Archive for Dairy Cattle

No matter what industry you look at there are always going to be those people who are immoral, shiftless, self-gratifying and good-for-nothing.  Throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church hierarchy emphasized teaching all lay people the Deadly Sins.  We here at the Bullvine decided to take a look at the Seven Deadly Sins in the context of the dairy breeding industry.  The following is what we found:

Lust

Who hasn’t lusted for money, food, fame, power or sex? Come on. We are not monks.  So we are all guilty of this at some point or another.  In the dairy breeding industry there are those who lust for money, fame and power.  Lust for these three desires has led many dairy breeders to their downfall.  Instead of just making their breeding and farm decisions based on sound judgment, they let the desire for money, fame or power influence them and, in the end, make investments or decisions that make no rational sense.  Funny that the animal associated with lust is the dairy cow.

Gluttony

Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires. This is often interpreted as selfishness. Essentially it is placing concern with one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.  This is one area that I can say very confidently that most members of the dairy community are actually not as guilty of.  (Read more:  Why the Dairy Community is the Greatest in the World….).  However, there are those that have a tendency to overindulge in show ring results.  While I am as big a fan as anyone of the tanbark trail, I often have to remind myself that it is just a passion and remember where it fits relative to the rest of the dairy industry.

Greed

Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions.   “Greed is a sin directly against one’s neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them.”  Lately, I see the dairy breeding industry getting “greedy” with their genetics.  Empire building A.I. companies are not sharing their early release semen, and breeders are now not willing to sell embryos from their top females.  Greed has undoubtedly infected the dairy breeding industry.

Sloth

Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.  It certainly would be really hard to accuse most dairy farmers of avoiding physical work. However, there are definitely some areas where sloth is starting to creep in.  No, I am not talking about the skyrocketing number of breeders who are switching to robotic milking systems. These breeders are changing the type of work they are doing as opposed to the amount of work they do.  What I am talking about here are the breeders who are looking to take the easy way out.  On the tanbark trail, it is the breeders who expect to win at the big shows, but don’t realize how much work it takes and fail to do the work 365 days a year that it takes to achieve success.  For the average dairy breeder, I notice sloth tendencies when they make their breeding decisions.  Instead of taking the time to carefully do effective research on the best mate for their cows (Programs like GPS) they look for a quick and easy answer for their breeding programs. (Read more: gPs– Genetic Profile Systems – Dairy Cattle Breeding Made Simple).  Another example of sloth in the dairy breeding industry, is livestock photography.  Many professional photographers have gotten lazy and have let their ethics slide to a point where it is now downright sinful.  (Read more: Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct)

Wrath

Wrath, also known as “rage,” may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.  Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways including impatience, revenge, and self-destructive behavior. In the dairy breeding industry, I notice this vice in many breeders choice of which A.I. unit to purchase their semen from.   Instead of purchasing semen from the A.I. company that has the best sire for their animal, some breeders let their anger for a certain organization cloud their judgment and lead to diminished returns in their breeding program.  There are also those who have turned their wrath on us here at the Bullvine (Read more: The Bullvine: Wanted Dead or Alive and  Why I Don’t Care If You Like Me)

Envy

Envy is the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation. There are many (yes I say many) dairy breeders that are guilty of this.  From those whose envy is relatively mild, such as case of envy over ownership of a certain animal, or breeding success to those that turn almost green with envy over the success of their fellow breeders.

Pride

In almost every list, pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is fundamentally better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others and excessive admiration of the personal self.  In the dairy breeding industry, I notice this in many old school breeders who fail to recognize new tools such as genomics.  They believe that their “breeding strategy” is far superior to that of others and let pride get in the way of achieving even greater success.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Remember – no one is perfect. Sin, like death, is an unassailable fact of life. It is also one of the last great taboos for public debate. We here at the Bullvine feel that it is possible and necessary to talk about sin in ways that enrich our industry, as well as our personal lives.     These sins have been the downfall of some. However, others find success through overcoming them. It is important to recognize the vices you’re susceptible to and to manage them. Otherwise, these seven deadly sins will be the downfall of your dairy breeding program.

 

 

 

Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.

 

 

 

We all seek a break from frozen pipes, impassable roads and the added work that snow and colds adds to an already full dairy farming schedule. However, now is not the time to long for spring and the return of birdsong.  Unfortunately, the increasing nuisance of European Starlings is reversing our fondness for birds.

The New Math of Starling Multiplication

European starlings were first introduced to the United States in 1890 with the romantic notion of populating New York’s Central Park with all the species of birds mentioned in Shakespeare’s works (Chapman 1925, Bent 1950). In 1992 it was estimated that the population of starlings has grown to 140-200 million birds. During the winter in Ohio, it is common to observe flocks of 500 to over 2,000 birds with some large winter roosts containing 400,000-600,000 birds.

The First Sign that You’re Losing It!

When was the last time you were amazed at the sight of several hundred (or even a thousand birds) swooping into the trees and fields around your farm?  I’m guessing it was a long time ago. Now instead of counting birds when we see them swoop in, we start adding up the less picturesque effects of these frequent flyers.

Birds of a Feather are Flying Off with Your Profits!

Because of their foreign origin and aggressive behavior, European Starlings are considered an invasive species. These starlings are listed on the World Conservation Union list of the World’s 100 Worst Invasive Species. They are found year round in the continental United States, northern Mexico and southern Canada, expanding further north during summers.  It is estimated that overall bird populations cause an annual loss of $100 million to U.S. agriculture. Cattle feedlots suffer most from wintertime flocks which can reach as high as 100,000 or more per day. These huge flocks of starlings can have a negative impact on the profitability of a dairy farm. They consume huge amounts of livestock feed they spoil what is left with their droppings. Starling droppings may also cause components of steel buildings to degrade. Research in the U.S. by Pimentel in 1999 estimated that these birds cause $800 million dollars of damage to agriculture annually. The average cost of E. coli O157 alone to the cattle industry exceeds $267 million annually (NCBA 2004).

Unfortunately Starlings do NOT eat like birds!!!

Starlings can eat up to 50% of their weight daily. For 5000 birds this results in 250 lbs of feed consumed daily.  If you don’t feel you’re looking at such big numbers, consider that 16 birds eat one pound of feed daily. With the rising price of feed this equals hundreds of dollars in revenue lost in a single day just from lost feed. Birds often consume the more expensive components in the ration such as protein pellets or grain and seldom consume the roughage. That is not the final problem. Starlings poop an ounce out.  Every ounce expelled is filled with e coli, salmonella and other diseases thus contaminating the remaining feed.  Also be aware for every one you see in the spring, there will be 10 more in the fall.  Starlings adapt easily to multiple habitats and may fly between 15 to 30 miles to feed. They will increase their flying distance from roosting sites to feeding areas farther away, if a desirable source of food is plentiful at a more distant location. Individual birds return frequently to the same farm on a daily basis for feeding. They swoop in to get feed put outside for cattle. They damage plastic wrap on bales and leave excrement on everything. They also will sit on overhead rafters in barns and consequently leave manure along the backs of feeding cows as well as leave manure in the feed itself.

Starlings Spread Disease

Another concern is the potential for disease transmission. Since birds often travel from one farm to the next, they pose a threat to farm biosecurity. At livestock operations, starlings may preferentially select high-protein components of cattle rations, leaving the ration protein deficient and resulting in sub-optimal growth and milk production (Johnson and Glahn 1992). Studies have identified that farms on which birds have access to livestock feeds were more likely to have cattle positive for Campylobacter spp. and Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis than farms that had stricter feed hygiene protocols (Wesley et al. 2000, Fredriksen et al. 2004). As many as 65 different diseases transmittable to humans or domestic animals have been associated with pigeons, European starlings, and house sparrows.

Don`t Wing It

Once you have acknowledged that European Starlings are a problem for which solutions must be found, you will be able to stop money from flying off your bottom line.  The first thought might be to put up fake owls but like some other traditional fixes this one only proves that first you have to be smarter than the birds. European starlings know a fake owl from a real owl just the same as you do. Right?  These birds are so adaptable they quickly learn to ignore noise and visual scare tactics.

Practice Bird Control

Possible methods of controlling the European Starling population follow:

  • Sharpshooting with a pellet gun
  • Plastic mesh netting
  • Approved baits
  • Commercial equipment
  • Strips along roof or wherever you see them
  • Spike deterrents
  • $1 store or car dealership flashy fringes on doors, calf hutches etc.
  • Fishing lines strung slightly above beams so birds can`t perch
  • Hire commercial falconers
  • Thorough removal of nesting sites or design modifications of buildings
  • Check government programs that may be available in your area

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Unless you`re being paid as a site for a movie remake of Hitchcock’s  “The Birds”, dealing with European Starlings needs your attention.  Birds have their place but not in your barns and not stealing your feed.  These birds mean business. Lost dairy business. If you are not doing anything, you could be losing a lot.

 

Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.

 

Comments (0)

Global Warming and Its Effect on Dairy Cattle

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Over the past few weeks we have certainly seen some extreme weather conditions around the world.  Those on the east coast of North America have been hit by record cold temperatures.  At the same time, those in Australia have been experiencing record hot temperatures.  These extreme weather conditions have many wondering what effects “Global Warming” will have on the dairy cattle  There has been lots of coverage in the media about  dairy cattle and their alleged contribution to greenhouse gases and how that is contributing to Global Warming.  Very little has been addressed about the effects extreme weather conditions have on the dairy cattle themselves.  One thing appears certain.  Extreme heat waves and cold fronts are the new ‘normal’.

As producers know, cow and calf comfort is one of the most important factors in milk production and growth.  As more and more producers are experiencing extreme temperatures, keeping their animals comfortable is becoming harder.  Drastic increases or decreases in ambient temperature affects animal production systems by affecting the health, reproduction, nutrition etc. of the animals and thereby results in poor performance, inferior product quality, outbreak of novel diseases, etc.  Dairy cattle are   more susceptible to increased ambient temperature than other ruminants, because of their high metabolic rate and the poor water retention mechanism of their kidney and gastrointestinal tracts.  Young stock are not immune to these weather stresses either.

Greater temperature shifts and shifts that are more frequent seem to be the most obvious weather changes that will have effects on dairy cattle.  It is forecasted that we can expect even greater atmospheric temperature changes.  Therefore these issues are going to come to the forefront.  The following are the five major impacts   that global warming will have on dairy cattle.

  1. Ambient temperature’s effect on Dry Matter Intake (DMI)
    When cows are stressed their Dry Matter Intake (DMI) decreases.  As the heat rises DMI decreases.  Feed consumption by dairy cattle starts to decline when average daily temperature reaches 25 to 27 Centigrade  (77 to 81 Fahrenheit) and voluntary feed intake can be decreased by 10-35% when ambient temperature reaches 35 C (95 Fahrenheit) and above.  Conversely, cows that are experiencing extreme cold weather conditions increase their DMI intake drastically, but instead of the consumption being converted in to milk production, a much larger portion of their energy is committed to their maintenance energy requirements.  Thermal cold stress conditions result in 20-30% more maintenance energy requirement and an ensuing reduction in the amount of net energy available for growth and production.
  2. Increased respiratory rate
    When dairy cows experience increased thermal stress, their heart rate rises.  The heart rate of the animal under thermal heat stress is higher to ensure more blood flow towards peripheral tissue to dissipate heat from the body core to the skin.  This increased effort takes much needed energy away from milk production.  Respiration rate of the animal can be used as an indicator of the severity of thermal load but several other factors such as animal condition, prior exposures to high temperature etcetera should be considered to interpret the observed respiration rate.
  3. Decreased conception rates
    As weather stress increases, dairy reproduction function decreases, resulting in decreased conception rates.  This is a result of thermal stress that causes imbalance in secretion of reproductive hormones.  High ambient temperature has also been reported to increase incidence of ovarian cysts.  Plasma progesterone levels in animals under high ambient temperatures are low compared to animals that are experiencing thermal comfort.  It has also been reported that high ambient temperature causes poor quality of ovarian follicles resulting in poor reproductive performance in cattle.  Fertility of cattle is also reduced due to low intensity and duration of estrus caused by reduced luteinizing hormone (LH) and estradiol secretion during thermal stress.  In addition, thermal stress also causes decreased reproductive efficiency by increasing the calving interval. Calves born from dams under thermal stress were found to be of lower body weight than those from normal cows.  Additionally the dams had reduced lactation performance due to the carryover effects of thermal stress which occurred during the prepartum period.
  4. Decreased Metabolic Responses
    Under heat stress metabolism is reduced, which is associated with reduced thyroid hormone secretion and gut motility, resulting in increased gut fill.  Plasma growth hormone concentration and secretion rates decline with high temperature (35 ºC / 95 ºF).  Ruminal pH is typically lower in heat stressed cattle
  5. Decreased Milk Production
    Reduction in milk production is one of the major economic impacts of climatic stress upon dairy cattle.  Decrease in milk yield due to thermal heat stress is more prominent in Holstein than in Jersey cattle (Read more…).  Decreased synthesis of hepatic glucose and lower non esterified fatty acid (NEFA) levels in blood during thermal stress causes reduced glucose supply to the mammary glands and results in low lactose synthesis, which in turn leads to low milk yield.  As mentioned earlier, reduction in milk yield is further intensified by decrease in feed consumption by the animals to compensate for high environmental temperature.  Actually 35% of reduced milk production is due to decreased feed intake while the remaining 65% is attributable directly to the thermal stress.  Other factors resulting in reduced milk production during thermal stress are decreased nutrient absorption, negative effects on rumen function and hormonal status and increased maintenance requirements.  These all mean that there is reduced net energy available for production.

To combat heat stress check out these articles (Read more: Are you feeling the heat?  and Heat Stress on Dairy Cattle) and to combat cold stress (Read more: COMMON SENSE, COWS and the UN-COMMON COLD of 2014!“COLD CALVES” – The Next Drama Coming to a Calf Pen Near You! and Cold Weather Effects on Dairy Cattle)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that the world’s temperatures are changing because of atmospheric pressure changes caused by Global Warming.  Warming or cooling of the climate system of the earth has multifaceted effects on animals.  Intensification and increased frequency of thermal stress due to global warming has the most prominent impact on dairy cattle and causes   different physiological, metabolic and production disturbances.  The importance of responding to thermal stress has been increased for dairy farmers in tropical, subtropical and even in temperate regions of the world due to atmospheric warming.  As these effects increase, it will be increasingly urgent for the milk producers of the world to provide environments that are able to combat these effects and offer the greatest comfort for their cattle.  Global Warming is actually Global Warning for the dairy industry.

 

Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.

 

Two months ago I had one of those conversations. A friend said to me “you know Murray I am moving on from just simple genomics”. That perked my ears up and I listened more intently. “Yep I am now thinking about epigenomics”, he said. Well that was enough to set me off investigating what is out there that is beyond what our industry is currently considering and using when it comes to genomic.  Relax a little, this may seem like rocket science today, but it is in tune with what our industry has always done in the past.  We look to find more accurate ways of indentifying the elite animals. Then we figure out how knowing that information gives us ways to make dairy breeders and dairy farming more profitable.

Already Many Steps Too Far?

So now ‘epigenomics’ was pinned to my clipboard. But I didn’t get any further before I had a Master Breeder husband and wife corner me for half an hour and ‘inform’ me that “The Bullvine was leading the industry astray”. They stated to me that “they were from Missouri” and perhaps we should “still only be using the actually officially authenticated information – DHIR records and breed classification results – when it comes to selecting bulls and marketing females.  They asked how can we know that the hair pulled and submitted for DNA testing actually came from said animal.” I have known this couple for almost forty years so I took the discussion on to a review great cows of the past and how they would not compare to the great show and brood cows of today. As we started to conclude our conversation the lady, who had been somewhat quiet during our sharing, commented “You (Murray) have a good point about how the genetic evaluation results over our lifetimes have resulted in the fact that we have far superior cows for both conformation and production, but our herd’s current biggest genetic problem is cows not getting back in calf. We just do not now get to have very many ten year old and older cows in our herd, liked we used to.” That gave me the opportunity to talk to them about genomics and having fairly reliable information, early in an animal’s life, on its genetic merit for reproductive traits.

The husband’s concluding comment warmed my heart. “Our grandson plans to come home to our family farm and he tells us that at university his professors are saying the information we have today on genomics is just the start. So don’t give up on us old guys. You folks at The Bullvine just keep giving us the facts and helping the industry do an even better job of breeding dairy cattle. We don’t own a computer but our family keep us quite up-to-date on what The Bullvine is writing about.”  Obviously this couple are not as set in their ways as they led me to understand at the start of the conversation.

So if we have just scratched the surface, let’s delve a little deeper.

Epigenomics – What’s That?

By definition, epigenomics is the study of modification of the expression of the genetic material in a cell. Sounds rather out of the norm. Something can alter what the DNA says is the genetic merit of an animal? Let’s think that through a bit more.

As cattle breeders we can all think of times when three full sisters all had very similar performance. And I expect many of us can also remember situations where two of the sisters were very similar but the third sister just did not measure up to the other two.  The question that breeders always ask is did the third one not get the good genes, or did she get the good genes but something inhibited her from being able to express them.  I have even heard very knowledgeable breeders say that the third one will breed just a good as the other two.  How they arrived at that conclusion I am not really certain. But I have seen it happen as they predicted.

Research in mice has shown that the diet of a sire can influence the gene expression of their progeny. So that fits under the definition of epigenomics. Dr. Jacques Chesnais of Semex feels that “there is a definite possibility that epigenomics plays as important role in adaption to the environment. In particular, in our industry, the way we feed and treat a cow in the early stage of pregnancy could affect the calf for a lifetime and therefore affect the future productivity of the herd.” Hearing that made me wonder if the recipient dams of ET calves may have an influence on how those calves pass on their genetics.

Leaders in the study of epigenomics in livestock Dr Marc-Andre Sirard and Dr Claude Robert, Laval University, are currently  investigating how epigenomics applies to the bovine and in particular to female reproduction and embryo development. It will be interesting to follow their reports.

There is obviously much to be studied and learned about epigenomics in the bovine. Definitely traits like reproduction, health and immunity are ones that dairy breeders wish to know more about as they relates to inheritance.

So then – What is Nutrigenomics?

The second new kid-on-the-block, so to speak, is nutrigenomics. The study of the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression. By definition “Nutrigenomics can be described as the influence of genetic variation on nutrition, by correlating gene expression or SNPs with a nutrient’s absorption, metabolism, elimination or biological effects.” Think about it. If we know the genetic make-up of our dairy cows we would be able to design their diets accordingly. Are there cows out there that can make better use of lower quality forages? Wouldn’t that be a boon for the economics of dairy farming. Especially given that feed costs are 52-58% of total dairy enterprise costs and low quality forages are less costly.

I asked two nutritional consultants about this. I got two very different responses. The first one said – “don’t bring that on too quickly I still have another ten to fifteen years in my working career”. The other consultant said “Well it would change my job but if it means dairy farming can be profitable and sustainable and if we can feed the hungry world – well bring it on”.

Expect Genetics to Play an Even Bigger Role in the Future

Investigation by Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) has predicted that, in stable milk pricing times and on milk production focused farms, half of the increased on-farm profits comes from increasing the genetic merit of sires and cows used to produce the next generation of females.  With a better understanding and more definitive knowledge of epigenomics and nutrigenomics it could possibly be that 60+% of on-farm profits could be as a result of the genetics used.

From the DNA analysis using hair follicles, breeders now know with 50-70% accuracy the genetic merit of their animals for a host of important traits. Think what might be possible if by including epigenomics and nutrigenomics information. The accuracy levels could rise to 70-80%.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The research phase of studying how epigenomics and nutrigenomics relate to the dairy cow is well underway. We can expect refinements to our genetic evaluation procedures based on what the research tells us.  And in time breeders will have information so they can better breed, feed and manage their herds. Stay tuned to the Bullvine for more great insight into these two future changing technologies.


The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics

 

Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.

 

 

 

Informed Viewpoint: Brian Craswell from Hunter River PEI often has the best seat in the house when it comes to studying cattle.  With his wife Amber, he has built Crasdale Farms Inc. into a thriving dairy operation. This lifelong on the job education has been further enhanced by his other business, Brian Craswell Auctions Ltd. Positioned behind the microphone he has the clearest sight lines in the building as great opportunities come and go in sales ring.  Over and over again he witnesses the thrill of getting in on an opportunity or the defeat when that opportunity is missed when the final hammer falls before a decision was made.  His other centre-of-the-showring position as show judge is probably the best view of all.  Brian has judged the Royal Winter Fair (2003) and World Dairy Expo (2010). He has traveled to many countries around the world to share his talent for ranking cattle. Of course Brian Craswell is well positioned to have an informed viewpoint on dairy cattle investing.

Winterbay Goldwyn Lotto  EX-95-5YR-USA

Winterbay Goldwyn Lotto EX-95-5YR-USA

Stick to a Winning Strategy:  When looking to invest in dairy cattle Brian starts with his own feelings. “First I have to like them.” In today’s market, he then looks for two other attributes:  cow family and genomics. “I want the total package.” Says Brian who points to Winterbay Goldwyn Lotto as the best investment he ever made in terms of profit and how the animal turned out.

Be Willing to Walk Away: Brian admits that not every deal has been perfect.  He says, “I heard about a cow once and made myself like her.  She wasn’t what I liked and she didn’t turn out.”  He probably wishes he had followed some good advice he was given. “An older dealer told me one time that if you have to make yourself like them, then walk away.”

You Don’t Win Every Time:  Despite knowing what to look for and Brian acknowledges that sometimes you walk away from a deal and sometimes the deal walks away from you. He recalls that this very thing has happened a few times.  “I almost bought Lacoulee Justine Goldwyn when she was a December calf and 4th at a show.  I didn’t and she went on to be Jr Champion at the Royal.  I was runner up on the Jr Champ from the Royal Winter Fair last year when she sold in The Canadian National Convention Sale.” He goes on, “I also was runner-up on Pineland Goldwyn Tidbit when she sold in our Opportunity East Sale as a 2 year old.” You don’t win every time.

PINELAND GOLDWYN TIDBIT VG-89-3YR-CAN

PINELAND GOLDWYN TIDBIT VG-89-3YR-CAN

Take Calculated Risks: Craswell Holsteins has invested in both young stock and already proven cattle.  Going back to his focus on cow families Brian points out, “I will not hesitate to buy young ones from great families that I like. Sometimes the calculated risk of buying them younger enables you to pay a little less.”

Keep Up With the Changing Marketplace:  In the past five years Brian sees that the marketplace “has changed immensely with the emphasis that is being placed on genomics.  This has driven the price of high genomic animals up and, in particular, the younger high animals.” He recognized that debate is going on. “Some would say that genomics has devalued animals.  I would argue that it has raised the bar on the high ones and widened the spread.”

Brian says, “In This Business, You Don’t Have a Crystal Ball”: But then he goes on to say “Genomics is here to say and the use of it will find its place.  Right now it is almost everything in the high end market.” He often refers to his philosophy of balance in the cow business and he foresees “genomics coming into balance with great cow families with numbers”.  Again he focuses on the complete package.

Know the market. Know your customer: There is so much to learn in this business and Brian encourages those who are starting to invest in dairy cattle to “try to find a member of one of the great cow families that has that total package and invest at the top end of genetics right from the start.” Of course this is expensive but by focusing on these top animals “you can cash flow it with embryo sales, while you build your own branch.”

BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE: It’s all about the package.

“You need to have the package that people want to successfully market your cattle business.” Brian Carswell, Crasdale Holsteins.

 

 

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

If you are like many breeders who see the opportunity to invest in high-end genetics cattle but you’re not quite sure what way to do it, this article is for you. The days of finding that $40,000 2yr old and only having to pay $20,000 are far behind us.  Genomics has changed everything and those who have the top cattle know they have the top ones.  The following are six ways you can invest in top cattle.  We take a look at the risk in relation to the return as well as the outcomes you should expect.

1. The Complete Package – Invest in a $40,000 to $50,000 2yr old

This means you go out and buy the single best 2 year old you can afford in the $40,000 to $50,000 price range.  This means she is the complete package.  She has already calved, will score, or has already scored VG and is from a high in demand genomic family that has proven to be decent flush cattle.  Also remember not to sacrifice sire. It is very important that is animal not only has the top female side, but also the top sire stack.

Based on the above here are the expected inputs: Using the Dairy Cow Investment Calculator here is the expected performance:
Purchase price $50,000.00 Total Revenue per flush $9,187.50
Boarding expense per day $10 Total cost per flush $4,062.50
Years of productive embryo production 3 Total profit per flush $5,125.00
Flushes per year 4 Total heifer sales per year $7,654.50
Flush strike out ratio 25% Total boarding expense $11,460.30
Base cost per flush $650.00 Total promotional expenses $4,000.00
Cost per embryo $150.00 Total Revenue $84,463.50
Recipient price $1,500.00 Total Profit $19,003.20
Conception rate of recipients 45% Return on investment 38%
Sale price per embryo $2,500.00
Sale price per live heifer $12,500.00
Advertising expense/year $1,500.00
Other promotion expense $500.00
Number of embryos per flush 7
Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
Ugly duckling rate 40%

Analysis:

By purchasing the complete package you limit your risk while still delivering about a 12% return per year.

 

2. Hedge Your Bets – Invest in two $20,000 to $25,000 2yr olds

This means you go out and buy two potential VG two year olds that are decent flush potential, and while their progeny will not be sale toppers they will fit the mid-market.  Warning, buying the 4th best daughter of a cow, or maybe not a popular sire, thinking it will not matter, is a big mistake.

Based on the above here are the expected inputs: Using the Dairy Cow Investment Calculator here is the expected performance:
Purchase price $50,000.00 Total Revenue per flush $4,4100.00
Boarding expense per day $10 Total cost per flush $4,062.50
Years of productive embryo production 3 Total profit per flush $347.50
Flushes per year 4 Total heifer sales per year $11,022.48
Flush strike out ratio 25% Total boarding expense $20,920.60
Base cost per flush $650.00 Total promotional expenses $4,000.00
Cost per embryo $150.00 Total Revenue $41,407.44
Recipient price $1,500.00 Total Profit $(34,513.16)
Conception rate of recipients 45% Return on investment -77%
Sale price per embryo $1,200.00
Sale price per live heifer $9,000.00
Advertising expense/year $1,500.00
Other promotion expense $500.00
Number of embryos per flush 7
Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
Ugly duckling rate 40%

Analysis:

Contrary to popular belief this mid-market strategy just does not work.  With the increased expenses from double the number of animals as well as the much lower sale price of animals, this strategy actually causes you to lose money.

 

3. They Could Be Big Time – Invest in two $20,000 to $25,000 heifers

This means you go out and buy the two best heifers you can find. That when calved you stand a strong chance of one going VG and is from a high in demand genomic family that has proven to be decent flush cattle.  This equation equates to one of the two turning out and the other one being just an average cow.  Remember: Don’t sacrifice sire stack.

Based on the above here are the expected inputs: Using the Dairy Cow Investment Calculator here is the expected performance:
Purchase price $50,000.00 Total Revenue per flush $9,187.50
Boarding expense per day $10 Total cost per flush $4,062.50
Years of productive embryo production 3 Total profit per flush $5,125.00
Flushes per year 4 Total heifer sales per year $9,185.40
Flush strike out ratio 25% Total boarding expense $11,460.30
Base cost per flush $650.00 Total promotional expenses $4,000.00
Cost per embryo $150.00 Total Revenue $89,056.20
Recipient price $1,500.00 Total Profit $23,595.90
Conception rate of recipients 45% Return on investment 47%
Sale price per embryo $2,500.00
Sale price per live heifer $15,000.00
Advertising expense/year $1,500.00
Other promotion expense $500.00
Number of embryos per flush 7
Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
Ugly duckling rate 40%

Analysis:

By investing in two heifers you do increase your risk compared to buy a complete package 2 year old but you also increase your potential reward.

 

4. Heifer Hedge Your Bets – Invest in four $10,000 heifers

This means you go out and buy 4 heifers that have potential to be VG two year olds that have decent flush potential, and while their progeny will not be sale toppers they will fit the mid-market.  While the temptation may be to buy heifers of lesser demand sires, the risk in this play is very big.

Based on the above here are the expected inputs: Using the Dairy Cow Investment Calculator here is the expected performance:
Purchase price $50,000.00 Total Revenue per flush $4,410.00
Boarding expense per day $10 Total cost per flush $4,062.50
Years of productive embryo production 3 Total profit per flush $347.50
Flushes per year 4 Total heifer sales per year $11,022.48
Flush strike out ratio 25% Total boarding expense $20,920.60
Base cost per flush $650.00 Total promotional expenses $4,000.00
Cost per embryo $150.00 Total Revenue $41,407.44
Recipient price $1,500.00 Total Profit $(36,513.16)
Conception rate of recipients 45% Return on investment -81%
Sale price per embryo $1,200.00
Sale price per live heifer $9,000.00
Advertising expense/year $1,500.00
Other promotion expense $500.00
Number of embryos per flush 7
Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
Ugly duckling rate 40%

Analysis:

Again similar to the mid-market cow strategy this approach just doesn’t work.  With the increased expenses from double the number of animals as well as the much lower sale price of animals, this strategy actually causes you to lose money.

 

5.  Go for the Gusto – Invest in best 15 embryos you can find

This means you go out and contract a high-genomic mating from a high in demand genomic family that has proven to be decent flush cattle.  Also, consider that you need to purchase recipients and raise the heifers, leaving you with 7 calves.  For the sake of this equation we will leave the bulls out of it and expect that one of the 3 females turns out as a two year old.

Based on the above here are the expected inputs: Using the Dairy Cow Investment Calculator here is the expected performance:
Purchase price $50,000.00 Total Revenue per flush $9,187.50
Boarding expense per day $10 Total cost per flush $4,062.50
Years of productive embryo production 3 Total profit per flush $5,125.00
Flushes per year 4 Total heifer sales per year $9,185.40
Flush strike out ratio 25% Total boarding expense $11,460.30
Base cost per flush $650.00 Total promotional expenses $4,000.00
Cost per embryo $150.00 Total Revenue $89,056.20
Recipient price $1,500.00 Total Profit $13,595.90
Conception rate of recipients 45% Return on investment -27%
Sale price per embryo $2,500.00
Sale price per live heifer $15,000.00
Advertising expense/year $1,500.00
Other promotion expense $500.00
Number of embryos per flush 7
Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
Ugly duckling rate 40%

Analysis:

While there is a little less return than going out and buying a 2yr old complete package, when you factor in the X factors of the bulls as well as the fact that 1 of the other 2 heifers could turn out this opportunity provides the maximum return but comes at the maximum potential risk.

6. Embryo Hedge Your Bets – Invest in 30 mid-market embryos

This means you go out and buy 30 embryos from VG two year olds that are decent flush potential, and while their progeny will not be sale toppers they will fit the mid-market.

Based on the above here are the expected inputs: Using the Dairy Cow Investment Calculator here is the expected performance:
Purchase price $50,000.00 Total Revenue per flush $4,410.00
Boarding expense per day $10 Total cost per flush $4,062.50
Years of productive embryo production 3 Total profit per flush $347.50
Flushes per year 4 Total heifer sales per year $11,022.48
Flush strike out ratio 25% Total boarding expense $20,920.60
Base cost per flush $650.00 Total promotional expenses $4,000.00
Cost per embryo $150.00 Total Revenue $40,407.44
Recipient price $1,500.00 Total Profit $(56,513.16)
Conception rate of recipients 45% Return on investment -113%
Sale price per embryo $1,200.00
Sale price per live heifer $9,000.00
Advertising expense/year $1,500.00
Other promotion expense $500.00
Number of embryos per flush 7
Ratio grade A/B embryos 70%
Ugly duckling rate 40%

Analysis:

This is probably the worst investment you could ever make.  With the mass numbers of animals you have to care for as well as the limited return, this strategy is a no go from the start.

 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While everyone looks at these sales toppers and wonder how they ever make money when they pay so much for these animals, as our return on investment analysis above shows, it’s actually the other way around.  Buying the best genetics you can possibly afford limits your risk and delivers your maximum return. In reality the price difference between the top cattle and the mid-market cattle is actually not large enough.  Remember this analysis is for total return on investment, not overall herd genetic gain.

1. The Complete Package 2. Hedge Your Bets 3. They Could Be Big Time 4. Heifer Hedge Your Bets 5. Go for the Gusto

6. Embryo Hedge Your Bets

Strategy Best 2yr old Two 2 yr olds Two best heifers Four heifers Fifteen best embryos Thirty embryos
Revenue $84,463.50 $41,407.44 $89,056.20 $41,407.44 $89,056.20 $41,407.44
Profit $19,003.20 $(34,513.16) $23,595.90 $(36,513.16) $13,595.90 $(56,513.16)
Risk Low Low Medium Medium High High
Yearly Return On Investment 12% (25)% 12% (20%) 5-25% (18)%
Notes Least risk with a positive reward Biggest loss potential with only limited up side But does have the potential of 24% if both heifers turn out The dream of buying that one that might surprise every one is just that  – a dream.  Genomics has caused that bubble to burst When you factor in that you could have higher conception rates and sale of bulls, this scenario actually has the largest up side, but at the highest risk There is just nothing to say about this. Unless your goal is to improve the overall level of your herd in the shortest amount of time possible.

The bigger question should be whether to buy the best 2 yr. old you can afford, the best heifer, or the best embryos.  The answer  depends more on how fast a return you would like and how much risk you are willing to take.  If you want instant return with the least amount of risk, buy the can’t miss 2 year old.  If you want the maximum return over the long term, buy the best embryos you can get.  And of course if your goals are  somewhere in between, buy the best two heifers you can afford.

The big thing this analysis shows “GO BIG OR GO HOME.”

 

What has your experience been?  Please share in comments box below.

 

 

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

Send this to friend