life.  It’s at these times that people like the family of Reese Burdette that are watching their amazing little girl show such character, such strength, such grace going through something I can not even imagine.


This past weekend I saw this picture of Justin Burdette holding his daughter, and I could not help but cry.  Crying tears of joy, tears of sadness and more importantly feeling inspiration.  I am inspired by the amazing character that the Burdette and Stiles families have displayed over this past year.  It’s starts at the top of this families, with Patricia risking her life to save that of her grand daughter, and it is exhibited daily by the class these families have exhibited in a time that must rock you at your core.  These families have rallied in support of Reese, they have also shown the world what makes them special.  It’s also at this time that the dairy community has also exhibited its extraordinary class.  Sure we may not be as “rich” an industry as others.  We may not all drive big fancy cars, or have billions of dollars.  But as a community we have shown to the world  through our support of these amazing families, that we are a group of people with extraordinary character.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No one get’s through life without experiencing adversity.  But you and I have the ability to rise above these circumstances and show our true nature, like the Burdette and Stiles families have demonstrated over this past year.  We all have the ability to choose to be strong and positive when things fall apart.  We have the right to use our stumbling blocks as stepping stones to a greater life.  Over this past year the Burdette and Stiles families ability to show grace under pressure, and extraordinary character through a time that certainly it would seem much easier to give up.  What distinguishes these families and our industry is the extraordinary character we all are able to show when life sends us one of its inevitable curveballs. Grace under pressure.  Thats what separates leaders from followers and inspires all of us.



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Yesterday was Father’s Day and our focus was on what our fathers do for us. For fathers no longer with us, yesterday would have been all about the memories. For some fathers, perhaps, it was about how successful they have been as fathers.

Future Bovine Fathers

Dairy cattle breeders know all about the importance of great fathers when it comes to creating the next generation.  The breeders of future generations of dairy cattle will have the opportunity to feed the world high-quality protein and fat.  For this article let’s focus on the protein that consumers will be needing in the milk products they purchase. Let’s also consider the possible ways that consumer needs will impact the selection of the bovine fathers that breeders use to produce future generations of cows.

Cheese Predictions

Recently there has been considerable positive media coverage on cheese.

Elizabeth Crawford on June 15, 2015, article entitled Cheese could be the next health food, industry expert suggests”. Author Crawford’s summary from her research concludes that “The tide may be changing for cheese, as science helps re-position the dairy food as a protein-dense, calcium- rich, healthy snack rather than as a high-fat and high–sodium food to be enjoyed in moderation”. Now, isn’t that a breath of fresh air for the dairy cattle industry!

It Could Very Well Go Beyond Cheese

Also, hot off the press on Friday was the announcement of the Dairy Innovation Forum to be held Wednesday July 29, 2015. It will be a free-to-attend online 60-minute forum.  An expert panel of milk product innovators and marketers will address the following:

  • How difficult is it to launch a new dairy brand?
  • What are the hottest new trends in dairy?
  • What’s natural? And does it matter?
  • What keeps you awake at night?

Although many breeders may question the importance to them of such a forum, it will provide food for thought for leading edge breeders or geneticists at breeding companies who are considering what will follow a2 Milk (Read more: 12 Things You Need To Know About A2 Milk) and Greek yogurt. Both of these products focus on the protein in cows’ milk.

In the next five years, there will be other new products that are built on the presence of unique proteins in bovine milk. It is not a “what if situation”. It is only a matter of time until milk with certain protein combinations will be given a premium farm gate price. That means big bucks when it comes to farm profit.

The Impact on Bovine Fathers

With the protein in milk garnering much attention, the genetic merit of service sires currently being used is essential. Well, not just important, the sires need to excel.

The Bullvine recommends that breeders interested in having hard-working, long-lived, trouble free cows make the primary selection criteria for their service sires – protein yield (Protein), length of life (Productive Life) and total merit (NM$).  (Read more: Mating Recommendations)

Differences do exist between breeds for what the genetic merit of active sires are. For Holsteins, the top sires have 60+ lbs Protein, 5+ Productive life and 750+ NM$. For Jerseys, they are 45+ lbs Protein, 5+ PL and 200+ NM$. Some breeders may wish to include in their selection criteria DPR, SCS, inbreeding level (Read more: The Truth About Inbreeding) and polled (Read more: Polled Genetics: The Cold Hard Facts). However, that will limit the progress that their herd will make for protein, herd life and total merit. Sires are now rated for beta casein and kappa casein, in demand by some cheese producers. It could very well be that other proteins will be identified as necessary in the future to make other specialty milk products.

The current top five active Holstein protein sires that do not have negative ratings for DPR or SCS are:

  • Jedi (7HO13250) 79 P, 6.0 PL and 859 NM$
  • Supershot (224HO02881) 70 P, 7.5 PL and 853 NM$
  • Supersire (7HO11351) 68 P, 6.5 PL and 834 NM$
  • AltaStratify (11HO11462) 68 P, 6.6 PL and 777 NM$
  • Superman (200HO07846) 67 P, 5.4 PL and 783 NM$.

How Do Your Current Service Sire Stack Up?

There is no time like the present for breeders to compare the sires they are presently using.  If those sires do not favourably compare, the best decision could well be to dump the semen from the lowest half and replace them with top protein sires. The $25 to $50 lost per dose of semen dumped may be small in comparison to the money lost in the milking daughters four and more years down the road.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If the milk that you plan to sell in the future needs to be protein rich, then the sires used today need to be top of the line. Compromising in sire selection is like not doing the best we can for our children. Fathers, in the house or in the barn, need to do their best.



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Thinking about Ending it All…

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

There is no question that farming is one of the toughest industries to work in. The fact that farming is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week commitment – usually working alone and in all sorts of weather – can easily trigger feelings of stress and depression. The comparative isolation of rural life means it is far from easy to find a neighbour or friend to chat with and, when taken all these elements are taken together, it is not difficult to see why farming is one of the highest professions for suicide.

Working in agriculture can be extremely stressful. As well, working with heavy machinery means that not only is the work hard labor, it is also dangerous.  There were 216 farm accident fatalities in 2012 alone, prompting Forbes magazine to rank farming as one of the nation’s deadliest jobs. Beyond the stress of farming and the workplace hazards, a farmer is also at the mercy of nature. And nature can be cruel. When the earth doesn’t cooperate, then a farmer’s livelihood can be completely in jeopardy, resulting in a suicide rate that is 1.32 higher than average.

In the U.S. the rate of farmer suicides is just under two times that of the general population. In the U.K. one farmer a week commits suicide. In China, farmers are killing themselves daily to protest the government taking over their prime agricultural lands for urbanization. In France, a farmer dies by suicide every two days. Australia reports one farmer suicides every four days. India yearly reports more than 17,627 farmer suicides. — Newsweek 2014

As I child growing up on a dairy farm, I was raised in a very protected loving environment.  But I was also raised with a strong belief system.  One such belief was that it was a sign of weakness to have a mental health issue. When I played sports this belief system was further engrained into me.  I was a member of such a small community that the saying that everyone knows everything about each other is true. Going to a mental health professional or admitting you are depressed would quickly become news. To the point where we would look down on those who had “mental issues”.  I never wanted to admit my own weaknesses, as I thought it  would make me a “lesser” person.  Then I met my now wife, who was a student in medical school, training to ultimately become a physiatrist.  She really opened my eyes to the fact that mental health was not just for the weak, but it can affect everyone.  (Read more: HOW I USED EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT ANIMAL BREEDING TO CHOOSE MY WIFE)

Stigma and lack of education about depression are the main culprits of farmer suicides. It was certainly the case for me.  Like most farmers I tended to adhere to the stereotypical image of the self-reliant, tough farmer who doesn’t complain. I believed that a farmer who complains of being depressed would be labelled crazy, whiner or wimp by  fellow farmers. This is probably why instead of talking about their depression, most farmers might say, “I’m just tired, worn out.” Ignoring or hiding depression is not the way to deal with depression.

So how can we help farmers reduce their rate of suicide? 

In the U.K. the charity organization YANA (You Are Not Alone) works to help depressed farmers. They have GPs, counsellors and people who know what it’s like to farm. The Farming Community Network (U.K.) also helps farmers and their families. From 1999 to 2010, the United States federal office of Rural Health Policy funded Sowing the Seeds of Hope, a network of phone hotlines for rural communities. The project was shut down due to lack of funding. NY FarmNet has since filled the void left by Sowing the Seeds of Hope.

The other and most important part of dealing with depression is talk. Talking about depression is key to understanding and healing yourself. Talk removes or smashes apart stigma and brings new ideas, proper advice and sources of help. Talking about depression in farming at agricultural shows and events also helps. We know depression affects farmers. Bring the issue into the public as a workplace health concern that is talked about at these venues. The old saying, “The more you know…” goes a long way in dealing with depression.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you are wrong or when you have a problem.  We all like to think we can just handle it and bury our nose in our work.  Add to that the limited isolation that comes with being a farmer and it starts to make a lot of sense why farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of all professions.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are many productive ways to deal with stress and anxiety.  Life doesn’t have to be a constant grind, where you think about ending it all.  You just need to ask for help and talk.



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It considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments in horse racing.  All you have to do is win three races in five weeks. Until this Saturday, when American Pharoah did it, there had only been 11 of them in history and none in the past 37 years.  In that same period, America has elected five presidents, fought three wars and lived through at least three economic downturns since Affirmed last completed the feat in 1978.  In that time, there had been 12 horses enter the final leg of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes, at the grand old racetrack in Long Island. Twelve with a chance to accomplish that feat but ultimately failed.

screen-shot-2015-06-06-at-7-08-51-pm[1]Sometimes it happens by a nose. Sometimes it’s right out of the starting gate.  It was believed to not be possible any longer since so many horses in this final and longest leg of the Triple Crown, don’t race in the first two races, saving themselves for the longer track and, thus, making it very hard for those horses trying to accomplish the taxing triple feat.  Last year California Chrome came into the Belmont Stakes with a chance at immortality to ultimately fail (Read more: The Story of Kentucky Derby Winner California Chrome is an Inspiration to Dairy Breeders).  Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn argued that the Triple Crown should be a closed circuit – No parachuting in to run the Belmont if you haven’t already run the previous races in the series. “It’s not fair to the horses that have been in the game since day one,” Coburn said. “It’s all or nothing. This is the coward’s way out.” Coburn has a point. Post-race recovery is no joke for a thousand-pound animal that can run more than 40 miles per hour. There are two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness, and three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont. That tight schedule—and the super-specific needs of racehorses—mean horses competing in the grueling back-to-back-to-back Triple Crown races have a significant disadvantage when they are up against fresh horses.

So How Did American Pharaoh’s Pedigree Help Him Win?

“The sire line is very stamina oriented, but the female line of descent — the dam, the second dam, the third dam — they’ve all been very speed oriented horses,” says Sid Fernando, president and CEO of thoroughbred research and consultant Werk Thoroughbred Consultants. “It’s a unique pedigree, in a way.”


American Pharoah’s pedigree includes horses adept at classic race distances on his sire’s side and endowed with speed on his dam’s side.  Sire, Pioneerof the Nile, won the Santa Anita Derby and ran second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, with all of his wins at distances of 1 1⁄16 or more. Prior to American Pharoah, Pioneerof the Nile had sired five other winners of stakes races of a mile or more in his relatively new career as a stallion.  Through Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah is a grandson of Unbridled, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He carries lines to Grade I champions Toussaud and Fappiano and to the top-rated European two- and a three-year-old colt of 1983 and 1984, El Gran Senor. He is also descended from Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, and Mr. Prospector—whose descendants have won 43 Triple Crown races—all through Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile’s sire, who won the 2003 Belmont Stakes. Ultimately, via Unbridled and his ancestors, American Pharoah’s sire line traces to the Darley Arabian.

Meanwhile, the bottom side of this pedigree is slanted toward sprint success. His dam, Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman, was unplaced in both of her career outings. Her only other starter is Xixixi, who scored both career wins at six furlongs. Littleprincessemma is a half-sister to graded stakes-winning sprinters Storm Wolf and Misty Rosette.  Her own undistinguished racing career, combined with the modest record of her sire, Yankee Gentleman, dampened initial public expectations for her second-born foal. Yet American Pharoah’s maternal bloodline includes Storm Cat, a Grade I winner retired early due to injury, Northern Dancer, a Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, and Terlingua, a celebrated broodmare, through whom he is a fifth-generation descendant of Secretariat. He is also descended through his dam from Flying Paster, a Grade I champion who was 1978 California Horse of the Year, and Exclusive Native (sire of Affirmed and Genuine Risk). Through both sire and dam, American Pharoah is a fifth- and sixth-generation descendant of Bold Ruler, as well as a sixth- and seventh-generation descendant of Tom Fool, one of the top thoroughbreds of the last century.

american-pharoah-bob-baffert-ab8804342ee79687[1]Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert observed that Pioneerof the Nile also raced with “a big, long stride” and had “that same springing motion as American Pharoah, whose acceleration is pretty remarkable.” To Baffert, American Pharoah’s bloodline is a source of fascination: “Every time I work him, I go back and look at the pedigree, and I go, ‘What is going on here?’”

What is going on is that, instead of very selective breeding for distance races as is practiced by most breeders dreaming of winning the Triple Crown one day, American Pharoah bucks that trend and his maternal line is more geared for short speed.    This breeding was so outside of normal that, when American Pharoah was offered for sale at the August 2013 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y by Taylor Made Sales, no one wanted to pay the $300,000 reserve bid on him (Note: Taylor Made Sales was also the principal speaker at the recent Day at the Derby sale).  American Pharoah was in the sales ring for all of five anticlimactic minutes. Horsemen from around the globe appraised the animal and refused to raise the bidding to the listed minimum sale price of $300,000 – a figure that would be reached or surpassed for 32 of the 151 other yearlings up for sale in the two-day event.


The thing that American Pharoah has in common with many of the greatest impact sires in the Holstein breed is that he bucks the conventional breeding pattern.  Instead of doing balance on balance or long distance racehorse on a long distance racehorse, American Pharoah, looks to leverage the power of mating two opposite extremes together to raise the results even higher.

This is something many dairy breeders overlook when developing their dairy breeding strategy.  Generation after generation most breeders like to use balanced sire on balanced sire and, while this will give you the most overall herd consistency, it will not deliver that one game-changing animal that will cause the world to take notice.

The Bottom Line

In today’s high-end genetics market, there is no question that the biggest money and most impact comes from sires that are built for extremes.  Sure there will be those animals that don’t deliver but, for the ones that do, they will produce in a big way.  American Pharoah demonstrates to us that it takes looking outside the box of what is expected. It means, selecting from the extremes to achieve extreme results.


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It Takes All Kinds…

Friday, May 29th, 2015

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

I know. I was that Outsider

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

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

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

We tend to look down on those who operate differently:

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

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

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

We cannot even imagine breeding cows the way they do:

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

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

Encouraging Other Breeders

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

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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



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



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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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



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

PTAT R&W Sires


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

The Bullvine Bottom Line


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


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


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



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

Breeding has Changed

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

Genomic Information Has Helped

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

Breed Societies are Missing a Key Role – Facilitator

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

Change the Emphasis on Traits

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

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

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

Why Continue With Global Breed Groups?

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

Information Needed

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

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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

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



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Le Tour De Quebec – Le Tour De Force

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Three decades ago, touring the Province of Quebec was a completely different experience compared to today. Bruce Jobson reports from Quebec.  

Communication in the 1980s and early 90s was very different; in fact almost non-existent. There were no mobile phones, no phone-cameras, no e-mail, no texting, no Twitter, no internet, no Facebook and therefore, no Bullvine website. English was rarely spoken. Today, the modern and cultural face of Quebec has dramatically changed.

For all intents and purposes the Province remains a “country” within a country; it has its own customs and culture and its own dialect of the French language – distinct from the European versions. However, travelling the back-roads, farm-tracks and visiting Quebec milking-barns has changed unrecognisably – as has traditional milking times due to robotic machines, with Quebec now having a 4% uptake compared to 89% tie-stall and 7% free-stall.

Quebec is the power-house of Canadian genetics; a driving force that has gathered juggernaut momentum. This did not happen overnight; and did not happen by chance. This has occurred through ambition, drive, focus, “will-power” and the two “Cs” – communication and cooperation.

Supreme Dairy Show

For the past 20 years, in the week preceding the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto, Holstein Quebec organized a major provincial show at St Hyacinthe. The event garnered prestige owing to the sheer quality of Holstein cows turning out at the event and then moving up to Toronto to take further honours. Today, Quebec can arguably claim to have the best cows.

RF Goldwyn Hailey – 2014 Grand Champion Le Supreme Laitier

In 2014, the show format changed through cooperation and a realisation that the Province of Quebec, may, just may, produce a significant third dimension on the North American show circuit juxtapose Madison and Toronto. In simplistic form, an agreement with the city authorities; the 175 year old local Society of Agriculture and the major breed societies, resulted in the expansion from 200 Holstein animals to 750 exhibits across five dairy breeds.


Supreme Dairy Show President Norman Fontaine

President of the Agricultural Society, Mr Norman Fontaine, speaking through interpreter Marie-Claire Girod, explained the reasons for the development. “The Society owns 15 acres of land within the city and wanted to expand the event to be more inclusive and bring other breeds to the show. We also want to attract exhibitors and visitors from other parts of Canada such as Ontario as well as, neighbouring USA and international visitors.

“We have also included a symposium as there is a responsibility to educate the younger generation. There are many aspects to holding a major show such as showcasing animals, trade, an embryo sale and the potential sale of livestock. But educating the next generation plays an important part of our future vision.”

The Role of Quebec Women


Supreme Dairy Show manager Jenny Henchoz

Quebec has always involved women as part of its drive towards future development; whether in the AI industry, marketing and promotions, showing, milking, breeding or, respective breed societies and organizing committees. Tasked with delivering and managing a multi-breed show, Jenny Henchoz, is typical of the young women who play an important role within Quebec farming circles.

The entire bench of show organisers was staffed by young, professional women administrators in their 20s and 30s (as was previously with Holstein Quebec) taking on responsibility to deliver a major event. Having been at St Hyacinthe events for many years – communication is now easier as the language barrier has virtually disappeared. Commenting on the event Ms Henchoz said.

“We are delighted at the success of the first Supreme Dairy Show with over 750 animals exhibited over the course of the three day event. The show is primarily a livestock event, maintaining a strong link with dairy producers across Black and White and Red and White Holsteins; Jersey, Ayrshire and Brown Swiss animals.

“It’s been a steep learning curve and there has been immense cooperation in order to make the new format happen. The response from breeders, societies, sponsors and trade exhibitors has been tremendous. However, we have room for further expansion with facilities to host over 900 animals, if required.”

Quebec Farm Tour

Charles Darwin stated, “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

There are approximately 5,000 dairy herds in Quebec compared to 3,000 in Ontario – almost as many in the Province as the rest of Canada combined. In the 2011 census the number of operators involved within Quebec was just under 11,000 – once again; the same number of operators as the rest of Canada.

Quebec also leads with the number of operators below the age of 35, with 1,800 compared to Ontario with 1,000 and the Province has 54% of the Canadian total. Between the ages of 35 – 44; and 45 -55; Quebec again leads the way with 50.5% and 50.8%, respectively. From an age group of 55 and above, the figure dips to 45.2%.

Visiting progeny test herds in Quebec in the 1980s and 90s was a challenging experience. Traditional Quebec family farmers did not speak English and the likes of Steve Laroche from St Hyacinthe-based AI stud CIAQ, acted as driver, tour guide and interpreter when viewing progeny of emerging Canadian Holstein sires.

Today, the younger generation of highly educated farmers, invariably speak English and French. Quebec children now learn English at an early age and TV and films have brought a diverse range of language and understanding into the family living-rooms. This has integrated into the Quebec milking barns.



Remi Guay translates French into English at the Supreme Dairy Show, Quebec.

A big challenge remains – getting young people involved in milk production. Remi Guay is typical of the new generation; still in his 30s, he translated the Holstein judge’s native French into English at the inaugural Supreme Dairy Show at St Hyacinthe and the following week at the Royal Winter Fair, translated English comments into French for the Jersey breed.  He started milk production in October 2009, having purchased his father’s Hillover Farm on the Quebec-Vermont border.

Purchasing milk quota for 15 animals leverages any fledgling business however; an official Canadian scheme to help new entrants donates an additional quota for five cows to help get new entrants started. Each year, over the next five years, the level is reduced by one cow – and it is hoped, the new entrant is able to replace with additional quota.

During the past year, very little quota has come onto the market by way of auction, and in some cases, the quota auction has been cancelled due to lack of supply. In order to expand his business, Remi may decide to sell his current holding and purchase a larger farm – with additional quota.

He said: “Milk quota purchase has stabilised at $25,000 per cow over the past few years; but none is available at present and a lot of people are also seeking to expand. It’s a ‘catch-22’ situation. However, I consider that if we are to expand or purchase another farm, this is a positive investment for the future.”

Owing to higher level of milk components, less required milk volume and higher milk price (around 90cents litre) it can be advantageous to milk Jersey animals within the Canadian Supply Management (quota) system. Furthermore, the traditional Quebec tie-stall milking barns do not have to be extensively renovated to accommodate Jerseys compared to the modern Holstein cow; and pedigree Jerseys can be purchased at reasonable prices compared to Holsteins.


Dave Berube of Caberoy Jerseys with FDL Minister S Blessing VG88 – August 2014 #1 Jersey Conformation Cow.


Preferring to focus on high genomic material, Remi sold four milking heifers including the August 2014 no. 1 Jersey Confirmation cow, FDL Minister S Blessing VG88. She was purchased by Dave Berube, a 32-year old breeder who had started his own Caberoy herd, six months earlier.  He was also assisted by the official quota scheme and received an additional allocation.


Dave Berube is similar – a young, ambitious, 35-year old motivated breeder, eager to get on the first steps of the farming ladder. He has a wife and young family and is also seeking to further expand his 30 milking cow herd; originally from a Holstein background, Dave also started with Jersey cows and speaks excellent English.

“The costs remain extremely high to gain a foothold within the Canadian dairy industry and the level of investment required can be off-putting for young people eager to get started. The hours are long, often working on your own, but the dairy industry is rewarding and I love working with my cows. It has always been my ambition to be a herd owner and in time, I aim to expand,” he says.

Thirty years ago, Holsteins were dominant and the Jersey breed static or, in decline. A major change during the past decade has been the emergence of Jersey herds as well as mixed herds of Holsteins and Jersey breeds. The increasing brown-cow popularity is not just confined to Quebec or Canada; with US Jersey figures predicting 20% of the US semen market by 2020.

Besides the benefits of herd health, calving-ease and animal welfare aspects, the younger generation, with limited budgets, can better afford the price of Jersey calves for 4H competitions. The high price of purchasing a Holstein show-calf; unless homebred – may have influence within participating family circles.

The Demise of the Sire Analyst

While Quebec maintains its own major AI organisation, the number of Canadian units has declined. Twenty years ago, neighbouring Ontario had three major AI units under the Semex Canada banner in the shape of WOBI, Eastern Breeders and United Breeders; today; amalgamation and “restructuring” has resulted in one Ontario-based Semex Alliance company, EastGen.

Before genomic testing, it was common to cross paths with numerous Canadian sire analysts treading the same Quebec back roads, viewing progeny or making bull contracts on cows. Comestar Holsteins, Victoriaville, was always a popular location as the Laurie Sheik family evolved into a dominant Canadian bloodline. Each AI unit was fiercely independent and with huge loyalty from its membership, procured its own bulls.

Independent AI unit competition was therefore more intense – but today; that is no longer the case under the unified Semex Alliance banner. Today; generation turnover is intense. And a sire analyst “eye-balling” a second or third lactation animal, bred from three generations of VG or Excellent cows appears an antiquated concept – and bullmothers and genomic young sires are predominantly identified at birth through genomic screening. The role of the traditional sire analyst has changed – and young bulls do not need to have any milking daughters to have an evaluation.


For the past 25 years, the logo acronym, CIAQ (Centre d’insemination du Quebec) has become one of the most powerful symbols within the cattle-breeding world. Pronounced in Quebec as “see-ak” -the organisation has developed many of the greatest bulls to have emerged through the Canadian evaluation system including the legendary Hanoverhill Starbuck.

In November 2014, the organisation updated its logo and tag-line to reflect the modern identity of the company. The acronym now becomes a word in itself written as, Ciaq and a new logo promotes the company with the sun rising over the landscape horizon.  A new corporate tagline promotes the company vision and its core values with “Let’s conceive the future.”

The organisation is located in St Hyacinthe, which is effectively the agricultural-hub for businesses, education and cattle-breeding within the Province. Established in 1948, Ciaq employs 320 people across all divisions and operates over 200 qualified field technicians throughout Quebec.

Cooperation remains at the very heart of the organisation, which is owned by three groups; Quebec milk producers (PLQ) Quebec breed associations (CQRL) and Quebec breeding clubs (CPCAB) Today, Ciaq is the driving force within the Canadian AI industry accounting for 45% of the domestic market-share and supplies over 800,000 units of semen annually to Quebec breeders. Ciaq also owns 45% of Semex Alliance, with the remaining 55% in partnership with Eastgen and Westgen AI centres.

Ciaq communications director Vincent Landry wearing the new corporate logo.

CIAQ communications director Vincent Landry wearing the new corporate logo.

The launch of the new corporate identity took place as part of activities during the inaugural Supreme Dairy Show at St Hyacinthe. Attendees were also invited to visit the new CIAQ facilities at nearby Sainte-Madeleine, view some of the top sires; tour the sexed semen laboratory, semen collection facility and distribution facility. Commenting on the new company profile, CIAQ communications director Vincent Landry said:

“The previous logo of a bull’s head was introduced in 1988 and we wanted to update the image to reflect a modern and forward thinking organisation that has farming at its core-value. The consultation process has taken over a year and CIAQ conducted a large survey with its dairy and beef producers as part of the process.”

Quebec Today

The Province of Quebec remains an enigma, at times complex due to its quintessential French customs juxtapose its deep, rich cultural heritage. The ability to communicate in spoken and written English and the use of modern communication technology; has aided and brought mutual understanding; greater cooperation, integration, opportunity, focus and development of desired business goals. Quebec has, as Darwin stated: “managed change.”



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Whenever I talk with breeders about what sires they are using or how they make their breeding decisions, it quite often seems like they are trying to hit a home run with every mating.  However, as professional baseball players have shown us, more often than not, you fly out instead of hitting the home run.

It seems to be that most breeders want to get that perfect calf with every mating they make.  The problem is that no one is breeding from the perfect cow or has access to the perfect sire.  Yet they seem to think it is possible to produce the perfect calf. Which we know does not even exist in pictures. (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow and No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures)

When I started looking through some of the mating decisions behind some of the most legendary animals in the history of the Holstein breed, one thing became abundantly clear.  Great impact sires and dams are made over generations, not simply after one mating. When I looked at these pedigrees, what I noticed is that the breeders had crafted them over 2 or 3 generations.  They used what I like to call “constructor” bulls instead of balanced sires generation after generation.  One generation they would use a sire with a significant impact on production and then they would follow that with a sire who offered high type improvement.

Even  Peter Heffering, and Ken Travina, owners of the great Hanover Hill Holstein herd, used this strategy extensively. (Read more: Hanover Hill Holsteins: Peter Heffering 1931-2012)  In Hanover Hill pedigrees, you will see production sires like Southwind being used and then followed with type sires like Starbuck.  They were working at building a pedigree instead of crossing their fingers for a home run.

I am a big Toronto Blue Jays fan. One thing I have noticed over recent years is that, while the Jays are usually near the top of the league in home runs, they are not winning the most games in a season.  That is because they are often hitting the home runs when there is no one on base.  In the past, they have had a lineup of batters who would either hit a home run or strike out.  They were not able to get batters on base and have those sustained run production innings.  In order to achieve that and win more games, they need to have more batters who can get on base.  Batters who can do certain things well, like bunting, stealing, hitting doubles etc., that make for big innings when an opposition pitcher is struggling.

The same applies for the breeders that I see trying to breed for the home run animal every time.  Instead of trying to swing for the fences, they should rather look to improve only a few key aspects of each mating and then come back with the next generation and look to improve the other areas that are needed.

No sire is the perfect sire. No sire can enhance every trait significantly.  That is why you cannot hit a home run with every mating.  Instead, you need to look at the 2-3 traits that need the greatest improvement and use a sire that improves those traits. Then in the next generation look to improve the next most important 2-3 traits.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

You cannot improve every area with every mating.  In order to achieve maximum genetic gain over the long haul, you are far better to look to improve the 2 or 3 key areas with each generation, then build on that.  This is what is called constructing a pedigree.  It is something some of the greatest breeders in history were masters at and that many modern breeders have forgotten about.  Often we get so  arrogant about the current status of genetic offerings, we believe that we can try to  hit a home run every time, instead of trying to get that bunt single that starts a big rally.


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Thus begins yet another round in the battle between public perception and livestock raising. As I reviewed the NYTIMES article (Read more: U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit), I couldn’t help but wonder if this was yet another black eye or, as I feared, would this atrocity deliver the knockout punch to dairy industry credibility? (Read more: Dairy Cattle Abuse Video – A black eye for the dairy industry)

This time the Good Guys are Bad

Unfortunately the latest headlines shouted out that a well-respected organization was the guilty party.  Immediately we in the industry blush with embarrassment.  But wait.  What is it about human nature that makes us think that the bigger the good reputation, the more likely the allegations are true? Or for that matter not true?  The real question is “When did we put ourselves in the position of Judge and assume that what we read in black and white truly is a black or white representation of the truth?”

With every new black eye, the dairy and the general public has been softened up. Each new punch requires that we go on the defence.  Somewhere inside you start to assume that eventually the challenge will be so formidable that defence becomes impossible. In this most recent case, the facts as presented accuse not only MARC but every veterinarian, supplier, consultant who entered their facility. Indeed, if the allegations are true, everyone failed at the most basic level to carry out their responsibility to protect and respect animal life.

Is this More of the Same?

I usually don’t have a problem giving a little room to those who criticize the dairy industry from an outside position. After all, it could be that they don’t have all the facts.  However, when I read that MARC, a well-respected research facility was the defendant, I didn’t give them room for doubt or the assumption of innocence until proven guilty. I rapidly searched the Internet.  I poured over reams of comments condemning what had been supposedly seen and reported.  And then… I was significantly influenced to the negative, when a Senator stepping in and demanded a review — with a stringently short timetable.

It wasn’t until my mind was made up that I asked the second question:  “Is there another side to this story!”

Why was I hesitating? Was it because of the presumed stature of MARC that I was prepared, “For the bigger they are, the harder they fall”?  It is always bad when journalists, amateur videographers and sleuths set out to find and expose mistreatment of animals. So what flipped my “guilty” switch, when it was researchers and veterinarians being accused as perpetrators? Why did I allow my trust to be so swiftly shaken to the core?

I agreed wholeheartedly with Dan Murphy, who wrote an opinion piece about MARC’s questionable research for Drovers CattleNetwork, concluding “There is a line that must be drawn between research that produces beneficial results in terms of yield and efficiency, and projects that are conducted without the necessary regard for the health and welfare of the livestock involved.”

It is long past time for the entire industry to step up and admit their failure.

We can’t become spectators when our peers put the whole industry into a negative spotlight. If we expect the industry to continue into the future we can’t pull the childish excuse, “They did it.  Not me!” We aren’t prepared for respected organizations to succumb to unethical behavior.  The headlines blared: “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit / Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry.” That was followed up with an editorial that claimed “Farming Science, Without the Conscience.”

Which is worse?  Getting a Black Eye? Or Turning a Blind Eye?

There can be no justification for animal mistreatment.  The ends do not justify the means. As more and more questions are raised, one perspective is particularly upsetting. “Have the best-of-the-best in the science of modern animal agriculture became so tone deaf in their search for a better cow/pig/sheep that they ignored their better voices and intentionally tortured animals in a vain and misguided attempt to reach their goals?”

Don’t Assign Blame.  Find Solutions!

As the media headlines grow ever more provocative, more shocking, and more attention grabbing, there is the temptation to blame them, if not for lying, at the very least for exaggerating.  The truth is, the media is doing they’re doing their job.  They are doing what they are paid to do.  If our response is simply to wish that the attention would go away, it means that we are less than passive in dealing with these blows to our credibility.

It’s time to step up as an industry … all up and down the line … and demand that those we support with our dollars, advocacy and trust are accountable for the way they manage the animals in their care.

Sixty Days to Judgment – from the Top

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack called for an immediate investigation to be completed in 60 days.  But even this unprecedented speed could prove to be too little too late. Once again, laying blame and seeing that “heads will roll” does not address a problem that is a symptom of an entire industry that prefers to have a black eye, if it allows us to turn a blind eye to effective action.

Still, inquiring minds will want to know how much of the report was true. Could any of it be merely misconstrued observations by an untrained eye? Had MARC, in search of a better and more efficient animal, really crossed the line?  Surely things have not gotten so out of hand that the goals of higher production, higher birth rates and the drive for more, more and more, has gone too far and has now put at risk, not only the dairy cattle, but the entire dairy industry?

One of the most scathing statements made in the accusatory articles arose from the point that the scientists were trying to make animals more productive to better feed the world. The question was posed, “Do people really want that if it means a decrease in animal welfare?”

By now you have probably sensed that my first accusatory position has been somewhat changed.  If you’re reading The Bullvine, you are absolutely allowed to assume that my lifelong pro-dairy bias could be rising to the top. I will accept criticism of the bias but that does not mean an acceptance of animal mistreatment. The Bullvine holds ourselves and the industry to a standard of animal care that always seeks out the highest standards.  But are we too easily accepting o slow progress toward raising those standards higher?

It was an opinion posted by (Matthew J Cherni, MS, DVM February 13th, 2015  ) that made me question my rapid rush to judgement against MARC.  It gives us much to think about:

I was privy to the interview techniques used by Michael Moss, author of the New York Times article. Michael Moss was brought to my home, and introduced as a friend of someone I had worked with during much of my career at the USMARC. After a half an hour, to maybe as much as an hour of talking to Michael Moss I asked him what he did for a living, and he told me. I probably escaped being misquoted, or taken out of context like others referenced in the article only because after learning why he was visiting with me, I told him: “You do not have my permission to quote me, or use my name.” He protested, and I repeated my statement.

I spent a career (September, 1978-June, 2012) working as the sheep operations manager at the USMARC. I know, in many cases from firsthand knowledge prior to June, 2012, the accusations of animal mistreatment/abuse described in Mr. Moss’s article, and Dr. Jim Keen’s interview are without merit. Unfortunately for the sake of truth, it is not possible to prove something did not occur. I believe this story is the result of an unscrupulous HSUS/PETA sympathetic reporter being willingly fed false accusations by (a) disgruntled former employee(s), and a willingness by the reporter to misquote, take statements out of context, and exaggerate occurrences to support the accusations. Unfortunately, it is the people/consumers and livestock of America, and world who will suffer the most in the future if this article affects funding, or activities at the USMARC.”

People make mistakes. Accidents happen. We all understand that. But how do you make allowances for shortcomings of supposedly well-trained, highly motivated and industry respected individuals and organizations? We don’t.  While many are anxiously awaiting the report demanded by Secretary Vilsack, it’s time to stop leaving the judgment calls to someone else.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Wherever we are on the spectrum, we must take responsible action. And that has got to include responsible reporting as well.



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Master Breeder Killed in Triple Homicide

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Technologies like IVF and Sexed Semen and ownership of genetic rights and females by AI companies have killed the dairy cattle breeding industry.  More specifically they have taken things to such a level that the days of the average individual breeder being able to make a little money from selling genetic stock are long dead.

It was first believed that when the exclusive use of genomic information by AI units was going to be lifted (April 2014) that dairy breeders who owned top sires were going to cash in.  And while it did happen, it was very short lived.  As we predicted here at The Bullvine, these AI units needed to control their costs of sire acquisition and so the majority of them went out and started buying their own females.  All except Semex, (Read more: Should A.I. Companies Own Females?, Why Good Business for A.I. Companies Can Mean Bad Business For Dairy Breeders and Semex – The Rise and Fall of a Semen Empire)

Now there are those who believed that, if these had been the only changes, that breeders would have been able to compete, as history had many instances where breeders were able to out perform the geneticists at the AI companies.

IVF not Genomics – the Original Killer

The biggest difference this time is that dairy breeders and genetics are not playing on a level playing field.  Technologies like IVF have significantly changed the game.  When this whole rat race started, breeders and AI companies alike took advantage of extensive IVF work to accelerate their rate of genetic gain.  But more accurately, that allowed them to cover up their mistakes.  You see IVF does not make you a better breeder, but rather, gives you more chances to make mistakes.  Instead of only being able to select 3 or 4 crosses on a cow a year and get about 10-18 progeny from your top animals, IVF allows companies to make selections every 2 weeks, or up to 26 crosses a year, resulting in hundreds of progeny a year.  The challenge with this is that it’s a very costly expense and breeders, as a result of low royalty prices on sires and next to no genetic female sales, cannot afford to IVF their top animals as much as AI companies who stand to make significantly more from the sale of semen.

There is also the fact that many seed stock breeders could not control the cost of their recipient programs.  The biggest expense in any IVF program is not the drug or flushing costs but rather the costs of the buying and raising recipients. That is what makes or breaks most flushing programs.  Large herds can keep their costs down, since they have a couple thousand recipients around, whereas smaller programs have to purchase and rely on the sale of fresh heifers in order to have enough recipients available.

Who has the Rights?

One of the changes that many breeders did not think about is the fact that AI and genetics companies would own the rights to the early release semen.

In the past, this semen was not seen as a premium item.  Once it became in much demand, for a short period, it was sold at a significant premium price.  But the AI companies got wise to the fact that it was more advantageous to use this semen for their own programs than to sell it at any price.  So as a result what you see is that all AI units now use their top sires for their own exclusive contract matings or on their females, months before other breeders can even get access to the semen.  This results in a 2-6 month advantage for the AI companies.

Also, many AI companies have started forcing breeders to sign a contract that, in order to get this advantage, breeders have had to give exclusive rights for the resulting animals to the AI company.  This means that in order to use the semen, you cannot even get the advantage for yourself. The company you are buying the semen from is forcing you to sell the resulting progeny to them.  Some companies are even going as far as to only sell sexed semen from their sires, meaning that the breeders will only get females from these matings and will not get a chart topper sire.

A Whole New Game Changer

Recently I have watched many AI companies make some significant moves and purchase companies that are outside their core offerings.  When I first saw this, I asked myself ….  Why?  Why would this company go out and buy a company in a whole different field than what they specialize in.  While first glance tells you that they are looking to gain more revenue from each relationship they currently have, there is also something else that catches my eye.  In reading some of the most recent technological advances in IVF technology, I start to find that the age of the donor at which they are successfully starting to recover oocytes is getting drastically younger.  Sure it only makes sense! Since a female is born with a set number of oocytes. If you can advance the instruments and drug program, it’s not surprising that they can start this process younger and younger.  The challenge becomes as this technology becomes more and more exclusive to the large genetics companies, who can either afford or own the technology, this means that all others are going to fall farther and farther behind.  Think about how much quicker our rate of genetic gain is, as a result of the introduction of genomics. If a select few companies can now start flushing animals as early as 1 month of age, or about 1 year ahead of others, they will receive that much of an advantage over everyone else.  This also explains why these companies have been so aggressive at buying top females so that they can have the seed stock needed to start this process. Now that they have the technology and the base animals,  there is nothing stopping them from passing all others.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Over the past few years, The Bullvine has begged and pleaded with breeders to not sell females to the AI companies as it would lead to their own downfall.  Then we tried to open their eyes to the fact that technologies like IVF and Sexed Semen were going to limit their options, instead of significantly enhance their revenue streams.  Now, as we are well past the time to do anything, the average seed stock breeding program is living on life support.  Looking for those few chances to get a breath of air while drowning in a battle they cannot win. Instead, we are watching a triple homicide of the dairy cattle breeding industry. Shortly we will be exactly like the swine and maize industries, where only a few global companies own the top genetics.


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Donald Dubois – Always a Champion

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Everyone loves to win. Some more than others.  There are those who work hard every day to come out on top.  Donald Dubois was one of those people.  From cattle fitting, to showing to judging.  Donald excelled in every aspect Unfortunately, the man who worked with so many champions and was himself a great champion in life, lost his battle to cancer this week.

Donald  and his wife France Lemieux

Donald and his wife France Lemieux

For the past few years, Donald has fought  the biggest fight of his life…cancer.  Always a great fighter and competitor, Donald did not give up the fight easily.  Knowing the prognosis was not good, he nevertheless accepted the honor of judging the 2015 Royal Winter Fair Holstein show. He knew that it would be a challenge for him.   He performed his duties with class and to the highest quality.  That is the signature style that Donald brought to everything he set his mind to.  This courageous champion,  even went on to  judge the Italian National Open show in February, even though his health was failing him.  Donald was not going to go down without a fight.

Donald Royal

With the  news of Donald’s, his colleagues and friends expressed  homage to Donald’s ability and legacy on social media. Brian Carscadden, who started out as a competitor when he led and fitted against Donald and had the honor of judging many cows that Donald was leading, said “There was nobody better at uddering a cow without the use of electricity, ice or modern medicine. In a sense, Donald  raised the stakes and made everyone around him better, including myself.” “As the years went by Donald  quickly became the most sought after leadsman of this decade. I personally had the honour to award him many red and blue ribbons, as well as multiple rosettes for animals he owned and/or led. As a judge, it was always a pleasure to see Donald leading a good one because you could be assured that his animal would look the part, regardless of what set of eyes or cameras were watching. He was a true “student of the game” and exuded laser focus in everything he did! ““This past November, Donald was able to fulfill a dream by judging the Royal and did so in style – he raised the stakes once again! He moved around the ring with grace and professionalism and spoke (in his second  language) clearly, accurately and with conviction. He asked me when he left the Royal ring if I was proud of him? I replied “Of course, but I am more proud to call you a friend!”


Mark Rueth, another one of Donald’s greatest competitors also grew to be a friend,  added “Some people are just winners!! No doubt the show industry is a sport and every team needs a leader and quarterback to lead the team to success.” “Donald  always comes out on top. Over the years I’ve watched him and competed against him and he was always a winner. Nine  out of ten times  he would beat you, whether  it was clipping, showing or judging. He was always successful. He never let cancer define who he was. He continued to fight and show and judge and live with his family until the last days. People can live a hundred years and never accomplish as much as Donald has in his shortened life. As Brady would make that late game-winning drive, how many times did we see Donald standing in second place and at the last minute get the pull into first place. “


Donald was one of the guys I loved chatting with.  His eyes lit up with  excitement for great cows.  He loved the dairy industry and especially loved great cattle and the people who work with them.  Donald was born a Holstein enthusiast. His education and training centered around the Holstein cow. He developed a Love to Lead a Winner and got the very best out of every animal he led. He had a very keen Eye for cattle that most closely resembled the True Type., He placed them the way he saw them and backed up his placing with very sound reasons. Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Partner, Employee and friend to thousands. The World is a Better Place because of Donald Dubois.


Donald was a world-class cattle judge, with over 15 years of experience. He judged many prestigious shows in Quebec, Ontario, United States, the Dominican Republic, Belgium, Brazil, Italy, and Portugal. He also served as judge at The Royal Winter Fair several times. Donald had a great eye for cattle, owning many All-American and All-Canadians in partnerships such as Blondin Lyster Beauty, Lacoulée Justine Goldwyn, Tri-Koebel Aspen Jolly and Humqui Irma Goldwyn. More recently, he co-raised Liberty PGA Damion Lazzie, All-American 2009, as well as Belfontaine Drake Starlette, first Intermediate Calf at the 2010 Holstein Québec Spring Show.


Donald  is survived by his wife France Lemieux, his children  Carl (Lysanne), Audrey-Ann Brunelle (Alex) and Anthony; his parents, Anita Dion and Jacques Dubois; his in-laws, the late Aline Giasson and Joseph-Arthur Lemieux (Julie Cloutier). He  is  survived by his siblings, Rolland (Christiane), Caroline (Yves), Isabelle (Daniel) and Frédéric; his nephews and nieces, Jean-Philippe (Jessica), Roxanne, Marc-André (Joelle) Kevin, Maxime and Rosalie; his brothers-in-law Peter and Bernard (Sonia); and nieces, Danae and Maelle and several other relatives and friends.


The Bullvine Bottom Line

I feel that Brian Carscadden’s comments say it best “Donald Dubois, you have blazed a trail that few will ever repeat. You were taken from us way too soon and, unfortunately, you weren’t finished yet! Rest assured that your legacy will drive us to blaze our own trails in this great industry as France and your family proudly watch on. Rest in Peace my friend – you will be missed but never forgotten!”


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Categories : The Bullvine

If you were the coach of an NFL football team, would you  select your players based solely on  looking at them or would you want to see their performance statistics, in order to decide how to assemble the best team possible?  That is the question that Don Bennink (Read more: NORTH FLORIDA HOLSTEINS. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!) asked at the recent genomics conference.  (Read more. Genetics in the Age of Genomics – Seminar Recordings and Recap) While it’s a pretty simple question, it may forever change the way you make your mating decisions.

For generations, we have all been taught to look at a cow the same way, and that’s the way we continue to teach the next generation to look at dairy cows today.  But just because that is the way it has always been done, does not mean that we have been doing it correctly.  We all start out learning the parts of the dairy cow and have learned the same way as we always have on how to evaluate cows.  In fact, one major publication did seven editions in a row about how to evaluate cows, and each one presented the same way it’s been done for generations.  It doesn’t seem to matter that evaluating type or conformation has been proven not to be the most accurate way to determine longevity (Read more: She ain’t pretty she just milks that way).

For years, it has been assumed that, if a cow had “high type” and lots of production, she was the perfect cow.  But we all know that perfect cows don’t always exist (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow).   Nevertheless, we have bred for these two key areas: high type and lots of production.  We totally disregarded that we did not make substantial gains in profitability.  And, furthermore, herd life actually decreased, even though we all bought into to the theory that a high type cow is a long lasting cow.  Unfortunately, actual performance data shows that, as we bred for this the cows were actually lasting less time than before.   In fact mortality rates increased; conception decreased and the number of lactations that most cows lasted decreased.

Through the years, the use of high production and low fertility bulls has actually decreased overall herd conception rates.  Don points out that when he “first started milking cows, and AI was in it’s infancy, farmers up and down the road, had a 60% conception rate. Today people brag if they have a 30% conception rate.”  Don also points out that in 1996, 93.4% of the calves that were born in the US lived, (i.e.  a 6.4% stillborn rate). In 2002, the stillborn rate increased to 11% (i.e. 89% lived) and by 2007, 14% of the dairy calves died at birth. It’s only in more recent years that the industry has acknowledged this trend and has started to put more emphasis on conception and the significant impact it has on profitability.  The reason for this is we put so much emphasis on a two-year-old production that we were killing reproduction.  That is because cows that get back in calf regularly drop in production because they have to use some of their energy to support the development of their calves.  So the sires that gave the maximum amount of milk were also the sires who had the lowest conception rates.  We all know that a cow that is milking hard is the hardest cow to get back in calf.  No matter what their conformation.

The thing is that we have the systems and technology to make the changes we need to make for the future.  As Don points out, we don’t need to go to the 125-year old technology of type evaluation to solve this problem.  Instead of having to use theory to predict longevity, we can actually measure productive life through the actual length in months that cows last in herds compared to their herd mates. We don’t need type evaluation to guess who will last longer; we have the actual information. We have the ability to see just which cows will last longer, not from trying to figure out what type trait links best to longevity.  We have actual longevity data, SCS, fertility, conception, still births, etc.

We are all armchair quarterbacks.  We are all willing to second guess the mating decisions of others after the fact. The challenge is that, with the technology we have available today, we don’t have to do as much second guessing as in the past.  Tools like genomics and new performance data such as DPR, Still Birth Rate, and Productive Life tell us everything we need to make an informed decision.  Don asks, “Can you just pick the perfect team by just looking at your players? Or would it  help to know which players have drug issues, which ones will end up in jail, which ones will last a full season, and which quarterbacks can actually complete a pass, or know how many sacks your linebackers have made in the past.  As a coach, you want all this data to choose your team.  Well we are not coaches we are dairy farmers, and we make our money milking cows. Don’t you want that data on your animals? Or are you just going to keep looking at them and think that you can guess which ones could perform?”

In today’s day and age, we not only have traits that are more directly connected to longevity than type evaluation, we also have genomic testing that can more accurately predict  what sires and cows will last longer. Every Tuesday we now receive genomic predictions on animals.  We don’t need  to wait till  for a quarterly classification visit, that may or may not catch a cow on her best day, to evaluate what we think from  looking at her is the probability that she will last more lactations.  We can actually get much more accurate data at a younger age on how long she will stay in the herd.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes it can be hard to change the way we have always played the game.  When something has been done for generations, there will always be those who are resistant to change.  However, the industry has changed and the amount of information available today to make mating decisions is light years ahead of what it was just a few years ago.  The game is changing, and you need to change what you base your breeding decisions on. .  The best coaches and quarterbacks make their decisions based on performance data, not on hypothesis. Genomics has helped take away the guessing game.  We can now know at a very young age, what the genetic potential of that calf is.  We can make better decisions faster.  In the past art and practical knowledge was what drove mating decisions.  However, today’s breeding world calls for a different approach.  It takes a level of focus and commitment, and it’s a business.  It is just like football, where the coaches now use all the information possible to decide what players to put on the field and how to use those players for the big game on Monday nights.  Tools like genomics have changed the game forever.

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.




It seems like a question that comes up every February 28th, May 31st, August 31st, and November 30th among dairy breeders around the world. Since we launched The Milk House, it certainly seems to be a question of great debate. The problem is …. Is the question, in fact, irrelevant?

How big an issue is it?

The fact of the matter is that, no matter what date you choose, there will always be those who choose to “test” the system. There will be those who think they need to get the edge and register that February 28th heifer as a March 1st calf. The problem is those that really want to test the system are pushing even further and further. Now anyone who has worked with dairy calves knows that 1 or 2 days is not going to make a significant difference in the size of an animal. In order to actually see a noticeable difference, you would need to push the limits by at least 2-3 weeks. So when you talk about how much this has to be done, in order to get a true advantage, we are talking about a significant amount of time. Otherwise, you are just looking for a heifer being in the start of another class instead of at the end of the class before. While not nothing, it is certainly not that big deal that some make it out to be. The much bigger issue is those heifers that seem to get lost for weeks and weeks on end.

Any time you see a heifer with a March 1st, June 1st, September 1st, or December 1st birthday, there will always be those that suspect that the heifer is actually much older than that. Especially if she is well grown for her age. The thing that I caution is that with so much embryo transfer work and breeders using timed A.I. they are setting up their programs for calves to be born at the first of these months. Sure there will be those that come a little early, but given that the program is set up for these calving dates, the calves that come “naturally” early will usually be a little smaller because they did not have as long a gestation in their mother/recipient. And for the ones that got lost for a few days, well the relative advantage is not as big as you think, as we described earlier. In looking at the show results from last year’s World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair, only a small percent were born on the 1st of the month.

Sure there will be heifers that look a little bigger for their age or squeak into a younger class. But the financial benefits are nominal. For if you are selling the heifer as a show heifer, sure size is a part of it. But if you again look at last year’s Expo and Royal results, in pretty much every class it was not the largest animal that won the class, but rather the most correct. And I advise those looking to purchase a calf for a 4-H member that you are always best to go with the most correct heifer versus the largest heifer. Not only will they be a much easier heifer to show for the 4-Her but they will also have the greatest chance of making the best cow.

How Do You Catch?

Over the years, there has been great discussion on how to catch these date of birth cheaters. There have been record audits by breed associations. Talk of judging age by teeth analysis. There have even been those that claim that they can tell the age of a heifer by looking at her tail. While all of those ways have their merits, well maybe not the tail analysis, ultimately they have not been successful. The big reason for this is that, unless you are on each farm each day, there is no actual way to judge. And all other measures are cost prohibitive. More recently there has been talk about using a lottery system. Two weeks before the nation’s first spring show, the dates for calf and heifer calves could be established using two bowls filled with numbered ping pong balls. The first bowl will have 12 balls (1 to 12) and the second bowl 31 balls (1 to 31). The ball drawn from the first bowl would represent the month, the second bowl would indicate the day. If 2 and 14 were drawn, classes could begin on February 14 and every three months thereafter . . . May 14, August 14 and November 14 . . . for both calves and heifers. If 29, 30 or 31 are drawn for months without those dates, simply draw again. Though that is counter productive as how would you compare one class from one year to the next.  In order to get an age range large enough to actually mean something the variance from one year to the next in actual age for each class would have to be too large, also, in theory, you could end up with classes that have calves being born in a 2-3 day time frame. Note: For those that think the robotic milking systems and new on-farm herd management programs will make it harder to cheat, there is still the simple switch to full sisters born from different recipients, one that came a little earlier for one from a later date. There will always be a way.

The Great Equalizer

In looking at the winners of the cow classes from this past year’s Expo and Royal you will find that none were born on the 1st of the month. That is because by the time these animals reach the age of maturity any advantage they have had from being born earlier it long since gone.

A bigger reason why you see certain herds always having heifers at the top of the classes at the big shows is the management they provide their heifers. If you talk to and watch any of the herds that consistently have the winning cows, as well as heifers, they will tell you it’s a 365 day a year job that starts the day the heifer is born. These herds are treating their heifers the same as a well-tuned athlete is treated. They are getting the ultimate nutrition and management. They are getting lots of exercise and worked with on a daily basis. Not expecting significant results by just pulling the animals off the rough pasture or a TMR ration just before the show.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there will always be those who cheat the system, trying to find that “edge” that they think will bring them fame and fortune in the show ring. History has shown that just does not happen. While there are certainly a few dollars here and there, but at what expense? There will always be those that doubt the age of a heifer, but how relevant an issue is it? It’s not like these animals are going to be used as bull mothers at A.I. centers. The big thing to remember is when buying a heifer, always go for the most correct heifer you can find. Conformation correctness will most certainly offer the greatest long-term return on your investment, and don’t waste your money, or lower your ethics for something that will not even make a difference.


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Categories : The Bullvine

andrew crazy cow cover‘We have made people uncomfortable … and we are comfortable with that’

No one saw it coming.

The Bullvine arrived like a speeding freight train.

It also knocked the media outlets off their axes. It challenged everyone. Its early online stories rampaged through the industry like a bull in a china shop. 

It wrote the calls people thought, but never said.

People were shocked, even horrified … and they starting talking.

And that was exactly what founder Andrew Hunt wanted. Conversation and dialogue. Because this dramatic entry almost three years ago was no fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants’ decision. This was a strategic start to a fresh age of media coverage in the dairy industry.

And as everything starts to shake down and settle in, The Bullvine has rapidly become a power player with purpose and 30,000 readers. Its reach and impact is now unquestioned.

The publication is heading into 2015 with big plans that have yet to be revealed, but in an exclusive interview at World Dairy Expo (WDE), Andrew briefly stopped and allowed a tour of the frenetic and clever brain that is poised to dominate this industry’s media…

Andrew Hunt, 37, is a man of many layers. He comes from a powerful, tight well-connected family within the Canadian industry, who all had something to lose when their son/brother made the decision to initiate the outwardly controversial, online media outlet, The Bullvine.

He appeared — to many — to come from nowhere. The opposite is true.

His parents, Murray and Karen, are not only Master Breeders (Huntsdale Holsteins) but also integral industry leaders at the highest levels in the Canadian Holstein industry.

His brother, Paul, is the Chief Operating Officer for Alta Genetics (based in The Netherlands) and his sister, Heather, is a nutritionist for ANC (Agri-Nutrition Consulting, based in Ohio, USA). All are strong personalities with responsible roles. They are also potentially visible targets for any Bullvine detractors.

Strong connections

However, that is not how this close family works. Andrew has his parents’ and siblings’ support. They often disagree, but they are always in each others’ corners. And they were all sitting ringside together at WDE.

Andrew says, “If you know Paul, you know him as Paul Hunt and respect him for who he is. He’s not Andrew, Murray, Karen or Heather Hunt. If you judge any of my family because of what I do on The Bullvine, then you are discrediting yourself, not my family.

“We are all A-type personalities and we have all charted our own courses. But it doesn’t mean we’re not close. We’re family. We just had to learn to separate our work from our family time, and I have to say that kids have been amazing for changing that Christmas dinner-time conversation!”

Andrew’s mother, Karen Hunt, muses, “The first discussions about The Bullvine were colourful. You might say we were as surprised as anybody. However, with a lifetime of experience with Andrew’s somewhat unorthodox approach to technology and communication, we were ready to trust his instincts.”

Dad Murray adds, “And there was only two weeks between the time Andrew first ran the idea of The Bullvine up the flag poll, and the day the first article went up on February 24, 2012.”

Murray and Karen are the only additional official team members working for The Bullvine today, although staff from his two other companies play roles when they’re needed.

Murray says, “We both love it!  Every day brings new ideas, challenges and contacts. It has taken the discussions that we’ve always had around our kitchen table and expanded them more than a little … to around the world.”

Driven back to dairy

Andrew went to the University of Guelph in their Bachelor of Commerce, Agricultural Business and Management programme, and earned his stripes on a six-figure income in the Fortune 500 consulting services world.

He was always a ballsy, driven and restless personality.

So it did not surprise the people who knew him well when he left the security of his former employment with the full support of his new wife, Dr Zosia Hunt (who was still a student then). They also had a two-year-old and a newborn child at the time.

He established his own marketing agency from the ground up, Inbound Sales Network (which would also later include Inbound Accelerator, for tech start-ups). Today it has over 100 team members. The company has been incredibly successful and, for many, that would have been plenty.

Not for Andrew.

“I love the dairy industry. That’s why I left and came back. It’s a drug that I’m hooked on. And it’s what I’m most excited and passionate about,” he says.

The Bullvine is the result of Andrew’s ongoing passion to work within the dairy industry, blended with a skill set and history that brings new dynamics to a sometimes-predictable news medium.

Real and edgy

He did not launch The Bullvine to make money. He launched it to create energy and a strong message for the industry.

The opening salvo on The Bullvine’s webpage remains as a reminder that things were going to be shaken up:

“Let’s start with what we are not. We’re not just an event reporting magazine. We’re not a billboard or promoter of whoever will pay us the most money. We are something different, something real.”

Andrew says, “When we first looked at the publications in the marketplace, we knew we were up against well-established, traditional family-around-the table reads. If we did the same thing, we were never going to be successful. We had to use the power of community and conversation to really drive our growth.

“We also needed to be edgier — especially in the first year. We have made people uncomfortable, and we’re comfortable with that. Over time, some would say we have softened our stance. But I think the industry has also adjusted and there is greater acceptance of what we do. I think the industry has come to us somewhat.”

Shock and relief

There was no question that the opening stories shocked some. Others were relieved someone had finally put a voice to what they were thinking.

In the beginning, 2000 people read The Bullvine’s email and online messages a day.

Today, it reaches that number within an hour of an article being posted. In a week, 30,000 dairy people are reading what The Bullvine shares. In any given day it has between 7000 and 10,000 visitors. It’s a bustling outlet that publishes five feature articles a week and 10 news releases daily on anything from show time and profiles, to genomics, sire breakdowns, politics, innovation and education.

Andrew says it’s not so much the shock value that drives him, as the desire for transparency.

“Yes, we wanted to get people’s attention and knock people off their centre and be as far from the norm as we could be. But we have always been about clarity and transparency. In my industry, those are your staples. In the dairy industry everyone has been too worried about being friends with everyone else. It is a small community, so there is pressure to not offend anyone.

“But because of our monetisation strategy, I don’t depend on income from the typical sources, so I can say what I want to say and take it for what it is. What I don’t think a lot of people understand is that because we had planned our strategy for the first three years, we didn’t take the initial feedback personally.

“We knew it would be coming. The interesting thing for us was because we weren’t connected to the industry as a financial driver, it gave us the freedom to express ourselves honestly.”

Honesty achieves

And honest they have been.

They have called out many people from many parts of the industry, and entertained stories few dare to write. They have tackled taboo topics such as Photoshop and show previews.

The Photoshop editorial prompted Andrew to introduce the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, designed to make photographers, AI centres, breeders and graphic designers accountable for any changes to cattle photographs.

“I discovered many new issues with current photography practices. The biggest one is just plain old laziness,” Andrew says. “They are too lazy to do it right. ‘Photoshop saved careers’, they told me. I say, ‘Photoshop has made many photographers lazy.’”

Advertising pressure

Yes, today The Bullvine carries advertising. But that has not changed who or what they write about.

“I’ve always written what I’ve wanted to write. There’s been some people we’ve written about that most would argue that we shouldn’t have because of their backgrounds and/or industry perception.

“But if I think they are interesting and I’d like to know more about them, then we’re going to write about it. And if I’m the only person that reads it, cool. We have done those stories. But I say to the people who challenge me on that, that the decision’s on me since I’m paying for it. So I guess I can have that opinion. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to read it.”

God or data

Andrew has also called opposing media outlets to account for making claims on readership. The most notable and recent being readership demographics.

“You need data to back what you say with regard to that. Here’s my analysis: in God we trust, everyone else better bring data.

“When you have a number of Facebook followers from India and Pakistan — that have an average herd size of three cows — those readers are not showing cattle or selling genetics. The top four cities that register on The Bullvine are Quebec, Madison, Toronto and Montreal. We’re Canadian. It’s self-explanatory who has the most useful readers.”

Hefty research into ringside photography

One of the strongest evolutions of The Bullvine has been the initiation of ringside online show coverage and extensive ring photography.

“When we started I wasn’t going to do it because everyone else was,” Andrew says. “I’d never done photography, but soon realised that I needed photographs, and, being a techno guy, I thought, ‘let’s rock’ n’ roll’.

“I was a huge fan of Han Hopman [Holstein International photographer] and I used my technical skills to study his photos and assess his camera settings. I have also spent close to $50,000 on camera equipment since we started, and received training from photographers outside the industry and drove everywhere in North America to get better. I also bored my kids senseless picturing them. But we do have some insane family memories because of it.

“I still think Han is the best composition photographer there is in the world and he does an amazing job of telling a story with a photograph. This journey for me has turned out to be very rewarding and helped the growth of the company.”

It has also added to the workload, because, while many outlets have several staff ringside, Andrew is mostly either on his own or accompanied by his parents as back-up. He uses his technical skills to overcome running a smaller team, and makes it look more effortless than it probably is.

Coffee-table book + picturing for free

Picturing led Andrew to producing a coffee-table book of photographs post WDE and he has many showman ask for photographs for their marketing campaigns. It is something he does for free.

“They work so hard to get those animals out there, how can I have the right to charge them and reap the benefit of ‘snapping a photo’ of a cow that looks amazing?

“It’s an honour to have that opportunity and that’s why I put every photograph on Facebook. All I ask of the breeders and owners of the cows I picture is that they don’t remove my logo. Other than that, they can go nuts with them.”

Last year, over 14 photographs taken by The Bullvine were used for industry magazine covers.

Next steps: education and mentoring

Taking on the photography pushed Andrew to embrace the next step — something he likes to do.

“If you stay in your comfort zone, you are not progressing and if you don’t challenge yourself every day by either improving your strengths or working on your weaknesses, then you’re not developing as a person. The day that happens, I will quit.”

The business has evolved from its base as a genetics, show and genomic-based commentary, through to also being an educational tool. It now has as much focus on dairy industry issues as it does on the subjects it began with — genetics and shows.

The Bullvine recently initiated The Milk House — the World Wide Dairy Breeding and Dairy Genetics Group on Facebook. It is a closed chat room for producers from all around the world to share ideas. Already, all manner of things have been covered, connecting the industry in a new way at the grassroots level. There are more than 2000 posts a week.

Andrew has also established a network where dairymen can be part of conference calls with a “board of advisors”. Andrew is not involved, other than to facilitate. It is purely actioned to help dairy farmers. “The quality of discussion on these calls is very informative and helps us understand our industry better and how we can better serve it.”

It’s learning from others that first got Andrew started in the dairy marketing industry.

“When I was in university, I was approached by Albert Cormier and Dave Eastman to do the marketing for their soon-to-be-released sire Champion and their new company GenerVations.  Albert is legendary for his ability to market dairy cattle and David’s one of the smartest guys in the industry and at the forefront of breeding circles.” Andrew says they were a “great breeding ground for what he has become”.

Running a responsible line

Day to day, The Bullvine is growing and Andrew Hunt is growing with it — including his presence in the dairy industry.

With that comes greater responsibility — and that’s something he does not take for granted.

Of his direct approach, Andrew says, “I am more apt to run you over than stab you in the back.”

But helping the industry share ideas and progress is what drives him and makes him happy.

“I’m the luckiest man there is in the world,” he says. “I have a wife who ‘gets me’, who supports me and who is out of my league. She is the biggest stabilising factor in my life outside of my parents, who taught me to always believe in myself.

“When you are doing what you love and you can pay your bills, what else is there? The Bullvine can go on forever if I still have passion for it. How do you get bored with something that at your core is who you believe you are?”

This article first appear in the December 2014-February 2015 Edition of Crazy Cow in Print.  Click here to check out there Facebook group and watch for their new website soon.

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Categories : The Bullvine