Matt Zabel says, “Genomics has had a huge impact on our breeding program at Zahbulls Holsteins” He acknowledges that he may have had a more open mind than some who experienced the dramatic impact of this new tool. “With my commercial herd background, genomics may have been easier for me to adjust to.” Matt farms with his wife, Emily, and his parents, Tim and Tammie in Plainview, Minnesota. He sums up his viewpoint, “Genomics has changed the industry tremendously!” Dairy people worldwide would agree with that assessment, as many AI organizations now report well over half their semen sales are from genomic bulls.
The Genomics Debate is Ongoing but Zahbull Holsteins are About Growing
After attending UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, Matt became interested in Registered Holsteins. He describes where the family farm is today. “We milk 195 cows 3 times a day in a double 5 parabone parlor. The cows are housed in sand bedded freestalls. We have 180 youngstock and farm 530 acres of corn and alfalfa.” Tim is the crop manager, while Matt manages the dairy operation. Emily is responsible for calves, social media and website.
Zabel has a “Get Real” Breeding Philosophy
You never find a successful farmer who doesn’t have a clearly defined breeding philosophy. For Matt Zabel that means “Practical, breeding for medium sized cows, functional type with the will to milk.” He has a very clear goal in mind. “I strive for real cows competing in real environments.”
All that Glitters is Genomics
When it comes to breeding success, Matt enthusiastically relates the story of his favorite achievement – Johnan Toystory Glitter. “I always had an interest in her dam Johcar Rudolph Ginger. At the time, Toystory was a mating sire that I was using and had interest in. Genomics were gaining popularity and I heard a few members of her family were genomically testing well. We tested Glitter and she went up over 300 TPI points. Her offspring went on to produce some of the highest genomically tested bulls in the world, including Alta 1st Class.”
In a (1st) Class By Himself
Alta 1st Class (Uno x Dorcy x Toystory) not only has a rather unique name but he excels in many important categories. He debuted at #3 gTPI (2597) genomic sire of August 2013’ with high values for Udder Composite, pTAT, PL, SCS, DPR, and CM$ and now stands at +2598 gTPI. Seldom do breeders see a bull that has at or near +5.00 for udder attachments and udder depth.
And the Zahbull List Goes On
Building on their success, the bulls bred by Zahbull Holsteins continues to grow:
- Zahbulls Flame Gogebic (gTPI +2625, Vieuxsaule Flame x Zahbulls Ss Genova x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
- Zahbulls Halogen Giant (gTPI +2570, Cookiecutter Petron Halogen x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
- Zahbulls Greenway Gump (gTPI +2484, De-Su Mgl Greenway 11396-ET x Zahbulls Ss Genova x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
- Zahbulls Mccutchen Gil-ET (gTPI +2419, De-Su Bkm Mccutchen 1174 x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
- Zahbulls Racer Gibson (gTPI +2415, Clear-Echo Lexor Racer-ET x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
Zahbulls Holsteins Welcomes Variety
Matt keeps the options open when developing his breeding lines. His current list includes:
Zahbulls Uno Emily, Zahbulls O-Style Chilli, No-Fla Paradise 33729, Zahbulls Lexor Glad, Zahbulls SuperSire Genova and Zahbulls Ransom Edina. He explains the reasoning behind these choices. “I’ve been working with these because they all have something different to bring to the table.” On the bull side Matt names nine of his sire picks: “Alta 1st Class, Yoder, Pure, Delta, Mega Sire, JoSuper, Tango, Mr. Mud and Impression”. The unifying ingredient to all these animals is that they have high gTPI indexes even though they are from a number of different bloodlines, each with unique breed topping indexes.
Keeping Up With Zahbulls Means All the Right Moves
It isn’t enough to have the right strategy, the right genetics and the right records. Matt knows it doesn’t work unless the message gets out. To maintain a steady flow of information, Zabels have a multi-point strategy here too. “We keep potential buyers and other people interested in our genetics and up-to-date on what we’re doing by using our website, zahbulls.com , social media , advertising , participating in various consignment sales and taking part in interviews.”
“Never let genetics take a back seat”
Matt is proud of the mentorship provided by his father. “I admire my Dad because he never let genetics take a back seat.” Matt reiterates that family breeding philosophy over and over. “Dad bestowed in me the importance of always using quality genetics in a commercial herd.” Ultimately that shared vision contributed to changes at Zahbulls Holsteins. “He supported me 100% in my interest for pursuing registered Holsteins.” Zahbulls Holsteins has excelled in operating a commercial herd and have also achieved outstanding results in breeding registered Holsteins. This means a lot to Matt. “Breeding Alta 1st Class has been my greatest accomplishment so far. I am so proud that my research, dedication and hard work produced one of the highest genomic bulls in the world.”
A Positive Outlook on the Future
Matt is proud of the family farming tradition that goes back to his great grandfather Reuben and is enjoyed by his family today. He has a positive attitude. “I see that there will be constant new technologies introduced that will make it possible to be efficient and keep your margins from thinning.” For those just starting out to build success in the registered Holstein business, he urges them to be proactive. “Accept that you will make mistakes. Don’t be afraid. If you have a question ask it. Call people you know that have done well. Make sure that you do your research before buying into a cow family.” That’s sound advice from Matt who looks forward to whatever challenges may arise in the dairy breeding industry and has confidence that they will be met and overcome.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Congratulations to Matt Zabel and Zahbulls Holsteins for achieving a distinctive place among their dairy breeding peers! They are setting the bar high with dairy breeding that covers the full spectrum from ‘Commercial Excellence to Genomic Giants!’