The Genomic Bubble Has Burst?


Well that is what some would have you believe.  They cite the decreased prices at the top sales, and that genomic young sires are no longer much higher on the list then their proven counterparts.  (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013) The truth is that, instead of just citing observations, true breeders are looking at the facts.  For them, the facts show that Genomics is here to stay.

Almost daily I read warnings in other “leading” dairy publications against the use of genomic sires.  This panders to the old school mentality that fosters breeder concern about using Genomics.  Instead of basing their comments on facts, they use hearsay, conjecture and outright fear mongering to defend their comments.

Here at the Bullvine we have always worked to let the facts guide what we write.  That is probably the biggest reason that we have been proponents of Genomics from the start.  There are several key points that we think many breeders and our fellow media are missing.  Let’s summarize them here to help put an end to nonsensical comments.

  1. Genomics is a Tool
    It drives me nuts on a daily basis the number of breeders who refer to Genomics as a selection tool.  Genomics increases the reliability of individual traits and indexes.  That’s it.  The term “Genomics” is miss-used by many when they should be referring to “High Index” sires, meaning list toppers on the gTPI, gLPI and other lists.  This may seem like a minor thing.  I am even guilty of it myself from time to time.  However, it’s really a huge error when you look at it from a breeder viewpoint.  Over the past week, I looked at more than 100 comments about Genomics from naysayers.  Every single one of them would have been more accurate if they had used the term “High Index” rather than Genomics.  Most of the reservations against Genomics have more to do with the use high index sires.  The debate between selecting for “High Index” or “Proven” pedigrees will go on for years to come.  The thing that many miss is that Genomics is a tool that can help both strategies.  Since Genomics helps increase the accuracy of the indexes in both strategies, it will help both strategies excel into the future.
  2. The Numbers Don’t Lie
    It’s always easy to state a case-by-case example and find a few cases that help prove any point.  It takes a look at the full spectrum to truly get an accurate assessment on how any program or tool is working.  The facts are pretty clear that Genomics increases young sire’s reliability by 30% and 1st crop proven sires by 5%.  In effect that says that a young sire with a 50K genomic test and a proven sire will now have reliability comparable to an early 1st crop proven sire pre-genomics.  This would indicate that if you were willing to trust a 1st crop proof prior to the introduction of Genomics, you should now be willing to trust a genomic young sire with a proven sire as their reliabilities are very comparable.  Furthermore, the genetics marketing is also supporting this.  Genomic young sires are set to outsell proven sires as most breeders are confident in the numbers and are making sound breeding decisions based on them.  As we mentioned in our article Genomics – Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications, genomically evaluated bulls with 65% reliable gLPIs, breeders can expect 95% of the time that their official proof will be within 670 LPI points (within about 18-20%) (Please note that with change in Canadian LPI formula this number is more like 400 LPI points).  This means  that we can be 95% sure that the current top gLPI sire, SILVERRIDGE V EXTREME (gLPI of +3544), will be higher than +3000 LPI, once he has his official progeny proven index that is over 90% reliable and that would make him the top  3 active proven sire in Canada.  In the US sires like ZAHBULLS ALTA1STCLASS (gTPI of +2598) will end up over +2200 gTPI placing him in the top 10.  (Editor’s note: Prior to the regression to bring high genomic young sires closer to proven sires, sires like Extreme and Alta1stclass would have actually been higher than the current top proven sire).  Yes genomic young sires do on average drop below their original predicted values, but, they are on average still higher than the proven sires of that time.
  3. Falling Numbers are not an Indicator of System Failure
    Whether it’s young sires indexes dropping or semen prices going down, neither of these two events accurately  predict the status  of Genomics.  You see Genomics is new to the industry and, with anything that is new, there is a period of figuring out how the “new world” will work.  During that period aggressive breeders and semen companies have sought to maximize revenues for themselves and the breeders they represent.  This has meant testing the market to see just what is the maximum revenue price for each animal or dose of semen.  Simple economics teaches us that we need to test that point that maximizes revenue, that is either sell at a high prices and reduced quantity or sell at a medium price at increased quantity.  Both are sound strategies. At times due to exclusivity and extreme unique genetics, young sire semen has sold for $10,000 a dose and, with the removal of the exclusivity and other sires coming out after the fact, that semen is now available at a greatly reduced price.  (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen).  The breeder who purchased this semen, Ri-Val-Re Holsteins from Michigan, actually made out very well with his investment as he had a clear plan with the use of IVF to maximize his return.  (Read more:  Breeding R-Val-Re: Where looking good in the stall is just as important as looking good on paper) It has also led to other attempts and premium pricing or pricing models.  This is not a failure of the system.  This is progressive individuals trying to discover how the new system is going to work.  Does it always return maximum profits?….No.  But does it help those individuals understand the new market and how they can operate to maximize efficiency in the future?  ….Yes.  Just because you are not able to justify these prices for your breeding program goals, does not mean that it will not work for others.  The big thing is for you to understand your genetic plan and goals and make sure you are constantly evaluating and improving them.  (Read more: What’s the plan?). It is interesting to note that since the introduction of Genomics the rate of genetic advancement has more than doubled.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Since more breeders can make more sound decisions, the industry as a whole is benefiting.

rate of genetic gain young sire

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Genomics will not make every breeder an instant Master Breeder.  Nor does it profess to.  What it will do is help each breeder make sound breeding decisions based on the most accurate information available.  There is still the need to have a breeding strategy the works for your specific management and financial goals.  You cannot simply use the entire list topping sires and expect to end up with the greatest herd in the world.  You need to take the time to choose the sires that work best for each specific mating and understand the issues of each cow or sire daughter group (i.e. inbreeding, strengths and weaknesses).  That is exactly what great breeders of the past did.  .  They took the time to assess their animals and planned how to end up with the best progeny possible.  That, and not Genomics, is what will lead to the greatest genetic advancement.  Genomics is simply a tool that enables breeders to make improvement happen faster!


The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics

 

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Comments

  1. Genomics is an excellent tool for bull studs. Test and use the highest bulls, put the rest out to pasture. I trust a 75% genomic bull the same as a 75% bull of the past. RARELY used on my best cattle, but sometimes will take a chance based totally on pedigree. Genomics WILL give you the same wild ride that every system of the past gave. I do think it’s nuts to make calves sires of sons based on a number. But maybe nothing lost, Elevation and Bootmaker’s sires were nothing to write home about. Same now. Most of the sires of last years highest selling baby calves barely or can’t even make genomic proven list much less be near the top. Holstein Worlds proof page compared 2010 to 2013 numbers. You should have used number 11, 13, and, down the list 226 would have been an excellent choice over most bulls in the top 225. The number one best thing about genomics is….it’s faster. 35% compared to an instant 70%+ Breed cattle to meet YOUR goals.

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