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Archive for Ri-Val-Re Holsteins

Happy Cows Don’t Make Headlines

Friday, June 20th, 2014

Two weeks ago, another “undercover” video from an animal rights group rocked the dairy world and gave the dairy industry yet another black eye.  (Read more: Dairy Cattle Abuse Video – A black eye for the dairy industry).  While tens of thousands of people across North America, and for that matter around the world, have now seen this brutal video, the fact is that most of them assume that the actions that occur on this video take place on all dairy farms on a daily basis.  Those of us that work in the dairy industry know this is not the case at all.  However, since Happy Cows Don’t Make Headlines, the general public is only exposed to the negative side of the dairy industry rather than the positive.

In the media business there is no question that if you can touch an emotion, whether it be positive or negative, you certainly can get attention and gain readership.  Anyone watching this horrifying video would be hard pressed not to get emotional when seeing   the abuses that occur.  As a result, the mainstream media has been very quick to jump on this story and continues to pound the dairy industry with their negative coverage.

Even we here at the Bullvine are guilty of exposing this story.  Some breeders commented to us that we should not cover this story.  Unlike other dairy publications, we have learned that burying your head in the sand is not the way to bring about change.  Instead, you need to be 100% transparent and address the problem head on.  We as an industry cannot hope that this story will “quietly go away.”  That is not going to happen.  Moreover, we need to stand up for ourselves and share the positive instead of hiding from the negative.

It’s at times like this when we all need to be strong dairy advocates and make sure that the general public actually knows the truth of what goes on in the dairy industry.  A great example of this is provided by Jerry Jorgensen from Ri-Val-Re Holsteins.  Jerry was disgusted by what he had seen in the video and certainly expressed his comments on social media.  However, he also took the time to produce a video that showed the public what actually happens on most dairy farms.

Jorgensen’s video provides an excellent explanation of how most dairy cattle are cared for.  Jerry applied his unique sense of humor to the video.  The challenge is that, while those in the dairy industry applauded the video and appreciated Jerry’s efforts, the video was viewed on YouTube by 4,000 people.  This is just a fraction of the over 140,000 people that viewed the Mercy for Animals video from Chilliwack Cattle Sales.

Carrie Mess (aka Dairy Carrie) a strong dairy advocate and very active social media personality (Read more: Dairy Carrie – Diary of a City Kid Gone Country) says the social media comments spurred by the Mercy for Animals video have been frustrating.

“The group that is responsible for this video has an agenda.  That agenda is… they advocate for a vegan diet.  They don’t like animal agriculture.  So when they release a video like this and try to paint all farmers with this huge brush, it’s so frustrating to me.  Any industry will have bad actors, but that doesn’t mean that everybody is.”

Carrie adds that on the hundreds of dairy farms she has been on she has never seen anything like that happening.  She does say that the video from Chilliwack is unacceptable,   ”There is no excuse for that kind of treatment of cows.”  Though she is also quick to admit that “sometimes I’m mean to my cows” and it’s because it can mean life or death.  Sometimes farming is messy, ugly, and tragic.  (Read more: Sometimes we are mean to our cows)

“I do want people to understand that these are very large animals and that we can’t necessarily just pick up with a couple of guys lifting her,” she explains.  “A cow is so big that if she lays down for too long, whether it’s because of an injury or illness, the cow is large enough that basically her legs go to sleep.  More so than you can ever imagine where she just can’t get up.  So if she’s laying down for too long and can’t get up, she’s not going to be able to get up…a down cow that can’t get up is going to be a dead cow.”

Now to be fair to the video from Chilliwack Cattle Sales, there are some actions that to the uneducated watcher seem pretty horrific, but to the average dairy farmer can be explained.  One such case is the rush to get a downed cow off of the rotary parlor before she is squished to death.  The cows are so large there is no other way to lift them than to use a tractor.  However, then the average dairy farmer would also ask, “Why was the cow down in the first place?”  If it was because she was afraid of the rotary parlor, which can be the case, then why was she being forced to go on it in the first place?

None of this is to say the abuse shown at Chilliwack Cattle Sales was justifiable in any way because it’s not.  However, this situation highlights a significant disconnect in our modern dairy production system.  How does the consumer, who doesn’t know anything about where his milk comes from, have a meaningful discussion with the dairy farmer who doesn’t have to think about the person at the grocery cooler buying it?

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, the only way to prevent future videos of this nature is to give activists nothing to film.  Dairy farmers around the world need to look at their own operations and make sure that they run a farm that they’re proud to show to anyone, at any time, and are not afraid to do so, especially through social media.  Education is key, although it takes time and effort from both sides and doesn’t really prevent the possibility of problems slipping through.  Thanks to the power of social media we all have the opportunity  to help educate the  consumer about  how much we care for our dairy cattle and why the dairy community is one of the greatest in the world.  (Read more: Why the Dairy Community is the Greatest in the World….)  Remember we cannot expect the general media to do it for us, because Happy Cows Don’t Make Headlines.



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Until recently, if you were talking about polled dairy genetics you were talking about a minor portion of the breeding population.  However, modern dairy genetics has seen dramatic changes in that situation. The rising popularity of polled has been propelled in part by activists, consumers and breeders all of whom are seeking better ways to provide healthy products to the marketplace in an efficient, profitable and sustainable manner.  Polled is a proactive opportunity to solve issues and meet needs in one genetic swoop.

Polled Pioneers Past and Present

Polled pioneer breeders have been few and far between. Thirty-nine years ago Burkett Falls Farm (Father Dave & Son John Burket, East Freedom, Pennsylvania, USA)  had an Elevation daughter born, Sophie EX93, from which the majority of today’s polled Holsteins trace.  The desire of breeders to have polled Holsteins until now has remained just that, a desire. Some polled bulls have entered AI but except for Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red (born in 2002) few have gained much attention. Perhaps two reasons for that are that polled may have been associated with breeder proven bulls, known for unreliable single herd proofs, and a frequent association between polled and Red & White, which in North America represents only about 5% of the Holstein population.

Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red (EX-93-GM)

Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red (EX-93-GM)

Changing Polled Perceptions

On the one hand, the dominance of the polled trait in beef cattle has given rise to the false impression that polled Holsteins are descendant of a beef background.  Today’s DNA testing capabilities answer that concern. However, despite this, the attitude of leading edge breeders is changing. No longer is the approach, stated in 1964 by the then Holstein Canada CEO George M Clemons, ‘we have other more important traits to improve’, in line with current breeders’ thinking.  Today, having doubled the 1964 production levels, breeders want to avoid unpleasant work, unnecessary costs and raise a positive animal welfare reputation.

Polling for Dollars

Just last month at the Ri-Val-Re Sale, in Michigan,  Bomaz Numero Uno 5904 PC (Numero Uno x Lawn Boy P-Red x Laudan x Garter),  the #3 TPI™ polled heifer in the breed at 2365, sold for $(US) 215,0000. (Read more: Ri-Val-Re Select Sale Averages an Outstanding $25,910) Polled has come of age. Not only is Uno 5904 high indexing for fat, protein, mammary systems, productive life, daughter fertility, milking speed and milking temperament but she is also an outcross.  In the same sale Ri-Val-Re The Best P-Red, the #1 TPI™ & NM$ female in the breed (Special Effect P-Red x Macguiness x Advent-Red x Ranger x Factor) sold for $(US) 38,000.  Again an outcross to Oman, Goldwyn, Shottle, Bolton and Planet. Their buyers obviously have plans.  Polled also made the headlines last fall when five doses of semen sold for $50,000 (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen). It was five doses of semen and the right to exclusivity of use for a few months of the homozygous polled bull Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red (Colt-P x Goldwyn x Redman x Perk-Red x Rubens).

Ri-Val-Re The Best P-Red, the #1 TPI™ & NM$ female in the breed (Special Effect P-Red x Macguiness x Advent-Red x Ranger x Factor) sold for $(US) 38,000 at the Ri-Val-Re Select Sale.

Ri-Val-Re The Best P-Red, the #1 TPI™ & NM$ female in the breed (Special Effect P-Red x Macguiness x Advent-Red x Ranger x Factor) sold for $(US) 38,000 at the Ri-Val-Re Select Sale.

Going Down the Polled Road

There are two ways to use polled in a herd’s breeding program when it comes to sire selection.  One way is to go all out and only use PP bulls. All heifers born will be polled. The limiting factor will be that the heifers will not be as high for gTPI™, gLPI or NM$ as using P bulls (heterozygous for polled)

The alternative method would be to use P bulls. In the first generation half the heifers will be polled and in the second generation 25% will be homozygous polled, 50% will be polled but heterozygous and 25% will be horned. Definitely a slower route but the heifers will be higher indexing than using PP bulls.

More Bulls Are Polled Apart

The rise in polled popularity goes beyond two top selling heifers and five doses of semen. A search of the CDN files of Black & White polled bulls waiting to be old enough to be sampled, shows six bulls born in later 2012 and seven born and registered already in 2013 over +2750 LPI. Two are over +3000 LPI. Note that, on the CDN files, bulls cannot get a gLPI or have a DGV LPI listed until they are one year of age, These thirteen young bulls are the result of breeders breeding their top indexing females to polled bulls. As more and more top gTPI™ and gLPI cows and heifers are flushed to top polled bulls, 2500 gTPI™ young bulls and heifers will only be a short time down the road.

How to Pick Up Speed On the Polled Road


Roy MacGregor of DairyBullsOnline

It is always wise to ask questions and follow advice of the experts in new procedures.   shares his insights on where to start when establishing polled genetics in your herd (Read more: They`re Sold On Polled!!). “The first procedure is to check for horn bud. If no bud do not dehorn. If after 3-4 weeks no horn bud develops your animal is likely polled. Another really good indicator is double eyelashes. A smooth head and double eyelashes should mean polled right away. Some calves and especially males can develop small immature buds or scurrs much later at 4-6 months or even older. In this case testing your calf with the German test or the UC Davis test is the best idea to avoid confusion.” He offers this encouragement “

There is a small learning curve but after a breeder gets a couple polled calves he will understand that smooth (like glass smooth) means polled, and it will get easier from there. “

Polled Procedures or “When in doubt, test!”

The test currently used through Holstein is the Igenity test, which we are told is accurate to 95% which is really quite good however we are all aware of the bulls Shine, and Balti being the exception. The most accurate test today is the German or UC Davis test closer to 99.9% or greater. However nothing can be said to be 100% because in genetics natural mutations can, and do occur. It should be noted no polled test can save poor management of mixed up hair samples.  Of course, to err is human but when in doubt, test. For Homozygous calves obviously the only way to know is either wait until several offspring are born polled from one horned parent, or test.  However in today’s day and age nobody wants to wait so we simply have to trust the best test at our disposal.

Is Polled Suffering from a Bad Code

Firstly the POC code currently in place naturally tends to lead some to believe there are “polled carriers” which only confuses the matter even more. There is no such thing as a “Polled carrier” animals are either polled or horned. Roy MacGregor, offers this opinion. “I think giving a dominate trait a recessive code is the wrong approach. It would be simpler to add P or PP right in the name. Nobody has to go looking for codes. It’s all right there right in the name, and with proper protocol at registration (simple pedigree research) and proper testing (when needed) this could easily be automatic.”

The Polled Learning Curve

For those who have been following some of the questions and concerns, MacGregor provides his viewpoint. “I think A.I’s all over the world have now panicked and realized all polled bulls need to tested at UC Davis, so the initial shock is probably over. However the problem now is what to do with all the females coded as POC on the 95% accurate Igenity test? This whole POC coding adventure has been especially frustrating for those who have been dealing with polled for years. Imagine being told you have to test something for POC that is obviously polled? Would you ask a breeder with a Red calf to test it for *RC? Polled is still fairly new so hopefully over time common sense will prevail, people just need to relax, slow down, and follow step one (check for the horn bud).”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So, how do you see polled in your breeding program? Is it an opportunity? Is it an annoyance? Is it a necessity? The genetics are rapidly being established that mean there is no sacrifice in genetic merit if you breed for polled dairy cattle.  The first choice of public opinion is moving quickly in favor of polled. From the sidelines, to headlines to main line it’s time to ask yourself, “When it comes to polled, what line will I commit to?”


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