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Archive for Daughter Fertility

Does Your Breeding Program Save You Labor?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

In breeding circles we seldom talk about labor costs or how the bulls we use affect the ratio of milk cows to workers. With labor costing between 15% (robotic or very large herds paying minimum wage) to 25% (small show oriented herds with higher skilled staff) of total on-farm costs, we are talking about a cost item that has a moderate to high opportunity for cost savings. So how does genetics factor into those savings? Let’s do some calculating on that and see where we end up.

Have an Open Mind

It likely goes without saying, that as a Bullvine subscriber you are looking for the new and novel. However when it comes to total labor cost, we must all be prepared to change our ways. And the first habit to change could well be how we select the bulls we use. Labor intensive animals or animals that do not fit into group management need not apply for work on bottom line focused farms. If the marketing of show animals is your business then perhaps this article is not for you. However if your business is the efficient production of fat and protein from your farm with perhaps some sale of surplus breeding animals then you are the audience this article is written to stimulate. (Read more: FACT VS. FANTASY: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection and From Fantasy to Reality – Top sires to address herd culling problems)

Know and Adhere to Minimums

To save time and to achieve your objectives you are advised to have a genetic plan for you herd (Read more: What’s the plan?). Types up your plan as it relates to bulls indexes and post it by your semen / embryo tank. That way you can quickly show any genetic supplier what your requirements are. That way no semen or embryos need to go into your tank that do not follow your plan. Minimums could be something like 40 pounds of fat, 30 pounds of protein, DPR 1.0, UDC 1.0, FLC 1.0, SCS 2.90, PL 4.0, NM$ 650, gTPI 2000,  …etc.  I leave it to you to convert the numbers into your corresponding values should you reside outside the USA.

Determining Your Minimums

Since sires used account for 90% of the genetic advancement in most production focused herd, the following thoughts are provided for readers to apply when considering sire indexes and labor required.  The same rationale applies to embryos and live animals purchases.


Poor reproduction takes a big toll on dairy farms and considerable extra time and effort for difficult calvings, treating metritis cases, breeding more than once, heat checking, treating infertile cows and entering the information into the herd management software. The Bullvine estimates that 10% of the labor force could be tied up with issues relating to poor reproduction. Extensive genetic information is available on sires on calving ease (direct & maternal), daughter pregnancy rates / daughter fertility, and semen conception rate. In a two hundred cow milking herd wouldn’t it be a real profit plus if one worker in ten could be eliminated because the bulls used were genetically superior for reproduction traits?

Some breeders would like it to go even further as they would like to know which sires produce heifers that come into heat by one year of age. But sadly that data, if it exists, does not make it to DPR or DHI and therefore no genetic evaluations can be calculated.


Two primary areas immediately come to mind where genetics affect the labor associated with milking. These are the actual time to milk and the time to treat cows with mastitis. Cows are not uniformly the same. Cows faster than average are no problem but slow cows slow down their side of the parlour or they must take a second turn around the rotary. Of course slow milkers cut back on the number of cows one robot can accommodate. But it does not stop there. Very short teats, rear teats too close, poor milking temperament and overly deep and meaty udders all add to the effort and time that workers must put in at EVERY milking. Two minutes longer to milk every cow in a tie stall barn can almost double the hours to milk and in a parlour the extra two minutes for a portion of the herd can add an hour to each milking. Remember it isn’t only milking speed but it is also getting the milking unit to stay on short teats and the treating of cows with mastitis and having to keep their milk separated. Every worker puts in 2000 hours per year on the job. Sires that produce daughters that take an extra two minutes at each milking in 3x 200 cow herds can require the expense of an extra worker very quickly.


Breeders recognize that lameness is a big expense for their farms as well as being an animal welfare issue that consumers are increasingly aware of.  Part of the increased expense is the extra labor that is required to treat lame animals and move lame animals to and from milking. Feet and pastern strength are not very heritable but if there are enough daughters in a bull’s proof there is very good information to use in selecting sires. Another index that is also useful when selecting bulls to use is rear legs rear view. It is not simple to determine the added hours it takes to deal with lame cows but in some problematic herds it could add up to many hours per week.

Setting Your Minimums

Check the sires you have been using. Do they qualify as labor savers? If they don’t then perhaps the best move to make is to dump their semen and get semen from bulls that qualify as labor savers. To be within the top 17% of the breed for traits that affect labor required, bulls must have the following minimum indexes:

VEAZLAND MARION-ET99329265865-0.42-0.250
FUSTEAD EMORY BLITZ-ET81127601925-0.71-0.538
KELSTEIN OLIVER154926567985-0.16-0.031
ENSENADA TABOO PLANET-ET262526019283-0.01-0.029
MORNINGVIEW-MT-I LAKEVIEW151625916783-0.26-0.031
DE-SU GILLESPY-ET275425577469-0.18-0.1214
B-HIDDENHILLS MAR MARMAX-ET130325574572-0.43-0.1-1
STANTONS SILENT79625313462-0.5-0.17-3
BRAEDALE BIGBEN-1082511737-0.74-0.383
VIORIS SLEEMAN193924807189-0.170.066
DRIFTY-HOLLOW MASTODON138523974455-0.39-0.23
BONTEMPS-I ASHTON145123554957-0.33-0.179
ETAZON ADDISON19122641568-0.61-0.06-5
REGANCREST LONGTIME156522442860-0.47-0.1211
DA-SO-BURN DAMASK-ET10822422438-0.51-0.3-1
FREUREHAVEN NIAGARA2665222693770.110.038
BO-IRISH ALTON-ET191522227177-0.090.031
PETHERTON DARBY53422121141-0.61-0.260
JEWELED-ACRES SHARKY-ET179021847881-0.030.08-3
MAINSTREAM CROWN-ET18721772410-0.48-0.515
GINARY ROCKEFELLER58921654434-0.31-0.316
MR ELITE-ET51521232346-0.5-0.21
MORSAN ROSETTE83021053640-0.37-0.252
DELABERGE LAZARO5372100-540-0.71-0.24-2
MY-JOHN DENBY-ET85020794552-0.27-0.14-3
STANTONS ENTER121220672050-0.5-0.153
CO-OP LONDON COSMO-ET146720611160-0.56-0.070
RICECREST MURPHY-ET150620606065-0.14-0.01-1
RICH-J SOSA-ET40420572035-0.5-0.28-2
SANDY-VALLEY BOLTON-ET216720497358-0.02-0.0710
GEN-I-BEQ LAVAL166320485857-0.14-0.087
COMESTAR EL TOREADOR126120344640-0.26-0.2310
SANDY-VALLEY BRISK-ET21320313341-0.37-0.22-5
LA PRESENTATION CHARLY-55920191042-0.57-0.21-12
GLEN-TOCTIN LASHBAX-ET151220163256-0.38-0.085
COMESTAR LITTORAL8572015442-0.61-0.26
HORSTYLE MAXWELL-ET123820113871-0.310.035
LE-O-LA EMERSON CLASSIC-TW151520062256-0.46-0.085
MY-JOHN ROB-ET130020053578-0.340.092
COMESTAR LOUDANO61220042742-0.41-0.211
EMERALD-ACR-SA T-BAXTER163919996840-0.04-0.227
WELCOME GARTER-ET96219905152-0.19-0.121
COXLYN CAVAN69019902640-0.42-0.213
ALTAPPEL GLENDOR1657197471450.01-0.164
GILLETTE WALLACE143419714344-0.26-0.188
GILLETTE WHITEFACE143419714344-0.26-0.188
PREMIER-G BLACKSMITH-ET158519675454-0.15-0.096
EMERALD-ACR-VR CHASER-ET101919603356-0.34-0.07-7
JNP-ATH-MOR MOSAIC-ET77419454243-0.27-0.181
BENNER JUDO1267194483430.12-0.184
LEHOUX FESTIVAL122619342742-0.41-0.197
SUNNYLODGE SEYMORE33119341329-0.51-0.290
GEPAQUETTE MESQUIN129219314758-0.22-0.053
KARONA FANTASY202119275564-0.120.016
MISTER MADAGASCAR69419273440-0.32-0.21
STANTONS PRONGER-6351912119-0.63-0.370
GILLETTE WINDOVER88218962026-0.44-0.319
RALMA-RH TRUMPET-ET111718945537-0.13-0.225
BEYERCREST JUDD-ET71118882328-0.41-0.292
MOHRFIELD FORM TRADEMARK-ET1341881028-0.61-0.290
LADYS-MANOR LANCE-ET11718781629-0.47-0.28-1
SCHULTZ BIRMAN-ET1058186582500.12-0.09-4
MR MILLION MEGA-MAN-ET73318622425-0.39-0.313
THORNSPYC TOYBOY901857820-0.54-0.354
CRESCENTMEAD-A MOSES-ET-43918521126-0.51-0.29-9
MACO FRED1934184978700.110.071
PINE-SHELTER LARAMEE MOR-ET5041849-540-0.63-0.178
MS POSIBILITY PRODUCER-ET110918454643-0.19-0.153
GILLETTE WOLF71318353021-0.32-0.334
GILLETTE WYMAN71318353021-0.32-0.334
PALMERCREST BLITZ BLADE-ET7381834220-0.57-0.3412
SANDY-VALLEY BLISS-ET129618282343-0.39-0.148
SANDY-VALLEY BAILEY-ET129918215851-0.07-0.086
HA-HO CUBBY MANFRED-ET127518165054-0.16-0.04-7
POLY-KOW ALLTOP-ET165018154649-0.19-0.097
STANTONS SCHOLASTIC123318144662-0.170.011
SPRINGHILL-OH ELLIPSIS-ET36618141022-0.5-0.323
LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ET3461180895940.260.2812
COMESTAR LOHAN108818045132-0.14-0.235
WALLACEVIEW PATTON1443179466430.01-0.144
REGANCREST-JB MONTY-ET7581793729-0.51-0.252
BLOSSOMDAIRY CALVIN50017853737-0.25-0.19-5
JOCKO BESN117017844664-0.180.05-1
LADYS-MANOR AGRESSIVE-ET37317804444-0.18-0.121
ROCKYMOUNTAIN LOCKMASTER137717754834-0.15-0.217
GILLETTE LEWISTON131917754646-0.18-0.1110
SUMMERSHADE ICECOLD80317733945-0.23-0.12-1
BRYHILL LAKDAR1056176868400.04-0.163
PLUSHANSKI FANTOM-ET5731761-1823-0.74-0.297
NEU-WAY ADMAN-ET45317591358-0.450-4
GINARY BRAD179017574447-0.18-0.098
GENO MARITIME1867174567500.04-0.068
GEPAQUETTE CYCLONE26117452526-0.36-0.271
PARADISE-D GILMORE-ET162617425050-0.12-0.067
MORNINGVIEW HASKEL1784172677570.130.015
GILLETTE CARNEGIE14017212645-0.33-0.10
MAINSTREAM MANIFOLD2234172083700.180.122
MAPEL WOOD LAIRD169917205145-0.13-0.14
JEANLU LANIER74117173338-0.26-0.16-3
BO-IRISH FRANKLIN-ET36517171834-0.39-0.191
STANTONS BUBBA69817155944-0.04-0.11-3
GREENLANE SLOAN133617113949-0.21-0.060
PLUSHANSKI ATMEN-ET110717072721-0.33-0.319
BENNER SERGIO50217042536-0.33-0.17-4
PFAFFS SOCCER-ET-8517044549-0.16-0.07-5
MAR-BIL BOLTON GUNFIRE-ET158816995342-0.09-0.127
CREEK DORNE-ET123416984125-0.18-0.266
RALMA FILMSTAR154116904739-0.15-0.155
DUDOC PASTEL-8016901637-0.42-0.16-1
BO-IRISH CHIVE-ET84216892047-0.38-0.071
HONEYCREST ELEGANT-ET166016854846-0.13-0.087
LARCREST CAPTURE-ET60516844744-0.12-0.09-3
SANDY-VALLEY BAUER-ET128016814834-0.12-0.188
BADGER ONESHOT-ET121216802552-0.32-0.021
O-BEE JURYMAN-ET129516796149-0.01-0.053
SILDAHL AIRRAID1831167681400.18-0.137
BENNER JEREMIAD221167462460.01-0.07-4
GENERVATIONS BALANCE1496167165460.05-0.078
HENKESEEN HILLCREST-ET2201669438-0.5-0.141
STANTONS STEWARD106916645750-0.02-0.040
YROLGAULT LUCIUS1353166360270.01-0.249
MARYLINE OGAR-ET8661661-854-0.610-1
HAMMINGVIEW WOLVERINE21616602223-0.34-0.263
ROCKYMOUNTAIN LONGSUIT102416574442-0.14-0.118
GG ADDISON SATIRE124116556061-0.010.061
MICHETTE MEDIEVAL2601654531-0.5-0.24
BRIGEEN GIVENCHY-ET1048165360340-0.170
CHARPENTIER PHARAON86916452034-0.36-0.172
DARITA MIDNIGHT-ET157316443856-0.20.012
WALHOWDON MARSHALL HARRY-ET134416442956-0.280.025
APPLOUIS JET STREAM-ET159916365256-0.070.022
CHARPENTIER ALTAMADARA104316345039-0.08-0.133
RJR CLARITY-ET1151163260350-0.160
GINARY JACOB90816312129-0.35-0.217
BRAEDALE JAFAR89816304748-0.11-0.040
LADYS-MANOR DOMINION81516172838-0.3-0.134
DELABERGE LOGAN37916173452-0.23-0.02-3
SUMMERSHADE ICICLE-1671616-935-0.62-0.16-7
SMITHDEN BUCKSTAR11761615635-0.48-0.166
BUTOISE BAHAMAS210616124869-0.10.137
MR ELLISON138416073744-0.19-0.076
REGANCREST-BH TS DELMIK-ET94316063839-0.19-0.121
CLEROLI ALTALATEX1392160471420.12-0.090
JAUQUET-SOUKUP CONTACT-ET33715981631-0.39-0.19-5
CEDARWAL APTITUDE-715983134-0.25-0.16-1
PLUSHANSKI RASBOI-ET105215942736-0.29-0.146
STANTONS EMAIL100415945138-0.07-0.124
GARONNE LE FORT-4601590-2814-0.77-0.331
WESSELCREST AIRBORNE-ET193915843147-0.23-0.049
FUSTEAD VITAL SIGN-ET-391584146-0.51-0.06-7
ROCKYMOUNTAIN LIMITED9691583142-0.52-0.15
OLMAR B W M JIM47615832426-0.31-0.214
DELABERGE DESPATIE179015823744-0.17-0.0611
VYECROFT OAK CREEK103515803243-0.22-0.079
GOLDEN-OAKS ALTAJAXON-ET137615795577-0.020.21-4
MAGOR ESSENCE-ET68515795255-0.050.02-5
HILLS-END SHOTTLE CHANCE-ET129715771337-0.42-0.126
TESK-HOLM M BLUE-ET-77515722425-0.31-0.23-9
GEPAQUETTE REMBRANT111715701044-0.43-0.074
AMMON FARM DYSON-ET-3315681536-0.38-0.14-1
POTH-ACRES GIBBY-ET136215674954-0.080.026
NOR-BERT CAVENDISH-ET123715674751-0.0905
RICECREST LANTZ-ET19115652257-0.320.06-7
HARTFORD MYRON-ET79815642646-0.27-0.05-1
BRAINWAVE WARNING-18315621229-0.41-0.19-5
DUDOC RADIUS191815574244-0.14-0.066
COMESTAR LAUTHIERY138515554346-0.11-0.058
R-E-W BLOCKBUSTER-ET112815544042-0.15-0.074
MORNINGVIEW JIMMY93015542843-0.27-0.062
GILLETTE WINDSTORM56615541535-0.37-0.137
PENNVIEW INJUSTICE66215532722-0.27-0.253
ROBTHOM MOSCOW-ET10531551829-0.43-0.196
BROWNKING BRADEN-ET69515513453-0.190.02-4
DESLACS MCQUEEN171815495660-0.010.074
GILLETTE COLE41615482918-0.25-0.284
LYLEHAVEN GAYLORD-5961548-1527-0.65-0.21-5
LESPERRON MACLEOD155115455261-0.040.084
TERRICK RAINDROP-ET2841540641-0.46-0.08-1
REGANCREST CHINOOK-ET80315392633-0.28-0.1510
STANTONS SENARIO40715374651-0.10.01-1
DEMARC RANCH186015344555-0.10.045
LYNNCREST HOOVER-ET45615332431-0.29-0.162
PINE-TREE NAPOLEON-ET59215324538-0.1-0.1-2
DELABERGE LABYRINTHE90315291641-0.36-0.086
MORNINGVIEW ERAGON-ET1754152554500-0.016
PINE-TREE KJ SHOLLIE-ET96915254641-0.09-0.093
RICECREST EMMETT-ET134115244171-0.130.180
GILLETTE JENKINS32915213132-0.23-0.15-2
STANTONS LINTEL-2461519-329-0.52-0.18-2
BOSDALE PROMO143015184043-0.14-0.0610
PARADISE-R ROEBUCK2615171318-0.38-0.27-8
O-BEE MANFRED JUSTICE-ET2392151582780.240.25-2
HARTLINE TREY-ET142815143044-0.24-0.066
ALTA SAXON1606151176380.2-0.18
RICHESSE SAP1206151064330.07-0.15-2
GRANDEUR ALTATEBOW-ET169715093641-0.17-0.089
CHASIN-RAINBOWS SEAN-RED-ET-1351507642-0.45-0.06-12
SANDY-VALLEY TOYOTA-ET124515064042-0.15-0.060
VISION-GEN DORION-ET143615045239-0.02-0.097
GILLETTE WIZARD124715023836-0.15-0.116
DIAMOND-OAK FROSTY-ET1925149968560.120.061
WAUREGAN-I C MORRIE2161498842-0.42-0.061
WA-DEL HAYDEN-ET2058149369490.130.017
LANGS-TWIN-B STANLEY-ET107614922147-0.3-0.0211
LYLEHAVEN GODFATHER-ET-6741486-1646-0.64-0.03-8
WOODMARSH GUINESS-ET80714851534-0.38-0.144
B-CREST OMAN STOMPIN-ET107914841451-0.370.026
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GILLETTE WILDTHING151414833347-0.19-0.029
GILLETTE WILLROCK151414833347-0.19-0.029
KERNDT-PREMIER BUTZE-ET1342148258410.02-0.079
LEXVOLD LUKE HERSHEL-ET21914811436-0.37-0.11-3
LONDONDALE LMAN MAGNUM-ET3581479436-0.45-0.12-4
ALLWICK PARADE-2041479933-0.4-0.13-6
B-Y-U-I ELEVATOR111614761843-0.32-0.057
MR MAILMAN-ET8221475-1323-0.6-0.229
CLAYNOOK KELSO123514743952-0.120.034
RAYPEL NORDIQUE-12151474-1820-0.66-0.25-9
HAMMINGVIEW STINGRAY1289147055450.01-0.038
DONNANDALE LEVI-32514701743-0.35-0.05-13
RONLAND JUNEAU6551469-823-0.56-0.213
CRACKHOLM COMESTAR PAYMASTER-10841468-1829-0.65-0.17-7
B-Y-U MANDEL BOMBAY-ET401467-141-0.51-0.06-6
SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET2269146464320.11-0.1413
UFM-DUBS OLEGANT-ET221314644449-0.090.019
LA PRESENTATION LUXOR16314601037-0.41-0.11
PINE-TREE LIVONIA-ET73814593135-0.19-0.11-3
LADYS-MANOR RIGOROUS-ET64514594828-0.04-0.170
STANTONS VISION124614584939-0.03-0.085
OPSAL SLADE-ET57614583637-0.18-0.09-1
TAILOR MADE INVESTOR8314572523-0.25-0.220
SANDY-VALLEY FIREBACK-ET146614553060-0.210.1112
PINE-TREE MOLINE-ET68414552038-0.3-0.080
HENKESEEN ATTENTION20514552655-0.250.07-4
DE-SU BURNISH-ET1526145377350.21-0.114
BRAEDALE MR GREY CUP45314521237-0.37-0.093
SILDAHL BW DUTCH BOY-ET70014502150-0.30.02-3
CREEK DESTINY-ET103114472841-0.22-0.065
MAPEL WOOD ALTADESTINY89614464850-0.040.031
WILLSONA SHAMUS63914463230-0.19-0.156
ALTA WAND97814452346-0.27-0.015
WESSELCREST ALTAAIRSHOW-ET141414433036-0.21-0.16
CREEK BITES-ET18814431953-0.30.05-7
BDGGENETICS ENCINO-ET1698144056550.040.072
CEDARWAL RAIDER2841439-530-0.52-0.15-1
CLOVERHILLFM LOFTY145914383942-0.14-0.059
MURANDA BWM LEADER-ET1510143759360.06-0.095
GILLETTE WHY NOT1184143771240.16-0.28
OCONNORS JAY2510143567760.130.2411
MR TRI-STAR BOOKER-ET80914343941-0.12-0.056
CLAYNOOK ATOM33114341430-0.34-0.141
REGANCREST-MWS MAGNA-ET66114311222-0.36-0.222
VELTHUIS LOU SPECTRUM105714301639-0.33-0.087
RALMA FLAG-ET90914301232-0.37-0.138
CHASIN-RAINBOWS JADON-ET185214274751-0.040.0411
CANYON-BREEZE HRL ARTIC-ET85614271247-0.370.014
SANDY-VALLEY ALEJANDRO-ET96514232844-0.23-0.026
GILLETTE WELLBRED595142358370.05-0.080
STANTONS SHAVER33014232233-0.28-0.121
ERBCREST BOLTON MONTY1492142267450.15-0.024
GEN-I-BEQ ALTABUZZER2148142175440.22-0.028
DIAMOND-OAK BARTON-ET1621142059470.070.011
R-E-W BUCKEYE-ET114314193337-0.17-0.083
GILLETTE WHATS UP111014194222-0.08-0.215
KRULLCREST-H WOLFGANG-ET111914164841-0.04-0.066
REGANCREST MONTELL-ET71614121527-0.32-0.173
WARGO-ACRES MIRAGE-ET47914122221-0.27-0.211
STANBRO PROGRAM138314091239-0.36-0.066
KERNDTWAY HOWIE-ET69114092026-0.28-0.176
BARNKAMPER ALTABENNIE136714043746-0.1408
WEST PORT MOBY RED816140452460.010-1
LA PRESENTATION SAROIS-24214031946-0.30-10
TSDF FAME-ET68814011616-0.32-0.25-1
CHASIN-RAINBOWS AUDITOR-ET73014003445-0.16-0.01-1
ROCHER SHAKER-RED-ET31914003740-0.14-0.05-3
WAUREGAN-I MAESTRO45113984946-0.010-2
ALPINA REVENUE69513962039-0.27-0.07-4
SKIPWELL COLLIER78113952633-0.21-0.117
COGENT COURIER1041395354-0.440.06-7
STERNDALE LIQUEUR ET142413924542-0.06-0.0310
PENNVIEW INTRUDER-15013922726-0.22-0.171
VELTHUIS S V B SAMPSON160613914351-0.070.042
COMESTAR LITTLE ROCK8681390643-0.42-0.032
MORNINGVIEW SUNFIRE4113891834-0.31-0.11-3
COMESTAR LAUSHERIF-10721389-1319-0.58-0.22-6
END-ROAD PVF BOLIVER-ET142413885056-0.010.092
VELVET-VIEW-KJ SOCRATES-ET1263138860290.08-0.143
STRAUSSDALE SUNDANCE-ET123613883945-0.11-0.016
HARTLINE FOWLER-ET1739138761360.09-0.087
WEST PORT ARRON DOON MALTBY P110913873642-0.13-0.040
MONDIAL BLANCO ET7261386-217-0.48-0.257
WALLACEVIEW ALADDIN1435138566610.150.134
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DROLIE DEFROST-1931295-1327-0.54-0.13-3
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LITTLE RIVER SHENSTONE-5991265-917-0.5-0.22-9
EXPRESS LESPERRON DAYLIVE-5181263-2417-0.64-0.22
MR MIDNIGHT-ET74012622937-0.17-0.054

The Bullvine Bottom Line

On December 3rd new bull indexes will be released. Life on the farm has the potential to require less labor or fewer labor intensive jobs if you select sires that SAVE LABOR. December 3rd is less than two weeks away. It is time to start re-writing the genetic plan for your herd.

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Fertility: You Get What You Breed For

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

How often have you heard a 4H leader, FFA member, classifier or show judge say a heifer or cow must have slope from her hips to her pins and be wide in the pins because that’s what we need for good fertility? Yes we have all heard that many times. But is it true? Could it be that the Holstein bloodlines we have selected were poorer for fertility than other bloodlines we left behind half a century ago? And that rump conformation has a low correlation with fertility.

A Colorful Opinion

Something we can all agree on is that the fertility levels in our herds, the world over, are not what breeders would like them to be. I well remember just a year ago when I had a discussion with an old time Jersey breeder. True to form he was telling this Holstein guy that Holstein breeders have ruined the breed. Sure higher butterfat and protein yields and udders much higher off the ground were great moves but why the excessive stature, very flat and deep rear rib and the demand that animals be tall in the front end when nature did not make them that way? “Jersey cows don’t need to have sloping rumps in order to quickly get back in-calf. So why do Holsteins need sloping rumps?” His bottom line was that by going for the tall skinny cow syndrome we have selected against reproductively sound females. His concluding statement was “You are breeding cows not runway models.” Think about it, shorter, rounder cows that may give a little less milk but get in-calf quicker are very likely preferred by milk producers to the tall, deep rear rib, walk uphill ones.

Have we won a Little but Lost a Lot?

Have we selected our Holsteins for the ones that do not quickly get back in-calf? Is it possible that our breeding strategies have taken us in a wrong direction when female fertility is frequently the biggest cow problem that breeders have? (Read more: How Healthy Are Your Cows?)

Certainly over the past half century the average production of Holsteins has doubled. And yes in the past decade we are seeing more outstanding scoring (type classification) cows. And the winners at the shows are super cows with awesome mammary systems.

However whether it is genetics, nutrition or management, our calving intervals are longer and pregnancy rates are perhaps half what they were forty years ago. As well with the need for breeders to focus today on profitability there is the need to replace high cost manual labour with technology and there are moves ahead pointing to less use of drugs and medicines for food safety reasons. Therefore we need to find some way to put reproduction efficiency back into the Holstein cow. And do it by selection rather than by cross-breeding.

Skinny at Odds with Conception

Research and breeder experience has brought to our attention that cows that have above average body conditioning get back in-calf quicker and with less trouble than cows that sacrifice their body condition due to high yields, poor nutrition, inadequate transition cow feeding, poor conformation, … or maybe some combination of all of those.

The Billion Dollar Question

So I ask. “Now that we have sire and cow indexes for Daughter Pregnancy Rate (USA) and Daughter Fertility and Body Condition Score (Canada) are breeders using those indexes in their Breeding Programs?”

Bulls That Get Used

The Canadian Dairy Network, last week, published the thirty Holstein sires with the most daughters registered in Canada in 2012 (Read more: Canadian A.I. Market Share and Most Popular Sires for 2012) accounting for 40% of the total registrations. The remaining 60% were sired by 5900 other bulls. The Bullvine decided to study in some depth the 20 sires with the most registered daughters in Canada in 2012. Those twenty sired 35% of the females registered which should be a good benchmark for where the breed is heading.

Table 1 Sire Comparison – 2012 Daughters Born vs. 2011 Top Sires Available

GroupLPIMilk (kg)Fat (kg / %)Protein (kg / %)CONFMSF&LHerdLifeDFSCSUdepthCA
20 Bulls-most registered 20122075103160 /+.21%41 / +.06%15128105982.894s102
20 Bulls - top in 20112392139367/+.16%55 / +.07%101091081022.874s104

Table 1 compares the twenty sires with the most registered daughters in 2012 to the top twenty Canadian proven LPI sires available to Canadian breeders in 2011. The short answers to the comparisons are: breeders use sires with lower LPIs, less production, more type, less fertility and less Herd Life than the very top LPI sires that A.I. organizations marketed. The shocking truth is that ten of the top twenty most used sires were below average for their Daughter Fertility (DF) indexes. One of those twenty sires had a DF index of only 88 while the top two sires were rated at 107 & 106. High (top 10%) but not overly high.

In case you are wondering if this is a Canadian phenomenon you can refer to a recent Bullvine article (Read more: Top Sires North American Breeders Are Using). The sires with most registered daughters in the USA have the same deficiency in their genetic merit for female fertility. Six of the top ten bulls with the most registered daughters in the middle half of April 2013 were below average for Daughter Pregnancy Rate. Different country same story.

Let’s take the Bull by the Horns

Even though we have only had fertility indexes on bulls for a few years, we as breeders are not using them to genetically improve female fertility in our herds. And it likely goes beyond that – are our A.I. organizations using them when selecting the parents of the next generation of bulls? After all over 90% of the genetic improvement in a herd comes from the sires used.

Fertility Sires

Sires do exist that top the April 2013 North American TPI™ and LPI listings and have fertility ratings in the top 25% of the Holstein breed. Breeders wishing to genetically improve their herds for female fertility should consider the following sires:

Table 2 Top Sires with High Fertility – April 2013

Table 2 Top Sires with High Fertility – April 2013

Click on image for enlargement

Of course we all want to know what we will have to give up to get the female fertility. Further analysis of the twenty-four bulls listed in Table 2 shows that only significant concession would be in ‘show type’ for eight of the twelve top proven sires.  All bulls on this listing have above average indexes for PTAT or CONF.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Half a century of breeding for increased yields, taller and more angularity cows have taken their toll on the fertility in our herds. Female fertility indexes are available for both males and females. With genomics these indexes became much more accurate. Now is the time to put the genetics for female fertility back into our modern Holsteins. It is not a “Perhaps or Maybe”, it is a “MUST”!

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.





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


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.





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