Sure when a mating works out you say you planned it or it was the result of a great mating decision.  But what do you say when it doesn’t work?  Most of the time you blame the sire.  In reality, you cannot leave your breeding programs to chance.  If you do you are just as likely to end up with a puke as you are to get a great one by a fluke.

No matter what your breeding goals are you need to have a plan (Read more: What’ the plan?).  Recently there has been a lot of discussion resulting from our interview with Don Bennink (Read more:  North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable and The Truth About Type and Longevity). Bennink does not look at type when making his mating decisions.  Instead, Don uses the following criteria when selecting what herd sires to use:

  • 60 pounds or more of protein
  • 5 or above for  PL
  • 1 or above for DPR
  • 2.9 or less for SCC
  • 8 or below for Calving Ease

While some of us may not agree with Don’s filters for which sires he uses, there is no arguing that he has a very clear plan.  A clear plan that is based on what works for the management style and profitability of his North Florida Holsteins.  .

While many breeders dream about getting a cow that looks like this

While many breeders dream about getting a cow that looks like this

The problem with many breeders’ breeding programs is that they don’t have a plan that centers around the way their farm makes money.  Think about it.  How often do you select a mating sire for the reasons you typically cull animals, as opposed to what your perceived ideal cow looks like?  Sure when it works and you get that great show cow you claim that it was planned and was a result of years of thought and that you have cattle sense.  BS to that.  Unless you set out a clear plan for your herd, then claims that these animals are a result of great “dairysense” are just bull.  Trust me I have walked through herds and asked them, what the “iffier” looking ones are sired by and more often than not they blame it on the sire not working instead of taking responsibility for not having a plan and making smart breeding decisions.

The reality is they should be breeding for something like this

The reality is they should be breeding for something like this

Sure flukes do happen.  But, even in the show ring these days, I  see less and less flukes and more and more show winners coming from generations of great breeding that have had careful thought put into exactly which  sire  to use.  For most of these herds that does mean using the high type sire that is obviously getting the job done.  But if you are like most breeders you are not making your money selling show winners.  Your money is coming from those that deliver the most milk, as efficiently as possible, and last for multiple lactations.  So tell me why don’t your sire selection filters reflect this production goal?

Now you ask me, “Andrew how do you know that we are not doing this?”  and my answer to that is pretty simple.  Most breeders are not looking at fertility and SCS  as their top two filters, and yet those are the top two reasons most cows are culled from the herd (Read more: FACT VS. FANTASY: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection). Instead I hear comments like she needed more dairy strength as a key issue.  Did you know four out of the top five sires for dairy strength are below +1000 kg.  of milk.  And four of the five are also negative on at least protein% or fat% deviations.  So I ask you how much does dairy strength correlate to overall production?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Don’t get me wrong there are herds that have done very well and been very profitable breeding for high type generation after generation.  Two great examples are Ferme Jacobs (Read more: Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family!) and Quality Holsteins (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day).  Both these herds have bred for type generation after generation and have amazing high conformation herds to visit.  But that is because they had taken a lot of time and energy to carefully plan out how they will make money and how their breeding program will map to it, instead of the other way around.  The big lesson is that instead of leaving everything to chance you need to have a plan, otherwise all you will end up with are the flukes and pukes.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old or heifer?
Want to make sure you are investing your money wisely?
Download our Dairy Cow Investment Calculator.