As more and more early high genomic young sires are getting their daughter proofs in next week, I am sure we are going to hear that the sky is falling. And yes, while there is much certainty that the bulls may drop, that in no way indicates that genomics does not work.
As early proofs have indicated, the large majority of genomic sires will drop. But that should not have everyone running for the hills. Instead, what you should do is look at 2 key metrics: 1) How they compare to the proven sires that where available at the same time as the breeding 2) The percentage that are returned to service.
Why genomic bulls may drop
While critics would say that any drop is not acceptable, that just shows that they do not understand how the system works. There are other reasons that bulls may drop that most breeders may not consider; here are a few reasons:
- Hot House Effect
While we all would like to believe that the system is faultless, that is just not the case. It’s important to remember that proofs are first and foremost based on herd variation and genetic gain over their parents. So if a genomic sire is used on a dam who maybe lost a teat, or was sick as a calf and did not develop to her full genetic potential, this will have a huge advantage for the genomic sire. Same is true if breeders are looking to work that system. By that, I mean they are going to have other genomic cattle in the herd that do not receive the same level of attention as the families that they are working to have succeeded. (read more here: Has Genomics Knocked Out The Hot House Effect)
- Higher Quality Dams
In the past, young sires were used on G and the odd time a GP dam, but never on your high scoring 2yr olds. But with genomics, we see sires being used on VG 2 yr olds. Unless the progeny can score higher than the dam (not account for herd variance), it will be next to impossible for that bull to receive a positive type proof, let alone one that will allow them to be a breed leader. However, the potential for these sires to have the exact opposite effect is very possible, for instance, they were used on a VG-87 2yr old and her resulting progeny ending up a GP-80 2yr old. The sire will actually receive a much lower type score as a result. In reality, it is better to compare and note the similarities between a genomic sires daughter proof to a 2nd crop proof of the past.
- System Improvements
As mentioned in the hot house bullet above, the system is not perfect. These early proofs are based on the best educated guess that the geneticist could do given the data provided. As more data is available it will be possible to refine the system. The most useful data they will get will be these early genomic sires with daughter proofs. This will allow them to see how effects such as being used on higher quality dams will have and how they can adjust the system to account for this.
Does it matter?
The critics will say that the AI companies could care less if the bulls drop. They have sold so much semen on these young sires at such high rates that they have already made their profit. And yes, this is partly true. There is no question that a high genomic young sire will probably become a significant profit as compared to the past when they were a $50,000 investment. And then there is still the issue of credibility. It does not take long or many sires killing pedigrees before the clients of these AI companies will start losing business. The other part of the equation is that often these same AI companies have used these sires as sires of sons in their own programs, resulting in a significant risk for their programs and future profits as well.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
What breeders need to remember is, yes, genomic sires may drop. But instead of running around like Chicken Little announcing the sky is falling, what they need to do is compare those same sires to the proven sires that were at the top of list at the time when they made the breeding decision. From a systems perspective, it is better to look at what percentage of these genomic young sires are return to service. This will indicate if the system is working or not.
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