For years there has been great debate between dairy breeders and producers about what type of cow is the most profitable.  There are sound arguments on both sides of this issue.  However, developments arising from new indexes and analysis highlight that it’s not always the prettiest cow that milks the most over her lifetime.  To paraphrase the popular song, these cows prove that “She ain’t pretty, she just milks that way!”

Are show cows great lifetime milk producers?

We are all guilty of it.  We see the cows that win at World Dairy Expo, The Royal, Swiss Expo, and IDW and are amazed at their extreme size, capacity, and dairy strength. We look at them as the epitome of what the ideal cow looks like.  And it’s fair to say that the production level of these animals has greatly improved over the past 30 years.  However ask any commercial producer in a large free stall environment and they would tell you that these winners would not be the ideal cow for their operation or to maximize their revenues.  The very characteristics that make them great in the showring (their massive size especially) would limit their efficiency for these producers.  (Side note: With dropping sale prices show cows and especially high index cows are not bringing the same resale value as they once did – Read more:  An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013).

Now here at the Bullvine we like to deal in facts not hearsay.  So we took the top 10 animals from the Mature Cow Class at the 2013 Royal and here is what we found.  They average an amazing 95 points with a couple even going Excellent multiple times.  The scarier part is that they only average 2.5 complete lactations each, out of a possible 4, and just over 50,000 kgs of lifetime production.  With the winner of the class, having out of three lactations started only completed 2 by 7 years of age and produced under 48,000 lifetime.  Now some would say, “Yes that is because all the big producers are in the Lifetime Production Class.”  So we decided to take a look at that class as well.  Surprisingly this class averaged a slightly lower 94 points, and just over 3.5 completed lactations each, out of a possible 5, and 61,647 kgs.  of lifetime production.  Not exactly extreme for a class that is supposed to be the epitome of the breed.  However there was one strong exception in the class, STARBRITE LYSTER LYNDSAY, who at EX-96-3E, with 5 completed lactations and 84,282 kgs (185,808 lbs.) of lifetime production, certainly is a testament to longevity.  That is probably why she is a perennial contender and a huge fan favorite.

STARBRITE LYSTER LYNDSAY EX-96-3E-CAN
84,282 kgs (185,808 lbs.) of lifetime production,

Are high scoring 2 year olds good lifetime producers?

Then of course there is type classification and the true type model.  Believing in full disclosure, we here at the Bullvine are big fans of the type classification system (Probably because my father ran the Canadian Type Classification and Breed Improvement Program, for 18 years in the 70’s and 80’s) and have written many articles about it (Read more: TOM BYERS: “THAT’S CLASSIFIED!” and Is Type Classification Still Important?). But more and more we are beginning to question some of the long standing beliefs that we have had relating to type classification and longevity.

There is no doubt that the goal of the type classification system is to produce a long lasting profitable cow.  What is becoming more apparent is that what we believed it took to achieve that may not have been functionally correct.

Now it would not be fair to make a blanket statement like that, nor would it be Bullvine style, if we did not back that up with cold hard numbers and examples.  I cannot think of a better example than, GILLETTE E SMURF, the world record holder for lifetime production at 242,303 kgs (534,181 lbs) in 11 lactations.  (Read more:  World Records Are Not Only Set at the Olympics).  As a two-year-old Smurf scored GP-83, with Dairy Strength (82) and Feet & Legs (80).  These two the traits kept her from going VG.  What makes this surprising is those are the two exact traits that many believe are the greatest indicators of longevity.  Yet the greatest producing cow in the world was deemed to be lacking in those areas.  In fact it was not until 10th lactation and over 216,893 kgs of lifetime production that the classifier deemed that Smurf had enough strength (97) and sound enough legs (86) to make her an excellent cow.

GILLETTE E SMURF EX-91-2E-CAN 242303kgs (534181 lbs) of lifetime production

Now as we always say it is easy to find case by case examples.  But do the numbers hold up across multiple animals and larger groups?  We decided to look at all the VG-89-2yr olds from January 1st 2007 to December 31st 2010.  In that time there were 20 VG-89 1st lactation cows that have remained in Canada.  60% of them have gone on to classify Excellent, with the group now averaging 91 points.  The alarming part is that, as a group, they have completed on average 2 lactations each out of a possible 4, with lifetime production averaging 42,262 kgs.  In fact only 30% of them have even completed a 3rd lactation.  That percentage is even less than that of the mature cow class at this year’s Royal.  Achieving VG89 first lactation certainly is not a good predictor of lifetime production. In analyzing the US numbers we found similar results.

So what is a good predictor of lifetime production?

We all have in our mind what the ideal mature cow looks like.  For many pedigree breeders it’s a cow that looks like this. (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow)

Mature Cow - composite background

In taking that one step further, we also did a composite of what the perfect classification 2 year old would look like.

2year old - composite background

But in reality, as we have mentioned earlier in this article, these cows are not the epitome of lifetime production animals.  In fact they are not even bull mothers.  Currently the typical ideal high genomic 2 year old/bull mother looks like this.

genomic 2 year old - composite background

But in analyzing the numbers, especially productive life and herd life, the true ideal 2 year old should look something like this.

efficient 2 year old - composite background

First, let’s make one thing clear.  Unlike indexes like TPITM and LPI that try to predict lifetime production based on hypothesis and our understanding of what we think it takes to make a long lived productive cow, productive life (USA), and herd life (CAN)  measure actual longevity.  They measure how many months the cow actually is a productive member of the herd compared to herd mates.

This means that our long-accepted theories that a cow needed to have a wide muzzle, deep chest, and deep sweeping open rib in order to be a high lifetime producer are actually incorrect.  As we pointed out in Breeding for Longevity:  Don’t believe the hype – It’s more than just high type, the top 25 productive life proven sires in the Dec’13 genetic evaluations actually average only 0.52 for Dairy Character and 0.47 for Body Composite.

This actually makes sense.  When you look at the top two reasons given for non-dairy purposes sales, infertility and mastitis, they account for almost double (26.9%) the number of animals culled for production or conformation reasons (18.5%).  Basically we learn that, when it comes to predicting longevity, there are many contributing beyond conformation.

That is why it’s not surprising when we interviewed Don Bennink of North Florida Holsteins, a very commercial production oriented breeding program, type and conformation where not even on his list of selection requirements.  (Read more:  NORTH FLORIDA HOLSTEINS. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!).  In fact if you really want to break down the numbers into the nuts and bolts simplicity, you would only look at two things.  In the US that would be pounds of milk production (with some allowance for %F) and productive life.  In Canada that would be kilograms of milk production and herd life.

So here at the Bullvine we like to complete the steps for you.  We looked at all the proven sires who are over 1250 lbs of milk and 5 for productive life.  The results were very telling. There were 40 sires that made this list, with the top 6 reading like a who’s who of top selling sires, Bookem, Freddie, Robust, AltaMeteor, Shamrock, and Observer.  Also it is interesting to note that these sires average 2.77 SCS, 6 CE, 1.33 PTAT, 1.23 UDC, 1.23 FL&C and 2026 TPI.

NameFinal ScoreOwner
COOKIECUTTER MOM HALO-ET88Cookiecutter Holsteins
MSWELCOME OBSERVER LAURI-ET88Welcome Stock Farm, LLC & Charles Van Wie
ROSE-LYN MARCONI CONFETTI88Wallace A. Behnke
HY-NIC-HOL TRYOUT STAR88Ryan L. Lindenmeyer
FISCHERDALE CASABLANCA88Elizabeth Sarbacker
WILLOWS-EDGE GOLD IMAGE-ET88Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE CARISMA LYRIC88Jordan & Claire Van Dyk
ERBACRES AD LACROSSE-RED88Carla Kay Erbsen
GLORYLAND DELLA RAE-ET88David A Tait & Hood Holsteins
WILLOWS-EDGE DURHAM ISLE-ET88Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE MAC FROSTING88Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE SANCHEZ MAGGIE88Jordan A. Van Dyk
RICECREST AFTERSHOCK AMELIA88Dale E. & Fred E. Rice
POTTSDALE SANCHEZ RHEYA88Hayley Lynn Potts
OPSAL DENTON BEAUTIFUL88Joshua T & Joseph T Opsal
MARKWELL ATWOOD FANTASIA88Kody J. & Kyle R. Tiemersma
MOR-YET GOLDWYN FAITHFUL-ET88Todd Galton
QUIETCOVE-W FUTURITY-ET88Quietcove-Wapa Farms LLC
CLEAR-ECHO SUPER 2140-ET88Clear Echo Farm LLC
CLAQUATO SANCHEZ ROSALIE-ET88Claquato Farms, Inc.
HARVUE ATWOOD FOX-ET88David Meade Hardesty, Jr.
GOLDEN-OAKS CHARDONNAY-ET88Brianna Sheehan
GOLDEN-OAKS GWYN CLASSY-ET88Kings-Ransom Farm LLC
HOLBRIC DESTRY ANALIESE88Morgan Olbrich
WINDY-KNOLL-VIEW POCONOS-ET88James R. & Nina P. Burdette
WINDY-KNOLL-VIEW PERFECT-ET88James R. & Nina P. Burdette
VANDYK-S BALTIMOR ROCKLYN88VanDyk-S Holsteins
COOKIECUTTER BOWS HOMONY-ET87Clear Echo Farm LLC
MS JENNYLOU SHTL LIDEBBI-ET87Mystic Valley Dairy LLC
OAKFIELD-BRO AT FANATSY-ET87Denise V. Saxton
OAKFIELD-BRO AT FINANCE-ET87Adam J King
OAKFIELD SANCHEZ DAZZLE-ET87Jonathan Lamb
COOKIECUTTER MM HALLMARK-ET87John J. Dickinson
WELCOME DOMAIN FANTASIA-ET87Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
WELCOME ELITE PEONY-ET87Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
MS WELCOME MANOMAN CASE87Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
WELCOME BRONCO PERNELLE-ET87Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
SAVAGE-LEIGH MAZEY-RED-ET87James R. & Nina P. Burdette
BELLTONE GOLD STAR LEE IV-ET87Kevin Doeberiener,PierreBoulet & Michael Heath
ERBACRES ADVENT MUFFIN87Nathan C P Erbsen
SUPER-K FORTUNE BONITA87Valerie L. Greco & Ronald J. Mikulice
VANDYK-K PRINCESS-RED-ET87Van Dyk-K Holsteins
WILLOWS-EDGE DUR VALEEN-ET87Hendrik W. Van Dyk
GEORGETOWN SAN LIMELIGHT87Chris & Stephanie George
MIL-R-MOR FANCY FABULOUS-ET87Sarah Elizabeth Sheehan
JANNEY CIMARON HAZYL87James & LaVaun Janney
SILDAHL AWESOME-RED87Fred Schoenbachler
SWAINDALE RDLINR CHARRO-RED87Gary R. Swain
SWAINDALE RDLINR GODIVA-RED87Gary R. Swain
LAKE-EFFECT DUR WREN-ET87Jeffrey & Gayle Benedict
ROSE-EDGE B PASTA-ET87Ernest H Jr & Carol W Ambler
SCHA-TJ CNTNDR SHAWNA-RED87Todd & Jean Pollema
KENWAN AMBROSIA JADA87Ken-Wan Farm
MS JOLEANNA ABSOL APPLE-RED87Cooper Galton
WILLOWS-EDGE GOLD INFORM-ET87Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE R LOU MYRA-RED87Claire M. Van Dyk
ROCK-N-HILL-II CRANBERRY87Michael & Chris McCullough
GLORYLAND-LR LADA RAE-RED87David A. Tait
GUNDYS AFTERSHOCK ACE-ET87Robert Gunderson
MS L-MAPLES-BO SG DURHAM 4687Jenna M Langer
VANDYK-K GRAYBIL PASTEL87Van Dyk-K Holsteins
KIKO GABOR RAPTURE 68587R & P Kiko Family Farms, Ltd
QUIET-MAN ALEX LOVELY-ET87Buttke Dairy Enterprises
QUIET-MAN ALEX LUSCIOUS-ET87Jeff Spence
DEMMERS SANCHEZ GAYLA87Demmer Farms
KLINGENDALE HVEZDA POKER87John Klingensmith
KIKO DAMION VINA 66387R & P Kiko Family Farms, Ltd
LIDA-ACRES MARC ATLEE87Maria D. Johnson
SILENT-STAR ALXDER A-JUDY87Lance Slotten
PARADISE-R AFS GRACE 459487Paradise Valley Farms, Inc.
OPSAL DESTRY MARCELLA-RED87Joshua, Joseph & Felicia Opsal
SRP ABSOLUTE FURY-RED-ET87Melarry Farms
SRP DESTRY FROLIC-RED-ET87John P. & Rachael Holmgren
MS BLONDIN JASPER BELLE-ET87Brad Stockman & Adam G Johnson
MARKWELL AFTERSHOCK STAR87Kody J. & Kyle R. Tiemersma
KELLERCREST SANCHEZ SHELLY87Kimberly Keller
NOBLAND ALFREDO ATLAS87Troy Noble
LORAWAE SANCHEZ HEATHER87John S. Lora
KINYON GOLDWYN PASTA87Martin Kinyon
WEST-LAKE SS WENDY-RED87West-Lake Holsteins
WEST-LAKE ADVENT RILEY-RED87West-Lake Holsteins
HARVUE HERSHEY MINT87John O. Hardesty & Sons
HARVUE BLITZ GLITZ87John O. Hardesty & Sons
HARVUE GOLDWYN FOXY LADY-ET87Matthew C. Hardesty
HARVUE ATWOOD VIDA87David M. & Debra L. Hardesty
MILKSOURCE ADVENT ESTHER-ET87Eva Doornink
JHAHNWAY DUSK PEGGYS TRINA87Justin E. Hahn
MELARRY SANCHEZ FONDA-ET87Melarry Farms
HOLBRIC MINISTER FRANNY87Brian & Mark Olbrich
HOSTO SS HILLROBIN87Kelley L. & Ruth Ann Hosto
WHITELEATHER ALEXAND 169387Lauren G. Whiteleather
VANDYK-S BRAXTON ELISHA87VanDyk-S Holsteins
VANDYK-S CHELIOS MALEAH87VanDyk-S Holsteins
ROCKING-P SANCHEZ ELLEN-ET87Kelsey Patten
HOLMGREN TRIUMPHANT DI-ET87John P. & Rachael Holmgren
MS MILKSOURCE GOLDWYN FANCY87Jordan & Claire Van Dyk
MS ANGELINA ANGASHOCK-ET87Claquato Farms Inc. & Robin-Hood Holsteins
SIEMERS SANCHEZ HAPPYGAL-ET87Spencer Michael Weimer
SIEMERS ATW HILDALICIOUS-ET87Joshua T & Joseph T Opsal
SCH-GER ATWOOD ELYSE87Brett Morlock & Ken Gerber

 

Now for those of you who are wanting to push the genomic envelope, we did the same analysis, though factoring in the typical genomic over prediction of about 20% (Read more:  How Much Can You Trust Genomic Young Sires?).  Our requirements were 1,500 lbs of milk and 7.2 for productive life.

NameClassScoreSire NameOwner(s)PROV
BERGEROY GOLDWYN LANIKVG87BRAEDALE GOLDWYNBERGEROY HOLSTEIN INCPQ
BUNCLODY ALFREDO DANNIVG87LESPERRON ALFREDOFRED FORNWALD & SONS FARMS LTDSK
BUTZ-BUTLER SAN BETTY-ETVG87GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZFERME LAITIERE RAYON D'OR INCPQ
CLOVIS JASPER RAZIAVG87WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ETCLOVIS HOLSTEIN INCPQ
COMESTAR JASPER ALANYSVG87WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ETCOMESTAR HOLSTEINPQ
COMESTAR LAUTELLIAM SANCHEZVG87GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZCOMESTAR HOLSTEINPQ
COMESTAR MILANA JASPERVG87WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ETCOMESTAR HOLSTEINPQ
COMESTAR PIMPANTE GOLDWYNVG87BRAEDALE GOLDWYNCOMESTAR HOLSTEINPQ
CRAIGCREST LAURIN ECSTATICVG87DEN-K MARSHALL LL LAURINCRAIGCREST HOLSTEINSON
CYJOHN LOYAL C9369VG87BRYHILL LOYALFERME KAMLAKEPQ
DELABERGE OMAN DOLLMISSVG87LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ETFERME BERGELAIT INCPQ
DULET ARMSTEAD KIM 3VG87DIAMOND-OAK ARMSTEAD-ETFERME DULET INCPQ
FAMIPAGE SHAQUILLE IDELUSTREVG87DESLACS SHAQUILLEFERME FAMIPAGE INCPQ
FLEURY GEN SANCHEZ LIZIEVG87GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZLOOKOUT HOLSTEINSPQ
GREGORI MAN O MAN SORISIAVG87LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ETFERME U. GREGOIRE & FILS INCPQ
HARDY GOLD DIAMONDVG87BRAEDALE GOLDWYNDONALD DUBOISPQ
HOLYWELL ATWOOD POCKETVG87MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOODHOLYWELL HOLSTEINSON
HOLZER MIRANDA AFTSHOCKVG87MS ATLEES SHT AFTERSHOCK-ETBUSHY VIEWON
HOLZER MYSTRI SHOCKVG87MS ATLEES SHT AFTERSHOCK-ETBUSHY VIEWON
JEANLU ALEXANDER SMOOTHIESVG87GOLDEN-OAKS ST ALEXANDER-ETFERME TELEFILS ENRPQ
LAFONTAINE ATWOOD METALLICAVG87MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOODFERME LAFONTAINEPQ
LAFONTAINE MISCHIEF CHOICEVG87LUNCREST MISCHIEF SHOT 2-ETFERME LAFONTAINEPQ
LAMPADA SHOCKWAVE EVETTEVG87LAMPADA LHEROS SHOCKWAVEFRED FORNWALD & SONS FARMS LTDSK
LEGACY JASPER GABEVG87WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ETSTEPHEN DOLSON & DR. KAREN GALBRAITHON
MAYBLOSSOM SHOTTLE DEVARY 812VG87PICSTON SHOTTLE-ETMAYBLOSSOM FARMSON
MILIBRO ATLAS PRISSYVG87MD-DELIGHT DURHAM ATLAS-ETFERME MILIBRO INCPQ
MILIBRO ATWOOD MIGNONNEVG87MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOODFERME MILIBRO INCPQ
NEUDAY SANCHEZ PRISCILLAVG87GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZBENBIE HOLSTEINS LTDSK
PDF SANCHEZ SUMMERVG87GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZPRAIRIE DIAMOND FARMSK
RAYON D'OR SHOTTLE OPRUNELLEVG87PICSTON SHOTTLE-ETFERME LAITIERE RAYON D'OR INCPQ
ROTALY GOLDWYN OMBRELLAVG87BRAEDALE GOLDWYNROCK HEBERT & NATHALIE DUMAISPQ
ROTALY MILLION MACADAMVG87ENGLAND-AMMON MILLION-ETROCK HEBERT & NATHALIE DUMAISPQ
SELEXIE MATRICIE DUPLEXVG87MESLAND DUPLEX-ETMICHEL LARRIVEEPQ
SMITHDEN GOLDWYN BREEZYVG87BRAEDALE GOLDWYNCORMDALE GENETICS INCON
SMITHDEN GOLDWYN BUBBLESVG87BRAEDALE GOLDWYNSMITHDEN HOLSTEINS INCON
SMYGWATYS SANCHEZ EMMAVG87GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZCLARKVALLEY HOLSTEINSON
STONYWAY AFTERSHOCK NAHANAVG87MS ATLEES SHT AFTERSHOCK-ETPIERRE BOULETPQ
SWISSKESS SHOTTLE RUBYNVG87PICSTON SHOTTLE-ETSWISSKESS INCPQ
VERTDOR SHOTTLE MAYAVG87PICSTON SHOTTLE-ETFERME VERT D'OR INCPQ

 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Any way you look at it, it’s hard to argue with the cold hard facts.  For years the show ring and type classification have tried to do the best job possible in predicting what it take to produce a long lived productive cow.  But just like the evolution of the computer, healthcare and science, as more information becomes available, we find that some of our previous beliefs are no longer accurate.  In no way am I saying that there is not value in programs like type classification, it is just time for those programs to evolve and do a more accurate job of predicting longevity.  (Read more:  What is the role of dairy cattle breed associations?) As the numbers show, today’s longed lived productive cow, may not look that pretty, but she sure milks that way.

Want to learn more about his? Andrew Hunt will be presenting at Canadian Dairy Expo on February 5th.