Archive for June 2013

In the End, All you have is your Name!

The dairy industry is not a large one.  It’s also an industry that loves gossip, controversy, and the latest rumor.  So when you do something stupid it does not take long for word to get around.  And that was before there was social media.  That is why I find it so surprising   that some breeders don’t realize that the dairy industry is a pretty small pond and that the ripples reach from edge to edge.

I have had the pleasure of knowing many different characters in the industry.  Some of them carried  a reputation that was much larger than life yet,  when you got to know them, they were actually pretty good people.  Then there are others who would tell you to your face how good they are or how “honest” they are and then turn and stab you in the back the second you weren`t  looking.  The challenge is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which one is which.

Whether it’s someone who loves to party hard and be the life and soul of the party, or how you conduct yourself in business, the number one thing you have is your name.   Once tarnished,  it  takes years to rebuild.   In the dairy industry there really is no difference between your personal and professional brand.  Many young people try to think that they can do crazy things and it will not affect them later in life.  The thing is, the industry is too small for that.  There are many very talented young people that  have  kissed away potentially great careers in the dairy industry by the stupid things they did in college or university.  There are also those that  have   taken years to regain the trust of others.

Social media has taken word of mouth and put it on steroids.  What used to take weeks or even months to spread through the dairy industry, now takes just minutes online.  There is a new reality in the dairy industry.  It’s no longer what you say and do to manage your brand or good name that matters.  It’s what others are saying about you online.  From our smartphones to our tablets and computers, to interacting with family, friends, colleagues and customers, our lives – and thus our reputations – exist online.

It may sound funny but it’s true.  Since starting the Bullvine I have seen it many times.  Breeders getting ripped apart by other members of the community on Facebook and other places and they don’t even realize that it’s happening.  But thanks to things like Facebook news feeds and Twitter streams, thousands of other members of the dairy industry do see it.  It may be as simple as someone being very critical of a cow or bull. Other times it can be a blatant attack on someone’s character.  However, since the victims  are not on these different social media platforms, they are not there to defend themselves.  Moreover, others that are reading these comments assume they`re the truth.

Another area where I have seen an extreme effect is dairy cattle livestock photography.  No group as a whole has been more ripped apart in social media.  While many of them have avoided Facebook as much as possible, it has not stopped breeders from expressing their opinions.  It was the barrage on photographers that led us to develop the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, in order to help rebuild their reputations.(Read more: Introducing the Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct)

Now we have all been there, where someone misrepresented what they were selling or we felt that we got the raw deal in a purchase agreement.  There have been some very legendary breeders that have been able to keep things like this under wraps.  But in today’s social world, things like this can go from known by one or two people to known by thousands in a moment’s notice.  That is why in today’s industry you have to conduct yourself above board 100% of the time.  Otherwise all it takes is a few comments on places like Facebook, before the whole world knows your true character.

Every day more and more breeders are getting on Facebook.  Breeders of all ages are enjoying the many benefits of connecting with breeders from around the world.  If you want to market your cattle to the world, there is no greater more cost effective platform than Facebook.  It’s no longer optional. It’s mandatory.  But that is just the first step. You also need to become an active member of the conversation.  Not just promoting only what you want to sell, (which kills your reputation), but also joining the conversation and developing friendships and a strong online reputation. It’s funny how some breeder’s true colors  come out online.  The ones that care about building community and helping others find that their posts get promoted like wildfire.  While others, who are just in it to suck money out of others, find that they get very little response to their posts. Inevitably,  t building a credible reputation online and forming real and lasting relationships with people, pays off in substantial ways, when you find yourself the center of negative online attention.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the dairy industry many breeders talk a lot about their name and their reputation.  The thing is sometimes they don’t understand the difference between how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them.  It’s not what you say that builds your reputation. It’s what you do. The key thing is to understand that when you make good decisions and stand behind what you say, especially when it’s difficult, your name, who you are, and what you stand for becomes something everyone can trust.  Because, when we leave this earth, your good name is all you really have.


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16 Sires Every Dairy Breeder Should Look At For Their Breeding Programs

top13of2013If you are like most breeders between the time spent sorting through the many different lists from around the world and listening to the propaganda the A.I. companies put out promoting their sires, the hype is enough to make a breeder’s head spin.  In order to bring clarity to the confusion, the Bullvine has filtered through the many lists, brought them into a common base and has developed the following four categories  sires that you should take a look specifically  for your breeding program.

Overall Performance

When looking for the sire the will help improve your herd across the board, we looked for sires that have a balance of production and longevity.  Additionally, we wanted high health and fertility traits that deliver a low maintenance cow (Read more – Fact vs. Fantasy: A realistic approach to sire selection).

    (Planet x O Man x BW Marshall)
    With his validation from top genomic sire to proven sire status, Observer is a sire that should be on all breeders’ lists.  This former No. 1 GTPI genomic young sire and worldwide father of sons is now the #1 gTPI sire in the USA and transmits excellent production (+1,602 Milk) and Protein (+52 Protein, +.02% Protein) with highly reliable data from over 200 milking daughters.  OBSERVER daughters have exceptional udders (+3.02 Udder Composite) and Type (+2.70 Type).  Observer will work best on tall females with lots of frame and that need udder improvement.
    (O Man x Aaron x Bellwood)
    When it comes to your breeding goals, Man-O-Man certainly is a sire that should still get consideration even for the most aggressive genomic programs.  Look for Man-O-Man to sire outstanding production from cattle that have correct feet and legs and strong mammary systems.  One area to watch him for is his rump angle, as his daughters can be a touch high in the pins.
    Massey is a popular sire of sons combining elite indexes with a great outcross opportunity.  Massey daughters are snug uddered with strong attachments.  Though they should be protected for rump angle (high) and dairy strength, his low somatic cell score, high herd life/productive life and strong fertility make Massey a great sire for your breeding program.
    (Facebook x Shottle x O Man)
    This Marbri Facebook son has some of the highest DGVs in the breed.  Look for him to sire extreme component yields from strong dairy cattle with great feet and legs.  One area to be cautious on using him is his body depth.  Both his sire stack and his DGVs would say this area needs protecting.
    (Man-O-Man x Lawnboy x September Storm)
    If you’re breeding for polled you are most certainly thinking of where the market is heading.  One area that I always find interesting is those breeders who breed polled, but in fact are only selecting for type.  If you are going to go polled you need to consider overall improvement and production as well.  Earnhardt P is one of the premier gTPI polled bulls in the breed.  He sires high protein and extreme NM$.  He has been used heavily as a sire of sons as a result of his polled status and high Net Merit.  Look for Earnhardt P to sire high components, with solid feet and legs and mammary systems.  One area he will need to be protected on is his rumps, as he can leave high pinned daughters that are a touch narrow.

Production Improvement

It might be easy to just take the top milk lists or combine the fat plus protein and say those sires are the best for overall production.  We here at the Bullvine would not want to totally forgo type as well as health and fertility so we are looking for the sires that give you the maximum production gain, without sacrificing everything to get it.  In addition to Observer, Man-O-Man and Earnhardt P mentioned above we recommend the following sires to improve production.

    (O Man x AltaSam x Patron)
    ALTAESQUIRE’s 2nd crop daughters seem to be outperforming his first crop proof.  Watch for ALTAESQUIRE to sire more production and components as well as better mammary systems than his current proof would indicate.  While offering dairy strength and rump improvement, ALTAESQUIRE needs to be used cautiously on mammary systems and feet and legs.  But if you are looking to put a production punch into a good uddered and legged cow/heifer, ALTAESQUIRE will do the trick.
    (Bolton x O Man x BW Marshall)
    ALTAGOALMAN is a proven sire from the high Genomic Index De-Su herd.  Though ALTAGOALMAN will sire outstanding production both his genomic proof and his daughter information would indicate that he needs to be protected on dairy strength.  He delivers significant overall production improvement.  While AltaGoalman will not hurt your udders and legs, he certainly needs to be protected on body depth and rump.  AltaGoalman is most definitely best suited for commercial environments but can also be used for a shot of production, if used carefully.
    (Robust x Planet x Shottle)
    This Robust son from 2012 Golden Dam Finalist AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA VG-87-2YR-USA, really is a genomic wonder.  Not only does he have some of the highest genomic values in the breed for production but he also has great functional type and health traits to go with it.  Here you have a sire that is over 2500 lbs. for milk, with positive component deviations, 2.50 for type, and over 7 for productive life.
    (O Man x Signif-P x Goldwyn)
    For those of you looking to get into polled there is Ohare-P.  Extreme production combined with functional type and good health traits make Ohare-P a sire that if you are breeding for the future, should be   part of your program.  He will need to be protected a little on % components, and frame and capacity.

Longevity Improvement

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

    (Goldwyn x Durham x Storm)
    While many would consider Atwood a show bull, and he is very good at that (Read more: 7 Sires to Use In Order To Breed the Next World Dairy Expo Champion) he is also a great longevity sire as well.  Unlike many of the top show sires who are negative for production and low fertility scores, Atwood actually has solid components and acceptable health and fertility numbers.  While you most certainly would want to protect him on production and daughter fertility, Atwood will add a punch of type to your high producing 2yr olds that, for whatever reason, may not be around for many more lactations.
    (Bolton x Bret x Rudolph)
    Dorcy is proving to be an outstanding longevity improvement sire, through both his sons and daughters.  Breeders interested in a Bolton son from an outcross pedigree, top-notch udders, very good feet & legs and functional traits may consider using DORCY.  Dairy Strength and Rump are only slightly above breed norms.
    (Altakool x Atwood x Shottle)
    An Atwood son sure to get a lot of attention is Alta5G.  While not from a big name show ring family, this type sire has a breed leading +23 DGV for Conformation in Canada.  Alta5G is from the same family at De-Su as Observer and, much like the other members of this outstanding genomic family, it seems that generation after generation keeping getting higher and higher numbers.  Look for him to sire daughters with outstanding udders and feet and legs, with loads of dairy strength.  One area that he will need to be protected on is his rumps, specifically rump angle and pin setting.
    This outcross sire offers great longevity improvement combined with strong health and fertility.  He does need to be protected on protein and milking speed.  However his great feet and legs, udders and health and fertility make him an outcross sire you don’t want to miss.

Health and Fertility Improvement

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

    (O Man x Die-Hard x Metro)
    If you are going to talk health and fertility, you’re going to have to take a look at Freddie.  While his type numbers may scare some, you cannot deny his extreme health and fertility numbers combined with solid production.  While I don’t expect to see many Freddie daughters in the show ring any time soon, he will work well in most commercial environments.  He will leave moderate sized daughters that have strong udders but very much need to be protected for dairy strength.
    (Domain x Bolton x O Man
    S-S-I DOMAIN LITHIUM has some of the highest DGV’s for health and fertility.  Lithium is from one of the top genomic cows in the breed, GLEN-TOCTIN BOLT LUCILLE VG-87-DOM. Combining high herd life, low Somatic Cell counts and high daughter fertility with over 1600 lbs. of milk, 110 of fat and protein and 2.5 points on type makes Lithium a great choice when looking for improvement.  It is interesting to note that his DGV’s for health and fertility are almost 8% higher than the next highest genomic young sire (BRANDT-VIEW ALTAOTIS) and 50% higher than his own official index, indicating that he really is the sire to use when wanting to address this area that has flown under the radar far too long.
    (Destry x Lawn Boy x September Storm)
    For those of you that are really looking to breed to where the market is heading, there is LADD-P-RED.  He is the highest health and fertility polled sire in the breed today.  These are two key aspects that breeders around the world are looking for.  (Read more: Why Is Everyone So Horny For Polled? and How Healthy Are Your Cows?).  While LADD-P-RED will not wow you with his production, his strong components, with solid type make him a sire that will fit into most breeding programs.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We have stated it many times.  In maximizing your genetic gain, you can’t simply choose   the very top of the TPI or LPI list.  You need to make sure that your matings are the best corrective cross.  Breeding great cattle is part art and part science.  You need to have both parts.  It takes careful consideration and generation after generation of corrective mating to breed great cow families.  That is why, instead of just giving you a list of the top 16, we have tried to provide you with insight into which sires will provide you with the maximum gain in each specific area.  It`s all about choosing what is best for you.


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“Life begins at the end of our comfort zone” quotes Katie Kearns of Wisconsin, USA about her dairy exchange experiences. She explains. “Traveling or working abroad pushes me to continue with more experiences.  Sure, it can be nerve wracking to move to another continent but that is what is exciting about it as well. It is a chance to immerse yourself in a new place, surround yourself with new faces and push yourself above your limits.  What you know about dairy cattle can take you somewhere you have never been.” She concludes with her favorite sales pitch, “I promise you, you will never regret it.”

Katie Kearns & Ryanna Allen Topsy EX94 (Hon Men Champion IDW 2010)

Katie Kearns & Ryanna Allen Topsy EX94 (Hon Men Champion IDW 2010)

Out of Country Experiences

From the hosting side of dairy exchanges, Dianna and Dean Malcolm of Blue Chip Genetics (Read more: Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Forward in Five Gears! And Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Gobsmacked in Australia), confirm all that is good. Dean says “The reason why we considered hosting international guests was because when I travelled through North America the hospitality from everybody was phenomenal. I always thought if I was ever in the position to take someone in or share what we have with someone, I’d be all over it.” Dianna evaluates their success. “In the main, we have been incredibly lucky with the caliber of young people who have stayed with us.”  She enthuses about several stand-outs who have lived with them so far.” Definitely Ben Yates (UK, Wyndford Farms), Sheila Sundborg (Suntor Holsteins, Canada), Darci Daniels (USA) and Katie Kearns (now at Gen-Com).” They have also welcomed guests during International Dairy Week who have developed into close friends and partners in cattle. “Chris McGriskin (Canada) has been with us for seven years.  Jamie Farrell (Canada) is another regular and Thomas Deuschel (Canada) is another special member of our IDW team. They are now all part of our extended family and Dean considers Chris as his brother … he just loves those guys and appreciates their extreme ability with cattle, natural teamwork, sense of humour and deep friendship.”

Dianna and Dean Malcolm of Blue Chip Genetics have played hosts to youth from around the world.

Dianna and Dean Malcolm of Blue Chip Genetics have played hosts to youth from around the world.

Where Dairy Passion Meets International Opportunity

There are many good stories from both sides about how like minded people found each other.  Sheila Sundborg’s story started with a picture. “While in Australia in 2010, I had taken some candid shots of Dean and Di’s Grand Holstein /Supreme Champion Bluechip Drake Whynot at the Royal Melbourne. I emailed the photos to share with them.” Friendly emails and a farm visit established their connection. For Darci Daniels the internet played a role. “I did a few Google searches for dairy farms in Australia and Bluechip showed up. I saw some of the cow families and genetics that they were working with and it looked like a beautiful place. I also saw their Journal, CrazyCow and read how passionate they were for their cattle and I knew I wanted to work there.” Di recalls how they met Katie Kearns through their network and connections with Ernie Kueffner and Terri Packard. “Katie had worked at Arethusa full time for three years and she was looking to spend some time in Australia and I believe she got our contact from them.” Katie had strong reasons for wanting to try an exchange, after her work experience at Arethusa Farm and because of her goal of always working with the best possible dairy cattle.  “I wanted to find somewhere to work that had high expectations of themselves and employees.” Even though this meet up seemed very well thought out, Dean Malcolm attributes the matchups to “good luck” from their end of the deal. Dianna enthuses. “Dean met Chris McGriskin at the World Dairy Expo through his UK friend, Ben Yates (who was Dean’s best man at our wedding), and once they had a drink together there was no going back!!! Perhaps it is also a slight case of, ‘birds of a feather flock together’.” Serendipity or not, the Malcolm’s feel strongly about the results. “We wish all these people lived closer to us so that we could visit with each other much more often.”

australia dairy

Broadening Perspectives

One of the benefits for both exchange hosts and their guests is the opportunity of seeing yourself through each other’s eyes. Dean agrees.”It’s great to share experiences with such a diverse and talented group of young people.” Darci speculates. “Growing up and living my whole life in Wisconsin has led me to under appreciate the resources for the dairy industry that are in my back yard. We have such a wealth of knowledge, ideas and products. I met many people in Australia who would die for the opportunity to come to World Dairy Expo.” For Katie Kearns her expectations were very targeted. “One thing I knew about going to Bluechip was that Di was one of the best in the business when it came to raising calves, an area I was looking to gain more experience in. I was fortunate to spend a heap of time with her in the calf area.  Being able to observe and work with her on a daily basis was a great learning opportunity for me.” Sheila Sundborg drew from Di’s marketing background. “I was able to learn a lot about marketing and the step-by-step process of publishing a magazine (Crazy Cow) including layout, stories and interviewing people.”

australia grey scale

Eliminating Fears and Misconceptions

Those who haven’t had exchange experiences may have fears about the myriad details of dairy exchange logistics. Speaking for Bluechip Genetics, Dean outlines their cow focused philosophy, “We don’t try to jam our ideas into the visitors. But I guess we have our way of doing things.  Our biggest thing is being kind to the animals and listening to them so they know them inside and out.” We have, of course, had a few young people that have not fitted with us. And in those instances we generally try and find them another gig, so their trip is still what they hoped it would be. We try to keep it all positive and we understand that not everyone gels with each other and the important thing is to be aware of it and fix it before it becomes more complicated.”

Top price at the Bluechip sale was Bluechip Goldwyn Frosty, Goldwyn X Dundee x Harvue Roy Frosty, sold for Top price $72000 (Pictured here with the outstanding sale crew)

Katie was part of the team at the recent Bluechip sale that saw a top price of $72,000 for Bluechip Goldwyn Frosty, Goldwyn X Dundee x Harvue Roy Frosty (Pictured here with the outstanding sale crew)

Expanding Dairy Insights

Katie provides her viewpoint and compliments Dean and Di and the effort they put into their cattle. “They consistently turn out cattle that are quiet and easy to work with.  It makes for an enjoyable experience when you work with animals that are properly taken care of.” Darci also appreciates the influence that the Malcolms have had on her (and now her husband too),”I admire how Dean and Di have the softness to raise such calm animals, yet have the strength and the drive to set big goals and accomplish them one after another.”  Sheila zooms us out to the big picture, when talking about her bigger viewpoint. “Working in Australia and visiting NZ showed me how dairying is without a quota system and barns.   It also gave me a better perspective on global marketing and trade.”

Katie Kearns and Kelvin taking a much earned break after the show at the recent International Dairy Week

Katie Kearns and Kelvin taking a much earned break after the show at the recent International Dairy Week

Travel is the Great Teacher

“You learn so much about yourself when you travel and completely commit yourself to soaking up every opportunity.” says Katie Kearns. “After I finished university,  it didn’t take me long to figure out that as long as I was willing to work hard and find  some connections, showing cows could take me around the world and then some.”  Sheila concurs. “Working abroad with local farmers/breeders for me is the best way to travel and learn. You get a different perspective than if you were just passing through as a tourist.”  She has had work placements during college that took her from the Maritimes to the Rocky Mountains in Canada and travel experiences in the UK, Europe, and Australia. Katie also participated in two different study abroad trips: the first to Ghana, Africa and the second a combination trip to Egypt, Tunisia, and Spain.  She sums up her experience. “Since then I have been hooked on traveling and seeing the world. I can find myself and discover what I’m made of.

early moring australia

Lasting Life Lessons from a Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience

Because of the relatively brief time that hosts and visitors spend living together it is important that they share interests and are on the same page regarding their expectations.  Di sees it as win-win situation for both sides. “We like genuine people, who love animals, who are hard working, fun and willing to learn.  And we learn a lot from them too.”Sheila encourages anyone who has the opportunity to go for it and make the most of it. “You only live once so make the most of it. Everyone has positive things to offer. Learn from those you work with.”  Katie Kearns is building a considerable resume of work experiences with memorable time spent with people and cows. “I have had great opportunities to work for many different show strings and sale crews – all giving me valuable working experiences and creating awesome connections in this industry.” Darci’s advice is emphatic. “Go do it and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.” Exchange has meant a lot to her personally. ‘It taught me how to live in the moment because I knew that on many of the journeys I took abroad it would be the only time in my life that I would be able to experience that.” Darci seconds Katie’s enthusiasm for exchange and encourages those with the opportunity to “live in the moment.” She expands on the theme. “When you’re 10,000 miles away from home, you probably won’t get to go back to many of those places again and will never get those moments back.”

Darci and Justin Daniels

Darci and Justin Daniels

Building International Bridges

The Malcolms hope others will take the opportunity to host a dairy exchange. “As an example of young people forging their way in the world, we are routinely blown away and inspired by Katie, Darci, Justin and Sheila’s intelligence, focus and work ethic. Katie is just so together and fun to be around; Darci and Justin’s push to buy their own farm and stock it with good cattle is single-minded and Sheila’s talent in so many areas (including photography) tells us that we have actually been the lucky ones to have these exciting young people in our lives. To be honest, our time in this industry would be much less interesting without our regular contact with them.

“They are incredible people to be around, whom, we have no doubt will excel in whatever they do. We were just lucky enough to be a port of call in their journey of life.”

Dean summarizes by saying that hosting young people has been very positive for them.

“We couldn’t recommend it more highly.  This is one of the reasons our industry is so global. It’s a fantastic experience and you often make connections and friendships for life. North American young people universally have so much understanding of the work involved in show cows and developing young cattle, often thanks to the 4H program. We’re so jealous it’s not in Australia. We find the young North Americans intelligent cattle people who understand the detail work that it takes with high-end cattle. It has made it so easy to welcome them into our home.” Speaking as a young person who has had opportunities to travel extensively in Canada and parts of the US, Sheila Sundborg says “It was just natural to want to explore more of the world.” She confirms that connections are relatively easy to make in the dairy business. “Through working with Reece Attenborough (of Australia) at Rapid Bay Jerseys, I made close contacts in Australia.” Now she enjoys the two way street that exchanging offers. “My travels have allowed me to promote Suntor genetics and the farm has received many visitors over the years from people I have met while working or traveling.”
australia dairy landscape

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Katie Kearns expresses what exchanging to Australia meant to her. “I cannot even begin to describe how thankful I am to Dean and Di for giving me the opportunity to travel to Australia and have an amazing six months with them.  My experience there has reinforced my belief and my love for the show cow industry.  What other profession could I have that would allow me to travel around the world doing what I love, create life-long friendships and give me experiences and memories to last forever? Sheila Sundborg concludes that a dairy exchange always boils down to one thing. “It’s the people you meet along the way. The further you go the smaller the world gets. It’s a great industry to be a part of.” All three exchangers endorse her future plan. “I am using my network to give the chance to other young dairy enthusiasts to have similar experiences.” Obviously they all agree that a great dairy exchange is definitely a change for the best!”


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Genetic Advances: Keeping up with the Evaluations

Breeders like to have benchmark numbers that they can refer to when selecting bulls, buying embryos or selling animals. Numbers like 2000 TPI™ just a few years back were unattainable but now have been surpassed. Some breeders are saying that they cannot keep up with the fast pace while others are taking rapid breed advancement in their stride. The Bullvine decided to study and report on the genetic advancement that has been made over the past few years.

Continuous Turnover at the Top

Five to ten years ago TPI™ for the top USA proven sires remained the same in composition and value year after year.  Back then proven sires stayed current for three to five years. Well that has changed.  We have new norms on the rates of change and the length of time daughter proven bulls are used heavily. From April 2012 to April 2013 ten new bulls entered the top twenty TPI™ list and the average TPI™ of the top twenty increased by 44 points going from 2150 to 2194.  In Canada fourteen new sires were on the top twenty LPI list in 2013 compared to 2012 and the average LPI was 292 points higher. No longer can breeders pick a bull and expect him to remain a list topper for at least three years.

Expecting More of Young Sires

The rate of change is even more evident in the young unproven bulls. Table 1 contains the averages for the top twenty young sires by year of birth. The source for this information are the CDN files and reports as these were readily available for the young sires genomically tested and sampled or about to be sampled in North America.

Table 1: Average Young Sire Indexes

Birth yearLPIMilkFatFat %ProteinProtein%CONFMammaryFeet/LegsStrengthHerdLifeSCSDaus Fertility

Note * Not all young sires born in 2012 have yet been released for sampling
All indexes listed are on a 2013 base

From the top twenty young sires born in 2009 to those born in 2012 their LPI  increased by 80 points per year. The 2012 crop are significantly higher for their type indexes with higher values also for Herd Life and Daughter Fertility.

The top twenty young bulls born in 2012 and that will be sampled are all by high genomic young sires with fifteen of them from dams whose sires are proven bulls.  The genetics industry continues to change at the rate that bulls are used and then replaced by other newer sires that are superior.

Heifers Rise Higher Too

Our study and analysis on heifers could only go back to 2011 as by 2013 they are milking and their own performance forms part of their indexes. However Table 2 shows that the top heifers have higher fat and protein yields and percentages and high indexes for Herd Life and Daughter Fertility. These are important changes for breeders that sell or buy embryos or heifers. Many of the points that the Bullvine has been recommending are being seen in the top heifers: – hold on to milk yield but increase fat and protein yields and percentages and pay more attention to productive life and fertility.

Table 2: Average Heifer Indexes

Birth YearLPIMilkFatFat%ProteinProtein%ConfMammaryFeet/LegsStrengthHerdLifeSCSDaus Fertility

Note * Only includes heifers born January to April in 2013
All indexes listed are on a 2013 base

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Both breeders and marketers of dairy cattle genetics face the reality of faster rates of genetic advancement and animals remaining list toppers for shorter periods of time. The trends seen in heifers of holding the milk while increasing fat and protein and increased emphasis on longevity and fertility can be expected to continue.  Genomic evaluations have been a major contributor to these changes but so also has breeder acceptance of the need for long lived profitable dairy cows that are able to perform while requiring less labour. With each new index release run breeders can expect to see new list toppers. Use the best and move on from the rest.

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.




Success Isn’t Sexy

Success isn’t sexy.  It’s all about doing the basics the best you can with passion and consistency.  Not one of the uber-successful people I have ever worked with got there without outworking everyone around them.  The old line remains true “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”  The dairy industry is no different from that of any other. Yes there is a lot of work involved in farming, but to be a successful dairy breeder you need to work hard and be persistent.

Too often we see herds that seem to capture all the headlines and own all the super star cattle and think, “Man, life must be easy for them!”  The thing that many don’t realize is that behind all the flash and cash there is a lot of hard work.

Dairy Cattle Breeding Is Not a Popularity Contest

The herds that I have seen that have the greatest consistency from animal to animal, and generation to generation, don’t always use the most popular sires, or only the bulls from the top of the lists.  They take the time to really look for what their breeding program needs and more accurately, exactly what that particular animal needs in order to be improved for the next generation.  Does that mean they have to be great evaluators of cattle?  No.  Sure it helps.  But you can also use tools such as type classification and genomics to assist with this. (Read more:  Dairy Cattle Genomics and Dairy Cattle Breeding Recommendations)  What it really means is that you take the time to figure out what your definition of success is and then work at achieving it.

Sweat the details

Dairy cattle breeding is not rocket science.  While I am not saying it is easy to breed the next great one, what I am saying is that it is as much about hard work as anything else.  The reason you see many of these herds consistently breeding great cattle, is because the take the time to sweat the small stuff.  They take the time to think about each matting and consider just what sire will provide the greatest result.  From how they run their close-up program to every one of their transition programs, uber successful breeders take the time to sweat the details.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sure we would all love to be rock stars in the dairy industry.  But it isn’t going to happen overnight.  It takes time and effort to achieve success.  There is no doubt in the dairy industry that the harder you work the luckier you get.  There is no instant gratification in the dairy breeding industry, it takes hard work and persistence in order to achieve success.  The sexy part comes at the end of the road not at the beginning.


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Why I Don’t Care If You Like Me

hatersHere is an idea that I am sure will shock many of the people who read The Bullvine.  I don’t care if you like me.  I really don’t.  I actually think it’s better if you don’t like me. That tells me that I am achieving my ultimate goal.  You see.  We didn’t start The Bullvine to become liked by everyone, or to be the most popular people in the dairy industry.  We started The Bullvine to provide some leadership in a time of uncertainty.  Besides being a leader isn’t about being liked.  It’s about doing what’s right.

So many leaders in the dairy industry are afraid of conflict.  They hide from it. They have this deep-seated need to be popular and admired.  They hate ruffling feathers and making waves. In reality they are insecure and not comfortable living in their own skin.  Great leaders are different than that.  They fearlessly make tough calls. They speak the truth as they see it.  They run their own race, making the right decisions and worrying little about public opinion.  They are courage in action.

Since starting The Bullvine we have said and done some things that have been extremely unpopular.  Speaking out against photo manipulation (Read more: Introducing the Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over exposed), or breeding ethics (Read more: Has Genomics Knocked Out the Hot House Herds and The Hot House Effect On Sire Sampling), didn’t win us many friends in the industry.  We didn’t do it to make friends.  We did it because it was the right thing to do.

It wasn’t easy.  The right thing to do is generally the hardest thing to do.  Sure we could have taken the easy route.  But isn’t that what led us to these issues in the first place.  Cattle photographers doing what is easy instead of what is right?  Sure we can add topline hair and tails back in Photoshop.  But where do you draw the line.  When does that become no longer respecting the craft that you love so much?  I often see photographers these days not making sure that they get the lighting correct.  “We can just touch it up in Photoshop later”.  Being a leader is not about doing what is easy. It’s about doing what is hard, when you know it is the right thing to do.

The same can be said about breeding ethics.  Sure you can cheat the age of a calf or sneak a few extra pounds in on a milk test.  But where is your integrity?  Integrity is what you do when no one is watching. It’s doing the right thing all the time.  Not because it’s the easy thing to do.  Not because it’s the most popular thing to do.  It’s because it’s the right thing to do.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When you lead from a position of truth, justice and fairness you’ll have your critics.  I once heard this quote and it   rings true for us here at The Bullvine, “Great people build monuments from the stones that their critics throw at them”.  If we listened to all the critics that say what we’re am doing is wrong, we would never bring about change in the industry.  And that is not the reason we started The Bullvine.  We started The Bullvine to lead from the front. We won’t hide behind the lines.


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MODERN DAIRY MARKETING: Winning Hearts, Minds and Wallets

It’s haying season here.  A wonderful time of year for dairy farmers who produce the food that feeds the cows that produce the milk that feeds the consumers.  As we are watching the weather with one eye and with the other one on the cows and machinery, do we ever spend any time thinking about the next person who buys our dairy genetics? We love dairying and we do it to the best of our ability.  Our hearts and minds are engaged.  Do we consider engaging the hearts and minds of our genetics customers? Or are their wallets all we care about?

We have to be careful that we don’t think only of the pay cheque and forget that we are providing a product for real people.  In today’s marketplace we have two distinct customers.  First, the milk drinkers who we are more or less involved with, depending on the product we produce and what country we produce it in.  And secondly, the cattle buying customer.  Just as our future in the dairy aisle depends on the product we deliver, our future in the genetics industry depends on what we deliver and not what we can get away with.

The milk drinking public gets turned off by the media message of scary farm practices, rising health issues and poor animal care.  These concerns reflect badly on each one of us in the dairy industry.  We can’t separate ourselves from the message. Likewise, when it comes to selling cattle, we have to respect ourselves and our customers enough that buyers know what we stand for. If we allow ourselves to be the type of business where responsibility ends once the cheque is cashed, then we deserve to have our sales drive out the lane and forget us the next time they buy.

Dairy Sales Are All About People First

If you ever found it impossible to find out details about animals in a sale. If you have been disappointed after purchasing an animal to find out that there is an issue that wasn`t revealed. If you ever found that you were taken in by the fine print in a contract, you know where bad feelings start. “It’s nothing personal.” is the exact opposite of how you feel.  It’s very personal!

Good Business is Built on Trust

Good dairy business kicks in when marketers are smart enough and brave enough to work side by side with their buyers for the same end result – good dairy cattle.  When full disclosure allows you to make informed decisions, you remember it.  You will go back to that source again and again.  Of course, this means that a huge opportunity exists. You will likely do best if you avoid misdirection and pandering and instead embrace an honest approach to doing business. RULE #1: Build trust by treating your customers like respected peers and admired family members.

As Good as Your Word

Think about the last time you were impressed by how you were treated in a sales transaction.  It’s unfortunate that it’s rare enough to be remarkable. It is so refreshing to find your issues meaning more than a dollar sign and receiving more than was promised and not simply the legal bare bones. Today – especially with the instant sharing possible through social media – your happy transactions and your sad ones are shared far and wide. The word gets out and has instant repercussions on your business credibility and bottom line.

Marketing is More About the Stories than the Sales

Social media has found its way into the dairy business and is having a tremendous impact. Everyday there are new blog posts, videos and press releases. While this is fantastic for agriculture as a whole, it can be really hard to get your dairy business noticed. If you want to rise above the herd, you have to have a good story that captures attention. You need to share what you believe in, who you are and what you stand for.  The invisible face behind a magazine ad or an AI brochure listing is too easily lost in the 21st century crowd.

Today You DON’T Get What You Pay to Advertise For

In the not too distant past dairy players where the ones with the money to step up to the marketing table. It took advertising money to make money. Today, with social media, a business of any size can connect with customers and do it without spending a dime on paid advertising. Social media has changed the game and now anyone can compete regardless of the size of their marketing budget.

Where to Go?  What to do?

No sooner do you get comfortable with one or two pieces of modern technology, then a whole handful more present themselves to your flying fingers. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube have totally changed the relationship we have with present and future customers.  It can be challenging to figure out where to focus your time and energy. Here again it’s not the single choice of one site over another.  In easily understood farmer terms, it’s about cultivating relationships. Find the way to tell your story in a way that is comfortable, honest and open and you will engage customers loyal to you and your business.

Talk is NOT Cheap

This may sound like a complete reversal from the “free” advertising mentioned earlier but, in this case, it is referring to what happens after everyone finds you and then has the ability to share their experience and thoughts, not just with the neighbor over the fence, but with hundreds to thousands of people.  Today, more than ever, you must walk the talk and be accountable to your customers.  The minute what happened in your barn, in your office or at your auction sale hits the wires it becomes the measure of your business.  Believe it!  When bad news gets out there it’s going to be shared so quickly it will make your head spin and your bank balance shiver in fear.  In the past when bad news raised its ugly face, you had a certain amount of time to plan how to respond.  Today, if you wait to respond, it can be too late.  Responding in real time with real information will be more successful in transforming negative publicity into a building opportunity.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Is there a way to use social media so that you won`t have to suffer through scary mistakes?  No! Mistakes happen in any environment.  Equipment fails.  Hay weather upsets the routine.  Cows get sick. And that’s just one farm.  Ramp that up to real-time techie interaction on the web and you can’t expect perfection of yourself or anyone else.  Rather than worrying about making mistakes, you should be worried about not making them!  If you’re not experimenting with social media that means you’re missing out on a myriad of ways to win hearts, minds and wallets!



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Isaac Lancaster: The British Are Coming. The British Are Coming.

“That Isaac Lancaster, I bet he’s never milked a cow…….!”  If that’s your first impression upon meeting the third of four Lancaster siblings from I-Cow Holsteins in North Yorkshire, UK you would be very wrong.

Although this comment makes Isaac smile when he travels to North America, he does prefer to set the record straight. “I have three siblings, two older sisters, Rebecca and Jennifer, and a younger brother Luke. We all worked on the family farm with our parents, Richard and Ann Lancaster, from a young age helping to milk before going to school and again when we returned. Running a dairy farm is something I’ve been involved in all my life.”  

Growing the I-Cow Possibilities

I-Cow Holsteins fully represents the dairy passion of this young family starting with the pre-fix selection. Perfectly named I (for Isaac), C (for Claire), O (for Oliver) and W (for William) the I-Cow passion for detail and family planning continues with their dairy herd. “We feel that to milk as many cows as possible for the size of your farm is the only way forward in today’s dairy farming industry as your set costs remain the same. We are currently milking around 160 cows three times per day at I-Cow, but plan to increase to 300 as quickly as we can. Since my brother went to work at Ponderosa Holsteins in Spain, I have taken over the running of the farm along with my wife Claire and our sons William & Oliver. I also buy elite cows for different clients as well as dealing in commercial cattle which brings in extra income. My parents are partners in the farm and they work on the farm too, helping to rear the young stock in the winter months. They spend the summer in the south of France where we have a villa that we rent out for holiday lets.

Perfectly named, I-Cow stands for I (for Isaac), C (for Claire), O (for Oliver) and W (for William).

Perfectly named, I-Cow stands for I (for Isaac), C (for Claire), O (for Oliver) and W (for William).

A “Model” Plan and Sire Stacks

When you strive for dairy excellence, your breeding philosophy shapes the growth of the business. Isaac confirms this. “My breeding philosophy has always been breed for the true type model. When you have 300 cows in one herd they need to be functional. You need good udders, stature, dairy strength and most of all sound feet and legs because, if they can’t walk, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of the animal is. Also sire stacks are very important.  I feel that they do not get enough attention.  We have always used high type sires but now and again we throw a higher production sire into the pedigree to maintain the production. If you look back at the great sires throughout time, you will find it in their pedigrees also.” Looking ahead Isaac outlines future plans. “We will use mainly high type sires on our herd.  It doesn’t matter if some are a bit old as I will milk the daughters through the herd and I like to know what I am getting. Therefore, Atwood, Goldchip, Lauthority, and Sid. We will use a high genomic sire on the genomic cows but still have to like the pedigree, so we are using Cashcoin, McCutchen and Colt 45 at present.”

“It’s hard to pick a favourite cow”

The question of choosing a favourite cow is difficult.  Part of the reason for that is that passionate breeders are always looking ahead to the perfect one that is yet to come.  For Isaac choosing his favourites presents problems for him as well. “This is difficult. I have been lucky enough to own some world famous cows in partnership deals. Lylehaven Lila Z, Wabash Way Emily Ann and Drakeview Leduc Allure to name a few, but to choose one I would have to say Lila Z at this time. She wasn’t the greatest show cow ever, but the way her daughters have bred now with high type and high Genomics I will have to choose her. Her sire stack was great. Durham x Formation x Starbuck x Astrojet. And now with Goldwyn, Planet, Snowman etc. added to the pedigree, is why they are high in the genomic listings and still remain high in type.”




Bovines Beyond Borders

Also I have to mention taking a string of U.K cows to Fribourg, Switzerland to the European show. Myself, Mark Nutsford and Ben Yates made the decision to go even after the members of our breed society had been told it could not happen.  This was due to different government health regulations but with meetings, various discussions and perseverance, we made it happen and took seven head to the show. (Read more: GB Line-Up for the European Championships Announced!) The results were very good. One 1st placed animal, two 5th placed animals and some 7th and 8th placed too.(Read more: Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra Wins Grand at the 2013 All European Championship Show)  So we proved our point. Remember, we only had three herds to choose from whereas all the other competing nations had their whole country’s herds to choose from.  I believe that we did pretty well considering that we only had six weeks to organize it. In addition, the Spanish team that won the group competition consisted of two animals from the four that I bought in the UK for Ponderosa Holsteins:  Huddlesford Duplex Medora (Intermediate Champion) and Wyndford Atlas Winsome (2nd place 5yr old). Again, this is something the UK can be proud of. It is something that I feel does not get the promotion or recognition that it deserves for such a large accomplishment.”

HUDDLESFORD DUPLEX MEDORA VG89 Intermediate Champion European Holstein Show 2013

Intermediate Champion
European Holstein Show 2013

Mapping a Bigger Marketplace with UK Records

When it comes to accomplishments, those who organize cattle sales are well aware that it takes 110% commitment and loads of hard work. It takes even more to set benchmarks.  Isaac describes the logistics behind the Global Glamour Sale at Arethusa Farm. “The average of $97,500 at that time (pre-genomic) was a great result and I don’t think that this will ever be surpassed now for animals without genomic data. I spent nearly seven months of my time in the U.S. and Canada that year organising the sale animals with Ernest and Terri and enjoyed every minute of it. We had three unanimous All- Americans in the Sale (Apple, Hazel and Dundee Mona) and also a number one TPI Animal in Wabash Way Emily Ann.  Also, we sold an R.C Shottle Heifer (Riverdale Redrose from Lavender Ruby Redrose that was born in England to Willsbro Holsteins of the UK for $255.000 (£127,000 at the time) which is still a breed record price for a U.K animal to be sold. Unfortunately, this never gets a mention which is typical U.K policy not to promote animals on an international level………..anyway don’t get me started on that one.” From an appreciative point of view, Isaac turns to those who provide outstanding support.  “I would like to give special mention to Wayne Stead, our head Herdsman, and Nathan Smith who do an excellent job in running the farm on a daily basis. Without them as part of the team it would not be possible for me to have the free time to travel and concentrate on other business.”

Genomics and Genetics.  Setting our GPS for Future.

Always prepared to accept change, including his beard going grey, Isaac weighs in on the impact of genomics. “In the last five to six years it has turned into the be- all and end- all of the future of the Holstein Breed.  Having said that, I find it strange that herds and individuals who sold only a few bulls to AI are now supplying large numbers of AI bulls to our industry.” This raises a further question for Lancaster. “Is it that all the clever cow men and sire analysts were not breeding or selecting the right bulls in the pre genomic era?? I think the idea of genomics is correct and we cannot and will not stop progress in any way, shape or form, but let’s hope that the people responsible have set the correct formula to move the Holstein breed in the right direction. That is the question we should be asking and only time will provide the answer.”

“Genomics is a great tool if it is not abused.”

Isaac feels genomics hasn’t changed things that much for I-Cow because they use it as a breeding and information tool. He explains. “If I buy a high genomic heifer for myself or a client I have to appreciate the pedigree and the individual animal not just the highest heifer in the sale which I feel some people get suckered in to. The number one GTPI heifer should not necessarily be bred to the number one GTPI bull. Check out the type linear on the heifer to see if she compliments the linear on the bull you are using on her. If this is not the case, you may have to use a sire further down the list because, if you don’t, you will get found out eventually.” Using genomics correctly as a tool is important but there are other considerations for Lancaster. “The biggest problem I can foresee is that the genetic pool is getting smaller and we won’t know what to use. The polled bulls will be used more I feel because there are different sires in the pedigrees that give us that option to gain entry to different bloodlines, so I can see the polled animals becoming more prominent.”

Projecting The Prominence of Polled

Looking deeper into the impact of polled genetics Isaac foresees changes. “I feel the polled business will get larger because in the modern world that we live in, animal husbandry and welfare will get to be a major issue. Some countries are now speaking of banning dehorning.  This could be a major change we see in the next 10-20 years. Also, and I hope I am wrong, but the way show cows are presented may change because of the same reasons which will be a disaster for everyone. I love showing cows and there is nothing better than seeing the Grand Champion at Madison stand there with the spot light on her in the centre of the ring chewing her cud. She doesn’t look that stressed out to me. But some people don’t understand and make ridiculous decisions.”

Riverdane Woelkechen 1st 5yr old 2013 All European Championship  Owned with Riverdane and Ponderosa

Riverdane Woelkechen
1st 5yr old 2013 All European Championship
Owned with Riverdane and Ponderosa

Mentors Pave the I-Cow Pathways to Success

Dairy breeders have long recognized that four areas have tremendous impact on dairy success: marketing, business decisions, personal connections and family support.  Isaac feels well served in all these areas. “I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some of the biggest players in the industry through my time spent working in North America.

On the marketing front I will say Albert Cormier. He was great with me when I ran the A.D.I Edition Sales and gave valuable advice on how to market and discuss individual cows and different families when talking with potential clients and also offered expertise on advertising in breed magazines and forming syndicate groups on high priced animals.

On a business front I will say Ernest Kueffner. We worked together on the Global Glamour sale. Ernie is an individual that will never be replaced because of his way with people and his thought towards business and having the best financial results. His attention to detail on a daily basis is second to none and with Terri Packard they make a great team.

On a personal level Dan Doner is the best family man I know and someone that we can all learn from. Life is not just about cows and money all the time, this can sometimes get in the way of what really matters in life, so special mention to him.

Also all of my family, especially my brother.  He’s my best friend and I am very proud of the job he is doing at Ponderosa Holsteins.  I hope that one day we can work together on the same project in the same country.

Isaac and his brother Luke, who is also the herd manager at Ponderosa Holsteins in Spain

Isaac and his brother Luke, who is also the herd manager at Ponderosa Holsteins in Spain

Positive publicity. Shared conversations.

Keeping the I-Cow name in the minds of the right people at the right time is an ongoing priority for Isaac. “We advertise in different Magazines at the moment and will advertise more in the near future. I like using Facebook because you can see who likes your posts and receive positive feedback (most of the time!) I feel that we do more business through Facebook than we would do through a website and it seems to work well for us. I think that it is an easier and more fun way to communicate rather than through e-mail and with today’s technology it’s a much faster way of communicating as many farmers now own smart phones.”

High Point Golden Rose VG-89-3YR-CAN Goldwyn x Damion  1st 4yr old Ontario Spring Show 2013)

High Point Golden Rose VG-89-3YR-CAN
Goldwyn x Damion
1st 4yr old Ontario Spring Show 2013)

Meeting the Marketplace

The marketplace is always right.  Isaac describes their philosophy. “We try to cover every potential market but use breeding sense.  If you have something for everyone you can always sell. We are currently working with a number of different animals to cover every market. Genomic, Outcross, Showring and Polled. Willsbro Emily Angel VG 86 2yrs (Planet x Emily Ann), Broeks Elfer VG 87 2yrs (Outcross sister to Snowman), Highpoint Golden Rose (Goldwyn x Damion – 1st 4yr old Ontario Spring Show 2013) and Rainyridge URW Ella P Red (Laron P X Destry x Mr Burns x Shottle) from the Tony Beauty family.  I have to fall in love with the animal’s type when I buy them and like to think they can all show no matter what market they will cover and all these cows do that for me. Also their sire stacks are what I like for their prospective markets.”

Willsbro Emily Angel

Willsbro Emily Angel VG 86 2yrs
Planet x Wabash Way Emily Ann (Who was purchased by Willsbro in Global Glamour Sale at Arethusa Farm co-managed by Isaac)

6 Steps to Success According to Isaac

There are really five… but only Isaac can claim the good fortune of having his wife for a partner.  After that he shares these five steps. “1. Keep your options open. 2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because if one basket breaks then you’ll need to have another to fall back on. 3. Remember every day is a school day and you can always learn something new however clever you think you might be and whatever your age may be.  5. Be friendly with everyone and don’t try to be something you’re not.” The most important thing to keep in mind is number 7 – last but not least. “There has always been an art to cattle breeding and that will never change so you have to ensure that you use the information correctly.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line – “Cheers to I-Cow”

With passion, hard work and humour Isaac Lancaster looks forward to a long and rewarding career in the dairy business for himself and his family.  The Bullvine and our readers wish the I-Cow all the best and assure Isaac that, upon hearing his name, many are already saying, “That Isaac Lancaster! Isn’t it amazing how passionate he is about the dairy business…..?”


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What has two heads, four eyes, eight limbs and can raise, show and sell cattle? That would be the ultimate dairy couple, otherwise known as Chris and Jennifer Hill of MD-Hillbrook.  The Hills are marriage-partners as well as business partners and it all started from their shared farm backgrounds, Chris raised at Wauwatosa Ayrshires and Jenn at Glad Ray Farm.  As they proceeded through education and work experiences they developed resumes that when combined provided a great foundation for their business.

The Lure of the Crowd

Chris worked for Maple Dell Farm in high school and went on the road as a full time fitter afterwards. Jen rounded out her agricultural roots with a degree in communications and a minor in marketing.  With this broad spectrum, the couple was well prepared for a full service dairy business with emphasis on show animals and auction sales. Throw in a motivated crowd, microphones and the possibility to set new records and who among us doesn’t envy them the opportunity to work every day in the industry’s two showplace settings – the show ring and the auction ring?

Chris is certainly one of the best in the business when it comes to selling elite dairy cattle.

Chris is certainly one of the best in the business when it comes to selling dairy cattle.

Call to Auction

Chris Hill’s show fitting skills provided him with a large network to build from for his business. He graduated from auctioneering school in 1990 and managed his first sale – the start of the March Madness Sale series – in 1993.  Today, with so much riding on the buying and selling of top animals, Chris has mastered the technique of making the crowd comfortable and keeping it light with a little humor.  Words come easily for him and both Chris and Jen say that for them the real measure of success is a satisfied client.
jennifer hill

Two’s Company: From Feed Pails to Shows and Sales

Chris and Jenn Hill live 5 miles away from Jen’s parent’s farm where their cattle are housed. They develop primarily show heifers with a few genomic or polled females.  Jenn works at the farm five days a week. Between the two of them they oversee the development and marketing of both show cattle and auction sales.  With such a constantly changing work schedule, Chris and Jenn’s enterprises provide a daily barometer for what is happening in the show and sale end of the dairy business.

Expo 2012 Display

Finding Their Calling

Through tapping into each other’s strengths the husband-and-wife team has a unique ability to provide customers with everything that is needed from genetics, to animal fitting and marketing. “Being a sale manager and auctioneer gives us many purchasing and marketing opportunities.”  Together they build excitement for the sale or the show animals being exhibited.  Jenn outlines some of the tools they use. “We use print media such as Cattle Connection, Red Bloodlines and Holstein World. We also have a website and Facebook page.” Referring to the latter Jenn points out why it’s effective. “Facebook brings a lot of traffic and is the fastest way to ‘spread the word’.” Whether it’s giving orders, taking orders, receiving order or everything in between Chris and Jenn make a great team.  Jenn says “We don’t think of it as balancing endeavors, we look at it as everything working together.” Chris points out that it has definite paybacks. “Being contacted to sell or manage/assist with a sale is a huge compliment for us.”

From Raising Cows to Raising Hands

Jenn outlines the parameters they work within. “Our breeding philosophy changes depending on what market niches we are in at the time.” Regardless of the area she makes one thing quite clear. “We always keep in mind a solid pedigree and try not to sacrifice type.” She goes on “Roxy has been a tremendous influence but the Ada family is gaining ground lately with popularity of Aftershock, Atwood, Attic, etc.”  She outlines four in particular:

Palmyra M-O-M Manhattan

Palmyra M-O-M Manhattan

Palmyra M-O-M Manhattan ET: She is owned in partnership with Ryan Shank. She is the number 2 Red/RC cow of the breed. We purchased this cow for her outcross pedigree as well as being a high genomic RC Man O Man and realized her numbers would rank in the top of the breed. She has flushed well. We have exported embryos and have several pregnancies. The cow herself will be offered in this year’s National Red and White Sale.

Bella View Shot of Gin VG-89 Nom. All-American Fall Yearling 2012 Shottle x EX-92 Goldwyn x VG-89 Cousteau x EX-92 Skychief x EX-96 Blackrose She Sells in the International Intrigue!

Bella View Shot of Gin VG-89
Nom. All-American Fall Yearling 2012
Shottle x EX-92 Goldwyn x VG-89 Cousteau x EX-92 Skychief x EX-96 Blackrose
She Sells in the International Intrigue!

Bella View Shot of Gin: We purchased her because she has a great pedigree and was a Shottle that could show. She is now VG89 as a two year old. She will sell July 27 at the International Intrigue. He stall mate, Briar Berry Contd Tabby Red is VG89 as a two year old as well.

Briar Berry Contd Tabby-Red VG-89 1st Sr. 2-year-old NY Spring Show 2013 Nom. All-American R&W Winter Yearling 2012

Briar Berry Contd Tabby-Red VG-89
1st Sr. 2-year-old NY Spring Show 2013
Nom. All-American R&W Winter Yearling 2012

Whitdale D Hvezda Sky Red: Reserve All American as a fall calf and Reserve Junior Champion at Madison last year and All American as a Yearling. We purchased her as a calf based on her type and pedigree, potential 9th generation EX Red Roxy. She is just fresh and we are excited about her future

Whitdale D Hvezda Sky  Reserve All American as a fall calf and Reserve Junior Champion at Madison last year and All American as a Yearling

Whitdale D Hvezda Sky
Reserve All American as a fall calf and Reserve Junior Champion at Madison last year and All American as a Yearling

Greenlead Redl Mi Red: Purchased with Chad Umbel and James and Sharon Keilholtz as a calf. She is turning into a nice brood cow. She produced Glad Ray More Fun Red 3x All American nominee. Junior Champion at the Royal as a yearling and unanimous All American that year, Grand Champion at the Eastern National as a 2 yr old. Her full sister Glad Ray Mamajuana Red was Res. AA Summer Yearling last year and is due in June to Alchemy. We have done IVF work on her and have several more females due.

MS GLAD RAY MORE FUN-RED 1st Jr. 2-year-old & Intermediate Champion, All-American R&W Show 2012 1st Jr. 2-year-old, NY State Fair R&W Show 2012 Res. Sr. & Res. Grand Champion, NY State Fair R&W Jr. Show 2012 Unanimous All-American R&W Spring Yearling 2011 Junior Champion RWF R&W Show 2011 HM Junior Champion Grand International R&W Show 2011

1st Jr. 2-year-old & Intermediate Champion, All-American R&W Show 2012
1st Jr. 2-year-old, NY State Fair R&W Show 2012
Res. Sr. & Res. Grand Champion, NY State Fair R&W Jr. Show 2012
Unanimous All-American R&W Spring Yearling 2011
Junior Champion RWF R&W Show 2011
HM Junior Champion Grand International R&W Show 2011

From a Ringside Seat

Both Hills are naturally drawn to those areas that bring out the drama, the competitive streak and the heart pounding excitement.  This has led to considerable success in the show rings as well. “The greatest cow we have ever bred and owned is MD-Hillbrook Sunburst Red EX92 (max score). Undefeated in red competition 4x All American R&W. Reserve All American Black and White Senior 2. Sold for $200,000 at the 2011 International Intrigue and continues to do well (Intermediate Champion, Res Grand of the 2012 Red Show at WDE)  for her new owners. Chris has had the honor of working with Cathland Lilac EX97, C Aitkenbrae Starbuck Ada EX94 and C Hanson Prestar Monalisa EX95.”

MD-Hillbrook Sunburst Red EX92 (max score) UNDEFEATED in red competition the last four years. 4x All American

MD-Hillbrook Sunburst Red EX92 (max score)
UNDEFEATED in red competition the last four years.
4x All American

Keeping Pace with Change

The Hills feel quite strongly that recognizing and adapting to change is the key to success in today’s constantly evolving marketplace. High type and solid pedigrees (that we started with and continue to appreciate) are no longer the driving force in the industry. The biggest change that we have seen most recently is the impact of the index system. When genomics hit now, it’s like a lottery system. The game now is to see who can get the largest four digit number without paying attention to essential breed characteristics. There is also more of an impact from polled. We see more of a unique pedigree coming into play with the genomics as it continues to grow.”


Undoubtedly there are many opportunities ahead for MD-Hillbrook but Jenn and Chris are already happy with the successful business which makes it “possible to do a job we love.”  Jenn and Chris appreciate their parents for the work ethic that keeps them productive. They appreciate each other’s talents for teamwork.  To the passionate dairy breeders they strive to please, they give this advice. “You need to be open-minded and take risks. No one ever succeeds by standing on the sideline.”  Now that’s a good call!!


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CHUCK WORDEN: For this Holstein President Dairy Focus Thrives Best on Diversity and Uniqueness

No two dairy breeders are exactly the same. They should not be stereotyped as one group but rather considered as a whole that when brought together is better than the sum of its parts.

This is direction we are pointed toward upon getting to know the thoughts of Holstein USA President Chuck Worden.  Chuck is descended from a diverse dairy background himself and encourages others, including his three sons, to develop their own unique dairy philosophy. “My start in dairy cattle came through my family farm, Glen Cove Farm.  My father and uncle took over their farm from their father.  They had both Holsteins and beef, Scotch Shorthorns.  In genetics they had more success in the beef than dairy.  Today all of my three brothers also have dairies and all of my three sons have returned to our dairy.”  The pride in family, uniqueness and diversity rings through every word.

Chuck and his wife, Vanessa (Picture taken at his son Wayne's wedding this past weekend)

Chuck and his wife, Vanessa
(Picture taken at his son Wayne’s wedding this past weekend)

“It’s a love of genetics that keeps all of our family in cattle.”

Chuck and his wife, Vanessa, point with pride to the dairy passion of their family.  “Without question the biggest success story of Wormont Dairy is the interest of the next generation.  All four of our children have a great passion for genetics and fine cattle. We are most proud of this.”

Wayne, Eric, Vanessa, Kate, Mark and Chuck Worden

Chuck also points back to his own father for inspiring his love of cattle. “My father’s love for cattle genetics spanned both Holstein and Scotch Shorthorns, although most of his success was in beef cattle, having bred many All Americans.  At one point he had both the International Supreme Champion (1961) and the World record Shorthorn bull at $36,000 on our farm at one time.  He also served on the American Shorthorn board and was voted “builder of the breed”.

A terrific role model for future generations of Wordens.”

Wormont Dairy: Growing and Moving

Whether it’s in New Mexico or New York, Wormont Dairy has always kept their herd evolving with the market.  “Currently we’ve got 275 cows, both Holstein and Jersey, all registered.  We’ve relocated several times from 60 cow tie stall in the 80’s and 90’s in New York to New  Mexico where we had up to 1400 cows on a dry lot and back to New York where we are currently located.” He sums up the successes of their program. “Many families, both bred and purchased, have made useable females for us to breed from.  As we’re working into genomics and marketing from them we’re finding surprises as we continue to test females.  While in New Mexico a young Outside son of Regancrest Jolt Diantha was used.  I loved the calves and bought 700 more doses of him.  While at Madison, I bought a pick out of Diantha and chose Outside as the sire.  I ended up getting a daughter from this mating.  Today Destiny stands at Ex-93 and is our favorite cow.” Looking back Chuck singles out Wormont Blackstar Dorian-ET. “She was our best cow in the 1990’s. She sold 16 sons into AI and spearheaded a family that put over 100 bulls into AI over a ten year time span.”

Solo Outside Destiny-ET  EX-93 2E  93-MS Dam: REGANCREST JOLT DIANTHA-ET VG-87 GMD DOM

Solo Outside Destiny-ET EX-93 2E 93-MS

“Stay focused on your goal!”

Focus is a recurring theme of this dedicated President and Holstein breeder.  “Whether you are in love with the showing or breeding for high genomics, you must stay focused on your goal.  Many young breeders that I visit with will jump back and forth and never reach their goals because they lose their focus.” He supports his viewpoint with perspective gained working with the Holstein Association. “The biggest challenge we face as dairyman in the US is profitability.  In tough times we’ve had to make many compromises on our dairies.  One area we’ve tried not to compromise on is genetics when buying semen.  With our breed association the biggest challenge will always be doing what’s right for members and the Holstein cow.  There is no compromise that would take the breeding decision away from the breeders.”

Chuck explains how they walk the talk at Wormont Holsteins. “Our breeding philosophy focuses on genomics as we strive to get back into a market based breeding program for diversity in income. Over 30 young high genomic sires are always on hand based on GTPI TM and uniqueness of pedigree.  We’re not on any AI exclusive list so we get new bulls as they’re available like most everyone else.” The Wormonts keep up with the changing times in their approach to marketing as well. “Although we’re in the building stages of our genomics marketing program, we use Facebook and our website,  Lindsey, our daughter, does our website and other marketing initiatives.”

Wormont Shottle Percell    VG-87    87-MS GTPI +2108    PL +5.4    DPR +2.7

Wormont Shottle Percell VG-87 87-MS
GTPI +2108 PL +5.4 DPR +2.7

Proud of People and Opportunities

Chuck Worden speaks glowingly of the experiences he has had as President of Holstein Association USA Inc. and points to the people especially.  “I am humbled by the many great breeders that I served on the HAUSA board with and now call them and their families our friends.  Two that stand out for their focus and resolve are Marvin Nunes of Ocean View and Bill Peck of Welcome, both headed our Genetic Advancement Committee and help influence the direction of our breed.  The initiatives put forth by our CEO John Meyer when he was first hired stand out to me.  He started “Complete,” our whole program that has led to increased use of many of our core programs.  His Management by Objective, MBO, way of measuring success has given HAUSA about ten years of outstanding bottom line success while saving our members money on the services they use.  It also allowed the board and staff a chance to see the success as it was accomplished.”  Speaking of services he goes on. “Field services have never been free, but all data collectors, DHIA, DRPCs and breed associations have always operated at very conservative margins.  The way they charge for services rendered has and probably will change a great deal as more and more marketing is done off of genomic predictions.  All allied industry partners will work together to fund research.”

Chuck is very proud to represent Holstein USA.  Seen here with 2011 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipient L-R: Holstein USA President Chuck Worden, Judy and Charles Iager, and Holstein USA CEO John M. Meyer

Chuck is very proud to represent Holstein USA. Seen here with 2011 Distinguished Leadership Award Recipients Judy and Charles Iager as well as Holstein USA CEO John M. Meyer

Ready to Face Challenges too!

With his commitment to American dairy breeding, Chuck doesn’t downplay the very real issues they face.  “The biggest challenge that I’ve ever focused on any board has been the work done on transfer of the service work on genetic evaluations and genomic predictions from USDA to the dairy industry.” He feels quite strongly about what is needed. “This is not something we can afford to take lightly.  It means protecting the integrity and preserving the “Gold Standard of the World” GTPI.”

Years of experience have given Chuck Worden a reasoned perspective on change. “The breeding industry is a constantly swinging pendulum.  It‘s easy to get depressed when you feel like the breed has gone too far in one direction.  I do believe the rapid rise in genomic bulls has slowed.  Many great breeders I’ve witnessed don’t let the pendulum control their breeding program.  They do make adjustment to their breeding programs to fit their marketing strategies, focus on your goals, not the popular bull of the month.”

“The challenge to any president is to do the best job of representing our members and our association.”

Although Chuck has spent a lot more of his “extra” time as Holstein President flying than pursuing his hobby of fishing, he is proud of the association he represents “The North American gene pool is the greatest, most in demand in the world.  It’s up to our breed associations to maintain the credibility of our breed by maintaining an unbiased, accurate data collector and genetic predictor.  I think we’re done a fabulous job of that.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No doubt family, friends and fellow dairy breeders count themselves lucky to be associated with the commitment, leadership and dedication of Chuck Worden.  There is also no doubt that he feels he has benefitted most. “I’ve got a great deal of respect for the many breeders and industry leaders I’ve gotten to know and work with over the last 15 years.  What makes the registered Holstein industry special is the uniqueness and diversity of our breeders.  I personally realize that getting involved is worth it.  I’ve gained far more than I could ever have imagined.   Our involvement does make a difference!”  To Chuck Worden, The Bullvine joins our readers in acknowledging your fine focus toward pulling uniqueness and diversity together for the benefit of the members of Holstein Association of America and say, “Thank you!”

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Lessons From Andrea Crowe: What You Do Every Day Defines Your Life!

2013ectIf your life was a book and you were the author, what impact would the story have? Many of us are very passionate about working in the dairy industry.  But how many of us take the time to look at what we are actually doing and really live our life goals day by day.  What are you doing today to achieve your big goals?  Because how you spend your days crafts your life.

Small choices over time lead to giant consequences. Each day is a microcosm of your life. How you spend your hours will determine what becomes of your days, your years and, eventually, will write the story of your life.  Your words, thoughts and, most of all, your actions define your destiny and shape who you are becoming and what your life will stand for.

The recent passing of an amazing young woman, Andrea Crowe (Read more: It’s Time to Pull Together and Support One of Our Own) got me thinking about the passion that inspires the lives of so many dairy breeders.   For those in Atlantic Canada and many more in the rest of Canada and the USA they will remember a fiery redhead that they have grown to know and love.  Andrea Crowe’s passion for dairy cattle is second to none.  She developed Broad Cove and Hi-Calibre Holstein’s into one of Atlantic Canada’s best. On Tuesday, June 11, 2013 after a long, courageous battle with a still underdetermined disease, Andrea passed away (Read more:  Obituary for Andrea Marie Crowe).

It has been said that “Each one of us is called to greatness.  Each one of us has an exquisite power within us.  Each one of us can have a significant impact on the world around us – if we so choose.”  Andrea chose to embrace that power.   She was the sole proprietor of Hi-Calibre Holsteins, her own Holstein pre-fix. In recognition of her achievements in the Holstein industry, Andrea was awarded the first Howard Roper Memorial Award in 2003. Other awards specific to her work included several All-Atlantic , All-Ontario and All- Canadian awards. Andrea served two terms as President of the Central Nova Holstein Club and was a member of the 2011 National Holstein Convention Planning Committee. Throughout her life Andrea was active in the 4-H program.  In recognition for her leadership, she received the 2012 East Hants Volunteer of the Year Award after being nominated by the Cobequid 4-H Club.

Andrea Crowe

For many years, Andrea battled against a variety of ailments related to the disease that finally took her life. The hospital personnel at IWK Health Center and the Halifax Infirmary became a second family. In order to give back, Andrea, when healthy, was dedicated to public speaking and volunteer work for the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax. She was selected to be the first Miracle Child representing the IWK Children’s Hospital for the Children’s Miracle Network and later received the Terry Fox Humanitarian Award for her efforts. She also was invited to be a guest speaker at the World Pain Management Summit held in Montreal several years back. Andrea served on several committees in the medical community to develop standards for arthritis care. Andrea saw a bigger purpose to her life.  She accepted her calling and became an example to others who needed hope.

“Your Schedule Doesn’t Lie.”  There can be no real success and lasting happiness if what you do every day doesn’t line up with what you believe in.  If there is a disconnect between what you do and your deepest values, you will struggle to find fulfillment.  Why? Because your story isn’t only what you say, it’s what you do.  Words are empty unless they are backed up with actions.  It’s about walking the talk 365 days of the year. Ask your conscience.  Does your schedule truly represent what you value most and believe to be important?   “Your schedule doesn’t lie.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Andrea Crowe achieved great things not by sitting back and waiting for them to happen.  She didn’t let her ailment define who she was.  But rather she developed her skills and gave her best to everything that she did.  Andrea inspired and encouraged others with the exceptional way she used her unique gifts and selflessly shared her passion.  The best among us are not more gifted than the rest.  They just take the steps to live what they believe in each and every day.  The days slip into weeks, the weeks into months, and before they know it they arrive at a place that is extraordinary.   Andrea Crowe was an extraordinary young woman. Her incredible attitude will always touch and inspire us.  Andrea lived a life of great passion and let her daily actions do the talking. She will be dearly missed.

Please join her family to celebrate her amazing life at her true home, their farm, on Saturday, June 15, 2013 at 11AM.  with Rev. Natalie Buchanan-Rutherford officiating and burial in the Burntcoat Cemetery, Burntcoat.  The family will also be accepting visitors on Friday evening from 7-9 PM in the J. Wilson Allen Funeral Home Hwy 354, Kennetcook.  In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the QE II Foundation, the IWK Health Center Foundation, or a charity of your choice, in honor of Andrea.  Arrangements have been entrusted to the compassionate care of the J. Wilson Allen Funeral Home, Hwy 354, Kennetcook, ph 1-902-362-2440 or please visit their web site to sign the guest book or send private condolences.

Why Is Everyone So Horny For Polled?

There is no question that the dairy breeding industry is a very passionate group of people.  So when breeders jump on the latest bandwagon, many of the old veterans say “it’s just a fad” and laugh at all the “rookies” who waste their time and money on this “meaningless” cause.  The funny thing is, if you’re talking about polled, the fad actually does have value.  There is both genetic and financial merit to breeding polled.  It is these two key factors that have many progressive breeders horny for polled.

Breeders have known about the polled advantage for years and yet they have not endorsed using polled genetics in any significant way. (Read more: Polled Genetics: Way of the future or passing fad? and They’re Sold on Polled!!)  While not having to dehorn your calves has economic advantages, many breeders see that job as  part of their regular routine and so don’t make getting rid of horns a high priority.  They think this way, despite the fact that  one mating to a polled sire results in a minimum 50% hornless calves and could be 100%, if the bull is homozygous polled.  These are much quicker results than breeding to get a red calf, for instance.

Are you looking ahead or behind?

Even though consumers have not yet cried out for change, that does not mean they won’t in the future.  Much like tail docking, once consumers do gain awareness, they are sure to cry foul.  When developing your breeding program, it’s not only about supplying the genetics that the market needs today, but also looking to the future.  In order to get ahead you need to think about where the market is heading not what has happened in the past (Read more: Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).  Concerns about animal welfare as well as employee welfare are sure to become more prevalent in the future.

Is the market demanding polled?

You don’t have to read very widely to answer this question.  From polled semen selling for $10,000 a dose (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen) to the fact that polled heifers sell for more than double the price of non-polled equivalents (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions)  the market is demanding polled.  This weekend one of the most progressive breeders in the world, Ri-Val-Re is hosting a sale.  Many of the top consignments are polled animals and are sure to sell for significant dollars (Read more: BREEDING RI-VAL-RE: Where Looking Good in the Stall Is Just As Important As Looking Good On Paper, or click here for sale details).

Ms Koenen Ladd P5715-Red PP Gtpi 1936 Homozygous Polled PP Red Roxy! Sells at RI-VAL-RE SELECT SALE, SATURDAY, JUNE 15TH

Ms Koenen Ladd P5715-Red PP Gtpi 1936
Homozygous Polled PP Red Roxy!

Are they genetically equal?

Regardless many “old school” breeders have stayed away from breeding polled.  Why is that?  Well it is probably because, in order to use polled bulls in the past, you had to sacrifice the genetic merit in other traits.  That is no longer the case.  When you take a closer look at the numbers you realize that the current top 10 proven sires available avg. 2235 GTPI, $654 NM and 2.37 PTAT and the current top 10 Genomic Polled sires available avg. 2198 GTPI $605 NM and 2.58 PTAT.  That is only a 2% difference in genetic merit.  Even when you compare the top genomic polled sires to non-polled sires, you only see a 13% difference (The current top 10 Genomic sires available avg. 2499 GTPI, $881 NM 2.84 PTAT).  Now 13% may sound like a significant difference.  But in reality it’s not because our research has shown that bulls within the top 20% of the best sire on the genomic lists all have about an equal chance of topping the list.  So the top polled sires are well within this range.

What about inbreeding?

Even though within the current polled bloodlines there are two completely separate crosses that may lead some to believe that they are inbred.  The fact is that these bloodlines are pretty much complete outcrosses to Planet, Goldwyn, Shottle and Oman (Read more: 12 Sires to uses in order to reduce inbreeding and Going off the map: 14 outcross Holstein sires that don’t include GPS).  Effectively, that means that they are outcrosses to all the bloodlines that most breeders have been using.  As a result polled sires become doubly desired.  They provide not only the polled advantage but are close to being the top outcross genetics that are available in the market today.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Those waiting for further proof that breeding polled has merit are the “old school” breeders that are also likely worried about eating green bananas.  The problem is, if you wait too long, those bananas are going to turn black.  Polled is proven.  Don`t wait until it`s too late!


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5 Things You Must Consider When Breeding For Milk Production

Dairy cattle breeders constantly consider indexes for total merit and major traits. However are we ignoring the consideration of traits that most affect us on a daily basis? What I am thinking about are the traits that have a direct bearing on the harvesting of milk. The traits that every milker feels are important as they go about their daily milking routines. Herds are becoming larger, energy is costly, labour is being replaced by technology and product quality must be high. The Bullvine offers the following thoughts for your consideration.

Measuring Milking Speed

Total attachment time of milking units started to be more seriously considered about thirty years ago. Breeders were no longer willing to tolerate cows that took an excessively long time to milk. Researchers in a few countries started by measuring the kgs of milk per minute that a cow yielded and evaluating and ranking sires by the rate at which their daughters milked. This proved to be a costly way of capturing the data when in fact the goal was to identify, eliminate or at least minimize the use of bulls that produced daughters that were very slow milkers. The next move was to have producers categorize first lactation females as slow, average or fast milkers. In time the three categories was expanded to five – very slow, slow, average, fast, and very fast. The heritabilities achieved for these three methods were 0.26 to 0.30 for measured rate, 0.03 to 0.08 for the three category reporting and 0.22 to 0.25 for the five category recording. The end result was that most countries, interested in having sire proofs for milking speed, adopted the five categories reporting system for use in either their linear classification program or milk recording program.

Importance of Milking Speed

The importance breeders place on milking speed often depends on the milking system they use. Farms with tie stall barns have often not worried about milking time except perhaps for very slow cows. But that is changing as labour rates increase and number of cows per milker get much larger. Robotic farms invest heavily in capital costs per cow and the number of cows per robot is tied closely to milking times. To maximize output per robot per day slow cows become a limiting factor. Rotary milk herds may have it easiest when it comes to slow milking cows as they can simply have the cow take a second turn around the rotary. Definitely in parlours milking very slow cows retards the milking process in a major way.

Let’s dig a little deeper. If 5+% of a herd take one minute longer to milk it may only be a concern for managers with parlour systems. However if 5-10 % of the herd take an extra two minutes or more to milk it becomes a concern for all managers. One cow in ten slowing down the milking process by two plus minutes per milking can add many human steps and hours to the work week. What perhaps used to be tolerated for slow milking cows is definitely becoming a thing of the past. One in ten very slow milkers, in the Canadian genetic evaluation system, occurs when a sire is lower than 95 for Milking Speed. In Denmark where 27% of the cows are milked by automated systems, very slow milking cows are a definite no. With today’s high feed and labour costs, it takes well into a cow’s second lactation for her to show a lifetime profit figure. It just does not make economic sense to use sires that produce even ten percent of their daughters that are slow milkers and that must be culled before they even get to positive figures for lifetime profit.

Milking Speed Sire Indexes

In the TPI™, NM$ and LPI total indexing systems milking speed in not included so in sire selection care must be taken not to use sires that are below a rating of 98 in Canada. In the USA national milking speed sire proofs are not calculated so breeders must depend on AI company figures for milking speed or search outside of the USA for figures published on American sires. At the end of the day slow milking cows need to be avoided.

Milk Volume

Breeders usually talk in terms of kgs or pounds of milk per cow per day with an added comment on the % fat and % protein in the milk. However it is, in fact, the daily fat and protein yields per cow that determines revenue. The milk volume is simply the carrier for the fat and the protein.  A cow producing 12,000 kgs of milk in 305 days at 3.5%F and 3.0%P produces 420 kgs of fat and 360 kgs of protein. Yet a cow producing 10,000 kgs of milk at 4.2%F and 3.6%P produces exactly the same – 420 kgs of fat and 360 kgs of protein. The milk revenue from each cow will be exactly the same for this 2.56 kgs (5.64 pounds) of fat & protein per day.

But the comparison does not stop at revenue. Factor in that the milk transportation costs are higher for the 12,000 kg cow and that the 10,000 kg cow can likely be fed a more forage based diet. Also think about the less stress and stain, especially on reproduction, with the difference in yield expected per day of 6.6 kgs or 14.4 pounds of milk.    

For genetics and selection this means that breeders need to be thinking in terms of the cow or sire with the highest fat plus protein indexes rather than using the milk yield figure. The vast majority of total merit index systems around the world include in their calculation the fat and protein yield numbers instead of the milk volume number but they likely do not factor in the added cost to run farm equipment, transporting the extra water in the milk or to dispose of the waste water from processing plants.


The production of high quality milk or dairy products is becoming more important with each passing year. Antibiotic residues will no longer be acceptable to our consumers. Cows must be able to produce milk low in somatic cells. Sire proofs and cow indexes for SCS have become well accepted by dairy breeders.  Since every drop of milk a cow produces contains somatic cells and since cows usually increase in their somatic cell count as they progress to 3rd and later lactations, it makes little economic sense to have a cow start at 3.00 in her first lactation and then go higher in later lactations.

What this means for genetics and selection is that sires used and the cows that produce the herd replacements need to be below 3.00 and preferably below 2.80 for SCS.


Breeders and milk producers often may not share the same ‘must haves’ when it comes to udders. While they can agree that the true models are nice, milk producers want udders that are trouble free with enough capacity for the 780 kgs or 1720 pounds of fat plus protein mentioned above. Trouble free would equate to udders held high off the ground and teats of size, shape and position that allow for easy attachment of milking units. Smooth, high and wide attachments to the body are not a priority but udder texture may have some relevance when it comes to the harvesting of milk.

In terms of genetics, udder indexes values above +1.50 UDC or +5 MS will be sufficiently high enough for sires or females used to produce the next generation of females in a herd.

Milking Temperament

Over time cows become accustomed to their environment. Yet not all family bloodlines are the calm easily adaptable to mechanized systems kind of animal. Research has shown that the correlation between excitable first lactation cows and extended milking times is a moderate 0.25. It can be very annoying and time consuming for milking staff to have first lactation cows that do not quickly adapt to milking. This will have more importance in the future as more and more cows are milk automatically.

A number of countries now produce national genetic evaluations for milking temperament. For milk producers wanting a friendly staff-cow-milking environment, they should take care not to use sires or use cows as the dams of herd replacements that are rated much below average for milking temperament.

Bulls to Consider

Based on the factors mentioned above here are some sires the breeders and milk producers may wish to consider in order have their genetics compliment the harvesting of milk on their farms.

Table 1  Sires to Assist with Milking

Table 1  Sires to Assist with Milking

Note * All sires are listed according to their CDN indexes for Milking Speed & Milking Temperament. USA does not produce indexes.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

One size or one breeding program does not fit all farms. It will be important in the future for breeders and milk producers to have cows that produce high quality milk, that milk out fast, that produce high daily volumes of fat and protein, and that have udders and temperaments that work well within the on-farm systems.


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There is an old proverb that says, “The more things change the more they stay the same.” For Karen and Ron Boerchers and their sons, Steven and Charles, that has proven to be true.  Ron provides this update. “In 2009 Steven left the farm with his partner Ellen Gorter to start Optimal Dairy, a 100 cow free stall herd four hours away in Beausejour, Manitoba. Our son Charles who still farms with us at our 65 head tie stall dairy operation in Laurier, Manitoba did not want to continue the dairy operation so we decided it was time to sell.” (Click here for sale details and catalog) That is the emotion filled part that fathers, sons and dairy families are well acquainted with. Ron Boerchers puts a special twist however on “the same” part. “I have always said I wanted to go out at the top of my game. In early January we announced the dispersal date and place. Not even two weeks after, we received the culmination to my dairy farming career, our first Master Breeder shield.”  Looks like it was an optimum opportunity shared by the whole family.

Rainyridge last classification.  (l-r Devin O'hara, Tom Byers, Karen and Ron Boerchers

Rainyridge last classification occurred June 10th 2013 .
(l-r Devin O’hara, Tom Byers, Karen and Ron Boerchers (Photo by Darrel K Barkman)

Rainyridge Reflections: Beauty Won Madison. Barbara Won Hearts.

After years dedicated to dairying, there are many special moments that Ron looks back on. “Beauty’s win at Madison” comes instantly to mind. He explains. “She became the oldest cow to win the Supreme title at 14.5 years of age. That was quite remarkable.” This dairyman and sports fan draws an analogy. “That is comparable to Wayne Gretzky’s points record in the NHL. It is hard to imagine it could ever be broken.”  Yet the Boerchers’ lineup had other stars to focus on. “It was special watching Barbara work her way to fame.  Barbara made people stop and remember some of her predecessors in this family line. Cows that have all made people stare and imagine.  Although, it might have never been spoken, we’re sure many thought ‘Just wait till she has had a couple more calves’.” (Read more: LASTING LEGACY: A Tribute to Rainyridge Talent Barbara)


ALL-CANADIAN MATURE COW 1999,1995,1993,1992

That Everyday Black and White Magic

While striving to breed the best dairy cow, Rainyridge took a two step process. “At first we bred to bulls with extreme stature and conformation. Once we had the size, we changed to breeding great udders and strong feet and legs.” Like all passionate dairy breeders the Boerchers are inspired to dream big. “It was always our belief that every animal in the barn had a magical mating cross that could result in an EX cow or even an All Canadian. Some were more obvious than others of course.”


1ST 5-YR ROYAL 2010

Rainyridge Has Got Talent

Dairy breeders love to talk about their favorite cows.  Ron is no different but he thinks his choice might surprise a few people. “Some might think Beauty would be the favorite but without a doubt it was Talent Barbara. Beauty might have accomplished more in the public eye but we were directly responsible for Barbara’s accomplishments leading up to her sale at Madison to Ernest Kueffner and St Jacobs.  After we sold Barbara we had 3 red carrier Super daughters, 3 Shaquille daughters, 1 Dusk, and 1 Rampage daughter still at the farm as well as 2 female pregnancies to come sired by Lauthority and Vieuxsaule Lucas. It was a marketer’s paradise!”



Insights and Highlights from the Bright Lights

As the June sale approaches, Rainyridge continued to develop their inventory. “We are currently flushing the following heifers B-S-D Hunter Paris 6081, Rainyridge Epic Leisure RDC, Farner-tbr-bh Vegas and Sully Giafeeti 299. Two cows being flushed include Rainyridge Super Beauty VG RDC who sells and will make her new owner very happy as she is a good embryo producer. Rainyridge Goldwyn Caution VG-86 is a special young Jr 2 Goldwyn from 4 Ex dams thru our Lee Candice line.”

B-S-D HUNTER PARIS 6081 One of the highest Hunter Daughters in the World (gLPI 3173), Sells in the Sale

One of the highest Hunter Daughters in the World (gLPI 3173), Sells in the Sale

The Bull Pen at Rainyridge

Knowing your customer is almost a cliché in marketing but it is the foundation that Rainyridge was built on. “We have two very different markets and programs that we cater separately. For the most part the type program is mainly proven bulls such as Fever, Windbrook, Sid, Atwood, Aftershock and Jordan. Our customers in this market DO NOT like surprises and are very hesitant for the most part to use unproven bulls unless it is for a red mating.

In the genomic and polled market we use the most recent bulls available in order get the most attention. Anton, Ballisto and Earthquake have been used lately along with Chevrolet and Eloquent. Polled bulls include Colt 45, Pine-Tree Overtime and Wilder Kanu. We have also started to breed lines of Immunity Plus genetics. This is a trait we believe has a lot of value to every producer and will be a coded trait one day with a huge potential to market genetics from.”


Owned with Wilsongrove & Erinbrett

Strategic Marketing Initiatives

Running a dispersal sale is a unique business proposition. The Boerchers adjust their marketing method according to the customer they want to reach.  “Our experience with advertising through social media vs. traditional advertisements in magazines is that the solid type families get a better response from the traditional advertisements. The much more fast paced world of genomics follows Facebook and twitter much more closely.” The Boerchers must keep an eye on many important details and weigh the options on the many moving parts.  “For the most part this dispersal sale is not filled with fast paced genomic genetics.  We have some very exciting high genomic lots to sell but 90% is good solid type cows from great families that can be shown and marketed anywhere in the world.”

MDF GOLDWYN BREEZER 40 VG-86-2YR 3rd Dam Tony Beauty Her choice of 2 July 2012 sid heifers or 2 March 2013 Damions sells June 24 in the sale

3rd Dam Tony Beauty
Her choice of 2 July 2012 sid heifers or 2 March 2013 Damions sells June 24 in the sale

Looking Back and Looking Forward

Ron is very proud to see both Steven and Charles follow their dreams like he followed his: Steve in cattle breeding and Charles in hay and grain farming.  Ron knows the value of good mentors too such as the ones he had in his earlier years. Martin Carrico, Glen Waldon, Ray Brown and Robert Crowe all offered opinions and advice along the uphill journey he had to make.   Before son Steven moved to Optimal Dairy he was in charge of the marketing at Rainyridge and still helps out Ron to market his genetics and this dispersal sale. Steven is glad to be mentored by Ron “He taught me that you can try whatever you want to.  If it works run with it. If it doesn’t work fix it or don’t do it again.” And like his father, Steven is very grateful for other mentors from the dairy industry. “In my time showing and marketing at Rainyridge, I had one mentor in particular that always helped me and challenged me to do better. Jeff Donohoe (Lakefield Farms) has taught me so much over the years.  I really appreciate all of his help.”

Three generations of Rainyridge posing for a moment at the 2013 National Holstein Convention. Thanks to Christina Crowley for getting the shot

Three generations of Rainyridge posing for a moment at the 2013 National Holstein Convention. Thanks to Christina Crowley for getting the shot

Genomics Brings Dramatic Change

The dairy journey has many twists and turns.  Genomics is one that presented itself to Rainyridge.  Ron and Steve have this insight on this new tool. “Genomics affected our operations dramatically. It forced us to diversify our breeding program to accommodate the changing client base. Show type and cow families are still our passion but in order to keep embryo and genetic sales at their previous levels, we had to cross reference our good families so to speak.”

Rainyridge Rampage Barb VG-86 Due in September she sells along with 4 Meridian and 4 Sympatico embryos

Rainyridge Rampage Barb VG-86
Due in September she sells along with 4 Meridian and 4 Sympatico embryos

Rainyridge Afterglow.  What’s Next?

After the sale Ron and Karen will take some much deserved holidays and enjoy life away from milking. Rainyridge Farms LTD. will still operate its grain and hay land and the commercial beef herd. The Rainyridge prefix will move over to what is now Optimal Dairy. Ron, with Steve and Ellen, will continue to be involved in the dairy industry. This past year Ron chaired the Cow of the Year Committee. His involvement as a Holstein Canada national director has been very fulfilling for him and he will pursue that as well.

Recommendations from Rainyridge

“Investing in good cattle is a lot like spending money on advertising. It is sometimes hard to gauge its return unless you could compare your results without the purchase.” So says Steven as he recalls a sale that he wasn’t completely “sold” on. “I remember giving Ron an extremely hard time about buying one particular heifer at a dispersal sale. He saw something in her I definitely didn’t. He paid $6200 for what became one of the matriarchs of our herd. The animals name was Hanson Broker Candace EX 90-4E 10* the dam of 4 Ex and 6 VG including Rainyridge Lee Candice EX 94-2E 8*.” Sometimes you just have to rely on a Master Breeder’s experience and good judgement.

Bullvine Bottom Line

As the Boerchers set out on a new path, their sale will provide opportunities for other breeders who invest in Rainyridge genetics. For Steve and Ellen it will be an opportunity to continue to expand their horizons as dairy cattle breeders and marketers. For Ron and Karen the sale marks a major turn in the road for their dairy journey but they leave great signposts for those who would follow the dairy dream.


Click on image to check out more about the sale.

The Most Important Partnership in the World

There have been many great dairy breeding partnerships in the history of the dairy breed.  On the top of that list many would place Pete Heffering and Ken Trevena (Read more: Hanover Hill Holsteins).  However, one partnership I think many forget about is the one they have with their wife or husband.  On most dairy farms and in every marriage the most important partnership in the world is the one with the spouse.

When was the last time you thought of your wife or husband as your “partner”? defines partnership as, “the state or condition of being a partner (Partner: a person who shares or is associated with another in some action or endeavor; sharer; associate.); participation; association; joint interest.  Most often we think of partnership when we think of business or law.  But the idea of a partnership is also applicable to our marriages.  Today I celebrate my seventh wedding anniversary and it very much has me thinking deeply about how much my wife, Zosia, is the perfect partner for me.

I know a lot of people don’t bother to mark every anniversary and holidays such as Valentine’s day sometimes get bad press with the cynics protesting that if couples are truly in love then this should be reflected in their daily lives rather than requiring a special holiday to remind them to tell each other how much they mean to each other.  But for me, since my wife deals with my BS every other day of the year, the least I can do is express how I feel about her on this special day.

While I try to show my wife how much I appreciate her every day, let’s face it, with the pressures of modern life, it is difficult to maintain the initial flush of romance on an ongoing, long term basis.  After 7 years of being with the same person a much of the mystery is gone, you have fewer “firsts” to look forward to and you will have had to deal with times of difficulty and hardship together as this is a part of life.

In many ways my wife and I could not be more opposite. We kid that if we had met in high school we would have hated each other.  I was the jock who skipped class and loved to party. She was the nerd who even asked the teachers for permission to skip school on national skip day.  However, as we matured (mostly me, Zosia was already pretty mature) we changed and now have become the perfect complement for each other and ready to take on life’s challenges.

Over the past week I have had the amazing opportunity to go back to where we got married and take some time off to spend with my wife.  Awesome.  It re-energized me to take on the world.  But I must admit, as I watch our extremely energetic and defiant kids run around, I sometime tease my wife that she must have falsely advertised her genetics, After all,  I chose her partly due to her ability to corrective mate those faults  out of our children.  That’s the joking part.  (Read more:  How I Used Everything I Know About Animal Breeding to Choose My Wife).  Seriously, I could not be more proud of her and the family that we have started.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I can tell you all, that without a very supportive and understanding wife, The Bullvine would have never existed.  A fully supportive, loving, trusting wife who will be honest and speak her mind but who will also stand with her husband to the very end frees a man up to do with all his heart that which he desires to achieve.  Zosia does just that for me.  While she may not be a cattle breeding expert, or even from a dairy farm, nevertheless she loves me and supports me in all the weird and wacky things that I do.  For that I can only quote Elvis and say to Zosia, “Love me tender, Love me true, all my dreams fulfilled.  For my darlin’ I love you, And I always will.”

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You Cannot Fight Change!

I get it!  Change freaks some people out.  Even though “Change” is a broad term it affects our lives in many specific ways.  Our brains expect certain things to stay the same.  The old saying might be right, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” But we are not talking about dogs, we are talking about the dairy industry and things are changing – rapidly!  As Winston Churchill said “To improve is to change.  To be perfect is to change often.”  In order to excel in the dairy industry, you cannot be afraid of change, but rather must embrace change.

The dairy breeding industry is going through the most tumultuous time in its history.  Between genomics and IVF the industry has been turned on its head, flipped over and slapped on its butt.  As if that wasn’t enough, all of these changes have started a chain reaction of even more changes.  However, as Niebuhr once said “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”   Many breeders would rather fight than switch. .  They are unwilling to accept the fact that even if they refuse to change, the industry around them has changed and is moving on.

Genomics is a game changer

Now I am not saying you have to run out and use all the hottest genomic sires, and start IVF’ing all your top cattle.  What I am saying is that you need to take the time to look at what is going on around you and plan how that is going to affect your dairy breeding program.  This all starts by knowing your goals.  If your goal is to have a Master Breeder herd, or make money selling young stock then yes you best start to embrace these changes.

I know there are many that would tell me that becoming a Master Breeder herd has nothing to do with the use of genomics.  However, I would beg to differ.  You see many are still confused about exactly what genomics is.  Genomics is the technology that allows you to accurately predict what a sire’s (or heifer’s) breeding ability will be (Read more: How much can you trust Genomic Young Sires? and The Truth About Genomics Indexes – Show me they work! ).  IT IS NOT AN INDEX.  It is a TOOL and that is the message that I wish more would understand.  You can use genomics to breed a great show cow. It’s not just for top index animals (Read more: Does Genomics Belong in The Show Ring?).  I think if more people took the time to understand this single difference, they would start to use genomics effectively.  You can use it to do type mattings all the time, and in fact, it can be very good at helping you do it.

IVF is a game breaker

The technology that I really think is changing the game for those who are looking to make money selling genetics is IVF (Read more: IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry).  IVF has given breeders the ability to cross their top animals to a greater number of sires and produce many more progeny.  The problem this causes is that now there is an abundance of supply in the marketplace.  With greater supply at the top end and not having an equally greater demand, the prices for all sectors in the marketplace are forced downward.  In the past, when embryo exporters were looking to fill orders, they were held to a threshold of +2500 LPI or +1,900 TPI.  Now since there is so much more supply at the top end, their threshold has risen to +3,200 LPI or +2,500 TPI.  Have a look at our recent analysis of the public auction of live cattle.  You will see that the very top cattle draw the high prices and then the prices drop significantly.  (Read more:  Who Killed the Market for Good Dairy Cattle?)  This produces mixed emotions for me.  The breeder in me that sees the potential to get so many more progeny from different sires from my top animals.  But then there is the business man in me that sees that due to the massive influx of animals from the top few animals, there is less market for the rest.  Recently I have also become concerned that it is making breeders lazy.  They don’t work as hard to decide what sires to cross cows on since the only people who are really making money at this are the companies selling the service, as opposed to the breeders that are using the service.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The key lesson here is that if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.  Instead of being afraid of genomics and fearing the change it’s making, take the time to see how it can actually help you achieve your personal breeding goals.  I am definitely not saying change your breeding goals.  I am saying that you should consider how this new tool can actually help you achieve them.  If you don’t like something, change it.  If you cannot change it, change your attitude.

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.




Boarded Up? Above Board? or Bored Silly?

There are basically three ways that boards operate that are familiar to dairy farmers. First there are the ceremonial ones that largely rubber-stamp whatever the CEO wants.  Then there are the traditional boards that try disjointedly to attempt to influence.  Finally there is the progress board that is comprised of a group of experienced leaders who add value. I have no doubt that you have experienced at least two of these three main board types.

We all give lip service to the fact that we would like to have the highest performing boards leading our dairy associations. Are we successful? A quick check of how we put board members in place might hint at a less than performance-oriented selection process.  Boards are only as good as the directors that sit on them.

To my mind, a healthy board is one where there are numerous potential candidates eager to lead.  Healthy boards have a rigorous nomination process and, after the directors are in place, there are periodic checks of board performance and, more and more frequently, peer evaluations.  Do these steps sound familiar?  Probably not.

There was a time when members were face to face with board directors often enough to have a real idea of their position on issues and ability to deal with them. Boards today often cover much larger geographical areas and rely on electronic reporting.

Nothing is more disappointing then having the opportunity to vote on qualified candidates and then discover the individuals can’t, won’t or don’t deliver as expected.

After all, this isn’t like government (or we say it isn’t) where the expectations are already low and there is skepticism. But on most dairy boards the directors are our friends and peers.  They’re nice. That’s the conundrum.  It would be easier to accept if they were grumpy, snarly and complete strangers.  That NOT being the case , we are faced with living out our disappointments when we realize that the change we hoped for isn’t going to happen or, unfortunately, the problems are getting worse.

Boarded Up!

Sometimes we need to identify the root problem that causes some directors not to grow. That problem is often a loss of passion and enthusiasm on the part of members of the Board. For whatever reason they either didn’t have or have lost their spark. An effective board is composed of people who have real excitement for the work of the organization and can sustain that excitement. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

If only we were able to build good boards from the get-go! Clearly, the framework of the board as a whole, and of each director, is paramount.  The stakes are even higher when selecting directors today when the talent pool of people who are willing to accept new directorships is shrinking while the need for effective decision making by dairy organizations is becoming even more crucial.  At the very least, the board as a whole needs at least eight competencies represented by several directors:  business judgment; general management experience or perspective; finance; industry knowledge and trends; leadership; international markets; strategic thinking ability and crisis management expertise. Depending on the organization, the threats and opportunities may require more depth in some of these areas than others.

Plank by Plank the Board Platform is Built

With the right people in place it is imperative that they know what their role is.  It is far too easy for Board members get bogged down in the administrative details. After all, many of them run their own businesses.  They are comfortable with the details.  However staff focus is on the details and the Board focus is on vision, policies and financial oversight. There are three main areas that every board member should be aiming to contribute toward.

  1. Lead domestically, collaborate globally. (Even national or local Boards must keep the global picture in mind).
  2. Innovate continuously for a sustainable future
  3. Inspire the next generation

Above Board

We need to raise our expectations. For the sustainability of our industry, boards need to become more results oriented. And we as members need to hold them accountable. Too often we see Boards getting mired down in the administrative details that should be left to staff to carry out.  It is the vision and policy (and of course finances) that are the concern of the Board.  A strategic plan with measureable outcomes and assignment of tasks is the main work of a Board.  It doesn’t end there.  It needs to be dynamic.  The biggest weakness of any Board occurs when they do not have an “ACTION” agenda that is reviewed, revised and put in place.

Tracking Open Action Items is key to Board effectiveness. One of the first indicators that an organization is struggling is that open action items are not tracked and reviewed. (Open action items are required actions that have not yet been completed.) Instead, directors only see and react to the latest “fires” that are presented around the board table. Whether open action items are critical to address now or not, they should not entirely be forgotten.

Tracking Board and Chief Executive effectiveness is also key.  Too often (especially if there isn’t a crisis) there isn’t a procedure in place to evaluate BOTH roles.  Quite often boards just go through the motions. In the end this could weaken the entire structure of the organization.  Commitment comes from having a stake in the outcome.

Silly Board or Bored Silly?

With decades of board experience, I no longer have the patience for what I term” silly agendas”. It’s frustrating to commit time and energy to find that you are merely required to rubber stamp the agenda of the CEO, Staff or a particular interest group. In those cases, it might have been more honest to send out a report, ask for an email vote and have the vote sent in.

When you are not actively involved, another weakness can take hold— the “numb out” factor. One of the first signs that a board is in trouble is when members have opinions that they don’t express during meetings. If you find yourself sitting in a board meeting and realize you have “numbed out”, then you’re not doing your duty as a board member.  Effective boards guard against this by providing full backgrounds to directors at least a week before each meeting. One of the clearest indicators to board members that the organization is not taking them seriously is if they don’t get materials in time for adequate review before board meetings. Committee reports, action reports, financial report and  materials that can help board members act on any major decisions should be available before decision-making is required.

Once directors are fully informed the entire board should be invited to comment. Really invited—not just presented with the rote question, “Is there any discussion?  Whenever there’s good dialogue and everybody feels like their opinions are valued and that it’s okay to open their mouths, that’s when progress will be made.  Directors should get their work done in between meetings not in between agenda items as the meeting is progressing. Good director research will be brought to the table. Good information will form the basis for discussion. The board will be aligned and involved and transparent. This is the kind of Board that makes a difference to the industry.

In all of this discussion we mustn’t forget to ask, “What is the role of the membership?” Regardless of the people and the goals of the Board, unless the membership is engaged no progress will be made.  The work of the Board doesn’t start and end at the Board table.  There must be commitment to keeping open, transparent communication with the membership. And the membership is responsible to keep it going both ways.  Support works best when it comes from both sides.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

A healthy board process creates dynamics in which everyone is engaged and listening, adding value, supportive of open and authentic exploration of ideas and participating in balanced ways.  You know you have the right directors in place, when they are providing the membership with a springboard to a sustainable dairy future!

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Fortune Favors the Bold – Four A.I. Companies that are Taking On the World

top13of2013In an industry where a few major players dominate the world market, it can be very intimidating for new participants about to enter the marketplace.  I can still remember working with David Eastman and Albert Cormier when they launched GenerVations.  At that time, there was no such thing as genomics, and even though we had the #1 LPI sire, Champion, we still took a lot of heat about the reliability of his proof.  However, I learned then, as I know now, fortune favors the bold.

Fast forward 12 years and things have significantly changed.  Genomics has leveled the playing field.  Any company can market their genetics with the same level of confidence as those of the large A.I. companies.  For years everyone has talked about how, in 2013, the A.I. industry would change drastically when new players enter the sire sampling market, as a result of breeders being able to sample their own bulls.  However, the reality is changes have already started.  Since the introduction of Genomics back in 2008, there have been four significant players enter the A.I. business:  AI Total, DairyBullsOnline, Jetstream Genetics and Trans-America Genetics (TAG).  They have all made a significant impact on the A.I. industry in a short period of time.  Each has gone about their strategy in a different way but each has had their own level of success.

The AI Total Story

Since partnering with AI Service Zuid-West Friesland (A company that provides insemination services for Dutch dairy farmers) in 2010 Jan De Vries and the AI Total team have been very aggressive.  Many years in the embryo business (Diamond Genetics and Eurogenes) have provided them with a base of marketing operations that has served them well (Read more: EUROGENES: You Love It.  They List It!).  Looking to service the producer market, AI Total looks to produce productive, functional, healthy and sustainable cows.  For De Vries this means looking at sires that excel in traits such as calving ease and DPR, while not being too large in size for the environments in which they are housed.

At the moment AI Total owns about 15 to 20 bulls that are housed in Europe, and carry sires from GenerVations, Jetstream Genetics and others.  A highlight of their current lineup is Hood MOM Emmet, the Man-O-Man son from Tramilda-N Baxter Emily VG-2yr, the dam of the popular North American sire Epic.  His 2nd dam is Wabash-Way Evett-ET (VG-86, 2y) who is a Shottle daughter, out of Crockett-Acres Elita-ET (VG-87 DOM 2*) and followed by nine VG or EX dams.  Emmett sires cows that are not too big, transmit favorable components and have strong fitness traits.  These are all heavily sought after by producers around the world.

In an industry that requires bold moves to be successful, De Vries and his team are not afraid to make them.  By working in many different aspects of the dairy genetics marketplace, Diamond Genetics/Eurogenes and AI Total are able to stay ahead and be trendsetters instead of followers.

The DairyBullsOnline Story

Starting out in the R&W market but getting sold on polled, Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor have been extremely aggressive in developing DairyBullsOnline (Read more:  They’re Sold Polled).  They are promoting polled genetics as the solution that saves labor, reduces stress and improves consumer image.  “We know the breed will not be polled in 10 years, but we believe in 10 years bulls that transmit the recessive horn trait will be very hard to market.  Today there are about a dozen polled bulls over 2000 GTPI.  Next year that will double.  We expect that trend to continue for some time.”  Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor.

By leveraging technology both on the web through its marketing and social media platforms as well as by using technology for shipping semen internationally DairyBullsOnline is able to operate at much higher efficiency.  This enables them to pass benefits back to the producers and breeders that they source their genetics from (Read more: A Wake-Up Call to All-A.I. Companies).

Despite what they lack in market share, they are able to attract unique genetics through offering seed stock breeders a much higher royalty percentage.  A great example of this is the sale of Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red semen for $10,000 a dose, where the proceeds went straight to the breeder (Read more:  $10,000 a Dose Polled Semen).

MacGregor and Quanbury have not been afraid to blaze their own trial.  Not worrying what others would say about them, they have had a clear vision and have executed their plan very effectively.  They knew polled before polled was cool.  Being trend setters has it’s rewards, as anyone looking to get into polled in a significant way will certainly have to take a serious look at DairyBullsOnline and the trend setting moves they are making.

The Jetstream Genetics Story

With the arrival of Genomics, Jeff Butler and the ownership team at Jetstream, saw the opportunity for small AI-organizations that focus on top genomic genetics.  Having already heavily invested in some of the top genomics females in the world for his Butlerview operations, Butler already had a source of some of the most elite genetics in the world (Read more: Exciting Times For Butlerview).

Established in April 2012, theirs is the shortest story of these four bold, world-changing companies.  Nevertheless it has certainly been a very eventful one fourteen months.  Roger Turner, Sales and Genetic Manager for Jetstream Genetics, reports that it has exceeded expectations (Read more: Turner Moving Genetics Forward at Jetstream).

At the moment, Jetstream has about 15 bulls that are housed in Wisconsin.  Turner, a 15-year veteran in the AI industry, expects that number to increase by about 15 bulls per year.  A highlight of the Jetstream lineup are the Cash brothers, Farnear Cashcoin and Cashmoney, sired by the now popular proven sire Observer from MS Chassity Goldwyn Cash VG87 2yr, who is out of the 2012 Golden Dam Finalist Regancrest S Chassity EX-92 (Read more:  Regancrest S Chassity – 2012 Golden Dam Finalist).  Other popular sires include Colt 45 RC who is the top available type polled sire in the world.

Similar to AI Total and Diamond Genetics, Jetstream and Butlerview partner to be a complete genetics company.  In the Butlerview program, there are some of the most well-known cattle in the world, including the extremely popular show cows REW Happy Go Lucky and Cookview Goldwyn Monique.  Jeff Butler is definitely not afraid to make bold moves.  He has put his money where his mouth is and is blazing new trails in the dairy cattle genetics marketplace.  A clear example of this is how Jetstream is leading the way in online semen ordering (Read more: New sires available on easy to use Jetstream online order system).

The TAG Story

Of the four new AI companies profiled here, Trans-America Genetics (TAG) is certainly the oldest of the group, with their first sires already receiving official daughter proofs.  The road has been an interesting one for Patrice Simard and the TAG team.  Since starting TAG with Alan Bryson almost 5 years ago, there have been ups and downs, but the hard work is starting to provide dividends for all involved in the journey

Indeed the highlight has to be the success of Ronalee Toystory Domain.  Domain is the Toystory son that was among the top Genomic sires in the world for a long time and has now successfully transitioned into one of the top daughter proven sires.  This achievement is very important for a young AI company as breeders watch to see how their genetic programs turn out.  Success like this has positively helped TAG grow in the international marketplace (Read more: TAG Continues to Grow on the International Scene).

Talking about genetic programs, TAG is another company that has the complete genetics marketplace covered.  However, unlike the others, TAG does it all under one brand and has been well-rewarded from the great publicity this has received.  Many of their Genomic Giants Sales rank at the top of the yearly sales lists (Read more:  The 2013 Genomic Giant Sale was a Giant Success!).

Aggressive and energetic does not begin to describe the team at TAG.  They have had to weather the trials and tribulations of starting a business and investing your heart and soul into it, but the rewards are starting to pay off as the TAG brand is catching the eye of breeders around the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Starting an AI company is not an easy task.  It takes years before you receive your first daughter proven sire, and distribution can prove to be a nightmare. Add to that the fact that you`re under a microscope as everyone is judged each move you make.  In order to get ahead, you have to be bold and aggressive. Anything else will result in failure.  Fortunately, for these four AI companies, their progressive moves are turning heads and putting good fortune boldly in their path.


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How Much Can You Trust Genomic Young Sires?

There has certainly been great debate since the introduction of genomics about how accurate the information is.  While some breeders have gone full throttle on the use of genomic test sires, others are still very hesitant in the use of these yet to be daughter proven sires.  For many the question remains,” how much can we trust these sires?”

Recently I had a conversation with a breeder and he said “They are only 70% reliable and you can’t really trust that.”  To which I argued, “Actually you can trust that a fair bit.”

Some time ago CDN  published that for genomically evaluated bulls with 65% reliable gLPIs, breeders can expect 95% of the time that their official proof will be within 670 LPI points (within about 18-20%).  This means  that we can be 95% sure that the current top gLPI sire, Suntor Joyride, will be higher than +2813 LPI, once he has his official progeny proven index that is over 90% reliable.  That boils down to say that at least 95% of the time Joyride would end up with an official proof that would rank him in the top 10 in Canada.  That is the worst case scenario.

When you apply this to your breeding program when you’re using a genomic young sire, you can take 670 LPI points or approximately 455 TPI points off their predicted index and they will achieve that number or higher 95% of the time.  For example, take the #1 gPA TPI sire, Seagull-Bay Supersire, who has a current gPA TPI of +2527 and you can be 95% certain that his daughter proof that is over 90% reliable will be at least +2072.  That would place him in the top 77 sires in the US (260 points behind current proven leader Observer).  Remember that is 95% of the time he would be there at least.  Not a bad worst-case scenario. (Read more: The Truth About Genomic Indexes – “Show Me” That They Work)

Pattern vs. Rank

The question that really comes to mind for me is not necessarily how do they rank, but rather how good is genomics at predicting the sire’s breeding pattern?  Rankings will change all the time as new sires are added and breeders continue to push the envelope on genetic advancement.  I am more concerned about how good genomics is at predicting the strengths and weaknesses of a sire.

To look closer at this, I decided to compare Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood’s genomic proof pattern vs. his now daughter proven pattern.  Since Atwood is now over 95% reliable, it is safe to assess his current strengths and weaknesses, remembering that he was heavily used based on his genomic proof.  In looking at Atwood’s genomic indexes, you would have said that he was a strong components sire with low production.  His type pattern was that he would leave you outstanding daughters with great mammary systems, feet & legs and loads of dairy strength, but needs to be protected on rumps.  Looking at his actual daughter performance you would see the same exact pattern.  While yes his rump score is lower than his genomic index would have indicated, it was an area that genomics did say needed to be protected.

The interesting pattern that we have started to see is that the greatest variance from genomic prediction to actual proof is in the areas of health and fertility.  Logically that makes sense, since most of these traits have a lower reliability.  What we are noticing here is that genomic sires due to tend to follow the pattern of their sires for health and fertility traits more so than those of their dams.  This makes sense too, since there is a larger data set in the sire’s health and fertility index than in the index of a dam.  So next time you are looking at a genomic test sires health and fertility traits be sure to also check out those traits for his sire, as that may be as much a predictor of his potential as are his own indexes.

Sire Sampling

Prior to the introduction of Genomics in 2008, there was great attention paid to how young sires were sampled.  AI companies worked very hard at getting a young sire sampled in as many different herds and different environments as possible, in order to get an accurate proof.  Since the introduction of Genomics this has actually changed drastically.  It is now to the point where the top genomic sires are actually used very selectively.

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

Genetic evaluation systems assume that all animals in the herd are treated equally.  Yet while there is nothing wrong with a breeder wanting to ensure their return on their investment in these top genetic animals, it certainly causes many problems when accounting for it in the genetic evaluations of these animals.  Most “animal-model” genetic evaluations in the world account for the genetic merit of a sire’s mates.  However, when the US first added females to their genomic reference set, they actually got lower reliabilities as a result of inaccuracies in female’s proofs, due to preferential treatment.  That is why some countries actually leave female genomic data out of their reference sets, as a large portion of the females are these high index animals that, in many cases, have received preferential treatment.  In the US they actually implemented a scaling-effect adjustment to bring those top females down.  The US has also implemented a new single-step model that includes genomic and traditional data together designed to account for this in bull proofs.  Other countries are also looking for potential solutions.  This includes possibly withholding early data from evaluations, as well as other options.  The challenge is that no one has found a real solution to the actual problem and steps so far just mask the issue with scale downs and other band-aids.  This preferential treatment problem is going to get greater attention, as more high profile genomic sires,  priced high and heavily  marketed will start to receive proofs in 2013.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

More and more Genomic young sires are now receiving their daughter proven proofs and many, such as Observer, have come through with flying colors.  While rankings may change, the important thing to remember is that the genomic indexes did accurately predict breeding patterns.  In that case, if you took the effort to make sure you used the sire because he was the correct mate for the animal, then the majority of the time the resulting progeny should be fine.  If instead you used the sire just because of how he ranked and then his ranking changed, well then yes, you are going to find that you may not be as happy.  The key thing to remember in any mating you are doing is know your goals.  Make sure you breed towards them by selecting the sire that best accelerates those traits that you are breeding for and fixes the challenges of the cow you are breeding to.  When you do that, you can be very confident in using genomic young sires to deliver the results you are looking for.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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6 Steps to Understanding & Managing Inbreeding in Your Herd

Many articles and various approaches have been written over the past couple of years on how to deal with inbreeding in dairy cattle (Read more: 20 Things Every Dairy Breeder Should Know About Inbreeding and INBREEDING: Does Genomics Affect the Balancing Act?). However the herd breeding approach towards inbreeding that is best suited for individual dairymen is not a one size fits all.


Frequently the method recommended is to find out-cross sires and to use them on a herd rather than closely related or inbred sires. The Bullvine produced such a list a few months back (Read more: 12 Sires to Use in Order to Reduce Inbreeding). However totally out-cross sires are almost non-existent as very few Holstein A.I. breeding bulls do not contain, in their first three generations, a cross to, at least, one of Bolton, Blitz, Durham, Goldwyn, Oman, Planet, or Shottle.

Sires From the Past

But we should not despair. This problem has been the same challenge for the past century. In the past there were concerns about too much concentration of the Holstein bloodlines when Rudolph, Blackstar, Valiant, Elevation, Astronaut, Rockman, the Burkes and the Montvics were in their hay days. It is not new in 2013. A few years back Holstein International produced an article on the extreme focus, around the world, on Blackstar as he had a few hundred sons that were sampled in A.I. But we moved on past the Blackstar focus and outcross sires came along and saved the breed from a one sire focus.

Recent Out-Crosses

The most recent ‘heroes’ to assist with avoiding inbreeding Holsteins have been Shottle, Oman and Planet. They themselves have average to below average inbreeding percentages – 6.25%, 5.06% & 7.27% respectively. We must remember that it was not their lower inbreeding percentages that attracted breeders to them it was what their daughters could do in every breeder’s herd. They were all out-crosses when they arrived on the scene. However, they were all used heavily, perhaps too heavily. In fact it is not the bulls that are the problem. It is our over abundant use of sires on close relatives that lead to them becoming inbreeding concerns.

Why Inbreeding was Practiced in the Past

Before the era of genetic evaluations, inbreeding was employed in what was called ‘Line Breeding’. The concept was to find a family that had the attributes a breeder wanted and then to double, triple or even quadruple up the cow or bull in the pedigree of the next generations. Breeders persist in using the line breeding approach even though we now have very accurate genetic indexes. As a result we are creating an inbreeding problem for ourselves. Especially for traits like fertility, immunity, vigour and longevity. In 2013 these traits are coming to the forefront in the breeding of dairy cattle.

What is Average for Inbreeding?

In the USA inbreeding is expressed by a term called Inbreeding Coefficient, whereas in Canada it is called Inbreeding Percent. The average value for each appear to be similar with the average inbreeding in Holsteins in Canada being 5.87% in 2009.

Here are some examples of inbreeding percent that can be expected from within family matings:

  • Brother- Sister     25%
  • Half Brother – Half Sister   12.5%
  • First Cousins    6.25%
  • Second Cousins    3.13%

In other words, the average animal in the Canadian Holstein populations was almost equivalent to being the result of mating first cousins.

Sire Selection & Inbreeding

Choosing sires to minimize inbreeding is not as simple as going to or and finding the top (lowest) bull for inbreeding percentage or inbreeding coefficient. Thus eliminating from your breeding program any bull that is over average for inbreeding. You must also consider the bloodlines in your herd and the inbreeding of your females.

It can happen that a cow and a bull each have low inbreeding percents but due to being from similar bloodlines the resulting progeny are inbred. Take Goldwyn for example. His sire, James, has an inbreeding percent of 3.67%. His dam, Baler Twine’s value is 9.74%. Yet when mated because of the intense line breeding to both Grand and Aerostar, Goldwyn’s inbreeding value is 15.69%. The line breeding did allow for his genetic make-up to be homozygous at many loci. We all know how he stamps out show type. However breeders planning to line breed further with Goldwyn in the pedigree should be concerned about the definite possibility of inbreeding depression for health and fertility traits. Sire stack does not show inbreeding as accurately as inbreeding coefficient or percent does.

For breeders interested in some bulls with below average inbreeding values, The Bullvine offers the following lists. Note that we have chosen bulls with high total merit indexes and above average for Daughter Pregnancy Rate and Daughter Fertility. There is no benefit to using a sire that has a low inbreeding number yet produces daughters that have low fertility or are lacking in any of healthy fast growing calves, immune animals, SCS, Feet & Legs or Mammary System. Of course the lack of heifer information across herds could be our Achilles Heel in the not too distant future in genetically advancing our heifers.

Tables 1 – Top Sires with Lower Inbreeding Levels

NameInbreedingIndexFatProteinUDC/MSFLC/F&LSCSDPR/DFNet MeritSire Stack
USA Sires
Amighetti Numero Uno3.62456 (GPA TPI)89472.72.212.591.3836Man-O-Man x Shottle x
Co-op O-Style Oman Just4.12246 (GTPI)47561.212.112.712.4728Oman x Teamster x
Farnear-TBR-BH Cashcoin52470 (GPA TPI)78522.881.242.561.4904Observer x Goldwyn x Shottle
De-Su Observer5.52332 (GTPI)61523.020.892.760.6792Planet x Oman x BW Marshall
Canadian Sires
Regan-ALH Diplomat5.342905 (GPLI)49738102.81101327Mr Burns x Oman x Durham
UFM-DUBS AltaEsquire5.692864 (GLPI)11063142.79103466Oman x Sam x Patron
Genervations Lexor5.793291 (GPA LPI)908411142.89100652Man-O-Man x Goldwyn x Durham
Swissbec Brekem5.853227 (GPA LPI)728013102.87102641Bookem x Man-O-Man x Mr Burns
Other Sires
O-Man End-Story3.812915 (Mace LPI)8069673.13103483Oman x Besn x Luke
Bertaiola Mincio4.32927 (Mace LPI)744516113.06100460Bolton x Iron x Mtoto
Koepon AltaClassman5.293180 (Mace LPI)94738102.71103721Man-O-Man Shottle x Aerostar
KNS Reminder5.743199 (Mace LPI)106797102.86101681Sudan x Oam-O-Man x Goldwyn

The Bullvine cautions breeders using genomic sires to not use just one sire. Many of the top sires on the genomic listings have average to above average inbreeding numbers. So it is best to use many genomic sires. Many breeders wisely use from 5 to 20 doses of a genomic sire and then move to another high genomic sire.

Six Suggested Practices

  1. Avoid using any sire that has above average inbreeding numbers especially if his pedigree has similar sires to the females in your herd.
  2. After identifying sires with average to below average inbreeding numbers, make sure they are superior for traits important in your breeding program like fat yield, protein yield, feet & legs, mammary system, udder health and fertility.
  3. Use a sire’s genetic and inbreeding indexes when selecting sires and do not practise line breeding.
  4. If there is a sire that you would like to use but his inbreeding index is on the higher side then use his top two non-inbred genomics sons.
  5. Use computerized sire mating programs as they consider inbreeding when making sire recommendations.
  6. A.I. organizations should publish the inbreeding values for the sires they sample, prove and market.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Inbreeding is a consideration but not the driving force when it comes to improving the genetic merit of a dairy herd. Line breeding served its purpose in the past but now can be detrimental to lowering inbreeding in dairy cattle. By following the suggested practices you will not only be able to better understand inbreeding, you will actually accelerate you genetic advancement, by not avoiding those sires that you thought would have been a inbreeding problem.  It’s important to remember just how much effect inbreeding will have, and how does that compare to the difference in genetic merit between the sires you are choosing from.

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.




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