There is no question that the dairy breeding industry is a very passionate group of people.  So when breeders jump on the latest bandwagon, many of the old veterans say “it’s just a fad” and laugh at all the “rookies” who waste their time and money on this “meaningless” cause.  The funny thing is, if you’re talking about polled, the fad actually does have value.  There is both genetic and financial merit to breeding polled.  It is these two key factors that have many progressive breeders horny for polled.

Breeders have known about the polled advantage for years and yet they have not endorsed using polled genetics in any significant way. (Read more: Polled Genetics: Way of the future or passing fad? and They’re Sold on Polled!!)  While not having to dehorn your calves has economic advantages, many breeders see that job as  part of their regular routine and so don’t make getting rid of horns a high priority.  They think this way, despite the fact that  one mating to a polled sire results in a minimum 50% hornless calves and could be 100%, if the bull is homozygous polled.  These are much quicker results than breeding to get a red calf, for instance.

Are you looking ahead or behind?

Even though consumers have not yet cried out for change, that does not mean they won’t in the future.  Much like tail docking, once consumers do gain awareness, they are sure to cry foul.  When developing your breeding program, it’s not only about supplying the genetics that the market needs today, but also looking to the future.  In order to get ahead you need to think about where the market is heading not what has happened in the past (Read more: Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).  Concerns about animal welfare as well as employee welfare are sure to become more prevalent in the future.

Is the market demanding polled?

You don’t have to read very widely to answer this question.  From polled semen selling for $10,000 a dose (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen) to the fact that polled heifers sell for more than double the price of non-polled equivalents (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions)  the market is demanding polled.  This weekend one of the most progressive breeders in the world, Ri-Val-Re is hosting a sale.  Many of the top consignments are polled animals and are sure to sell for significant dollars (Read more: BREEDING RI-VAL-RE: Where Looking Good in the Stall Is Just As Important As Looking Good On Paper, or click here for sale details).

Ms Koenen Ladd P5715-Red PP Gtpi 1936 Homozygous Polled PP Red Roxy! Sells at RI-VAL-RE SELECT SALE, SATURDAY, JUNE 15TH

Ms Koenen Ladd P5715-Red PP Gtpi 1936
Homozygous Polled PP Red Roxy!
Sells at RI-VAL-RE SELECT SALE, SATURDAY, JUNE 15TH

Are they genetically equal?

Regardless many “old school” breeders have stayed away from breeding polled.  Why is that?  Well it is probably because, in order to use polled bulls in the past, you had to sacrifice the genetic merit in other traits.  That is no longer the case.  When you take a closer look at the numbers you realize that the current top 10 proven sires available avg. 2235 GTPI, $654 NM and 2.37 PTAT and the current top 10 Genomic Polled sires available avg. 2198 GTPI $605 NM and 2.58 PTAT.  That is only a 2% difference in genetic merit.  Even when you compare the top genomic polled sires to non-polled sires, you only see a 13% difference (The current top 10 Genomic sires available avg. 2499 GTPI, $881 NM 2.84 PTAT).  Now 13% may sound like a significant difference.  But in reality it’s not because our research has shown that bulls within the top 20% of the best sire on the genomic lists all have about an equal chance of topping the list.  So the top polled sires are well within this range.

What about inbreeding?

Even though within the current polled bloodlines there are two completely separate crosses that may lead some to believe that they are inbred.  The fact is that these bloodlines are pretty much complete outcrosses to Planet, Goldwyn, Shottle and Oman (Read more: 12 Sires to uses in order to reduce inbreeding and Going off the map: 14 outcross Holstein sires that don’t include GPS).  Effectively, that means that they are outcrosses to all the bloodlines that most breeders have been using.  As a result polled sires become doubly desired.  They provide not only the polled advantage but are close to being the top outcross genetics that are available in the market today.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Those waiting for further proof that breeding polled has merit are the “old school” breeders that are also likely worried about eating green bananas.  The problem is, if you wait too long, those bananas are going to turn black.  Polled is proven.  Don`t wait until it`s too late!

 

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