I expect most of us can remember a time in school when we were selected last when it came to spelling matches or a pickup sports game. Not being much interested in spelling and being vertically challenged, I can remember both situations. Being excluded isn’t nice, no matter when it happens. So how does that relate to the world of cattle breeding you ask? Well, how often have you seen or have you excluded another dairy cattle enthusiast because they did not fit in or share your perspective?
I know. I was that Outsider
I grew up on a small mixed farm, mainly market garden. We had three cows and shipped milk in cans to a butter factory. My first calf was a Jersey that died at her first calving and my first 4H calf was a grade, ugly for type, Holstein. She and I brought up the bottom end of the classes for both conformation and showmanship. I was made to feel that I was not part of the dairy industry. If it had not been for a very supportive youth-oriented extension worker, I might not have enrolled for a second year in dairy 4H calf club. He took me under his wing and helped me. A side note – he not only helped me as a 4H’er, but also as an MSc student and in several stages of my career. But this article is not about me. It is about how we need to help and include others and help our industry.
We Tend to Center Out Dairy People – Rather Than Include Them
Throughout my lifetime, I have witnessed many situations where dairy cattle breeders have been centered out because they did not conform to what the ‘in group’ was doing. We see this a fair bit on the extremely popular Milk House, closed discussion group exclusively for dairy farmers on Facebook. (Read more: INTRODUCING THE MILK HOUSE – DAIRY BREEDER NETWORKING ON FACEBOOK)
We tend to look down on those who operate differently:
- they own grades, not purebreds
- their herd has been graded up to purebred rather than descending from purebreds
- they own a breed different from ours
- they use herd bulls and not A.I.
- they use on-farm systems or DHI owner sampler and not DHI or DHIR
We exclude those who don’t share the social side of dairying:
- they do not attend breed events
- they do not take animals to breed shows
- they attend World Dairy Expo but only to walk the aisles of the trade show
We cannot even imagine breeding cows the way they do:
- they use 100% young sires rather than using the higher priced top proven sires
- they select only for production or for animals that maximize milk solids produced per acre
- they choose solely on genetic indexes without concern for actual performance
- they select sires using NM$ and not TPI (or its equivalent in other breeds or countries)
- they select for traits that we do not consider in vogue – R&W, polled, beta casein, calving ease, calving interval, etc.
- they mate their cows on a herd basis instead of mating each individual cow
- they select based on genomic indexes and not progeny performance or pedigree indexes.
The eye-opening fact about many of these examples is that they have become, over time, the accepted practice for the majority of breeders.
Encouraging Other Breeders
The dairy cattle breeding industry has made significant advances in recent years, and that needs to continue. Each of us can and should encourage other breeders to make the future better than the past for this industry. (Read more: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION?)
- Have an open mind to opinions and practices of others, as well as services and products of organizations. Take time to talk to others who operate differently than you. You could very well be surprised with what you learn.
- Mentor others who are wanting to learn. Follow Mark Rueth’s example, he was mentored at Skagvale, and he has mentored many young domestic and foreign dairy enthusiast at Rosedale Genetics.
- Adopt and implement technological advances. And encourage your fellow breeders to follow suite. Business advancement cannot be made by standing still. (Read more: BEST PRACTICES WHEN BUYING NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR YOUR DAIRY OPERATION, DAIRY FARMERS ARE BRIDGING THE APP-GAP!, WHY ARE BREEDERS NOT GENOMICALLY TESTING THEIR HEIFERS?)
- Take time every day to learn something new. Surf the www, participate in Facebook, read magazines that cover improvement, email questions, attend meetings and talk to change influencers and ask company reps that visit your farm for “what’s new”. Think and search globally when it comes to new ideas. (Read more: THE FUTURE OF DAIRY CATTLE BREEDING IS IN THE DATA & ROBOTIC MILKING SYSTEMS: BREED FOR PROFIT NOT FOR MACHINES)
- Encourage other breeders to focus their genetic selection on traits that impact their bottom line rather than nice to have traits. (Read more: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TPI AND LPI, UNDERSTANDING GENETIC INDEXES – KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID & LOW HERITABILITY – HIGH IMPORTANCE)
- Strongly encourage other breeders to participate in improvement services and submit their data to national data bases. Without large data bases, neither research nor genetic evaluation will be possible.
- Practice full disclosure and honesty when dealing with other breeders.
- Support youth programs – all you need to do is ask where you can volunteer.
- Take leadership responsibility and positions – local, regional and national
Encouragement from respected breeders and peers goes a long ways in helping breeders, young and old, feel positive about themselves and the industry. Think about others, respect others, respect yourself and go the extra mile to find ways to give a pat on the back.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Whether it’s an individual or the entire dairy industry, success and one size does not looks the same for every breeder. There are many ways to get from A to Z and we can learn a lot from those who take a less familiar road. It takes all kinds.