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2013ectRecently I read the most disturbing Letter to the Editor that I have read in a long time.  It was produced by lr Gerard Scheepens.  The concerning  part was that it was written by someone working  for an  A.I. company  (K.I. Samen) and was published by a dairy publication (Holstein World) trying to pander to those who spend the most money with them instead of thinking about how accurate the letter was.  In typical Bullvine fashion we decided to dispel the lies, miss-truths and false publications, so that you, the dedicated breeder, can see through the BS and understand what is actually happening.

Accurate Prediction or Wishing on a dream

In the article they make the following comment “Looking at the results of the genomic bulls with daughters in production you can see a devastating truth; nearly all of the bulls drop and drop a lot.”  The funny part, but not surprising is that they don’t back up this “devastating truth” with numbers.  Having painted a bleak picture, they just provide generalities and expect you to accept them as truth.  As the Bullvine has published several times in the past (Read more: How Much Can You Trust Genomic Young Sires? and The Truth About Genomic Indexes – “show me” that they work!), genomically evaluated bulls with 65% reliable gLPIs, breeders can expect 95% of the time that their official proof will be within 670 LPI points (within about 18-20%) (Please note that with change in Canadian LPI formula this number is more like 400 LPI points).  This means  that we can be 95% sure that the current top gLPI sire, SILVERRIDGE V EXTREME, will be higher than +3173 LPI, once he has his official progeny proven index that is over 90% reliable and that would make him the highest active proven sire in Canada.  Yes genomic young sires do on average drop below their original predicted values, but, they are on average still higher than the proven sires of that time.  This clearly means that they are a better option than the proven bulls available at that time.  It’s called genetic advancement.

Columbus disease

Didn’t Christopher Columbus colonize the new world?  Wouldn’t America have been different if Columbus had not dared to try new things?  If bold thinkers like Columbus had not set out to explore and try new things the world would still be reported to the editor as flat?  You see in order to advance we have to try new things.  The benefits of a technology such as genomics is that there are educated risks.  They are not sure fire guaranteed, they are educated risks.  Even using a 99% reliable sire will not give you the same exact result every time.  Fear mongers who are afraid of change like to throw out things like bulls’ proofs dropping.  Well, guess what people, so do proven bulls’ proofs.  Those proofs just don’t get noticed as much and no one is using it to put fear into breeders for no reason other than personal profit.  Mother always said that upon hearing outrageous criticism, “Always consider where it’s coming from!”


I don’t profess to be a mathematician or a geneticist, though there is one fact I know for sure.  The more accurate the information you have to work from the more accurate the result.  Genomics is not a perfect science, but it is more accurate than just parent averages alone.  You think bull’s proofs drop now.  Look what used to happen before the introduction of genomics.  (Read more: Has Genomics Knocked Out the Hot House Herds? And The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling).  If someone runs a person over with a car, who is to blame?  Is it the car manufacturer’s fault for making a machine that can go faster than we can walk and larger than a bike?  Or is it the driver’s fault for using the machine in other than the intended way.  You see genomics in itself is not solely to blame when the resulting calf does not live up to expectations.  (Read more: Who’s to Blame? Why is there a lack of accountability in the Dairy Genetics Marketplace)

Real change is needed

In the published letter to the editor the author highlights the issue of inbreeding, something that has been an issue for a very long time.  The thing is you need to put inbreeding into perspective.  First data from the US reported that the current cost of inbreeding over an average cow’s lifetime was US$24.  (Read more: INBREEDING: Does Genomics Affect the Balancing Act?) That means that a 1% reduction in progeny inbreeding (valued at around $5 per cow).  But what if the genetics of that animal also means that their production will drop $10?  Inbreeding needs to be kept in perspective.  Inbreeding is only an issue when you don’t manage and account for it.  (Read more:  6 Steps to Understanding & Managing Inbreeding in Your Herd and Twenty Things Every Dairy Breeder Should Know About Inbreeding) There are times when certain levels of inbreeding can work well.  You just need to understand all the factors.

Sire and son

In the article it makes the point that “O Man has 253 sons with daughters tested in the US and only 5 of them score higher than him on Net Merit.”  It is funny that for any point you can find one single stat that you might think (or hope) proves your point.  In actual fact   you need to look at performance over a whole population not case by case.  It’s like saying 2% of the population died from the use of penicillin, what about the 98% of the population who are still living as a result of its use?

“150% more progress in what?  for whom?”

The number of times the author of this article shows an inability to understand bull proofs is a major concern.  In the article he makes the following comments “The top 10 NM bulls from August 2009 with daughters had an average of 702 NM.  The top 10 NM genomic bulls without daughters had an average of 814.  The genomic bulls without daughters had a 14% lead.  In April 2013 the average of the bulls with daughter group dropped to 607 around 13.5%.  However the genomic group fell to 515 NM which leads to a drop of 37%.  Furthermore, the proven group, which was 106 NM behind now leads with 92 points NM.  Where is the speed, and where is the progress?”  Again there are two main issues here.  First can I introduce you to something that is called a base change?  Secondly,   the author is again using a selective group versus the whole population.  There are published results from across the whole population that shows that the actual rate of genetics advancement has increased rapidly with the use of genomics.

rate of genetic gain young sire

Cows are not pigs

Can pigs fly?  The author’s point about how cows are not pigs is almost as irrelevant as the price of eggs in Winnipeg.  Yes in pigs the female has a larger role in genetic advancement than the female in cattle (Though the use of IVF on top females in dairy cows is quickly changing that).  The point the author makes is about how cows need to also reproduce in addition to produce.  That is why we have traits like daughter fertility, calving ability, daughter calving ability, calving ease, maternal calving ease, daughter pregnancy rate, sire still birth and daughter still birth.  This has nothing to do with genomics.  It has to do with which traits we use to evaluate animals.

Variation is essential

“The new major impact bull always has an original pedigree”, according to the author of the letter.  Really?  Was Durham that unique (Elton x Chief Mark)?  Shottle (Mtoto x Aerostar)?  Goldwyn (James x Storm)?  Man-O-Man (Justice x Aaron)?  I think more time, research and education should be taken by the author.  It is much needed before making comments that have no facts to back them up.

Reliability or accuracy?!?

For about 30 seconds I almost agreed with the author on this one point…then they fell off the rails and I was back to how off the mark this individual is.  Yes bias is an issue (Read more: Preferential Treatment – The Bull Proof Killer).  But then the author’s points fall off the train when he says “The accuracy of the breeding is way too low to take that kind of chance.  Accuracy of the proof will become more important than the reliability of the proof.”  That logic would then say that we never use an un-proven sire ever again.  Then where would our genetic advancement be?

How to stop a runaway train?

And then the author himself slams the brakes on his own runaway line of reasoning!  The author categorically states that as an industry we should “spend the money by improving the animal model, spend on better evaluations, less costly and more effectively.”  The simple reply:  Isn’t that exactly what genomics is designed to do?  And is doing?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Since launching the Bullvine we learned one thing, it’s not wise to spread falsehoods or inaccurate information.  That is why whenever possible we have always put facts behind our points or when there are no facts available, such as in the case of dairy cattle pictures, we have gone to the effort ourselves so show how things are working.  We don’t believe in treating our readers as if they have no brains by publishing falsehoods or misinformation.  Instead we believe an educated breeder is the most valuable asset the dairy industry must have at this time.  That is why each day we source, write and share the most educational content in the dairy industry.  And we back it up with facts!

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.






There is no question that social media has changed our world.  From the ability to talk to people of like mind from anywhere in the world to the ability to learn the latest news instantly, the dairy industry has changed dramatically as a direct result of social media.(Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Every second 2,200 tweets are posted, 580 users update their Facebook status and 24 minutes of video are uploaded to YouTube.  The scary part is that adoption rates of new social networks are accelerating.  It took LinkedIn 3.5 years to reach 10 million users.  The same feat took Twitter just over 3 years, and Facebook 2.5 years.  Most recently Google+ did it in just 2 weeks.  The reach of social networks is spreading faster than any infectious disease in the history of mankind.  From 2005 to2010, Facebook gained over 500 million users.  More than the entire world population at the time of the Black Death. (Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Shocked and Amazed in the Show Ring at Summer Show

This past week’s events highlighted for me just how astonishingly fast social media is.  First, while attending the Ontario Summer Show, the power of the Internet and social media certainly flexed its muscle (Read more: Ontario Summer Show 2013 Holstein Results).  Coming into the show, I would have told you that Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2yr, the Res. All-Canadian Sr. 2yr old from 2012 and 1st Senior 3 & Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion Ontario Spring Show 2013 would be able to stroll her way to an easy win.  Then entered Raivue Sanchez Pamela and Desnette Alexia Roseplex and you could hear the excitement in the crowd rise to another level.  Roseplex, a cow that probably has one of the greatest side profiles I have ever seen, has been developing well since winning Intermediate Champion at the 2013 Quebec Spring Show and has gained more chest width and rear udder width to go with that amazing profile.  Then there is Pamela that on any other day, against any other competition might have been the talk of the town.  Instantly, I was getting messages from breeders around the world saying how amazing that class was and speculating about who would win.  The shared pictures from all three cows were extremely popular.  But once you saw these three amazing cows in line, you realized that Rae Lynn was simply that much longer and dairier than these other two also outstanding cows.


Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2YR
First Senior 3 year old, Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand Champion
Owned by Quality, Granja Ponderosa, Al-Be-Ro Land & Cattle, ON and Spain

Almost instantly the questions switched to asking when we will see Rae Lynn against the likes of Butz-Butler Gold Barbara VG-89-2yr and Eastriver Gold Deb 850 EX-92 EX-92 MS?  The challenge is that since Rae Lynn has been milking since last October and is not due again until March 2014, we may not see her again until the Royal, passing on the long trip to World Dairy Expo.  Let’s hope that we may see her at Madison to give us the greatest Senior 3 year old class in history.

Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show - Calbrett Goldwyn Layla (Goldwyn), Mature Cow, For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.  Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95
1st Mature Cow and Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show
For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.
Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Having said that, none of this chatter could compare to what was to follow around Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95.  Normally, when it’s time for the mature cow class, it comes down to which cow has had held up to the wear and tear.  However, this year at Ontario Summer Show, things were a little different.  The winning mature cow was a 3rd calf 7 year old.  This became a subject that was very polarizing to breeders at ringside and especially online.  She was shown perfectly by the great showman David Dyment.  He always seems to know how to make a cow stand out.  There is no question that Layla catches your eye.  She is extremely dairy and strong and looked the part.  She did handily win the class.  The part that shocked many was when Judge Bruce Mode went on to name Goldwyn Layla Grand Champion of the show.  We are certainly fans of judges who take bold moves here at the Bullvine (Read more: Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage)

The reaction online was certainly mixed.  Almost instantly, there were comments being posted either in agreement or disagreement.  Questions starting coming in about just how good did she look and did she need extra help in order to make it to the ring?  It’s not unusual for these rumors to swirl around champions. And stories — true and false — begin to be shared. Today they’re shared instantly!! Call it marketing.  Call it borderline ethical.  The concern is there, especially for young breeders who are looking to get into the marketing of elite cattle genetics.  If the concerns are true, what message does this send to them?  Here we may have a cow being rewarded for all the wrong reasons.  Will she contend at Madison or the Royal?  Will she even be there?  Moreover, how is she beating a cow that has the potential to become one of the greatest of all time?

Changing the Conversation

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the conversation to change to a more positive note.  This year’s International Intrigue Sale hosted by Ferme Blondin was certainly a positive for the industry.  (Read more: International Intrigue: Forget the Records It’s About the People and International Intrigue at Ferme Blondin Sale Results 2013).  While the sale didn’t have some big name World Dairy Expo Grand or Intermediate Champion contender, it certainly did have a strong line up with many outstanding individuals.  Extremely popular online was Jacobs Sid Bamba, a Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96 who sold for $50,000 and Ms C-Haven Oman Kool-ET (VG-87-2YR), the former number one gTPI “Man-O-Man” daughter in the U.S. and second highest protein cow at +80, who sold for $92,000.

Jacobs Sid Bamba

Jacobs Sid Bamba
A Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96
Sold for $50,000 at the International Intrigue Sale

While Layla selling to Comestar and Ponderosa for $125,000 at the Cormdale Summer Sale on Monday (Read more: Cormdale Summer Sale Results) re-ignited the conversation, I thought we would have a quieter time for the rest of the week.  However, that certainly was not the case.  Normally it’s my personal opinion editorial pieces that get us here at The Bullvine in trouble.  This time it was our interview with Don Bennink (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!)  that took the conversation in a different direction and to completely new levels.  This time is wasn’t just the small segment of the marketplace that follow the shows, but rather it was the dairy community at large who felt the need to let their opinions be known.  There is no question that Don’s opinions about type classification, type evaluations and how they predict longevity have fueled this    polarizing subject.  .  As a strong supporter of type classification, it has caused mixed thoughts in my own head (Read more: The Truth About Type and Longevity) and has generated some amazing conversation on Facebook.

Just When You Think It’s All Over

Just when I think that it’s all over, and that we can now settle down to a holiday long weekend with the family, a completely new fire erupts.  One of our news items from the weekend about how the Whitaker family of Georgia had the unfortunate occurrence of having one of their trusted employees  suspected of illegal activities leading to 40+ cop cars, and SWAT personnel in cooperation with the family descending on the farm.  This led to the finding of several guns, marijuana and methamphetamines, which investigators estimated could be worth $50,000.  While this is certainly unfortunate for a great family who are strong members of the dairy community, the reaction to the news article we collated “FBI Storms Whitaker Farm For Drug Bust”, certainly caused a commotion on Facebook with a few breeders who felt the title did a disservice to this family.  Yet another example of the power and speed of social media.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.  Dairy farmers have never been short on having them.  The difference is that, through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, breeders can now share their opinion with thousands instantly instead only with a few local breeders.  You no longer have to call several breeders to find out what happened at the show or sale.  You don’t even have to wait for it to be printed in one of the old school magazines.  Things are happening in real time and the news is now coming to you, instead of you having to go and find it.  One of the biggest changes we have noticed since starting the Bullvine is how many breeders no longer go to the news sections of the dairy publications anymore.  They now watch their Facebook news feed and if there is an article or news item of interest that has been shared by a fellow breeder or company they follow, they go ahead and read it.  No longer do they have to surf through many sites just to find the few tidbits they would be interested in.  Now they can get it all in their Facebook news stream complete with the ability to share their opinion with their friends and fellow breeders.  It is truly shocking the speed of Social Media and how it has affected the dairy industry.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.


The days when dairy breeders could only find out the latest gossip from the local semen or feed salesman are long gone.  With the help of social media platforms like Facebook, breeders can find out who won what show or who just got the VG-89-2yr almost instantaneous.  The World Wide Web and more specifically social media have taken bulk tank conversation to a completely new level.

As a kid I could remember when our local embryo technician came in we would find out everything that was going on in the local community and then later when the sires analysts came in we would find out what bulls are hot or what gossip was going around.  I can remember that every time the sires analysts came in we were always trying to find out who the next top bull was going to be.  These days even the sire analysts are heading online to find out what’s happening.

Perception is NOT reality

The biggest challenge that has caused the dairy industry to be behind other is a perception issue.  For a long while many breeders thought, and some still think that, twitter is just about what people are having for lunch and Facebook is about sharing pictures of the kids.  The reality could not be any farther from the actual fact than that.  There are over 77,000 dairy farmers on Facebook, and that the average Facebook user logins in daily.  (To read more check out 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be on Facebook)  Could you imaging a platform more suited for dairy breeders looking to find out the latest news?

Then there is Twitter.  While still new to lots of dairy breeders there are some great opportunities for breeders to join in real-time discussion about the issue that face them.  Two great examples of this are AgChat, a moderated Twitter discussion that takes place every Tuesday night, and Bullchat that happens on Thursdays at 1pm EST.  Since its creation in 2009, nearly 10,000 people from ten countries have attached the hashtag #agchat to their tweets, or joined in to discuss issues and share ideas related to food and farming.  In addition, the hashtag #bullchat has had many great discussions about the value of A.I. contracts, breeding cattle in the heat, Genomics, and many more pressing issues.  All topics on #bullchat are breeder driven but have had some great support from the socialally enabled A.I. companies.

Dairy Magazines are Old School

Gone are the days when the few magazines controlled what dairy breeders got to be aware of and think.  In the past information was pushed on dairy breeders as the dairy publications decided what was relevant and what was not.  In today’s socially empowered day and age, it’s now the dairy breeders who control the conversation and the dairy magazines are struggling to keep up.

If you look at how many of the dairy magazines are using social media you will see that they are just using these new channels to push out the same old message.  They are not working at engaging in the conversation.  Instead of letting breeders dictate the conversation, they are trying to dictate to the breeders.  Check out how many of these magazines allow comments on their articles?  What are they afraid of?  Better yet how many of these magazines actually share articles online?  Alternatively, are they just using their social media accounts and their website to sell more magazines?

The Bottom Line

Social media is like teen sex.  Everyone wants to do it.  But for the most part nobody knows how.  When breeders finally get on to social media and learn as they go, they discover that it was not as hard as they thought.  The biggest thing I can say, just dive in, I am sure you will enjoy the ride.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.


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