“This cow is being stolen!” cries out Horace Backus, from the auctioneer’s box at the US National Convention sale.  ‘A beautiful Jasper daughter with such a magnificent pedigree gets such a low offer – that is pure robbery!” adds Backus.  Pounding his fists onto the podium, Backus has a point, since they are getting less than $5,000 for a very productive cow and moments earlier a very young calf sired by a genomic young sire sold for over $20,000.  Here you have an animal already proving her profitability versus a calf that has nothing more to show for herself then a simple little test?  I ask you ”Does the marketplace have it all wrong?”

Last week I was at our local county show (Read more: For Love of the Ring) and was talking with Doug Brown, owner of Browndale Specialty Sires.  I have known Doug for over 30 years and have huge respect for him.  One point that Doug made was related to the fact that at BSS they have 3 bulls in the top 100 LPI.  This is a huge success for a breeding program that samples just a handful of bulls every year.  And yet the conundrum, Doug says, is that they would be lucky if the three sires sold as much semen as the latest hot genomic sire.  Again here we have a well proven and profitable commodity being outsold by a relatively unknown entity.

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Is genomics kind of like chocolate?  Sure it’s great in small amounts when used correctly and it’s a great antioxidant.  However regularly over-indulging in chocolate can result in significant weight gain, sugar complications and kidney problems from the high potassium.

Now anyone who has read the Bullvine with any regularity knows that we are strong proponents of genomics (Read more: Genomics at Work – August 2013, Genomics: Think Big Not Small and Stop Pissing On Genomics).  But have we started to take things too far?  We hear breeders starting to question if they should register their cattle anymore?  (Read more: Why Do We Register?) Should we type classify anymore?  (Read more: Is Type Classification Still Important?  And Over-Scored and Over-Rated – Are we helping or hurting the dairy classification system?) and Should we only use Genomic Young Sires when making mating decisions?  (Read more: How Much Can You Trust Genomic Young Sires? and Genomic Young Sires vs. Daughter Proven Sires: Which one is best for reliable genetic gain?) Have we overused a good thing?

Many times I have had the opportunity to talk with Ari Eckstein of Quality Holsteins (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations  and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day) and Ari has always reminded me that “Yes Andrew!”  genomics is a useful tool and at Quality they do use high genomic test type sires, However, he reminds us   “There is still a need to look at all the tools available when making breeding decisions that will result in generation after generation of proven cow families.”  At Quality they use genomics kind of like a great pastry chef uses chocolate.  It’s not the only thing tool they use and they use it as one ingredient.  In other words, genomics should be only one part of many factors used to make complete a great breeding recipe.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I think many breeders have emptied the kitchen cupboards and thrown out all the other ingredients, or tools, that they used to use when making their breeding and purchasing decisions and now are only using one.  Even the likes of dark chocolate or Alba white truffles ($9,300 per kilo) are only great when they are used to enhance the tasting experience.  Great breeding decisions come when we stop using just one tool and find the best way to apply specific strengths to specific goals.  . When it comes to better breeding and the tools you use, genomics shouldn’t be the only one you use or be used as an all-in-one but it is definitely one to be reckoned with! Genomics for chocolate.  Now that’s sweet!!

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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