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BEWARE: Your Customers Are Also Your Biggest Competitor

The dairy breeding industry is like none other than I know in the world.  Where else can your neighbor be your best friend, greatest customer, and potentially greatest competitor, all at the same time?  Think about it, the same person that you are working so hard to entice to buy your cattle or your genetics, instantly becomes your biggest competitor the second they do so.

The dairy breeding industry has so many things that make it amazing that this just seems to be another factor to it.  For years breeders have had to balance this challenge of how do you make money selling your genetics while not selling to a breeder who may steal all your future sales away from you.  I have seen it happen many times.  Breeders who have worked hard to breed generation after generation of great cattle, and who may not be very well known to the world, sell some of their top heifers at big name sales in order to get their name out there.  What happens?  Their heifer is purchased by a big name breeder who uses their connections and greater marketing ability to become your biggest competitor and pretty much steal the market away from you.  Of course, you might be saying, “It’s great to have them marketing my cattle family for me,” and yes it is.  However, with embryo transfer, IVF and other technologies, is it really that good?  What is the 10th best heifer from xyz family worth?  Is it really worth more than the best heifer from a family that may not be as well known?

But How Do I Pay The Bills?

I get that you have to sell some of your best animals in order to make money in this business.  The milk check alone will not cover the increased breeding program costs.  I also understand that if you don’t sell some of your top animals you are really never going to make any significant income.  That’s what makes this such a challenge.

The greatest example of this was Braedale.  For years, they did not want to sell any members of the Gypsy grand family domestically.  It was easier to pull a pull twin bulls out of a 2yr old storm daughter than it was to get a cow purchased out of that herd.  Then one day, they start just selling a “few” members.  Then the floodgates opened.  Early on, herds like Gillette, Rocky Mountain Holsteins and a few others got into this family.  These herds where able to get way more exposure for their members from the Gypsy Grand family and ultimately stole the marketability of the cow family away from Braedale.  While the family gained worldwide recognition.  Did Braedale make as much money as maybe some of these other breeders?

Is there an answer to this problem?  Well in reality there is not.  You can always say that you must breed them better than the others do.  However, is that enough?  If you don’t have the marketing engine that these other herds have, or the ability these herds have to get the cattle to the top of the list, then in reality you have just sold your best cow to your biggest competitor.


Does that mean you should never sell your genetics?  Well that is not financially an option.  What it does mean is that, if you are going to play in the genetic sales game, you better be prepared to enter it full throttle.  You need to not only breed great cattle, but you need to make sure you are able to market your genetics just as aggressively.


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  1. Do you have to sell offspring to make flushing pay? Or what is significant income? I bought 2 herds of cows that if the owners spent 20$ on semen, that was expensive. I have been doing some flushing some other individual cows I have bought to improve the genetics of my herd. Other than some bulls to local farmers I havent sold anything. I am milking nicer and more productive cows tho than the herds I bought. I look at flushing and breeding better cows as my hobby and when milk price drops we just breed cows and back off flushing them. Yes it does cost more but it improves faster so I question if selling is so important.

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