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The Truth About Type and Longevity

For years there has been  debate about whether show type is relevant to the commercial producer.  But more recently the deeper question is coming up that asks  if type itself in any form matters anymore.

This issue was further highlighted by our extremely popular interview with Don Bennink (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!) where he made the following comments:

“Don feels that the current philosophy of the Holstein Association is very contrary to (profitability).”  He gives three main targets that he seeks out as profitable.  “High production with health traits and feed efficiency are our bywords.  The present classification and type evaluation system are 180 degrees away from cattle that pay the bills.  Bigger, taller, sharper doesn’t cut it.  The latest correlation of final type score with stature is .77.  Worse yet, the correlation of udder composite with stature is .59.  That means if you breed 100% for udder composite, you will increase stature at more than half the rate that you would if you bred for stature alone.”  There is only one conclusion for this dairy farmer.  “The current 88 and 89 point 2 year olds are dysfunctional for the guy making milk for a living.”

Don also highlights:

“With the current correlation of .59 between udder composite and stature, it is not unusual to see the same udder scored good on a short or medium sized heifer that is very good on a tall heifer.  No study including the ones done by Holstein show any real correlation of foot and leg composite with foot health or herd life.  Bulls with +3.00 and +4.00 type proofs have daughters that are too big and too sharp for commercial dairymen.  For this reason gTPI or TPI are essentially ignored in bull or female selection.  Net Merit $ has some value.”

The question really becomes why do we evaluate type?

The ultimate reason for evaluating type is to predict longevity.  In the Canadian LPI formula type is actually called durability.  In the US TPITM formula type elements are used to calculate longevity.  But then I ask why are we creating a composite index of other elements to help predict longevity when we actually have the data in Herd Life (CDN) and Productive Life (US)?  This makes me ask  what is the more accurate  index? An index we have created based on evaluation of many subjective parts? Or is it more accurate when derived from the actual herd data on  longevity? That data would  show exactly how long a bull’s daughters last in a herd.

When you look at the current top twenty Productive Life sires over 95% reliability in the US, you notice that only 2 sires have a PTAT over 2 points (DE-SU OBSERVER and SILDAHL JETT AIR) and as a group they average 0.65 for PTAT.  Even more alarming is that as a group they average 0.86 for UDC and 1.02 for F&L composite, two traits that are typically key in predicting longevity.   On the other hand, relating directly to longevity they all have relatively high net merit scores,  low somatic cell scores and, for the most part, are calving ease sires.   Why the disconnect?

DE-SU OBSERVER-ET16027.22.7667922.73.020.892332
HONEYCREST BOMBAY NIFTY-ET2367.22.627553-0.46-0.130.971810
POTTERS-FIELD KP LOOT-ET10047.22.6876500.081.71-0.241954
KELLERCREST BRET LANDSCAPE817.12.3685060.651.271.161838
WHITMAN O MAN AWESOME ANDY2026.92.5557540.32-0.171.212063
ZIMMERVIEW BRITT VARSITY-ET4106.82.6266680.71-0.471.552013
CLEAR-ECHO NIFTY TWIST-ET9426.82.628748-0.32-0.421.172039
KED OUTSIDE JEEVES-ET3556.82.83105151.370.971.741913
ENSENADA TABOO PLANET-ET22166.72.9867211.931.44-0.472176
GOLDEN-OAKS GUTHRIE-ET10786.72.786535-1.15-1.240.361728
DALE-PRIDE MANFRED ALFIE5196.62.966461-0.63-0.36-0.011702
LAESCHWAY JET BOWSER 2-ETN2006.52.8474551.622.031.831940
ELKENDALE DIE-CAST-ET-8726.52.7263700.681.851.991718
LAESCHWAY JET BOWSER-ET2006.52.8474551.622.031.831940
BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE12366.42.757791.571.62.872292
CABHI AUSTIN POTTER-ET1516.42.8165200.050.410.021766
CABHI MOOSE-ET456.42.6463730.180.31.111625
SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET11186.32.6466442.882.262.912168
SPRING-RUN CAMDEN-676.22.9174330.571.790.61762
KERNDT MAXIE GOLDSTAR-ET1996.22.576449-1.28-0.61-0.961631

The Canadian story is not that much different.  When you look at the top 35 sires with CDN proofs, only 3 sires (CRACKHOLM FEVER, TRAMILDA-N ESCALADE and SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET) are over 10 for Conformation and all have relatively low SCS. In fact NORZ-HILL FORM WIZARD who is tied for the top proven Herd Life sire in Canada is -3 for conformation, -4 for feet and legs and -10 for dairy strength.  And as a group the sires average only +3 for conformation, +4 for Mammary System, +3 for Feet and Legs and -2 for dairy strength.

CRACKHOLM FEVER279762015131371172.63
NORZ-HILL FORM WIZARD-ET1914521-30-4-101172.57
TRAMILDA-N ESCALADE-ET25956931371261152.69
DUDOC BACCULUM1630-52709-1-101152.95
SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET2824129212101171142.64
BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE29851717585-51132.74
KEYSTONE POTTER1933110014-1-41132.91
BOSS IRON ET1925-72066141132.74
RUBIS LOTUS1908-51499141132.79
JOHNIE FRANCIS1754-561-2-1-3-41132.59
BARKA FETICHE1009-1793-14-11-14-131132.47
GEN-I-BEQ ALTABUZZER2748141764801122.82
HEATHERSTONE-V MCGUIRE-ET25701417911851122.67
MICHERET INFRAROUGE25217107811-11122.66
DUDOC RADIUS2518134442601122.67
RALMA CARRIBEAN-ET250175663731122.74
SANDY-VALLEY DEPUTY-ET2424801565-31122.37
HASS-ACRES BRAVEHEART222563957411122.68
KED OUTSIDE JEEVES-ET2216580443-21122.99
SHAWNEE ALTASTRATOS-ET22091867105-41122.51
DESLACS DUSTER21341598811-21122.83
MARKWELL DUCKETT-ET2094117378-91122.71
KLASSIC BILLBOARD20336181-10-21122.68
WHITTAIL-VALLEY COOPER-ET2015461234-71122.61
BONACCUEIL LORD195469603-2-41122.64
FLEURY LOTION18839630-13-61123.11
GRASSHILL CAREW1824-12-4-1-3-41122.68
CEDARWAL TAIT1816-985040-61122.55
CANCO ARMAGEDDON1664254-8-10-7-31122.73
JACOBS EMAIL1642-1179-6-2-4-121122.65
HILLCROFT MAJESTIC1396-95242221122.61
CLAYNOOK GARNET1319-431-5-5-4-31122.89
HENKESEEN NIGHTSTORM1238-1215-2-13-41122.78

I have always been a big proponent for type classification (Read more: Is Type Classification Still Important? and Tom Byers: “That’s Classified!”).  My father ran the Canadian system for many years.  But I now find myself asking “Are we missing the mark?”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For years I have heard commercial producers tell me that they don’t care as much about type and that it’s the seed stock breeders that are putting all the emphasis on type.  The thing is, as Don points out, “the function of a seed stock producer is to produce the animal that is the most profitable for the commercial dairyman.”   If that is the  case are we as seed stock producers missing the mark by emphasizing type sires?  In today’s free agent bull market, it is more profitable to have a sire that sells well in the commercial market than just in the pedigree market.   Should we work to have the correlation between PTAT /Conformation with Herd Life/Productive Life as high as possible, as that is the whole point in evaluating type traits?


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  1. Why can’t we breed for it all, high type with longevity? Why do we continue to have a limited way of thinking. It may take some time but I believe we can have it all ! Facilities are a large contributor to big cows making it in a commercial setting. Animals don’t need to be huge but can still be bred to have quality. Current correlations between traits can be mated to change.

  2. I was wondering why the bulls with by far the highest pounds of milk are also the highest type ???????? . Easy to get a high P.l . with out having to work hard . Top 4 milk bulls PLANET 2216 M 1.97 TYPE OBSERVER 1602 M 2.7 TYPE JETT AIR 1118 MILK 2.88 TYPE FREDDIE 1236 milk 1.57 type nothing else even that close . If I am not mistaken these bulls were all over 2 points on type when they had there genomics test as young sires .

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