One in ten.  Those are the numbers that AI units use when they’re making matings to get the next great sire.  You see   AI companies aren’t trying to produce the 10 best sires that they   possibly can.  No. They want that one extreme top of the pack sire that outpaces all of the others.  As far as they’re concerned, the other nine sires can have their throats cut. Just because a sires is a sires of sons, does not mean he will be a good sire of daughters.

For years we have all been guilty of it.

We, the breeders, talk to the sire analysts to find out what sires they are making contract matings to.  Then we try to decide which hot new sire we will use.  For some it is because we want to see our names in lights, or sire catalogues at least, for others it’s because they want to get rich.  The thing is we have had it all wrong.  (Read more: You’re Fired: The Future of the Sire Analyst) First of all you must realize that the Sire Analysts are not all wrong.  It’s simply that they had a different breeding goal than you do.  Sire analysts and their genetic teams back at the AI units are looking to get that one sire that could change the breed.  For their purposes, they can easily afford to get nine duds if just one of those sires turns out to be a super stud.  In today’s marketplace having that winner means they don’t even need to touch the other nine.


But what does that mean for you the breeder?

You are the one left holding the bag or more accurately, left cutting the throat of the other nine sires born on your farm.  Not to mention the fact that you now have to milk the full sisters.   And furthermore, the problem becomes even more amplified, because you now have nine really expensive recipients for every sister that turns out.

Let’s plug the numbers on this.

After doing many different variations of the costs to produce these programs (Download the Bullvine Dairy Cattle Investment Calculator) we find that it costs at least $7,000 to get a calf on the ground.  So if you are having to produce 10 bulls to get the single one, that means that he’s costing you at least $70,000.  Now let’s look at the revenue side.  Sure studs will offer you open ended leases, but in order to move enough semen to get you $70,000 in commission checks, your sire would have to be a top 10 PA gTPI sire or #1 in a very popular niche, such as polled (Read more articles about Polled Dairy Cattle) or health and fertility (Read more articles about Fertility).  Anyone who has plugged the numbers in to see what it costs the average breeder to produce a top sire, knows that it just doesn’t pencil out into the black.  So it’s not surprising that we have seen many of the once very prolific sire producing breeders stop producing bulls all together.

That brings us to the female side of the equation.

Sure you can hope to get that one outlier on the female side as well.  But again where is the revenue?  It’s certainly not from selling the top females (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013).  Not that you would be willing to because you need that female to produce the next generation.  So how do you make your money back?  It’s certainly not from getting enough milk out of the 9 other females to warrant the more than $100,000 it has cost you to produce those 10 females.

So what is a breeder to do?

The answer is pretty simple.  Breed for the kind of cow that makes you money.  That is the long lasting, high producing kind.  But instead of focusing on those sires that are just as likely to give you the great one as the next dud,  look for those sires that are more apt to produce consistent reliable results.  That means looking for the sires and cow families that consistently have high quality genetics generation after generation.  In truth one in ten does not make a Master Breeder even though can make for a very profitable AI company.

While bull studs are looking for those sires that produce the greatest range, meaning those that will give you the extreme high, and willing to take the risk in getting the extreme low, you need to look for the exact opposite.  You want the sire that breeds the most consistent pattern throughout their daughters.  When there is a consistent pattern to work with, then you can make that much better breeding decisions.  Most people equate reliability to consistency.  But that is not the case.  Reliability is more just the total amount of information, not how spread out their daughter population is.  Over the years there have been many great bloodlines that produce reliable results generation after generation, that the AI units typically do not work with because they are not likely going to give you a list topper.  In the past USDA and CDN made available how much variety each sires has in their daughter population for different traits, but now, you have to request such information.  This is probably the greatest information a breeder could have when trying to produce consistent results.

Without that information, you have to do two things.  First look at the pedigree and see the genomic tests to their siblings.  If they is an extreme difference between all the siblings, then you know this is more of a home run hitter instead of a hitting for average.  Second through maternal line.  Is the dam the only success stories in her family, is there a consistent pattern throughout the maternal line.  Lastly look at sire stack.  When in doubt I always go back to sire stack.  Very seldom do I have a sire the totally deviates from the tendencies of their sire stack.  Sure they will have much greater numbers, but I find that when it pattern is always the same.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It really doesn’t matter what kind of cow you are breeding for.  Whether it’s the next World Dairy Expo Champion (Read more:  The Top 7 Sires of 2013 that will Breed the Next World Dairy Expo Champion and 7 Sires to Use in Order to Breed the Next World Dairy Expo Champion) or the Index Superstar (Read more dairy cattle mating recommendations), there is no shortcut to success.  Instead of looking for one out of the park home run hitter, you need to look for the sire and matings that are going to deliver those strong team players that hit for average.  Sires that generation after generation deliver consistent results.  So next time you make your mating decisions don’t use the hottest sire of the day or the sire that the sire analyst told you to.  Use the sires that you know will deliver those consistent results seven out of ten times, because in today’s marketplace breeders cannot afford to be cutting the throats of the also rans and losers.



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