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Matt Zabel says, “Genomics has had a huge impact on our breeding program at Zahbulls Holsteins” He acknowledges that he may have had a more open mind than some who experienced the dramatic impact of this new tool. “With my commercial herd background, genomics may have been easier for me to adjust to.”   Matt farms with his wife, Emily, and his parents, Tim and Tammie in Plainview, Minnesota. He sums up his viewpoint, “Genomics has changed the industry tremendously!” Dairy people worldwide would agree with that assessment, as many AI organizations now report well over half their semen sales are from genomic bulls.


Matt and Emily Zabel with their children, Ruby and Heston.

Megan Zabel Holmes, Dan Holmes, and Tim Zabel

Megan Zabel Holmes, Dan Holmes, and Tim Zabel

The Genomics Debate is Ongoing but Zahbull Holsteins are About Growing

After attending UW-Madison Farm and Industry Short Course, Matt became interested in Registered Holsteins. He describes where the family farm is today. “We milk 195 cows 3 times a day in a double 5 parabone parlor. The cows are housed in sand bedded freestalls. We have 180 youngstock and farm 530 acres of corn and alfalfa.” Tim is the crop manager, while Matt manages the dairy operation. Emily is responsible for calves, social media and website. 

Zabel has a “Get Real” Breeding Philosophy

You never find a successful farmer who doesn’t have a clearly defined breeding philosophy.  For Matt Zabel that means “Practical, breeding for medium sized cows, functional type with the will to milk.” He has a very clear goal in mind. “I strive for real cows competing in real environments.”

Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour GP-83 Dam of Zahbulls Alta 1st Class GTPI 2611 Dam of Zahbulls Halogen Giant GTPI 2574 Daughters: Zahbulls SS Genova-ET GTPI 2322 Zahbulls SS Gentry-ET GTPI 2230 Zahbulls Lexor Glad-ET GTPI 2301

Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour GP-83
Dam of Zahbulls Alta 1st Class GTPI 2611
Dam of Zahbulls Halogen Giant GTPI 2574
Zahbulls SS Genova-ET GTPI 2322
Zahbulls SS Gentry-ET GTPI 2230
Zahbulls Lexor Glad-ET GTPI 2301

All that Glitters is Genomics

When it comes to breeding success, Matt enthusiastically relates the story of his favorite achievement – Johnan Toystory Glitter. “I always had an interest in her dam Johcar Rudolph Ginger. At the time, Toystory was a mating sire that I was using and had interest in. Genomics were gaining popularity and I heard a few members of her family were genomically testing well. We tested Glitter and she went up over 300 TPI points. Her offspring went on to produce some of the highest genomically tested bulls in the world, including Alta 1st Class.”


Johnan Toystory Glitter EX-90
2-04 2 305 23400 95 4.1 956 3.0 711 95
4-00 2 305 29220 95 3.5 1025 3.0 887 95
2nd dam of Alta1stClass

In a (1st) Class By Himself

Alta 1st Class (Uno x Dorcy x Toystory) not only has a rather unique name but he excels in many important categories.  He debuted at #3 gTPI (2597) genomic sire of August 2013’ with high values for Udder Composite, pTAT, PL, SCS, DPR, and CM$ and now stands at +2598 gTPI. Seldom do breeders see a bull that has at or near +5.00 for udder attachments and udder depth.

Zahbulls Alta1stCLASS-ET Numero Uno x Dorcy BY x Toystory

Zahbulls Alta1stCLASS-ET
Numero Uno x Dorcy BY x Toystory

And the Zahbull List Goes On

Building on their success, the bulls bred by Zahbull Holsteins continues to grow:

  • Zahbulls Flame Gogebic (gTPI +2625, Vieuxsaule Flame x Zahbulls Ss Genova x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
  • Zahbulls Halogen Giant (gTPI +2570, Cookiecutter Petron Halogen x  Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
  • Zahbulls Greenway Gump (gTPI +2484, De-Su Mgl Greenway 11396-ET x Zahbulls Ss Genova x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
  • Zahbulls Mccutchen Gil-ET  (gTPI +2419, De-Su Bkm Mccutchen 1174 x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
  • Zahbulls Racer Gibson (gTPI +2415, Clear-Echo Lexor Racer-ET x Zahbulls Dorcy Glamour-ET GP-83)
Zahbulls SS Genova-ET  Dam of #1 bull in the world! Zahbulls Flame Gogebic GTPI 2654

Zahbulls SS Genova-ET
Dam of #1 bull in the world! Zahbulls Flame Gogebic GTPI 2654

Zahbulls Holsteins Welcomes Variety

Matt keeps the options open when developing his breeding lines. His current list includes:

Zahbulls Uno Emily, Zahbulls O-Style Chilli, No-Fla Paradise 33729, Zahbulls Lexor Glad, Zahbulls SuperSire Genova and Zahbulls Ransom Edina. He explains the reasoning behind these choices. “I’ve been working with these because they all have something different to bring to the table.” On the bull side Matt names nine of his sire picks: “Alta 1st Class, Yoder, Pure, Delta, Mega Sire, JoSuper, Tango, Mr. Mud and Impression”. The unifying ingredient to all these animals is that they have high gTPI indexes even though they are from a number of different bloodlines, each with unique breed topping indexes.

Sapa Ska Toystory Courtney EX 92 Dam of Zahbulls O-Style Chili and A Iota son Zahbulls Iota Cashew

Sapa Ska Toystory Courtney EX 92
Dam of Zahbulls O-Style Chili +2222 GTPI
and A Iota son Zahbulls Iota Cashew

Keeping Up With Zahbulls Means All the Right Moves

It isn’t enough to have the right strategy, the right genetics and the right records.  Matt knows it doesn’t work unless the message gets out. To maintain a steady flow of information, Zabels have a multi-point strategy here too. “We keep potential buyers and other people interested in our genetics and up-to-date on what we’re doing by using our website, , social media , advertising , participating in various consignment sales and taking part in interviews.”  

“Never let genetics take a back seat”

Matt is proud of the mentorship provided by his father. “I admire my Dad because he never let genetics take a back seat.” Matt reiterates that family breeding philosophy over and over. “Dad bestowed in me the importance of always using quality genetics in a commercial herd.” Ultimately that shared vision contributed to changes at Zahbulls Holsteins. “He supported me 100% in my interest for pursuing registered Holsteins.” Zahbulls Holsteins has excelled in operating a commercial herd and have also achieved outstanding results in breeding registered Holsteins. This means a lot to Matt. “Breeding Alta 1st Class has been my greatest accomplishment so far. I am so proud that my research, dedication and hard work produced one of the highest genomic bulls in the world.” 

Johcar Rudolph Ginger-ET EX-94 3E GMD DOM 3rd dam of Alta1stClass

Johcar Rudolph Ginger-ET EX-94 3E GMD DOM
3rd dam of Alta1stClass

A Positive Outlook on the Future

Matt is proud of the family farming tradition that goes back to his great grandfather Reuben and is enjoyed by his family today. He has a positive attitude. “I see that there will be constant new technologies introduced that will make it possible to be efficient and keep your margins from thinning.”  For those just starting out to build success in the registered Holstein business, he urges them to be proactive. “Accept that you will make mistakes. Don’t be afraid. If you have a question ask it.  Call people you know that have done well.  Make sure that you do your research before buying into a cow family.” That’s sound advice from Matt who looks forward to whatever challenges may arise in the dairy breeding industry and has confidence that they will be met and overcome. 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Congratulations to Matt Zabel and Zahbulls Holsteins for achieving a distinctive place among their dairy breeding peers! They are setting the bar high with dairy breeding that covers the full spectrum from ‘Commercial Excellence to Genomic Giants!’




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2014 editors choice graphicEveryone is always looking for the next great sire.  That sire that is going to leave them with the #1 daughter or son on the lists.  The problem is with everyone using the same exact sires, from the same exact lists it can be hard to get ahead.  That is why you need to find those sires that have the ability to leave you with the extremes.

Outlier sires have the ability to throw you the son or daughter that is extremely high on genomic lists, well above parent averages and have what it takes to top the charts.  But they also typically have the ability to miss the mark.  They typically have the tendency to through you the largest extremes, so for every list topper they will leave you some that don’t measure up.  Why this is acceptable is that in today’s genetic marketplace, the revenues from the one list topper typically make up for the costs of the others that don’t measure up.

The following are the top 10 sires we found that offer the greatest rate of acceleration with the ability to produce the extreme son or daughter.


HOUSAM71441918      011HO11425

Every now and then there comes a sire that seems to come out of no where.  Alta1stclass is one of those sires.  From a cow family that many have not heard of, Alta1stclass is certainly a development of the genomic era.  Alta1stclass is the 3rd generation in his family to score at least 5% higher on their DGV’s than their parent averages.  That is saying something in today’s current calculations where those progeny that test  at the extremes are regressed back to the rest of the pack.  While not a high production sire, Alta1stclass has strong components and functional type.  Those looking to breed the next VG-89-2YR will not be impressed with his dairy strength scores and his loin strength.  Alta1stclass will give you strong components, high functional type and great health and fertility.  Which when mated correctly will sure leave you the next generation of extreme progeny.



HOUSAM71813434     029HO17571

Rambo has is it all, he is over 1800 lbs of milk with positive components and a near flawless linear.  More importantly he has extreme health and fertility.  Rambo is a Jerod from a Shamrock then CLEAR-ECHO M-O-M 2150 VG-87 EX-MS @ 2-06 DOM, who is in the top 50 gTPI cows.  Expect Rambo to be the sire of many bull mothers, though as we learned in analyzing sires like Goldwyn and O-Man, there seems to be a strong indication that sires that get the majority of their genetics from their mothers tend to not produce the next generation of sons.  Rambo only gets approximately 41% of his genetics from his paternal side, similar to Goldwyn.  (Read more: Why Braedale Goldwyn Wasn’t a Great Sire of Sons)





HOUSAM72128125     151HO00681

With a sire stack that reads like a who’s who of the genetics world, it’s not surprising the Rubicon will have the ability to throw you the extreme list toppers.  In fact the cow family behind Rubicon has been doing that for many generations with his 2nd dam being SANDY-VALLEY PLANE SAPPHIRE VG-87-2YR-USA.  Rubicon has extreme components with a combined Fat and Protein of +153 lbs and add to that over 2.50 on Type and he is in rare company.  But what really make’s Rubicon stand out is his sire stack that demonstrates the ability to sire extremes.  Similar to Rambo, Rubicon’s Chromosomal PTA’s would indicate that he will make a much better sire of bull mothers than a sire of sons.





HOUSAM71506037     007HO12161

For those of you who are looking for an outcross sire who packs a punch, LADD MAN is your guy.  With extremely low inbreeding and relationship values Ladd Man is certainly the high outcross sire and he is polled.  Don’t let the Man-O-Man in the pedigree confuse you when thinking he may not be an outcross sire as he gets approximately 72% of his genetics from his sire Ladd-P Red and only gets about 8% of his genetics from Man-O-Man as opposed to the expected 25%.  While certainly not a production sire by any stretch of the imagination, Ladd Man has strong percentage protein improvement, solid type and very desirable health and fertility traits.  For those breeders looking for an outcross sire to use on your high production cows, Ladd Man-P is perfect.




HOUSAM71813342     029HO17509

If you are looking for more milk that Ladd Man offers then Octavian should do the trick.  With a genomic test that is 6% higher than his impressive parent averages, Octavian will certainly leave you some chart toppers.  At almost 2000 lbs of milk, over 170 combined lbs of fat and protein and over 2.70 for type and strong health and fertility traits, Octavian is the balanced sire that does it all.  More importantly Octavian is the top balanced breeding sire to get more of his genetics from his father than his maternal side.  Which has proven by sires like O-Man to be a key factor in being able to sire the next generation of sons.







Looking for a shot of production?  Then Supershot will score well for you.  The pedigree behind Supershot is certainly not well known among breeders with last 5 of his 8  generations coming from Dutch breeding.  Behind that is the US cow family at Vir-Clar Holsteins, tracing through the highly acclaimed Tirsvad Patron Claire EX92.  He hails from the same line as the famous Koepon Classy’s and Anderstrup Claire family, known throughout the globe for its ability to breed high-ranking females and bulls on numerous different bases.  Supershot has an extremely high genomic test and his pedigree indicates that he should be able to sire those extreme production daughters many breeders are looking for.  Supershot is also the #1 genomic sire for Net Merit $ 1000.  Supershot should be protected on milking speed and dairy strength.



HOUSAM72254526    007HO12266

If milking speed is a deal breaker on Supershot, then look to Yoder.  Yoder is the extreme sire that is sure to ring the bell.  His genomic test is 7% higher than his parent averages and his production predicted daughter deviations are some of the highest in the breed.   (Read more: The Number That Will Change the Way You Look At Genetic Evaluations Forever…) While results are sure to be highly variable, Yoder will certainly be worth taking that shot on with a large framed high production cow from which you are looking to produce that next generation of extreme production daughters and sons.  How many genomic sires are over 160 lbs of combined fat and protein and over 3 points on type?  Two Yoder and Silver.





HOUSAM72156794     029HO17573

Since Supersire put Seagull-Bay on the map (Read more: Charting the Right Course at Seagull Bay Dairy) everyone has been watching to see just who was going to be the next impact sire from this genomicly gifted family.  Now comes Silver who may just have a greater impact than even Supersire has.  Silver is a Mogul from the Snowman sister to Supersire.  Like Supersire, Silver has the ability to leave extreme production.  And just like Supersire he will have a significant impact as a sire of sons as well.  Ranking in the top 1% of the breed for Milk, Fat, Protein, Type, and Udders tells you that Silver is going to make a lot of noise before all things are said and done.






HOUSAM71181872    029HO17576

At over 1.0 for DPR and 2 points for HCR and under 8 for all calving traits combined with under 2.70 for SCS it’s no wonder that Dreamweaver daughters are going to last (+7.2 productive life).  To go with that Dreamweaver is over 2000 lbs of milk, over 120 lbs of combined fat and protein and over 3 points on type.  Not surprisingly he comes from a cow family that has made many dreams come true, as he comes from the SNOW-N DENISES DELLIA EX-95-2E-USA GMD DOM  5* family, well known for their ability to produce long lived sons and daughters.  Dreamweaver should be protected on body depth, set to their legs and angle of their rumps, but nothing that will interfere with the ability to last many long productive lactations.





HO840M3012171355     147HO02472

In addition to Rambo, Kobra is an extreme health and fertility sire worth looking at.  Extreme components, and high type combined with breed leading health and fertility traits has this cow family emerging on every ones radar.  While not a family that contains generation after generation of VG or EX it is a family that test well genomically.  With Kobra being the third generation at least 5% higher on their genomic test than their parent averages.








The Bullvine Bottom Line

In this era of pushing the genetic envelope those breeders looking to stay ahead, or at least at pace with the large genetic corporations are going to have to use outlier sires.  Sires that themselves have made significant gains over previous generations and have been genetically gifted the with best their parents had to offer.  Breeders are also going to have to exit the land of the safe and start using sires that throw more extremes.  These 10 sires are just those sires.  These sires are the 10 outlier sires that will give you the greatest chances at winning the genetics race.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

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