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Accountability, Wikipedia tells you that accountability is the answerability, blameworthiness, liability, acknowledgment and assumption for the resulting consequences.  Yet in the dairy genetics marketplace it seems to be a word that is seldom used, although very much required.

Dairy cattle genetics is big business.  Millions of dollars change hands every year, yet the level of accountability, in some cases, appears to be non-existent.  Once the genetics are sold who has the liability for the resulting animals?  Why are the breeders or sellers not responsible for the performance of the resulting animals?  Genomics and other tools have given us greater “confidence” in the reliability of the genetics we are investing in, so why aren`t the sellers of these genetics more responsible for the results?

Genetic Mutations

Recently there have been a couple of situations that have raised my concerns about responsibility.  The first occurred in New Zealand, about a year ago.  More than 1500 animals descended from Matrix a commercial Holstein-Friesian bull carry a genetic mutation that produces hairy, heat-intolerant, poorly lactating heifers.  The breeders affected by this problem feel the semen company did not deal openly with the problem and are being less than “cooperative” in seeking a solution for their affected members.  (Read More: New Zealand Dairy Farmers Seek Compensation For Hairy Calves).  Now this case is a very challenging one as Matrix is actually a result of a genetic mutation that occurred naturally and happens regardless of the breeding method used.  Genetic defects such as BLAD, CVM, Brachspia, Factor XI, DUMPS, CIT, and Mule Foot are all tested for and screened by the A.I. companies and as a result see very limited occurrence.  “Hairy calves” such as these ones resulting from Matrix have not been tested for and as a result it is surprising that there has been such a case.  So while it is genetically explainable and no one could have predicted this, the reaction of the company that sold and marketed Matrix, Livestock Improvement (LIC) is a concern.  They are refusing to pay any compensation as “most farmers recognize that these rare mutations are naturally occurring and simply a fact of life.” Having said that, for the future, the LIC is no longer selling Matrix semen and offers free genetic testing to identify calves with the mutation.  The question of legal and financial responsibility appears to be one that will take some time to answer in this case.


Through multiple, independent genetic tests, it has been confirmed that 7HO11781 Pine-Tree Colt SHINE-P-ET does not transmit the polled gene as previously believed.

Now not all mutations are a bad thing.  There was a time when Red & White calves where disposed of.  Today this is a “mutation” that many breeders desire.  Another mutation that is heavily sought after is polled (Read more: Polled Genetics – Way of the future or passing fad? and  They’re Sold On Polled).  In this case, the resulting polled heifers sell up to   250% higher than non-polled animals of equal genetic merit (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  However this highlights another story that caught my eye.  Recently Select Sires announced  that  Pine-Tree Colt SHINE-P-ET does not transmit the polled gene as previously reported  (Read More: Shine P Conflicting DNA Results for Polled Gene).  This touched off some very interesting reactions from breeders. The polled trait in dairy cattle can only be genetic tested with haplotype marker testing, which does allow for rare errors to be made.  This is quite different than actual gene testing that is available for genetic recessives like CVM or BLAD. Having said that, how did this sire make it to market without being more thoroughly screened?  The fact that once Shine-P’s non-polled status was discovered he was removed from their “Super Sire ™ lineup and no longer marketed”.  This indicates that his main genetic merit was the fact that he was a polled sire. Though I do commend Select for taking instant action and putting out a press release.  Not wanting to sweep it under the carpet they handled this well.  In such cases in the past other studs have not disclosed this information or claimed it was a case of mistaken ear tags.  Is there a test for stupidity?

Are Dairy Cattle Genetics Companies Made of Teflon?

Now both of these stories highlight some very rare occurrences, which in their own right would not have me thinking that the companies who sell dairy cattle genetics are not willing to take responsibility for the product they sell.  However they got me thinking about other issues, such as – inability to conceive, short herd life, deep udders, bad feet, poor production.  If a sire or animal is marketed to be high in these traits and the resulting animal proves to be well below expectations, exactly who is to blame?

Currently the only recourse is in not purchasing genetics from that company again.  This is an action many breeders are slow to take, as they seem to bleed the colors of their desired A.I. company.  After all, it’s hard to believe that the AI company they’re loyal to is unconcerned about unfulfilled claims.  However, should that be the case?  So should breeders suffer?

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO
Program members can use this logo to show that they uphold to the standards of this program.

Marketing Accountability

Another example of this is when it comes to dairy cattle marketing.  The false representation of animals has been a hot question among many breeders and has inspired us here at the Bullvine to start the Dairy Marketers’ Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed).  The lack of accountability for the resulting genetic product is one of the biggest differences between photo retouching of super models versus dairy cattle.  You are not purchasing the super model’s genetics you are purchasing the clothes, perfume, etc. that she is wearing.  Even though you are purchasing the genetics of the animal in question, you never really know if the cow/heifer/bull actually looks like she/he does in their picture.  Hence the need for some symbol to ensure that the company marketing these genetics is willing to take responsibility for the outcome.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The genetic advancement of your herd is one of the greatest long-term investments breeders make.  If you invest thousands of dollars in something you should have a minimum level of expectation for performance?  There are no guarantees in life. Having said that, what happens when expected performance and actual performance are not even in the same stratosphere?  What if it was your tractor? Your milking equipment?  That’s right.  People justifiably get mad….. in most cases.  So why is this not the case when you invest in dairy cattle genetics?

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

If you believe that there is a need for more accountability in marketing dairy cattle genetics please like and share this post.


The Bullvine is often asked, “How can using genomic sires be better, if the genomic sire’s reliabilities are not as high as those for proven sires?” So in typical Bullvine style we set out to answer that question.  The following is our answer…

Single Trait – Fat

Bullvine wanted to keep this comparison as simple as possible.  To do this we used one trait, in this case fat yield, knowing that breeders do not select for one trait only. The results apply to all traits.

Females in Your Barn

You have a virgin heifer and a seven year old cow that are both indexed at 100 kgs for fat yield.  Both have been genomically tested and the cow is milking in her fourth lactation.  The heifer’s index is 67% Rel.  and the cow is 82% Rel.

TABLE 1: Females

Born Fat Index % Rel Regressed Fat Index
Heifer 2012 Jan 10 100 67 67
Cow 2005 Jan 16 100 82 82



Three sires you might consider using for breeding these females could be:

TABLE 2: Sires

Born Fat Index (kgs) % Rel Regressed Fat Index
Oman March 08, 1998 82 99 81
Supersire Dec 28, 2010 116 67 78
Pride January 27, 2012 135 69 93


Index of Calves

What will be the fat indexes for the resulting calves? (Add parents together and divide by two)

TABLE 3: Regressed Fat Indexes for Calves (kgs)

Heifer 74 72.5 80
Cow 81.5 80 87.5

These values are the expected average fat indexes.  And, yes, there will be less variation amongst the progeny for Oman and the cow.  The most variability amongst the progeny can be expected for the heifer when mated to Supersire or Pride.

Therefore, the short answer for which bull to use, is Pride. Pride will maximize the calf’s fat yield index.

Rate of Genetic Gain

Determining genetic gain is a principle taught to all college genetic students.  The formula is:

Let’s simplify this:

Accuracy                              =             Reliability

Selection Intensity          =             Determined by where the animal ranks in the population (all these animals are in the top 1% of the population so their selection intensity is identical)

Genetic Variation             =             Standard Deviation of fat yield indexes (common for all the animals in the example)

Generation Interval        =             The average time between the birth of the parents and the birth of the calf.

Generation Interval is the place where the numbers for the heifer and the sires, Supersire and Pride, are much smaller (in years) than those for the cow and Oman.

TABLE 4: Generation Interval (years)

Heifer 8.5 2.5 2.0
Cow 11.5 5.5 5.0

Since the numbers for fat index in TABLE 3 are all similar, dividing them by a larger vs. a smaller generation interval greatly affects the outcome for genetic gain.

For the cow and Oman dividing 81.5 (Fat Index) by 11.5 (Generation Interval) gives a much smaller gain than for the heifer and Pride (80 divided by 2.0).  In fact it is much different 7.9 compared to 40.

That’s the reason turning generations more quickly, using genomics, gives the faster rates of annual genetic gain. (Read more: The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle for Genetic Supremacy)

The Bullvine Bottomline

Genomics gives you more speed.  No question.  If you’re worried about speed being dangerous, spread the risk by using multiple (not one) high indexing genomic sires where you might have only used one or two proven sires in the past.



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Accuracy of bull proofs has been one of the biggest challenges for dairy cattle improvement for many years.  It has been well known that top index cows have always received some level of “preferential treatment” and as a result their indexes have been inflated.  Usually this didn’t affect their sire’s proof since they were usually already proven sires and when weighted with many other daughters this had little to no effect on the sires proofs.  Enter genomics and large portions of young sire daughters receiving preferential treatment and this could have huge effects on the proofs of these genomic index bulls.  There is no question that the current systems around the world cannot account for this preferential treatment and as a result many genomic sires’ first proofs will be inflated.

In the past when young sires were sampled they were used across many different herd environments and regions.  I remember when regionally proven sire (California, etc) or breeder proven sires were released. Many breeders where hesitant to use them because they were not confident that these sires proofs would hold up.  Young sire programs in the past offered semen at low cost or pretty much free (when you factor in incentives) to many different breeders in order to ensure that the sire got enough daughters and that they would be able to achieve a reliable proof.

Does random sampling still exist?

Young sires are no longer randomly sampled.  In today’s genomic age, a lot of the systems and controls are gone.  Yes, many of the sires are still offered to all breeders, but these high-ranking young sires are sold at a much higher price, and marketed much heavier.  In addition often the first release semen is only used on contract matings on extremely high index, carefully selected mates.  This results in anything but random sampling and in reality is almost the perfect method for receiving an inflated proof.  It isn’t just because of the actual mates they are being used on but also because of the care the resulting calves will receive.

Why do daughters receive preferential treatment?

Think about it, if you have paid upward of $750 for a dose of semen (Read more – $750 Dollar Semen! Are you crazy?) to be used on your most valuable animals, wouldn’t you make sure you protected your investment by giving them the best care possible?  It is well known that top index cattle around the world have received over inflated indexes as a result of preferential treatment.  The problem is ‘how do we account for the biases?

Does the current system account for preferential treatment?

Genetic evaluation systems assume that all animals in the herd are treated equally.  Yet while there is nothing wrong with a breeder wanting to ensure their return on their investment in these top genetic animals, it certainly causes many problems when accounting for it in the genetic evaluations of these animals. (Read more – The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling).

Most “animal-model” genetic evaluations in the world account for the genetic merit of a sire’s mates.  However, when the US first added females to their genomic reference set they actually got lower reliabilities as a result of inaccuracies in female’s proofs due to preferential treatment.  That is why some countries actually leave female genomic data out of their reference sets, as a large portion of the females are these high index animals that, in many cases, have received preferential treatment.  In the US they actually implemented a scaling-effect adjustment to bring those top females down.  The US has also implemented a new single-step model that includes genomic and traditional data together designed to account for this in bull proofs.  Other countries are also looking for potential solutions.  This includes potentially withholding early data from evaluations as well as other options.  The challenge is that no one has found a real solution to the actual problem, and steps so far just mask the issue with scale downs and other band-aids.

How to identify preferential treatment?

I recently attended a GEB session put on by CDN (Canadian Dairy Network) where they gave a presentation on accounting for herd bias.  Brian Van Doormaal presented a few different ways he theorized would identify bulls’ daughters who might have received this preferential treatment.  One indicator he presented of possible preferential treatment was if a high percentage of a bull’s early offering were the result of ET.  Another indicator he looked at was the percentage of daughters that have been genotyped.  However, neither delivered conclusive results.  Another suggestion that was presented was increasing the number of daughters a sire needs  in order to receive an official proof.  The challenge with that is that A.I. companies and most high profile breeders are wanting sires to get a proof as quickly as possible and increasing the requirements will cause delay.  In addition, analysis of semen price so far does not show it to be a great predictor either.  Currently there are simply no answers.

In Brian’s presentation he equated this problem to the challenges we have seen with second-country proofs.  In Canada bulls like Shottle, Planet and more recently Man-O-Man (Read more – Man-O-Man will he turn platinum? and Is Man-O-Man really going to be a sire of sons?) that come through with initial Canadian proofs over 3500 LPI, which everyone knows to be unrealistic, in time saw their proofs drop 300+ points with the addition of more daughters.  Van Doormaal also comments that you could expect bulls like Snowman, and genomic sires to do the same.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Currently there are no definitive answers only growing concerns.  This preferential treatment problem is going to get greater attention, as more high profile genomic sires,  priced high and highly marketed will start to receive proofs in 2013. The industry must be proactive about this issue. If not we are going to see breeder confidence in proofs decrease, instead of increase, because of genomics. That would be a killer!

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.





While there is no doubt that national composite index’s (TPITM, LPI, PLI etc.) are great marketing tools, recently there has been  discussion about their merits as actual genetic advancement tools.  With each index providing “home field” advantage to domestic animals and many out of date with where the industry is headed, we here at the Bullvine have developed the Bullvine Performance Index (BPI).

In the BPI we use direct genomic values instead of parent averages and we also incorporate reliabilities, in order to greater account for animals whose indexes stand the best chance of being stable over time.  As far as what traits we looked at, we have used an equally balanced weighting between production, longevity and health and fertility, as we see that emphasis represents where the market is heading.  We also include a small component (MPS) that factors in dam, 2nd dam and 3rd dam actual performance irrelevant of country of origin, as per our discussion with many breeders who feel that this should have some weight.  Instead of trying to be reactionary to the marketplace like most composite indexes, we are trying to be leading and ahead of the market.  We also are publishing BPI as a percentage so that it is clear just how far apart each animal is from each other.  Since this is a ranking index we felt it was more important to show the range between animals than to give a number that technically means nothing.

Top 50 BPI Sires

Sire NameBPIProductionLongevityHealth and FertilityMPS
MR LOOKOUT P ENFORCER-ET100%97%94%78%96%
LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ET94%99%60%19%96%
COYNE-FARMS DORCY-ET93%58%93%50%95%
TEXEL BEAUTY COSMO-ET86%77%81%54%98%
CO-OP BOSSIDE MASSEY-ET85%79%48%59%92%
UFM-DUBS OLEGANT-ET85%48%66%70%95%
RMW ANCHOR-ET85%82%84%67%96%
LIRR DREW DEMPSEY84%34%85%49%97%
RMW DORCY AMBROSE-ET83%59%100%61%96%
CERVI ALLEMAR ET83%39%74%79%94%
WABASH-WAY EXPLODE-ET83%58%87%28%96%
MR LOOKOUT P EMBARGO-ET83%84%91%43%96%
CRACKHOLM FEVER81%33%85%42%96%
CO-OP O-STYLE OMAN JUST-ET80%66%40%66%96%
CERVI PHONIC80%38%48%100%94%
CO-OP BOOKEM YUXI78%75%95%53%93%
DE-SU JEROD 1223-ET77%82%83%60%93%
GEN-I-BEQ BRAWLER76%56%68%18%97%
SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET75%41%79%42%96%
MORNINGVIEW LEVI75%86%35%35%96%
DE-SU GILLESPY-ET74%72%77%0%96%
DE-SU DISTINCTION 11130-ET74%92%83%40%96%
S-S-I PEOTI MOWGLI-ET73%86%61%66%95%
SULLY MCCORD 269-ET72%93%69%44%94%
S-S-I BOOKEM MORGAN-ET71%86%65%61%95%
S-S-I PEOTI MANSUR-ET70%88%62%53%95%

Key Findings

  • One of the neat things we found in developing this index is that it is able to give a realistic comparison between sires from all countries.
  • Even more importantly it also gives a good comparison of genomic test sires versus proven sires.  Four of the top ten sires are proven sires, as compared to most national indexes that, when combining the genomic sires and the proven sires would find that at least nine if not all ten would be genomic test sires.
  • Outside of MR LOOKOUT P ENFORCER most of the sires are very close and really do warrant that you make sure you use the corrective mating for your specific animal as opposed to just using the top 5 or 10 bulls.
  • Another finding was the ability for second crop sires to also compare favorably with genomic test sires.  Besides Man-O-Man (LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN-ET) other second crop sires who come up high are UFM-DUBS ALTAESQUIRE-ET (BPI of 68%) and BRAEDALE GOLDWYN (BPI of 66%).  This demonstrates that these high reliability sires very much still have value in many mating programs.


  • There is no question that MR LOOKOUT P ENFORCER offers an extremely balanced package.  His strong production numbers combined with his extreme type and longevity with good health and fertility traits will have him be a sire of sons worldwide.  He may be hard to get your hands on as he is just one year old and he may only be released for contract matings.  This Marbri Facebook son has 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 on using him is his body depth.  Both his sire stack and his DGVs would say this area needs protecting.
  • There is no question that this last proof round Man-O-Man (LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN) stole the show.  His outstanding second crop daughter numbers have many top index breeders going back and using him again.  His extreme production numbers have him and his daughters in high demand.  With many sons like UNO also coming on the scene and offering a more balanced offering, it’s important to make sure you use Man-O-Man or maybe GENERVATIONS LIQUID GOLD when looking for the splash of production for a high type, high health and fertility mating. However hold off, if you are looking to improve those areas.  Use a more balanced sire like MR LOOKOUT P ENFORCER-ET or maybe SOUTHERN-HILLS BAYARD-ET.
  • Coming up strong, as he keeps adding daughter numbers, is COYNE-FARMS DORCY.  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 dairy strength, fat percent and, specifically, for his body depth and chest width.
  • Also catching our eye are a couple of Freddie sons – SOUTHERN-HILLS BAYARD and HAMMER-CREEK FRED KRUNCH.  Both these sires offer a greater type and longevity option over their sire BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE who suffers on our BPI index as his second and third dam’s classification and performance scores are low.
  • The top non- North American sire on our list is GOLDDAY.  Goldday is a Goldwyn son from A-L-H DESTINY VG-87-3YR-USA DOM GMD.  Destiny is of course the popular bull mother from Markwell Durham Daisy (Read more – Markwell Durham Daisy – 2012 Golden Dam Finalist), proven in Germany.  Goldday is also the full brother to former #1 German sire Danillo.  Look for Goldday to sire unbelievable udders and legs as well as long herd life.  One area where you will want to protect Goldday is rump angle.  Be cautious in using him on cattle that need production improvement.

The Bottom Line

It is difficult to keep track of all the top animals and compare them accurately. Trying to compare genomic sires with proven sires with each country having their own index with apparent bias makes it doubly hard.  Having said that, comparisons are instructive for informed decision-making.  That is why we developed the BPI formula.  Contrary to popular belief that you need to be using 100% genomic sires to accelerate your genetic advancement, our analysis shows absolutely that there are  proven sires that should be used in order to minimize your risk and still achieve the greatest results.


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.


Confused on what group of genomic young sires to use for your breeding program?  Not sure which sires are the real deals and which ones are just smoke and mirrors (read The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling)?  We decided to take a closer look at the top 100 genomic young sires from around the world to determine just which ones are worth using and which ones you are better forgetting.

Based on our analysis of the early genomic sires that  received indexes, we first removed all sires from our list that didn’t have DGV’s available or higher than their parent average for the traits we judge as important (read 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Genomic Sires With DGV’s Lower Than Their Parent Averages).  Then instead of just giving you the highest list based on their GPA TPI or GPA LPI we decided to look for sires that fit certain needs.  They are overall performers, production, durability, health and fertility and conformation.  The following are the results.

Overall Performance Improvement



While bulls like Amighetti Numero Uno may top the GPA TPI list, we are looking for a more needs approach.  The following are the sires we would recommend when looking for a genomic young sire to provide overall performance improvement.

    This Robust son from 2012 Golden Dam Finalist 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 over 2500 lbs. for milk, with positive component deviations, 2.50 for type, and over 7 for productive life.  He really is the complete package.
    From the LYLEHAVEN LILA Z EX-94-CAN 14* (also a 2012 Golden Dam Finalist) family comes, the CDN GPA LPI topper VELTHUIS LET IT SNOW.  While possessing 500 lbs. less production and half the productive life of that of Supersire, this Snowman son has outstanding type composites and the genomic test to make up the difference for those of you that do not want to sacrifice overall type.  I would protect Let It Snow on the health and fertility side a little.
    I am always looking for sires whose genomic tests blow out their expected values, and ROSYLANE-LLC ALTALEO does that by almost 19%.  AltaLeo does not top any  GPA TPI or GPA LPI lists, but he does seem to far exceed the values you would expect from an AltaMeteor from a not very well known Nifty (Bombay x Zebo) daughter.  For those of you who like to take flyers on bulls who just seem to be extreme, AltaLeo is the sire for you.  While he does need to be protected on rump and dairy strength, for those that are willing to take the risk, they may find the reward is well worth it.

Production Improvement



For those of you that are more commercially focused or maybe those of you who have not focused enough on production and the milk check is showing it, here are our recommendations other than Supersire for genomic young sires to use to gain the greatest production increase:

    PHOENIX is a Planet from DE-SU 7902 GP-81-2YR-USA DOM, whose dam De-Su Oman 6121 VG-86-2YR-USA DOM GMD has over 20 daughters on the locator list and is the dam of De-Su Observer, one of the early top genomic sires.  Phoenix combines outstanding production and components with strong conformation.  Though a Planet x Bolton cross may raise some concerns about rumps, Phoenix should inherit his maternal line’s rumps and be okay.  The area of strong concern that he does need protected on is his health and fertility traits, specifically his daughter fertility and milking speed.
    Lightsnow also from the LYLEHAVEN LILA Z EX-94-CAN 14* family is a Snowman from the well-known Planet daughter MS CHARTROISE LORELEI VG-87-2YR-CAN.  Lightsnow offers 160 lbs. of combined fat and protein, offering breeders a quick punch of components while not having to sacrifice production.  While needing to be protected a little on some of the health and fertility traits, Lightsnow offers outstanding production improvement with a very balanced type offering.

Longevity Improvement



For those of you that are looking to breed cattle that last lactation after lactation or maybe you have having problems with your 2 year olds not coming back for a 2nd lactation we recommend the genomic young sires:

    As the #2 sire for productive life (NO-FLA AltaSecure is #1) BLUE-HORIZON ALTASUPLEX offers significant longevity improvement.  Unlike AltaSecure this Super son combines that high productive life with over 1400lbs of milk, and 3.00 points on type.  While he does need to be protected %F, dairy strength and rumps, AltaSuplex offers extreme functional conformation improvement that you would expect from a great grandson of BUDJON-JK ENCORE ELECTRA EX-95-2E-USA DOM GMD 3*.
    Following closely behind AltaSuplex for #2 on the top genomic longevity list is Doorman, a Bookem from a Shottle that completes 8 generations of VG+ with 31*.  Doorman offers a more complete package with not needing protected on much as he is over 1300 kgs of Milk, plus on both his component deviations, and double digits for all major type traits.  In fact his DGV for conformation and mammary system are among the very best in the breed at +22.  While the family may not be a household name yet,  Doorman could be the sire that changes that as he even converts well onto the US system with a GTPI of +2465, PTAT +4.72 and almost a 1000 lbs of Milk and over 100 lbs of combined fat and protein.
    There hasn’t been a  better  brood cow for type and longevity recently  than 2012 Golden Dam Finalist REGANCREST-PR BARBIE EX-92-7YR-USA DOM GMD 3*.  Now this trend continues with her grand daughter, and fellow 2012 Golden Dam Finalist REGANCREST S CHASSITY EX-92-4YR-USA DOM, and also Chassity’s Goldwyn daughter, and Cashmoney’s dam MS CHASSITY GOLDWYN CASH VG-87-2YR-CAN.  Not only does Cashmoney have an extremely well known female side to his pedigree, his sire stack is nothing to laugh at either.  He combines OBSERVER x GOLDWYN x SHOTTLE x CHAMPION x DURHAM, and from a longevity standpoint he’s the best there is on the list.  Cashmoney really is the real deal though I would protect him on strength and rumps.

Health and Fertility Improvement

One area that is not getting enough attention by most breeders is health and fertility. While there is no question that every breeder knows that more pregnancies equals more profits many of the top ranking sires actually have negative values for health and fertility.  The following are a couple of specialist sires that should help you change that:

    Possessing no Planet, Shottle or Goldwyn in his pedigree S-S-I DOMAIN LITHIUM has some of the highest DGV’s for health and fertility.  Lithium is from one of the top genomic cows in the breed, GLEN-TOCTIN BOLT LUCILLE VG-87-DOM.  Combining high herd life, low Somatic Cell counts and high daughter fertility with over 1600 lbs of milk, 110 of fat and protein and 2.5 points on type makes Lithium a great choice when looking for improvement.  It is interesting to note that his DGV’s for health and fertility are almost 8% higher than the next highest sire (BRANDT-VIEW ALTAOTIS) and 50% higher than his own official index, indicating that he really is the sire to use when wanting to address this area that has flown under the radar far too long.
    With his low Somatic Cell Score (2.72), strong udders (2.54 Udder comp.), quick milking speed (106), and high daughter fertility (110 CDN 2 US) Krunch is a breed leader when it comes to health and fertility. Tracing back to WA-DEL RC BLCKSTR MARTHA EX-93-2E-USA GMD DOM 2* combines his strong female lineage with outstanding health and fertility sire stack Freddie x Goldwyn x Zade x Mtoto x Formation x Blackstar.  Though he very much needs to be protected for strength and rumps.

Type Improvement



There is no question that some of us put too much emphasis on type improvement when it comes to selecting bulls, especially when many type traits have such low heritability (read Is Your Breeding Strategy A “Field of Dreams”?).  The following sires in addition to Let It Snow and Doorman, will offer you the potential to breed a great show animal.

    Tied with Doorman for some of the highest type genomics in the breed is MR ATWOOD BROKAW.  Which should come as no surprise as in Brokaw you combine the two greatest type families in the breed today.  On the paternal  side you have Atwood and his dam MD-DELIGHT DURHAM ATLEE EX-92-4YR-USA DOM GMD 2*, 2012 Golden Dam finalist and reserve Int. Champion at Madison in 2005 followed by her grand dam being MS Kingstead Chief Adeen EX-94.  On the maternal side you have REGANCREST MAC BIKASA VG-87-2YR-USA who is the daughter of REGANCREST-PR BARBIE EX-92-7YR-USA DOM GMD 3*, also a 2012 Golden Dam Finalist.  Watch for Brokaw to sire extreme udders and dairy strength, but will need to be protected on rumps from time to time.
    Also from the of REGANCREST-PR BARBIE EX-92-7YR-USA DOM GMD 3* family, but this time from a VG-88-3YR-USA DOM   1* Shottle daughter REGANCREST BREYA, and sired by GEN-MARK STMATIC SANCHEZ EX-94-6YR-USA ST’12 comes Bradnick.  Breya is the former #3 PTAT Cow in the breed and continues the strong legacy that Barbie started.  In Bradnick you get a sire who is over 3 points on all composites except dairy comp. where he is at 2.92.  In every major type trait Bradnick’s DGV’s are higher than expected and offers more balance than Brokaw who does need to be protected on Rumps.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Anyone can just pick a sire from a top of the GPA TPI or GPA LPI list and call themselves breeders.  But there is more to it than that. Breeding great cattle is part art form part science and you need to have both parts in balance.  It takes careful consideration generation after generation of corrective mating to breed great cow families.  That is why instead of just giving you a list of the top 10 we tried to provide you the insight into which sires will provide you the maximum gain in each specific area.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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The Bullvine decided to take a closer look at the top (2012 August) 100 GLPI Canadian Holstein young bulls. To make it more informative the analysis is by groups of 25. It is important to recognize that the average reliability values for these genomically tested young bulls are between 64% and 69% almost as high as some new release bulls in the past. Behind us are the days when young bulls indexes were 33% to 37% reliable and posed a much greater risk due to low reliability.

Production – all breeders are also milk producers

Young Bulls Average Rating

GLPI GroupMilk (kgs)Fat (kgs)% FatProtein (kgs)% Protein
1 to 25+2303+96+0.10+86+0.11
26 to 50+2016+92+0.17+78+0.12
51 to 75+2012+84+0.09+74+0.09
76 to 100+1885+85+0.13+69+0.10

The top 100 GLPI young bulls are truly an elite group with production index values compared to recently proven sires of 98%RK for milk, 99%RK for fat and 99% RK for protein yields. An interesting note is how the top twenty-five stand out ten percent above the others, while each group afterwards drops by about 5-6%. A much greater variation than all other traits.

Type – important to predicting durability

Young Bulls Average Rating

GLPI GroupCONF (overall)MammaryFeet & LegsDairy StrengthRump
1 to 25+11.5+11.1+8.4+6.5+5.7
26 to 50+9.9+9.2+6.9+5.1+5.8
51 to 75+11.6+10.7+8.8+6.8+6.0
75 to 100+10.6+10.1+8.1+6.0+6.8

On average the type indexes of these top 100 GLPI young bulls are very high. The equivalent to a 98%RK for CONF for the recently proven sires. Note that the 26 to 50 group have the lowest type trait indexes to go along with high fat and protein especially for % Fat and % protein. In many cases, the bulls in the 26 to 50 group are the full or half brothers to the 1 to 25 group, who may have gotten more components but are not as high for CONF and Mammary.

Functional Traits – important but they have lower heritability’s

Young Bulls Average Rating

GLPI GroupHerd LifeDaughter FertilitySCSAverage H&F contribution to DGV LPI
1 to 25110992.6757
26 to 501101002.7185
51 to 751101002.7388
76 to 1001111012.70124

The average Herd Life and SCS ratings for these bulls are very good, positively contributing to H&F augmenting the GLPI values. However it must be noted that the Daughter Fertility ratings are only average detracting from the overall GLPI values for these bulls. Daughter Fertility is a trait that is primarily affected by non-genetic factors, but has a significant impact on the bottom line of any operation. The breed needs to be concerned because daughter fertility is not likely to see any significant gain genetically by using these bulls. As we all know more pregnancies equals more profits. Definitely more attention and more research needs to be given to the genetic evaluations and genetic merit of the breed for Daughter Fertility.

GLPI – the combination of production, durability and health/fertility

Young Bulls Average Rating

1 to 25+3218+3459+2784+3089+2599
26 to 50+2978+3127+2730+3191+2047
51 to 75+2900+3097+2592+2960+2052
76 to 100+2831+2960+2674+3056+2196

These top 100 GLPI young bulls are truly outstanding! They are exceeding by 982 LPI points the value required for a recently proven sire to get a 99%RK for GLPI. This was not even dreamed possible before there were genomic analysis using SNIP technology. Note that the Parent Average LPI’s are lower than GLPI’s and DGV LPI’s and are very close to being the same for all four groupings. It is in fact the young bulls DGV’s that put them in the top 100. They have full and half siblings that have lower DGV’s.  This supports our previous analysis of 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Genomic Sires With DGV’s Lower Than Their Parent Average.  The AI sire analysts have made very good use to the DGV’s after initially identifying bulls from their pedigrees, and then sampling those who’s DGV’s exceed their Parent Average LPI’s by a goodly amount. Think about it, the average of the top 100 young bulls at +2982  GLPI, and there is only one Canadian proven sire above that level. It should be noted that the dams/ DGV LPI’s for the first grouping far exceed the other three groupings.  Even if you factor in for a slight decrease in values, the top 25 would still all rank higher than the highest current proven sire.

Pedigrees – more similar than desired

Inbreeding is a concern that must be addressed as the top 100 GLPI young bulls are from a limited number of parents (Read more – Inbreeding: Does Genomics Affect The Balancing Act?).

Sires of Young Bulls

The five sires with the most sons are:

  • Oman Oman 28%
  • Snowman 20%
  • Planet 10%
  • Observer 10%
  • Freddie 7%
  • Other 25%

With Oman Oman, Snowman and Freddie all Oman sons inbreeding must be watched. 82% of the young bulls are sired by daughter proven bulls and 22% are sired by genomic young sires.

Dams of Young Bulls

The sires of the young bulls’ dams most prevalent on the list are:

  • Planet 25%
  • Shottle 23%
  • Goldwyn 18%
  • Bolton 13%
  • Baxter 7%
  • Other 14%

The dams with the most young bulls are:

  • Gen-I-Beq Shottle Bombi – 5
  • Comestar Goldwyn Lilac – 4
  • Sandy-Valley Planet Sapphire – 3
  • Marbri Baxter Brandy – 3
  • Sully Planet Manitoba – 3
  • Ten dams with two young bulls each
  • Sixty-two dams with one young bull each

Definitely there is more pedigree variability amongst the dams than the sires of these young bulls. All dams are milking cows. Five dams are below +2000 GLPI, 33 dams are below +2000 DGV LPI and 6 dams do not have DGV LPIs as they reside outside North America.


The bull owners for the top 100 GLPI young bulls are:

  • Semex – 64%
  • Alta Genetics – 10%
  • Genervations – 10%
  • Select Sires – 6%
  • CRI – 5%
  • Other – 5%

NAAB – top 100 USA GTPI young bulls

The Bullvine is not able to do as  extensive an analysis on the NAAB list as the DGV TPIs are not available for analysis. Below are the average ratings for the top 100 young bulls. Note this group is similar to the Canadian one hundred young bulls – again a significant concern is that fertility is not high.

  • Milk +1503 lbs.
  • Fat +71 lbs. +0.06%
  • Protein +55 lbs. +0.04%
  • PTAT +2.93
  • UDC +2.57
  • FLC +2.06
  • Productive Life +6.3
  • DPR 0.7
  • SCS 2.68
  • Net Merit +774
  • TPI +2395

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The use of genomic testing has provided  a very significant opportunity to increase the rate of genetic improvement in herds that use North American sampled Holstein bulls (read more – The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle For Genetic Supremacy). The top 100 GLPI young Canadian bulls are the equivalent to over 99%RK for recently proven sires. Congratulations to the breeders and breeding companies for using the genomic results to produce the young bulls. Thank you to the breeders who use the top young bulls. A bright future is ahead.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Since the Bullvine started in February (and even before), I have had many dedicated breeders ask me ‘Why do the Artificial Insemination companies keep going back to the same herds for young bulls when few if any bulls from those herds ever make it to active proven status?”’ That prompted me to ask – is that true?

Answering the tough questions

For many breeders it can be hard to determine which herds they should use young sires from and which ones they shouldn’t. For many AI companies, and sire analysts they have had their thoughts about which herds are hot and which ones are not, but never had the numbers to prove it. This has us asking has genomics truly eliminated the hothouse effect in sire sampling (read more – Has Genomics Knocked Out Hot House Herds). In true Bullvine style we decided to tackle this tough question to help breeders have confidence in which genomic tested young sires to use. We first took a look at all the herds that had more than one sire receive their first official proof in the August 2012 proof run.

Here is what we found:


In comparing the columns here is what we found:

HerdCountDGV vs. OfficialPA vs. OfficialGPA Vs. Official

(For a complete listing of sires and calculations click here)

In wanting to see if the Aug ’12 results were just a point in time for these herds or if it was truly reflective, we decided to look at all the bulls proven since the introduction of genomics (Aug 2009) from these same eight herds. Here is what we found:


Again comparing the columns here is what we found:

HerdCountDGV vs. OfficialPA vs. OfficialGPA Vs. Official

(For a complete listing of sires and calculations click here)

Let the numbers do the talking

In studying proven bulls we found that most of them fall within the range for difference between the individual bull’s parent averages and official proof of 150-200 LPI points. And for most of the herds hear falling within that same range.

To go deeper and identify which sires are the best sires to sample, and for breeders to use and which sires should not be sampled or used we took a closer look at how DGV’s, Parent Averages and GPA LPI’s compared to their Estimated Daughter Performance*. Here is what we found:

HerdCountEDP*EDP vs. OfficialDGV vs. EDPPA vs. EDPGPA vs. EDP

*Please note to calculate Estimated Daughter Performance we took each sire’s official proof and back solved considering his DGV and PA using the published CDN formulas and weightings.

These results are consistent with our previous findings that DGV’s are by far the most accurate indicator of which sires you should use/sample. As well, why you should not use sires that have DGV’s below their parent averages (read more – 7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Genomic Sires With DGV’s Lower Than Their Parent Averages)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For both breeders and A.I. companies it can be very challenging trying to figure out which genomic tested sires to use and which breeding programs they should consider investing in. As we have found out the numbers tell the whole truth. Genomic results do give us very reliable information. While it may be true that for some of herds it can be said that they breed better female than male bloodlines. Nevertheless, that does not fully explain why A.I. companies have continued to sample bulls from some herds. It also does not justify why sire sampling herds should be asked to take on the risk in their herd improvement programs. As one of my breeder friends often tells me – use the best, cull or ignore the rest.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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In our recent article, Is the Genomic System Really Working? we pointed out that the early numbers indicate that the genomic system is a 27.1% improvement over the old system.  In taking a closer look, we also noticed an interesting trend that sires with LPI DGV’s (Direct Genomic Values) lower than their parent average actually did a nose dive, when they added daughter information.

In God we trust.  All others must bring data

Now some of you would say that the system is already putting too much weight on DGV’s and that it is too early.  I get that.  However, here are some actual facts from the most recent proof round (August 2012) for you to consider. (Again please note we use the CDN system as a result of being able to have access to the genomic information on it.):

  1. For the sires who dropped more than 200 GLPI points from their genomic parent average index to their official proof, 96% (25/26) of them had DGV LPI’s lower than their parent averages.  Note that 118 bulls received official proofs in the CDN system in August 2012.
  2. For sires with DGV’s higher than PA’s, 33% (11/33) actually increased their LPI ratings with the addition of daughter data.
  3. When we take a look at the 5 sires who took the biggest jump with the addition of daughter information when compared to their parent average (COMESTAR LAUTREC, L-RIDGEVIEW NOAK-ET, GEN-I-BEQ BRAWLER, OCONNORS JAY, FAVREAUTIERE GRIZZLY) we notice that they on average had DGV LPI’s that were on average 536 LPI points higher than their parent averages.
  4.  Conversely when we look at the 5 sires who dropped the most (BIG TIME WILTON, STANTONS BRAKE, EXPRESS DOLSUNN, STANTONS UNLIMITED, WEST PORT BRUTUS) we notice that on average they have DGV LPI values over 1000 points lower than that of their parent averages.
  5. When you take the top 5 sires with the highest DGV LPI values (GEN-I-BEQ BRAWLER, OCONNORS JAY, MORSAN BORIS, EXPRESS BOLLY, COMESTAR LAUTREC) they on average had an increase of 151 LPI points with the addition of daughter information.
  6. Of the 33 sires that increased with the addition of daughter information 30 of them had DGV’s higher than their parent averages.  That compares to only 3 of the 83 sires who dropped having DGV LPI’s higher that their parent averages.
  7. So then it comes to the question, “what if a sire has high genomic values but they are just below his parent averages?”  To answer that, we looked at the sires that had GPA LPI’s of over 2000 and DGV’s lower than their parent averages (ARDROSS STERLING, STANTONS UNLIMITED, and STANTONS BRAKE).They dropped by an average of 787 points with the addition of daughter information.  Conversely those sires that where over 2000 GPA LPI points and had DGV’s higher than their PA’s (GEN-I-BEQ BRAWLER and MORSAN BORIS) actually increased by an average of 134 over their GPA LPI values.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While the numbers are still early, the facts clearly indicate the merits of only using sires who have DGV’s higher than their parent average.  No matter how high they are.  Breeders need to have access to the DGV LPI values for the young sires they help sample for breeding companies.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

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Far too often many proven sires get missed. This can be for two reasons. Either their initial proof is lower than expected or everyone is so caught up in using the latest genomic release sires, that they miss some great ones.  And then there are those new release sires that certainly seem to be amazing and then   plummet to earth like a meteor.  In order to help breeders understand which sires are which, we took a closer look at some of today’s top proven sires.  Here is what we found.

(Please note: Due to the need to get DGV values all numbers are based on the Canadian System)

Sires to Watch for

    With a dam that has MACE proof of over +4000 MLPI, it can be pretty scary for many breeders to use a MACE sire that is so high.  Concerns that his proof is all parent average and genomics are not unusual.  However, when it comes to MASACLESE his daughters are actually backing up what his family and genomics would indicate.  His young sire proof estimates (65% Genomics and 35% Parent Average) would be +3019 MLPI and his MACE proof has him at+ 2972, telling you that, while his daughters are slightly lower, they are not far off.
    While no means a new release sire ALTAESQUIRE’s 2nd crop daughters seem to be outperforming his first crop proof.  Watch for ALTAESQUIRE to sire more production, components as well as better mammary systems than his current proof would indicate. Currently ALTAESQUIRE’s proof is held back significantly by his low parent average MLPI of +1763, that is 1171 points lower than his current official MLPI proof of +2934.  With the addition of more daughters watch for his official CDN proof to have him among the top 2-3 LPI spots.
    With so many sires from De-Su at the top of the genomics list, and breeders expecting that the top genomic sires will drop with the addition of daughter information, ALTAGOALMAN has actually outperformed his genomics and parent average.  With a PA MLPI of +1960 and DGV MLPI of +2710, ALTAGOALMAN’s official proof MLPI is +2887, indicating that his daughters are significantly outperforming expectations for both type and production traits.
    Unlike some sires that are significantly helped by their Parent Average’s SANTANA is actually significantly held back by his parent averages.  With an official proof MLPI proof of +2854 that outperforms his strong DGV MLPI of +2778 and his not so strong PA MLPI of +1678, SANATANA’s daughters are performing significantly better than expected, especially for production and components.
    Here is one Goldwyn sire that I think many breeders might have missed. His lower DGV’s (DGV MLPI of +2024) and parent average of +1420 MLPI, do not spell breed topper.  With an official MLPI proof of +2392, ARTES’s daughters are significantly outperforming expectations.  While already among the breed leaders for type, watch for ARTES to be a significant type improver across all the major type traits, as well as giving significantly more production than expected.

Sires to Watch Out For

    As we highlighted in our recent article The Effect Genomics Has On The August New Release Sires, DORCY’s current daughters are not performing as high as his Genomics (DGV MLPI of+ 2726) would indicate.  Even when you factor in his lower parent average (PA MLPI of +2016) his expected young sire proof would have been +2477 MLPI higher than his current official proof of +2305 MLPI, indicating that his daughters are currently performing below his parent average.
    Living up to expectations can be very challenging,   especially for sires that come from extreme families.  That is the challenge EXPLODE finds himself in.  With high genomics (DGV MLPI of +2333) and parent average (PA MLPI of +2127), EXPLODE falls short of what his young sire evaluation would be (YS MLPI +2261), with an official MLPI proof of 2183.  Specific areas to watch out for are his feet and legs and rumps, based on current daughter performance.
    When his first proof came out END-STORY was not genomically tested.  Being a late Oman son and internationally proven, many breeders were hesitant to use END-STORY, fearing that his numbers would not hold up.  His daughters are significantly outperforming his DGV’s (DGV MLPI of +2419) and PA MLPI of +1504, with an official proof of +2502 MLPI.  The hesitation factor is that with 57 daughters in 39 herds, there is plenty of potential for END-STORY’s proof to go in either direction.  If the daughters live up to the numbers, he may have many breeders thinking twice and those that took the risk looking pretty smart.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While we are not saying don’t use bulls like DORCY or EXPLODE, what we are saying is to use them with some level of caution, as current daughter performance has them below their DVG’s and parent averages.  This does not absolutely mean they will drop with the addition of more daughters, but, if the additional daughters maintain current daughter performance, then a drop is in their future.


Old school breeder pissing on genomics!!!!

Recently as part of our weekend humor series we published the picture seen at the right.  In publishing the image we knew we would get a reaction, but we were surprised at the way breeders interpreted it.  While we intended to show how old school breeders are dissing on genomics, but instead it seemed to become a rallying cry for old school dairy breeders.

The conversation that has stemmed from it has been very interesting.   As you can see, there are still many breeders who don’t totally understand the merits of using top genomic young sires.  In an effort to help educate, or maybe just bang my head against the wall, we have prepared the following details. .

Proven vs. Young Sire – Who wins in the long run?

Let’s take a comparison of the top 10 Genomics Young Sires vs. the Top 10 Proven sires from the April 2012 proof run.  Of course we all know that the genomic young sires will have higher breeding values, but we need to account for the expected drop.  Our analysis of the NAAB genomic sires’ proofs vs. their later daughter proven proofs currently shows a 13.8% drop on TPI.  (Note: we are actually tracking the drop on LPI sires, TPI sires and PLI sires, and so far we see them dropping 9.7%, 13.8%, and 13.5% respectively.)

The following table shows where the current top genomic sires would rank compared to the proven sires options available currently.

[csv2table source=”” icons=”true”]

What Does This Mean?

What you notice is that three of the top current genomic young sires (Numero Uno, Supersire, and McCutchen) would all rank among the top 10 proven sires.  In fact, 25 of the top 50 sires would be genomic young sires.  This is not to say that they will all drop the 13.8% that the average sire has already.  They could drop more or less.  However, what it does show is that these young genomic sires have a much higher predictability than in the past.  You can now use a group of these young sires with much greater confidence than in the past.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Are all the top genomic sires, going to end up on the top of the proven sires list, when they have daughter progeny?  No, of course not.  But what we have been finding is that only about 10% of them drop off the top list, and many of them hold pretty strong.  We have even found some genomic sires that actually go up with daughter information.  What it does mean?  Use genomic sires that are within 10% of the top sires.  If they have GTPI values of 2,300 or greater, you will end up ahead of where you would have been, if you had not used any genomic sires at all.  Just remember this is an average.  The movement will not be exactly the same for all sires, hence the need to spread out your young sire usage.

For all those old school breeders, who are pissing on genomics, well what can I say?  I don’t expect to change your mind. However, it is foolish to piss on something that you don’t understand.  Might I recommend that you read our free guide – The Dairy Breeders “No BS” Guide to Genomics.

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The most nevus day in most breeders lives.

The most nevus day in most breeders lives.

Some decisions are just too hard to make....

Some decisions are just too hard to make….

"You been Flushing Long"

“You been Flushing Long”

It's a good thing dairy breeders don't look at woman the way they do dairy cattle!!!

It’s a good thing dairy breeders don’t look at woman the way they do dairy cattle!!!

When you're having a bad day. Just think......

When you’re having a bad day. Just think……



Is the glass half-full or half empty?  The comment is often heard that genomics has yet to prove itself.   When index breeding for production traits came on the scene forty years ago, it too was seen as the new kid on the block.  In response,  The Bullvine has decided to compile a list of points could be considered significant dollar opportunities  Please note that these dollar values are derived from the Canadian situation but the general principles can be applied elsewhere.

Sample Only the Best Young Sires

Eliminating the need to sample the bottom 60% of 550 young sires (all breeds) will save the Canadian industry $16.5 M per year.  Add to that, eliminating the loss that producers bear when they must cull daughters of low genetic merit young sires and it is over $20M in savings by genomically testing all young sires and only sampling the top sires.

Turning Generations

Generation interval is extremely important in determining the rate of genetic advancement in a population of food producing livestock.  Shortening the generation interval, by using genomics to more accurately identify the top heifers and young bulls, will decrease the generation interval by one year, when 30% of the population is bred to young genomically tested young sires. That will increase the rate of genetic advancement by 25% per year.  However the rate of usage of genomically tested young sires is fast approaching 50% which equates to a reduction in generation interval of two years. This results in a 60% gain in genetic advancement.  Research has shown that that 60% gain is worth $30M annually for the traits that are currently included in the LPI formula.

Increased Accuracy

When considering the accuracy, with which we know the breeding values of the animal in a population, there are many points to consider:

  • Conducting a low density panel test on all heifer calves in a population of cows has a cost. It also has the benefit of having a totally accurate herdbook, no wrong assignments of parents and these help in genetic evaluations.
  • Knowing the genomic values for all females means that those genetic merit females can be used as recipients or can be fattened and sold for meat.

Identifying the elite females in a population greatly enhances the rewards that can be reaped from using only the best as dams of the next generation. Putting a dollar value on increased accuracy on the female side of a population is not easy to do but by The Bullvine’s calculation it would yield $20M per year in net terms for Canada’s dairy farmers.

Beyond Canada there are great populations of dairy cattle that contribute to the advancement of the genetic merit of dairy cattle everywhere.  Knowing the genomic values of these animals will greatly help North America advance their populations, especially for breeds with numerically smaller numbers.

Traits under Selection

As The Bullvine has reported (read Is Your Breeding Strategy a Field of Dreams) selecting for traits beyond milk, fat, protein, SCC and conformation will become possible with the use of genomics.  Already The Bullvine has learned from our followers that they look forward to knowing in genetic terms details for feed efficiency, production limiting disease resistance, calf health and liveability, reproduction traits and more.  Putting an industry dollar value on knowing the growth of those additional traits is not possible at this time.  But it will be quite a significant number.


This article will not spend time addressing inbreeding as it has been addressed previously in The Bullvine (read Inbreeding: Does Genomics Affect The Balancing Act).  Suffice to say at this time inbreeding can be handled when selection uses genomic values.  Not previously mentioned by the Bullvine on inbreeding is the fact that in dairy cattle populations beyond Holsteins there is considerable benefit to using genomics to select semen and embryos from outside a country’s borders.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So far in this article, The Bullvine has been able to identify over $70M to $100M in annual benefit to Canadian dairy breeders alone from the use of genomics.  That means $10,000 annually for each and every breeder.  So is the glass half full or half empty when it comes to using genomics? How do you see it?
The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.





Your Cattle Are Under Attack!

Monday, June 4th, 2012

In the fight against cattle diseases it feels like dairy breeders are constantly dodging shrapnel. Where will BSE or TB strike next?  Have you been hit with mastitis, ketosis or metritis? Also, it is becoming harder and harder to fight back since there is a worldwide concerted effort to limit the use of antibiotics, particularly in food producing livestock. On top of that, animals are developing antibiotic resistance, making that course of action less and less effective.

After years of focusing on measurable traits – conformation, milk yield, protein yield – the dairy industry has started to take aim at health issues by recording somatic cell score evaluations. It is a small start in waging defense against disease. We must now take aim at an even bigger animal health picture, when looking at the future of our herds and our dairy industry.

You Already Have the Ultimate Weapon

The real fact is we already have the best disease defeating weapon at our disposal. It is the immune system of cattle.  Animals with superior immune systems can do it all:

  • Reduce disease
  •  Increase farm profit
  •  Improve milk quality
  •  Increase animal well being

DISEASE WARS – DNA Strikes Back!

Researchers at Ontario Veterinary College at Guelph University have identified that, when it comes to fighting disease, “One of the most attractive options available is to make use of the animal’s own immune response genes to select for healthier animals with naturally superior immunity.” The OVC group refers to these individuals as High Immune Responders. The really great news is that beyond the idea, the research and the studies is the fact that they have developed a patented test system to quickly identify these animals within dairy herds. This method is referred to as the High Immune Response (HIR) technology and they report that this approach can work well on both conventional and organic dairy farms.


The OVC group reports that there is clear evidence in cattle that it is possible to selectively breed for high (H), average (A) or low (L) – immune responsiveness and that H-responders can positively influence resistance to infectious disease. “In fact, early research by our group showed health and production benefits following genetic identification of cattle and pigs for enhanced IR. This included lower occurrence of mastitis in high immune responders in 2 out of 3 dairy herds tested, as well as improved response to vaccination and colostrum quality. “

We Have the Technology

The OVC group refers to these individuals with both higher and more optimally balanced antibody and cell-mediated immune responses, as High Immune Responders, and goes on to report that they have developed a patented test system to quickly identify these animals within dairy herds.

The HIR technology is designed to identify those cows and calves with robust and unbiased immune responsiveness that can be kept for future breeding to improve herd health, while low immune responders may be culled from the herd.

It is worth noting that, in general, a calf identified as a high responder will maintain that classification as a mature lactating cow.  Therefore animals only need to be tested and classified based on their IR breeding value once in their lifetime.

Breeders Want HIR!

Qualitative market research using a cross section of focus groups was conducted by an independent firm, Agri-Studies (Guelph, Ontario).  Results showed significant interest among dairy producers to use HIR to identify calves or cows with High Immune Response (75% of producers). The key benefit they saw was the ability to cull animals as calves and save the cost of raising animal that later may have significant health issues. They also saw the value of using sires that were classified as HIR to improve the health of their herds. Further market assessment and beta testing of dairy herds is now underway to finalize the transferability of the technology to the marketplace.

 It’s All About Results

In 2010, 690 cows from 58 herds across Canada were immunized using the patented system to evaluate their IR profiles. In this study approximately 15% of cows were high, 15% were low, and 70% were average immune responders with some slight differences between provinces

  • Health
    Preliminary results show that among all cases of clinical mastitis in the cows across Canada that were tested for immune response, cows classified as HIR had the lowest occurrence of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS).
  • Production
    Results to date have shown that breeding for optimal high immune response based on both antibody and cell-mediated immune responses would not compromise production.
  • Profit
    In Canada, it costs the dairy producer $110 to $320 per case of mastitis, and it has been estimated that almost 1 out of every 5 dairy quarters in Canada is infected with a mastitis-causing pathogen

High Immune Response (HIR) Animals Are Naturally Immune

HIR is a patented evaluation technology developed to identify dairy cattle with high adaptive immune response capability. Identification is safe, fast and effective.

Benefits include:

  • Lower disease occurrence and severity
  • Reduced treatment and veterinary costs
  • Increased response to vaccines
  • Increased colostrum quality
  • Cows as young as 2 months can be tested
  • Animals only need to be tested once in a lifetime
  • Testing is safe and does not interfere with any other diagnostic testing
  • Cost benefit analysis show significant savings to producers who identify HIR cows in their herd.

The Future is Now!

Further market assessment and beta testing of dairy herds is now underway to finalize the transferability of the technology to the marketplace.

 The Bullvine Bottom Line

No matter how scary the news makes the latest livestock health threat out to be, your herd’s natural immune defense system is the ultimate response.


For some time now the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) has been working to establish a “Cooperative Agreement” with the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) pertaining to the transfer of the USDA-­‐ARS dairy genetic evaluation service to the CDCB.  This has culminated in the recent release of a draft Cooperative Agreement for public comment.  The problem is that the draft lacks some of the core values that makes America great, specifically the ability for everyone to operate on a level playing field (access to information) and to be led by brave leadership driving toward a better future.

With these changes come many questions.  Some key issues follow.

Will everyone have access to the information?

Reading the agreement may require having a law degree to fully understand it.  This may be by intention, but it really doesn’t make for light reading.  Some of the language in the proposed agreement is very confusing. It talks about how the CDCB will have ownership and control of the information.  One of the reasons that the USA has been able to become the mega world power that it is was because it was founded on the belief that everyone is created equal and has equal opportunity to achieve success.  Looking at how the use of genomic information was handled in the past does not bode well for how everyone will get free access to the information.  Many smaller organizations are concerned that this will lead to a monopoly for a few A.I. studs.

The proposed wording is in stark contrast to allowing free access to the information for all those involved.  This actually causes a double edged sword.  On one side, the powers that be are limiting the small guy from competing at the same level.  However, there is also the interest about keeping much larger players, such as say Pfizer from entering.  In Canada, Pfizer is already offering genomic testing and what’s to stop them from using their many resources to use that information in new ways (read Are You Ready for Genetically Modified Cattle).

How do we maintain our integrity with breeders worldwide?

Similar to the views expressed by Greg Anderson of Seagull Bay Dairy, many breeders are concerned about the perceived integrity that comes from going away from a government organization (USDA) to a private entity.  Vice President of Holstein USA Glen Brown and Director Bill Wright also express these concerns,  Both men are also  dairy breeders and call for the need to develop  strong business plan, in the following video


While I do understand this concern, there are many examples worldwide, such as the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN), which has been able to maintain integrity and do it   without the political hurdles that come with government involvement.

One of the lessons learned from the CDN model is that you need equal representation from all parties involved, not just those who put up the most money.  CDN is majority funded by Industry and specifically A.I., but its board has equal representation from breed associations, breeders, and industry.  This is necessary in order to maintain the integrity of the organization and also to provide effective direction for the future.  One thing is for sure, it will take bold leadership through these times.  This makes me remember when Murray Hunt (Dad for disclosure sake) backed by the Canadian Genetic Evaluation Board, was facing a similar challenge in Canada. At the time he made some bold moves, hiring of Paola Rossi, and Gerald Jansen, Canadians working in Italy to do Canadian genetic evaluations, long before there was the full business plan, but rather had the agreement in principle.  Yes, this was putting the cart before the horse, but it also lead to the formation of the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).

Who pays the bills?

As Holstein USA Director and dairy breeder Leroy Eggink, points out in the video above, it has been a great scenario for US breeders having taxpayers foot the bill.  But, that gravy train is over.  In Canada when that ship sailed, it left industry footing the bill.  Since A.I. represents the most direct profitable gain from genetic evaluations, that means they are left holding the bag. Ultimately, this cost is passed on to the breeders.  And while the response comes that we pay for all the systems that track and record this information, there is still the cost to convert that raw data into actionable information (bull proofs).

The one area the CDCB needs to remember is that all costs should be expensed equally and should not play favorites with the larger A.I. centers, as happened with Genomic information.  In an interview with Ron Flatness, Flatness International, he repeatedly expressed the concerns around price for the smaller competitors and protecting against un-needed additional fees.  (Following comments are that of the writer and not Ron) Instead of higher membership fees that will limit the involvement of smaller organizations or independent breeders, all costs need to be handled equally.  One standard price per sire sampled vs. a much larger membership fees, would be fair to everyone.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Be careful what you ask for.  While many breeders want 100% free access to information, it isn’t always a good thing.  While there are many questions that still need to be answered, regarding a business plan, ownership of information and how to be as transparent as possible, I ask the question, “Is this a move to keep, not smaller players, but much larger players out of the marketplace?”

Here are some more great resources:

Dairy producers will have 29 days to comment on the Cooperative Agreement (May 7 to June 4).

If you have questions please contact any of the CDCB officers.

Contact information for USDA representatives:



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)?


For years breeders have been saying how they would do things differently than the big A.I. companies.  In March of 2013 they are going to get their chance.  While many top breeders are already licking their lips at the opportunity, there are some key factors I don’t think they have considered that may not change things as much as they think.  The following is a closer look at these issues.


When Calbrett-I H H Champion hit for GenerVations, the biggest challenge was not marketing but rather distribution.  Here is a company who had been a distributor for many international A.I. companies that now had to turn the table and sell back to these companies.  Fortunately, for GenerVations they were able to do so and leverage the network they had already developed in order to get Champion semen out to the world.  However, what is the typical breeder going to do?  Sure, you may be able to move some semen through the internet or advertising your bulls in the major publications, but that will not pay the bills.  A global distribution network that can move your semen is a must.  Only one person can have the #1 bull, for all others you had better have a cost effective distribution network, or your dreams of becoming the next great Albert Cormier or Doug Blair will fizzle before they even start.

Frequent Genomic Releases

With new genomic bulls coming out monthly, you could be on the top of the list one month and not even in the top 10 the next.  This provides for a very short run for peak sales and means you will not always be able to sell your genomic young sire semen for $50+ a dose.  More likely, you are looking at a $20-30 average price, and that is assuming you are still in the top 50.  Fall out of the top 50 genomic sires in the world and you can kiss sales good-bye.

Cost of Production

Breeders wishing to prove their own sires will have to use one of the approved semen collection facilities.  Certainly, many of these facilities will offer competitive rates, but they need to operate at a profit too.  While working with the largest A.I. company in the world, we knew that the cost per semen collected averaged between $4 and $5.  To get your semen dose collected you are typically looking at $7 – $10 a dose.  Big deal you say, a couple of dollars less.  Well actually it is.  When large semen orders come in, they operate on blend price for the order.  Depending on the situation they are from $10 – $12 a dose.  That $3-$5 a dose difference could mean the difference between profit and loss.  Don’t think you need those large bulk orders?  Think again, you will find they are your lifeblood for cash flow.

Aggressive Lease Options from Current A.I. Companies

We have already started to see it.  Gone are the fixed sales price of $5,000 -$10,000 or the capped leases at $100,000.  The major A.I. companies have already started to get very aggressive on the lease options they offer.  Smaller A.I. companies have already been forced to get extremely aggressive in order to procure top genomic young sires.  It’s also for these reasons that we are starting to see more bulls being sold in top sales, as it provides the ability to set the bar higher for many breeders.  It’s also for these reasons that you have noticed many players starting to buy top females, as the cost to buy them is actually cheaper than the cost to contract their sons.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While the ability to test their own sires will certainly affect the lease agreements, they get from the A.I.  companies it will not be the total game changer that everyone is expecting it to be.  What it will do is make the current A.I. become even more competitive and have to trim their own fat.  Breeders sampling and selling their own bulls and not selling their bulls to A.I. seems a promising opportunity. However, the thought that it is going to totally change the way bulls are sampled and sold is farfetched.  From the cost of production to distribution there are many factors that eager breeders have not yet given enough consideration.



Comments (9)

Having grown up working with the Canadian Association of Animal Breeders, to working directly with some of the largest A.I. centers in the world, to running our own genetic programs that had many top LPI cattle, I have had the opportunity to learn the semen sales and marketing world from a variety of perspectives.  From this frontline view I have never seen as much change as the A. I. industry is now experiencing with Genomics.  With all these changes, the question becomes “What does the future hold for the AI industry?”

Genetic Advantage

It used to be that every artificial insemination center could claim an advantage in a certain product offering.  Semex would claim a type advantage that over the years converted to a longevity value, in order to appeal to the much larger commercial market, instead of just elite breeders looking for the next great show cattle.  ABS global added product lines and partnerships such as Judges Choice to counter moves such as Semex’s and included strong type offering to their very commercial product line.  Every AI center jockeyed back and forth to show how their genetic product offering was different.  Even when they overlapped, they would claim greater reliability or stability based on the country or system of origin.

Then along came genomics and wiped all that out. 

Today when you look at all the major A.I. centers products, you could take the name and stud code off and you would be hard pressed to notice any difference.  They all try to offer a complete product line.  Moreover, with the reliability, and ability to take the system or country of origin out of it, they all have pretty reliable product.  This almost completely eliminates any genetic advantage that any A.I. center has.

It has been very interesting to watch companies like Select Sires take to owning top bloodlines in a big way (to read more check out Should A.I. Companies Own Females?).  This may be the only way that A.I. companies can differentiate their genetic advantage.  Buy owning the top females these genetics companies (at this point, they are no longer just an A.I. company), are able to develop distinct bloodlines that none of their competitors can have.  This is only going to change more when breeders have full access to genomic information in 2013 and may start to sample and prove their own sires.

Think about it.  I remember back when I was working with GenerVations, and Champion hit as #1 in Canada.  We marketed the heck out of the fact that he was the best in Canada.  We relied on the world’s confidence in the Canadian system to promote that this new, small A.I. center had a reliable product.  We blasted that message around the world making sure everyone knew that GenerVations had the #1 in the world.  Because we all knew that there was about a 2-3 year window before competitors would have their own Champion sons, or he would no longer be the top bull.  Today we are looking at an even smaller window of opportunity. .  With new genomics bulls coming out pretty much monthly, things can change in a heartbeat.  The Select Sires program at least gives them 8 months advantage on the sires and total control over the dams (since they own them).  This gives them the ability to offer their customers a distinct advantage by doing business with them.  Some may look at it negatively and yet, from a purely business perspective, it makes total sense.  In the end, it will look like a very shrewd investment in a market in which it   so is hard to differentiate yourself.

Service vs. Price

Therefore, when you can no longer differentiate your company on product, it only leaves you two other options, service, and price.  You are either going to become the Wal-Mart of the A.I. world or you are going to become Nordstroms’s.  Both can exist in the same market place you just have to become extremely great at what makes you different.

If you want to become the Wal-Mart of the A.I. world, you are going to offer the lowest price for a very commercial product.  This means you need to have your production facilities running super efficiently and your overhead at a bare minimum.  This position plays extremely well to commercial producers who are looking for the lowest costs possible.  For years, companies like ABS, Alta Genetics, and Select have battled very aggressively.  Since most of these companies more or less were just selling a commodity, there really was not any brand loyalty.  Since most large herds did their own insemination work, they eliminated the close link that is developed between producer and the A.I. center through the regular visits by the technicians doing the insemination work.  While the major A.I. companies tried to lock in that connection again by offering mating programs and other services, since they all were pretty much the same and, often, not used by producers, they were only able to gain marginal difference.  And like the Wal-Mart model, margins are tight and profits are slim.

Therefore, if you cannot compete on product and you cannot compete on price, that only leaves service.  With the majority of the marketplace doing their own insemination, A.I. companies have to look outside the scope of traditional marketplace to provide services.  While this has been the case for many years in the commercial marketplace, it is also fast becoming the case in the entire marketplace.  While you may be able to get a slight premium when you have the #1 bull, otherwise you will live and die by the quality of service you offer your customers.  We have already seen this happen.  Many A.I. companies have gone to offering many non-genetic products in order to become a complete service organization, rather than just a supplier of genetics.

Also of interest, is how the roles of sales and sire analysts have also changed.  While many have called the modern sire analyst a glorified tail hair puller, they are now becoming more of a breeding advisor mixed with a negotiation specialist.  This is exactly what they have to do.  They can provide insight to breeders about the daughters of the top mating sires and maybe a little insight that his proof will not tell you.  Even more so, they are now the chief negotiator for their A.I. center.  If I were a GM of an A.I. company, I would invest heavily in negotiation and relationship building training for these individuals.  Realistically, unless you run a program like Select Sires, this will be your only way to get the top sires from many breeders.

The Bottom Line

Like most mature market places, there is little room for grey areas when it comes to the future of the A.I. industry and where the major A.I. companies position themselves.  It will take strong action now either to develop very aggressive genetic programs like Select Sires has, or you will need to decide if you are going to be the lowest cost provider or offer the greatest service.  And yes, I know there are many small micro A.I. companies that will be able to turn a profit.  I get that, they are able to keep their overhead so low that they will be able to offer a niche product to small segments of the market place.  However, when it comes to the big players, they need to ask themselves, “Am I going to get aggressive and develop distinct bloodlines?”  “Are we going to be the lowest price provider?” Alternatively, “Are we going to become legendary for the quality of our service?” Anything that is a smorgasbord of these will only end in extinction in the end.  Don’t think so?  Look what happened to your local hardware store, when Home Depot moved in, or the independent grocer, when Wal-Mart put up one of their super centers in the same community.  Where do you shop today?  Who will be your provider tomorrow?

What do you think?  Comment below our join the discussion on our facebook page.


Should A.I. Companies Own Females?

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

The debate is back! While Artificial Insemination companies have owned females for many years, with recent dominance by some AI breeding programs on the TOP GTPI list in the US and the upcoming ability for breeders to sample their own bulls, the debate is at the forefront again!

Lessons from the Past

Over the years there have actually been many examples, with mixed results when A.I. companies have owned their own female bloodlines.

  • AltaGenetics
    Back in 2001 Alta Genetics caused considerable  stir when they planned to take their embryo program and convert it into a 1000 elite females test herd to have sires sampled through 100 contracted progeny test herds.  While the program had many supporters from the genetic advancement side, it was seen as very risky and ultimately was put on hold when Alta purchased Network Genetics.  The herd was then dispersed to farms owned by Alta in Canada and Holland and in four independent herds in the U.S.
  • GenerVations
    GenerVations is probably a great example of an A.I. program that has had a lot of success owning their own female bloodlines.  Starting with Albert Cormier’s part ownership of Skys-The-Limit Claire where he was able to maximize profits from both sides, thanks to Champion.  Continued by GenerVations part ownership of Lylehaven Lila Z, owning female bloodlines has been what enables GenerVations to compete on a global scale.  Not being able to have a large sampling program, GenerVations has had to focus on potency rather than volume.  Selecting on the very top bloodlines and putting all your eggs in a few baskets means GenerVations has to take a larger risk than the big A.I. companies.  Owning top females has helped them manage the risk.
  • Genex CRI
    The Genex CRI Genesis program has been around since 1989.  While heavily focused on top Index cattle they have been able to achieve success on the female side with such cattle as MS Pride Plnt Tasket 788-ET who tops TPI and Lifetime Net Merit lists.  On the male side, the Genex program has proven to be very stable in their bull program.  The 54 Co-op prefix bulls averaged a mere $1 drop in Lifetime Net Merit (LNM) as they transitioned from genomic-only genetic evaluations in August 2010 to daughter-proven genetic evaluations in December 2011 (minimum of 40 daughters).  The average change among the 1,879 bulls industry wide over the same time period was a $22 decrease.
  • St. Jacobs ABC
    While the St. Jacobs ABC’s Judges Choice program has been around for many years marketed in partnership with ABS Global. They have more recently entered into the ownership of top female bloodlines with the purchase of Ashlyn, Hezbollah, and Barbara.  Choosing to focus on established show cattle has meant that the Judges Choice program has been focused on young sire sales with sires achieve proven status being an added bonus.
  • Select Sires
    Probably the A.I. Company making the biggest waves today is Select Sires.  Select has been very aggressive in the ownership of top genomic females to the point that on the December Top 200 Genomic Female list they owned 18% of the top 50 new genomics heifers in the US.  With Ladys-Manor PL Shamrock and others, Select Sires is investing heavily in ownership of top genomics females in order to produce the next generation of top TPI Sires.

The Genomic Game Changer

The biggest reason this issue is coming up again is because genomics is changing the prominence of industry sires with no daughter proof data, and virgin heifers are now in heavy demand as for contract matings.  Genomics has deceased the risk to such a level that it can be very economically viable for these A.I. companies to invest in top bloodlines and increase their genetic advancement rate faster than their competition.  By being able to control the matings on these top females and use top (often unproven ) genomic sires on these virgin heifers they will be able to greatly increase their rate of advancement over their competition, and in fact fast than even top breeders.  That is because they will have access to their own top genomics young sires sooner. They  can use them on contract matings far faster than any breeder can.  This gives  them a distinct competitive advantage over both other A.I. companies and over breeders.

The Question of Ownership

A.I. companies owning females seems to be a very touchy issue for many breeders.  While many of these companies are perfectly within their rights legally, it comes down to a question of public perception.  Many companies, such as Semex, have taken a very vocal position that they do not own females.  Given that Semex is a member owned co-operative, it’s understandable that they do not want to be in competition with their breeders, many of whom are the top suppliers of sires to many A.I. companies worldwide.  However, Select Sires is also a federation of nine farmer-owned-and-controlled cooperatives.  You could not have two more extremely opposite positions from two very similarly owned companies.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Genomics has changed the breeding world.  However, it has also created a wild wild west environment where both breeders and A.I. companies are figuring out what the new world will look like.  Will A.I. companies be nothing more than service companies that deliver genetics from many sources (much like a Wal-Mart) where they are more based on quality of service and customer experience than the genetics they have to offer?  Will more and more top breeders try to increase their own profits and sample their own sires? (Watch for articles on these issues coming shortly)  The important  thing to note is that some A.I. companies have taken early steps to control the source and supply top genetic animals to their customers.  The world is changing and so will  the inter-relationship between breeders and A.I. companies, in many cases they are no longer just a customer they are now a competitor.

What do you think?  Leave your comments in the box below.


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