Archive for Conformation

Who Really Has The Best Dairy Cattle Genetics In The World?

The amount of bragging and arguing that goes on among breeders about what country has the best genetics in the world is insane.  Because  many have no actual facts to back up their opinion, the Bullvine decided to take a closer look and see just who does have the best genetics in the world. We took a look at the top 50 proven and top 50 genomic sires (where possible) in each of the major north American  indexes (TPI, NM%, LPI, PTAT and Conf) to see just what countries have the top bulls on each. We used north American indexes since all other indexes did not publicly provide MACE lists for use to do an accurate evaluation. The following is what we found.


tpi proven sires

tpi genomic sires

When it comes to TPI, it’s not surprising that the US dominates both the proven and genomic sire lists.  Given that TPI is a US based index, it’s only natural that they would have such a large proportion of the list.  What is interesting about these results is that Canada does have 14% of the top genomic sires.  Maybe a sign that Canadians are starting to put more attention into TPI and are adjusting their breeding programs so that they can achieve high ranking TPI animals.


NM$ proven sires

NM$ Genomic Sires

Since young sire information between countries is not readily available, its not surprising the we have mostly US sires on the genomic lists.  What is interesting about these results is that the Nordic countries have 22% of the top proven sires for NM$.  This is a direct result of their heavy focus on health and fertility and thus leading the way in genetic progress in these areas (Read more:  What the experts will tell you about who is winning the genetic improvement race).


ptat proven

ptat genomic sires

When it comes to type it’s not surprising that Canada makes its strongest showing in this area. Years of intense breeding for this trait have led to Canada having a larger market share in this area.  What is also interesting is the diversity of countries that make the top proven sire list.


lpi proven sires

lpi genomic sires

Almost shockingly there are no Canadian bred proven sires in the top 50 LPI sires in the world.  Given that LPI is Canada’s national index you would think there would be at least a few.  While the genomic lists do have 22% Canadian bred sires, it shows that in the recent past Canadian’s have been lagging behind other countries.


conf proven sires

conf genomic sires

One area that has always been a great strength is the Canada’s ability to breed great type.  While they certainly have their largest market share in this area.  It is interesting to note that the Canada does have more of the top proven and genomic conformation sires in the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there is no question that the US has the largest  population of dairy breeders in the world, and hence they should have the largest market share, what is surprising is how they have so much of the world’s top genetics.   Well beyond just the size of their population base, the US is the world leader in producing top Holstein sires.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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FACT VS. FANTASY: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection

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?  Further to our discussion about what the Perfect Holstein Cow looks like we here at the Bullvine started to ask ourselves, “How often do we choose our matings based on what we think the perfect cow looks like? vs. what our true management needs are?” Far too often sire selection is based on the fantasy of breeding that next great show cow or VG-89-2YR instead of facts needed to breed that low maintenance cow that will stay in your herd for many lactations and produce high quantities of milk.  Do your sire selections overlook your management needs?

Speedy Selection. Long-Lasting Problems

Discernment is the hardest part of sire selection.  Seeing your herd for what it is and what its genetic needs are is step one.  Step two is choosing what will work for you almost three years from now when the daughters of the sires you use today will be entering the milking string.  The old adage was “breed for type and feed for production.”  But how many breeding stock animals have you sold recently based solely on conformation?  How many will you be selling in three years based on their type?  What are the revenue sources for your farm now and in the future?  If your answer is “We get our revenue from the milk cheque from as few cows as possible and with as much profit per cow as possible” then selecting for type could mean that your sire selection is out of alignment with your management needs.

How Can You Tell If You Are You Out of Sync?

One place to determine where your herd has issues is to look at the reasons for and the frequency of culling. Every cow that leaves your herd for any reason other than a profitable sale is an indicator of the issues that could be arising from sire selection that is out of alignment with what is going on in your herd.

The Bullvine found the following information on milking age females that are removed from herds:

  • Over 35% of cows in a herd are replaced annually. That is costly!
  • The top known reasons for culling or removing cows are:
    • Infertility  / reproduction                    23.1%
    • Sold for dairy purposes                       21.4%
    • Mastitis                                               13.8%
    • Feet and Legs                                        9.6%
    • Low production                                     7.6%
    • Total    75.5%
  • The other known reasons for culling or removing cows are:
    • Injury               10.0%
    • Sickness           7.0%
    • Old Age           2.4%
    • Diseases          1.8%
    • Bad Temperament      0.9%
    • Difficult Calving          0.9%
    • Conformation 0.9%
    • Slow Milker                 0.6%
    • Total    24.5%

Are You Breeding to Spend Money or Are you Breeding to Make Money?

You may be comfortable with your culling rate especially if it isn’t too far off “normal”. However when you look closely at the cows that remain in your herd how “needy” are they?  Staff time, vet calls, hoof trimming, semen, drugs, supplies, extra time in the dry cow pen and removing cows from herds before they reach maturity – these all add up to significant dollars down the drain.  Therefore, anything that can be done in sire selection to minimize these costs goes right to improving the financial bottom line.  All unbudgeted costs mean less profit. If an animal is culled early, it does not matter where she placed at the local show or that her sire was a popular bull that left fancy udders.  If he also left poor feet and low fertility, that costs you money.

A More Realistic Approach: Breed for the Bottom Line Not Just the Top Number

Often top bulls for total index are put forward to breeders for their use, without regard for the bull’s limiting factors.  The Bullvine doesn’t support that approach.  We recommendation that minimum sire selection values be set for the reasons cows are culled so that sires used in a herd don’t create new problems while the breeder tries to solve the current ones.

Here are the Bullvine we recommend the following requirements bulls should meet to be considered for use by bottom line focused breeders:

  • In Canada
    • Lifetime Profit Index   > +2000*
    • Daughter Fertility          > 100
    • Somatic Cell Score         < 2.90
    • Feet & Legs                      > +5
  • In USA
    • Total Performance Index        > 2000*
    • Daughter Pregnancy Rate          > 1.0
    • Somatic Cell Score                    < 2.90
    • Feet & Legs Composite               > 1.0

* A high minimum value has been set for both LPI and TPI to address the removal of cows for low production and so animals sold for dairy purposes can be in demand for their milk producing ability.


Every dairy breeder wants a superior herd and wants to eliminate the daily annoyances, costs and loss of valuable cows due to infertility, mastitis and feet problems and low production. Breeders should choose the best sires that correct the actual problems that they face in their herd instead of chasing a fantasy that has nothing to do with their reality.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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