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Archive for Young Sires

There has certainly been great debate since the introduction of genomics about how accurate the information is.  While some breeders have gone full throttle on the use of genomic test sires, others are still very hesitant in the use of these yet to be daughter proven sires.  For many the question remains,” how much can we trust these sires?”

Recently I had a conversation with a breeder and he said “They are only 70% reliable and you can’t really trust that.”  To which I argued, “Actually you can trust that a fair bit.”

Some time ago CDN  published that for genomically evaluated bulls with 65% reliable gLPIs, breeders can expect 95% of the time that their official proof will be within 670 LPI points (within about 18-20%).  This means  that we can be 95% sure that the current top gLPI sire, Suntor Joyride, will be higher than +2813 LPI, once he has his official progeny proven index that is over 90% reliable.  That boils down to say that at least 95% of the time Joyride would end up with an official proof that would rank him in the top 10 in Canada.  That is the worst case scenario.

When you apply this to your breeding program when you’re using a genomic young sire, you can take 670 LPI points or approximately 455 TPI points off their predicted index and they will achieve that number or higher 95% of the time.  For example, take the #1 gPA TPI sire, Seagull-Bay Supersire, who has a current gPA TPI of +2527 and you can be 95% certain that his daughter proof that is over 90% reliable will be at least +2072.  That would place him in the top 77 sires in the US (260 points behind current proven leader Observer).  Remember that is 95% of the time he would be there at least.  Not a bad worst-case scenario. (Read more: The Truth About Genomic Indexes – “Show Me” That They Work)

Pattern vs. Rank

The question that really comes to mind for me is not necessarily how do they rank, but rather how good is genomics at predicting the sire’s breeding pattern?  Rankings will change all the time as new sires are added and breeders continue to push the envelope on genetic advancement.  I am more concerned about how good genomics is at predicting the strengths and weaknesses of a sire.

To look closer at this, I decided to compare Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood’s genomic proof pattern vs. his now daughter proven pattern.  Since Atwood is now over 95% reliable, it is safe to assess his current strengths and weaknesses, remembering that he was heavily used based on his genomic proof.  In looking at Atwood’s genomic indexes, you would have said that he was a strong components sire with low production.  His type pattern was that he would leave you outstanding daughters with great mammary systems, feet & legs and loads of dairy strength, but needs to be protected on rumps.  Looking at his actual daughter performance you would see the same exact pattern.  While yes his rump score is lower than his genomic index would have indicated, it was an area that genomics did say needed to be protected.

The interesting pattern that we have started to see is that the greatest variance from genomic prediction to actual proof is in the areas of health and fertility.  Logically that makes sense, since most of these traits have a lower reliability.  What we are noticing here is that genomic sires due to tend to follow the pattern of their sires for health and fertility traits more so than those of their dams.  This makes sense too, since there is a larger data set in the sire’s health and fertility index than in the index of a dam.  So next time you are looking at a genomic test sires health and fertility traits be sure to also check out those traits for his sire, as that may be as much a predictor of his potential as are his own indexes.

Sire Sampling

Prior to the introduction of Genomics in 2008, there was great attention paid to how young sires were sampled.  AI companies worked very hard at getting a young sire sampled in as many different herds and different environments as possible, in order to get an accurate proof.  Since the introduction of Genomics this has actually changed drastically.  It is now to the point where the top genomic sires are actually used very selectively.

Young sires are no longer randomly sampled.  In today’s genomic age, a lot of the systems and controls are gone.  Yes, many of the sires are still offered to all breeders, but these high-ranking young sires are sold at a much higher price, and marketed much heavier.  In addition, often the first release semen is only used on contract mattings on extremely high index, carefully selected mates.  This too results in anything but random sampling and in reality is almost the perfect method for receiving an inflated proof.  It isn’t just because of the actual mates they are being used on, but also because of the care the resulting calves will receive.

Genetic evaluation systems assume that all animals in the herd are treated equally.  Yet while there is nothing wrong with a breeder wanting to ensure their return on their investment in these top genetic animals, it certainly causes many problems when accounting for it in the genetic evaluations of these animals.  Most “animal-model” genetic evaluations in the world account for the genetic merit of a sire’s mates.  However, when the US first added females to their genomic reference set, they actually got lower reliabilities as a result of inaccuracies in female’s proofs, due to preferential treatment.  That is why some countries actually leave female genomic data out of their reference sets, as a large portion of the females are these high index animals that, in many cases, have received preferential treatment.  In the US they actually implemented a scaling-effect adjustment to bring those top females down.  The US has also implemented a new single-step model that includes genomic and traditional data together designed to account for this in bull proofs.  Other countries are also looking for potential solutions.  This includes possibly withholding early data from evaluations, as well as other options.  The challenge is that no one has found a real solution to the actual problem and steps so far just mask the issue with scale downs and other band-aids.  This preferential treatment problem is going to get greater attention, as more high profile genomic sires,  priced high and heavily  marketed will start to receive proofs in 2013.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

More and more Genomic young sires are now receiving their daughter proven proofs and many, such as Observer, have come through with flying colors.  While rankings may change, the important thing to remember is that the genomic indexes did accurately predict breeding patterns.  In that case, if you took the effort to make sure you used the sire because he was the correct mate for the animal, then the majority of the time the resulting progeny should be fine.  If instead you used the sire just because of how he ranked and then his ranking changed, well then yes, you are going to find that you may not be as happy.  The key thing to remember in any mating you are doing is know your goals.  Make sure you breed towards them by selecting the sire that best accelerates those traits that you are breeding for and fixes the challenges of the cow you are breeding to.  When you do that, you can be very confident in using genomic young sires to deliver the results you are looking for.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

Genetic Advantage

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

Then along came genomics and wiped all that out. 

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

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

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

Service vs. Price

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Line

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

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

Not Sure Which Genomic Young Sire To Use?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

If you are like many, this whole genomics thing can be very confusing.  While it might be just simplest to pick the top five genomic young sires.  Who knows what could happen.  In order to get some clarity on just what young sires you should use we took a deeper look at the top 50 genomic young sires available in Canada and here is what we found.

GLPI vs Parent Average

In the past most would have just simply used the top parent average young sires and gone from there.  It’s interesting to see that only one of the top GPA LPI sires (DE-SU PHOENIX 588-ET) would have even been considered a top LPI sire before genomics.


Genomically Gifted

With DE-SU PHOENIX 588-ET jumping to the top of the list, we then wanted to see just who else has been genomically gifted with the best genes his parents have to offer. What we found was the following:

Sire GPA LPI PA – LPI Difference Direct Genomic Value
CABON FERNAND 3239 2492 747 3655
DE-SU ALTAROGERS-ET 2816 2159 657 3167
COOKIECUTTER HEFTY-ET 3211 2591 620 3211
DE-SU ALTAMELHOR-ET 3013 2413 600 3296
SHEEKNOLL ALTAVITTEK 2905 2307 598 3291

Bitch Slapped With the Ugly Stick

Since we took the time to see who was gifted we thought it would be equally important to see what bulls full-out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.  Here is what we found:

Sire GPA LPI PA LPI Difference Direct Genomic Value
COMESTAR LAUTAMARCUS 2879 3020 -141 2806
GIBBS M-M DENALLI-ET 2913 2909 4 2847
COMESTAR LOBSTER 3048 3020 28 3094
GEN-I-BEQ LAVAMAN 3116 3070 46 3317
GENERVATIONS LINGO 2938 2888 50 2899

(Please note: this does not mean they are totally ugly they are just not as pretty as the could have been)

When in Doubt Go To Sire Stack

One thing I have learned from your tried and true breeders, is whether you are breeding for index or showing, nothing beats a good sire stack.  With that in mind we prepared a 4 generation sire stack of each sire and here is the cream of the crop.

Sire Sire Stack Sire Stack Index
DE-SU PIERRE 649-ET Planet x Bolton x Shottle x Justice 2638
PIROLO SOLEMIO-ET Man-O-Man x Goldwyn x Justice x Jacko Besn 2617
GENERVATIONS ENSIGN Man-O-Man x Baxter x Shottle x Justice 2582
ESPOIR Man-O-Man x Goldwyn x Champion x Jesther 2573
GALLAIS FEELING Man-O-Man x Bolton x Shottle x Trent 2565

Girl Power

The following are the bulls that are getting it done from a strong female (dam) side of their pedigree.

Sire GPA LPI Sire Stack Index Difference
DE-SU ALTAMELHOR-ET 3013 2084 929
LESPEREE GLOBAL 3009 2099 910

The Bottom Line

Depending on your propensity for risk you can take those sires that are the extreme genomically, such as CABON FERNAND or DE-SU ALTAROGERS-ET, or you can go for the sire with great blood lines, such as DE-SU PIERRE 649-ET and PIROLO SOLEMIO-ET.  But as my wife tells me every day, behind every good man is a great woman, so maybe you try MAPEL WOOD BREWMASTER or MISTY SPRINGS SUPERSONIC.


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.