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Zoetis is a global animal health company with 60 years of experience.  Zoetis, formerly Pfizer Animal Health, was a business unit within Pfizer Inc.  On February 1, 2013, Zoetis became a stand-alone animal health company.  Zoetis is a publicly traded company on the NYSE.

When DNA profiling in herds, the program at Zoetis is to get dairy producers to focus on genotyping the entire heifer group.  This allows breeders to make selection and management decisions, before investing the full cost of raising each heifer.  Depending on where breeders are located, the cost of raising a heifer ranges from $2000 to $3500 (Read more: Should you be raising your own heifers?) By testing animals at a young age, breeders can decide if they want to sell the heifer, breed her to a beef sire, use her as an embryo recipient or consider flushing her.  It’s about making accurate choices and, ultimately, profit.

Which Benefit Category Works for YOU?

  • Do you have an excess of heifers?
    DNA profiling means you can manage your heifer inventory more precisely and invest your rearing budget in the heifers that you need to keep.  Keeping control of the heifer inventory also has an indirect health benefit. Reduced numbers prevents heifer facilities from being overcrowded. A less stressful environment reduces calfhood and heifer diseases. Remember that heifer rearing is the third largest on-farm cost after labor and feed.
  • Do you use sexed semen?
    This higher priced tool can be best applied to the top 50% of heifers based on their genetic merit. Doing so is a significant step toward elevating the genetic potential of the next generation of heifers in your herd.
  • Is your herd unregistered? 
    You have the most to benefit from genomic testing because you will be going from zero genetic information to more genetic information than you could ever get from simply registering your animals. Now you can make better selection and mating decisions.
  • Is profitability your first priority?
    The top priority profitability traits for most herds are selection for milk components, with the remaining emphasis on traits that contribute to longer herd life (SCS, DF, HL, F/L and mammary).  LPI is a great index to use as a first sort in selecting the most profitable animals.

Analysis.  Assessment.  Action.

Zoetis has developed the “CLARIFIDE” program. Veterinarians are trained in understanding the basics of genomics and how this information can be integrated as part of the herd’s management program.  There are over 100 veterinarians across Canada that have been given the designation of “CLARIFIDE Accredited Veterinarian”.  Many of them underwent a multi-day training program taught by representatives from Zoetis, CDN, Holstein Canada and Semex. Today, if a local vet has not been trained through the CLARIFIDE program, but they have a client that is interested in submitting through CLARIFIDE, Zoetis will conduct training with these vets either in person or on-line.” Dr. Melodie Chan, Zoetis Business Lead and Manager Veterinary Services, concludes. “With access to this information, breeders are able to allocate their resources more effectively.  As genomic research progresses, we may even be able to consider health protocols to match each animals’ potential to respond – such as response to vaccination.”

Clarifying Genetic Potential

The goal of every dairy breeder is to identify and act upon the genetic potential of their dairy animals. “Through the CLARIFIDE program, Zoetis has worked closely with its Alliance partners.” says Dr. Chan, who outlines the benefits and potential. “By working closely with CDN, Holstein Canada and Semex, the CLARIFIDE genomic consulting program offered through Zoetis provides a truly Canadian perspective. Furthermore, this Alliance has also fostered research initiatives and collaborative funding towards projects that ultimately benefit the Canadian dairy industry. In 2012-2013 Zoetis funded genotyping of approximately 2,000 Canadian proven sires so that their offspring could be included in the genome pool.  The addition of this genetic information will aid in the predictive value of genomic testing, in particular for Canadian only traits, such as temperament and milking speed.”

ZOETIS + SEMEX + HOLSTEIN CANADA + CDN – Combined Strengths. Collaborative Approach.

Effective May 1, 2012, Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health) joined the existing alliance between the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN), the Holstein Association of Canada (Holstein Canada), and the Semex Alliance (Semex).  Dr. Chan describes the strategy. “The intent of this alliance is to foster a collaborative approach to delivering predictive genetic information to the Canadian dairy industry, to promote female genotyping and to assist Canada’s dairy producers in using genetic information to make sound management decisions and propagate desired traits. “The members of the alliance feel that by engaging in this partnership, breeders ultimately benefit from the combined strengths of each organization.”

Update on Pilot Study Results

Dr. Josh Lindenbach, Warman Saskatchewan, a Clarifide Approved Veterinarian, shared some of the economic analyses that he did with two of the Zoetis pilot-project herds.  In both herds, Dr. Lindenbach sorted the animals based on LPI and compared it to kg of BF shipped.  “In Herd #1, there was a $960 average gross profit advantage between the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of the herd based on LPI (48 animals genotyped).  In Herd #2, there was a $1345 average gross profit advantage between animals that had an above average LPI number vs. a below average LPI number.”


Zoetis has received the following comments from breeders and vets involved in the CLARIFIDE program:

  •  “This gives us a better way to manage the heifer inventory by knowing which ones to keep, sell or use as recips, and which ones to use sexed semen on.”
  • “Herd weaknesses were known before but now we find them younger and more accurately“
  • “We are now buying semen from bulls that address herd weaknesses as identified by genomics”
  • “More targeted use of sexed semen”
  • “We have more open discussions of breeding discussions involving both vets and AI reps, sometimes even together!”
  • “By culling my bottom end heifers, the heifers coming into the milking herd are more solid producing animals. We have higher milk production and have been able to raise the overall health level of our herd.”
  • “It’s not the top half of my herd that I ever have to worry about – it’s the bottom half.  I want to be able to know ahead of time who could potentially cause me problems and be able to manage my heifer inventory appropriately, based on this knowledge.”


There have been interesting results from three different groups from the Zoetis field trial as Dr. Chan reports. “Breeders that are in the top 10% ,from a farm management standpoint, who are excellent at raising calves and keeping them alive, have reached a plateau with their production and are looking for the “next thing” that they can improve on to help them become more profitable were the first ones to trust in genomic technology and see its value.  Dr. Chan states, “The key is to make sure you have invested fully in your calf raising program to ensure that disease issues are kept to a minimum and calves have doubled their birth weight at 56 days – then you can be assured that these heifers will reach their full genetic potential.” She continues with the benefits for two other groups.”Breeders that are sitting on excess heifers and looking at their expenses were also quick to jump on board.  For a group of Hutterite breeders that are limited to the use of natural service bulls only, genomics provided them with an opportunity to push their genetic progress by culling some of the bottom end animals and replacing them with purchased animals that ranked higher on LPI.”  Using data that CDN supplied, Dr. Chan in 2012 looked at phenotype vs. genotype.  “We took the CDN database as being “one herd” and took the raw data without adjusting for any environmental effects.  Despite that, we were still able to show a significant difference in performance, if we used genomics as a predictor for performance.”

zoetis chart

The Bullvine Bottom Line

This sounds like every breeder’s dream.  It checks off several breeder, service provider and advisor goals. “Now breeders not only know a heifer’s genetic potential early in her life but have the information to find more accurate ways to allocate resources.”  Whenever the tools advance dairy breeders` goals and profitability, that’s a win-win for everybody.


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Often I find as an industry we are guilty of living in a bubble.  While sometimes that has served us well, other times there are situations where it for sure has hurt the dairy breeding industry as a whole.  However, like all bubbles, this will have to burst in order for the industry to advance, otherwise the dairy cattle breeding industry will become irrelevant.

There is no question that the dairy breeding industry is going through times of great change.  Genomics has had a massive effect on not only how we prove bulls, but also on the sources of revenue and the focus of many breeding programs.  There has been great discussion about what the changes in April will have on the industry (Read more: How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Industry).  There are some far greater issues that many breeders need to think about.

Some Big Hitters Are Coming To the Plate

One such issue is the entry of Pfizer/Zoetis into the animal genetics game.  There is no question that companies like Pfizer have the resources and the experience to come into industries and dominate.  When you compare the size and revenue of the Animal Health market to that of the dairy cattle breeding industry, you really have to wonder why Pfizer would even bother.  There is no question that DNA testing is a very cool science, but companies like Pfizer don’t do things because they think that it is cool.  They do it because they know they can make money.

When you step back and look at this from a 50,000-foot view, I start to think, is this Pfizer wanting to come and take over dairy cattle breeding?  On the other hand, is it that Pfizer sees how they can protect their much larger revenue source, animal health?  Walk with me on this one.  If it is possible to understand genomics to such an extent that we can breed a better cow, does that not include a cow that is more resistant to disease, parasites, and bacteria? Now we’re talking about core revenue sources for Pfizer animal health, now called Zeotis.

That is why when I first saw the announcement from Pfizer in May 2012 about how Canadian Dairy Network, Holstein Canada, Pfizer Animal Health, The Semex Alliance and its owners are going to partner to support delivery of genetic services to the Canadian dairy industry it really got me thinking about is this a good thing or should we be concerned?  While the public relations side of this looked all great with the message that the alliance gives dairy producers access to new genetic testing services, I could not help but think what does this mean if Pfizer/Zoetis now has direct access to all the genomic information not only in Canada but also indirectly for the world?

Also of interest about this move was that instead of being signed by all the members of the industry it was done very selectively.  Instead of being signed by say Canadian Livestock Genetics Association it was done exclusively with the Semex Alliance.  Is there a partnership between Semex and Pfizer that we are not aware of?  Have we as an industry, or our representatives, on our behalf made decisions that we may all regret?  While I am sure from first glance this agreement looked pretty basic, I can’t help but wonder if there are much greater ramifications that have not really been thought through.

Information is Power, But who controls the information?

With these questions about genetic evaluations and genomics, you can’t help but think about the heated discussion around the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) and who controls genetic evaluations in the US (Read more: Council On Dairy Cattle Breeding: Land of the Free and Home of the Brave?).  The Cooperative Agreement with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) pertaining to the transfer of the USDA-­‐ARS dairy genetic evaluation service to the CDCB has certainly had many asking who does have control?

While the Bullvine has request several times to do an interview with CDCB officers , Ole Meland, (Chair), Jay Mattison (Vice Chair), Becky Payne (Secretary) and  Gordon Doak (Recording Secretary), we have still not yet been granted the opportunity.

No Demand Means No Market

Of course there is a much bigger issue I think every breeder needs to think about.  While in Canada most breeders are pretty immune to having to think about market demand, you only have to look at the US and Australia to see what happens when market demand goes south.  If consumers are not drinking milk, it does not take long for the industry to dry up.

Worldwide milk consumption in relation to population growth is falling.  While yes total consumption is increasing, we are not keeping pace with other beverages.

With greater international supply and less demand, it doesn’t take long to drive price and revenue down (Read more: Why the Future of the North American Dairy Industry Depends on Supply and Demand). There is no question that breeders and the industry as a whole, needs to pay greater attention to consumer demand as it will have the greatest impact on our future.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question the world is changing.  It always is and always will.  The question becomes are you ahead of the change or behind it?  If we continue to operate in a bubble or stick our heads in the sand, we will not be the ones driving our own future, but instead will be handed the scraps from the future decided by others.  That is why it is important to know who is controlling the dairy breeding industry?



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The recent announcement by Canadian Dairy Network, Holstein Canada, Pfizer Animal Health, The Semex Alliance and its owner partners to support delivery of genetic services to the Canadian dairy industry got me thinking about what the future holds for the dairy breeding industry.  This alliance has me drawing parallels to what has occurred in the corn industry and the effects that had on consumers as well as producers.

While the announcement just covers the identification of genetic markers that has already revolutionized the dairy breeding industry, the part that catches my attention is a company the size of Pfizer entering into the marketplace.  When Monsanto entered into the corn breeding industry, it not only became a competitor to the other established players but it also used its vast resources to take the process to a completely new level.  While Monsanto had been a market leader for many years in the sale of herbicides this research gave them the ability to apply their expertise on the genetic level.

With Pfizer entering the genomics game, does that mean that we will start to see them  offer their own genetics available for sale that have been bred or rather modified to be disease resistant or even worse modified to produce more milk, or have better feet and legs.  If you thought the manipulation of photos to make cattle look better was an issue (read more here Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far), what happens when they can do it on the genomic level?  While the practical side of me sees how having cattle that are more disease resistant, that is polled and milk 20,000 kgs, for 10+ lacations would be beneficial, the breeder in me has concerns.  Part of what makes animal breeding great is the fact that it’s an art form.  What happens when that art form is handed over to science?

One thing that you will know for sure is that the sale of animal genetics will become a commoditized market place dominated by the big players such as Pfizer, Monsanto, and other multinational conglomerates.  While there is no question that these conglomerates will dominate over the average breeder, they will also dominate over the current major A.I. companies.  It has me asking myself “Is this move by Semex a step in building a partnership because they see the future coming?”  If so good on them for at least being proactive and at least trying to sustain their long-term viability.

If it’s more by chance, as I think it is, I think the whole industry needs to look at what the future holds and maybe have a wakeup call to where this is all heading.  Animal breeding is becoming big business, as evidenced by companies like Select Sires that have expanded their breeding programs to include owning females (read more about this at Should A.I. Companies Own Females?).  As the ability to deliver predictable results at a lower cost of development continues, larger and larger companies will enter the marketplace and begin to dominate the current players.

In the past, dairy cattle breeding has benefited from great moves, such as happened when T.B. Macauley, an insurance executive, started Montvic, when J. Rockafeller Prentice, from oil and banking fame, started A.B.S. and, likewise, when Peter Heffering, using outside industry investors, collected great cows and started Hanover Hill Holsteins.

There is also the consumer side to this equation.  We all witnessed consumer reaction to the use of rBST.  Over time while there has remained a small portion of the marketplace that actively buys non-rBST milk.  However, for the most part the issue has died off.  In the same way, the GMO corn issue has died off and much of the general public is not even aware that it exists.  Thus, there may be uproar as this “new technology” enters the marketplace, however, in time, the result will be the same for this commoditized product.  As long as the cost to consumer is lower, they will buy it.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

On the one hand, Thanks to genomics, the future of the animal breeding industry has never look brighter.  On the other hand, it also may be facing its greatest risk. Genomics has taken animal breeding from an art form to a science.  Furthermore, science will continue to define and refine the process.  With companies like Pfizer entering the marketplace this process will be accelerated at a completely new pace.  Those players that have the most resources available will also dominate it.  This means that the average breeder, as well as the current A.I. companies, need to realistically consider what the future holds as this happens.

So my question to you is, are you ready for GMC (Genetically Modified Cattle)?


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