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Our recent article on the relative merit of polled (Holstein) dairy cattle may not have garnered the attention of many breeders. (Read more: Polled Dairy Genetics: The Cold Hard Facts) But for those that are seeing the consumer writing on the wall and foresee the need to genetically take the horns off cattle, we wish to document what’s hot in polled.  Before considering the lists, we strongly suggest that you reflect on two things: 1) how you plan to generate revenue from the genetics in your herd; and 2) how you plan to decrease costs from using sires. (Read more: What’s The Plan?) The breeding business has changed (Read more: Where did the money go?) As you confirm adding polled to your sire selection criteria it is an excellent time to decide which index will be your primary one.

Decide. Don’t Ride the Fence.

Nothing’s perfect. That applies to which total merit index to use just as it does to the fact that there are no perfect bulls. However defaulting to using the bull your neighbour uses or the one that the semen salesman is promoting (Read more: Rumors, Lies, and other stuff Salesmen will tell you) is avoiding some very important planning for your herd. The financial future of your farm depends on using the index that will meet your needs five to ten years in the future. It is never too soon to plan for YOUR future.

Select an Index and Stick to It

Every major dairy cattle breeding country publishes a total merit index (Read more: Total Merit Indexes: Are they helping or hurting?).   The bull listings below are broken out by various indexes and bull groupings. This is a two stage process. Pick your index then pick your bull(s). I remind you that the Bullvine strongly recommends that, when using genomic bulls that you do use more than one or two bulls in order to spread risk. If you are looking to win in the show ring, we leave the formula you use up to you. Likely you will use PTAT or CONF as your primary selection criteria.

If You`re Undecided

If you are not certain on which index to use, The Bullvine recommends that for breeders who’s primary income is the milk check, you use NM$ or BEI.

Polled Bulls Ranked by gTPI

 Table 1 Polled Bulls Ranked by gTPI™

BullNAABSire StackgTPI™MilkFatProteinPTATUDCFLC
All-Riehl Ladds Champ P138HO05314GenomicLadd P x Superstition236369335403.392.51.76
Palmyra Lass Man P7HO12161GenomicLadd P x MOM224961534412.792.731.99
Lirr Outline P138HO5400GenomicMogul x MOM219996166353.023.112.79
Pine-Tree Overtime P200HO3936GenomicUno x Significant P219391287452.722.781.64
OCD Ladd Dogma P138HO5298GenomicLadd P x Elegant218284739333.23.182.13
Da-So-Burn MOM Earnhardt P7HO11464GenomicMOM x Lawn Boy P2174139667681.941.121.72
S-S-I Ladd Harper P7HO11947GenomicLadd P x MOM216651451442.162.152.19
Pine-Tree Ohio Style138HO5199GenomicStyle x Significant P2160202260551.061.21.25
Hahncrest Appl Jax P138HO5331GenomicColt P x Shottle215838919253.183.152.86
Pine-Tree Ohare P29HO16733GenomicStyle x Significant P2151201954521.61.381.96
Sandy-Valley Colt P Red7HO10904ProvenLawn Boy P x Bolton19198243271.92.091.48
Wind-D-Acres Snowball P76HO587ProvenShottle x BW Marshall185237640131.730.92.01

From Table 1 it can be seen that genomic polled bulls far surpass the proven ones when it comes to gTPI™.  All bulls in Table 1 are heterozygous for the polled gene and will leave 50% of their progeny polled.

Polled Bulls Ranked by gLPI

Table 2 Polled Bulls Ranked by gLPI

BullNAABSire StackgLPIMilkFatProteinCONFMammaryF/L
S-S-I Earnhardt Modern P7HO13030GenomicEarnhardt P x Shamrock32161566886912108
Pine-Tree-GF Remark P29HO16999GenomicSupersire x Toubib P31992123101761096
Stantons Equator P200HO6640GenomicEarnhardt P xObserver31931970858313116
Kerndtway Major P7HO12230GenomicEarnhardt p x Observer31351731737013117
Triplecrown AltaSunset P11HO11453GenomicEarnhardt P x Gerard31261798778110114
Hermanvll Harpoon P29HO17559GenomicSupersire x Toubib P312413859961897
Pine-Tree Homerun P29HO16996GenomicSupersire x Toubib P3119229384751088
Bryhill Science P200HO6584GenomicUno x Shottbolt309612678749141213
S-S-I Earnhardt Mastiff P7HO13028GenomicEarnhardt P x Shamrock3081124474661188
S-S-I Earnhardt Morton P7HO13026GenomicEarnhardt P x Shamrock304313067161997
Arron Doon WP Magna P RC151HO562ProvenBolton x Sept Storm264816066248998
Deslac Illegal P Red200HO6080ProvenLawn Boy P x Toystory22998552331693

Please note that not all polled sires are identified on the CDN system

Again note that genomic polled bulls far exceed their proven counterparts as in Table 1. All bulls in Table 2 are heterozygous for the polled gene.

Polled Bulls Ranked by NM$

Table 3 Polled Bulls Ranked by Net Merit (NM$)

Bull(NAAB Code)Sire StackNM$SCSDPRMCEPL
All-Riehl Ladds Champ P138HO5314GenomicLadd P x Superstition7082.551.65.66.7
Pine-Tree Ohio Style P138HO5199GenomicStyle x Significant P6892.820.84.74.4
Pine-Tree Ohare P20HO16733GenomicStyle x Significant P6552.830.95.85
Lirr Outline P138HO5400GenomicMogul x MOM6452.64-15.64.3
Palmyra Ladds Man P7HO12161GenomicLadd P x MOM6422.822.57.15.7
Rocher Arnitage Dozer P14HO7215GenomicArmitage x Lawn Boy P6152.780.66.63.7
Lirr Outcome P138HO 5323GenomicMogul x MOM6122.811.35.65.2
Lirr Special Effect P106HO2864GenomicMagna P x Lawn Boy P6092.541.2na6.3
Da-So-Burn MOM Earnhardt P7HO11262GenomicMOM x Lawn Boy P5893.040.94.82.3
Pine-Tree Overtime P200HO3926GenomicUno x Significant P5832.77-0.27.22.2
Wind-D-Acres Snowball P76HO587ProvenShottle x BW Marshall4142.640.45.43.4
Sandy-Valley Colt P Red7HO10904ProvenLawn Boy P x Bolton4022.81.26.94.2

For Net Merit ($) polled bulls are still far behind the 900+ values being seen today by horned bulls. That will change 3-4 years after breeders and breeding companies that use NMS as their primary index begin to place emphasis on having polled cattle. Compared to the gTPI™ list there is some re-ranking of the bulls at the top for Net Merit. In other words, there is not perfect bull.

Polled Bulls Ranked by BEI

Table 4   Polled Bulls Ranked by BEI (Bullvine Efficiency Index)

Bull(NAAB Code)Sire StackBEI*F + PSCSDFDCAHL
Pine-Tree-GF Remark P29HO16999GenomicSupersire x Toubib P20001772.66107105112
Hermanvll Harpoon P29HO17559GenomicSupersire x Toubib P19911602.68105106115
S-S-I Earnhardt Modern7HO13030GenomicEarnhardt P x Shamrock19781572.66107110112
Stantons Equator P200HO6640GenomicEarnhardt P x Observer19251682.8103105106
Triplecrown AltaSunset P11HO11453GenomicEarnhardt P x Gerard18851582.89103107108
Kerndtway Major P7HO12230GenomicEarnhardt P x Observer18771432.7105109113
Pine-Tree Homerun P29HO16996GenomicSupersire x Toubib P18351592.73103105112
Bryhill Science P200HO6584GenomicUno x Shottbolt18231362.72103104112
S-S-I Earnhardt Morton P7HO13026GenomicEarnhardt P x Shamrock18091322.68107112115
S-S-I Earnhardt Mastiff P7HO13028GenomicEarnhardt P x Shamrock17721402.84109112110

* Expressed relative to a value of 2000 set for the highest animal in the group using the CDN Customized Index Calculator
Please note that not all polled sires are identified on the CDN system

For information on BEI follow this link (Read more: 30 Sires that will produce Feed Efficient Cows).  Between the top three bulls in Table 4 there is little difference when it comes to siring feed efficient cows. A s with Net merit (Table 3) bulls come to the top for BEI when they are rated for their daughters being moderate in stature and body depth, fertile, have moderate depth of udder, are able to resist mastitis, are able to calve in without difficulty (DCE or DCA) and have a long herd life.

PP Polled Bulls

Table 5 PP Bulls Ranked by BEI

Bull(NAAB Code)Sire StackBEI*F + PU DepthF & LHLDFDCAScs
Blondin Crasdale City PP200HO6625GenomicEarnhardt p x Colt P20001122 Shallow81111011053.07
Hickorymea Terrel PP7HO12277GenomicLadd P x Mr Burns1696833 Shallow61081041022.89
Kulp-Dale Golden PP Red106HO3109GenomicColt P x Goldwyn1298525 Shallow21101011042.78
Wind-D-Acres Ivan PP76HO676GenomicColt P x Planet1171712 Shallow21091011022.84
Ostretin Magua PP506HO252ProvenLawn Boy P x Ottawa P9581050110598992.87

* Expressed relative to a value of 2000 set for the highest animal in the group using the CDN Customized Index Calculator
Please note that not all polled sires are identified on the CDN system

The information in table 5 came from the CDN files (Most listings do not separate out PP bulls.) The only sure way to have all progeny born polled is to use PP bulls.  That will limited the total genetic merit of your herd but it will get you to a polled herd more quickly.

Lowering Inbreeding

For breeders using polled sires and interested in lowering the inbreeding level in their herd, we provide a list of bulls that are below average for their inbreeding level (the number in the brackets is their Inbreeding %): Man P (2.73%); Magna P (3.88%); Illegal P (4.46%); Trey PP (4.58%); Snowball P (4.67%); Colt P (5.20%); Earnhardt P (5.78%); and Terrel PP (6.01%).

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The great news is – there is more choice and increased genetic merit than ever before in polled Holstein sires. As we reported previously, polled animals have made significant gains in the last five years when it comes to their total merit indexes relative to horned animals. The Bullvine recommends that breeders include at least three polled sire in the group of sires that they are currently using. In five years you will pat yourself on the back and say ‘Good Decision’. Discerning consumers of milk products want to know that the milk products that they buy come from animals that are humanely cared for.


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What is the Role of a Dairy Cattle Breed Association?

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Recently I took the opportunity to review the Canadian Breed Strategy presented by Holstein Canada.  (Read more: Holstein Canada Breed Strategy, The Bullvine Feedback) I started to ask myself, “What, exactly, is the role of a modern dairy cattle breed association?”

First of all let’s get one thing clear.  I have the Holstein Canada logo tattooed on my chest.  That was a decision that I made as a young adult in order to display my passion for two of the greatest things in the world, Holstein cattle and Canada.  So for me to take a critical look at this is something I do with passion.  The perspectives that motivate me result from personally observing both the producer side as well as the association side.  My father was head of type classification and genetic improvement at Holstein Canada for 18 years.  That background motivates my review which essentially boils down to one question.  “Are breed associations still relevant?”

Now let’s be realistic, the role of the Holstein breed associations is much different than that of the colored breed associations.  Holsteins represent 92% of the dairy cattle in North America.  So for the colored breeds focus is driven by the need for  awareness and preservation.  What is the focus of the Holstein breed associations?

Politics vs. Corporation

For me this question really begins with the fact of how you look at breed associations?  Are they similar to a government entity and therefore they are to represent the best interests of their members and function mainly in a political role?  Or are they to function similar to a corporation and work at growing the profitability of the association and its members?  For me, I would answer that it’s a little bit a both.

The Elephant in the Room

It`s time now to consider the elephant that is hiding in the corner of the room.  In North America  approximately 22% of all Holstein cattle are registered with either Holstein USA or Holstein Canada.  That means that the large majority (78%) of the Holstein cattle in North America are not registered with either breed association.  When such a large majority is not seeing the value in registration and the association programs, I have to ask, “Are Holstein associations relevant to the majority of today’s dairy producers?”

On a personal level, I see great value in purebred dairy cattle, registrations, type classification, and the many other programs.  But obviously the fact that almost 78% of the Holstein Cattle in North America are not registered tells me that the large majority do not see the value.  Why is that?

When I ask that of many the commercial producers that I chat with the answer often boils down to one comment.  “I don’t see the value in the investment.”  Most of the time this position is held by commercial producers that run their operations more like a corporation, rather than passion for a specific breed or way of life.  While many are larger operations, I get the same answer from both large and small.

Technology has changed the world

In the 1980s the value of a purebred heifer of fresh cow was far greater than that of a grade.  But in today’s marketplace, the difference in prices does not warrant the need for registration.  Also reducing the  pressure  for registrations is the fact that computerized record keeping has evolved to a state that the records available on-farm are as complete as those available from the breed associations.  This has further reduced breeder’s perception of the value of registration.

So then it comes down to the other programs that breed associations provide.  The largest of them has to be type classification.  Now let’s be clear I am a HUGE fan of type classification.  But more and more I hear producers wondering if it is really worth it.  (Read more: Is type classification still important?)  They cite things like the use of genomics as a reason that they no longer need to type classify.  Well as we all know Genomics is not a perfect (Read more: The Genomic Bubble Has Burst?, Genomics – Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications! and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry), but it is a great tool.  However, in order to improve its accuracy, the breed still requires the phenotypic data from programs like type classification and milk recording.

While we are talking about technology, why can’t we use more of this on-farm information for genetic evaluations?  Sure I have heard the concerns about accuracy of data, and the ethics of allowing producers to record their own data.  But who said that this data had to be used for female genetic evaluations?  Why can’t we include this large data set in bull genetic evaluations, so that we can greatly increase the accuracy of sire proofs?  We could even develop more management based genetic evaluations that connect more directly to the bottom line?

Who Cares About Index?

From many of the most passionate breeders in the world, I hear “mixed” comments about the index systems, like TPI, LPI, etc.  (Please note that TPI is a trademark of Holstein USA) Yet breed associations continue to focus on this as a major issue.  While there is no doubt that having a national index has done wonders for marketing and genetic advancement.  In reality every breeder should have their own index.  The best index is the one that the works hand in hand with specific management goals.  Having one National Index isn’t working.  First of all we are in a global marketplace.  Secondly, we need at least have three difference indexes.  One that represents the needs of the seed stock producer (similar to TPI or LPI).  One that represents the needs of the commercial producer (similar to NM$).  Finally one that works for those breeding for the show ring (similar to CONF or PTAT).  Only then will you start to settle this debate.

As long as we continue to try to promote one “unified” national index, it will continue to be seen as nothing more than a marketing tool.  If you really want to have a tool that is for breed advancement and not for marketing, you need to understand that every breeder’s needs are different.  And when you start to look at things from the different perspectives of all producers, and try to represent and respect each one of their individual needs, you will start to see the greatest advancement in the breed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Really the breed strategy must come down to, “How do you make me more profitable?”  All other issues are secondary to that.  For years I have heard “Well a higher classified cow will last longer in your herd and produce more milk over their lifetime.”  Well I am sorry to tell you that the data does not always support that conclusion.  What if the cow has reproduction issues?  What if they don’t milk very hard?  All of these challenges to profitability also greatly reduce their productive life, yet they are not factored into most of the programs that breed associations currently offer.  If you really want to get a larger share of the national herd pie, you need to show the average producer the measurable effect that registered animals and the associated programs have on their bottom line.  All other issues are just smoke and mirrors that many of the politicians (Breed association board members) spend far too much time focusing on.  I want my breed association to “Show me the money!”

 

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Total Merit Indexes: Are they helping or hurting?

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

If you haven’t worked in a trade show booth or attended a cattle show recently, you could very well be missing important genetic improvement discussions. Discussion about which traits breeders feel are at an acceptable level and which ones need to be improved. I suspect that few of you have worked a trade show booth but I can tell you, from front line experience, that bottom line focused breeders are not shy about saying that today’s dairy cattle are not functional enough, don’t get pregnant easily (may conceive but not retain)  and require too much worker time. Contrast that with the spectators at shows that talk about their ideal cow being tall, lean, tight uddered, deep ribbed and wide rumped.  Often front and center in all the discussions is which total merit index to use. Is it TPI, JPI, NM$, LPI, RZG, BW, TMI, NVI or another? Is any one total merit index capable of meeting the needs of all breeders?

Who is #1?

Every breeder or owner wants to have the #1 cow or bull. And back twenty to thirty years ago many bull owners bragged about having the #1. All-be-it they had the number one for Milk, Fat %, Fat Yield, Type or whatever. For the average breeder it was very  confusing. Which should they think was the #1 bull? In order to assist breeders, breed societies and genetic evaluation centers started publishing total merit indexes for bulls. Those indexes combined the production and type genetic indexes. It was reasoned that having a ranking system that combined all the traits was much superior to single trait marketing and selection.

Index Achievements & Short Falls

Recently CDN published the following genetic trends for Canadian Holsteins and Jerseys.

lpi & component improvement holstein canada

lpi & component improvement jersey canada

The average increase in LPI for both breeds is 65 LPI points per year. Undoubtedly this annual gain is more than would have been achieved without having the LPI to use for sorting animals. These gains are based on increases in both production and durability (conformation). But note that no gains have been made for health and fertility (H&F) in the past fifteen years.

Index Worship – Gone Too Far?

Having only one number to remember on an animal can be good but there can also be drawbacks to using only one number. These limitations include:

  • Everyone talks about the top ten TPI sires but in fact between #1 (Massey) and #20 (Goose) there are only 122 points. That is almost like getting 99% compare to 95% on a test. Not much difference. So drill down and know the facts. Indexes for these twenty bulls range from 42 to 93 lbs for fat yield and from 0.98 to 3.42 for Udder Composite.
  • Mating a high TPI bull to a high TPI cow without regard to where the bull and cow are strong or weak can lead to disaster.
  • Buying only on the TPI, even though the pedigree person announces that “this heifer is #1”, does not guarantee that you are buying the best animal for the traits important to you.

In fact we could very well have reached the point where we are limiting the advancement we will make in our herds because we do not look at all the genetic indexes for an animal. Instead of using TPI to sort out the top animals and then studying the strengths and limitations of an animal, we only consider the TPI. If you wonder about that The Bullvine suggests that you study the top TPI heifers looking at both their TPI and fertility (DPR) indexes. You will find many top heifers that have a negative DPR index. Is not reproduction the #1 reason cows are culled?

Which Index for You?

The key word in this title is YOU. What business are you in – the business of breeding and marketing of breeding stock or the business of milk production? After you make that important first decision, you are in a position to decide on which total merit index you should use.

It is important to think in terms of what you want your herd to be genetically in the future when selecting a total merit index to use. Traits beyond production and type are becoming more important to breeders. The following ICAR published table shows the relative trait emphasis for seven  leading total merit indexes and the average for all total merit indexes from seventeen countries.

Relative Trait Emphasis in Total Merit Indexes*

Trait17 CountriesTPI(USA)NM$(USA)LPI(CAN)RZG(GER)BW(NZ)TMI(Nordic)NVI(NLD)
Protein Yield31%27%16%31%36%40%21%14%
Fat Yield12%16%19%20%9%12%5%9%
Milk Yield-5%0%0%0%0%-15%-5%-3%
Type17%29%17%27%15%0%11%28%
Longevity11%9%22%7%20%6%5%11%
Udder Health8%5%10%5%7%7%17%14%
Fertility11%11%11%10%10%8%13%14%
Other(Management)5%3%5%0%3%13%19%5%

* Reported by J Chesnais & Associates at 2012 ICAR Meeting (Ireland)

As you develop your breeding and business plans for the future, the following points may be useful to consider:

  • If you do not sell animals for breeding purposes, having type at a high weighting in your total index may not be your best business decision. NM$ may be a better index for you.
  • In ten years will you be a breeder or a milk producer? Choose either the breeder index (i.e. TPI or LPI) or the milk producer index (i.e. NM$).
  • If you do not show cattle or sell cattle to showmen, then PL (Productive Life) or HL (Herd Life) rather than PTAT or CONF should be an important part of your total merit index.
  • Including and giving significant weighting to traits such as fertility, longevity, calving ability, milking speed and mastitis resistance in the total merit indexes will be the way of the future for breeders focused on milk production.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Total merit indexes are designed to rank animals according a set formula. After sorting out the top bulls on a total merit basis, breeders should use corrective mating to match the bulls with the cows in their herd. Not using genetic indexes denies you the opportunity to make significant advancements both genetically and from a profit perspective. Are total merit indexes helping or hurting breeders? It depends on knowing your genetic needs and using the index that focuses attention on your most important traits. No total merit index will best serve all breeders. Use the index that suits your plans (Read more:Fact vs. Fantasy: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection, What’s the plan? and Genomics at Work – August 2013)


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.

 

 

 

 

The amount of bragging and arguing that goes on among breeders about what country has the best genetics in the world is insane.  Because  many have no actual facts to back up their opinion, the Bullvine decided to take a closer look and see just who does have the best genetics in the world. We took a look at the top 50 proven and top 50 genomic sires (where possible) in each of the major north American  indexes (TPI, NM%, LPI, PTAT and Conf) to see just what countries have the top bulls on each. We used north American indexes since all other indexes did not publicly provide MACE lists for use to do an accurate evaluation. The following is what we found.

TPITM

tpi proven sires

tpi genomic sires

When it comes to TPI, it’s not surprising that the US dominates both the proven and genomic sire lists.  Given that TPI is a US based index, it’s only natural that they would have such a large proportion of the list.  What is interesting about these results is that Canada does have 14% of the top genomic sires.  Maybe a sign that Canadians are starting to put more attention into TPI and are adjusting their breeding programs so that they can achieve high ranking TPI animals.

NM$

NM$ proven sires

NM$ Genomic Sires

Since young sire information between countries is not readily available, its not surprising the we have mostly US sires on the genomic lists.  What is interesting about these results is that the Nordic countries have 22% of the top proven sires for NM$.  This is a direct result of their heavy focus on health and fertility and thus leading the way in genetic progress in these areas (Read more:  What the experts will tell you about who is winning the genetic improvement race).

PTAT

ptat proven

ptat genomic sires

When it comes to type it’s not surprising that Canada makes its strongest showing in this area. Years of intense breeding for this trait have led to Canada having a larger market share in this area.  What is also interesting is the diversity of countries that make the top proven sire list.

LPI

lpi proven sires

lpi genomic sires

Almost shockingly there are no Canadian bred proven sires in the top 50 LPI sires in the world.  Given that LPI is Canada’s national index you would think there would be at least a few.  While the genomic lists do have 22% Canadian bred sires, it shows that in the recent past Canadian’s have been lagging behind other countries.

Conformation

conf proven sires

conf genomic sires

One area that has always been a great strength is the Canada’s ability to breed great type.  While they certainly have their largest market share in this area.  It is interesting to note that the Canada does have more of the top proven and genomic conformation sires in the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there is no question that the US has the largest  population of dairy breeders in the world, and hence they should have the largest market share, what is surprising is how they have so much of the world’s top genetics.   Well beyond just the size of their population base, the US is the world leader in producing top Holstein sires.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.

 

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Fertility: You Get What You Breed For

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

How often have you heard a 4H leader, FFA member, classifier or show judge say a heifer or cow must have slope from her hips to her pins and be wide in the pins because that’s what we need for good fertility? Yes we have all heard that many times. But is it true? Could it be that the Holstein bloodlines we have selected were poorer for fertility than other bloodlines we left behind half a century ago? And that rump conformation has a low correlation with fertility.

A Colorful Opinion

Something we can all agree on is that the fertility levels in our herds, the world over, are not what breeders would like them to be. I well remember just a year ago when I had a discussion with an old time Jersey breeder. True to form he was telling this Holstein guy that Holstein breeders have ruined the breed. Sure higher butterfat and protein yields and udders much higher off the ground were great moves but why the excessive stature, very flat and deep rear rib and the demand that animals be tall in the front end when nature did not make them that way? “Jersey cows don’t need to have sloping rumps in order to quickly get back in-calf. So why do Holsteins need sloping rumps?” His bottom line was that by going for the tall skinny cow syndrome we have selected against reproductively sound females. His concluding statement was “You are breeding cows not runway models.” Think about it, shorter, rounder cows that may give a little less milk but get in-calf quicker are very likely preferred by milk producers to the tall, deep rear rib, walk uphill ones.

Have we won a Little but Lost a Lot?

Have we selected our Holsteins for the ones that do not quickly get back in-calf? Is it possible that our breeding strategies have taken us in a wrong direction when female fertility is frequently the biggest cow problem that breeders have? (Read more: How Healthy Are Your Cows?)

Certainly over the past half century the average production of Holsteins has doubled. And yes in the past decade we are seeing more outstanding scoring (type classification) cows. And the winners at the shows are super cows with awesome mammary systems.

However whether it is genetics, nutrition or management, our calving intervals are longer and pregnancy rates are perhaps half what they were forty years ago. As well with the need for breeders to focus today on profitability there is the need to replace high cost manual labour with technology and there are moves ahead pointing to less use of drugs and medicines for food safety reasons. Therefore we need to find some way to put reproduction efficiency back into the Holstein cow. And do it by selection rather than by cross-breeding.

Skinny at Odds with Conception

Research and breeder experience has brought to our attention that cows that have above average body conditioning get back in-calf quicker and with less trouble than cows that sacrifice their body condition due to high yields, poor nutrition, inadequate transition cow feeding, poor conformation, … or maybe some combination of all of those.

The Billion Dollar Question

So I ask. “Now that we have sire and cow indexes for Daughter Pregnancy Rate (USA) and Daughter Fertility and Body Condition Score (Canada) are breeders using those indexes in their Breeding Programs?”

Bulls That Get Used

The Canadian Dairy Network, last week, published the thirty Holstein sires with the most daughters registered in Canada in 2012 (Read more: Canadian A.I. Market Share and Most Popular Sires for 2012) accounting for 40% of the total registrations. The remaining 60% were sired by 5900 other bulls. The Bullvine decided to study in some depth the 20 sires with the most registered daughters in Canada in 2012. Those twenty sired 35% of the females registered which should be a good benchmark for where the breed is heading.

Table 1 Sire Comparison – 2012 Daughters Born vs. 2011 Top Sires Available

GroupLPIMilk (kg)Fat (kg / %)Protein (kg / %)CONFMSF&LHerdLifeDFSCSUdepthCA
20 Bulls-most registered 20122075103160 /+.21%41 / +.06%15128105982.894s102
20 Bulls - top in 20112392139367/+.16%55 / +.07%101091081022.874s104
Difference-317-362-7-1452-1-3-4-0.020-2

Table 1 compares the twenty sires with the most registered daughters in 2012 to the top twenty Canadian proven LPI sires available to Canadian breeders in 2011. The short answers to the comparisons are: breeders use sires with lower LPIs, less production, more type, less fertility and less Herd Life than the very top LPI sires that A.I. organizations marketed. The shocking truth is that ten of the top twenty most used sires were below average for their Daughter Fertility (DF) indexes. One of those twenty sires had a DF index of only 88 while the top two sires were rated at 107 & 106. High (top 10%) but not overly high.

In case you are wondering if this is a Canadian phenomenon you can refer to a recent Bullvine article (Read more: Top Sires North American Breeders Are Using). The sires with most registered daughters in the USA have the same deficiency in their genetic merit for female fertility. Six of the top ten bulls with the most registered daughters in the middle half of April 2013 were below average for Daughter Pregnancy Rate. Different country same story.

Let’s take the Bull by the Horns

Even though we have only had fertility indexes on bulls for a few years, we as breeders are not using them to genetically improve female fertility in our herds. And it likely goes beyond that – are our A.I. organizations using them when selecting the parents of the next generation of bulls? After all over 90% of the genetic improvement in a herd comes from the sires used.

Fertility Sires

Sires do exist that top the April 2013 North American TPI™ and LPI listings and have fertility ratings in the top 25% of the Holstein breed. Breeders wishing to genetically improve their herds for female fertility should consider the following sires:

Table 2 Top Sires with High Fertility – April 2013

Table 2 Top Sires with High Fertility – April 2013

Click on image for enlargement

Of course we all want to know what we will have to give up to get the female fertility. Further analysis of the twenty-four bulls listed in Table 2 shows that only significant concession would be in ‘show type’ for eight of the twelve top proven sires.  All bulls on this listing have above average indexes for PTAT or CONF.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Half a century of breeding for increased yields, taller and more angularity cows have taken their toll on the fertility in our herds. Female fertility indexes are available for both males and females. With genomics these indexes became much more accurate. Now is the time to put the genetics for female fertility back into our modern Holsteins. It is not a “Perhaps or Maybe”, it is a “MUST”!


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Canadian LPI Rescaling Explained (April 2013)

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

Understanding and correctly using genetic indexes is important to breeders who derive a significant portion of their profit from dairy cattle breeding decisions. Major changes in the expression of indexes do not occur frequently but when they do occur it can be a time of confusion and perhaps lack of trust. The Canadian total index, LPI, has been used for over twenty years by Canadian breeders, as well as by breeders from other countries who source genetic material from Canada. When changes occur in the LPI indexing system, as is the case just now in April 2013, it is important that the reasons for the changes and the results be understood and incorporated into breeders’ decision processes.

Why Change?

For some time now the LPI values, especially for Holsteins, have been increasing quickly for all animals but it has been most noticeable for animals that have genomic evaluations. Breeders questioned how these young animals with indexes that are about 65% reliable can be significantly superior to recently proven top end bulls and active cows with their own performance values. As most breeders refer to the absolute LPI number, significant differences between the leaders on the various listings left doubt in accuracy in breeders’ minds. For breeders who think is bottom line terms and do not follow the LPI numbers closely, comment were often heard about the fact that numbers are numbers but it is annual cow profit that pays the bills, expands the business and sends the kids to college. Point being that the LPI difference between animals over-stated the net dollar difference between animals. These questions, comments and concerns were heard loud and clear by the CDN’s Genetic Evaluation Board so it studied the matter and took action.

LPI Scaling

The extreme range (-3500 to +3500) in Canadian Holstein LPI values had many drawbacks. It assigned most older long-lived profitable cows a negative value thereby telling a story that was not true and limiting the saleability of their subsequent generation. It assigned values that indicated significant differences between animals when the actual dollar differences were not that large. And due to the scaling effect for animals at the very top of the breed it gave values far exceeding the actual differences.  This latter point was especially true for bulls and heifers with only parent averages and genomic evaluations.

While studying possible solutions, CDN noted that in other major dairy breeding countries the scale for their total merit index is much much smaller than Canada’s 7000 point range. CDN decided to adopt a publication methodology for the LPI similar to what the TPI™ has used for many years. That involves calculating a value and adding a ‘constant’ to it.

New LPIs

Effective April 09, 2013  the new LPI formula is ½ Previously calculated LPI  + Constant.

cdnfigure1

Note that the highest progeny proven sires do not change in value.

currentvsnewlpi

Note that the range in values of Holstein LPIs is now much more similar, although slightly more, than the range for  Holstein TPI™

Sire LPIs

It is important to note that this re-scaling of LPI does not re-rank animals. But it does bring the progeny proven sires and genomically evaluated young bulls much closer in their values.

toplpigenomicsiresdec2012

It is important to remember that LPI is the Canadian system for ranking animals according the weights assigned to the numerous genetic indexes of important for lifetime profit. For Holsteins the weights at 51% Production, 34% Durability and 15% Health and fertility while for Jerseys those weightings are 57%, 33% and 10% respectively. Breeders wanting to place more or less emphasis on the various can calculate their own rankings using  the CDN calculator available at www.cdn.ca or going the Bulvine’s bull listings for alternative ranking systems (Read more: Bullvine Performance Index (BPI) – Top Sires December 2012).

Using Genetic Indexes

Indexes are a very constructive tool to genetically breed better animals for the future. As genetics is less than half of the reasons animal differ in profitability, much depends on breeders to not only produce the animals that will be profitable but also to feed and manage them.  Some suggested ground rules to follow when making sire or heifer selections are:

  • Use LPI, TPI™ or Net Merit are you primary list reduction tool for sires or herd replacements
  • Always check out the index values for the traits important to you (i.e. protein, fat, feet & legs, udders, SCS, fertility,..). Eliminate animals from the list that do not meet your requirements.
  • A quick way to eliminate animals is to use % RK (percentile rank).
  • Animals below 75% RK for any yield or conformation traits will likely leave progeny that reduce your profit.
  • Animals below 60% RK for health and fertility traits will not move your herd ahead for these traits of emerging importance.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Even though the method of expressing genetic indexes may differ from trait to trait or country to country, it is always important to have a plan on what you want to improve genetically  in your herd and then to select the sires or replacement females that will produce the results. The re-scaling of the LPI values will come closer to the actual dollars amount animals return in their lifetime profit and will more accurately compare older and younger animals. By all means keep your genetics current and on target to your needs. It is best to throw out the semen from low indexing bulls. Buy high ranking genetics. It always pays big dividends.

 

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TPI™ and LPI – Marketing or Mating tools?

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

From old school dairy breeders telling you, “They are all worthless!” to geneticists telling you “They are the greatest thing since sliced bread!” it can be challenging to figure out whether tools like TPI® and LPI have significant merits in your breeding or marketing program

What Are They?

To get a better understanding of what each of these indexes represent start with the fact that  TPI® (Total Performance Index) and LPI (Lifetime Profit Index) are multi-trait indexes.  They both combine production, type, and health and fertility traits to rank sires on their ability to transmit an economic balance of these traits. TPI® is calculated by Holstein USA and LPI is calculated by The Canadian Dairy Network.

The big thing to remember about both of these indexes is that they are more or less a predictor of a bull’s ability to transmit based on established weightings.  For TPI® that weighting is as follows

TPI Formula

Source: Holstein USA, click on image for more details

Whereas LPI has the following weighting, 51% production, 29% conformation and 20% health traits. As you will notice, LPI actually puts a greater weighting on conformation and health than does the TPI®.

They’re Tools You Fool

The big thing to remember is both of these indexes were created to help identify superior sires that combined high production, sound conformation, and desirable health and fertility traits.  It does not mean that these sires are the only sires you should be using.  Or that if you only use these sires you will have the best herd in the world.

What it does mean is that you can use these tools to help short list what sires you are wanting to use, assuming that you are breeding for high production, conformation, and fertility.  If you are like some old school breeders who feel that high lactation production is not worth the tradeoff then fine, LPI and TPI® are not for you.  In reality, each breeding program would be best to develop their own index based on the needs and goals of their breeding program.  Maybe you would want more emphasis on health or type.  It all depends on your goals and then you work from there.

It’s All About the Marketing

Were these indexes created just for marketing?  No.  Were they created for ways to compare and sell sires?  Yes.  What’s the difference?  Well when both these indexes were created they had all the right intentions.  They were created for a way to compare sires on their overall genetic merits.  Which lead to major sale and marketing opportunities for those organizations and breeders who had the top sires.

I can remember that, before these multi-trait indexes were introduced,  everyone claimed to have the #1 sire or cow.  While that is still happening, for the most part TPI® and LPI provide the opportunity for breeders to gain a clear understanding of who is the top sire for producing high production, sound conformation, and healthy cattle.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

With so many different traits that are evaluated, trying to identify which sires have the overall best genetics can be very challenging.  While the TPI® and LPI formulas may not be the exact weighting that works for your breeding program, they are designed to represent that average breeder (if there is such a thing).  They are designed to give opportunity to compare sires on relative merits and see which sires rise to the top.  The big thing to remember is that they are to be used as tools! If you lose focus on that, these tools can have you looking like a fool!

Top 10 Genomic TPI Young Sires Review – April 2012

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

With 8 of the top 10 Genomic TPI™ young sires being themselves sons of young sires, there is no question that breeders of these top animals have confidence in genomics and are using it to shorten their genetic intervals.
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The following is our analysis of the top 10 GTPI young sires from the April 2012 Genetic Evaluations:

#1 – AMIGHETTI NUMERO UNO

AMIGHETTI NUMERO UNO

Holding on to his #1 spot despite 7 new members in the top 10, NUMERO UNO from Semex possess an international pedigree.  Sired by a MAN-O-MAN he is only one of two sires on this list that are not themselves sired by young sires.  His dam AMIGHETTI SHOTTLE AVE VG-88-2YR-ITA in an unparalleled Italian source for GTPI.  The foundation of the family is Center-Field Elevation Berta, directly imported from the U.S. Watch for NUMERO UNO to sire well-balanced cattle that have strong mammary systems and great feet and legs.  Surprisingly watch for him to be an outstanding Rump improver that you may not expect from a Man-O-Man son.  A couple of areas that he may not perform as well as his sire stack may indicate are his overall production and protein kgs.  NUMERO UNO will mate well with typical daughters of Planet, Bolton, Stol Joc and Mr Burns.

 

#2 – SEAGULL-BAY SUPERSIRE

SEAGULL-BAY SUPERSIRE

#2 on the GTPI list is SUPERSIRE, the more genomicically gifted of the Robust full brothers from AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA VG-87-2YR-USA who is the popular Planet bull dam at Seagull-Bay. Both being sampled at Select Sires, and tracing back to WESSWOOD-HC RUDY MISSY EX-92-3E USA DOM GMD.  SUPERSIRE himself is a son of a test sire ROYLANE SOCRA ROBUST (Socrates x O-Man) that is from another Seagull-Bay cow family SEAGULL-BAY OMAN MIRROR VG-86-3YR-USA DOM who is the #1 O Man of the breed.  SUPERSIRE sires outstanding production with solid components and sound durability and health and fertility traits.  SUPERSIRE will sire solid confirmation across the board.  Watch for SUPERSIRE to sire much better components than his full brother.  Though some may consider it risky using a young sire who himself is a son of a young sire, SUPERSIRE will work well on many of the top sires though he needs to be protected on milking speed.

 

#3 – DE-SU BKM MCCUTCHEN 1174

DE-SU BKM MCCUTCHEN 1174

Also from Select sires comes MCCUTCHEN from SULLY SHOTTLE MAY VG-85-3YR-USA DOM. May is believed to have more offspring genomic tested over 2200 & 2300 GPTI than any other cow in the breed.  MCCUTCHEN is himself a son of a young sire DE-SU 521 BOOKEM (Planet x Ramos).  MCCUTCHEN`s genomic pattern shows the potential to sire extreme balance of production and conformation with the potential for breed leading conformation with the ability to improve all major composites.  Similar to SUPERSIRE, MCCUTCHEN will work well on many of the top sires though he needs to be protected on milking speed.

#4 – SEAGULL-BAY HEADLINER

SEAGULL-BAY HEADLINER

The full brother to #2 on the list, SUPERSIRE, HEADLINER will sire a little more protein than his higher ranked full brother.  The biggest difference between the two may be SUPERSIRES ability to leave more desirable rumps.  HEADLINER and his full brother SUPERSIRE are a testament to keeping the genetic interval as tight as possible, with the tight cross of young sire on Planet then Shottle followed by O Man and Rudolph.  Their dam Shauna has the unique ability to sire top ranking sires in both the US (TPI) and Canada (LPI). HEADLINER will work well on many of the top sires though he needs to be protected on milking speed and calving ease.

 

#5 – MOUNTFIELD SSI DCY MOGUL

MOUNTFIELD SSI DCY MOGUL

The second of the previous top 10 GTPI young sires to retain his top rank is MOGUL.  He, is also a son of a young sire COYNE-FARMS DORCY and like many others on this list is also from Select Sires.  MOGUL is a testament to his strong maternal lines as his EBV’s far outperforms his sire stack.  Look for MOGUL to offer a strong balanced offering but needs to be protected on his rump.  Though he will leave much greater dairyness and strength than this sire stack would indicate.  Similar to SUPERSIRE and HEADLINER, MOGUL’s maternal pedigree traces back to WESSWOOD-HC RUDY MISSY EX-92-3E USA DOM GMD.  Mogul’s Dam MOUNTFIELD MARSH MAXINE VG-88-2YR-USA DOM being a great granddaughter.  MOGUL offers a nice outcross as there is no GOLDWYN, PLANET, or SHOTTLE in it.  MOGUL makes a nice cross for SHOTTLE bloodlines.

 

#6 – S-S-I DOMAIN LITHIUM

S-S-I DOMAIN LITHIUM

Continuing their dominance of the top GTPI lists Select adds LITHIUM.  Similar to the other additions LITHIUM is himself a son of a young sire, RONELEE TOYSTORY DOMAIN (Toystory x Outside) from Trans-America Genetics.  LITHIUM is a riskier choice to use, as his Genomic values are significantly lower than that of his parent averages, or sire stack would indicate.  Of specific note is the much lower values for dairy strength, rump, fat and overall production.  LITHIUM will sire strong udders and feet and legs with solid production.  Though additional consideration should be given to lactation persistency and milking speed.

 

#7 – DE-SU 1263 “RANSOM”

DE-SU 1263

From Androgenetics comes another ROYLANE SOCRA ROBUST (Socrates x O-Man) son.  Similar to SUPERSIRE and HEADLINER, RANSOM is genomically gifted beyond his sire stack, transmitting much more milk, fat and rump improvement than his pedigree would indicate.  RANSOM will sire extreme improvement in feet and legs though may need to be protected on dairy strength.  Continuing in the breeding pattern of other sires from De-Su, RANSOM has a tight genetic sire stack with a young sire being used on a Romas daughter from Shottle followed by O Man.

 

#8 – RONELEE SSI O DADDY

RONELEE SSI O DADDY

At this rate we are going to need to start to call this the Select Sires New Release list (For more on this read Should A.I. Companies Own Females?).  Like so many others on this list, DADDY is a son of a young sire himself (For more on this read The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle For Genetic Supremacy) that also traces back to breeding at De-Su.  His sire is Observer (Planet x O Man) son of DE-SU OMAN 6121-ET VG-86-2YR-USA DOM GMD.  However, unlike many of the other sires on our list after his sire, DADDY’s pedigree is actually a little dated and contributes to him being one of the lowest sire stacks in the top 10.  This puts a lot of weight on his sire to carry a lot of the genetic weight.  Daddy will sire strong production though will need to be protected on Fat.  The surprising part, given his sire stack, will be his ability to sire strong dairy cattle that walk on a solid set of feet and legs.  However, much like his pedigree predicts he will need to be protected on Feet & Legs.  His daughters should be extremely durable though may need to be protected on milking speed.

 

#9 – ROYLANE BOXER PUNCH 4311

ROYLANE BOXER PUNCH 4311

Would you be surprised if I told you that PUNCH is also from Select?  Well he is.  Again he is a son of young sire, Boxer (Shottle x Goldwyn) that is from the Barbie’s at Regancrest.  PUNCH is a brother to the heavily used young sire ROBUST, that is the sire of SUPERSIRE, HEADLINER, and RANSOM from our top list.  Watch for PUNCH to sire strong components and very balanced type.  Watch for PUNCH to sire much more durable daughters with better health traits that his sire stack would indicate.  His daughters will be much stronger than you would expect with O Man, Manat, and Celsius in the pedigree.  While his daughters may not be as high production as others, watch for PUNCH to add the balanced that you would expect from the conformation from his paternal side and production from the maternal side.

 

#10 – MINNIGAN-HILLS DAY

MINNIGAN-HILLS DAY

The third sire of the previous top 10 sires to maintain their status on the list, DAY, offers a great combination of type and production.  While DAY’s pedigree might spell just average type watch for him to be a potential breed leader.  He will sire outstanding udders, feet & legs and surprisingly rumps and strength.  The part that he does not live up to his pedigree or sire stack on is his production.  He does need to be protected on production, though he will sire better components than expected.

For more information check out The Bullvine Bull Book or our Genetic Evaluation Resource Center.

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