What does it mean when the #8 proven TPI® sire in the world is unmarketable?

That is the exact question that came up this week, when Pine-Tree Freddie Wright received his first official proven sire evaluation.  It was not because he performed below expectations.  It was not because he did not rank high enough.  Wright is the #8 proven TPI® sire in the world and the highest sire in the top 200 TPI® sires for PL and DPR.  Yet he has not been returned to active service.

Marketing vs Mating Tool?

In the past we have discussed the Merits of TPI® as a marketing tool versus a mating tool, (Read more: TPI™ and LPI – Marketing or Mating Tools?), but here is a circumstance where it may not be either.  Usually, when a sire debuts in the top 10 TPI® sires in the world, the A.I. company marketing him expects to see significant returns on their investment.  Even in the Genomic Era there are still certain markets and segments of the North American breeding industry that will only, or almost only, use proven sires.  Yet Wright will turn out to be a footnote and not the lead story for the December 2014 US Holstein Genetic Evaluations.  Or will he?

To get to the heart of this story, I guess we need to look closer at the pedigree of Pine-Tree Freddie Wright.  Wright is a Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie from Pine-Tree Missy Wanda-ET EX-90, who is a granddaughter of the great Wesswood-HC Rudy Missy-ET TV EX-92 3E GMD DOM.  So Wright is indeed blessed with a very marketable maternal pedigree.

The problem

The problem actually starts with the paternal side of his pedigree.  Despite being the #9 proven TPI® sire in the breed, Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie is a marketing dead weight.  This is scary considering the fact that he is #2 TPI® sire that is 99% reliable for type and production, behind Bookem, and that he has 2 sons in the top 10 TPI® proven sires, and 4 in the top 20. You would think a high ranking sire from such a marketable maternal side and proven sire stack would be marketing gold…but he is not.

The challenge really comes when you start looking closer at his evaluation and how he achieves such a high ranking.  You see, like all Freddie sons, Wright is not very high ranking for his overall conformation improvement.  In fact, he is a negative 0.19 for PTAT and -0.03 for UDC and +0.14 FLC.  Furthermore, the recent Genetic Evaluation base change certainly did not help Wright, as his numbers would have appeared much better before the recent 0.99 base change for PTAT (Read more: US Genetic Evaluation Changes: Are You Keeping Up?).  With a sire ranking as high as Wright, you would think he must have insane production numbers, in order to achieve such a result.  Well again, in Wright’s case, that is not so.  He is only +401 for milk with 28 lbs. of Fat and 20 lbs. of protein.

How does he do it?

With numbers like these you start to wonder, just how does Wright rank so high on the lists?  Well, the answer is simple. He is an extremely impressive 9.6 for Productive Life (PL) and 5.4 for DPR.  This not only ranks him as the highest for both of these traits in the top 200 proven TPI® sires, he is actually the highest PL proven sire in the world, by almost 1.4 points (17%), and is in the top 50 of all proven sires for DPR.  So you would think that, in this age of wanting to breed for longer lived cows (PL) and cows that have high fertility (DPR), a sire like this would be marketing gold…..you would think.

The challenge is Wright is a sire who finds no market segment to love him.  His -0.19 PTAT makes him a challenge for type for high index breeders as he is sure to lower perceived type improvement and, coming in  under the magic 1,000 lbs. for milk and 48 lbs. of combined fat and protein, means that production focused producers will not touch him.  Hence, the reason he has not been returned to active service.   Wright has no one to love him.

Is it an issue with the formula?

This then brings us to the question, “Do we have the TPI®   formula all wrong?  Since the #8 TPI®   proven sire is unmarketable?”  To that I say, “ No!”  Despite the recent adjustment in the formula to actually increase focus on production, you will still have sires like Wright achieve success.  As is evident by #7 proven TPI® sire, DE-SU FREDDIE DENIM 646-ET.  Who actually is lower than Wright for all major traits except for the new Feed Efficiency.

The issue here is as much perception as it is genetic advancement.  You see, while many view TPI® as a marketing tool, it is first and foremost a tool for genetic advancement, and despite Wright’s shortcomings for type evaluation and production, he does offer significant genetic advancement in health and fertility.  In fact, he may be the greatest proven sire in the breed for improving longevity.  The challenge is that most breeders do not realize that, if you are truly going to breed for longevity, you can’t just look at type evaluations, as it has been proven that extreme classifying cows are not always the best example of long lived productive cows (Read more: SHE AIN’T PRETTY – SHE JUST MILKS THAT WAY!).  If you analyze Wright’s, numbers, they tell you that he will effectively give you 1 more lactation than using an average sire (A PL of 9.6 equates to 288 more days of milking per daughter).  So despite his lower type numbers, the Wrights do last and, unlike other sires in the top 10 TPI® sires, he is not a negative for production, so that extra lactation will in fact be a very productive one.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

One of the challenges for Wright may just be the fact that he is at the wrong AI unit.  That is not to say there is anything wrong with Select Sires.  In fact, it’s the exact opposite.  Select is enjoying a wealth of genetic results lately.  They have the top 3 TPI sires, 5 of the top 10 and 35% of the top genomic sires in the breed today.  If Wright had been at any other AI unit, he probably would have been returned to service, as is the case for #7 TPI®   sire Denim, who has lower numbers for most traits and has a similar sire stack. The TPI® formula is doing exactly as it should. It is identifying those animals that have the most to offer in terms of genetic gain. It’s time for the marketplace to understand this and get over their hang-ups and stop letting stigmas scare them away from using certain sires.


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