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.
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.
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)
In taking that one step further, we also did a composite of what the perfect classification 2 year old would look like.
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.
But in analyzing the numbers, especially productive life and herd life, the true ideal 2 year old should look something like this.
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.
Name Final Score Owner
COOKIECUTTER MOM HALO-ET 88 Cookiecutter Holsteins
MSWELCOME OBSERVER LAURI-ET 88 Welcome Stock Farm, LLC & Charles Van Wie
ROSE-LYN MARCONI CONFETTI 88 Wallace A. Behnke
HY-NIC-HOL TRYOUT STAR 88 Ryan L. Lindenmeyer
FISCHERDALE CASABLANCA 88 Elizabeth Sarbacker
WILLOWS-EDGE GOLD IMAGE-ET 88 Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE CARISMA LYRIC 88 Jordan & Claire Van Dyk
ERBACRES AD LACROSSE-RED 88 Carla Kay Erbsen
GLORYLAND DELLA RAE-ET 88 David A Tait & Hood Holsteins
WILLOWS-EDGE DURHAM ISLE-ET 88 Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE MAC FROSTING 88 Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE SANCHEZ MAGGIE 88 Jordan A. Van Dyk
RICECREST AFTERSHOCK AMELIA 88 Dale E. & Fred E. Rice
POTTSDALE SANCHEZ RHEYA 88 Hayley Lynn Potts
OPSAL DENTON BEAUTIFUL 88 Joshua T & Joseph T Opsal
MARKWELL ATWOOD FANTASIA 88 Kody J. & Kyle R. Tiemersma
MOR-YET GOLDWYN FAITHFUL-ET 88 Todd Galton
QUIETCOVE-W FUTURITY-ET 88 Quietcove-Wapa Farms LLC
CLEAR-ECHO SUPER 2140-ET 88 Clear Echo Farm LLC
CLAQUATO SANCHEZ ROSALIE-ET 88 Claquato Farms, Inc.
HARVUE ATWOOD FOX-ET 88 David Meade Hardesty, Jr.
GOLDEN-OAKS CHARDONNAY-ET 88 Brianna Sheehan
GOLDEN-OAKS GWYN CLASSY-ET 88 Kings-Ransom Farm LLC
HOLBRIC DESTRY ANALIESE 88 Morgan Olbrich
WINDY-KNOLL-VIEW POCONOS-ET 88 James R. & Nina P. Burdette
WINDY-KNOLL-VIEW PERFECT-ET 88 James R. & Nina P. Burdette
VANDYK-S BALTIMOR ROCKLYN 88 VanDyk-S Holsteins
COOKIECUTTER BOWS HOMONY-ET 87 Clear Echo Farm LLC
MS JENNYLOU SHTL LIDEBBI-ET 87 Mystic Valley Dairy LLC
OAKFIELD-BRO AT FANATSY-ET 87 Denise V. Saxton
OAKFIELD-BRO AT FINANCE-ET 87 Adam J King
OAKFIELD SANCHEZ DAZZLE-ET 87 Jonathan Lamb
COOKIECUTTER MM HALLMARK-ET 87 John J. Dickinson
WELCOME DOMAIN FANTASIA-ET 87 Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
WELCOME ELITE PEONY-ET 87 Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
MS WELCOME MANOMAN CASE 87 Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
WELCOME BRONCO PERNELLE-ET 87 Welcome Stock Farm, LLC
SAVAGE-LEIGH MAZEY-RED-ET 87 James R. & Nina P. Burdette
BELLTONE GOLD STAR LEE IV-ET 87 Kevin Doeberiener,PierreBoulet & Michael Heath
ERBACRES ADVENT MUFFIN 87 Nathan C P Erbsen
SUPER-K FORTUNE BONITA 87 Valerie L. Greco & Ronald J. Mikulice
VANDYK-K PRINCESS-RED-ET 87 Van Dyk-K Holsteins
WILLOWS-EDGE DUR VALEEN-ET 87 Hendrik W. Van Dyk
GEORGETOWN SAN LIMELIGHT 87 Chris & Stephanie George
MIL-R-MOR FANCY FABULOUS-ET 87 Sarah Elizabeth Sheehan
JANNEY CIMARON HAZYL 87 James & LaVaun Janney
SILDAHL AWESOME-RED 87 Fred Schoenbachler
SWAINDALE RDLINR CHARRO-RED 87 Gary R. Swain
SWAINDALE RDLINR GODIVA-RED 87 Gary R. Swain
LAKE-EFFECT DUR WREN-ET 87 Jeffrey & Gayle Benedict
ROSE-EDGE B PASTA-ET 87 Ernest H Jr & Carol W Ambler
SCHA-TJ CNTNDR SHAWNA-RED 87 Todd & Jean Pollema
KENWAN AMBROSIA JADA 87 Ken-Wan Farm
MS JOLEANNA ABSOL APPLE-RED 87 Cooper Galton
WILLOWS-EDGE GOLD INFORM-ET 87 Hendrik W. Van Dyk
WILLOWS-EDGE R LOU MYRA-RED 87 Claire M. Van Dyk
ROCK-N-HILL-II CRANBERRY 87 Michael & Chris McCullough
GLORYLAND-LR LADA RAE-RED 87 David A. Tait
GUNDYS AFTERSHOCK ACE-ET 87 Robert Gunderson
MS L-MAPLES-BO SG DURHAM 46 87 Jenna M Langer
VANDYK-K GRAYBIL PASTEL 87 Van Dyk-K Holsteins
KIKO GABOR RAPTURE 685 87 R & P Kiko Family Farms, Ltd
QUIET-MAN ALEX LOVELY-ET 87 Buttke Dairy Enterprises
QUIET-MAN ALEX LUSCIOUS-ET 87 Jeff Spence
DEMMERS SANCHEZ GAYLA 87 Demmer Farms
KLINGENDALE HVEZDA POKER 87 John Klingensmith
KIKO DAMION VINA 663 87 R & P Kiko Family Farms, Ltd
LIDA-ACRES MARC ATLEE 87 Maria D. Johnson
SILENT-STAR ALXDER A-JUDY 87 Lance Slotten
PARADISE-R AFS GRACE 4594 87 Paradise Valley Farms, Inc.
OPSAL DESTRY MARCELLA-RED 87 Joshua, Joseph & Felicia Opsal
SRP ABSOLUTE FURY-RED-ET 87 Melarry Farms
SRP DESTRY FROLIC-RED-ET 87 John P. & Rachael Holmgren
MS BLONDIN JASPER BELLE-ET 87 Brad Stockman & Adam G Johnson
MARKWELL AFTERSHOCK STAR 87 Kody J. & Kyle R. Tiemersma
KELLERCREST SANCHEZ SHELLY 87 Kimberly Keller
NOBLAND ALFREDO ATLAS 87 Troy Noble
LORAWAE SANCHEZ HEATHER 87 John S. Lora
KINYON GOLDWYN PASTA 87 Martin Kinyon
WEST-LAKE SS WENDY-RED 87 West-Lake Holsteins
WEST-LAKE ADVENT RILEY-RED 87 West-Lake Holsteins
HARVUE HERSHEY MINT 87 John O. Hardesty & Sons
HARVUE BLITZ GLITZ 87 John O. Hardesty & Sons
HARVUE GOLDWYN FOXY LADY-ET 87 Matthew C. Hardesty
HARVUE ATWOOD VIDA 87 David M. & Debra L. Hardesty
MILKSOURCE ADVENT ESTHER-ET 87 Eva Doornink
JHAHNWAY DUSK PEGGYS TRINA 87 Justin E. Hahn
MELARRY SANCHEZ FONDA-ET 87 Melarry Farms
HOLBRIC MINISTER FRANNY 87 Brian & Mark Olbrich
HOSTO SS HILLROBIN 87 Kelley L. & Ruth Ann Hosto
WHITELEATHER ALEXAND 1693 87 Lauren G. Whiteleather
VANDYK-S BRAXTON ELISHA 87 VanDyk-S Holsteins
VANDYK-S CHELIOS MALEAH 87 VanDyk-S Holsteins
ROCKING-P SANCHEZ ELLEN-ET 87 Kelsey Patten
HOLMGREN TRIUMPHANT DI-ET 87 John P. & Rachael Holmgren
MS MILKSOURCE GOLDWYN FANCY 87 Jordan & Claire Van Dyk
MS ANGELINA ANGASHOCK-ET 87 Claquato Farms Inc. & Robin-Hood Holsteins
SIEMERS SANCHEZ HAPPYGAL-ET 87 Spencer Michael Weimer
SIEMERS ATW HILDALICIOUS-ET 87 Joshua T & Joseph T Opsal
SCH-GER ATWOOD ELYSE 87 Brett 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.
Name Class Score Sire Name Owner(s) PROV
BERGEROY GOLDWYN LANIK VG 87 BRAEDALE GOLDWYN BERGEROY HOLSTEIN INC PQ
BUNCLODY ALFREDO DANNI VG 87 LESPERRON ALFREDO FRED FORNWALD & SONS FARMS LTD SK
BUTZ-BUTLER SAN BETTY-ET VG 87 GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ FERME LAITIERE RAYON D'OR INC PQ
CLOVIS JASPER RAZIA VG 87 WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ET CLOVIS HOLSTEIN INC PQ
COMESTAR JASPER ALANYS VG 87 WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ET COMESTAR HOLSTEIN PQ
COMESTAR LAUTELLIAM SANCHEZ VG 87 GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ COMESTAR HOLSTEIN PQ
COMESTAR MILANA JASPER VG 87 WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ET COMESTAR HOLSTEIN PQ
COMESTAR PIMPANTE GOLDWYN VG 87 BRAEDALE GOLDWYN COMESTAR HOLSTEIN PQ
CRAIGCREST LAURIN ECSTATIC VG 87 DEN-K MARSHALL LL LAURIN CRAIGCREST HOLSTEINS ON
CYJOHN LOYAL C9369 VG 87 BRYHILL LOYAL FERME KAMLAKE PQ
DELABERGE OMAN DOLLMISS VG 87 LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ET FERME BERGELAIT INC PQ
DULET ARMSTEAD KIM 3 VG 87 DIAMOND-OAK ARMSTEAD-ET FERME DULET INC PQ
FAMIPAGE SHAQUILLE IDELUSTRE VG 87 DESLACS SHAQUILLE FERME FAMIPAGE INC PQ
FLEURY GEN SANCHEZ LIZIE VG 87 GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ LOOKOUT HOLSTEINS PQ
GREGORI MAN O MAN SORISIA VG 87 LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ET FERME U. GREGOIRE & FILS INC PQ
HARDY GOLD DIAMOND VG 87 BRAEDALE GOLDWYN DONALD DUBOIS PQ
HOLYWELL ATWOOD POCKET VG 87 MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOOD HOLYWELL HOLSTEINS ON
HOLZER MIRANDA AFTSHOCK VG 87 MS ATLEES SHT AFTERSHOCK-ET BUSHY VIEW ON
HOLZER MYSTRI SHOCK VG 87 MS ATLEES SHT AFTERSHOCK-ET BUSHY VIEW ON
JEANLU ALEXANDER SMOOTHIES VG 87 GOLDEN-OAKS ST ALEXANDER-ET FERME TELEFILS ENR PQ
LAFONTAINE ATWOOD METALLICA VG 87 MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOOD FERME LAFONTAINE PQ
LAFONTAINE MISCHIEF CHOICE VG 87 LUNCREST MISCHIEF SHOT 2-ET FERME LAFONTAINE PQ
LAMPADA SHOCKWAVE EVETTE VG 87 LAMPADA LHEROS SHOCKWAVE FRED FORNWALD & SONS FARMS LTD SK
LEGACY JASPER GABE VG 87 WILCOXVIEW JASPER-ET STEPHEN DOLSON & DR. KAREN GALBRAITH ON
MAYBLOSSOM SHOTTLE DEVARY 812 VG 87 PICSTON SHOTTLE-ET MAYBLOSSOM FARMS ON
MILIBRO ATLAS PRISSY VG 87 MD-DELIGHT DURHAM ATLAS-ET FERME MILIBRO INC PQ
MILIBRO ATWOOD MIGNONNE VG 87 MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOOD FERME MILIBRO INC PQ
NEUDAY SANCHEZ PRISCILLA VG 87 GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ BENBIE HOLSTEINS LTD SK
PDF SANCHEZ SUMMER VG 87 GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ PRAIRIE DIAMOND FARM SK
RAYON D'OR SHOTTLE OPRUNELLE VG 87 PICSTON SHOTTLE-ET FERME LAITIERE RAYON D'OR INC PQ
ROTALY GOLDWYN OMBRELLA VG 87 BRAEDALE GOLDWYN ROCK HEBERT & NATHALIE DUMAIS PQ
ROTALY MILLION MACADAM VG 87 ENGLAND-AMMON MILLION-ET ROCK HEBERT & NATHALIE DUMAIS PQ
SELEXIE MATRICIE DUPLEX VG 87 MESLAND DUPLEX-ET MICHEL LARRIVEE PQ
SMITHDEN GOLDWYN BREEZY VG 87 BRAEDALE GOLDWYN CORMDALE GENETICS INC ON
SMITHDEN GOLDWYN BUBBLES VG 87 BRAEDALE GOLDWYN SMITHDEN HOLSTEINS INC ON
SMYGWATYS SANCHEZ EMMA VG 87 GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ CLARKVALLEY HOLSTEINS ON
STONYWAY AFTERSHOCK NAHANA VG 87 MS ATLEES SHT AFTERSHOCK-ET PIERRE BOULET PQ
SWISSKESS SHOTTLE RUBYN VG 87 PICSTON SHOTTLE-ET SWISSKESS INC PQ
VERTDOR SHOTTLE MAYA VG 87 PICSTON SHOTTLE-ET FERME VERT D'OR INC PQ
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.