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Is Too Much Water Milking Your Profits?

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Over the past couple of weeks the Bullvine has published articles about having a breeding plan for your herd. (Read more: Flukes and Pukes – What Happens When You don’t Have a Plan and What’s The Plan?). Examples cited of herds with a breeding plan have included North Florida Holsteins who breeds for production and profitability (Read more:  North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable and The Truth About Type and Longevity) and Quality Holsteins (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day) and Ferme Jacobs (Read more: Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family!) both of whom breed for type. Today we wish to bring you some thoughts to consider for your breeding plan as it relates to the components in milk. For the vast majority of herds that is the major source of their revenue generation.

mount victoria tb plaque4% Fat

T. B. Macaulay, Mount Victoria Farms (Montvic), (Read more: Mount Victoria Farms: The Art and Science of Great Breeding) ninety years ago had a plan. One component of his plan was 4% butterfat. He built his herd around Johanna Rag Apple Pabst and his 4% fat daughters. The history books do not specifically identify Macaulay’s reason for wanting 4% butterfat except we know that back then Holsteins were considered to be ‘low testers’.

Roy Ormiston, breeder of the world famous Roybrook Farms, developed an excellent herd with the three pillars being high % fat, excellent conformation and high lifetime production.

The importance of fat yield has also been stressed by many leading USA breeders. Over forty years ago Dr. Gene Starkey, the very well respected Wisconsin Dairy Extension Specialist, in his speeches talked about herds where cows averaged over 900 pounds of butterfat per year with only limited reference to the milk yield number for top herds.

When Protein Ruled

Fat took a backseat to show conformation and then to % protein in the later 1970’s and into the 1980’s. The trendy thing was to use a bull the improved % protein but dropped % fat. The thinking was that consumers wanted to exclude fat from their diets but that protein was needed to make cheese. The trend meant the majority of breeders paid only limited attention to % fat and the national Holstein averages for % fat dropped.

How Milk is Sold

On a global basis the majority of milk is sold in a solid and not a liquid state (Read more: “Got Milk” is becoming “Got More” and MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost”). Milk processors and marketers recognized this and so payment to farmers changed from volume and % fat to become based on the component yields. This is known as MCP, multiple component pricing. Today the pendulum has swung to where butterfat is back in fashion. Thus the quantity of solids a cow produces is important to her ability to generate income.

Milk is sold as a drink often has fat removed by processors. That fat is used to make other products and thus it is a source of revenue, not a cost, for the processor. .

The end result is that breeders are paid for the total fat and protein content in the milk they ship.  And in the future it is entirely possible that breeders will be paid for the specific fats (i.e. conjugated linoleic acid) and proteins (i.e. casein) they ship.

Avoid the Water

In today’s and likely tomorrow’s world having more water than necessary in milk is a cost and not a source of income. These cost factors include:

  • high peak milk yields adds stress on the cow and increased labor and health costs
  • high milk yields magnifies the challenge and cost to getting cows to conceive
  • to achieve higher milk yield adds to cow feed costs for high energy grains
  • cows and their rumens function best when a high percent of the diet is high quality but low cost forages
  • longer milking times to harvest the higher volume of milk adds labor and utility costs
  • on-farm more volume adds to cooling cost and the need for increased storage capacity
  • water removal at the farm is costly
  • extra milk volume adds to transportation cost
  • added volume increases processor cooling costs and storage capacity
  • high volumes adds to environmental costs and the disposal of water at the processing plant

If we could calculate the total for those ten items it might shock us how much money could be saved by having a higher content of fat and protein in milk. It all starts with the milk our cows produce.

Let’s Talk Genetics

At the farm level cows that produce 85 pounds at 4.0% fat and 3.4% protein are generating the same revenue and at less cost to all the partners in the supply chain than cows that produces 100 pounds at 3.4% fat and 2.9% protein. For sire selection this means selecting for fat yield, protein yield, % fat and % protein. Ideally, although not always possible, this means selecting bulls for less milk yield. Today most total merit index formulas (TPI™, LPI, NM$,…etc.) are based on fat and protein yield of a bull’s daughters without regards to the volume of milk they produce. This means that high yield bulls that drop % fat and/or % protein do not ranking near the top on these indexes. A help to breeders when selecting bulls to use.

Top Sires

The following table identifies top total merit bulls for their daughters’ genetic ability to produce fat and protein and have a high % fat and % protein. For bulls to appear in this table they had to be breed improvers for productive life or herd life.

Bulls Ranked by Fat plus Proetin Yields

Bulls Ranked by Fat plus Protein Yields
* USA – pounds / Canada – kilograms
Click on image for enlargement

Supersire tops the list for the ability to sire daughters for fat yield and total fat and protein yield  Jabir is high in all areas including NM$. For breeders wanting higher % fat and % protein should consider AltaIota, AltaRazor, Eloquent, Ahead or Overtime P.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Much emphasis is currently being placed on cows that are functional and healthy, yet productivity can’t be ignored. Without the ability to generate high levels of revenue from milk sales, it is hard to make a profit from dairy farming. When it comes to production, don’t let low component milk water down your success.

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With the recent announcement that the iconic red barns of Mount Victoria Farms on top of Macaulay Hill are to be razed in the next two months to make way for a planned residential subdivision, a monument of Holstein history, unrivaled by any other, will be destroyed.  The invincible blood that pumped through the veins of Thomas Basset Macaulay led to the Mount Victoria herd influencing cattle populations in every land under the sun.  No Holstein exists in this world that is not a descendant of the great Johanna Rag Apple Pabst,  T.B. Macaulay`s foundation sire for Mount Victoria.

mount victoria key shot

To understand how one herd could have such a profound impact on the world of dairy cattle, you first have to understand the man behind the herd.  TB Macaulay, accomplishments would rival those of the late great Peter Heffering (Read more: HANOVER HILL HOLSTEINS: PETER HEFFERING 1931-2012).  Macaulay wasn’t born on a farm.  He wasn’t raised on a farm and, in fact, didn’t own his first Holstein until he was 66.  However, during an 18-year period he would change the Holstein world forever.

mount victoria tb plaque

Macaulay was actually a wealthy insurance executive who got into farming more by chance than by design.  Towards the end of a very successful career he was looking to invest in other areas.  When he discovered the farm he had purchased was more of a sand pile than great cropland, he started purchasing livestock to start building up the soil.  This ultimately led to him buying his first Holstein in 1924, and the start of a very distinct bloodline.  You see Macaulay had very definite ideas on the subject of genetics.  His studies in corn breeding were more advanced than any that had been made at that time.  This all traces back to his insurance career where he was an actuary.  Actuaries are the people who compile and analyze statistics and use them to calculate insurance risks and premiums.  It’s this love of mathematical theory that Macaulay would transpose into his breeding program at Mount Victoria.

Purifying the Bloodline

Inbreeding and line breeding work, when done correctly, because it involves concentrating the exceptional genes of the ancestors in the pedigree.  As Edward Morwick points out in his book The Chosen Breed, “It is essentially a mathematical process and a discipline in which an actuary’s training would stand him in good stead.  Through the lessons learned as an actuary which were cross-applied to the study of genetics, Macaulay became convinced of his ability to develop a strain of Holstein cattle pure for sound type, good udders and four percent test.” There is never ending debate about whether breeding great cattle is an art form or a science?  Macaulay’s favorite saying from Beattie sums it up “What cannot art and industry perform, When science plans the progress of their toil!”

mount victoria door

Macaulay would study the dairy publications of the time to get a better understanding of what bloodlines were transmitting the ideals he was looking for.  Specifically he was looking to breed four percent butterfat with heavy milk production and a high standard of type.

The Big Six

In his research Macaulay identified the Prince Colanthis Abbekerk bloodlines of Oxford County in Ontario to have what he needed and made trips in 1924 and 1925 to purchase the seed stock he needed.  This lead to many purchases highlighted by what was coined by William Prescott of Holstein-Friesian World as “The Big Six”.  They were Oakhurst Colantha Abbekerk, Ingleside Pietje Posh, Dixie Colantha Hartog, Lady Meg Posch and Bonheur Abberkerk Posch 2nd.

The Foundation Sire

He also needed a herd sire.  Searching the Holstein-Friesian World, he found “The One” in Johanna Rag Apple Pabst.  The bull that become the center of Macaulay’s line breeding vision.  A vision that included using all the tools – testing, classifying, showing, culling and advertising would be utilized and outcross sires would be used sparingly when needed.

Johanna Rag Apple Pabst combined with the Mount Victoria foundation cows to create the Rag Apple bloodline.  His progeny from the Posch-Abbekerk cows handpicked from Oxford County would go on to change the Holstein world.

Johanna Rag Apple Pabst sired three All-American Get of Sires and two reserve gets.  51 daughters with 100 completed records averaged 15,753 lbs. milk, 626 lbs. and 4.0% Fat.  Realizing the dream that Macaulay had set out to achieve.

Famous Pabst daughters include:

  • Montvic Rag Apple Colantha Abbekerk (EX-11*)
    The highest producing daughter with a world 3X record of 1,263 lbs of fat
  • Montvic Rag Apple Bonheur (GM)
    A four time All-American
  • Montvic Rag Apple Bonheur Abbekerk (EX)
    Fat production of 1,047 lbs.
  • Montvic Rag Apple Pietje (GM)
    Produced 1,043 lbs. fat, 22,980 lbs milk, 4.54% as a three-year old

Highlights of his sons include:

  • Montvic Rag Apple Paul (Extra)
    Pabst’s only Class Extra son.
  • Montvic Rag Apple Baron
    Sire of Montvic Rag Apple Baron 2nd, foundation sire of the Texal family.
  • Montvic Rag Apple DeKol
    Out of Pauline Dandelion DeKol.  One of Western Canada’s biggest impact sires.  Sired show stock.
  • Montvic Rag Apple Hartog
    A show bull.  Sired Hays Supreme.
  • Montvic Posch Rag Apple.
    Out of Lady Meg Posch.  Tyler Farms Posch Letha,  his daughter, was the dam of Osborndale Ty Vic (EX-GM), sire of Osborndale Ivanhoe (EX-GM)
  • Montvic Pabst Rag Apple
    Lady Meg Posch son.  Daughters provided part of the foundation of the Glenafton herd.
  • Montvic Rag Apple Dandy
    Line bred, a son sired Rosehill Fayne Wayne (EX), three times All-American aged cow.
  • Montvic Chieftain
    Son of Triune Papoose Piebe, and the sire of the Pathfinder, who in 1962 when the All-Time All-American’s where selected all four milking aged females where Pathfinder daughters.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Mount Victoria has produced eight Class Extra sires.  This is something only surpassed by Hanover Hill and more recently Ferme Gillette.  Unlike the other two, Mount Victoria did not have the aid of embryo transfer or artificial insemination to spread their bloodlines.  One could easily make the case that T.B. Macaulay and his use of mathematics to develop a line bred bloodline was the greatest cattle breeder of all time.  His outstanding collection of Holstein cattle pushed the boundaries of what was considered possible.  Macaulay stretched the limits of what was thought achievable.  All this from an actuary who loved the artful science of animal breeding!

Special thanks to Sheila Sundborg for the great shots.  Read more about Sheila and the great donation she made to the Friends of Andrea Crowe Fundraiser that raised over $83,000 for one of the brightest lights in the dairy industry.

For a full history of the Canadian Holstein breed check out “The Chosen Breed” by Edward Young Morwick and watch for our interview next week with him.


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