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Archive for Dairy cattle genomics

The Bullvine: Evolution vs. Revolution

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Change is inevitable.  Anyone who denies that will be left behind!  And even though the dairy industry is stereotyped as one that is “behind” other industries, in reality the dairy business has evolved significantly in recent years.  Technological advancements such as smart phones, tablets, GPS systems and robots have radically affected our day to day lives and, inevitably, how we farm.  Nevertheless, there are still those among us who refuse to evolve.  They hide their heads in the sand and are missing the revolution that is modernizing agribusiness.

Since starting the Bullvine we have had the opportunity to meet many people from all facets of dairy life.  From producers, to seed stock breeders to industry members, the dairy industry is certainly where you find amazing examples of people who are passionate about this incredible industry that we are all part of.  While there are many characteristics that unite us, change is the one area where I see the greatest differences between us.  On the one hand, there are those who prefer a slower more evolutionary approach to change.  They are happy to take calculated incremental steps towards change.  And, on the other hand, there are those who prefer a more revolutionary approach.  These are the ones who are ready to run with the latest technology and be at the front of the line.  Change for them is always moving forward.  Making adjustments. Getting better all the time.

Genomics is another area that defines our different approaches and highlights the variation that can separate even those who have the same ultimate goal. (Read more: Dairy Cattle Genomics)   While some producers have embraced genomics to a point where the majority of the semen used on their farms is from genomic young sires, others have not been so fast on the uptake.  They have decided to take a wait-and-see approach on genomics until more substantiated proof is available.  While there are merits to both methods, the strongly held opinions and significantly different approaches can only be settled by the results produced.  And … that takes time!!!

Speaking of strong opinions, many more of those opinions have been pushed to the forefront as a result of articles we have written here at the Bullvine.  While regular readers certainly recognize that we have taken a much more revolutionary approach to genomics, we have also taken a much more revolutionary approach to how we run our magazine as a whole.  We don’t do a print edition. We provide all our content free online and we let passion drive what we write about not who pays us the most money.  This is certainly a revolutionary approach compared to most of the options available to dairy breeders.

There is no question that our content has been revolutionary as well.  As the year winds down and we take a look about at some of the most popular articles of the past year (Read more:  Top 13 of 2013 – The Bullvine’s Most Popular Articles of the Year) and some of the top editorial choices (Read more:  EDITOR`S CHOICE 2013 – The Top 12 Picks from The Bullvine) there is no question that revolutionary is the best word to describe the overall flavor of the content we produce. In fact I can confidently say that if you took these 25 articles and compared them to all the other articles our competitors produced, there is no question that they would stand out for their unique content and unbiased perspective.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Since starting the Bullvine we have always tried to take a revolutionary approach to change, as opposed to that of our competitors that are stuck in their evolutionary mindset.  It’s with this aggressive approach to change that we have many new and exciting things planned for 2014. We will continue to drive change instead of simply trying to keep our heads above water.  In the coming year we plan to bring our revolutionary perspective to all aspects of the dairy industry as we increase our coverage of the key issues that all producers face.  We greatly appreciate everyone who joins us and cheers us on in the revolution.  We look forward to sharing the insights, passions, frustrations and visions that will power the dairy industry throughout 2014.


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Having trouble figuring out who genomic cattle are worth investing in?  Not sure what cows are the real deal and which ones are smoke and mirrors?  The Bullvine decided to imagine we had $1,000,000 to invest in genomic cattle.  With that incentive, what cows would we invest in?  The following is the top six North American high genomic cattle we would choose.

To ensure that we would be making a wise investment, we looked at the following three key factors: genetic merit, marketability, and flush history.  We took the top GLPI cows as well as the top GTPI cows and considered their Direct Genomic Values (DGV’s), Their 4 generation sire stack, and their family’s ability to outperform their predicted transmitting ability generation after generation.  Once we had our short list of cattle that we knew could be the sound genetic base, we then said, which of these cattle are the most marketable?  Do they have a great photo to market from?  Never underestimate the value of a great photo (read Patty Jones: Picture Perfect!)  Is the family consistently selling animals for high dollars at the top sales?  (Check here for the latest sale results)  And lastly, through personal experience, we know that the greatest animal in the world means nothing, if she cannot flush well (read What Comes First The Chicken Or The Egg).

The following is our million dollar-shopping list.




There is nothing more marketable than being #1.  Combine that with the marketability of one of the top sires in the world on the top side and Lila Z on the bottom side and you have OCONNORS PLANET LUCIA.  Proof that this family is hot is the recent sale of Mapel Wood Sudan Licorice at the International Intrigue sale for $200,000 (read more International Intrigue – The Secret Exposed ) What is also evident, and very key, is that this family can flush.  Looking at Lucia’s progeny shows multiple daughters by each cross. This is a strong indicator that Lucia is a profit machine.




While being #1 in Canada is nice, being #1 in the USA is even better.  That honor goes to LADYS-MANOR PL SHAKIRA.  We are still waiting to see that great 2yr old photo that will put her marketability over the top.  Of course, being the full sister to Shamrock, former #1 genomic sire of the breed, does not hurt.  Purchased for $50,000 by De-Su Holsteins at the 2010 National Convention Sale, Shakira is already paying dividends with 10 daughters on the top genomic lists.




If you can’t be #1 then at least be the top sire producing family in the world.  That honour goes to the Braedale Gypsy Grand family and is represented by GILLETTE S PLANET 2ND SNOOZE on our list.  Planet 2nd Snooze completes 5 generations of proven bull mothers.  With sires such as Windrook, Windhammer, Stanleycup, Goodluck, Final Cut, Freelance and of course Goldwyn coming from this maternal line, their ability to produce top sires is almost unprecedented.  Unlike the challenge with some members of the Gypsy Grand family, Planet 2nd Snooze appears to be a pretty good flusher with 3+ progeny being registered from each cross.




When it comes to consistently putting out top genomic animals that have DGV’s that are higher than their parent averages, you cannot beat AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA.  The added bonus is not only do Shauna’s progeny top the GPA TPI lists but they also do well on the Canadian lists with 13 of her progeny over +3000 GPA LPI.  Shauna really seems to be a cow that can do it all. Her Robust son, Supersire is the #1 Net Merit sire and the #2 GPA TPI sire.  Again Shauna is a cow that flushes well and, man, does she have a great photo to market from!




How many top 100 GLPI cows can say they come from 4 generations of EX dams?  MS Planet Cheri can.  Combining a strong type sire stack (Planet, Goldwyn, Durham, Charles, Chief Mark) with consistent production has led to Cheri being the #2 DGV LPI cow in Canada who is scored VG or higher.  Purchased by Zimmer and Wendon in the Magic of Maui Complete Dispersal for $78,000, Cheri is still needing to prove that she’s a significant flusher, but with a pick already selling for $23,000 at the International Intrigue sale, she is well on her way to paying the bills.




When it comes to marketability, you cannot beat MS CHASSITY GOLDWYN CASH.  The full sister to one of the most popular genomics sires in the world, MR Chassity Gold Chip at Select Sires, she is also the dam of the popular FARNEAR-TBR-BH CASHMONEY at Jetstream genetics.  Goldwyn Cash is in high demand, not to mention the popularity that is coming from her brother MR CHASSITY COLT 45 RC the #1 RC Polled Bull in the world.  This family just drips marketability.  Goldwyn Cash’s dam REGANCREST S CHASSITY, completes 7 generations of EX with Goldwyn Cash well on her way to being the 8th.  It’s a marketer’s dream, combining high genomics with the Regancrest name. What more could you ask for?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In order to maximize your return on investment, you really do need to buy into cows that are the triple threat.  They need to be on the top of the genomic lists with a great pedigree, but they also need to have a great photo and ability to flush.  Sacrifice any of these factors and you are limiting your million dollar potential.

What is your top list?  Please share in comments box below.



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In the race to have the next great sire, there comes a point where you have to ask have we taken it too far.  Analysis performed by Holstein International of the 33 popular genomics bulls of 2009 showed that only one has managed to maintain his breeding value: O-Style.  Even with those facts, why are so many A.I. companies now basing 70%, 80%, and 100% of their genetic programs on genomic sires?

Partly due to the “shortage” of new daughter proven sires of sons, and partly due to the increased confidence in genomics since it started in 2009 the percentage of breeding programs that are using genomic sires has increased from 40% to 50% on a global basis.  Moreover, just like a great outlier sire, the difference between the AI’s is substantial.  With Accelerated Genetics, Genex-CRI and Alta Genetics all sampling over 90% genomics sires.

So why are these studs putting so much weight in genomics?  Do they know something the rest of us don’t?  Have they just gone cuckoo?

In reality is actual goes back to the genetic advancement formula that has been around for many years.

Let’s take a close look at each piece of this equation and the effect genomics has.


The effect that genomics has on accuracy is very significant.  According to CDN the average gain in accuracy in LPI due to Genomics is as follows:

Sub-Group for Holstein Breed

Average LPI Reliability (%)




Direct Genomic Value (DGV) Weight

50K Young Bulls and Heifers
(Born 2008-2011)





3K Heifers
(Born 2008-2011)





Younger Cows in 1st or 2nd Lactation





Foreign Cows with MACE in Canada





1st Crop Proven Sires in Canada





Foreign Sires with MACE in Canada





Selection Intensity

In the past AI companies would have sample multiple sires from the same cross, and try multiple crosses to find out which one was the genetically gifted.  That does not even take into account the need to sample from a larger portion of the top females to discover which ones where genetically gifted and which ones where “artificial” in their breeding values.  With genomics, they can pre-screen these sires and crosses to see which ones will have the highest chance of producing the next top-selling sire and which ones did not get the best their parents had to offer.

By eliminating the need to sample such a large number of sires, allows the AI companies to focus on a more intense core group of sires, and push the limits on genetics advancement

Genetic Variability

This is one area than many breeders do not pay enough attention to.  Certain traits, such as Milk Yield, Protein Yield, and stature are much more heritable than others (i.e. Rump and Feet & Legs).  What this means is, if you spent all your time breeding for feet and legs, you will see less overall genetic gain than say focusing on production traits.  That is why production sires will typically offer the greatest genetic gain, since most type traits have a much lower heritability.  It’s also why breeders always need to be conscious of production when building your breeding program and don’t mate for low heritability traits.

The following is Holstein heritability estimates used for genetic evaluations in Canada

  • Production Traits
    • Milk Yield 43%
    • Fat Yield  34%
    • Protein Yield 40%
    • Fat Percentage 50%
    • Protein Percentage  50%
  • Functional Traits
    • Somatic Cell Score  27%
    • Lactation Persistency 40%
    • Herd Life  10%
    • Calving Ability 6%
    • Daughter Calving Ability 6%
    • Milking Speed  21%
    • Milking Temperament 13%
    • Daughter Fertility 7%
  • Major Type Traits
    • Conformation 26%
    • Rump 15%
    • Mammary System 25%
    • Dairy Strength 36%


In order to cut down the genetic intervals many AI companies are now using genomic sires themselves as sires of sons.  This means that there are sires of sons that don’t have any daughter information yet.  The company taking this to the extreme is Alta Genetics.  Their breeding program is made up by no less than 70% of genomic bulls that are sired by genomic bulls.  The greater you can cut down the interval from the birth of the parent to the birth of the progeny the greater the average genetic gain per year.Yes, you will run the risk of sires that drop, but overall on a large breeding program you will come out ahead.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Many AI companies, especially in North America, are pushing the edge with genomics to maximize annual genetic gain.  While they will run the risk of a sire not turning out, or dropping significantly from his pre-proven prediction, when you look at the net result over the generations of their whole breeding program they will come out way ahead.  By leveraging the effect Genomics has on accuracy, selection intensity, focusing on highly heritable traits, and making the interval between generations as low as possible, these studs stand the greatest chance of consistently producing the best genetics available.
The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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