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Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

qs[1]There are many facets to the dairy breeding industry that readers of the Bullvine find themselves attracted to.  Whether its milk records, breeding awards or showring victories, there is something for everyone to get passionate about.  Quim Serrabassa, from Spain, was introduced to cattle early in his life and didn`t ever narrow the field.  For him three dairy passions are better than one.

Beginning in Barcelona

Quim and his brother Jaume were raised on the family farm Mas Comas Novas, La Guixa in Barcelona. Their father, Ramon, was a cattle dealer who enjoyed the buying and selling but wasn’t interested in breeding animals.   When the boys were only 12 and 14 they made a decision that would eventually bring them to where they are today says Quim. “In 1984 Jaume and I decided to keep the best cows and breed our own herd.” They give credit to their mom and dad. “From our parents we learned the love of farming, good cows and cow competitions.  This was a tremendous opportunity and we owe a lot to them for allowing us to take this responsibility at such an early age.”

Trying a New Angle

Twenty years later it was time for another new beginning. “In 2004 I started my own company Triangle Holstein.” Quim highlights how the name corresponds to the business. “There are three different business areas: the livestock business, the semen business and the show business.”  For each specialty area Triangle Holsteins provides customized service.  Like other visionary business men he feels that one-sided expectations of yourself and others could hold them back from reaching their individual breeding goals. “We work closely with the farmer to give professional and personal service tailored to their specific needs.” Quim values his early business experiences. “Many years ago, I had the opportunity to work for a big company and it was great.  I always had the goal of forming my own company.” He points out how it has been. “Working for myself gives me a lot of freedom and satisfaction.  I am responsible for my own decisions.  Sometimes good.  Sometimes wrong.” But undoubtedly, he has learned from all sides of the story.

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A Three-Way Perspective

The Triangle Holstein breeding philosophy is one that starts with genetics but is carried out through careful management. “Triangle Holsteins is focused on the best North American cow families and conformation traits are the number one priority.  Nevertheless, I never forget production and health. The management of these key priorities is the key to making an animal be successful.” Quim knows that in cow terms there are three important areas. “Nutrition, exercise and comfort make all the difference.”  These three combined with kindness are what he calls his “silent” partners.  If those are the three main steps to caring for the animals there are also three characteristics that Quim feels all breeders must have in their personality. “This process requires breeders to be  stubborn, patient and enthusiastic all at the same time.”


Pachecas James Gretta
3 time Spanish National Champion

 Three Triangle Love Stories

It isn`t surprising to learn how many animals this Triangle Holstein breeder singles out. “There have been three special animals in  Quim’s life.”  He starts of with one from his youth.Comas Novas Dibbs Inspiration  was our first Champion cow when I was a teenager. She was a white dairy character cow, all quality from the head to the tail.”  The next one stands out for special reasons too. “My second favorite cow is Pachecas James Greta. She was strong, with a big frame and a fantastic udder. Greta was my longest project working with a show cow and she is the one that won many shows in Spain.” The third memory maker for Quim holds a unique space for Quim.” Regiment Apple will always stand out for me.  We came together many years ago, during the first time I was working in Madison for Mike Deaver who is one of the best cow men that I know. At that time Apple was 2 year old.”


Regiment Apple will always stand out for Quim. They came together many years ago, during the first time Quim was working in Madison for Mike Deaver, at that time Apple was 2 year old.”

Three Part Marketing Vision:  Farms, Shows and Facebook

No matter where you are in the global dairy industry, you are marketing your herd with each contact you make, whether it`s face to face, in cyberspace, hard copy or in the show ring.  Quim Serrabassa once again uses a multi-pronged approach. He outlines his methods. “On one hand I go every two weeks to France to select and buy commercial animals for my customers. My customers are breeders like I used to be, so I always feel very responsible for the cows I pick.” Quim never tires of searching out these animals. “I select them one by one, and this is one of the things I like the most. I walk to the field or to the barn with the intention of finding that special one. Sometimes they don’t start out looking that way. I will find one, usually dirty, with no foot trimming, never clipped … but finding her is a magic moment.” He especially likes it when a selection he makes goes on to do well. “Sometimes you can take her to the show ring. Another time you recognize her doing fine in her new home.”

The second point of Quim’s marketing is very much based on shows. “I like going to shows because it is the place where I meet my customers and I can feel the pulse of the market and hear about their needs.” Quim enjoys breeding for show cows. “My favorite sires for show cows are: Absolute-Red, Delta & Atwood.” But he doesn’t over look dairy cow sires. “For dairy cows I use Explode, Cashcoin, Carson and Deman.” His understanding of the show ring has been well developed over the years and he has gained recognition as a cattle judge. “Judging is one accomplishment I am very proud of.  I never expected to have the opportunity to be an Associate Judge in Madison beside Brian Carsacadden and then later in Laussane beside Mike Deaver.”  Both of these judges rank high for Quim. “In my opinion they are the best.”  (Read more: CARSCADDEN: The Royal Footsteps)

Word of mouth has always been a great way for the dairy industry to market itself.  Today dairy friends, peerwebsites and coworkers take that friendly promotion and sharing to new levels. “To keep my customers updated, we use our web site, Facebook and profiles.” says Quim. This enhances the friendships already made in the worldwide industry. “I share my passion for show cows with Roger Turner and Brian Carscadden who have been my mentors in the USA and Canada. Again Mike Deaver has taught me a lot and is a very special person for me.  Early on, one of my greatest influences was Alfonso Ahedo from Semex Spain. He is a great business man with a huge understanding of the Holstein industry.”  It’s all about sharing the passion says Quim. “I keep the passion for shows going with some members of the original farm. As well there is one nice heifer that I bought with friends Erica Rijneveld, Eric Dougoud, and Pat Conroy. (Read more: Erica Rijneveld – Takes Her Show… And Yours…On The Road! and DECRAUSAZ IRON O’KALIBRA: Simply the Best) These are people that love good cows and with whom I share good times too.”

Marketing and Genomics

In today’s marketplace rapidly changing tools are having a tremendous effect.  Quim looks at Genomics and how it has affected his operations. “Genomics has changed the semen market a lot.  For our company it was a great opportunity to start with.  Genomics provides opportunities for everyone.  The market is now global no matter where the bull comes from or who the owner is.”  Of course having the tool and knowing how to use it is the challenge. Quim seeks balance. “Now we have some genomic information that we can combine with cow family and traditional knowledge.  It is the mix and the balance between the new information and the traditional knowledge that will move us forward in the right direction.” If there is a downside to genomics for Quim, it is related to the speed of change. “Today the genetic market moves too fast.  We hardly have time to appreciate and enjoy the cow family as a group.

Work, Work, Work

Quim points out that there is a lot of hard work to make your dairy business. “You have to be satisfied about the things you do every day and try to keep yourself surround by the people that challenge you to grow.” He knows that everything isn’t always perfect. “This is a job that you have to believe in.  Do not expect big things and always enjoy the small details that life gives to you.” As happy as he is with Triangle Holstein, Quim sums up his accomplishments from his own unique angle. “My biggest success is my family.” Very eloquently he points out that this is where he finds his strength. “Especially when show time is over and the bright lights are off.”


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Stud Wars: Episode II – April 2014

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Just as we have learned with the Rebels versus the Republic in Star Wars, the Stud wars are far from over.  However, instead of clones we have Genomic Sires versus Proven Sires and large A.I. companies versus smaller organizations.  The April 2014 genetic evaluations have seen the gap between the haves and have nots decrease.  Many of the larger studs that had in the past not focused on Genomic sires greatly increased their genomic offerings and some of the smaller studs greatly increased their niche market offerings.  Stud Wars, like Star Wars, thrive on new releases, talent, unexpected changes and rivalries.



As we found in our initial stud wars (Stud Wars – The Battle for A.I. Supremacy), market share of the pre-genomic era correlates very highly with the big five being ABS, Select Sires, Alta Genetics, Accelerated Genetics and CRI.  Since the last proof run, Select Sires has taken over the top spot with two more sires entering the top 50, and CRI has doubled the number of proven sires they had in the top 50 TPI to move into the #2 Spot.  Former #1 holder ABS Global has dropped from 14 sires to 11 in the top 50 TPI and now holds the #3 position. A sign of the time is the way Accelerated has dropped market share.


Both our previous gTPI leaders from December 2013 have dropped but still hold the #1, Select Sires, and #2 Semex spots on our list.  Making a significant jump on the list is CRI who now holds the #3 spot on the list with 5 sires in the top 50 gTPI.  Also seeing an increase is Alta Genetics who now has 4 sires in the top 50 gTPI.


Select Sires continues to lead the way with top TPI offerings both Genomic and Proven. Making a jump into the #2 spot, thanks to an increase in their top TPI proven sires, is CRI. They are followed by Semex who continues to have a strong Genomic TPI offering.  .



It is no surprise that, for the larger AI centers, the focus on the commercial producer market continues to dominate the proven NM$ list.  Select Sires moves into the #1 position with the two additional sires in the top list, with CRI moving into the #2 position, almost doubling the number of top 50 NM$ sires they have to offer.  Dropping significantly was ABS Global who now finds themselves in the #3 position with 5 fewer  sires in the top 50 NM$ list.


A list that was dominated last round by Select Sires who had 32% of the top sires, now finds them tied with CRI and Semex – all with 18% each.  Also seeing a significant drop in top gNM$ sires is Alta Genetics who went from 9 last round to just 4 this round.


On the strength of their strong proven and genomic NM$ offering, Select Sires retains the strongest NM$ offering in the US.  Thanks to a significant investment in Genomic sires CRI now find themselves with the 2nd strongest NM$ offering.



Probably one of the most significant changes of this proof round is Semex moving into the strongest type proven sire offering in the world, with 5 more proven sires moving into the top 50 PTAT.  Former #1 Select Sires goes from having 18 sires in the top 50 to 11 and holds the #2 spot.


When it comes to the top 50 Genomic PTAT sires, Semex and Select Sires still top the list, but both have seen significant declines in totals.  Many small A.I. studs now find themselves with 1 to 3 sires in the top 50.


On the strength of a greatly improved proven type sire line up, Semex now find themselves on top of the overall PTAT list, followed by Select Sires.  However the ever increasing trend continues where more and more smaller AI organizations have a top 50 PTAT proven or genomic sire.



As we continue to see trends change in the industry, we see the sire line-ups in key markets are also starting to change.  Nowhere is it more evident than in the polled trend.  With that in mind, we decided to add two key niche markets to our stud wars analysis: (1) polled TPI sires and (2) Red type sires.  For both of these lists we are using the top 50 proven or genomic sires.

Not surprising the Polled specialists lead the list.  Followed by Select Sires and GenerVations.



As we saw in the overall PTAT list, Semex and Select Sires continue to lead the way in type offerings.  Also similar to the B&W PTAT lists, we find a number of smaller studs also offering 1-4 of the top red and white sires.

The Bullvine Bottom Line


Holding strong with the best proven sire line-up is Select Sires.  Seeing a significant increase and moving into the 2nd strongest proven sire line-up position is CRI.  They rise on the strength of their significant increase in top NM$ proven sires. Also seeing an increase and moving into the #3 position is ABS Global.  Semex finds themselves with 15 less proven sires on our top lists and drops from the #2 position in December to the #4 position currently.


Tied at the top genomic for genomic sires are Select Sires and Semex.  These are the same two studs that ranked #1 and #2 last round.  Moving up 2 spots from last round is CRI, powered by a significant investment in top gNM$ sires.  Also making a strong showing is the Sexing Technologies / Trans-World Genetics partnership powered by their agreement with the EDG group, who own many of the top genomic females in the world.


Retaining the title of as the strongest overall sire line-up is Select Sires, though it should be noted that Select went from 28% of the top sires in December 2013 to 21% this time.  Holding steady with increases in their proven sire line-up and slight decreases in their genomic sire line-up, Semex comes in as the 2nd strongest sire line-up.  Moving up to the #3 sire line-up with significant improvements in their proven TPI sire line-up as well as genomic offerings is CRI. ABS Global and Alta Genetics round out the top 5.

Join us in staying tuned to the next order of business in the expanding universe of the Stud Wars.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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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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The other day I listened to a well-known breeder vent about how his bull had been turned down by an AI unit because they had an equal quality sire of their own that  cost them a lot less to procure.  Can I say I was shocked?  Nope.  That’s because, since starting the Bullvine, we have been telling breeders who provide seed stock to AI units that those  days are numbered.

It’s hard for me to look at this objectively.  You see, when I look at it with my dairy breeder hat on, I am outraged at the whole scenario.  But, when I look at this as a businessman, (something I am asked to do daily for many large corporations outside of agriculture), it just makes good financial and strategic sense.

I Hate To Say I Told You So…..

You see over a year ago in our article, How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry, we outlined exactly what was going to happen.  We even put it in graphs to show clearly what and how and when it would occur.  So now a year later, when exactly what we predicted is occurring, it is no surprise to us here at The Bullvine.

What Happened?

Now some would ask,   ”If they are sampling 1/3 the number of bulls that they used to, why have sire procurement costs gone up?  Well that’s simple. Even with the reduction in the number of sires, there has been a much larger increase in the price of each bull.  Gone are the days when the average sire cost was  between $5,000 and $10,000. Now the costs are currently approaching $100,000 for a top genomic sire.  From the outside looking in, that looks like a big win for the seed stock producers.  Of course things are not always as they appear.

What Does the Future Hold?

You see the AI companies cannot  operate at a loss.  Therefore,  the AI units really only have three possibilities to combat the increased cost of sire procurement:

  • Increase semen price
    Since they now have greater expenses, A.I. companies will be forced to increase price.  As demonstrated in many other industries, the market will not respond favorably to this and ultimately will drive prices back down.  You see the largest segment of the marketplace (commercial producers) have no desire to pay more than the $10-$15 blend price they have already been paying.  While yes the elite seed stock producer is prepared to pay  more to get early access to truly special sires, the marketplace as a whole is not.
    END RESULT: No change
  • Cap contracts
    So, if A.I. companies cannot increase revenues they will have to try and cut their costs.  The procurement of sires will become the major expense they will seek to control.  One way to do this will be to cap bull contracts.  However, as the NHL has shown us, even if they could introduce a cap, some members will break that rule and other breeders will not stand for it.  Also, outside of pro sports, when organizations come together to create a false ceiling on prices, anti-trust laws tend to break that up pretty quickly.
    END RESULT: No change
  • Produce their own product line
    If A.I. companies cannot buy the bulls at a cheaper price, then they will have to go out and buy females and produce their own product.  This will lead to cheaper acquisition costs.  A.I. companies can now buy the females for $50,000 to $250,000 and only need to have that female produce one son.  That will still be cheaper than leasing the sire on an open lease.  This also allows them to have greater control of their bloodlines, accelerate their genetic advancement and develop their own distinctive product.
    END RESULT: Cheaper product development costs and a distinctive product.

So it’s no surprise that large A.I. units are  doing exactly  that.  Over the past year, the number of top 50 gTPI females owned or controlled by large genetic organizations has gone from 11 to 23.  Give it another year and that number will probably reach 30 maybe even 40. “Why you ask?”  There are two main reasons: First the larger A.I. studs and genetic corporations have the resources to IVF these females extensively, so they will have   many more potential top progeny;  Secondly, the breeders who do own the remaining 27 animals, will not have the revenue streams (bull and female sales) to support the continued IVF programs they are running, thus  resulting in less potential list topping females.

What does this mean to Other AI Units?

Here at the Bullvine we took a lot of heat when we published Semex – The Rise and Fall of a Semen Empire.  But even that article is proving to be accurate. You see, in this in-between period where A.I. units, especially those that used to sample massive numbers of bulls, are seeing insane cost savings, studs like Semex should be turning a much larger profit.  Why is that you ask?  Well it’s simple math.  In this transition period the studs are paying next to nothing for the sires.  That is because they don’t have to pay out the average $7,500 per  sire that they used to, because most new sires are all on lease.  This results in at least a $1,500,000 decrease in sire procurement costs alone for Semex, and that does not factor in the extra savings in operations, housing, marketing, genetic evaluation fees, etcetera.  Add to that the increased revenue from higher young sire semen prices and you can see why Semex is having “Record Performance”.  That record performance is more correctly the result of the transition caused by  changes in the industry than it is better operations.  The question now becomes, what happens to companies like Semex who refuse to own their own females, once this transition is complete and the cost savings period is over?

What does this mean for seed stock producers?

There are really only two options. Fight it or live with it?  Recently I read a very interesting post on Facebook by  In it they compared the current dairy industry with the 1960’s and 70’s NHL hockey scenario.  That was when  the players had not yet unionized and so they were receiving a small fraction of the profits.  While this is certainly the same case in the Dairy Seed Stock world, there are some big differences between the two scenarios.  The first and foremost difference is  that, in the NHL’s case, when the players unionized they had control of the product.  Yes the NHL owners could have gone out and gotten non-unionized players, but the product they put on the ice would have been far inferior.  In the current seed stock world, that is not the case at all.  As we highlighted earlier in this article, the large A.I. units and genetic corporations already own or control almost 50% of the top females, and that number is  getting higher.  That in itself is the greatest union breaker in the world.

So, when you factor in no bull sales and very limited female sales, the future does not look bright for the seed stock producers.  You see if they start selling off their high-end females (the only females that are really worth anything), they you don’t have the next generation in their  own program. But if they  don’t sell, then they  don’t have the revenue to support their own programs.

A little while back I had a great conversation with Ari Ekstein.  It hit home. He was highlighting to me how there is still a good market for well bred, non-index cows.  That is something their Quality herd has been able to produce generation after generation.  (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day)   Ari was highlighting several points.  Today they don’t sell many bulls to the large studs.  Also today they don’t see that many $300,000 calves being sold.  However what they do have is a consistent market for selling high quality, young cattle to fellow breeders.  As I look to the future, this may be the only true market that will survive in the near future.  It’s already happening.  If you look at the sale prices at the recent sales, genomic heifer prices are down almost 50%, while pedigree heifers have remained relatively unchanged. (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As someone who loves the dairy industry more than anything (how many other people do you know that will lay in the piss just to take pictures at the cattle shows?), this is a hard message for me to share.  When we first launched the Bullvine, it was my desire at that time, to also go out and buy many top females.  My father had the exact same  passion.  The problem is that as we penciled out the numbers and did a five and ten year forecast, the numbers just didn’t work.  So instead we have sunk our time and energy into producing the Bullvine, something we see as more viable over the long term.  While yes we have purchased several animals over the past 2 years at some of the major sales, it was more  from the passion mindset than because of the financial one.  For other producers that are still investing heavily in top genomic females, I ask you to really look at the current marketplace and answer one question, “Where will my revenue be coming from in 10 years?”  If you can’t answer that question specifically, maybe it’s time to rethink your whole business strategy.  If you don’t,  you could  end up being a casualty of the genomic war.


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With each new proof round comes new sires, new rankings and, frankly, new headaches.  Wanting to do more than just pump out the same old lists that really do not mean anything to anyone but the semen marketers, or just promote the bulls from the studs who pay us the most money, the Bullvine took a look at the recent December 2013 Genetic Evaluations to find not only the list toppers, but a deeper look to find those unique sires that will address your key breeding challenges.

Overall Performance Improvement

When looking for the sire that  will help improve your herd across the board, we looked for sires that have a balance of production and longevity, and most importantly a proven pedigree that ensures that their performance  will last. We also wanted great health and fertility traits that will deliver a low maintenance cow (Read more – Fact vs. Fantasy: A realistic approach to sire selection). Here are our top four:

    Socrates x O Man x Manat
    Proven Sire –  Select Sires
    +1464 lbs. Milk +0.12 %F  +87 lbs. F +0.04 %P +53 lbs P 5.5 PL 2.95 SCS +1.95 PTAT +2248TPI
    +1946 kgs Milk +0.41F +116 kgs. F +0.15 %P +79 kgs P +110 HL 3.00 SCS +5 Conf. +3188 LPI
    Long a popular high genomic sire, with his high debut in August and sustained numbers as he adds more daughters, Robust has proven to be a great performance improver. He  is a high NM$ (+765) Velvet-View-KJ SOCRATES-ET (EX-94-GM) son from Seagull-Bay Oman Mirror (VG-86-DOM). He transmits exceptional components (+.12% Fat, +87 Fat, +.04% Protein, +53 Protein) and outstanding longevity (+5.5 Productive Life).  A Calving Ease and relative outcross sire, ROBUST moderates stature and adds height and width to the rear udder.   Robust will work best on tall deep cattle that need feet and leg improvement.
    Bolton x Boliver x Bombay
    Proven Sire –  ABS Global
    +2534 lbs Milk  -0.07 %F  +73 lbs. F -0.01 %P +72 lbs P 0.7 PL 2.95 SCS +1.84 PTAT +2067TPI
    +2978 kgs. Milk -0.25F +85 kgs. F -0.05 %P +90 kgs P +102 HL 2.99 SCS +7 Conf. +2953 LPI
    With so many O Man, Planet, Goldwyn, Shottle, and Freddie sons dominating the lists, it nice to see a sire like RUBLE ranking among them.  The cow family behind RUBLE features five consecutive generations of AI bull mothers. RUBLE’s five closest dams all produced milk records in excess of 32,000 lbs. RUBLE’s grand dam, Bombay Rale was a tremendous brood cow leaving 6-VG & 4-EX daughters in the herd by seven different sires.  RUBLE daughters are moderate stature and dairy. Protect for strength as they can be narrow through the chest. Udders are everything  you would  expect from the two popular pedigrees. High, wide rear udders, smooth blending fore udders, and a deep seam to carry their high production through many lactations. Daughters track straight with a correct foot, though you need to protect for a slight set to rear legs and protect rumps for pin width.
    Mogul x Snowman x Planet
    Genomic Sire – Semex
    +1964 lbs Milk  +0.04 %F  +81 lbs. F +0.01 %P +61 lbs P 4.3 PL 2.68 SCS +3.31 PTAT +2446 TPI
    +2516 kgs. Milk +0.07F +100 kgs. F +0.01 %P +82 kgs P +113 HL 2.69 SCS +18 Conf. +3483 LPI
    Wickham’s high genomic numbers should not surprise anyone.  Coming from the same family that has produced genomic giants, Epic, Emmet and many others.  Wickham is an early Mogul son from the Whittier-Farms Lead Mae family.  Look for Wickham to sire tall angular daughters with average depth.  Expect great mammary systems and feet and legs though he should be protected on straightness of leg and chest width.
  • DE-SU 11236 BALISTO
    Bookem x Watson x O Man
    Genomic Sire – ABS Global
    +1725 lbs Milk  +0.12 %F  +96 lbs. F +0.01 %P +78 lbs P 4.3 PL 2.71 SCS +2.72 PTAT +2424 TPI
    +1923 kgs. Milk +0.31F +104 kgs. F +0.30 %P +94 kgs P +111 HL 2.54 SCS +10 Conf. +3409 LPI
    For those of you looking for a high genomic outcross sire, Balisto can certainly do the trick.  Balisto is the Bookem brother to the #1 gLPI sire in the world De-Su Mg Davinci 11288.  Their dam is the outcross Watson daughter of Pine-Tree Missy Miranda (Full sister to De-Su 199 Chart Topper), then of course Wesswood-HC Rudy Missy herself.   Look for Balisto to sire outstanding components, with solid type and health traits.  Balisto will need to be protected on rumps as he  will tend to have a high rump angle and will be a touch weaker in the loins.

Production Improvement

It might be easy to just take the top milk lists or combine the fat plus protein and say those sires are the best for overall production. We here at the Bullvine would not want to totally forgo type as well as health and fertility, so we are looking for the sires that give you the maximum production gain, without sacrificing everything to get it.  In addition to Robust, Ruble and  Balisto mentioned above, some other production improvement sires to consider include:

    O Man x BW Marshall x Aaron
    Proven Sire
    +2075 lbs Milk  -0.03 %F  +67 lbs. F -0.01 %P +61 lbs P 1.9 PL 2.79 SCS +2.43 PTAT +2109 TPI
    +3059 kgs. Milk -0.15 F +98 kgs. F -0.03 %P +94 kgs P +104 HL 2.67 SCS +11 Conf. +3112 LPI
    When it comes to production improvement it is hard to argue with  Snowman.  While many people are mixed on Snowman daughters, there is no question that they know how to milk.  Snowman is your classic milk bull. He has extreme component yields with average type.  However,  as history teaches us, extreme sires are exactly  the ones that we need to use most in order to accelerate genetic advancement.  While  not high type, Snowman daughters are surprising many by being solid VG  milk cows.  He certainly needs to be protected for fat percentage and straight rear legs and most definitely DPR.  But if you have the high fat percent heifer or cow that needs an instant production hit, Snowman is the man.  Since semen is in limited supply maybe consider a couple of his sons, full brothers SEAGULL-BAY PLATINUM or DIAMOND or maybe S-S-I SNOWMAN MAYFLOWER.
    Fibrax x O Man x Sinatra
    Proven Sire – Alta Genetics
    +911 lbs Milk  +0.19 %F  +84 lbs. F +0.12 %P +60 lbs P 0.3 PL 3.13 SCS +0.91 PTAT +1986 TPI
    +1246 kgs. Milk +0.52F +100 kgs. F +0.36 %P +78 kgs P +104 HL 3.22 SCS +3 Conf. +2918 LPI
    With the exception of O Man,  most breeders would probably never have heard of many of the sires in AltaFixman’s pedigree.  That’s mostly a result of the international genetics marketplace these days, as his sire, Fibrax is from Italy and his dam, FROUKJE 375 is from the Mars herd in The Netherlands.  But don’t let this relatively unknown pedigree scare you.  It is actually based on generation after generation of strong type and production. Although his overall Milk numbers may seem average,  his components are out of this world.  At +.19%F +84 lbs of Fat and +.12%P +60lbs of Protein, AltaFixman is certainly a strong component punch whenever you need it. Type wise look for AltaFixman to sire good all around solid cows that could be protected on median suspensory ligament and body depth. As an added bonus, since AltaFixman is such a non North American pedigree, he is certainly an outcross to most North American cattle.
    Robust x Planet x Shottle
    Genomic Sire – Select Sires
    +2342 lbs Milk  +0.08 %F  +107 lbs. F +0.02 %P +75 lbs P 5.4 PL 2.80 SCS +2.38 PTAT +2413 TPI
    +2586 kgs. Milk +0.25F +122 kgs. F +0.06 %P +91 kgs P +111 HL 2.85 SCS +9 Conf. +3395 LPI
    Of course it’s hard to mention any  production improvement without including Supersire.   This Robust son from AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA VG-87-2YR-USA, really is a genomic wonder. Not only does he have the highest genomic values in the breed for production but he also has great functional type and health traits to go with it. Here you have a sire that is 2342 lbs. for milk, with positive component deviations, 2.38 for type, and over +5 for productive life.  Supersire daughters and sons are already topping many of the lists.  While Supersire daughters will not be winning many shows, his no holes type linear has resulted in his widespread  use and so far he has delivered on all expectations.
    Robust x Massey x Boliver
    Genomic Sire – Alta Genetics
    +1603 lbs Milk  +0.13 %F  +93 lbs. F +0.09 %P +71 lbs P 4.5 PL 2.85 SCS +2.41 PTAT +2373 TPI
    +858 kgs. Milk +0.41F +113 kgs. F +0.28 %P +89 kgs P +110 HL 2.89 SCS +7 Conf. +3256 LPI
    Another Robust son that should certainly get your attention is AltaBgood.  While not an international pedigree like AltaFixman, AltaBgood’s pedigree will not spark instant recognition for most breeders.  What you do get is generation after generation of genomic performance that is higher than their parent averages.  While those wanting pedigree power to go with the genomic test may not want to use AltaBgood, those that have confidence in the genomic system should  certainly take a look.  Like AltaFixman, AltaBgood will also sire extreme component improvement (+.13%F +93lbs F +.09%P +71 lbs P).  He combines these outstanding components with a strong type linear and average health traits.  AltaBgood will need to be protected for high pins and dairy strength.

Longevity Improvement

While some would try to tell you that high type equals longevity, that is not necessarily the case.    When it comes to longevity, it’s  hard to argue with actual performance indices like Herd Life and Productive Life.  In order to give a more balanced approach to longevity, we looked at both and came up with the following top sires:

    Bolton x Bret x Rudolph
    Proven Sire – ABS Global
    +1603 lbs Milk  -0.04 %F  +46 lbs. F -0.01 %P +46 lbs P 4.9 PL 2.70 SCS +3.00 PTAT +2267 TPI
    +1721 kgs. Milk -0.16F +48 kgs. F -0.02 %P +53 kgs P +114 HL 2.67 SCS +13 Conf. +2971 LPI
    Another popular genomic sire that has become a mainstay on the proven sire lists is Dorcy.  DORCY offers breeders a little different pedigree with no O Man, Planet, Goldwyn or Shottle  in it. The impressive combination of type and production from his cow family and daughters are readily evident in DORCY’s proof with +1603M +46F +46P +623NM 2.70SCS +4.90PL and +3.00T +3.22UDC +3.07FLC. He has good ratings for all functional traits except for calving ease. Breeders interested in a Bolton son from an outcross pedigree, top notch udders, very good feet & legs and functional traits may consider Dorcy. Dairy Strength and Rump are only slightly above breed norms.  Look for Dorcy to sire balanced dairy cattle that have great udders and very good feet & legs, though he will need to be protected for  fat percent and dairy strength, specifically his body depth and chest width.
    Planet x Ramos x Bullet
    Proven Sire – Cooperative Resources International (CRI)
    +1156 lbs Milk  +0.11 %F  +71 lbs. F +0.02 %P +39 lbs P 7.7 PL 2.76 SCS +0.93 PTAT +2157 TPI
    +1386 kgs. Milk +0.36 F +90 kgs. F +0.06 %P +50 kgs P +112 HL 2.70 SCS +2 Conf. +2853 LPI
    While Erdman is a Planet son, the rest of his pedigree Ramos x Bullet x Brandon actually makes Erdman a relative outcross sire.  His pedigree also demonstrates one high productive life sire after another.  A product of the Genesis program by CRI, he has been built to sire highly profitable (+803NM$) cattle.  While many type breeders will not love his +0.93 PTAT, his 7.7 for productive life (112 herd life), his 2.76 SCS and 110 daughter fertility (+1.9 DPR) will certainly catch the eye of many producers. Expect Erdman daughters to have strong mammary systems and sound legs. He will need protected on foot angle, pin width and dairy strength.
    Mogul x Observer x Shottle
    Genomic Sire – Semex
    +908 lbs Milk  +0.09 %F  +56 lbs. F +0.03 %P +36 lbs P 7.4 PL 2.49 SCS +3.01 PTAT +2417 TPI
    +1375 kgs. Milk +0.21F +73 kgs. F +0.08 %P +53 kgs P +119 HL 2.43 SCS +14 Conf. +3243 LPI
    Fix’s dam SPEEK-NJ OBSERV FANDANGO VG-86-2yr has the rare combination of being high index and from 8 generations of EX behind her (Read more: FERME J.P. POULIN: YOU’RE ALWAYS WELCOME! TOUJOURS BIENVENU!) a testament to the longevity of his maternal lines Combine that with the high productive life sire Mogul and you certainly have an unbeatable longevity package.  Look for him to sire great udders with  strong feet and legs though he may need to be protected on stature for some breeders preferences.
    Mogul x Observer x Shottle
    Genomic Sire – Alta Genetics
    +1282 lbs Milk  +0.03 %F  +45 lbs. F +0.02 %P +50 lbs P 6.7 PL 2.64 SCS +3.12 PTAT +2426 TPI
    +1666 kgs. Milk +0.05 F +66 kgs. F +0.09 %P +63 kgs P +118 HL 2.63 SCS +14 Conf. +3273 LPI
    This seems to be the magic sire stack for longevity improvement.  With a linear that is off the charts and strong production numbers and health and fertility traits, AltaRoble certainly deserves your attention.  A +6.7 productive life, +2.4 Daughter Pregnancy Rate and +2.64 SCS certainly shows that AltaRoble not only has the type numbers, he actually has the longevity numbers to back it up.  Breeders may want to protect him on body depth and teat length.

Health and Fertility Improvement

With the constant improvement in the accuracy of health and fertility  index calculations, more and more breeders are confidently including Health and Fertility traits in their breeding requirements.

    Planet x O Man x BW Marshall
    Proven Sire – Select Sires
    +1416 lbs Milk  +0.00 %F  +43 lbs. F -0.01 %P +49 lbs P 5.9 PL 2.84 SCS +2.64 PTAT +2186 TPI
    +1973 kgs. Milk -0.05 F +68 kgs. F +0.02 %P +66 kgs P +111 HL 2.83 SCS +12 Conf. +3072 LPI
    Carrying the flag and riding the wave of the health and fertility trend is  De-Su Observer.  This sire has been the poster child for high health and fertility since his early genomic numbers came back and catapulted him into international use.  With his daughter performance validating his early numbers, Observer has to be one of the quickest sires in history to get to 99% Reliability.  His daughters stamp out a pretty consistent pattern with strong production and solid type.  Type wise he has actually performed pretty well, with daughters exhibiting outstanding udders (watch out for short teats) and solid feet and legs.  One area you will also want to protect him on is his dairy strength, as his daughters are certainly not deep and could stand to have more chest width.
    Bolton x O Man x Adam
    Proven Sire – Semenzoo
    +1562 lbs Milk  +0.02 %F  +53 lbs. F +0.01 %P +59 lbs P -0.3 PL 2.75 SCS +2.79 PTAT +2072 TPI
    +2084 kgs. Milk -0.05 F +73 kgs. F +0.07 %P +75 kgs P +104 HL 2.76 SCS +14 Conf. +3091 LPI
    With such a push on health traits over the past few years, it’s actually almost impossible to find an outcross sire on the top lists.  If you are one of the few that didn’t go heavy on Mascalese as a genomic sire, you certainly can take advantage of that now by using him or one of his many sons.   Possessing greater conformation than his sire stack would indicate, MASACLESE sires strong dairy cattle that are durable and possess good health  traits.   For those looking for a more outcross sire that is high for health and fertility, try Erdman mentioned above.
    Facebook x Shottle x O Man
    Genomic Sire – Semex
    +1628 lbs Milk  +0.05 %F  +62 lbs. F +0.03 %P +68 lbs P +4.7 PL 2.76 SCS +2.42 PTAT +2348 TPI
    +1955 kgs. Milk +0.05 F +78 kgs. F +0.13 %P +78 kgs P +114 HL 2.82 SCS +13 Conf. +3352 LPI
    This Marbri Facebook son has some of the highest DGVs in the breed. Look for him to sire extreme component yields from strong dairy cattle with great feet and legs. One area to be cautious about, when using him, is his body depth. Both his sire stack and his DGVs would say this area needs protecting.
    Hunter x Massey x Ally
    Genomic Sire – Cooperative Resources International (CRI)
    +1265 lbs Milk  +0.21 %F  +101 lbs. F +0.08 %P +61 lbs P +3.9 PL 2.81 SCS +2.46 PTAT +2401 TPI
    +1474 kgs. Milk +0.51 F +107 kgs. F +0.22 %P +72 kgs P +112 HL 2.78 SCS +12 Conf. +3353 LPI
    If you’re looking for something a little different and an outcross pedigree, try Salvino.  Another product of the Genesis program at CRI, Salvino is a 2nd generation product of this program. His dam’s sire, Massey, was one of the early success stories of this program.  Look for Salvino to sire strong component improvement with a solid type linear.  In a market place flooded with many of the same bloodlines, finding a sire that is a little different and yet still able to deliver top progeny can be a challenge.  Salvino may be your best option for a relative outcross sire that still can compete with the other top genomic sires.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We have stated it many times. In maximizing your genetic gain, you can’t just pick from the top of the TPI or LPI list.  You need to make sure that your matings are the best corrective cross.  Breeding great cattle is part art and part science. You need to have both parts.   It takes careful consideration and generation after generation of corrective mating to breed great cow families.  That is why, instead of just giving you a list of the top 12, we have tried to provide you with insight into which sires will provide you with the maximum gain in each specific area.

Check out our Genetic Evaluations Section for more information.


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A long time ago in a galaxy far away……Who are we kidding the A.I. stud wars are now and the battleground is the USA, the most lucrative genetics market in the world.  For years I have heard the debate from all sides about which stud has the best sire line-up.  The problem is most of it has been anecdotal and no one has really backed it up with numbers.  So, in true Bullvine fashion, we thought we would bring numbers to this galactic battle.

To settle this confrontation, we decided to let genomics and genetic evaluations determine exactly which stud rules the empire.  Specifically we looked at top 50 proven and genomic sires for TPITM, NM$ and PTAT to determine who are the studs and who are the duds.  The following is what we found.  (Please note we deemed a sire to be available if the had an NAAB Code)


tpi proven siressw

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It’s interesting to see how the percentages seem to be similar to market share, prior to the genomic era.  The big five being ABS, Select Sires, Alta Genetics, Accelerated Genetics and Genex.

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The top gPA TPI sires tell a very different story than that of the proven sires.  Studs like ABS Global and Alta Genetics do not have as large a portion of the top bulls whereas Semex and Select Sires have invested heavily in obtaining top gPA TPI sires.

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When it comes to strength of line-up from a TPI perspective, it’s interesting to see how Semex and some of the smaller studs have made a big push on getting the top genomic sires, in order to have that stronger line-up in the future.  On the other hand, some of the established studs are resting on their proven laurels. (Please note for top list we used the top 50 genomic and top 50 proven sires.)


nm$ proven siressw

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It is interesting how the studs that are more milk producer focused as opposed to breeder focused rise up on this list.  Specifically Genex, Alta Genetics and ABS have their best showings here.

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Even the studs who have not gone heavily into genomics, are at least sampling some high genomic sires for NM$.  When it comes to selling volumes of semen, nothing compares to a high NM$ sire.  Yes the top TPI sires will sell well, but the high NM$ will move in volume as they attractive the commercial market.


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The greatest spread of the top sires amongst the studs occurs in NM$.  This is not surprising since this is such a lucrative market for so many studs.  They all are trying to get the top sires.


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When it comes to the top type bulls, it seems like everyone wants a shot at them.  Type sires are a premium market delivering high margins to the units.  This is certainly one area where type oriented countries and their respective studs excel (Example, Semenzoo and Semex).

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Similar to the proven bull list, this is an area where everyone wants to play.  It is interesting to see that many of the type niche studs don’t have more on these lists.  That could be due to the fact that they are focusing on show type and not necessarily on sires who have high genomic tests for PTAT.

ptat siressw

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A subject of great debate on our Facebook page has been who has the better type sire lineup, Select Sires or Semex.  If you go by the numbers, there is no question that Select Sires has the advantage.  Looking deeper into this, we decided to take the top 5 proven and the top 5 genomic sires from each stud and see whose were better.  Select Sires averaged 4.14 PTAT and Semex averaged 3.72.  So Select not only has an advantage in numbers but also in quality.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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It’s always interesting when you get into the debate about which studs have the best sire lineup to see the perceptions people have.  Most look at it based on what their breeding goals are and state their opinion relative to that.  Nevertheless there are many that are guilty of looking at things through rose colored glasses for the studs they prefer and hence discrediting other studs because of it.  The one thing you cannot deny is that, when you look across the board,   the US sire line up at Select Sires has the largest market share and are a player in each major market.  Studs like Semex (type) and ABS, Alta Genetics, and Genex (NM$ and TPI) do well in niche segments.

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Semex – The Rise and Fall of a Semen Empire

Friday, December 14th, 2012

I have seen men who once screamed EBI green turn to the dark side.  Men who used to bleed WOBI blue now openly criticize the organization that was the epitome, half a century ago, of everything Dairy in Canada.  The Semex Alliance that once dominated, no longer owns the Canadian marketplace.  There is criticism from within.  How did the organization that once defined the Canadian marketplace lose control of it?

I’ll establish my personal allegiances before the hate mail commences.  I grew up with the belief that the Canadian cow was the best in the world and that the Canadian dairy cattle improvement system was second to none.  This was so heartfelt for me that I have the Holstein Canada logo tattooed on my chest.  I believed that the likes of Moe Freeman, Roy Snyder and George Clemons were super heroes who could leap tall buildings in a single bound.  At that time, there was leadership, teamwork and cooperation that pulled differences together for the common good.  Today?  Not so much.  (Read more – Select Sires vs. Semex – A contrast in cooperatives) The reason for this decline and fall has gradually kicked in for me.  When Doug Blair and Alta Genetics decided to purchase Landmark Genetics, the foundation of what was Semex and the partnership and cooperation that made Canada great, started to crumble.  That was the first crack in the cooperation and teamwork that had lead Semex and Canada to global prominence.  Later, when GenerVations, a stud other than Semex, had produced the #1 sire (Calbertt-I H H Champion) in Canada that further ate away at what was the core of Semex.

Canadiens vs. Nordiques

As I was thinking about this a situation came to my mind.  Like most Canadians, I am a huge hockey fan and I am reminded of what has been the downfall of the once mighty Montreal Canadiens.  The Canadiens once had it all. They had hockey dominance all to themselves, just as Semex had controlled the Canadian marketplace.  However, in hockey, when the WHA launched, one of the first steps made by the Nordiques was the hiring of the Canadiens legend, Maurice Richard, as their coach.  It didn’t work out – the Rocket’s personality was no fit at all for the job and he lasted a couple of games.  However, the strategic move of his signing was a golden one that set a precedent, much like Blair’s and the leadership team at Alta Genetics.  There was now another option in Canada.  Hockey fans had a choice.

The other part that I think is even more telling for the Semex fall from dominance is that they no longer always had the best Canadian product.  This compares to the Canadiens having to give up their territorial exemption in 1970.  You see in the days of the Original Six, the Canadiens had all but exclusive rights to any junior player in Quebec.  That singular grasp over one of the greatest sources of talent gave the Canadiens a significant advantage in assembling talent.  It was as if they were starting every poker game with an ace in hand.  Semex had a similar success story.  But when GenerVations had the #1 LPI sire, there was a clear message that Semex was not the only option. Even today GenerVations works at showing breeders there are other options (Read more –$750 Dollar Semen! Are you crazy?).  Even in Quebec with the great work Trans America Genetics (TAG) is doing they are not even the only option in the hockey and genetic heartland of Canada.

Furthermore, today’s generation of active breeders hasn`t grown up with Semex as the impenetrable force.  There was a time when merely uttering a negative thought about Semex was considered high treason.  But think about how things have changed. Through MACE, Genomics, social media and a globalizing of the marketplace, today’s generation of breeders has not known Semex Sires as the only super stars.  This is the same as today`s Quebecois growing  up with the likes of Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, Luc Robitaille, Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis or Martin Brodeur not wearing a Canadien’s jersey.  Even one Canadien who did rank among them, Patrick Roy, demanded a trade out of Montreal.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Semex’s superior place in Canadian and global dairy cattle breeding history remains almost unequaled.  However, that position is less secure today than many would like to admit.  I am not saying they can’t regain prominence or even be a major global player.  What I am saying is that we all need to remember that cooperation is what made Canada great in the first place.  All players working together will build a product that is greater than the sum of its parts. That is what made Canada great and that is what will help Canada rise back to the top of the genetic empire.


While many would think that all farmer-owned cooperatives would have the same challenges and the same mandates, there could no greater contrast than the approaches taken by Select Sires and Semex.  Select Sires is a federation of nine farmer-owned-and-controlled cooperative and Semex is a partnership of three breeder owned cooperatives.  So structurally they are quite similar with perhaps some significant differences in mandates.  However these two artificial insemination companies are headed in very different directions when it comes to approaches to communications and product development.

The Art of Sire Sampling

GLEN-TOCTIN BOLT LUCILLE VG-87 - one of the dams selected for the ART program

one of the dams selected for the ART program and dam of S-S-I DOMAIN LITHIUM

There no question that how an AI company defines its genetic mission, contracts young sires and proves bulls will greatly affect the profitability of the company.  In 2009, the Select Sires board saw the writing on the wall with genomics, the new tool on the scene.  The Board directed management to find new and better ways of procuring additional high-ranking, uniquely bred genetics in the most cost effect manner possible.  This lead to the development of Aggressive Reproductive Technologies (ARTTM), a program that involves the ownership of a small group of elite females (Read – Should A.I. Companies Own Females).  The females were purchased with plans to purposely breed them to create new and unique genetics for Select Sires, a product that would help differentiate them in the marketplace.

While Select insist that “the bulls resulting from the ART program compliment, not replace, bull calves that we continue to purchase from seed-stock producers” explains Jeff Ziegler, Genomics Program Manager at Select Sires.  Semex, on the other hand, have made it very clear that they have “no interest in owning females” and decided that they would stick to what they know best, sire sampling, and let the breeders specialize in breeding the cattle.  That may be a great brand position with their traditional seed-stock breeders, but if they cannot procure and prove they have the top genetics, it will mean nothing and prove to be a very costly mistake.

The Golden Rule – He Who Has The Bulls Has The Power



So how has this been working out?  Seventeen of the top new 200 new release females for October are members of the ART program at Select Sires (Read – Top 200 New Release Females for October).  In fact, this is a growing trend with 10/200 in September and 8/200 in July.  There are also early genomic young sires making their mark, including MOUNTFIELD SSI DCY MOGUL (purchased as an embryo) who is already being used as a sire of sons.  Two recent success stories from the female ownership side of ART are S-S-I BOOKEM MORGAN and S-S-I LITHIUM. Both are top 10 bulls on Holstein USA’s August active genomic young sires for GTPI at +2495 and +2470,respectively.

However, Select Sires ability to perform at an A+ level does not just come from the ART program.  In recent August 2012 sire summary, Select Sires leads the industry with 36 sires on Holstein USA’s Top 100 Total Performance Index (TPI) list with at least 97 percent reliability for milk and type.  In addition, Select Sires is home to 10 sires over +3.00 for PTAT including the new #1 Type sire, MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOOD EX-90.  They own the No. 1 TPI sire above 97% reliability for milk and type, Ensenada Taboo Planet EX-90-GM.  The future is also looking bright with 24 of the top 50 GTPI active genomic young sires coming from the Select Sires Super SamplerTM lineup.

So how has Semex policy of partnering with top breeders instead of owning females being working for them?  According to our analysis of the August 2012 New Release sires in Canada, a few of Semex’s partner herds have not been delivering the product.  Two key Semex partner herds Stanton’s and Claynook saw nine sires proven with an average drop of 418 LPI points when compared to the GPA LPI’s.  Those same two herds have seen an average drop of 635 points on over 40 bulls since the introduction of genomics back in August 2009 (Read – The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling).

In fact, Select Sires owns the #1 LPI sire, Ensenada Taboo Planet EX-90-GM.  Even in the market where Semex dominates in the number of young sires sampled it only have five out of the top 10 GPA LPI young sires from the August 2012 release.  Remember they sample over 70% of the sires in Canada.   and they only has three of the top 30 GPA TPI sires.  By comparison GenerVations, which has been very active in the ownership of females, has four of the top 30 GPA LPI sires and they sample a small fraction of the sires that Semex does.

No Longer a Dictatorship –It Is Now A Two Way Conversation

In today’s business world, if you don’t have a better product, you had better do a great job of marketing your product.  For years, Semex has been able to market and sell based on the ‘Canadian Kind’.  However, genomic evaluations has pretty much all but removed any customer loyalty and regional advantages that may have existed for AI companies in the past. Breeding programs have been adjusted by most major AI companies so they can deliver product that will satisfy breeders individual breeding strategies.  AI companies, the world over, have had to redefine their business model  over the past few years and rebranding has had to be addressed. Recent print ads and website changes would suggest that without the top of the list product to sell Semex has started to rebrand itself.

Yet, as the world becomes more social,  information, access to it and the ways the product will generate more customer profit as driving forces in today’s dairy cattle breeding world. It is no longer about control it is about accurate and new information.  It’s about open two-way discussion.  No longer can you dictate what people are to think, but rather you need to engage them in open honest conversations.

In the Bullvine’s recent articles about 7 Sires to Use in Order to Breed the Next World Dairy Expo ChampionThe Top 12 Holstein Genomic Young Sires To Use for Maximum Genetic Gain and The Sensational 6 Top 6 North American Genomic Holsteins We Would Invest In, Select Sires not only allowed us to share it with their readers they actually posted it themselves on Facebook and Tweeted it as well.  Semex either deleted our posts or did not even respond.  It’s no wonder that Select Sires has the larger social following.  Gone are the days when the one who pays the most control’s the media, as is evident by us here at the Bullvine.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The marketing place is evolving, those companies that evolve and adjust will survive and thrive, those that don’t will fizzle out.  I am not saying that Semex needs to run out and buy females, nor am I a saying that Select Sires is doing everything correctly.  However, there are some significant differences in how these two companies procure and market their genetic products. These differences are leading the two companies in very different directions.


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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