Archive for April 2013

AUSTRALIA: Is Down Under Going Under?

Dairy producers around the world can be forgiven for having a romanticized vision of producers in Australia. We imagine that, like the country, the industry is big, bold and populated by the friendliest people you could ever meet. Well, that`s the story. But unfortunately our peer group is finding it impossible to stick with it! Headlines report that a full blown “Crisis” is turning things upside down with “Massive job losses!” and “Rural Debt Approaching $60 Billion” It is hard to imagine what they’re going through.  However, it isn’t only financial strife that is hitting that usually Teflon group known as Aussie dairy farmers.  The downturn has gone on so long that it is spreading beyond the farm. Many rural towns that rely on farm dollars are closing businesses because of the financial impact.   Banks are closing down on lending.  It’s dire straits for everybody. In the long term it doesn’t look any better.  ABARES (Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences) forecasts a 36 cents per litre farm-gate price within five years – well below the cost of production. For many families who make up the backbone of Australia’s third biggest agricultural industry, the threat of going under has turned from “it will never happen” to “it could happen soon”!

Quit or Lose Everything?

Yes! Although renowned for their warmth and informality and universal love for their country, today’s Australian dairy farmer is facing serious challenges. It is estimated that 20 per cent of south-west Victorian dairy farmers are potentially in great trouble with the banks. The current 6,700 dairy farmers in Australia is a number that is down considerably from 12,000 a decade ago. And instead of enjoying productivity and success even fourth generation dairy farmers are on shaky ground and seeking options before it’s too late. For many that time is here. “There comes a time when you’ve got to stop.  That’s why we’re getting out because I don’t want to walk away with nothing.”  Year after year of losses have affected what options they face in leaving too. Those who have clung desperately to their dairy operations are finding it next to impossible to sell, especially in the last two years.  There are hundreds of dairy farms for sale in south-west Victoria. Unfortunately there are very few buyers. Farmers who previously expect up to $7000 an acre are struggling to get offers of $4000 or $5000. On the sale of an entire farm that could mean a million dollars less after years of dedication and hard work.

Dollars and Senselessness

From the outside looking in, we would love to identify what caused this situation in Australia and, hopefully, guarantee that our own national industry, wherever we’re from, isn’t on the same path.  However, the causes of Australia’s crisis are eerily familiar:

  1. Milk prices are NOT rising.
  2. Input costs – electricity, fuel, wages, feed and water – ARE rising.
  3. Investments were made that look foolish in hindsight.
  4. New policies and new taxes add new burdens.
  5. Not heeding #’s 1 to 4.

… C.O.P.s and Robbers

Two variables have had particularly unpleasant repercussions in Australia.  Dairy farmers are usually resilient and cope with Cost of Production challenges with belt-tightening and management methods that have seen them through the regular up and down cycles of the dairy industry.  However, COP creativity can’t make a stand against the highway robbery that appears to be happening in Australian grocery store aisles.  Press releases report that “At the moment the milk price we’ve been getting is 25 or 26 cents a litre.  The cost of production does vary from farm to farm, but for us it’s around 43 cents a litre.”  As if that wasn’t disheartening enough, the strong Aussie dollar (and who doesn’t want a strong national currency) is severely weakening the dairy industry. But the blows just keep on coming.

Coles says the milk war is not to blame for lower prices.

Coles says the milk war is not to blame for lower prices.

Milk Wars

Dairy producers worldwide face country specific challenges. Even so the battle between two parts of the same industry is disconcerting for Australian producers. “Two years ago Coles discounted its home brand milk to $1 a litre.  Its decision sparked a milk war as the other supermarket chains followed suit. This has driven down the farm gate milk price. Coles argues the milk war is not to blame and has undertaken an advertising campaign to put a better spin on their role. Dairy Farmers president Noel Campbell replies, “Part of the reason why people are so angry with the Coles situation is, whether you supply domestic or the export market, people think milk being sold for $1 a litre is just wrong. “The amount of capital expended on the farm,. The amount of labour expended on the farm, long hours etcetera, people just see it as a slap in the face.”

Seeking Solutions

When milk is cheaper than water, a universal cry is raised, “Help!” Some Australian groups turn to the government. “The government should appeal to the consumer to support our local dairy industry and the additional 50 cents per litre would be distributed direct to each farm by way of 12 cents per liter and would keep this quality product on our supermarket shelves,” Coffey Hunt On-Farm Agribusiness partner Garry Smith said.  “We need to get more money paid for our milk and continue to reduce our costs and inputs.” Good suggestions but another hurdle is thrown up since there have been savage cuts to agricultural R&D right around the country. Places to seek innovative solutions and leadership are running out. Farmers are understandably agitating for low interest or no interest loans to help them through until prices improve.  One suggestion is that there could be a consumer-paid 50-cents-a-litre Dairy Industry Support Initiative on milk.

Is Today’s Crisis Tomorrow’s Disaster?

Wherever they are, but most especially in Australia, farmers need to start thinking about the big picture beyond the farm gate. Failure to face the future could mean that the opportunity to build a sustainable industry is lost.  Profitability is the goal.  We need to stop internal competition and fighting before the entire industry is lost.

The Bullvine Bottom Line – Who’s Next?

The milk industry is volatile and affected by many variables. That’s not new but now there is a new world order of dairying nations.  Everyone – perhaps foolishly – buys into the story of a glowing future where demand soars and there is a wealthy future for dairy farmers.  Unfortunately here and now Australian dairy farmers must face the reality that they are no more profitable now than they were a decade ago. Something needs to change or the down under romantic story will become the down under dairy industry tragedy.


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Are You Breeding Purple Cows?

Face it, the tactics that have been used for the past 50 years don’t work anymore.  The same old ads. In the same old magazine.  Advertising the same old genetics. After you’ve seen one, or two, or 10, you’ve seen them all!  Boring!  However, a Purple Cow?  Now that would be something.  Are you remarkable enough to have a Purple Cow?  In today’s day and age of in vitro fertilization, genomics and social media, you’re either remarkable or invisible.

bigpc[1]Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable is perfectly titled for dairy breeders today.  Godin’s understanding of dairy cattle is limited as represented by his comment “Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or 10, are boring,” but his point about needing to be remarkable, in order to stand out from the herd, is spot on.

Every day breeders come face to face with a lot of boring stuff – even a lot of the same old boring cows – but you can bet they would never forget a Purple Cow.  Now getting a Purple Cow marketing idea doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not as if you can just wake up one morning and change your marketing to have your “Purple Cow” idea.  You need to breed for it.  You need to manage for it.  And then and only then can you market it.

The Game Changers

For years, generation after generation of consistent breeding was enough to have your genetics in demand around the world.  However, that is no longer enough thanks to in vitro fertilization (Read more: IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry and FAST TRACK GENETICS: More Results in Less Time).  With so many breeders leveraging this technology and producing more and more cattle at the top end of the genetic scale, there has been a shift in the marketplace.  What used to be unique is becoming commonplace. In this recent spring sale season, I saw no less than three full sisters (Uno’s from the great Apple) selling at three different sales in a 1-week period.  And then of course there were still more sisters at home.  IVF has changed things so much that even at the very top end, owners of the very best genetics are having trouble differentiating their product.  Genetics that at one time would have been sale headliners, are now selling in those lull sections of the sale that minimize profits.  Combine that with the cost to produce these animals and the ROI is shrinking.  Of course IVF is a catch 22 technology.  If you don’t use it and other breeders are using it on their top genetics, you’re still left behind.

In one sense you could say Genomics has brought harmony to the world (Read more: The impact of genomics on cattle breeding and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry).  No longer are cattle from different countries viewed as inferior or of lesser genetic merit.  Genomic testing has brought uniformity to the world market.  But as a result it has also brought globalization to the industry and breeders can no longer differentiate their genetics by country of origin.  This means that instead of the top 1% of the genetics in the world being in high demand, it is now the top 0.1% (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  Either you are at the very top of the lists or you had better find a new niche or way to differentiate your genetics (Read more: Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).

AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA a very popular purple cow

AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA a very popular purple cow

If you want to get your message out to the world, there is nothing better than social media.  The power of tools like Facebook to let breeders around the world know what animals you have is amazing (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook and The Anti-Social Farmer: On the Verge of Extinction?).  The thing is, it still takes those animals that are the “Purple Cows” in order to be noticed.  Hailey, O’Kalibra, Missy, Happy Go Lucky and Rae Lynn are cows whose show ring successes have also caused social media success for their breeders.  On the genomic side, cows like Shauna, Lucia, and Hue have attracted a lot of attention.  Another aspect that helps pictures on Facebook go viral is the ones that comply with the Dairy Marketers Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing the Diary Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed ). However, in order to achieve this sustained viral status you first need to be unique. You need to know your niche.  You need to be a “Purple Cow.”

Valleyville Rae Lynn is certainly a Purple Cow

Valleyville Rae Lynn is certainly a Purple Cow

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put Purple Cow differentiation into everything you build and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable.  It’s a manifesto for dairy breeders looking to take their genetics programs to a new level.  Pretty ads, generations of VG or EX and nice cattle pictures will not pay the bills. Either you set yourself apart or you are wasting your time.  What makes you unique?  Have you found your Purple Cow breeding program or marketing idea?



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



How I Killed the Dairy Cattle Marketing Industry

In any industry there are those who adapt and those who die.  It really is that simple.  For example look at the dairy cattle publication world.  Those that are trying new things are thriving while others are wandering around lost in no man’s land or living on life support.  There is no question that if you cannot adapt you will die.  In the dairy cattle breeding and marketing world that means,  using the same old methods  that have been used  for the past 50  years. They just don’t cut it today.  The dairy cattle breeding industry of the past is dead. In order to embrace the new you need to lead not follow the path of others into a world that has reconfigured the possibilities. Blame science.  Blame technology.  Blame the Bullvine.  But don`t stop there.

Leaders Never Worry About Being Average

Tomorrow’s leaders are not the ones who seek to be average today.  Tomorrow’s leaders are the ones who are willing to be seen as outlandish  today because they believe in a different and better  tomorrow.

A great example of this is Jerry Jorgensen (Read more:  Breeding Ri-Val-Re: Where Looking Good in the Stall Is Just as Important as Looking Good on Paper and $10,000 a dose polled semen).  Instead of worrying about what  has been done in the past, Jerry is always looking for new ways to do things in breeding and marketing.  For his recent sale, instead of just trying to do all the same old boring advertising everyone else does, Jerry looked outside the box and tried something new.  He set up  a free giveaway for  all those people on Facebook that helped spread the word about his upcoming sale.  The results were outstanding.  He reached the right people and got a far greater response from one simple giveaway and request than all his other marketing combined.  And at a fraction of the cost I might add.

This promotion by Jerry Jorgensen was seen by over 100,000 people and liked and shared by thousands.

This promotion by Jerry Jorgensen was seen by over 100,000 people and liked and shared by thousands.

I watch as more and more breeders embrace technology such as Facebook.  I see some of the most traditional breeders, leveraging the power of social media to spread the word about newsworthy  events in their breeding programs.  A fine  example of this is Quality Holsteins who are  seen by many, including myself, as the model for successful  “traditional” breeding and marketing (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well Deserved Congratulations).  Recently Quality started a Facebook page and has seen their already great “brand” explode to thousands more people than a  traditional “ad” would have reached, again – at a fraction of the cost. They simply take a few minutes each day to share firsthand the great things that are happening at Quality.  This willingness to step outside of the “traditional” and into the “new” has Quality reaching a much larger marketplace than many even imagine!

This mammary system photo of VALLEYVILLE RAE LYNN owned by Quality Holsteins has been seen by over 200,000 people and shared thousands of times.

This mammary system photo of VALLEYVILLE RAE LYNN owned by Quality Holsteins has been seen by over 200,000 people and shared thousands of times.

You Don’t Have To Pander

Just  giving people what they think they want is a shortcut to banality, mediocrity and ultimately invisibility.  For  the dairy cattle magazine world that means doing the same rote  coverage of all the same events, year after  year.  These magazines are living on borrowed time.  For dairy breeders, it  means putting up  the same boring ads every month reaching the  same ad readers  of the past 20 years and expecting them to purchase from you.  This segment has not been inspired to   buy before. What makes you think  things are going to change now?

Stop pandering to past  perceptions.  The Bullvine is living proof that you don’t need everyone to love you and your work.  When you focus on the out-there, the passionate and  changing  segment of the industry,  you are focusing on issues that generate emotion and targeted reaction.  You then can highlight the  extraordinary  – and watch it spread -instead of watering everything down to the status quo.

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.

Take our recent articles about dairy cattle marketing ethics (Read more: Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct) .  We knew long before we ever wrote them that our position on this issue would cause problems  for some.  But instead of worrying about how   people would react, we focused on where the industry needed to be in the future.  And man already things are starting to change.  Pictures carrying the DMCC (Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct) logo have become some of the most viral shots seen over the past few months.  Breeders are not only accepting this new program, they are starting to request it.  And yes we know there is a very long, long road ahead, but these changes show us where the market is heading and early adopters are great about encouraging us to drive forward.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There certainly has been no shortage of reaction to some of the material we have written about here on the Bullvine.  But instead of worrying about whether everyone will love us, or who will agree with what we are writing, we decided not to knuckle under  to the average but instead to seek out the segment that some  would consider “far out”.  I am talking about those outliers in the dairy industry that are willing to think outside the box and try new things, to look at things differently and ultimately to drive change and make things so much better.  Are we killing the dairy cattle marketing industry? Or are we saving?

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

The Anti-Social Farmer: On the Verge of Extinction?

We all know what an oxymoron is: working holiday, tight slacks and freezer burn. Well here’s another one “An anti-social dairy farmer”.  Farmers have always enjoyed the “social” aspect of their 24-7 business. Wherever there are two farmers there is bound to be good gossip.. ahemm … good conversation going on.

Can we talk?

In an industry blown about by the whims of Mother Nature, politics, local regulations and world issues … there’s a lot to talk about. Facebook and all other social media are all about connecting (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook).  It is absurd to think that our already social business would not grasp digital social networking with open arms and tapping fingers. Think about it.  Today at some point you will “social” ize with someone coming in your lane. Whether it’s a sales person of genetics, feed, seed, nutrition or health … you will meet, greet and connect at some level. To me, it follows that it should be natural to welcome delivery of the same informed decision-making tools from cyberspace.

Social media is made for farmers

Farmers are completely familiar with sharing opinions, recommendations and trusting those who have their feet in our barnyard, feed alley or under our board table or kitchen table.  Couple this with the home truth that farmers rarely have the opportunity to do their networking on the golf course, a sandy-beach or at the gym and social media is not only the logical choice it’s the perfect choice!

Videos such as Ram Trucks’ “Farmer” Super Bowl ad have gone viral promoting farmers to 0ver 20 million viewers on YouTube alone

Not that it doesn’t take getting used to.

Those of us, who spend time in social media, tend to live and breathe the space as if it were real life, which of course it isn’t. It is however, a great place to build a network, to find like minded people and discover what they are working on, and learn with and from them.  Just like over the line fence or at the farm supply store or at a farm meeting. It`s a place to live, learn and move forward.

The goal is to apply what we learn to real life.

Like any social interaction, the benefit comes from applying what you know to what you are doing. New ideas for improving the logistics, cash flow, genetics and marketing of our dairy businesses are what we are seeking out.  Doing these things better doesn’t only pay the bills, it also provides satisfaction for those who love their work. Now we can come in from the barn after a long day and have the quiet satisfaction of having a day’s work well done and take time to enjoy a more technical version of “cow talk”.

“The most important connection in marketing today is business to business”

I would challenge everyone in the dairy industry to modify that mantra to, “the most important connection in dairy marketing today is barn to barn”. Numbers wise, there are not a lot of us left out there.  In times past you looked to the horizon and saw farms as far as the eye could see.  Today, it’s hard to see a fellow farmer from that viewpoint. It doesn’t mean the network is lost, it simply means in the 21st Century it actually is a “network” of connected internet users.

From Face-to-Face to Place-to-Place

We need to receive these “online” conversations in the same way we receive face-to-face conversations.   When face to face we can express our view and assume from the non-reaction of the person we’re expounding to that they support our position.  It’s too bad we don’t hear their report when they share it with the next person who comes into the milk house.

There is the question of tone of voice being missing from social media.  Anyone who has had the tone in one of their emails misread will understand the problem. It’s hard to convey the subtlety of face-to-face or telephone interaction using words or text only.  However, when was the last time your spoken words were misunderstood?  Nothing promises total perfection.

What`s Next?

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already beyond the beginner level with email and Facebook.  Do you have a Website or Blog? Don’t skip this step.  Your website is the first place you can let the market know that you have something they’re looking for.  Even if you’re not planning to conduct all your business on line, you still want to drive customers to your website or to your farm.

So how do you get started?

There are online Guides for every social media program. Check them out and set up accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.  Of course (bias aside) you could check out the Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook.  The wonderful thing about technology is that there are many ways to learn the how, what and when.  A simple question placed on “Google” and you can discover step by step instructions to your success using social media.

The first step is always the hardest.

The neat thing is that there is always somebody close to you that has the expertise to help you join up.   While “joining” is easy, it is wise to consider that rushing in and then doing nothing is like that New Year’s resolution to workout.  You join the gym but your membership is as active as the clothes hangar otherwise known as your Treadmill.  While you won’t lose it if you don’t use it, remember that it is “social” and why join, if you intend to remain a wallflower?

There are two questions to ask yourself.

  1. What do people need to know about you and your dairy operation?
  2. What do you need to know about the marketplace?

The primary goal in becoming “social” is to have your prefix, product or genetics come to a buyer’s mind the minute they have identified what they are looking to buy.  Hit people with your features and benefits and you win their minds.  Get your story out there and you win their hearts.

Make sure that you share new births, fresh heifers, your genetic successes, your dairy industry issues and your pride in your family business.  You can never post too many pictures.

Continually polish and perfect your “story”.  It’s the social magnet to attract more business.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At the end of the day dairy farmers are definitely social.  We’re not talking extinction …but dairy DIStinction. Far from being on the verge of extinction, farmers are prime candidates for using this handy new tool.  In reality (a word overused today) we probably do better when our social life takes place in a variety of ways.  If we limit ourselves to one form … we limit ourselves period.  Let’s get social.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



Julia James: “Cow by Cow. Doing it Now.”

juliajamespicJulia James of Norwich, Ontario has the wisdom of a seasoned business analyst, the heart of a philosopher and the adrenaline of a long distance runner. However the secret of success for this one-of-a-kind dairy dynamo is the well-honed focus that allows her to live the lifelong dream of owning a dairy farm every single day. She is not yet 30!

Growing by Leaps and Bovines

Julia has numerous examples of how long she has held the dream of owning a dairy farm.  What makes her one-of-a-kind is that she apparently never put that dream on the back burner for any of the commonly accepted reasons. “I started milking cows on August 1st, 2008 in a rented facility just outside of Woodstock.” This is a mere two years after graduating with a B. Sc. Agr. (Animal Science) from the University of Guelph. She outlines the process. “I purchased my beginning quota from my parents who reside in Lanark County (Eastern Ontario). Since my start date and through buying quota as often as cash-flow allowed I have been able to grow my total quota holdings by 24% in 5 years.”

The Dream is Real. Today.

Obviously, Julia is not waiting for a better time, a different time or any time that means waiting or holding to the status quo.  She describes her setup. “Currently I milk 29 cows in a 3 row free stall, slated floor rented barn. The herd is a mixed herd of Jersey and Holstein. I raise all of my own replacements for a total of 78 head currently. Where the cows are currently milked is a rented facility. Where I reside is a 54-acre farm that I purchased last year in hopes that someday a dairy facility would be built there.”  Her use of “currently” reflects her acceptance of and push toward continuous change.

FUELING THE DREAM:  Education. Collection. Selection.

There’s an old saying that people often miss opportunities because they come disguised as work.  It’s unlikely that Julia James will ever miss an opportunity.  She works everything in.  “When I first graduated I worked as an AI technician for ABS Global for 2 years. Then started milking in 2008, once settled into my routine of farming I was hired by Select Sires Canada in June of 2009 where I currently work today as a reproductive specialist.”  The key word for Julia is that she is working.

Positively Positive

Many would consider her grueling schedule as a deterrent to success, but Julia, as expected, has a different viewpoint.  “Being a driven, independent person I don’t see many things as challenges but rather learning opportunities. There are days when it is challenging getting through your to-do list, but by putting one foot in front of the other I always manage to get there. I also have great students who help out during the week with some chores.” She loves the support of agricultural community, family and friends. “Over the past 5 years, there are definitely more people cheering me on than standing in my way or providing negative energy.” Julia is also a cheer-leader of her favorite pastimes (soccer, curling, cycling), community groups (church and milk committee) family and friends, especially Thomas. “When you’re doing what you love,” says this dynamo “there’s a time and place for everything … including dehorning and cleaning calf pens.”

While Julia works extremely hard it's doesn't hurt to have a little luck on your side.

In dairy farming Julia has found her pot of gold.

Julia James on a Mission Statement

Businesses are encouraged to be able to briefly express their goals.  For Julia the word mission could be replaced by the word passion. She says,” I am driven by passion. My heart, my passion and my dreams are rooted in the dairy industry. I am very happy and fortunate to be doing what I love and receive great satisfaction from contributing to the economy everyday as a primary producer of a safe and quality product.” That could be a motivational posting in every dairy barn.

Don’t Keep Your Dreams on the Shelf

Julia’s dreams are being achieved because she has an eye for those to follow and emphasizes that “My parents and family have always been supporting me and cheering me on, even in times when they may not agree with some of the decisions I make. “ She encourages others. “Anyone who takes responsibility for who they are and what they believe in and works hard and smart to make themselves happy all while being a productive member of society is a salt-of-the-earth hero to me. For Julia fear of the future is not an option. “People are afraid to take risks and chance their dreams in fear of failure or lack of self-confidence. You never know until you try and you have to chase your dreams. With proper research, networking and planning you will get there. But you never know unless you try and you must remain positive.” This dairy entrepreneur has teaching and mentoring talents in her resume too.

Appreciate the Gift of Every Day

Julia thrives on learning and modestly claims she has much to look forward to. “My greatest accomplishment is still a work in progress. Every day I celebrate little achievements. Whether it is a new baby heifer calf alive and well running around in its pen or watching all of my cows lie-down chewing their cud an hour and a half after milking. It could be a satisfied customer, or being in bed by 9:00 with the to-do list empty and all animals healthy and resting, preparing to start a new day. These are all accomplishments to me.” It sounds like she has achieved the perfect idyll already but she sees great things ahead. “My work in progress is to be able to farm one day with the one I love, raising a family on the farm, and running a very successful, sustainable dairy farm with my best friend, fellow team-mate and husband. Thomas and I are well on our way there taking on the challenges as they come and making them into opportunity.”

Ready for a Sustainable Future

Julia’s special talent is having her hands taking care of the “now”, while her eye is targeting the “future” with realistic assessments. She has considered the challenges ahead. “The biggest change I see coming is sustainability. Many aspects of the industry achieve this on some level already probably more so than many others. Taking responsibility for what we do and making sure our passion for what we do is evident will be critical in growing our markets and further establishing the trust of our consumers.”  She rallies her dairy peers to provide a foundation for the next generation to build on.

Flying High Between Chores

It isn’t surprising to hear that Julia would like to take speed lessons and learn to fly in an hour. “If I could learn to fly in an hour, I would do it in a heartbeat. There is so much to see in the world and so much to learn outside your own back-yard. Being able to fly would allow me to experience these wonders all between chores.”

Choose it. Do it. Achieve it.

Even when she fantasizes about having her head in the clouds, Julia’s feet are firmly planted on the ground. “Take time to smell the roses (even if they are growing in the manure pile). Never stop dreaming, believing, achieving and ALWAYS have fun!! Her dream of her ultimate dairy farm is powered by the Julia’s amazing ability to live the dream every day.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Some people dream of a life they hope to have some time. Julia has a three word answer to anything and everything that may be holding you back, “Do it now!”  


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Top Sires North American Breeders Are Using

top13of2013Three times a year every breeder and dairy cattle enthusiast pours over the newly released bull proofs or genomic indexes. We review the rankings to see if the bulls we are using or are planning to buy are near the top of the lists.  It seems every year we hear about another bull that has had a million doses of semen sold in his lifetime. All that is exciting information however it does not necessarily translate into the improvement that needs to occur in a population of dairy cattle. So what does tell the story of sires contributing to advancement?

Milking Daughters

In fact, in addition to the sons a bull has enter AI, it is the number of milking daughters of a bull that determines the contribution he will have on the breed. The Bullvine decided to investigate the female registrations by sire to determine which bulls breeders are actually using.

Population geneticists tell us that about 25% of the improvement in a population comes from the sires that produce the milking daughters. By comparison the contribution from the sires of AI young sires is 43%, the contribution from the dams of AI young sires is 25% and the contribution from the dams of the milking females is 7%. Even though the sires of milking daughters contribution is not the most important factor in an Al breeding population, it is the most important factor that breeders have control of in their herd.

Canada – 2012

The ten sires with the most registered daughters in 2012 in the Canadian Holstein Herdbook accounted for 23% of all female registrations. All ten sires were daughter proven and all listed in Table 1.

Table 1     Sires with the Most Registered Canadian Daughters (2012)


Click on image for enlargement

Every sire has his own merits and limitations. In our analysis the Bullvine decided to consider the Percentile Rank (%RK) each sire has for each of LPI and its three major components – Production, Durability and Health & Fertility. The ranges in and overall averages for %RK for these ten sires are very revealing. Even though these sires are 94%RK for LPI it can be seen that Canadian breeders put more emphasis on Durability (think Conformation) at 95%RK, moderate emphasis on Production at 79%RK and little emphasis on Health & Fertility at 54%RK.

Only one sire is below 94%RK for Durability and only two sires are below 75%RK for Production. However a very limiting factor to genetically advancing Canadian Holsteins is the fact that only four sires, Fever, Dempsey, Manifold and Jordan, are over 75%RK for Health and Fertility.  The fact is that little attention is being paid to Daughter Fertility when breeders use sires. That should concern us all.

What’s Happening in 2013

Holstein USA provides on its website a report called “High Registry Activity by Bull”. The report is updated daily and is for the most recent two week time period. The following is the report for April 22, 2013 (registrations April 08 to April 19).

Table 2             Sires with the Most USA Daughters (April 2013)


Click on image for enlargement


It is worthy of note that Mogul, McCutchen, Gold Chip and Supersire are all genomically evaluated bulls without any daughters included in their indexes. The other six sires are all daughter proven.

The Bullvine does not have the Percentile Rank tables for the USA bulls so the numbers in Table 2 are their actual index numbers. However the results are very similar to the top ten Canadian sires in 2012. TPI, PTAT, UDC and FLC are all relatively high index numbers on average. And the indexes for Net Merit, SCS and Milk are moderate to high. However standing out as being below average is Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR). So USA breeders, like their Canadian counterparts, are also not placing emphasis on a breed problem – fertility.

The Numbers Tell the Story

One question we had was “How much are genomic sires being used?”. Table 2 shows four genomic sires in the top ten in the USA. In fact in the top thirty most used American sires in 2013 there are eleven genomic sires. That compares to three in the top thirty in Canada in 2013. Breeders in the USA are making much more use of sires with genomic evaluations than Canadian breeders are.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The sires that advance a population are the ones that breeders use not the ones that top the ranking lists.

The Bullvine’s assessment on the sires breeders are currently using is:

  • Production – Maintain the current amount of emphasis
  • Type / Durability – the emphasis can be diminished
  • Health & Fertility – the emphasis needs to be increased

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Given that many breeders tell The Bullvine that they wish to genetically improve health and fertility in their herds, it is time for breeders and AI organizations to become much more discriminating in these areas. Young sires entering AI will need to genomically rank in the top 25% of the population for DPR or DF. Many sires currently getting use in North America do not measure up for health and fertility. The genetic merit of sires selected and used in the coming years needs careful re-consideration.

Indexes are like having a compass. First you have to know where you want to go. Then you have to USE the information or you could still wind up lost.


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Some Cows Just Want to Dance…

top13of2013On an average day we get about 100-120 different comments on our website, Facebook page and other social media sites about how dairy cattle showing is inhumane and unethical.  On Saturday alone we had over 200 comments on our Facebook page about how some of our udder shots were just downright cruel.  (Read more: What PETA Does Not Know About Raising Dairy Cattle!) Now fortunately we do have filters and staff setup to handle this, but it still got me thinking about this issue.  Is dairy cattle showing cruel and unusual treatment, or is it that the general public doesn’t understand that some cows just want to dance?

RF Goldwyn Hailey - A great show cow who just loves to dance

RF Goldwyn Hailey – A great show cow who just loves to dance

The image some would have you believe is that these cows are being badly treated, that they are in constant pain, and that they live a very harsh life.  This quite simply is not the case at all.  In reality these show cows receive the best possible treatment.  They receive a bath pretty much every other day, they get all the best feed they can eat and are loved by those who care for them.  And that is not just at the show.  This treatment occurs on a daily basis.

Think about it, they get regular haircuts so that they look pretty.  They get a little hairspray to make sure their hair stays in place.  They receive a massaging bath to make sure they feel good.  And they get all the nutritious food they could eat.  What more could a pampered “lady” ask for?

Beverly Donavon and the great show cow Sweet Pepper Black Francesca

Beverly Donavon and the great show cow Sweet Pepper Black Francesca

Oh yes, the love of a good man?  Well they receive that as well.  The breeders exhibiting these animals truly do love their show cows.  Many times these cows become like family to the breeders who love and care for them and they wouldn’t do anything to hurt them.  And to be “politically” correct there are many woman who love these great animals as well (Read more: The Magic of Francesca). In reality they do everything they can to provide for them.  They give these animals names and they treat them, some would say, better than their own children because there are no mind games, or time out for bad behavior.

VALLEYVILLE RAE LYNN - Mammary System - RAWF 2012

VALLEYVILLE RAE LYNN – Mammary System – RAWF 2012

Now there is the question about how cows mammary systems are prepared for show.  While most can understand the washing, clipping and feeding, they just can’t get their head around the apparent “pain” they perceive that cow udders endure The practice of letting the cows udder fill to capacity has some thinking that these lactating boobs  are about to explode.  Well I look at it like this.  When a young woman is out looking her best does she not put on her best dress and “push up” bra?  That is the same as a cow has when she goes into the show ring.  She wants to look her best and her “push up bra” helps her do that.

R-E-W Happy Go Lucky

R-E-W Happy Go Lucky – Mammary System – NY Spring Show 2013

Now I know some would ask, “How do you know that the cow actually enjoys it?” Well look in their eyes.  There are some cows that love to show.  Just like there are some women who love to get all dressed up and go out on for a night on the town.  The second these dairy-girls step in the ring, something changes, they just want to dance.  And man can some of them do it. They walk into that ring as if they are walking down a runway in Paris, New York or Milan.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While some would condemn the treatment of show cows, those that actually understand the practice, appreciate that these cows are some of the best cared for animals in the world.  You see, for some of these cows, it’s as if they are “moovie” stars walking down the red carpet at the premier of their next big film.  They just love it!!!  All eyes are on them and there is nowhere else they would rather be.  They just love to dance.


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Who is going to the show? Why attendance is down at the dairy cattle shows

Over the past month I have been to 5 cattle auctions and 7 cattle shows in 4 different states or provinces. To say that I spent some time on the road driving from one event to the next is an understatement. And, while all of these events were amazing in their own unique way, there was one consistent thing that surprised me. Less and less people are attending these events.

RF Goldwyn Hailey - Grand Champion NY Spring Show

RF Goldwyn Hailey – Grand Champion NY Spring Show

Now normally this would cause one to think that dairy cattle showing is dying, but in reality I actually think that the exact opposite is true. Consider this. The quality of cattle at these shows has been the best I have ever seen. I have had the opportunity to see the great RF Goldwyn Hailey multiple times, and this last time at NY Spring Show I would say that she looked the best I had ever seen her (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey Rides to the Top Spot at NY Spring Carousel and New York Spring Holstein Show 2013 Results). Also in NY I saw one of the most competitive Sr. 2 year old classes ever, where the legend in the making R-E-W Happy Go Lucky was beaten for the first time in milking form. Though in all fairness she is in the later stage of her lactation and the others are peaking.



At the Ontario Spring Show, I saw what I think to be a future World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion, Valleyville Rae Lynn, giving Hailey a run for her money, though as Hailey has shown this spring she is untouchable. (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack” and Ontario Spring Discovery Results). And at Quebec Spring Show I get to visit with many of the most passionate breeders in the world today (Read more: Do We Speak the Same Language? and Quebec Spring Show Results).

Valleyville Rae Lynn

Valleyville Rae Lynn – Reserve Grand Ontario Spring Show

So what is it then? Why are less and less people attending the shows?

In discussing this with Randy Blodgett, newly appointed publisher of Holstein World and mastermind behind Holstein World Productions, the answer becomes pretty clear. They are all watching the coverage online.

Decrausaz Iron O'Kalibra  Class 9 winner, Sr & Grand Champion - 2013 All European Championship

Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra
Class 9 winner, Sr & Grand Champion – 2013 All European Championship

During the recent NY Spring Show, there were over 5,000 people watching on the live video stream. This reminded me of the video stream we shared of the EU Championship Show where there were so many people wanting to watch that we had up to 1,000 people waiting to get one of the coveted spots to watch the live stream on the Bullvine alone(Read more:The All European Championship Show: The Greatest SHOW on Earth and Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra Wins Grand at the 2013 All European Championship). Interesting note about the EU Championship show. The show itself did such a great job of covering the show, we here at the Bullvine didn’t even have to attend the show and we had the largest viewership in the world, thanks to the power of digital and social media.

3X as many people watched the 2013 All European Championships on then all other publications combined.

And now we are talking about just those who are able to take the time to watch it live. If you add in those that watch the coverage on the various publications and Facebook you would easily be over 12,000 viewers. There are more publications than ever covering the shows. Gone are the days when you were lucky to get covered in your national breed publication and that’s it. In today’s digital dairy media world, you are likely to have 4 or 5 publications there taking pictures and sharing the results. Who knows maybe someday we will have coverage comparable to a professional sporting event? Imagine it, commentators during the cow show bring you all the play by play.

From the great camera angles combined with the very professional in ring cameras combined with the outstanding music and exceptional ring announcer the experience was riveting for all.

From the great camera angles combined with the very professional in ring cameras combined with the outstanding music and exceptional ring announcer the experience was riveting for all at the 2013 All European Championships.

But already even this is starting to change. We here are the Bullvine try to do even more. While we have not gotten into the live streaming of the shows, we have started to do more and more stories about what happens beyond the placings. We try to bring you the story behind the story, such as (Read more World Dairy Expo 2012 Holstein Show – A Battle for the Ages and The 2012 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – One of the greatest ever told!).

Brian and Rob Eby embrace

Brian and Rob Eby embrace after Ebyhomle Goldwyn Marcia is named Reserve Grand Champion at the 2012 RAWF

Watch out for those “Moovie” Stars

Actually, it’s almost scary how much some things have changed. Just write or share a picture of Hailey, O’Kalibra, Happy Go Lucky, or Rae Lynn and the piece goes viral. These cows have become “Moovie” Stars. They have their own cult following that would rival that of One Direction, Maroon 5 or Justin Bieber.

While I am sure that many dairy breeders are not “Beliebers”, they are very passionate about great cows and these four certainly are that. And yes I am sure that many of the showmen that show these animals do have egos as big as Justin’s is. Things have changed so much that the showmen of these cattle have gone from complaining about or at least ignoring the photographers in the ring, to a point where they make sure they have the animal set up correctly. They are all looking good and appreciate the exposure. So much so that in the past 2 weeks alone we have had over 20 requests by breeders for pictures from the show for use in ads and other marketing efforts. A “money shot” of their animal winning their class or better yet the show, brings coverage you just can’t buy and a boring side shot cannot compare with. (Read more No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct)

The Power of Social Media

Starting today in Wisconsin is the Mid-West Spring National. This is a show that I am sure will be great. But I will not be there. That’s because between, myself and my trusty traveling partner (my father and Bullvine writer), we need time to rest. Yes the time in the car is fine for discussing many of the great events or challenges facing the dairy industry and leads to some great articles (Read more: Where is the Balance in Balanced Breeding?)., we need time to get caught up on the other things in our lives.

We were stressing out that we needed to be there but just couldn’t do the 11hr drive back and forth and still get everything done that we need to do. So we are not going. The amazing part is, when I mentioned on Facebook about the show and asked what animals were there and who looked good, we got some super responses. The best of them were the people that said they would take some pictures for us and share with us all the “juicy” details about the stories behind the story. To our faithful readers who are doing this for us we send a BIG thank you. To those looking for results, we say “Don’t worry we’ve got you covered”.

Touch my heart

Now there is one event that I would love to be at. And yes it does happen today, and yes it is at a cattle show, but NO it is not happening in the show ring. Since starting the Bullvine we have had the opportunity to get to know many amazing people. One such case is Beverly Donavon, the passionate owner of the great Ayrshire show cow Sweet-Pepper Black Francesca. Their story has touched our hearts and made us huge fans of both (Read more: The Magic of Francesca).

Through the power of social media we have gotten to know Beverly and her husband Richard. Recently Richard mentioned to me that a great young artist, Emma Caldwell, had painted an amazing picture of “Frannie” and that he would be attending the Ayrshire Spring Show in Quebec today with Beverly to meet the artist and pick up the picture (Read more Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart!). Now you see Richard may come sometimes come across as a sarcastic wrangler but when you get to know him, you can’t help but like him. This special event that he has arranged, and that Beverly knows nothing about, is just another reason why. When Frannie passed this past winter, Beverly was understandably devastated and Richard has done everything he could think of to help her through this tough time. This picture is just one of the many things he has done to help her through it. Emma Caldwell has graciously agreed to auction of her latest painting “Hailey” with a portion of the proceeds to go towards a charity (click here to learn more).

Emma Caldwell's painting of the great "Frannie"

Emma Caldwell’s painting of the great “Frannie”

So my interest in being there has nothing to do with the show, which I am sure will be great. It has nothing to do with covering this story, which I am sure will be a tearjerker. But rather, it has EVERYTHING to do with the power of the human spirit. Three amazing people will get to meet, share a few tears (Bev most certainly), and celebrate an amazing cow and a very thoughtful gesture by all in involved. There will not be a big presentation in the center of the ring. There will not be any announcement over the public address system. If you see Bev with tears in her eyes over her trademark heartwarming love for one of her favorites , be sure to give her a big hug and say, “Way to go, we all loved Frannie and she was one of the best ever.”

So this is where I will be this weekend.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While we here at the Bullvine will not be able to attend as many shows as we would like, I think that is also the case for many passionate dairy breeders. However thanks to the power of social media and the enhanced coverage many of the trade publications are providing, you can rest assured that you will be able to get the full story. To those who pioneered this, such as Randy Blodgett over 16 years ago, when he first did digital real time coverage at Expo, “Way to go Randy”. To those that have stepped up to help bring us the story behind the story at Mid-West Spring National, we say “Thanks”. Yes show attendance is down, but there is no question that the show passion lives on.


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Where is the Balance in Balanced Breeding?

Over the past couple of weeks I have heard numerous references to the word ‘balance’ when referring to the dairy cattle breeding industry. Do we over use the term? Or worse still do we use it incorrectly? At this moment I am thinking ‘yes I don’t think we do justice to the word when it comes to genetically advancing our dairy cattle’. But let’s take a look at how we do use the term.

Numerous Interpretations

Two weeks ago at the Quebec Holstein Spring Show (Read more: Do We Speak the Same Language? and Quebec Spring Show Results) I had the opportunity to converse with a veteran dairy farm manager from Europe who spoke to me about balancing his time between breeding better cattle and the economics of running a successful dairy farm.

A week ago today a breeder, who was about to receive his Canadian Master Breeder Shield, defined for me balanced breeding as placing equal emphasis on production and type when he selects bulls and culls cows (Read more: Holstein Canada Annual Meeting 2012 – From Coveralls to Niagara Falls).

Last Thursday at the Ontario Dairy Discovery Show (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack” and Ontario Spring Discovery Results) a breeder who regularly exhibits cattle at all levels described to me that balanced breeding was breeding for type and then feeding for production.

RF GOLDWYN HAILEY EX-97-CAN Considered by many to be one of the most balanced conformation cows in the history of the Holstein breed.

Considered by many to be one of the most balanced conformation cows in the history of the Holstein breed.

On Friday at the Canadian Holstein Annual Meeting, an attentive audience heard Chief Classifier, Tom Byers (Read more: TOM BYERS: “THAT’S CLASSIFIED!”), describe that a cow’s parts need to be in balance. “That varies depending on whether you are looking at a just fresh 24 month old heifer or a mature cow 120 days in milk in her sixth plus lactation” said Byers.

This past Monday, as I attended the New York Spring Holstein Show (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey Rides to the Top Spot at NY Spring Carousel and New York Spring Holstein Show 2013 Results), I heard balance or balanced used in four other ways.  A sire analyst spoke about getting the sires of sons from a balance of daughter proven and genomic evaluated bulls. Richard Keene past Holstein USA Director and very well respected cattle judge used balance in two different ways. First he spoke about the importance of balancing the emphasis being placed on cows and bulls in genetic advancement. Secondly he spoke about balancing the needs several ways – breed improvement, lifetime milk production, profits cows return to the enterprise and serving senior versus junior members. And finally the 2013 NY Holstein Spring Show Judge Michael Heath spoke about a cow having balance between dairyness and enough capacity to consume, balance in her mammary system and balance between high at the front end and ability to walk with ease.

Are you still with me?  So many uses of the word. I am sure you may be able to add other ways that you use the word balance. So why so many ways of interpreting balance?

Digging Deeper

Like beauty, balance appears to be in the eye of the beholder or the reality of the breeder.

Gerrit Wensink, EastGen Director, who milks 400 cows using six robots he feels that the Canadian Holstein Cow has improved her conformation to the point where in sire selection his emphasis is on milk component percentages and calving ease. Whereas some breeders, who will be dispersing their herds in the next few years, want to have animals for sale that will bring the highest price. And then other breeders may want to maximize revenue per stall, profit per cow per day or daily production of fat & protein per cow. Still other breeders want to minimize costs.  Minimal labour per animal, minimal health problems, the lowest replacement cost per cow per year or put in a different way the lowest reproduction costs per cow per year.

So each of us has a different definition of what Balanced Breeding means to us.

Breed Guidance

To assist breeders, organizations have developed total merit indexes that breeders can use in selection and culling. Holstein USA ranks animals using the TPI™ index. Canadian breeders have the LPI (Read more: Everything You Need To Know About TPI and LPI and TPI™ and LPI – Marketing or Mating tools?). And USDA geneticists rank animals using the Net Merit index. In fact almost every country, region or continent has a total merit index. All these indexes have many traits included with each weighted according to economic values. Breeders are encouraged to use these indexes for both genetic and marketing purposes. Yet do they in fact maximize both breed advancement and breeder profitability?

Some History – Current Needs

At various times in their histories breeds have identified major needs and focused on those needs. Holstein have genetically address low butterfat content, deep udders and high somatic cell counts. While the other breeds have all addressed low volume of milk produced. But what are breeders’ current most major needs? Genetically for the Holstein breed they could well be rear foot conformation, fertility and perhaps even feed efficiency. Are they the same for all cow housing systems? Are they different for in tie stall barn pipeline milked, parlour milked or robotically milked cows (Read more: Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd management).  And yes beyond the cow, breeders also face the challenges and opportunities associated with animal welfare and increasing the profit per cow per day of life.

Robotic Milking

One young South American dairy couple recently told me that they see it quite differently. They want to breed for fat & protein yield plus fertility and manage for conformation and health. So they are only using the highest genomically evaluated Holsteins bulls for fat, protein and fertility that they can find anywhere in the world. Their idea is to drive up revenue per cow and keep costs under control.

Considering all factors, some of which may not have a genetic component, when breeding for improvement it gets to be a big challenge and perhaps we could even say complicated.

The Reality Is

There is no such thing as uniformity of breeder needs when it comes to Balanced Breeding. Total merit formulas are for the average but do not address the top priorities. For instance breeding for enhanced rear feet is very difficult as the trait is not uniformly measured and what genetic differences are known are lost when a Feet & Leg rating is produced for a bull. Definitely when it comes to the genetic difference between animals in genetic merit for fertility, we are just starting to scratch the surface.

For interest sake the Bullvine has produced articles that change the emphasis placed on traits (Read more: Bullvine Performance Index (BPI – Top Sires December 2012 and Top BPI Heifers from Around the World ) and we even produced a bull index for daughter feed efficiency ((Read more: 30 Sires That Will Produce Feed Efficient Cows). Some AI organizations also produce their own bull ranking indexes that place emphasis on major breed needs. However all of these total merit indexes come up with numbers that water down the greatest genetic needs. The end result is that we select for so many traits that we average everything out and make less than optimal progress for the areas of greatest need.

The reality is we will not make significant progress for the areas of greatest genetic need until breeders routinely use the bulls that rank in the top 1-5% of the breed. For traits like feet and female fertility for milking cows there are not even listing produced that give the top ranking bulls of the breed. How can breeders address their biggest needs when they do not have access to the best bulls there are genetically.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Balance Breeding formula are for the masses but not for the breeders truly committed to improving their herds for their greatest genetic needs. Total merit indexes are a good first sort tool for getting a short list of bulls. However breeders truly interested in genetically attacking their most limiting traits, in improving their herds and in having the facts to show when marketing their genetics, it is time to rethink if the Balanced Breeding is the right approach. To move forward genetically requires that breeders select only the best and ignore the rest.


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Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart!

When successful artists recount their early inspirations, they often recall their youth.  Emma Caldwell isn’t yet old enough to look back from that distant viewpoint, but this already attention-attracting artist confirms that she is inspired by her dairy roots.” I grew up on Maple Holme Farms, a dairy farm in Carp. We milked 45 Holsteins in a tie stall barn, until we sold our quota in 2007. We mainly do cash crops now. I have been a member of the Carp 4H dairy clubs for the past 12 years. After we sold our herd, I borrowed calves from Sandy Crest Holsteins, Riview Jerseys and Drentex Jerseys for my 4H projects. Last year I bought half of a jersey calf which I co-own with Mike & Monique Bols of Russell, Ontario. The past three years I have been helping the Bols of Drentex Jerseys along with Jenna James with their show string and helping out with clipping and preparing for the classifier.  This will be my last year in 4H, but I hope to continue working with Drentex.”

Emma's recent painting "Hailey" of the great RF Goldwyn Hailey.

Emma’s recent painting “Hailey” of the great RF Goldwyn Hailey. Want to own this this painting? Click on the picture to find out how

In Praise of Painting

It’s exciting to hear how young Emma was when her artistic talent took root.  “I think I have been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and it was something my dad and I did together after he got in from morning chores.” Looking at Emma’s portfolio, one envies the vision and talent that produce such art with apparent ease. It turns out that it was indeed a special talent. “I have two learning disabilities, and up until I was diagnosed I really struggled with school. I think if you don’t think you’re good at much else you’re going to focus on anything that gets you that bit of praise from your teacher or peers. So I guess art was attractive to me from a very early age because it was and still is a method of communication that I find most natural.”

Painting Her Way to the Top

Despite challenges along the way, 21 year old Emma has always set and achieved her goals. “I think my greatest accomplishment will be graduating from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. I have struggled throughout my entire education with learning disabilities. The Fine Arts program at Queen’s only accepts 30 students out of the 300 that apply each year, and since Queen’s was my first choice, to be one of those 30 is something I worked really hard for, and am really proud of.” This is a special achievement for Emma and one that, through her art, she can continue to share.

Basically Bovine with a Unique Perspective

As more art enthusiasts get the opportunity to explore Emma’s portfolio, they will become part of the evolution of this artist who feels her style is still developing. “I am always trying to grow as an artist. I want my art to have energy. I use a lot of bright colours, splashes and drips of paint with brushy strokes of paint. I like it when I let some of the underpainting show through, and leaving hints that there is more than meets the eye underneath. This year I started using gold leaf in some works and I really love the contrast it brings to a painting. It is not important that a painting be totally realistic, I am more concerned with the impression of character or presence. I think sometimes when I leave a part unfinished or just give a suggestion of something like hooves, it brings more life to the painting than I would achieve by trying to copy a photograph. What really draws me to cows is their personalities that you only get to know from being in close contact with them your whole life. I want my paintings to feel like they have captured the character of an animal.”

Emma's painting that was auctioned off as part of the 2012 Jersey Ontario AGM.

Emma’s painting that was auctioned off as part of the 2012 Jersey Ontario AGM.

Expressing Dairy Strength and Power

One of the great pleasures of being an artist is having the opportunity to explore the different aspects of the chosen subject.  “With cattle this becomes challenging,” says Emma, “because they do not fall into the two usual categories of animal painting: pets or wildlife.” She elaborates, “Cows are working animals, and although we love them, they’re not our pets, they are still bred for a purpose. I want to capture the strength and power that humans have bred them to be.” She sees the contrasting sides of these dairy animal partners. “Cows have been bred to be big, strong animals but also to have wonderful quiet temperaments that allows people to work with them). I try to convey the calm air that a mature cow has AND that tremendous physical strength that is absolutely necessary in an enduring cow, which is only really obvious in person, but also present her as feminine, dairy and stylish. That is a challenge exclusive to cow painting.”  In eagerly accepting this challenge, Emma also recognized others who excel in this field and therefore are role models for her. “Bonnie Mohr has had the biggest influence on my artistic career. Not in terms of style, I am not going to try and be the next Bonnie Mohr because there is only one Bonnie Mohr, I just want to be myself. But I definitely look to Bonnie as my role model, especially her work ethic and setting goals for myself.” (Read more: Bonnie Mohr – Science and Art Together Creates a Holstein Love Story)

Emma's picture of Gillette E Smurf who holds the world record for the highest milk yield in a lifetime by Guinness World Record.

Emma’s picture of Gillette E Smurf who holds the world record for the highest milk yield in a lifetime by Guinness World Record. (Click on image to see enlarged version)

From Work in Progress to Charitable Fund Raiser

Emma’s art has provided her with special experiences recently as she explains, “When I am at school I often tweet pictures of my ‘works in progress’. One of the works I did at school was a painting of the legendary Ayrshire Sweet Pepper Black Francesca (Read more: The Magic of Francesca). I tweeted a picture of the unfinished work and a couple retweets later, Francesca was recognized. Deer Hill Ayrshires inquired about the painting and Jason French & Kris McLeod of Holstein Ontario asked if I could work on something for the branch AGM’s fun auction. These exchanges all happened within an hour.” The painting of Ferme Gillette’s Smurf was a highlight of the auction and was purchased by another passionate bovine observer, Patty Jones. The final site for hanging the painting was also meaningful to Emma, “It was so generous of Patty Jones to hang Smurf at Gillette. I think she looks right at home!”

Check out the detailed work on "Smurf" udder

Check out the detailed work on “Smurf” udder

Sharing Art in a Social World

Emma is continually surprised and humbled by the speed with which her work has reached people and inspired their enthusiasm. “Thanks to social media, my art has reached more people from across the world than I ever dreamed. I am absolutely blown away by the response, and when people retweet or share an image of mine I am absolutely just so humbled that people want to share my art with their followers or friends. It truly is an amazing time to be growing up with social media.” This modern change inspires her to reflect on what agricultural artists who precede her faced. “It gives me so much more respect for artists like Ross Butler who were as successful as they were in getting their art out there. It used to be just word of mouth and making sure you got your art seen and traveling.”

The Agricultural Spirit – Unlimited!

Forecasting the future for this rising artist is another broad canvas for Emma, seeing as she is so recently out of school. “Right now I am still just working as establishing myself as an artist, but in the future who knows! I think that there are many opportunities out there for myself as an agricultural artist. However, I don’t want to limit myself to only one area of art. There is so much I want to do and learn.”

Motivated by a tweet by an individual alarmed about dirt on their potatoes, Emma painted this in response. (Click on image to read the full story)

Motivated by a tweet by an individual alarmed about dirt on their potatoes, Emma painted this in response. (Click on image to read the full story)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Despite her youth, or perhaps because of it, Emma has a clear vision of the possibilities she is facing. “A lot of my work at school has to do with the future of Canadian agriculture and I think my goal as an artist will always be to depict the passion of life that Canadian agriculture embodies.  The farming community in Canada takes tremendous pride in the beauty and life in our land, and my art is a reflection of that spirit.”  Obviously her artistic future is in good hands … her own!

Don’t miss your chance to own Emma’s work of art “Hailey”  click here to find out how.

RF Goldwyn Hailey Rides to the Top Spot at NY Spring Carousel

Considering that Carousel is a French word, it is fitting that the 2013 International Holstein Show at the New York Spring Carousel was won by RF GOLDWYN HAILEY from Quebec.  Looking to build on a year that saw her win both World Dairy Expo (Read more: World Dairy Expo 2012 Holstein Show – A battle for the ages) and The Royal (Read more: The 2012 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – One of the greatest stories ever told!), Hailey is developing  from a 1 year wonder to a true show legend for her owners Gen-Com Holsteins. ) (For class by class results check out – New York Spring Holstein Show 2013 Results)



After  winning a close battle at the Ontario Spring Show, Hailey quickly jumped on a truck and headed to NY to show that she is still the top show cow in North America (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack”).  For all those in attendance there really wasn’t any question.  It was an amazing show, with great quality throughout Hailey took us along for an amazing ride and easily won the NY Spring Carousel.



Following behind Hailey in this merry-go-round was MS GOLDWYN ALANA, the Goldwyn daughter of Shormar BKB S Alicia 2 EX-94-2E (the clone to the great Shormar Alicia), for the Premier Breeder of the show Ferme Pierre Boulet, or as Judge Health liked to call him “Mr Bullet”.  Alana was a sleeper for Judge Michael Heath, who had her 2nd in her own class at one point, before her outstanding mammary system caught his eye and led to her winning the 5yr old class and ultimately Reserve Grand Champion of this historic carousel ride.

Grand Champion RF GOLDWYN HAILEY  &  Reserve Grand Champion MS GOLDWYN ALANA

Grand Champion RF GOLDWYN HAILEY & Reserve Grand Champion MS GOLDWYN ALANA

Talking about some true legends, the 150,000 lb cow class saw two greats battle it out.  SAVAGE LEIGH LEONA bred and owned by Christopher Savage, the 2012 Reserve All-American 125,000 Lb. Cow edged out the extremely popular ELMBRIDGE FM LOVEABLE RED, who had been Reserve Grand Champion the day before in the Red & White Show (Read more: New York Spring Red & White Show 2013 Results) for Lookout Holsteins and Jerseys.

1st place 150,000 lb cow SAVAGE LEIGH LEONA, 2nd place ELMBRIDGE FM LOVEABLE RED

1st place 150,000 lb cow SAVAGE LEIGH LEONA, 2nd place ELMBRIDGE FM LOVEABLE RED

A cow with a great future was the 1st place 4yr old CAR-BON GOLDWYN ANGELA, who Budjon Farms had purchased earlier last fall from a neighboring farm in Wisconsin.  She is another cow that had been shown at the Ontario Spring Show and jumped on the truck, this time moving up one spot to winning the class and many fans (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery Results).

Car-Bon Goldwyn Angela 1st place 4yr old

Car-Bon Goldwyn Angela 1st place 4yr old

In a switch from the Ontario Spring Show results, Judge Health went with CHARWILL ATTIC MARCY (exhibited by Gen-Com) as his first place Sr. 2yr old and Intermediate Champion, followed closely in class and for Intermediate Champion by ARCROIX GOLDWYN JAMAIQUE (exhibited by Budjon), who had been the 1st place Sr. 2yr old and Res. Intermediate Champion from Ontario Spring Show.  What is interesting here is that both cows, as well as the great Hailey, are all managed by Budjon and demonstrated yet again their ability to make sure cows look great at all times.

Charwill Attic Marcy 1st place Sr. 2yr old and Intermediate Champion

Charwill Attic Marcy 1st place Sr. 2yr old and Intermediate Champion

Arcroix Goldwyn Jamaique - 2nd place Sr. 2yr old and Reserve Intermediate Champion

Arcroix Goldwyn Jamaique – 2nd place Sr. 2yr old and Reserve Intermediate Champion

In a class that saw the extremely popular R-E-W HAPPY GO LUCKY be beaten for the 1st time in milking form (she placed 3rd and was in a much later stage of lactation than the top two animals in the class).The much rumored CROVALLEY KNOWLEDGE AKIKA was also in the class.  While many of the Jr. 2yr olds for 2013 have yet to calve, BUDJON-JK SNCHZ EXCHANGE exhibited by Maple-Downs, Packard and Cacciola, certainly impressed many with her outstanding mammary system.





Coming in behind Marcy and Jamique for Honorable Mention Grand Champion was EASTRIVER GOLD DEB 850, the 1st place Sr. 3 year old.  The Reserve All-Canadian & All-American Milking Yearling 2011 has calved in again and looked amazing for Butlerview (Read more: Exciting Times for Butlerview), who were also named Premier Exhibitor of the show.  The senior 3 year old class actually had the first 4 animals all sired by the great show legend Braedale Goldwyn. I can only imagine what the class would have looked like if Valleyville Rae Lynn had made the trip to New York as well.

Eastriver Gold Deb 850 1st place Sr 3yr

Eastriver Gold Deb 850 1st place Sr 3yr

BVK ATWOOD ARIANNA continued her winning ways for owners Jeff Butler & Frank and Diane Borba & Ponderosa Holsteins, as she took 1st place in the Jr 3yr old class.  Arienna has certainly caught our attention here at the Bullvine as she was named to World Dairy Expo Investment Worthy list as well as being the 2012 Breeder’s Choice Award Winner (Read more: The 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards – The Tanbark Trail Edition)

BVK Atwood Arianna 1st place Jr 3yr old

BVK Atwood Arianna 1st place Jr 3yr old

In the heifer classes Judge Heath went with the 1st place Spring Yearling MS LULUS FEVER LEGACY exhibited by West Coast Holsteins as his Junior Champion, followed by his first place Fall Yearling FANICO REGINALD MARTY exhibited Eaton, Cates & Morrill and Winter Yearling Cobequid Goldwyn Bayonet exhibited by Doeberiener, Bowen, Boulet & Cole.  This left his 1st place Fall Calf and the recent Taste of Ontario Convention sale topper Pierstein Gold Chip Rockstar, exhibited by Butlerview Farms, out of his parade.  Expressing his appreciation for the strength of the yearlings in the show, Judge Health chose to go with all yearlings for his parade.

Junior Champion - Ms LuLus Fever Legacy

Junior Champion – Ms LuLus Fever Legacy

Pierstein Goldchip Rockstar - 1st place Fall Calf

Pierstein Goldchip Rockstar – 1st place Fall Calf

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While the crowd may have been a little smaller than that of the Quebec Spring Show (Read more:  Do We Speak The Same Language?) and the Ontario Spring Show (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack”)  held in conjunction with the Canadian National Convention (Read more:  Holstein Canada Annual Meeting 2012 – From Coveralls to Niagara Falls) the 2013 International Holstein Show at the New York Spring Carousel has certainly earned the reputation as the “World Dairy Expo” of the American spring  show season.


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8 Ways DNA PROFILING Your Whole Herd Will Improve Your Breeding Program

DNA profiling is a complimentary tool for the discerning breeder who is committed to genetic advancement for three reasons:

  • More accurate genetic selection
  • Increased profit
  • More effective management

Added to these three is the potential for breed advancement. Therefore, using DNA analysis is definitely a win-win-win situation.

Higher Quality Cattle – Better Genetic Selection

There are already the industry leading early adopters (5%) who quickly recognized the benefits of DNA profiling.  Since the dairy industry ranks every animal in the world (Indexes), a new tool that is able to genetically rank every animal in your herd makes sense. The Bullvine has compiled the top 5 ways that DNA analysis can fine tune your selection decisions beyond the elementary keep, cull or sell.

  1. Identify genetically superior heifers to maximize their value and use for extended reproductive work (ET)
  2. Identify heifers to cull or use as embryo recipients
  3. Identify heifers within a cow family that are more likely to be the ones to carry on the family
  4. Identify AI or natural use sires that will assist in achieving a herd’s genetic plan
  5. Identify heifers to be sold as herd replacements.  As the overall genetics of your herd improves, even lower-end cull heifers will likely make good-quality replacement heifers when sold.

Progress is all about maximizing the potential of every animal.  DNA profiling is an identification tool which not only provides the above five points – and perhaps more – but also has three other quick-to-appreciate advantages.

  1. Provides a jump on genetic information well in advance of a bull being proven
  2. Provides the best available index values for health and fertility traits
  3. At the simplest level, provides verification of parentage.

If you’re still hesitating, ask yourself how often a new practice gives you eight ways to advance?

On Farm Profit Could Win by a Hair

Everyone can appreciate the financial incentive of raising the genetic level of your herd. Beyond that there are additional financial incentives from costs saved and revenue generated. The logistics of raising dairy animals is all about efficiently using space and resources. Heifer rearing costs are generally accepted between $2.75 and $3.25 per heifer per day. With DNA analysis at $45 to $60 per animal there is immediate payback. Do the calculations for a 100 cow herd? The revenue from and growing costs saved by selling the lowest four calves will more than pay for the testing of all female calves.

On Farm Management: Better timing – Identified culling

It isn’t only proactive elite breeders who focus on performance and added value. Even those who are most skeptical about trends perk up their ears when positive examples start piling up.  Breeders with specific goals relating to high performance, long herd life, or top show type can appreciate a tool that helps accurately identify specific attributes.  Furthermore, using DNA analysis to level out the peaks and valleys in freshening rates allows breeders to keep steady numbers in the calf hutches and heifer pens. More accurately identifying your own cattle makes it that much easier to market them to the specific needs of buyers.  The genomic numbers become part of promoting animals in ads, social media and in the barn. Not only is it a genetic tool but a full-disclosure marketing tool, when the information is available to all buying and selling scenarios.

Industry Advancement: Pedigree accuracy – Breed purity

Much like requiring RFID tags for all animals, a DNA profile has the potential to add much to the breeding stock industry

–          Will assist in improving low heritability traits: health and fertility

–          Allows for a breed society to require that all males registered be DNA profiled

–          Allows for a breeding company to require that all daughters in a sire’s proof be DNA profiled and parentage verified

–          As more herds sample their females for genomics, expect the technology to become more accurate and cost-efficient

How & When – Determine Your Strategy

There is not one procedure or process that will work for all herds.  Determine the simplest, most accurate steps available to you. The suggested best practice is testing every heifer calf at one day of age or by 30 days of age.  Determine how the following choices could work for you.

–          DNA profile as close to registration as possible. The sooner the better.

–          Chose which panel.  Low density unless for bulls for AI or top heifers to be sold

–          Even if a breeder may not practice ET, the top 15% should be bred to the highest genomic sires for total index, type, production or health and fertility.

–          The middle range  should be bred using sexed semen

–          The bottom 10% could be sold as  embryo transfer recipients or bred to beef semen

Question for Breed Associations to Ponder

Is it in fact a good long term strategy to have DNA analysis remain optional or should it be mandatory some time in the future? __Optional? __Mandatory?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

DNA Profiling will allow the vast majority of breeders to sort, select and sell females according to their personal herd strategies and mate retained heifers for more rapid genetic progress.  The benefits to individual breeders and the Holstein breed as a whole will be measureable.  What are you waiting for?

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.




Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack”

Combined with the Holstein Canada National Convention, Ontario played host to breeders from across Canada, with the biggest names in the Canadian show ring on display.  Given the task to evaluate the proceedings and determine the winners was David Crack Jr.  a very accomplished dairyman who has shown time and time again that he is not afraid to make the tough decision (Read more: Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage)

With many of the Canadian owned winners from the Royal making the trip to Ancaster, there was  no question that the 2013 Ontario Spring Discovery would be the best ever.  Playing host to the Holstein Canada National Convention not only attracted many of the top animals but it also attracted a capacity ringside crowd.  Not even the cold wet weather could deter these passionate breeders from seeing round 2 of Hailey vs. Marcia or the rise   of what is sure to be the next great one, Valleyville Rae Lynn.

(For complete class placings click here)

Winright Sid Elegance

Junior Champion Winright Sid Elegance

As David has done many times before, he quickly established the pattern that he liked, deep bodied dairy cattle with a great set of feet and legs.  With the fan favourite from Quebec Spring Show Jr. Show (Read more: Quebec Spring Holstein Show Results) and Taste of Ontario Convention Sale topper (Read more: Taste of Ontario National Convention Sale Averages $7960) already headed down to her new owners Butlerview, this left the door wide open for others to take home the coveted Jr. Champion prize.  Winright Sid Elegance, the Intermediate Yearling Pine-Tree Sid daughter was more than capable and deserving of the Junior Champion prize.  She was followed by the 1st place Summer Yearling Belfontaine Attic Ceyla and the 1st place Junior Yearling Crovalley Gold Rapcity.


MS RollNView Gold Divine

MS RollNView Gold Divine

Coming into the milking cow classes is where you knew things would start to get really interesting.  Leading the way in the Jr. 2yr old class was MS RollNView Gold Divine. Exhibited by Hodglynn Holsteins, Devine is the Goldwyn daughter of RICHARDO DUNDEE DAWNETTE EX-95-2E-CAN, 3 times HM All-Canadian and 2 times  Res. All-American.

Arcroix Goldwyn Jamaique

Arcroix Goldwyn Jamaique

In the Sr. 2yr old class Arcroix Goldwyn Jamaique edged out Charwill Attic Marcy, Blondin Goldwyn Bordeau and Dougal Lea Goldwyn Danita.  It was a  close battle, with many of these cows  at  different stages of lactation. Jamaique used her size, balance and udder quality to take the prize in an outstanding class of Sr. 2yr olds.

Sharp Acres S T Maeve

Sharp Acres S T Maeve

Seeing our first repeat winner from Quebec Spring Show, Sharp Acres S T Maeve exhibited by Ferme Blondin, earned many more fans.  This Showtime daughter used her overall capacity, smooth fore udder and dairyness throughout to lead an impressive class of Jr. 3yr olds.

Valleyville Rae Lynn

Valleyville Rae Lynn

Catching the eye of everyone when she walked in the ring, but certainly not new on anyone’s radar was Valleyville Rae Lynn (Read more: The 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards – The Tanbark Trail Edition).  Exhibited by Quality Holsteins, Ponderosa & AL-BE-RO Cattle Co (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and DON SCHWARTZ: “Love what you do and do the best you can!” ), this 2nd calf Sr. 3yr old looked amazing.  Her trademark mammary system has only gotten that much better since the Royal, and she has  cleaned off and bodied down since showing very fresh at the Royal.  While winning her class was no easy feat as both Budjon-Vail Gold Dreams, Quebec Spring Show Intermediate Champion and Desnette Alexia Roseplex a looked amazing. Rae Lynn was just that much taller, dairyer and displayed her   outstanding udder quality, to not only win the class but also take Intermediate Champion honours.  Arcroix Goldwyn Jamaique squeezed in between Rae Lynn and Gold Dreams for Reserve Intermediate Champion.

High Point Golden Rose

High Point Golden Rose

Catching the eye of many breeders was the smooth, very dairy and balanced 4 yr old High Point Golden Rose.  Her  sire stack  reads like a who’s who of the show biz. Thus Rose edged out equally impressive sire stack Car-Bon Goldwyn Angela and Quebec Spring Show winner MS Pride Gold Invite 761.  Golden Rose  looked spot on.  She displayed more width throughout and a very balanced mammary system.

Gerann Roy Grendel

Gerann Roy Grendel

Also peaking from Quality Holsteins was Gerann Roy Grendel.  On the power of her massive frame, smooth fore udder and dairyness throughout, Grendel edged out Bourgival Goldwyn Oriel and Coxlyn Fireworks Pansy for the 5 year old prize.

hailey and marcia

Then came the much anticipated rematch between Hailey and Marcia (Read more: The 2012 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – One of the greatest stories ever told).  From the moment they entered the ring, you knew it was going to be a battle of the two stars,  although Tween Bays Sara Goldwyn did everything she could to attract some of the attention.  Many have  talked about who they prefer between Hailey and Marcia. While both cows are absolutely amazing and looked spot on in the ring, they really are two different styles of cow.  Hailey is your long dairy and very balanced cow.  Marcia is  just a massive, deep bodied wide rear uddered cow.  Judge Crack not afraid gave each one a thorough analysis and determined that for him today it was Hailey who would get the nod.


For some at this point it seemed like an easy stroll for Grand and Reserve for these two greats, but Judge Crack wanted to keep everyone on their toes and went  with the extremely popular and future superstar Valleyville Rae Lynn for Reserve and her herdmate Gerann Roy Grendel for Honorable Mention.  Obviously he felt  that these two cows fit his pattern a little more.

The Bullvine Bottom Line.

While certainly a different atmosphere than that of Quebec Spring Show, the addition  of many of the top cattle from Quebec as well at the US certainly helped create a very unique atmosphere in Ontario.  It certainly displayed to all breeders at ringside as well as online that great things are happening in the show ring these days and at Spring Discovery 2013 nothing slipped through the “Crack”.


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Van Den Pol: Peak Performance

Around the world whenever the province of Alberta is mentioned everyone pictures beautiful images of the Rocky Mountains. Ranchers and dairy farmers are farming in one of the most scenic settings in the world.  Imagine for a moment what it would be like to move from a country like the Netherlands with the goal of “going dairying”.  For Gys and Silia Van Den Pol and their three daughters Corien, Djoeke and Tilly they not only moved there but used the mountains, buttes and foothills as encouragement to take their goals higher all the time!

Gys and Silia Van Den Pol and their three daughters

Gys and Silia Van Den Pol and their three daughters

All the Right Moves!

Silia and Gys both grew up on dairy farms in the Netherlands. Gys had been on international exchange programs to New Zealand and Canada and considered moving to New Zealand. Married in 1985 the couple’s first move involved raising (hogs). It was good training for their future because that industry is fast moving with emphasis of technical results and management skills can make a big difference. In 1998 they visited Canada.  In 1999 they bought a going concern dairy farm near Picture Butte, Alberta which included a 60-cow purebred Holstein herd and a quarter section of land (160 acres). Seven years later (2005) they moved to their present 160 acres farm outside of Coaldale, Alberta.

Higher Ground Overview of Pol Butte

This part of Alberta is (ranch country) so you can imagine how a tie-stall barn would stand out in this free-stall landscape. Corien sums up the Van den Pol Farm logistics. “We currently milk 80 purebred Holsteins in a modern tie stall facility.  We raise our own young stock of 130 head, as well as 50 young bulls for future breeding purposes as natural sires.  We farm 150 acres of irrigated land, where we produce our own corn and alfalfa hay.”

“The Home of Contented Cows”

The Van Den Pol family are dedicated to fulfilling their farm slogan, “Home of Contented Cows”.  It is the foundation of their breeding philosophy which Gys outlines for us. “My breeding philosophy is to strive for good udders and feet and legs. Sires are selected on genomic numbers and depth of pedigree.  We have also been investing high profile cow families to breed the next generation from.” Gys makes his own breeding decisions and strives for a balance of type and production. For beginners he urges, “Start with a purchase of cows from solid cow families that will give less risks of failure in the future.  And watch for health traits!”

A Work in Progress – Then and Now

“When we purchased the original herd in 1999, it had 2 VG cows and was 50% GP and better.  Our last classification round showed our improvement.  We are now 100% GP and better.” This is remarkable but it is not the only benchmark that is being met. “We are also expecting 4 of our homebred cows to surpass 100,000 kgs this year.” Their herd average is 11,953 kg milk 3.8% F 3.1% P putting them in the top ten herds in Alberta. Oh yes and they also flush 40-50 cows a year and genomic test about 40 animals. Not to mention that three years running they were Premier Breeder and Exhibitor at the Green Acres Club Show (2009-2011). Gys looks realistically toward the future and the changes ahead.  “Marketing will change and genomics testing of our young bulls is ahead.  The very fast pace of new genetics – coming and going – will create higher risks of failures.” He cautions. “We have to watch that we don’t go too far now and just focus on genomics and index and the end number.”

BUTZ-BUTLER GOLD BANNER - VG 88-2YR 02-06  P268  13005  546  4.2  400  3.1  Kg

02-06 P268 13005 546 4.2 400 3.1 Kg

Waving Barbie`s Special Banner

Gys is obviously a man prepared to take action when he sees something he likes and he always liked what he knew about (Barbie) and her descendants with a Goldwyn x Shottle x Durham sire stack. “I saw Barbie herself a few months before her passing.  She made such an impression on me that I was determined to purchase something from this tremendous cow family.  I was also very impressed by her offspring.  Her Shottle and Goldwyn daughters were just recently milking.  So when the Goldwyn sale in PEI (2009) offered a Goldwyn choice from Brasilia, we went after it.  After the genomic results were in, Banner proved to be an easy pick.” Corien expresses the family enthusiasm for Banner. “Banner is special because she’s not just a cow. She has her special spot in the barn and shines when she gets that extra special treatment.” She is already recognizably special and the #1 Genotyped Conformation cow in Canada.  This continues to attract attention. “We still get regular email requesting offspring from her.”

Regancrest Brasilia-ET EX-92 DOM

Regancrest Brasilia-ET EX-92 DOM

Cows and Families: Worth the Drive to Pol Butte

 All the hard work would hardly be worth it, if there wasn’t a market for the results. The Van den Pols have invested in many different cow families so there is always something for the variety of buyers local and international who make their way to the Van den Pols. Imagine going to Pol Butte Holsteins and being able to buy from cow families like Barbie, Corey, Crimson, Delia, Fools Gold, Janice, Linda, Paradise and Zandra. A great choice, no matter how you stack it and well worthy of consideration.

Breeding Naturally from Top Marketable Sires

Gys looks for popular bulls with good numbers who rank at the top of the lists. He will use high genomic young sires only if they have a solid cow family behind them. Ì look for bulls that can sire long living, good framed, open ribbed cows with good udders and feet and legs. We currently have heifers by Dempsey, Goldchip, Beau, SuperSire, MCCutchen, Meridian, Hero, Cancun, Number Uno, Mogul, Colt P, Epic and Lavaman.” He sums up other points they consider. “We don`t need a 64-inch, show cow, but because one of our biggest customers is the Hutterite Colonies who buy natural bulls, we do need to also breed a good framed, commercial, barn cow with good feet and legs who can walk in a free- stall.” With a keen eye for cattle, they also watch the marketplace.

Make Contacts and Keep Them Coming

Corien explains “If you don’t have something to offer, they won’t come here.  It’s a fast moving market.  You have to find things sometimes outside of the box to attract people.”  They value other means of marketing too. “We have our own website and we advertise in magazines.  We do keep in touch with the sire analysts and give them updates.  We regularly visit our customers who purchase our natural breeding bulls.  We also enter animals into sales and shows.” A unique marketing feature was added several years ago. “We added a free-stall training area to sell more animals into the local commercial market.” Gys explains that simple changes can be very important. “The simpler you keep things, the fewer mistakes you can make.”  Wise words.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Van Den Pols live by the motto, “Always do your best.  Nothing half way.”  So there will always be new breeding mountains for Gys and Silia and the girls to climb. They would like to win a Master Breeder Shield. And dear to their parental hearts “It would be great to see one of the girls eventually take over the farm.” Regardless of the surrounding terrain …. mountains, buttes, flatlands or valleys, Pol Butte Holsteins have their sights set on moving on and moving up. We wish them all the best!


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April 2013 North American Genetic Evaluation Highlights

In this information age it is surprising how difficult it can be to get the latest information on proof day.  For that reason the Bullvine has compiled a quick summary of the genetic evaluations from the United States and Canada.


  • DE-SU OBSERVER debuts as #1 gTPI sire in the USA.
    Call it validation or even redemption but, if Observer’s first proof had him falling drastically, it might have put the industry back a few years.  With over 195 sons already being sampled, there is no question that the industry could not afford to have him not achieve a successful daughter proven proof.  Fortunately for all, he not only held his most recent (December 2012) genomic index, but he actually went up.  The biggest change in his numbers was an increase of 142 lbs. of milk, while maintaining his component percentages.  Observer also saw significant increases in his type composites, something the breeders who had been milking Observer daughters had already been forecasting.  While he still needs to be protected on body depth and F&L, he is now over 3 points for udders and has a solid score for rumps. (Click here for a High Ranking Sire Report (April 2013) and Top 100 TPI International Bulls (April 2013) )
  • ZAHBULLS UNO GULLIVER new #1 gPA TPI Sire in the USA
    While there were not many new sires in the top gTPI list other than Observer, the same is not true for the gPA TPI list.  Leading the way is ZAHBULLS UNO GULLIVER (Though Supersire may still be the #1 gPA TPI available sire at this time).  GULLIVER is a NUMERO UNO from a DORCY then Toystory and Rudolph.  His dam ZAHBULLS DORCY GLAMOUR was fresh in December and is yet to be classified.  His 2nd dam JOHNAN TOYSTORY GLITTER is classified EX and has a 4yr record of 29,220 lbs. of 3.5%f 3.0%P.  Look for GULLIVER to sire strong components, especially fat, with solid type.  He will need to be protected slightly on his straight legs and depth of heal, but will greatly improve bone quality and foot angle.  His daughters will not win many shows, but they will be large enough however, they will need protection on body depth.  He will bring loads of genetic potential in the areas of health and fertility, especially productive life. (Click here for Top 100 gPA TPI Sires April 2013) (Please note semen available is subject to stud and age)
  • BUTZ-HILL SUPERSIRE 1757 new #2 gPA TPI Sire in the USA
    From the EASTSIDE LEWISDALE GOLD MISSY EX-95-CAN, Supreme Champion WDE and RAWF 2011, family.  Missy could, by the end of this week, also be the 2012 Canadian Cow of the Year (Read more: Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy: 2012 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee).  1757 has it all.  He is a Supersire from a Man-O-Man followed by Dolman then Goldwyn.  Look for him to bring a balanced package.  With no real holes in his type breakdown, strong components and very desirable health and fertility traits, he is sure to be on many peoples’ must have list. (Click here for Top 100 gPA TPI Sires April 2013) (Please note semen available is subject to stud and age)
  • LADYS-MANOR DORCY AMIRA debuts at #5 gTPI Cow in the USA
    From the same family as the long-standing #1 gTPI Cow, Ladys-Manor PL Shakira, Amira is a VG 86 Dorcy from 85 point Planet.  While from a different line of the Ladys-Manor Delightful Jem family, Amira certainly packs a strong genetic punch.  (Click here to see Top 25 GTPI Cows)


  • BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE new #3 gLPI Sire in Canada
    Already having over 2,200 registered daughters born in Canada, Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie (O Man x Die-Hard) hits the mark with his first official domestic evaluation at #3 LPI.  Coming in almost exactly where his MACE proof and genomic test would have indicated, Freddie’s Canadian proof shows the same strong production as in the USA, with great health and fertility, while needing to be protected on conformation, especially dairy strength.  At just 65% GP or better and only 12 VG 2yr olds in Canada (on 253 daughters), Freddie is certainly not a type specialist, but can give you that great shot of herd life, daughter fertility, and calving ease when needed.  His daughters excel at herd life, daughter fertility, body condition score and production traits from shallow smooth fore uddered mammary systems.  It is recommended that he be used on large framed females, with strong median suspensories.  He breeds a consistent pattern of worky functional daughters that should be robot compatible.  For breeders wanting to move their genetics along quickly, they may consider using a high genomically evaluated Freddie son from a large framed dam.  (Click here to read a full breakdown of the Canadian Holstein Evaluation Highlights – April 2013)
  • END-ROAD O-MAN BRONCO new #6 gLPI Sire in Canada
    Bronco (Oman x BW Marshall) has his first Canadian proof coming in at #6 LPI progeny proven sire.  Like his sire, Oman, he leaves functional cattle but Bronco’s daughters excel at production. He is in the top 1% of the breed for both milk and protein yields.  His daughters have good Dairy Strength and Foot Angle is steep and Heel Depth is deep.  Rear teat placement is slightly wide and udders are slightly shallow which will work well for robotic milking systems.  His daughters are likely the ones milk producers hardly notice as they go about producing large volumes. (Click here to see Top LPI Canadian Proven Holstein Sires)
  • REGAN-ALH DIPLOMAT #7 gLPI and Highest New Release Sire in Canada
    Regan-ALH Diplomat*RDC (Mr Burns x O Man)  takes the spotlight as the highest young sire graduate this round at #7 LPI and the new leader among red carrier sires proven in Canada.  His dam A-L-H DESTINY has many superior progeny including top sons, Danillo and Goldday, in Europe (Read more: 12 Holstein Sires to Maximize Genetic Gain) and his second dam is none other than Markwell Durham Daisy (Read more: Markwell Durham Daisy – 2012 Golden Dam Finalist).  DIPLOMAT ( Mr Burns x Oman x Durham) has his first proof based on 62 classified and 123 milk recorded daughters. His production and durability ratings are well above average and he earns the distinguished Class Extra rating.  Care needs to be taken, as he is slightly below average for milking speed and calving ability.  He will likely qualify as a sire of sons mating sire, especially for red.
  • SUNTOR JOYRIDE new #1 gPA LPI Sire in Canada
    JOYRIDE is from the same family as Oconnors Jay, as his 2nd dam OCONNORS GOLDWYN JASMINE EX-92 is the Goldwyn sister to Jay (Read more: The Bloom is On  Oconnors Goldwyn Jasmine).  His dam SUNTOR MAN O MAN JELENA VG-2YR sold for $30,000 in the 2012 Sale of Stars (Read more: Genomic Stars Shine at Sale of Stars), a steal for a cow that has proven she can throw extremely high genomic progeny.  No doubt the commission from semen sales on this one will be larger than the sale price of the dam.  Joyride, sired by Epic, offers extreme production (+106 kgs protein) from outstanding type with strong health and fertility traits.  With a DGV of +19 for conformation, there is no question that Joyride will leave you those nice sharp cut calves that will draw attention and top dollar at all the genomic sales in a year’s time. (Click here to see Top LPI Genomic Holstein Young Sires)
  • MAPEL WOOD M O M LUCY new #2 gLPI Cow in Canada
    The highest newly indexed cow this round is Mapel Wood M O M Lucy, arriving at #2 GLPI right behind her maternal sister, OConnors Planet Lucia, who stays firm at #1 GLPI.  Lucia and Lucy are daughters of Comestar Goldwyn Lilac (Read more: Comestar Goldwyn Lilac: 2012 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee and Genetics By Design – Crosses the $4,000,000 Mark) with Lylehaven Lila Z as grand dam. (Click her toe see Top 400 gLPI Females in Canada)
  • RI-VAL-RE SUPRSRE NIKK new #1 gPA LPI heifer in the World!
    Nikk jumps almost 200 LPI points and takes over the coveted #1 spot.  Powered by her dam’s sire, Observer, who debuts at #1 gTPI, Nikk leads a pack of Supersire daughters that top the LPI list.  Her dam RI-VAL-RE OBSRVR NIKKI is due this month and looks very promising for  Ri-Val-Re (Read more: Breeding Ri-Val-Re: Where looking good in the stall is just as important as looking good on paper). (Click here to see Top 400 gPA LPI Heifers In Canada)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Some might call it a quieter round in North America, with only one new top proven sire in the US and many of the new Canadian sires already proven in the US.  However, this round is certainly an emphatic validation for the different proving programs.  The fact that Observer came out where he did validates the genomic evaluation system.  Additionally, having many sires that receive their official proofs in Canada matching the US MACE conversion also validates the Interbull MACE system.  Many new genomic sires were released this time, providing   terrific opportunities to discover the next Observer.

To see all the latest proofs be sure to check out our Genetic Evaluation Section.


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Canadian LPI Rescaling Explained (April 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.


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


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.


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 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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Is Type Classification Still Important?

There are many changes going on in the dairy industry these days. Producers must try to understand what programs are worth still participating in and what ones to drop. At the Bullvine we have had some producers ask, “Should I still classify my cows?” To that we say a resounding, “YES!”  The following article explains why.

First, I would be remiss if I did not disclose that my father ran the Type Classification program here in Canada for 18 years, before it passed into the very capable hands of Jay Shannon and Tom Byers. I was raised understanding type classification and how the system works.  From when Dad and the late Dalton Hodgins first started playing with the handheld units to when it was time to update the True Type Model, you could say that classification was bred into me.   For me to even have to consider whether the program has merit is a very challenging situation.  But when a breeder from California asked me the other day, “Why should I still type classify?”  this caused me to stop and think about that, as I didn’t have an instant answer for him.  So, in typical Bullvine fashion, I did some more thinking about it, a little bit of research and here is what I came up with.

Why Type Classify if you Genomic Test All Your Females?

Tom Byers said it best, in our interview a year ago. “Classification will be the conformation verification of our Genomic selected sires.” (Read more: Tom Byers – “That’s classified”).  Genomics is not a perfect science and, in order to improve the accuracy of the genomic predictions, we need a larger data set.  That means we need more daughters classified by these new genomic sires so that the geneticists can compare the genomic predictions of these sires to the actual performance of their daughters. Only then can the geneticists improve the formulations so their predictions become more accurate.  Currently you can feel about 95% confident that a sire will come within 10% of their genomic prediction. With more information, that rate of confidence will increase while the range will decrease.

It’s also important to understand how these sires work in your herd.  I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen some sires work wonders in some herds and totally fail in others. While the sire’s proof may average out over all herds, that does not mean he or his blood lines will work well in yours.  That is why you still need programs like type classification and milk recording to validate that what you see on paper (genomic tests) is what you actually get in reality.

Why Classification is More Important than Ever When Marketing Your Cattle

It used to be that when a fresh 2 year old went Very Good many breeders wanted to see her picture to see if she really was a VG 2 year old.  Often times it was felt that maybe that animal got a gift and maybe would have only been a GP84 in a different herd.  Nowadays, with the state of dairy cattle photo ethics the way it is, I actually jump back to the classification to see if the picture really resembles the animal.

When I look at the picture and the heifer looks VG87+ but yet she is only classified VG85, I wonder why.  Often I notice that animal may only be a 2 or 3 for loin strength, yet in her picture with all the “hair” added she looks closer to a 9.  This causes a drastic change to the general appearance of the animal and greatly misrepresents her rump.  That is why now, more than ever, I look at the full classification breakdown in order to get a better understanding of just what the animal looks like.

Another area I often notice is size and stature.  With so many pictures having the original background removed and often the leadsperson as well, it is hard to get an accurate reference for the exact size of the animal.  When the photographer or graphic designer is adding in the new background, they are doing so by what makes the animal look the best.  While this is considered acceptable by today’s standards, it can greatly misrepresent the size and stature of the animal. (Read more: Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?).

Another area where it is impossible to get an accurate read is heel depth and angularity.  Because these animals are being cropped out of their original images, often they lose some of the depth of heal in the picture as well as their necks get accidentally cleaned up.  While I do not think most photographers do so intentionally, the programs they are using combined with photographer’s Photoshop skills often cause some of these parts to be cropped, leaving a shallower foot and a cleaner head and neck.  It is for these reasons we have recently started the Dairy Cattle Marketer’s Code of Ethics (Read more: Introducing The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct) in order to help re-establish credibility in dairy cattle photographs.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that the industry is changing at a very rapid rate.  For some it`s not changing fast enough. For others, it seems too fast.  While all programs need to evolve to meet the needs of the modern dairy producer, there is no question that a dynamic Type Classification program has its place.  Since genomics is not a perfect science, and some dairy cattle photographs do not tell the full story, type classification remains the one constant for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the individual, so that we can correctively mate to help the next generation function best in the different environments we ask her to work in. This combination of science and cow sense is what will lead us into a very prosperous future.


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Do We Speak the Same Language?

I always love heading to Quebec.  From seeing Patrice Biron, the former Holstein Canada President that I spent  summers trying to learn French from, to the memories of St. Huberts and my trip with my father, sister and David Houck, the legendary manager from Rommandale Farms, where I would pull the seat release causing his chair to go flying back, earning me the nickname “my worst enemy” from David (I guess some things never change…read more: The Bullvine- Wanted Dead or Alive), I just loved making those memories. .  While my French still is not as good as it could be, and David is no longer with us, my enjoyment of Quebec will never change.  One thing that is for sure a constant is how great the Quebec people are and the passion they have for the dairy breed.

There is something to be said about how Quebecer’s can put on a show.  Just like Cirque de Soleil and the Montreal Canadiens award ceremonies for former greats, Quebecer’s put on a show like none other.  Their hospitality and friendliness comes through no matter what language you speak.

The one thing that seems to unify them all is their passion for great dairy cattle.  And man do they have some great cattle.  Even as we walked through the barns before the show, previewing the sale consignments you knew that all this does not happen by accident.  It takes time, dedication and more importantly passion.  Passion that unites all, regardless of language

TAG You`re IT!

IMG_3364_edited-1One place where there was no question that passion drives it all was attending the Trans America Genetics’ Genomic Giants sale.  This amazing sale averaged an outstanding $38,472 ((Read more: Genomic Giants Sale Averages an Outstanding $38,472).  With many of the top TPI and LPI animals in the world set to be offered you knew it was going to be very special (Read more: The Dairy Cattle Investor’s Guide to Spring Show Madness).  And while this may be a tamed down version of the show they put on in the fall sale, there was no question that it too was a great one.  One of the things I learned in speaking with Patrice and Natalie Simard, the passionate couple that helps drive TAG`s success, is that 3 of the top sellers were a result of their breeding programs.  As we talked more, I learned about just how well thought out their strategy is and how they are really thinking about how to take things to new level.  It`s passion and attention to detail that has helped them to attract new investors, the most recent of which are not from the dairy industry, but rather people who see  the great business plan combined with the passion and have decided to invest in TAG.  Outstanding!!!! Love to see new money coming into the industry.

quebec spring show grand 2013

Grand Champion: Wendon Goldwyn Allie, 1st mature cow, Ferme Rayon d’Or
Res. Grand Champion: Ms Goldwyn Alana, 1st 5-year-old, Pierre Boulet
HM Grand Champion: Desnette Alexia Roseplex, 1st Sr. 3-year-old, Yvon Sicard, Desnette Holstein

Great Cattle Unite Us All

Donald Dubois showing Ms Pride Gold Invite 761 1st 4yr old

Donald Dubois showing Ms Pride Gold Invite 761 1st 4yr old

There is just something special about attending a dairy cattle show in Quebec.  The quality of cattle is always outstanding and the people truly passionate. This guarantees that the experience something you will never forget.  From the Red and White show on Wednesday that made up for its small classes with outstanding quality (Read more: Quebec Spring Red & White Show Results) to the Holstein Show on Thursday (Read more: Quebec Spring Holstein Show Results) that had milking cow classes  in excess of 25 animals , the heart of dairy cattle showing in Canada is certainly in Quebec.  One great thing to see was Donald Dubois, winner of the  showman Breeder’s Choice awards (Read more: The Winners of the 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards are…) in the ring.  Donald is truly one of the greats and was in fine form at the show.

From the first class of the day, highlighted by Pierstein Gold Chip Rockstar who won the Sr. Calf class and  went on to become Honorable Junior Champion and who will sell in the Canadian National Convention Sale (Read more: National Convention Sale), you knew the classes were going to be deep and have tons of quality.  Handling this was none other than the living legend Marc Comtois.  While there isn’t anything Marc has not accomplished in the industry, it was great to see Marc working in the ring, passing on his considerable experience to his son Steve, who has now become a partner in Comestar. Holsteins.

marc and steve comtois

Great uncle Carl Saucier and the 3rd generation ferme Jacobs having fun at Quebec Spring Show.

Great uncle Carl Saucier and the 3rd generation ferme Jacobs having fun at Quebec Spring Show.

Speaking of passing it on to the next generation, anyone attending the show had to be touched by some of the special moments from young ferme Jacobs these cute kids.  And if the picture from the Premier Breeders presentation is any indication, it is certainly a family affair (Read more: Ferme Jacobs – Success is all in the family!).

preimer breeder quebec spring show ferme jacobs

Watching Marc handle the mature cow class that came down to a battle between two greats Wendon Goldwyn Allie and Boulet Goldwyn Chalou reminded me of when Marc judged the Royal and had to choose between two legends Acme Star Lily and Rainyridge Tony Beauty.  Just like on that November back in 1999, Marc handled the situation with class and diligence, thoroughly going over them and ultimately choosing Allie for the win. Just like 1999 the mature cow class winner went on to be Grand, the same way Lily had.

The Bottom Line

We all face many challenges in the dairy industry and there is a great deal of uncertainty in some areas these days.  A quick visit to Quebec will show you that as long as you have passion for cattle, it doesn’t matter what language you speak or problems you face. Let your heart drive you and your head guide you and success is sure to follow.


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We are all familiar with the saying, “It’s not WHAT you know, but WHO you know that counts!” when you’re looking for a job.  However, when you’re in the business of selling cattle, it isn’t who you know but who knows YOUR COWS that will get the job done!

If you don’t intend to sell dairy genetics, stop reading now.  However, if selling is in your future, this article is for you.

Selling breeding stock in 2013 is a rapidly changing market which means that old marketing strategies like waiting for someone to beat a path to your door just doesn’t cut it anymore.  I know the argument, “But I’ve got the best (fill in the blank with cows, bulls, calves, embryos or genetics.) They sell themselves.” To start with, all the great genetics in the world won’t have you making deposits in the bank, unless the right people (aka the buyers) know what you have to offer.

Grab Customers by the Horns and Fire Up Your Brand

You could be the best dairy cattle breeder the world has ever seen, however, if no one knows you exist you might as well be doing something else.  Branding is about letting the world know that you are here and that you are selling exactly what they need. Just like a brand burns into cowhide, you want to make a memorable impression on the marketplace.  When they’re looking for embryos, heifers, cows and bulls, you want your Herd Prefix to spring immediately to their minds. Long before you offer a product for sale, make sure you know what the market is looking for.

Don’t Just Shoot the Bull. Get Them Talking About Your Cows!

Every time you shake a hand, you market your brand.  Think of all the people you interact with daily. Share your passion so that when people talk about you they become walking, talking advertisements for what you’re selling. What other farmers say about dairy breeders is becoming the most important input in cattle genetics buying decisions. Statistics say that more than two-thirds of buyers seek review or recommendations from others.  And we’ve all been put off a product or service by a lone bad review. Make sure that everybody has heard great things about your herd. Revenue starts with your reputation and the reputation of your cow families.

You Must Have a Tale – not just a Tail – to Sell

Even if you don’t believe what you offer is truly spectacular – and it’s important to be honest with yourself about that – there are still many ways to differentiate yourself from others.  Every breeder is not starting from the top 10% and there are many improvements to be made along the way. Make sure you know what your genetic “improvers” are. Educate the audience so they know the story of your success breeding strategy and how it can work for them.  Of course, your usual farm charm and gregariousness will help too. Buyers love to be part of a success story.  Share your good news! Follow up with buyers.  Encourage their success and share it online, on your website and over the farm fence.

Establish Your Cow-Know-How

Once you have captured the interest of your audience, you must then establish your cow sense.  People do business with those they trust.  Deliver what you promise.  That is your brand.

But some will say, “I’m not a company. I’m just a one-person-show.  There is no one else to help me market my genetics.” That’s one of the biggest branding myths out there! Everyone you know is on your “marketing team” and can help spread the word! The truth is everyone already has perceptions, thoughts and feelings about you and your herd. This is why it’s so critical to take charge of your brand definition.  Leaving it to chance is no way to build a genetics business. After all great herds didn’t get to be great by accident.

You Can’t Sell All By Keeping Secrets

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.  If you want people to buy genetics from you, they have got to know what’s in it for them.  What can they expect to improve in their own herd, if they buy something from yours?  This means you have to be as open about problems as you are with successes.  It is never as simple as the single sale.  That customer who leaves your farm– glad or sad – is going to have an impact on your future sales too! You have heard the saying, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold?” Well these “old friends” are your existing customers.  Just how golden are they?  Studies show that it costs six to nine times as much to attract a new sale as it costs to keep a current customer happy.  Responsiveness is the name of the game today.

Talk Back

There will undoubtedly be times when you face a less than perfect situation.  There are many things that can change both before and after money changes hands.  The only mistake is trying to “shout down” or “freeze out” any unpleasant discussion.  Learn from big business examples.  BP failed to engage with the debate after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010.  Their big budget advertising retaliation only served to alienate people and further damage the company’s reputation. In the real world and with dairy genetics in particular, caring trumps bullying every time.  The ability to engage with customers one-on-one particularly after purchase is vital to success and key to customer loyalty.  Focus on making sales transactions, easy, convenient and delivery of real benefits.

Market Dissemination. 10 Ways to Achieve Sales Success.

The test of your marketing success will be the number of customers who know to come to you for what they need. Your goal is to have your Prefix seemingly appear everywhere.  Seize every opportunity to make sure customers have heard about your Prefix from several different validating sources

  1. Make it easy for customers to find you and your cattle genetics information.
  2. Use all media: Internet, television, radio, farm signage. Start small. Keep growing.
  3. Subscribe to industry e-newsletters and blogs, follow Twitter, “like” or comment on dairy articles on Facebook, share YouTube videos. Your “brand” will come naturally.
  4. Invest in a good website.  Unfortunately a bad one will work against you.  Highlight what makes your genetics unique.
  5. Make it easy for customers to find you, find your farm and find your genetics.
  6. Learn how to work with potential clients to help them meet their goals.
  7. Always provide full disclosure, in writing, of cows available for sale, their performance and what you see as their strengths and weaknesses. Trust travels fast.
  8. Make sure information is always up-to-date and that you are always ready to work with customers to meet their needs.
  9. Don’t hesitate to send customers to another seller if you don’t have what they’re looking for. .  Your openness will be appreciated and the favor could come back in the future, from this same potential customer or even from your competitor.
  10. Keep up the connection. Don`t miss future sales because of poor follow-up.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If you can engage customers and enhance their good experiences with cattle breeding, you will undoubtedly build long-term dairy breeding sustainability and value! At the end of the day the it`s not YOU but YOUR CATTLE that will do the talking!


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Data Systems in the Future – Are We Ready?

Three times in the past two weeks serious dedicated dairy cattle breeders have asked the Bullvine questions that we too have been wondering about.

QUESTION 1: Why do we accept breeders collecting DNA samples but not owner recorded milk weights?

QUESTION 2: Why can’t milk weights from robotic systems be considered for publication purposes?

QUESTION 3: Why don’t milk recording programs take all relevant details about a cow when the milk yield data is captured?

We decided to turn those queries into a think piece so that even more breeder input can be brought into the discussion.

The Reality Is

The current data included in national data bases is based on what was the norm a couple of decades back. As well it is based on the previously accepted fact that only human eyes could determine if a recording was accurate or unbiased.

Times have changed. Today robots milk cows without human oversight. Technology is coming out every year on ways to capture more details that can help in breeding, feeding and managing dairy animals.

It is true that individual owners own their animal’s data. They paid for its capture, but only through having all the data for dairy cows in one or inter-linked data systems will breeders be able to advance their animals as quickly as possible.  No one breeder is an island onto themselves so the approach must be to use and make available all the animal data.

The reality is that it is time to put energy and resources into addressing the needs and possibilities when it comes to the data captured, stored and reported.

Capturing Cow Data

In both robotic and large herds owners do not milk the cows. The computers or cow milkers have no bias towards any one cow. Also systems are being used in some tie stall barns where the RFID tag identifies the cow and the system electronically captures the yield. In these systems the data is captured for each and every milking.

QUESTION 4: Why is that data not available for others to see?

QUESTION 5: What can be more accurate than recording every milking?

Surely we are not prepared to argue that eight to ten single milking observations in a lactation by a third party person is more accurate than every milking captured by the milking system.

Canada found twenty years ago that owner recorded milk weights and collected milk samples were accurate enough for sire proving purposes. Data that is 95% accurate is much superior to no data at all.

In the foreseeable future there will be parlour systems that can instantaneously provide readings for butterfat %, protein %, SCS, milk temperature and hormone levels and we expect in time readings for fat composition, protein composition and a host of other readings. Wow won’t that be useful information to use to breed, feed and manage?

Question 6: Will this further information be moved off the farm into the national data system?

Just last week it was reported at the Progressive Dairy Operators Conference that RFID ear tags may have use for measuring temperature and ear movement to monitor heats in tie stall barns. That is interesting.

Data Starts Early

Calves are to be identified at birth with RFID tags.

Question 7: Why is it not possible to use technology that now exists to collect a piece of the ear tissue for DNA analysis?

That way every animal would have a DNA profile at birth. With the very interesting things we are learning on DNA profiles and heifer management, we have just scratched the surface of this crystal ball.

Calves are now being fed by computers from day three or four of age. There will potentially be a very useful data set there that can be of great benefit when determining genetic merit, feeding programs and management practices.

Let’s Dream the Possible Dream

But it does not end there! Many other details and data sets exist that are not part of the national data base but that can be useful for animal traceability, food safety (mastitis and other drug treatment), foot care, reproduction, production limiting diseases (i.e. Johnes), pedometers, rumen boluses (i.e. temperature),… and the list goes on.

Question 8: Are plans being made to link all dairy cattle data bases?

But Is It Official?

In the past, if a piece of information could not be authenticated then it could not be published.  In the future, every farm using genetics to advance their animals will, out of necessity, need to capture and use more data than they have ever had to in the past. Official and unofficial applied when breeders were or were not prepared to trust the method of data capture.

In today’s world there are many systems of marketing and commerce that are monitored as necessary but without a third party observing every event. Breeders are routinely putting on Facebook events about their cows, including their milk yields, an animal’s profit per day, flushing history and ability to come into heat when milking 120 pounds per day. The world of dairy cow information is changing and changing quickly.

QUESTION 9:  What does the current “official” actually mean in the bigger future scheme of things?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

THE ALMOST FINAL ANSWER: Future data standards will need to address that more information will be needed and that data must be universally available. Breeder input is needed now to guide the development of future standards for data captured, stored and reported.


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3 Lessons Dairy Breeders can learn from Major League Baseball

It’s in the air!  Spring shows are starting.  In some regions cows are getting outside for the first time in months.  Most importantly, in major league baseball, spring training is over and it’s time to start the games that really matter. Every year Opening Day is marked with great anticipation by baseball fans.  You can smell the hot dogs cooking on the grill and the feel of the leather glove in your hands.  It’s baseball time baby.  Now I bet you are wondering what dairy breeders can learn from baseball?  Well here are three lessons dairy breeders can learn from professional baseball.

Lesson #1: Moneyball

The book and movie (starring Brad Pitt) Moneyball tells the story of how Billy Beane, GM for the Oakland A’s, used statistical analysis to find players who were undervalued by other teams.  The movie was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  It made over $100 million. Billy Beane forever changed the way major league baseball teams look at assembling their teams.  No longer is it about your gut feel.  You need Jedi senses in order to develop winners.  .

In modern major league baseball, managers now play the percentages.  They usually go with what has a higher likelihood of success. So left-handed hitters bat against right-handed pitchers and vice versa.  Certain individuals will be in the lineup against certain pitchers because of their record against that pitcher. Fielders shift to cover the hitting tendencies of batters (like the famous Jim Thome shift).  Does this mean right-handed batters can’t hit against right-handed pitchers?  No.  Does it mean batters always hit to the same location or that the past will always repeat itself?  Certainly not.

In dairy cattle breeding, when we talk numbers, that means Genomics.  Genomics has greatly changed the way many breeders go about sire selection.  (Read more:  The Dairy Breeders Guide to Genomics, Genomics: Think Big Not Small and The Truth About Genomic Indexes – “Show Me” They Work! )  By knowing your breeding goals, understanding the genetics you have in your herd, and leveraging the power of genomics, breeders can greatly accelerate their genetic programs, and more importantly increase the efficiency. (link 30 efficient sires)

Does this guarantee 100% results?  Does this mean you are going to have the next World Dairy Expo Champion (Read more:  7 Sires to Use in Order to Breed the Next World Dairy Expo Champion) or top genomic sire (Read more: The Top 12 Holstein Genomic Young Sires to Use for Maximum Genetic Gain)?  No.  Genomics does not guarantee 100% results.  But percentages do play out.  For consistency and overall greatest rate of genetic advancement it’s best to follow the greatest reliabilities and leverage genomics to have the greatest probability of success (Read more: Genomic Young Sires vs. Daughter Proven Sires: Which one is best for reliable genetic gain).

Lesson #2: You’ve got to master the basics

In baseball the teams that win the championships are not always the ones who have the highest payroll, or the biggest names, instead it the ones who have mastered the basics and can do so consistently.  Advancing the base runner (hit, sacrifice or bunt), throwing to the correct base to get the lead runner out, backing up every throw and not throwing the ball away and getting the leadoff batter out, these are all the little things that contribute greatly to the success of major league baseball teams.

The same is true for your breeding program.  Using the greatest sires in the world, on the most expensive females in the world does not guarantee success.  You still need to master the basics of dairy farming in order to make success happen.  Producing high-quality forage, producing high-quality milk (SCC <100,000), raising healthy calves and healthy cows is pivotal to any breeder program.  Without mastering these basics all the genetics in the world will not make you a winner.  Think about it. How many traits are highly heritable and how many are heavily management dependent?  (Read more: The Genomic Advancement Race – The Battle for Genetic Supremacy)

Lesson #3: You need a good manager

Bob Melvin was named 212 AL Manager of the Year.

Just like having players that do the basics well, it’s important to have a good manager.  Often a good manager is the reason professional baseball players are willing to do the basics well.  A good manager is able to step back, assess the team that he/she has and then leverages player strengths and protects or improves their weaknesses.  Some dairy breeders think of their breeding programs as an art form and do not give it the level of analysis and business management it requires.  The best dairy farmers and breeders take the time to step back and ask themselves “What areas in my operation need more management?”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As in baseball, success in dairy breeding does not happen overnight.  It’s a long season in baseball and you have to be patient.  You can’t make all the necessary changes right away.  It takes years to build a championship team.  The same is true for a successful breeding program. It takes the right moves and an attitude of continuous improvement.  There will be setbacks and there will be lean times, but keep working at building a competitive business.  Don’t be discouraged. Don’t get impatient.  Never be complacent.  In baseball it’s three strikes and you are out.  In dairy breeding it depends on Moneyball, Mastery and Management. Fail at these three basics and there is no question your breeding program will strike out.


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Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed

The art of dairy cattle photography has certainly changed over the past 15 years.  With the introduction of digital cameras and advancements in programs like Adobe Photoshop, there is no question the industry is forever changed.  The problem is, with all these changes, there has been no one to establish or regulate a code of ethics to ensure that the animal you see in pictures is the same animal you are investing in when you buy embryos, progeny or semen from them.

I cannot tell you the number of times breeders have told us that the cow they saw in the picture looked nothing like the animal in real life.  While this non-reality has become acceptable for super models, that should not be the case with dairy cattle photos.  In the fashion industry you are not buying the genetics the super model has to offer, but rather the clothing she is wearing.  That’s a key difference.  A difference that many need to remember when taking and editing dairy cattle photos.  (Read more: Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist? And Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle Genetics) Sure we all want the animal to look her best but that means she still looks like herself and not some other animal all together.

The following are three techniques that many livestock photographers use that “most” would consider acceptable and yet they really do a great deal to make the animal look considerably different than her true genetic self.

Addition to Toplines

While photographers have been adding hair, foam, tape, etc. to cows’ toplines for years, programs like Photoshop make it much easier to do and even harder to detect.  (Read more: Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far)  The following is an example of just how much the typical picture has had added.  The light overlay (Fade) is the amount that was present in the final picture and the dark is the cow’s natural self.

topline hair add

Not a big deal some would say, but there is no question that this adds about 3-5 points on loin strength, 1-2 points on rump and drastically enhances general appearance.  It is being done so often these days that it actually catches your eye when it’s not done.  This is very much a FALSE representation of what an animal’s actually genetic potential is.

Over Exposure of Photos

To hide this type of work many photographers will over expose (brighten) the white sections of the photos or burn (darken) the black sections of an animal so the average eye cannot catch what has been done.  Here is an example of a cow that has had this one. The following is a picture comparing her topline as it appears in the final picture and  the same topline with the exposure corrected.

hair add lms

A very flat loined heifer that would have looked very common in her picture ended up looking much better.  In measuring the proportions of this animal we estimate that this animal has had 6-7 inches of “hair” added. The interesting point is that this animal is classified VG-85 and yet in her picture looks more like 88 or even 89 points.  A big difference especially in an animal that many breeders could potentially be purchasing genetics from and, more importantly, semen from her sons.

This not only makes a difference in their toplines, but also in the cleanliness of their legs and other parts.  By over or under exposing details as needed you can greatly hide their flaws.  Some photographers comment that since they didn’t “edit” the conformation of the cow, it’s acceptable.  By hiding the flaws with these techniques, they are greatly misrepresenting the animal’s natural appearance and genetic potential.


Have you ever noticed that the pictures you take with your own camera, even your phone camera, have more clarity than the ones that are taken by most professional photographers who have cameras and equipment costing thousands of dollars?  Why do you think that is?  Typically this is because of the Photoshop skills of the photographer.  To make all these “typical” edits and still maintain that level of clarity requires a great deal of skill.  Since most of the photographers are just that photographers and not graphic designers, that is an area that they have not mastered yet.  The easiest way to account for this is to reduce the clarity so that some parts of the picture are very clear and others are not.  Here is an example of the clarity of what a typical professional dairy cattle photographer’s picture should look like.  It is taken with the same level of equipment, and has only had slight color correction and no exposure adjustments to the animal.

Woodsview Excitation Tracy (udder ring)

How many professional photographers’ photos look this clear?  They should. They easily have the equipment to achieve this or even greater results.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While there is no doubt programs like Photoshop make it so that anything is possible, should it not be the job of the photographer to make sure the image they produce is the best possible representation of that animal  and not just what they think will sell the most embryos or semen?

To read more about this check out The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct

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

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