Archive for July 2013

NORTH FLORIDA HOLSTEINS. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!

Don Bennink2013ect “With persistence and a plan anything is possible”.  Don Bennink grew up in Western New York in a small family who were not farmers. Early cattle purchases which he housed in the garage were the first remarkable chapter of this lawyer-cattleman’s inspiring story.  Don looks back. “I started accumulating Holsteins while in junior high school and high school and managed to maintain them through college.  On graduating from college, a 35 stall tie stall barn was rented and a small Farmers Home loan obtained.  Eventually several farms were purchased and the herd size expanded cow by cow.  In 1980, the move from New York to Florida was made.” He makes the evolution sound easy but we know that there are many blanks that had to be filled in between those early highlights and the 10,000 head that comprise the current operation known as North Florida Holsteins!

North Florida Holsteins Sets Example of 180 Degree Turn Toward Healthy and Profitable

North Florida Holsteins is the single largest dairy in Florida and home to roughly 4800 cows and 4400 heifers.  The balance are bulls and steers. The current acreage is about 2,400 acres.  Don outlines a very clear mission statement for their dairy genetics. “We believe that the function of a seed stock producer is to produce the animal that is the most profitable for the commercial dairyman.” He doesn’t mince words in referring to the breed association. “Don feels that the current philosophy of the Holstein Association is very contrary to this.” He gives three main targets that he seeks out as profitable. “High production with health traits and feed efficiency are our by words.  The present classification and type evaluation system are 180 degrees away from cattle that pay the bills.  Bigger, taller, sharper doesn’t cut it.  The latest correlation of final type score with stature is .77.  Worse yet, the correlation of udder composite with stature is .57.  That means if you breed 100% for udder composite, you will increase stature at more than half the rate that you would if you bred for stature alone.” There is only one conclusion for this dairy farmer. “The current 88 and 89 point 2 year olds are dysfunctional for the guy making milk for a living.” (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow)


NO-FLA Oman Heidi 20611 VG-87
2-01 305D 25760M 861F 739P
3-06 275D 25260M 101F 806P

Focused on Generations of High Health Produces Results

With such extensive experience, it is exciting to have Don describe an outstanding example of North Florida breeding. “The individual cow that has had the largest effect on our breeding is NO-FLA Oman Heidi 20611.  Heidi was the result of us stacking high health sires up for generations.  We have not used a negative DPR bull for decades.  One of her sons is either the highest or second highest DPR available in AI.  He also has a 9.1 PL.  An added bonus is he is a 4 on both sire and daughter calving ease.” Thus it isn’t a surprise that nearly every major bull stud has one or more of her active sons and Don expands on Heidi’s impact. “Her daughters are among our best individuals and indications are they are transmitters.  Her dam is an Excellent Mtoto with over 200,000 milk and the next dam an EX Rudolph.  This is a cow family that came down with us from NY.  A major portion of the herd traces to this family.”

NO-FLA DA RUDO SUE 15039 EX-94 Lifetime 259,313 8069F 7374P Dam - EX-93 Blackstar

Lifetime 259,313 8069F 7374P
Dam – EX-93 Blackstar

Major emphasis has been placed on established cow families.

Early North Florida breeding decisions were very specific. “These were largely centered around tough, rugged, long lived, high producing, consistent individuals.  Commonly whole herds were bought to get a cow family.  Don prefaces this list with the comment, “These kind of folks are way under recognized! Some of our best cow families came from Joe Dell in New York, Dick Wheeler in Pennsylvania, Brian Young, CV Vincent in Tennessee, Ted Olsen in Kentucky, David Greene from Tennessee, DeWitt Head from New York and the Newberry family from Georgia.  We then used the best production and health traits sires that were outcrosses to them and balanced their weakest traits.”

By-My Rudolph Salley

By-My Rudolph Salley

“Genomics has added an enormous opportunity to breeding Holsteins.”

So says this early adaptor of many leading edge technologies. “When I was young, a common statement was you have a maximum of about 10 generations of dairy cattle breeding to prove yourself as a breeder.  That was because a bull or cow was about 5 or 6 years old before you knew whether he or she met the standards you were breeding for.  Now that I am in my seventies, with a new generation every year, we can do 10 generations in a decade. With a considerable number of examples in stock to prove it, I place a lot of confidence in production and health trait genomics. “

Woodwind Juror Gutele

Woodwind Juror Gutele

“I place no confidence in type genomics.”

Once again Don holds a firm position supported by numbers.With the current correlation of .59 between udder composite and stature, it is not unusual to see the same udder scored good on a short or medium sized heifer that is very good on a tall heifer.  No study including the ones done by Holstein show any real correlation of foot and leg composite with foot health or herd life.  Bulls with + 3 and + 4 type proofs have daughters that are too big and too sharp for commercial dairymen.  For this reason gTPI or TPI are essentially ignored in bull or female selection.  Net Merit $ has some value.”

Jerseys Show and Work.  Holsteins are the Princess Breed.

My good friend in New Mexico, Buster Goff, and his son milk 5,000 Holsteins on one farm and 5,000 Jerseys on another.  Buster loves to show.  He shows his Jerseys because when the shows are over, he can take his Jerseys home and turn them in with the other cows.  If he were to show winning Holsteins, he would have to have a special barn because show type Holsteins can’t survive commercial conditions.


Don feels strongly about the urgency of the issues facing the Holstein dairy industry. “Today in the US, 3 % of the dairy farms make half the milk.  A decade ago Jerseys were 2% of the cow population.  Today 15% to 17% of the population is Jersey and Jersey crosses.  There are about 7 herds over 30,000 cows.  These are either all Jersey or switching to Jersey. The difference between 1% too much milk in the market and 1% too little milk in the market is $4 per cwt.  The difference between 15% too many Holstein heifers in the market and 15% too few is $500 to $1,000 per head.  The people that used to buy surplus Holstein heifers in volume are switching breeds.” This is a crisis which Bennink sums up this way, “ The US Holstein Association badly needs a wakeup call.  Our Holstein cow and our Holstein breeders are the losers if we continue to ignore the obvious long term stable customer.”

Choose Lifetime Achievement Over Star Chasing

With almost his entire lifetime devoted to dairy cattle, Bennink accepts the changes as well as the challenges. “Early on the grade dairyman looked to the purebred breeder as a source of genetic improvement.  Today the commercial dairyman looks at a purebred breeder as someone chasing stars.  The incomes of a substantial number of commercial dairymen are on par with CEO’s of substantial corporations and that of professional sports stars.  Rather than tap this resource, the typical purebred breeder is trying to market to someone wanting a winning show cow or a fly by night individual with a dream of owning some fancy cows.”  Certainly never one to be defined as “typical”, Don outlines the parameters that he uses.

“We are using the highest production and health sires we can find.

All AI matings have inbreeding coefficients run on them.  About two thirds of our heifers and a substantial portion of our cows are pregnant to IVF embryos from the top 3% of our females.  We breed the type of cow that is most profitable for us.  The market is ignored.  If folks like what we are doing and want to be part of it, they are welcome to see if there is a fit.  Our milk market doesn’t pay for protein but we emphasize it because it is in our future.”

Making Milk for a Living

Don urges all dairy breeders to weigh decisions carefully.Even though bigger, taller, sharper means shorter life, lower feed efficiency and fewer bottom line dollars, the show ring and the classifier prevail. What we have found to be the best index for the person making milk for a living is one put out by John Metzger.  It prioritizes factors according to their effect on bottom line.

With sixty years of experience Don recommends anyone starting out not to use the established dairy farm as his example.  “The first test is to be sure that you have the right stuff in the form of integrity, knowledge, ambition, reliability and performance. If you have these, opportunities will come because you are a commodity in short supply.”  After that Don Bennink, progressive dairy breeder, has five important principles that he feels are key to dairy success.

  1. Pay your bills and keep your word.
  2. You can rent a lot better setup than you can own when funds are low.
  3. Don’t be too proud to milk three titters or whatever to get your start.
  4. Don’t try it if your family is not behind it and willing to participate.
  5. Seven day weeks and long days will be in your future for some time.

The Best of Mentors. A Network of Friends.

As a responsible mentor himself, Donn Bennink looks to a special friend who excelled in this role. “Undoubtedly the major influence on me was Pete Blodgett.  The last 15 years of his life, he would come by and stay with us 4 or 5 days about 8 to 10 times a year.  Much time was spent on how to create the kind of beast that would best pay the bills for a dirt farmer like myself.  Digging out early health trait data any way we could was actively pursued.” Whether it’s staff, customers, friends or peers, Don puts people first on every major list at North Florida Holsteins.  “Our greatest accomplishment in dairy farming and Holstein breeding is the network of friends that we have established around the country and around the world.  They inspire us and add satisfaction to the challenges of a 24/7 lifestyle.  Helping them achieve as they have helped us achieve is the reward.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When it comes to the Bottom Line, as every sustainable business should, Don has a clear formula for success. “The quality of the team is a major contributor. We have tools available to fix the problem within our breed. The future is to be had by those that please the commercial producer and the consumer.”  Wise words from a recognized advocate, educator and leader. No doubt there will be continuing achievements for North Florida Holsteins!


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Better Decision Making by Using Technology

At an ever increasing rate new equipment and information becomes available that dairy farmers can use to advance the way in which they manage their herds. The early adopters often go out on a limb and install systems on their farms that they hope will make their operations more profitable. Making better decisions or having information that gives advance notice of potential cow problems is critical to increased herd profit.
ML - Herd_navigator_analyse_unit_and_cows_-_9675

New on the Scene

Recently the Bullvine took the opportunity to get close-in on a new piece of equipment by visiting two reference farms. This equipment is called Herd Navigator™ (HN), a product of DeLaval/FOSS, and it has just completed verification in Canada using four Ontario dairy farms. It had been developed, field tested and implemented in Europe and at the present time it is being installed commercially in additional farms in Canada.

In brief what it does is take milk samples from selected cows on selected days and, based on the analysis of the milk, provides reports for herd managers to use. As one would expect, this requires equipment for sampling (a sampler and a sorter) and testing (on-farm mini lab), computer software and linkage to the herd management software used on the farm by the herd manager, the nutritionist or the veterinarian.

VMSFullCow[1]Designed as the next tool for top herds

The focus of HN is cows in robotic and parlour herds from calving to being pregnant again. (Read more: Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd managment) Nancy Charlton DVM (Nutrition & Herd Management Specialist, DeLaval Canada) started her explanation and demonstration of HN by saying that “…. lets start with the basics. A herd must have an effective cow and heifer transition program. That is a well proven fact. HN is then a tool to make very good managers even better at their job.”  That made me want to listen even harder to Dr Charlton as she very adeptly went through the various procedures and reports for HN.

CHARLTON Pictures 027Multi-Purpose Tool

HN takes a milk sample at prescribed times and provides information on four areas important to herd management and profitability. Users of the HN™ system set up Standard Operating Procedures for all four areas, reproduction, mastitis, ketosis and urea level in the milk. When results for metabolic conditions exceed owner determined levels an alarm sounds (more correctly a report is generated) notifying the herdsman. Acting before a cow becomes a problem means less cost, more production and more profit.

It is a well known fact that managing REPRODUCTION takes detailed recording, considerable staff time, is a significant expense and reduces the average revenue per cow per year. For the time period starting 30 days before the voluntary waiting period until 55 days pregnant progesterone levels are monitored on critical days. Herd managers have access to detailed reports including: changes in progesterone levels; heats and the best time to breed; prolonged post partum anestrous; follicular cysts; luteal cysts; potential pregnancy; and early embryonic loss or abortion.

Life for herd managers would be much simpler if MASTITIS did not occur. But that would be a perfect world. HN uses the milk sample to measure the enzyme Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH) which is released into the milk in an affected quarter during inflammation. Increasing LDH levels are highly correlated with the increased presence of somatic cells and the early stage of subclinical mastitis.  The herd manager can choose to monitor the situation or to treat the cow immediately. At the very least the manager can look the cow up and make a visual or hands-on assessment. The creators of HN see using LDH as a more accurate way of determining the presence of mastitis. The frequency of testing cows for LDH is recommended as once per day for the first thirty days of lactation and after that it depends on the cow’s history and the herd’s standard operating practice.

The metabolic disease KETOSIS can be a thief of profit for cows by causing the loss of milk, lowering peak milk yield and cost of treatment. HN monitors the concentration of ketone bodies in a cow’ milks early in lactation. Measurements start on day four of lactation and continue until readings indicate there is a small chance of ketosis occurring. It is significant that HN reports on subclinical ketosis. Thus alerting the herd manager to take action before full blown ketosis occurs, either by altering the fresh cows diet or by treating the cow. Recent research indicates that subclinical ketosis is much more prevalent than dairymen are aware of. Potentially all herds are losing production due to subclinical ketosis and do not know it.

The final area that HN monitors is the UREA level in the milk a cow produces. This is similar to the MUN (milk urea nitrogen) service offered by CANWEST DHI but does not require that the owner wait until a milk recording test day.  As yet this part of HN may not get as much use as the three previously mentioned areas. It is important to know if protein level in the diet are too high, just right or too low. Over feeding protein, the expensive part of the ration, costs money while under feeding means a cow’s potential is not being achieved and other feed ingredients are not being fully utilized. From what I heard when speaking with the two herd owners, that I visited, this area has yet to be ‘discovered’ for use by HN owners.

In summary these four areas give herd managers the opportunity to increase the profitability of their herds from just a milk sample.

Information Provided

At any time the herd manager can go to his computer and call up any reports. HN is definitely designed for larger herds that manage cows by groups. It provides information so that individual cows within the groups can have their current problem addressed. Only problem cows need to receive the attention of the herdsman.

Sytse Heeg of Heegstee Farms commented “I only need to give my attention to cows with problems. It would not be possible for my wife and me to manage without HN. We have 110 cows milking on two robots, all the young stock and our family to attend to every day and also the field work during the summer time. We do have assistance from my father part time and a summer student.  I am so much more in control of my herd than I was before HN. And I am getting the results (profit) I wanted to get. Already 4 kgs more milk per cow per day with cows back in-calf as well as very low levels of mastitis and ketosis. In non-busy times it is even possible for us to take a vacation. But don’t forget I can remotely watch what is happening back home.”

At Elmwold Farms (Buchner Families), Jennifer is responsible for searching out the details from their 170 cow 3x herd that on the day I visited were producing, on average,  2.8 kgs (6.2 pounds) of fat & protein per day. When I visited Jennifer was on vacation so father (Chris) and brothers ( Greg and Derek) and cousin (Kevin), over a cold ice tea in the shade on a very hot summer day, described the many ways that their farm uses HN to better manage their herd. Chris Buchner provided the details.  “Our herd is focused on efficient high fat plus protein yield. That is what we are paid for kgs of fat and protein sold off-farm. But it is more than that. We were having too many cows on holidays, aka in the dry pens, too much of the time. We calve the vast majority of our heifers before two years of age so we give a bit of a break in having them calve back but the herd average calving interval is 12.6 – 12.8 months. We are running a 24% pregnancy rate, we average 2.2 inseminations per pregnancy, our reproductive cull rate has gone from 28% down to 22%, the vast majority of our cows are pregnant by 120 days into lactation and using the urea numbers we have been able to lower our TMR from 18 to 17% protein. We purchased HN to improve our daily management of cows by focusing on cows outside the norm and to use our facilities to their maximum. We will soon build additional cow housing and will give more attention to our fresh cows with one pen for fresh heifers only as we already know that they get pushed out of the feed bunk by older cows in the fresh group. We looked at using pedometers but after seeing how much more HN could do we made the decision to purchase it. We are very happy we decided to go this route. Our family operation is growing and I am proud to say that the next generation is keen to be profitable dairy farmers.”

Cost Benefit

Top notch herd managers always want to know the cost benefit of any input, service or tool. The DeLaval website suggest that using HN a herd can increase revenue by $330 US$ (250 euros) per cow per year with annual material costs of 130 US$ per cow and an equipment cost of 500 US$ per cow for a two hundred cow herd. All of these numbers do not include the savings in feed for fewer cows (milking and dry) as well as the need for less housing facilities. Definitely it does require that a herd be of sufficient size to justify the initial cost of the equipment.

Another thing about the HN system is that it  does all the work and testing thus allowing the herd manager to avoid the time to search out cows and do cow side testing. And, best of all, it does it before there is a problem not after the fact.

Muhieddine Labban (Automated Milking Systems Manager at DeLaval) sees the benefits in these ways “I like to call it return on investment with the results being: 1) accurate feeding – lower cost and waste; 2) lower cull rate; 3) lower use of antibiotics; 4) higher production per cow; 5) more effective use of the herd veterinarian; 6) higher pregnancy rate; 7) fewer inseminations lowering costs and semen used; 8) less herd manager frustration; 9) more family time for the dairy producer; and last but not least 10) the use of technology which will encourage the next generation to be dairy farmers”. An impressive list for every herd managers to consider.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For breeders looking to manage better and increase their per cow profit, more attention to cows needing individual attention is an avenue to pursue. It definitely does pay to have cows reach peak production, avoid mastitis and get back in calf as quickly as possible. Knowing the facts to base decisions on is the way to go.


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International Intrigue: Forget the Records It’s About the People.

There wasn’t your million dollar cow…..There wasn’t your 2013 Intermediate or Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo or the Royal…..But the 2013 International Intrigue hosted by Ferme Blondin was a roaring success!

I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise considering that with Ferme Blondin (sale hosts) and Butler Fellers Auctions (auctioneers) you are bringing together two of the largest players in the North American Genetics marketplace.  But the interesting part wasn’t that the sale had an insane sale topper that instantly adds $10,000 to the sale average.  Neither was there a bunch of packages of 30 animals that could count as one lot in the final average.  In reality, the strong $15,844 average on 167 lots was earned the good old school way. International Intrigue earned it through a high quality line up with great consigners and extremely happy buyers. (For full sales results click here and for more pictures click here)

While yes, the top four  selling animals did sell in absentia, that was not because they were not pretty, but rather because in today’s competitive genomic market, these very valuable animals were on or preparing for the money making program, also known as IVF (Read more: IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry).  But the animals that were there certainly had the crowd buzzing.

It’s about the People and the Passion

It was a very interesting crowd indeed.  Present at the sale was an almost perfect cross section of the North American genetics market.  Naturally, being hosted in Quebec, you had the very passionate French breeders that came out to support this great event being hosted in their home province for the second time.  But then you also had many of the top breeders from the east to west coasts of Canada and United States as well.


Simon Lalande and Kim Côté and their family

Everytime I go to Quebec I am impressed with the visible passion of the breeders there.  (Read more: Do We Speak the Same Language?) Maybe it’s because sometimes I find the rest of us to be somewhat dry and familiar.  Watching the Quebec breeders share their passion is invigorating.  The sale opened with as touching a welcome from the hosts as I have ever seen.  Normally reserved for those complete herd auctions where a long time breeder is selling their cattle for the final time (Read more: Ebyholme – The End of an Era), the welcome from sale hosts Simon Lalande and Kim Côté made me laugh but then also made me cry.  It made me laugh when Simon went to introduce Kim. He made us almost think that he was about to get down on one knee.  Even more touching was when Simon’s father shared how proud he is of his son and how everything that you see at Ferme Blondin has been inspired and built by the passion Simon has for the dairy business.  A great story of how a young commercial producer got the dairy genetics bug.


Future Stars – Shinning Bright

While it was often speculated that an early contender for this year’s fall shows, Willowholme Goldwyn Jessica would be added to the sale lineup, in the end there were no immediate contenders for Intermediate or Grand at the WDE or the Royal.  Highlights of the sale were Godin Bless Windbrook, Cameron-Ridge Atwood Beauty and Jacobs Sid Bamba.  All three come from outstanding pedigrees with Beauty tracing back to the great Rainyridge Tony Beauty and Bamba being an  own daughter of a cow that is sure to be a contender at WDE and the Royal, Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96.


Godin Bless Windbrook sells for $62,000

Cameron-Ridge Atwood Beauty sells for $62,000

Cameron-Ridge Atwood Beauty sells for $62,000

Jacobs Sid Bamba sells for $50,000

Jacobs Sid Bamba sells for $50,000

On the index side there certainly was no shortage of animals to choose from.  Highlighted by the sale topper Welcome Jerod Gola, the April 2013 “Jerod” heifer calf who is the number 33 gTPI female in the breed at +2569.  Selling for $145,000 in absentia and consigned by Welcome Stock Farm, LLC, Schuylerville, N.Y., she is from Welcome Russell Gotcha (VG-85-USA), a “Russell” with 26,374 lbs. milk, 4.4% fat, 3.3% protein as a yearling who completes nine generations of Very Good.  She was #3 on the new gTPI female list in June 2013.  She stands #33 gTPI female in the breed.

Sidelines that will be future Headlines

A very interesting consignment in the sale was the first choice of a “Chevrolet” male from Bryhill One Sassy P, a December 2012, polled “Numero Uno” with a +3142 PA gLPI and +2313 gTPI.  This consignment came from Bryhill Farm Inc. and Riverbye Holsteins, Ormstown, Que. The buyer is guaranteed at least one male to be polled and above PA for gTPI.  Gone are the days when you could get $10,000 max for a top bull. The $100,000 paid by a syndicate shows that the cost for top bulls is only getting hotter (Read more: Who Is Selling Your Bull?).


Another interesting element to watch during the sale was the coming of age of the live webcast and real-time bidding. There were 177 Bids from 15 different online bidders, 37 contending bids, and total bids of $849,200.  The average of all bids taken online was $4,796.  The 37 contending bids is a new record!


Highest selling milking female at $92,000 to Alain Choiniere of Alna Holsteins, Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, Que., was 3-year-old Ms C-Haven Oman Kool-ET (VG-87).

On a personal note, I was very excited to see Ms C-Haven Oman Kool-ET (VG-87-2YR), the former number one gTPI “Man-O-Man” daughter in the U.S. and second highest protein cow at +80.  My parents had purchased a daughter of Kool at last year’s Sale of Stars in Toronto when Kool was still a maiden heifer and we were excited to see her and get a glimpse of the potential (Read more: Genomic Stars Shine at Sale of Stars).  Her new owners Alain Choiniere of Alna Holsteins, Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge, Que, will be extremely happy as this family has the two most important components for any moneymaking investment.  They have high numbers and they flush extremely well.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Don’t get me wrong, just like at cattle shows (Read more: Is the Show Ring the Center of the Dairy World?), I do love looking at great cows, but more importantly, it’s about the people.  The fifth edition of International Intrigue was built around the two most important things in the world – passion and family.  The sale hosts Simon and Kim set the tone.  Everyone in attendance had a great time at a great sale.  For in the end, it’s not about the records you do or don’t set, it’s the people that make events like these so great!


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Is the Show Ring the Center of the Dairy World?

Now there is a question that you will get many different answers to.  From your die hard show supporters that believe the earth revolves around the show ring, to your commercial producers that would tell you there could be nothing further from what really matters.  Everyone has an opinion.  The question becomes, ”Who is right?”  For me personally this question comes up as I prepare to head out to the Ontario Summer Show and then on to the International Intrigue Sale at Ferme Blondin on Saturday.  On the one hand,   I am questioning if this is really that important to 99% of the breeders out there?  And beyond that, how much will the results of this show and the sale affect the dairy industry?

I wonder will the Grand Champion of the show really have any genetic effect on the rest of the industry?

Probably not.  For example, take a look at last year’s World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion, RF Goldwyn Hailey.  Are her genetics setting the breed on fire?  NO.



So then if it’s not from the genetic advancement standpoint, what is it that’s important about dairy cattle shows?

Will the standard from the show ring become the new standard for type classification?  No.  In many cases type classification and show ring evaluation could not be farther apart (Read more: Over-Scored and Over-Rated).  Therefore, it’s not the show ring that is setting the standard for which all other cows will be measured.

So then what is it that has so many breeders excited about showing?

Could it be the thrill of competition?  There is no doubt that as a society we put our great athletes on pedestals and maybe the show cows are just like the great athletes, whom we idolize so much.  Just as in every day society, the vast majority of us could not name the top executives at the world’s Fortune 100 companies, many breeders could not tell you the top ten gTPI or gLPI females in the breed.  HOWEVER … we all can tell you our favorite show cow.  And just like we have Green Bay Packer, Montreal Canadians or Toronto Blue Jays fans who would die for their team, there are fans of the many great show cows that would scorn anyone who says anything negative about them.

I think another great thing about shows is the way   they bring everyone together.  Whether you love showing cows or not, pretty much all breeders are passionate about dairy cattle.  Anytime you can get this number of people together who are passionate about the same thing, you are sure to have a good time.  There is no question that dairy breeders are very passionate about what they do.  You certainly cannot say you got into dairy farming for the money, because there are much greater opportunities to make money in other industries.  However, you certainly will be hard pressed to find a greater community where everyone shares the same passion as they do in the dairy industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Is the show ring the center of the dairy world?  Probably not.  But is it the perfect opportunity to see amazing cattle and talk with fellow breeders about what is great about this industry?  Yes.  I love to show…I love going to shows…..I love looking at great show cows…..most importantly I love talking with dairy breeders about cows. All of these things happen at a show.  So for me, the answer is “Yes!” For that day, that show is definitely the center of the dairy industry!


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Who is selling your bull?

So you have a high testing bull that all the A.I. studs want…Great! Now the headaches begin.  Sure the day you got the test results back it felt like you had won the lottery. But it’s not that simple. There is a lot more work to be done.  You see, picking which A.I. center to lease your bull to is a lot more complicated than most think.  It’s not simply figuring out who will pay you the most money.  Anyone who has read a sire lease agreement knows that you need a masters in law and mathematics in order to calculate just how much money you will actually get paid.  With that in mind the Bullvine decided to highlight some of the key factors that many breeders may not be paying enough attention to when they decide who to lease their bull to.

Market Share & Distribution

Bigger is not always better (Read more: Does Size Matter).  Having said that, when it comes to which stud to lease your bull to, size can’t hurt.  Think about it. The big 5 studs have more than 10 times the distribution of even the medium studs.  That would mean that you need to get 10x the % royalty that you would get from a smaller stud.  For example if Stud A has a 25% market share and offers a 10% royalty, a smaller stud that has say 5% market share would have to offer 50% royalty in order to deliver the same net revenue.

Click on image for enlargement

Market Segment

Probably just as important as market share is market segment.   This means that you would not lease a high type sire to a stud whose core clientele is commercial producers.  They just would not have the correct distribution network to move the maximum amount of semen for you.  For example, studs like Alta Genetics, Genex and ABS have a strong commercial producer clientele, so a NM$ sire would be better to lease to them than a high type sire would be.  Conversely, studs like Semex and Select Sires have strong type lineups. Hence they have developed great distribution channels that work well for show and pedigree breeders.

ptat siressw

Taking this one step farther, it’s also important to see how strong that studs lineup is that would compete with your bull.  For example Select Sires has a strong all around line-up (Read more: Stud Wars – The Battle for AI Supremacy), so your bull may be one of many top sires to market in that segment.  Whereas studs like ABS and Accelerated have a strong market segment to the commercial producers, but currently do not possess as strong a lineup of NM$ sires in relation to their market share.  Leasing your high NM$ sire to one of these studs would probably result in greater marketing and distribution efforts for your sire, as it would be more unique in their lineup, and still be in that stud’s wheel house.

Click on image for enlargement

Marketing/Lease Agreement

Seth Godin probably said it best “Never sign a contract or make an investment that you don’t understand at least as well as the person on the other side of the transaction.”

In reviewing many of the contracts offered by most studs these days, the wording is so vague about what you will actually get paid, and who owns the rights to what, that it can be hard for most non lawyers to even understand what you are signing.  You may know the stud’s personnel or the sire analyst that you are dealing with quite well. But what happens if they get fired?  What happens if new ownership or technologies come out?  Things like first release semen, cloning, etc are all key parts of any agreement. These are just a few of the details that you need to understand clearly.

We keep a law firm on retainer for all contracts we sign for the work that we do.  This has helped since starting the Bullvine for those interesting times when some threaten to sue us.  When I showed our lawyers the contracts that the major A.I. studs have breeders sign, they first laughed, and then said that breeders should never sign them.  Everything should be clearly put in writing.  Until you are crystal clear on how the agreement will work (in writing), you should never sign anything.

There are key questions you need to be clear on: what is their definition of domestic semen; what is the value of early release semen; and what is the difference between the retail and wholesale selling price?  Each of these terms can have a huge impact on the revenue you will receive.   For example many of the larger studs sell semen to their member co-operatives or sister organizations very cheaply and that is the rate you get your lease from.  Even though these studs then go and sell that semen for 5 and 6 times as much.  Since you are paid on what the originating stud sells it for and not their member co-operative or sister organization sells it for, you could be losing out on thousands of dollars.

One thing I am surprised about is that more breeders aren’t demanding and more studs aren’t delivering a full accounting of exactly how many units were sold and for what price.  In a sense they are asking you to trust them in blind faith that the numbers they tell you are correct.  Now I am not saying the studs are trying to cheat you, but for everyone involved an accurate accounting for total number of units sold and blend price is necessary to build trust in these partnership arrangements.

It`s also important to make sure that the agreement is a Win-Win for both sides.  You may think you have gotten the best of the stud for the arrangement you get, but if it is not a win for them they just won’t move semen, and that is an extremely key element in any lease.  You see if it costs them too much to sell your bull and they have other bulls that are close and cost way less, naturally they are going to move those other sires.

Also realize that in today`s genomic market, 6 months after a bull is released there is a good chance that the bull will no longer be in the top of the list, so an agreement that worked well for a list topper, may no longer work well for a sire who is in that no man’s land between early release and proven sire status.  Make sure you have arrangements and agreements in place with the stud that keeps semen moving and is still a win-win for both sides.  One arrangement I have seen work well is a % of net royalty for the first year and then a set price per dose after that.  That way you capitalize on the high value, early release semen and then agree to a very manageable set price for the stud after that. This way, they can continue to market and promote the sire.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The “aw shucks I am glad to be selling a bull to A.I.” days are over.  This is a business.  Big business. And with big business comes contracts.  In order to maximize your revenue, you really need to become adept at contract negotiations.  Only then can you know who is really selling your bull and exactly how much money you are making.


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Your Barn Is On Fire!

top13of2013What would you do if you were awakened in the middle of the night to thumping and banging on doors and windows, just to find out that 30 years of your hard work was burning to the ground?  That is exactly what happened to two time Master Breeder Clarence Markus early this past Monday morning. (Read more: 100 Cattle Dead After Barn Fire at Markvale Holsteins)


This is all that remains of the barns at Markvale Holsteins.

Years of his family’s hard work was going up in smoke in front of them and there was nothing they could do.  Next to the loss of a child I could not imagine something as devastating as this.  Clearance and his wife, Wendy, have poured their lives into developing this Master Breeder herd to one of the most respected in the area.  But greater than the herd they have developed is the respected place they have earned in the community.  The outpouring of support from friends and neighbours has been outstanding and extremely touching for the Markus family.

Approximately 75 firefighters took part in the battle against the barn fire at Markvale.

Approximately 75 firefighters took part in the battle against the barn fire at Markvale.

I have been privileged to know the Markus family my whole life.  Clarence has served on many committees over the years, dating way back to the WOBI (Western Ontario Breeders Inc.) days and there is one outstanding point I always think of when I think of Clarence and Wendy…..That is how outstanding they are as parents.  Being just a little bit older than the Markus kids gave me the opportunity and the perspective to see the extent Clarence and Wendy went to be great parents.  There are three things that I always noticed in what Clarence and Wendy have done for their kids:

  • Lead by Example
    Clarence and Wendy have always modeled the behaviour they wanted to see in their children.  They didn’t preach one thing and do another.  Instead they instilled a strong sense of values in their children, through living a life that they could be proud of, no matter who was watching.
  • Develop Their Children
    Clarence and Wendy did more than just “be parents” to their children.  They have always worked hard to be developers of them.  From the days when the kids were just starting out and it could have been easier to do the work for them, they have always instilled in the kids a sense of work ethic and determination that they could succeed at anything.
  • Inspired Their Kids
    There is no doubt that parents teach their children how to view the world.  Clarence and Wendy have worked very hard to inspire their kids to success.  I have always found Clarence to be a man of strong will, and now find it interesting that I see the same strong internal spirit in his children.  It is interesting to note that they did not force their viewpoints on the kids, but rather, allowed them to develop their own.
Clarence, Wendy and the Markus family.

Clarence, Wendy and the Markus family.

Of course we all know that the ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand during times of challenge and controversy.  What distinguishes people with extraordinary character is how they respond when life sends one of its inevitable curves.  Watching the CTV interview with Clarence showed me exactly what I always thought to be true here is a man of great character.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Markus family will come out twice as strong as a result of this experience.  In looking through history, I am reminded of the tragedy that struck the Patenaude family, Gillette Holsteins, in 1994.  A barn fire killed 205 cows, destroying their main free-stall barn and milking parlour, plus the show barn.  One of the few animals to survive was the “miracle” cow Gillette Blackstar Christiane VG-88 17*, who literally rose from the flames and ashes of the blaze.  She would go on to win Holstein Canada’s Cow of the Year Award in 2000. Despite the enormous set-back, the Patenaudes never gave up hope. (Read more about the success the Patenaude family has had, GILLETTE BLITZ 2ND WIND – 2012 Golden Dam and  Top Ten Most Influential Holstein Breeders of All Time)  The Markus’s also have their own “miracle” cow.  She is Markvale SS Erica, who Clarence calls his best cow.  “She was six or seven cows in, but somehow she got out.  How we don’t know.  It’s a miracle.”  He says.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No life is perfect.  Mine certainly isn’t.  We all face challenges both large and small.  This very minute, somewhere in the world, there are parents dealing with the death of a child.  This very minute, someone has suffered an accident that will devastate their loved ones.  This very minute, there are human beings dealing with illness in a hospital bed.  Sickness, loss, disappointment.  As the Markvale fire can attest, no one gets through life without experiencing the hard times.  But we have the power to choose to rise above external circumstances.  We have the opportunity to use these stumbling blocks as stepping stones to a greater life.  Just as the Markus family is demonstrating!  They have our respect and sincere good wishes as they pull together through this adversity.


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Ferme J.P. Poulin: You’re Always Welcome! Toujours Bienvenu!

At Jeanlu Holsteins a growing dairy business is run with the passion and commitment we have learned to expect from Holstein dairy breeders. However the cows aren’t the only ones who receive special care and attention. Upon arriving in St-Georges in Quebec, all visitors to Ferme J.P. Poulin & Fils will be welcomed by the warm hospitality of this passionate dairy farm family that had its beginnings in 1956 with Lucille Labbé and Jean Paul Poulin.

Photo de famille

(l-r) Maxime,Karine, Jeannine, Simon and Sarah

This Farm Family Keeps Up the Good Work

Ferme J.P. Poulin has been owned by Simon Poulin since 1982. At that time he had his brother Daniel took over the farm operation from their parents. In 1999, Simon’s wife bought Daniel’s share.  In January 2013 their daughter Sarah (23) joined her parents and became the third partner in the current farm.  There are two other siblings, Karine (25) who works for Agropur in Granby and Maxime (19) who works on the farm. Karine’s boyfriend Samuel Jacques is one of two full-time employees.  With family and a few students every year, they have created a great team to take care of over 300 head of cattle on 650 acres of land (500 owned and 150 rented).

vaches Jeanlu

Their Passion Shows Results in the Show Ring and in the Barn

Sarah admires her father’s passion for showing cows. “He started to show his own cows in 1988 and has never stopped since then.”  Every year Jeanlu has a full string at their county show and they take a few cows or heifers to the Quebec Spring Show, Quebec Fall Show and sometimes to World Dairy Expo and the Royal. These show strings are the natural result of the Jeanlu breeding philosophy which as Simon says, “The goal is to breed great show cows.” He loves that his cows have awesome udders and everyone who visits the herd can see that!!  The Jeanlu herd is comprised of 100 milking cows.  They aren’t just pretty to look at they have production too. The herd classification is 16EX, 68 VG and 25 GP. The milking average is close to 10,800 kg with 4.1% Fat and 3.2% Protein.

For Sarah It Starts with Love

There can be no holding back, according to Sarah, when you are buying a heifer or cow. “You have to love her when you first see her and love her pedigree.” She goes on from her personal experience. “Every animal that I bought I fell in love with them!”  She encourages others to do the same. “Don’t be shy.  Talk with other people that you trust. You have to have a budget.  Sometimes it’s a lot of money but, most of the time it’s worth it because, if you buy a good one, you will make money!”

Ms Chassity Freddie Cala VG-2YR Freddie x Regancrest S CHassity - EX-92 DOM GMD 4*

Ms Chassity Freddie Cala VG-2YR
Freddie x Regancrest S Chassity – EX-92 DOM GMD 4*

Simon Says Hello to Genomics

In the past few years Simon has started to introduce genomics into his breeding. Sarah reports that in 2009 they started to buy high genomic heifers – some from sales and some privately. She updates the success they have had. “We are currently working with three amazing cows!”  The three she is referring to are MS Chassity Freddie Cala now VG 2yrs, Farnear Brocades Bea (Observer) now VG86 2 yrs and Speek-NJ Observ Fandango now VG86 2 yrs.  When Sarah and Simon buy heifers or cows they have definite parameters that have to be met.  “They have to be from a great and strong cow family (like Barbie, Adeen, Debutante-Rae, Pledge) and they have to be nice heifers too – with great feet and legs, good rumps and they must look good underneath.”

Farnear Brocades Bea VG-86-2yr 2885 GPA LPI / 2946 DGV / 2156 GTPI +17 in type! Sired by Observer  Dam Regancrest G Brocade EX-92  DOM

Farnear Brocades Bea VG-86-2yr
2885 GPA LPI / 2946 DGV / 2156 GTPI
+17 in type!
Sired by Observer
Dam Regancrest G Brocade EX-92 DOM

Genomics on the Sire Side

Simon believes in genomics as long as the sires are from a great cow’s family, and that he likes the cross and likes the proof of the sire.  Sarah describes the process “There are so many new bulls we have to choose the great ones. Sometimes we need to talk with people that know both bulls and genomics in order to make a good choice.” Simon likes to talk with Yvon Chabot and Thierry Laberge to find the best breeding cross on his best genomic cattle.  He and Sarah recognize that genomics represent big changes for breeders in the past few years.  They feel, “Everyone has to use genomics a bit, if they want to make their herd progress faster.  Some people don’t trust or believe in genomics, but if we make a smart choice in our cross, it does improve the genetics and the breed.”  Sarah notes. “When we choose a sire, we make sure he is a good type bull, low SC and good in health and fertility.  We are currently using some genomic sires like Anton, Distinction, Eloquent, Flame, Bookkeeper, Gold Chip, Mccord… We also use Fever, Aftershock and we still use Goldwyn.”

Ransom-Rail Explode Pati VG-86-2YR-CAN  Her dam: Welcome Mac Peytan VG-87 2nd dam: Welcome Goldwyn Penya VG-89 2 yr-old

Ransom-Rail Explode Pati VG-86-2YR-CAN
Her dam: Welcome Mac Peytan VG-87
2nd dam: Welcome Goldwyn Penya VG-89 2 yr-old

Working to Build the Future of Jeanlu

There are successes both past, present and future for this dairy breeding family. “Probably the best heifer that we bred is Jeanlu Stardust Fidele who was Junior Champion in 1998 at both World Dairy Expo and the Royal Winter Fair. She was owned by Comestar Holsteins.” The current scene is looking good too. “We are flushing Ransom-Rail Explode Pati VG86 2 yrs from the Welcome Goldwyn Penya family. We are excited for MS Brasilia Bryce (Gerard) who has calved and looks amazing! Her Supersire daughter is the highest GLPI heifer at Jeanlu.  She is at 3342 GLPI and 3491 DGV. We also have a Bookem from Scientific Deluxe Rae EX and a Goldwyn from Windy-Knoll-View Prairie EX-92. They are both due this fall. We also have 4 daughters of Adeen: a Goldwyn VG-86, Alexander VG and a Jeeves GP83 2 yrs. The fourth will be sold this summer.

Speek-NJ Observ Fandango- VG-86-2yr Only 3 weeks fresh on the pic! 2058 GTPI 8 EX dams!

Speek-NJ Observ Fandango VG-86-2yr
Only 3 weeks fresh on the pic!
2058 GTPI – 8 EX dams!
Her Mogul daughter sells in the International Intrigue Sale

Hot Summer Sellers

The Poulin family welcomes the hot days of summer, especially if it involves heated interest in their cattle that are being offered for sale. Referring to what she considers their best of four Adeen daughters, Sarah says, “We are selling BVK Casino Adrian VG87 2 yrs! She is a fantastic Jr 2 with an awesome udder.  She is a powerful young cow with a great future! She is probably the first Casino in milk.” Casino is the full brother of Gold Chip so this is an incredible cross with Goldwyn, Adeen and Barbie in the same pedigree. She goes further.” We are also proud to offer in the International Intrigue Sale the highest Mogul Daughter of Speek-NJ Observ Fandango.  This heifer is 3284 gLPI, 3429 DGV and 2397 gTPI. Fandango has 8 generations Excellent dams!” In August they will be selling a calf in the Heatwave Summer Sale. “We are selling an awesome calf by Numero Uno from Farnear Brocades Bea (Observer). Jeanlu Uno Beauty is 3086 gLPI, 3123 DGVand 2395 gTPI.” For both Simon and Brian Craswell Beauty has it all. “She is the complete package: Numero Uno x Observer x Goldwyn x Barbie.”  It is clear that Poulin can be passionate about both the buying and the selling of great dairy cows!

BVK Casino Adrian VG-87-2yrs
Sells in the International Intrigue Sale

Jeanlu is Ready to Learn from the Best!

The Poulin family have been inspired by great Holstein breeders like Brian Craswell and Jeff Butler for their “exceptional sales.” They also praise Simon’s close personal friend, Marc Comtois.  Sarah says, “For Simon, Marc is one of the best breeders in the world.  He is an awesome guy, always positive and enthusiastic to develop the Holstein breed. He keeps investing in great cows and selling some good ones too. He made the Comestar prefix well-known worldwide and we would like to do the same with the Jeanlu prefix!”

Jeanlu Invites You to See Their Best

No doubt by now you would like to get an eyeful of the Jeanlu herd.  You may have seen their magazine ads in Cowsmopolitan, Holstein Journal and the Revue Holstein Quebec. Sarah gives other sources. “We have a website that we keep updated and you can find our website on the Holstein World and Cowsmopolitan websites. “We also have a Facebook page. We think it’s the best advertising we can do for free!” On the “reality” side of promoting the herd, Simon feels his biggest accomplishment was buying a second farm and land close to the main barn two years ago. “We renovated the whole barn to make it look like a show barn.  This is where we put the show cows and heifers and the high genomic heifers.  It’s a sweet barn where cattle are comfortable and happy!” During the 2012 Holstein Quebec convention Jeanlu presented a Tag Sale there.  In residence now is Jacobs Baxter Brune VG89. She was 5th Jr two year old at World Dairy Expo in 2011 and was nominated All-American, All-Canadian and All-Quebec that year.  “She is fresh now as a 4yr old and looks fantastic!”

Jacobs Baxter Brune VG-88
Nom. All-American, All-Canadian and Tout-Québec 2011
5th Jr 2 WDE 2011 2nd Jr 2 Expo Québec
1st, best udder & Honorable Mention Expo Bassin de la Chaudière
1st & best udder Expo de Beauce
Dam: Jacobs Goldwyn Brillance EX
Full sister of Goldwyn Britany EX-96 2E

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Jeanlu Holsteins enjoy the challenge of running a successful dairy enterprise.  One of the keys to their success is that they don’t measure it in prizes won or animal indexes alone but in the connections they make with people. They take care of their cows.  They especially take care of their family, friends and fellow breeders.  That’s the way Ferme J.P. Poulin & Fils takes care of business. Merci Beaucoup!

Click here for more details about the International Intrigue Sale 2013 Edition hosted by Ferme Blondin

International Intrigue: The World Will Be Watching the 5th Edition at Ferme Blondin

If you’re looking for the excitement of genetic discovery or want to keep updated on the mystery of what is the best and you are hoping to find it all rolled up in a wonderfully hospitable event … you need to make your way to St. Placide, Quebec for the International Intrigue Sale 2013 Edition hosted by Ferme Blondin on July 27, 2013. This could be one time where delving into Intrigue may cost you money but could also put you further ahead as you build your herd of top genetics, genomics and cow families.

According to Simon Lalande there will be something for everyone.

International-Intrigue-2013_web750[1]“The sale will be offering the best of all worlds, high genomics heifers, big time show cows and heifers and well-known cow families.  Kim Cote enthusiastically agrees. “Jeff, Ed, Tim and Simon had done an amazing job when taking consignments to assure that it was only the best!!!  People that attend the sale can expect an amazing line-up of cattle and an opportunity to visit with other Holstein breeders with the hospitality going on from Friday afternoon to late Saturday night.  We want that everyone attending the sale have a great time and relax with good friends!”  Of course there will be the usual amount of exacting attention paid to every detail from the catalog to extensive advertising.  Everything pulls together to make this a must-attend event where you can see some of the top animals in the world and have a lot of fun at the same time.

If enthusiasm is any indication, then the 5th Intrigue sale is already headed for success.

With their customers’ best interests in mind, some changes have been incorporated into this sale. “The program of the sale will be similar to the last sale but we will have more live animals selling this time and less choices.  For Ferme Blondin, it is important to have something for every kind of breeder.  “We want everyone to find what they like in the sale and have the chance to bid and buy one whatever their budget is.  In the future, we want to keep doing lower profile sales at our farm so we don’t want to scare our customers with only high prices. “

Ms Pride Gold Invite 761 VG-89-CAN 3yr

Ms Pride Gold Invite 761 VG-89-CAN 3yr
Res. Intermediate Champion Quebec Spring Show ’12
Grand dam is the dam to the very popular bull Regancrest AltaIOTA!
Family with al lot of proven bulls like Durham, Dundee, Damion, Mac, Million and many more!
Goes back on the legendary brood Cow Snow-N Denises Dellia EX-95
3 daughters selling in the sale

Obviously “International Intrigue” is good for cattle buyers but it has proven benefits for the hosts such as Ferme Blondin too.

“Hosting the Intrigue sale the first time was really good for us because it brought us a lot of people that never had the chance before to come and visit the farm.  We made a lot of new contacts in the business and a lot of new friends!” Kim Côté has encouraging words for future hosts, “If someone has the potential of hosting one of the future sales, they should go ahead!  It has been a pleasure for us to work with Jeff, Ed and Tim.  They are great people that all share the same passion: cows!


Ronbeth Alexander Pearl (Alexander)
1st place Senior 2 Year Old Maxville
Sells as lot 21

Ferme Blondin will be selling 50 head in the sale

With 2/3 that are milking cows, Kim highlights some of the lots. “We will be offering some of our best show cows, Pearl (1st Sr 2 Yr Old at Maxville), Lulabelle 1st Jr 3Y old at Maxville) and three daughters of Invite (Grand at Maxville).  We will also be offering some of our best genomic calves (a choice of 2nd and 3rd highest Uno daughters from Apple and the #1 Phoenix in Canada from the Smithden Allen Allison family).  The Barbie and Supra families will also be well represented with several family members selling.”

Polestar Goldwyn Lulabelle (Goldwyn) 1st place Junior 3 Year Old Maxville - See more at:  Read More at ©

Polestar Goldwyn Lulabelle VG-88-2YR
1st place Junior 3 Year Old Maxville
Sells as lot 14

Ed Fellers, co-owner of Butler and Fellers is super happy with the lineup for this Intrigue Sale.

So much so that he refuses to narrow his list of favorites. “I will say that we have 15-20 heifers and young cows that have the potential to contend or win at this year’s National Shows! We also have at least 6 high genomic heifers selling with over 2500 gTPI! Additionally, we have the #1 Polled RC female in the World selling, the highest and 2nd highest gTPI polled females ever to be offered at public auction, and several more breed leading flush age Red and RC polled offerings! Choices sell from the number 1 gLPI cow in the World and the number 2 gTPI cow in the World as well as from the #1 flush age polled female in the World!”  There is undoubtedly a favorite for every dairy breeder with a specific focus.  Two that stand out are MOM Kool who sells as Lot 1 and is the number 2 Protein cow in North America.  Aubry sells as Lot 5 with the potential to become a truly incredible Brood Cow….. And the list goes on!

Ms C-Haven Oman Kool (hd)

Ms C-Haven Oman Kool VG-87 VG-MS 2YR
Former #1 GTPI Man-O-Man daughter in the US
The 2nd highest Protein Cow in North America
Sells as lot 1

From the benchmark 5th year of the International Intrigue Sale we look back to where it all began.

Jeff Butler describes the process that got it all started. “Dallas Burton and Ed Fellers were still managing Burton Fellers Auctions and we had an extremely successful inaugural Parade of Perfection Sale in 2008.  After World Dairy Expo 2008, I talked with Ed about the Milk Source display etc. and how it would be great to have a sale at their farm.  So Ed and I went up there in October 2008 and booked the sale for summer 2009. Milk Source did a fantastic job. We got some great consignments and had one of the best sales ever!” After that first sale at Milk Source, International Intrigue continued its momentum at Mapelwood in Ontario, Blondin in Quebec, Butlerview and Blondin again this year.  Here’s an opportunity to mark your forward calendar because Jeff tells us, “The 2014 International Intrigue sale is currently scheduled to be at Milk Source again!”

Regancrest S Chassity EX-92 EEEVE DOM

Regancrest S Chassity EX-92 EEEVE DOM
Her Goldwyn daughter Cash is one of the hottest young cows in the world, she sold for $205,000 and has progeny testing way above parent average!
Dam of Gold Chip…one of the most popular genomic sires in the World & Mr Chassity Colt 45-ET *RC, *PO, +2248 GTPI, the #1 RC Polled Bull in the World, available through Jetstream Genetics!

Tales of Intrigue

Every International Intrigue Sale has recorded sales of terrific animals – both type and genomic. With the growing records, there are numerous examples to prove that the excitement doesn’t end when the sale is over. Jeff Butler provides a few highlights to illustrate the continuing impact of those carefully chosen lots. “In 2009, Chassity and her offspring/pregnancies sold for $1.5M.  This was just prior to the genomic era.  Gold Chip was one of the pregnancies that sold with her.  Dubeau Dundee Hezbollah also sold that day and was Intermediate Champion at Madison that same year.  Rubens Marla also sold that day and was Grand Champion Red and White Cow at Madison 2 months later.  In 2011 Licorice sold.  In 2012 Camomile, Monique, and Gold Barbara sold.”

Cookview Goldwyn Monique EX-92 3yr EX-95 MS

Cookview Goldwyn Monique EX-92 3yr EX-95 MS
All-Canadian & Unanimous All-American Senior 3 Year Old 2012
1st Senior 3 Year Old, Intermediate Champion & HM Grand Champion Royal Winter Fair 2012
1st Senior 3 Year Old, Intermediate & Reserve Grand Champion WDE 2012
Sold in last years sale

The Bullvine Bottom Line

History confirms that International Intrigue Sale animals have gone on to become breed leaders and produce some of the best genomic offspring the breed has ever seen.  Likewise the type animals have proven their worth as Champions and All Americans and All Canadians.  Take the opportunity to be at Blondin on July 27th.  Not only could you buy a top animal with the obvious benefit to your breeding program but you will have the fun of sharing the excitement with the best marketers in the Holstein industry.

Click here for more details about the International Intrigue Sale 2013 Edition hosted by Ferme Blondin

Does Size Matter?

“Warning: Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13.  Article intended for readers ages 14 and older.  May contain strong violence and strong profanity, and depictions of sexual activity as long as they are within the context of the story.”

Were you one of those guys who wouldn’t shower after gym class because of embarrassment?  Pretty much since birth, most men are engrained  with an infatuation with size.  For many their very manhood is measured by size.  Most men live in constant fear that their manhood is not big enough.  Well I have great news for you Women don’t care.

The same is true for your dairy cattle breeding program.  For years, many dairy breeders put excessive emphasis on size.  Maybe it was because of the show ring and it is the easiest comparison  to judge.  Fortunately, the show ring now places less emphasis on size (although not totally gone).  More importantly, I have had many conversations with forward thinking breeders who are actually starting to put a negative emphasis on size.

Quality over Quantity

Having a bigger organ doesn’t hurt. Having a bigger cow can actually cause you and your cow pain.  Many cows are getting too big for their environments.  Cows are not fitting comfortably into their stalls and this is causing  both free stall and tie stall breeders to have to modify their environments.  The old theory that a bigger cow  produces more milk is actually incorrect.  When looking at the top 10 gTPI sires in the world, we see that their average estimated breeding value for stature is 1.80 and 1580 lbs. of milk.   The top 10 proven production sires average 1.45 for stature and 2757 for lbs. of milk.  Yet the top 10 proven PTAT sires  have an average  stature score of 3.78 and 112 lbs. of milk.  This clearly demonstrates  that bigger is not always better when it comes to milk production.

With that in mind, the Bullvine decided to look at the top overall production sires in the world and put an actual negative weight on size.  We developed the Bullvine Efficiency Index (BEI).  (Read more: 30 Sires that will produce Feed Efficient Cows) The formula is as follows:

  • BEI = Production (45%) + Durability (35%) + Health & Fertility (25%)
  • Production = 30 Fat Yield + 50 Protein Yield + 10 Fat% + 10 Protein%
  • Durability = 17 Herd Life + 42 Mammary System + 25 Feet & Legs  – 8 Body Depth – 8 Stature
  • Health & Fertility = 46 Somatic Cell + 23 Daughter Fertility + 23 Udder Depth + 8 Milking Speed


  1. Milk Yield is not included, as it contributes to more udder strain and added milk haulage or on-farm water removal costs.
  2. The negative weightings on Body Depth and Stature reflect that larger cows require extra feed to grow to that size and to maintain that larger size each day compared to cows of more moderate size.
  3. Also for the purpose of this article the sires could not be higher than a 5 for combined Stature and Body Depth.

The following is what we found.

Proven Sires:

NameMilkFatProtSCSConfStatureBody Depth
DE-SU OBSERVER-ET233691832.7112-2-4
DE-SU CIMARRON-ET289599882.691000
LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN149083823.11126-2
DE-SU HISTORY-ET2083101812.72802
MORNINGVIEW LEVI132186742.5730-3
DE-SU ALTAGOALMAN-ET2856107892.773-2-3
CO-OP BOSSIDE MASSEY-ET115175662.52600
WELCOME BOL LATHAM-ET179778812.94722
KINGS-RANSOM B RUBLE307887922.987-2-2

Genomic Sires:

NameMilkFatProtSCSConfStatureBody Depth
DE-SU MUCHO 11209-ET1319102852.63920
MR CHARTROI ELOQUENT-ET1740106862.791231
PARILE LOCARNO177486842.67122-3
SANDY-VALLEY PANAMA-ET1841108742.4911-1-2
BUTZ-HILL LETTERS-ET199986852.7110-2-1
DE-SU THUNDER-ET1339100602.63164-2
DE-SU PHOENIX 588-ET2659113952.768-1-3
DE-SU SKYMONT 11195-ET163194742.7412-1-3
CHAMPION ALTABOOKEL196394792.8115-1-1

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In a world of supersize cars, jobs, meals, and just about everything else, it’s hard to stop thinking that bigger is actually better for everything.  Unfortunately, after years of locker-room comparisons, the go-to source of pride or shame seems to put the emphasis on size.  The same has been true in many breeding programs.  It’s time to stop thinking about size and start thinking about efficiency.  As they say, “It’s not the size that matters, it’s how you use it”.


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World Markets: Who Is Minding Our Business?

In North America we are accustomed to having the freedom to pursue our chosen business, in our case dairying and to proudly wave our American and Canadian flags at every opportunity. We assume that all is well with the world when we can raise cattle, make milk and pay the bills on a regular basis.  In June 2013 I read a Hoard’s Dairyman article by Utah dairy producer, John Nye entitled, “Opportunity Knocks, New Zealand’s Fonterra Answers”.   It turned out to be a wakeup call for me.

I don’t have a background in finance and economics but I will admit I am reassured by headlines that say things like “Markets well supported at mid-year” or “U.S. exports reach record levels in April”

The shrinking world is a fact of everyday life.  It’s exciting to correspond with fellow dairy breeders from every corner of the globe and share our dairy passions.  We can – and do – learn from one another.  Dairy genetics, dairy technology and dairy sales are being shared worldwide.  What we may be missing is the very important point of who controls what we are taking to the bank today and, most definitely, what our financial success will be tomorrow.  When our hard earned dairy dollar takes a dive we blame it on the weather, the government,  the fickle market or numerous variables that are out of our control.  Realistically, we should be blaming at least some of the effect on ourselves!

We take huge care to see that genetics inputs and management don’t skim off our profits but then we leave the economics of the marketplace in other hands.

Three facts from the previously mentioned Fonterra article stood out for me. Firstly, Fonterra owns enough supply in the US that they could dump supply domestically thus lowering prices and therefore making the export of US product more affordable for them.  Secondly, Fonterra’s partnership in mega dairies (10,000 to 20,000 cow dairies in China) gives them the financial leverage to pay twice what Americans can afford for alfalfa hay. And thirdly this raised the question for John Nye, “How does New Zealand that produces about as much milk as Wisconsin, control the world`s market like they do?”

As a Canadian, with supply management in place, it’s hard to imagine that our hard earned dairy income could be manipulated by outside forces from another county.  Or is it?  If we are so focused on keeping a protected wall around our shrinking dairy market, would we even notice if a third party came in and quietly scooped up the opportunities for growth and development?

What is the growing edge of the dairy industry in 2013?  If you can’t answer that question, that is exactly what has allowed companies like Fonterra and investors from offshore to make billions of dollars at the expense of a naive North American dairy industry.  As Nye quotes in the article, “Fonterra’s attitude is that dairymen in the U.S. could not agree on what kind of rope to hang themselves with.  As long as we are divided on dairy policy, Fonterra is very happy to take advantage of us.” The finger of blame for who is responsible for this predicament points squarely at us, “They are pretty sure we will never get together as an industry with one voice in this country.”

We are not only divided we are in opposition to each other.  It is so much easier to pick a fight with the neighbour you see – whether he’s over the fence or on one side or the other of the USA-Canada border.  While we are wrangling over the fine details of who has bragging rights for being the “best” and how to prevent each other from chipping away at our market share — the well-organized, unified and government supported visionaries from other countries are scooping up not only the opportunities but doing it with our permission.

The challenges for the USA and Canada include:

  • Politicians (some with no ag understanding) are making crucial decisions
  • Politicians with their own agenda have the final say
  • Outside interests are getting their voices heard first
  • Is short term financial gain the best way to “sell off” our commodities?
  • Why do processors have so much more influence than producers?
  • Pricing schemes (and even price protection) don’t work if, in the long term, we are preventing the sustainability of our dairy industry
  • Everyone can state that the dairy producer’s price is being eroded.  Who is doing anything about it?
  • Even if we appear to be holding our own today, what about the future of the industry?

Being able to state the problem is the first step.  Doing something about it is next.

Who PAYS THE (export) PIPER?

Regardless of which side of the border you’re on (actual residence or political leaning), you have to have an informed answer to the question, “Is there a downside to the market for dairy exports?”  What this means is that there is the potential that not ALL exports are good. At the end of the day, is the farmer getting any benefit?  Working 24-7 with more and more members of the family working off the farm doesn’t seem the best way to keep a healthy bottom line.

Let’s Mind Our Own Business

Politics, economics and world markets have tremendous impact on the dairy industry.  Like us those areas have experts who can weigh the pros and cons and their lasting effects.  Once again it isn’t necessary to “win” or “beat” these interests.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We need to cooperate and work together as dairy businesses with shared interests and common goals.  The potential is there. If we don’t mind our own business, who will?


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Riverside Jerseys: Travelling Hearts – A Girl, A Guy and Their Jersey Love Story

There are many reasons to love working in the dairy industry but Bullvine readers are beginning to realize that one of the best ones is that dairying leads to romance, love and marriage.  Whether it’s a matter of miles in the same province or state (Read more: Hometown Jerseys: Against All Odds, Hometown Jerseys: Beating the Odds and Alice In Dairyland: This Wonderful Dairy Tale Begins with Alice!) or when the distance is between two different countries (Read more: Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Forward in Five Gears! That’s Aussie D.I.Y., Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Gobsmacked in Australia, and Isaac Lancaster: The British Are Coming. The British Are Coming), shared passion for cattle can bring couples together.

Such was the case for Karin Chittenden from the US and Corey Couch from Australia who both have three generations of dairy pedigrees behind them. They first met while travelling in each other’s countries and like dairy travellers everywhere found that it was an amazing experience (Read more: DAIRY YOUTH WILL GO FAR: Exchange Is Good!). For these two, it ignited the spark that inspired marriage in June 1999 and in the happy intervening years they have built Riverside Jerseys and a family of seven in Victoria, Australia.

1993 Turning Point for Two

Like her three brothers, Karin caught the dairy bug early at Dutch Hollow farm in Schodack Landing New York.  On Corey’s side, he pinpoints a tour of “Sunset Canyon Farm” in Oregon, USA in 1993. “I was blown away be seeing (Jersey) cows milking 50 litres per day.” That trip was extended and Corey describes its importance. “This was to be the turning point in my whole life.”  Of course, he’s referring to a little help from cupid, also known as Eric Silva who began by mentoring Corey. “We devised a plan for me to import as many embryos as possible from the great cow families in his herd.” And then, while travelling together to the All American Jersey Show in 1996, Eric introduced Corey to Karin Chittenden … his future wife.  A turning point indeed!

With Embryos and More Embryos Riverside Pushes Boundaries

Inspired by what he’d seen in the USA, Corey was now firmly on board with developing a purebred Jersey herd. He commenced herd testing, AI and eventually with the help of John Rundle, Boggabilla Jerseys, registered all the milking true to type Jerseys through the Genetic Recovery scheme. Corey imported 300 embryos and Karin later added 20 embryos she imported from her own cows.  Looking back Corey recalls how it started. “The first ET’s were born in May 1997 with subsequent years of ET’s to be born as we slowly implanted embryos till the tank was empty.”

Riverside Legion Summer

Riverside Legion Summer EX90
Photographed as a 5 yr old
Her dam is an AVERY x STORM. Next dam is the foundation cow originally purchased by Corey’s parents from Moynalla Jerseys

From the perspective of sixteen years, which included such management changes as feeding the cows to maximize their genetic potential, Karin points out their successes. “Our herd averaged over 8000 litres of milk/cow  in 2004, while milking 3x per day. thus becoming the first Jersey herd to crack over 8000 and milk 3x. The record still stands with Jersey Australia .”  The current herd system at Riverside Jersey Farm is a 30 unit fully automated rotary  of about 230 cows with 170 milking most of the year as they have a split calving rather than seasonal. Corey jokes, “If you asked Karin she would say we simply calve all the time!  We are only milking twice a day as family commitments take up a lot of time and we feel the stars haven’t aligned to truly capitalize on the return of milking 3x a day, when you consider grain price, milk price, season and labor.  The herd averages around the 7500 liter mark each year!”


This team at Riverside professes that they have no set breeding philosophy. “We like to breed cows that last long and produce at the same time.” says Karin. Corey expands a little. “We began to classify our cows for the first time and it was with Karin’s steady push that she introduced showing cows at our local show and then Dairy Week.  It was noticing the various type traits in the cows we liked worldwide that prompted a shift in our bull selections again.  I don’t think you can ever lose sight of milk production but it isn’t the be all and end all for us.  Our cows had frame, rear udders, milk and out here that is about all you need to get classification points.  We started using more bulls with better fore udder ratings and shallower udders. That move has changed our herd for the better. We also realized we could afford to use straight type bulls on our “milky” cows and although as a 2 yr old the resultant cow might lag behind, they soon catch up and are more often than not the cows everyone loves in the herd today.  We like to use bulls from deep cow families with generations of great type and production.”

Riverside Country Lollypop

Riverside Country Lollypop EX93
1st Sr 2 in milk IDW 2011 and Reserve Intermediate Champion
2011 Champion Cow WDJBC On Farm Challenge
1st Sr 3 in milk IDW 2012 and Intermediate Champion, Best Udder of Show
2012 Champion Cow WDJBC On Farm Challenge
1st 5 yrs in milk IDW 2013, Best Udder of Show, Senior Champion, Grand Champion Jersey

MAKING HISTORY. Ready for the Future.

It is remarkable to consider the significant success Karin and Corey have had in such a relatively short period of time. From the beginning, they never settled for the status quo and have great results to show for it. Their first success came when a daughter they bred from an initial import became the number ONE index Jersey in Australia! Then Riverside Berretta Sharna EX92 was bred from their Australian base and has 8 EX daughters!! She is the dam of Riverside’s top 10 bull on the current system in Australia. Riverside Renaissance Ivy scored 2EX93! Next you take note of Riverside Country Lollypop EX93. Most people would say that Lollypop is the best cow Riverside ever bred.  As Karin tells it. “After creating a stir with Ivy amongst several breeders, Lollypop was one that no one seemed to argue about, well that we know of.” Now that’s an understatement!  Lollypop won as a Sr 2 and was Reserve Intermediate champ in 2011.  She won as a Sr 3 and was Intermediate Champion in 2012 and then returned this year to claim the 5yr old and Grand Champion at IDW.  All of this success and it isn’t only because she has the right look.  She was Riverside’s top production 2 yr old, 3 yr old, and will top her age group again this season.  Her genomics are also well above her parent average at the same time.  Karin is justifiably proud. “She is the first cow we have bred that ticks all the boxes.  Her maternal line runs deep….back 100 yrs to Jersey Island…she is 7 generations Excellent.  Her Granddam ‘Select Lollypop’ was one of the original ET heifers Corey imported.”   And it doesn’t stop there.  Karin and Corey still have a foot in the index/genomic camp with a few descendants they have from the MAID family. Riverside Headlining Maid in Sept 2011 stats would have sat at the #7 heifer spot on the Canadian gLPI listing.  As they await the genomics for her Visionary bull calf, they look ahead. “She is only just fresh but, with genomics playing their role, we are sure she could be the one for the future.”


Marketed in North America by Taurus and Browndale Sires.


Of course, it is important to get your prefix, your herd and yourself known in the marketplace and they recognize this at Riverside.  Corey reports. “Karin is on Facebook daily and although she doesn’t block newsfeed like Russell Gammon (LOL), we do have a following.  Our market has never been to the older Australian Jersey breeder. It has always been the youth of all breeds whether that be in age or mindset!” In the past, Riverside has used hard copy magazines, most extensively the Australian Jersey Journal for marketing but rarely now due to constraints and currently limit that area to “Crazy Cow” (Read more: Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Forward in Five Gears! That’s Aussie D.I.Y., Dean and Dianna Malcolm: Gobsmacked in Australia) and or own Facebook page.

Riverside Colette's Covergirl EX92 Sire: Bridon Remake Comerica 1st 4yo IDW 2013 and Best Udder  Reserve Senior Champion IDW 2013

Riverside Colette’s Covergirl EX92
Sire: Bridon Remake Comerica
1st 4yo IDW 2013 and Best Udder
Reserve Senior Champion IDW 2013


Both Karin and Corey have been immensely inspired by the cows and people they have seen on the show circuit. “When you start going to the All American or Expo, I think it is only natural to want to breed a cow that comes close to what you see there.” says Karin. Corey agrees. “We have shown almost every year at International Dairy Week since 1998 thanks to a push by Karin to have a go the first time.  Up until 2 years ago we only took at times 1 or 2 animals, growing slightly to 6 in 2011.  We began on our own just paying to get someone to clip and blow a top the first year. We then proceeded to have Ross Easterbrook as our fitter for several years following.  It was Ross who took our first cow to championship heights in 2001. Riverside Best Ivy EX91 was our first National Champion.”

Riverside Sambo Maiden

Riverside Sambo Maiden EX90
Riverside’s first ever IDW entry, she placed 2nd in the 2yr old class


Both Karin and Corey appreciate and applaud Easterbrook’s talent. “Ross was also our Aussie photographer and one of the best things anyone can do is get a good photo of their cow.  Again with financial and time constraints, we tended to only photograph cows that went to the show over the years but with the move onto the scene of Brad Cullen as a full time photographer we have taken to getting a lot more pictures taken over the past 18 months.  On the fitting side, we moved on through the years with Matt Templeton and Lisa Thompson and had even greater success at IDW with their team effort producing 2 Intermediate Champions, 2 Reserve Intermediate Champs, a Junior Champion and of course back to back Grand Champions with R. Ren. Ivy 2 EX93.  In the past 2 years we have invited Mike Berry and Louis Cozzitorto to come help us at IDW resulting in our best years ever. We’re not sure if we could ever really top them.  We have had no greater exposure worldwide than with ‘Lollypop’”. How sweet it is!

Riverside Renaissance Ivy 2 EX-92
Jersey Supreme Champion IDW 2010
2008 Intermediate Champion IDW
2007 Reserve Intermediate Champion IDW
2006 Reserve Junior Champion IDW
2005 Junior Champion IDW & Melbourne Royal

Been There Loved Doing That

Anyone looking from the outside in would find it hard to imagine getting as much done as Riverside did in the space of 10 years. Expanding the time period out to 15 years adds even more to their show ring success and, at the same time, shows that they maintained milk production. Their achievements make a fabulous “Bucket List” of accomplishments!

  • No 1 ABV (Australian breeding value) Cow
  • First Jersey cow in Australia to produce in excess of 12,000 liters 305 days
  • Highest producing herd in Australia for the last 10 years give or take a couple of years where we may have had the liters but not the solids
  • Bred and Won the National Senior and Grand Champion Jersey cow 4 times (3 cows)
  • Bred and Won the Reserve National Senior Champion cow once
  • Bred and Won the National Intermediate Champion Jersey cow 3 times (3 cows)
  • Bred and Won the Reserve NICJ cow 3 times (3 cows)
  • Bred and Won the National Junior Champion Jersey heifer twice, RESERVE 3 times
  • Bred the first dam and daughter pair to be National Grand Champions
  • Bred the first cow to win all 3 major National Age level Championships (IDW)
  • Over 40 bulls put into AI service in Australia as well as some sampled overseas
  • Graduated a top 10 Australian bull “Spiritual”
  • Bred the highest genomic fat bull in the breed in the world 12 months ago in Riverside Max Appeal (obviously genomics have already moved him down the line)
  • Had the highest producing Jersey Cow for lifetime production in Australia
(L-R) 2013 IDW Jersey Champion Riverside Country Lollypop, Riverside Colette's Covergirl who was Reserve Grand Champion Jersey and Rockwood Meadows PT Fantasy who was 2nd in the mature cow class at IDW 2013.  (Photo by Bradley Cullen Photography

(L-R) 2013 IDW Jersey Champion Riverside Country Lollypop, Riverside Colette’s Covergirl who was Reserve Grand Champion Jersey and Rockwood Meadows PT Fantasy who was 2nd in the mature cow class at IDW 2013.
(Photo by Bradley Cullen Photography

Absolutely fabulous by any measure but nevertheless not what Karin and Corey consider their single biggest accomplishment.  “Personally we believe and hope that is our family.” The Couch Family Five encircles: Brody (13), Jackson (12), Ella (10), Ruby (7) and Ethan (4). And more importantly Karin sums it up by taking  it beyond just their immediate family “If there is one thing I hope we can do it is to inspire the generation behind us to go better, harder and lead the way!

Love Grows Inspired by Greats Past and Present

Karin says, “Travelling often with my father to sales, shows and conventions, I learned to always keep my ears and eyes open, absorbing as much as I could and learning from so many of the Breed’s greats past and present. I was brought up in the times of the breeders from High Lawn, Highland, Briarcliff and Ogston.”  Corey too pays tribute to his roots. “My parents’ work ethic also had a great influence. Growing up my father would get up early to go outdriving a grader on road construction while mother did milking, raised three  kids and worked off the farm as well.” Great training for growing a dairy farm family in Australia.

Jersey Love Affair … Heartaches and Heart Throbs

Like dairymen worldwide, Karin and Corey face particular national challenges “Our dairymen want the same things, profitability, fertility, type … it really is universal.” Having said that, they both long for a more global approach to breeding Jerseys.. “In breeding in Australia there is a 6 to 12 month lag at times getting the latest genomic bulls or hot bulls in Australia which proves to be a major challenge if you want to be a frontrunner in the genomic game. “ Another difference is raised by Corey and Karin. “Australian proofs are less reliable for type data because cows are only classified once as 2 yr olds in nominated herds, unless they are in the registered sector and, even then, the second classification will not go into the proof.  This is not to say that Australian cows are lacking. Karin points out. “I think many would be impressed with our class of Jerseys here and I am sure they would compete on a world stage with the best of them. “ Corey adds to this.”Australia has much to offer but unfortunately our export restrictions make it not impossible but over the top pricey to sell embryos to the world. There are only a few places which you can use as export facilities and only one of which can handle milking cows. We are destined to remain a very large importer of North American Genetics unless restrictions can be changed.  This is very frustrating, given that we are actually one of the cleanest countries you can export from.

Dairy Life and Family Life.  The Jersey Love Continues.

Anyone who has the opportunity to read the colourful writings of Jersey super-enthusiast Russell Gammon will understand what Karin means when she says, “It is through people in the Jersey community like Russell Gammon that I have found the most support in shifting countries.  He is a wealth of inspiration and positivity and I don’t think he would have any idea what his cheers, tweets and Facebook statuses do keep me going from time to time.” It’s hard for any of us reading this to imagine what it’s like to be completely separated from the family surroundings that inspired your decisions.  Karin remains positive about the ups and downs involved in her decision to shift over 16,000 kilometers away from everything she owned and knew and proclaims, “Home is where you make it.”

Family Love Moves Forward

It is now over 13 years since Karin has been back to the US but she carries her hopes and dreams forward with her family the driving force in Australia. “The kids keep us young and very busy.  I hope we can unlock their potential in the years to come and support them in what they decide to follow.”  For Karin and Corey the sparks are still flying. Says Karin. “We don’t always agree. In fact we rarely agree.  Sometimes we flush cows to 2 bulls – one each to see what matings are better.”  Corey adds. “We bounce ideas off of each other all the time. We are primary support for each other as well as the primary criticizer.” At the end of the day, they both agree that they complement each other well. Karin adds glowingly, “When we do agree the result is usually MAGIC.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

And so we learn that there are a million details that have had an impact on young lovers that travelled great physical and emotional distances to be together.  For Corey and Karin Couch and their family at Riverside Jerseys, the journey will always take new turns but together these travelling hearts have found a shared home.


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Introducing The New Pick Your Own Crops: Education, Litigation and Regulation!

Many dairy farmers wear the name “Jack-of-All-Trades” with pride knowing that the extra skills they have mastered from welding, to machinery repair, to construction are positive contributors to the day to day work of dairy farming.  However, three new job skills are finding their way onto the farmer resume: teacher, lawyer and media expert. Although they have nothing to do with crops, cows or milk they are becoming necessary to keeping farming sustainable in the long term. It’s ironic that some of the biggest challenges facing the modern day food provider revolve around politics, legal challenges and negative publicity.  How they are handled, particularly, in developed countries could have a huge impact on choices on both sides of the agricultural fence.

It is hard to imagine that any passionate cow breeder would have foreseen the day that they would reach out to regulators, lawyers and reporters in an attempt to find common ground.  Of course, there are still many who don’t see any of these as a logical part of their farm team …. and are facing the fallout as a result.

In an earlier Bullvine articles, “GMOs Beyond Right and Wrong” and we urged farmers to speak up in order to clear up misconceptions regarding dairy farming from motivation to production.  Many excellent spokespeople continue to do exactly that but, for those who are keeping score, there have been both hits and misses on the target of using communication to avoid litigation and regulation.  At the same time that any one area leads us forward (for example genomic selection), there are fifteen “anti” positions that demand answers and throw up roadblocks.  The same is true, if we expand our viewpoint to include environmental issues. And that doesn’t begin to cover what happens when you stir media and emotion into the mix.

Of course, it is part human nature and part media hype that means that the most negative stories are the first to come to mind.  Five years ago DeRuyter Brothers Dairy in Outlook Washington became the defendant in a suit brought by the Community Association for Restoration of the Environment.  Although the suit was eventually dropped it was two years of legal hell for the DeRuyters.  Sadly, at the end of the day, the activists weren’t really as concerned about air quality as they were at making headlines.  The issues that were addressed barely blipped on their radar.

Also in Washington State, twelve dairies in Yakima County worked with air-quality scientists and regulators to reduce air emissions (for more information see reports of the Western Dairy Air Quality Symposium).  Their efforts and responsible approach to the issues didn’t inspire the dramatic headlines that accusations of guilt earn on the front pages.

It is unfortunate that the assumption of farmer guilt is the starting point.  With this negative mind set it actually works against agriculture to present scientifically backed arguments.  Remember when Mother used to be suspicious of overly long protestations of innocence?  Today any positions proclaiming a scientific defence are seen as “extravagant claims” that can’t possibly be lived up to. And, of course, if it’s a benefit to the farmer, it must obviously follow that there will be environmental and health issues for the non-farming public.

Somewhere in the evolution from a time when everyone was connected to a farm or farmer, we consumers appear to have lost trust in our food providers.  Is it possible to return to that “rosier” time?  Not likely.  However if full trust is unattainable we can still use common sense.  I have to ask why it is assumed that dairy farmers – who also must eat to survive — would invest a million dollars (at the least) to provide food that does harm to themselves and their children? The profit motive doesn`t stretch that far. So where does that leave us?

There is no quick and easy answer.  Education is slow.  Regulation is slow.  Conflict, on the other hand is fast and furious.  What we need are credible current studies. We also need to pay for them! Another rub as how this solution hits producers’ wallets. Proven facts need to be placed alongside the emotional fallacies.  And this adds even more time investment problems in an industry that already faces the time constraints of raising animals from birth to production and also  deals with the seasonal calendar of crop production. Which brings us to even more slowdowns as the anti movement puts the brakes on crop production development.  There are many examples. France and Austria are anti-biotech with the result that some GM crops have waited 10 years and there is still no progress.  The current regulatory delay sits at 5.5 years – a substantial increase from 3.7 years in 2002. (“Worried Sick about GMOs”)

These are very real concerns.  Then you add in the financial implications.  CropLife International is a global federation representing the plant science industry (Read more A CropLife report suggests that it costs nearly $140 million to discover and commercialize a new crop.  To these two issues we can add the continuous growth of the bureaucracy that builds around them, including regulation, education and litigation. This is growing heavier all the time.  In ironic contrast, the growth in crop yields in major food crops is stagnating.  This is completely upside down to what is needed. The crop growth statistics are the ones we need to see growing if we intend to provide food for future populations.

You can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist on less productive methods – such as organic– and then turn around and say that land must not be turned from nature to agriculture.  Agricultural innovation is being strangled by a suffocating avalanche of regulations which are not based on any rational scientific assessment of risk. But logic doesn`t always win the day. You can literally play “true or false” until the cows come home but what is really needed is continuous support of myth-busting (particularly in the media) and comprehensive rules and regulations that support the proven science.  Now this should be welcomed by those sides.  However, there currently are not such comprehensive systems in place and past history leads us to fear that when rules are enforced and regulations met, the fallback position frustratingly becomes that “either the rules or the enforcers are insufficient, ineffective or in some way defective”.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At some point, we have to admit that we cannot allow the conflict to become more important than the issues that need to be solved. What we really need are more cool heads and fewer hot buttons.  Now that`s something I would like to see on resumés from both sides of the debate!


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Bob Miller – Outstanding from Any Angle

All round good guys can and do finish first. As evidenced by Holstein USA last week at its Annual Meeting naming Bob Miller its 2013 Elite Breeder Award winner. Bob is an all around good guy and owner of Mil R Mor Holsteins, Orangeville, Illinois.

Bob and Kay Miller at the Mil O Mar Golden Anniversary Sale

Bob and Kay Miller at the Mil O Mar Golden Anniversary Sale

Bob and Roxy

For most Holstein breeders when they start a sentence with the name Bob Miller they end it with the name Roxy. You see Bob and Roxy and her family have now been together for forty years. It started in the late fall of 1973 after Roxy was Grand Champion at the Regina (Western Canada) Agribition Show. She had been Reserve Grand the year previous. Bob was covering the 1973 show as the photographer. He fell head over healing in love with this, just fresh, fourth calving five year old Citation R daughter, Glenridge Citation Roxy. She matched his dream cow. However it would be another ten months, September 1974, before Roxy would leave her Saskatchewan home, owned by Lorne and Glenda Loveridge, and head to Dundee, Illinois. There Bob Miller would lead the transformation from great cow to supercow.

Bob’s Early Years

John Beerwort – Childhood friend of Bob’s

John Beerwort – Childhood friend of Bob’s

“All his life Bob has been full of fun and ideas to improve and excel” so says John Beerwort, Master Breeder, show judge and Type Classification Advisor. John is Bob’s boyhood and lifetime friend from Brome Centre, Quebec. ‘We grew up across the road from each other’. Marshall and Sarah Miller had nine children. The two that caught the Holstein bug were Bob, the youngest child, and one of his older brothers Grant, who served over twenty-years as a very well respected classifier for Holstein Canada. Besides formal education and sports, Bob won both provincial and national judging competitions in 1951. Since in a family of nine not all could farm at home, Bob and his wife departed Quebec in 1955 and he became the herdsman at Ravenglen Farms near Chicago.

What People Say about Bob

We often hear that the true worth of a person is what others say about them. Well in Bob Miller’s case words like humble, passionate, eager, curious, honest, high integrity,  a true friend, a strong supporter of youth, a family man, a hard worker,  able to walk in another’s shoes, thinks of what is best for mankind,….. are all mentioned by people who know him well or have only met him once. Definitely a man for all seasons and all reasons.

Bob’s Breeding Philosophy

Everything old is new again. How’s that you say? Well Bob, from an early age, wanted a cow that would classify Excellent and produce 200,000 lbs of milk with 4% butterfat. And over sixty years later he still wants that kind of a cow. In 2013 that as Bob says ‘is still what most farmer-breeders want from their Holsteins’. Like everyone else Bob has added in some wants including over 3.5% protein (3.2% true protein), high fertility and cows that are low maintenance, thus requiring minimal special care.

Recently Bob expanded his thinking for the Bullvine by saying ‘I want a cow with moderate stature (not show ring tall), wide chest and rump, udder above her hocks, having persistent yield throughout her lactation, calving every 13 months and one that the vet has not had to visit’. ‘Cows that are extremely tall, do not have great udders and are not able to stand in tie stalls or move about freely do not need to apply for work at Mil R Mor’. With practical experience Bob has, over and over again, proven for himself that it is the cow with high but not over the top daily production, with high components and with high fertility that over a lifetime returns the most revenue, at the least total cost, to her owner.

Miller family

Family is Important to Bob

Bob believes strongly in inheritance and the use of cow families with built in profit traits to produce the next generation of dairy cows. However even more important for him and Kay are their family that they work with every day. The family team members at Mil R Mor include their son who runs the cropping and equipment division covering over 2000 acres, a granddaughter who runs the milking herd side and a daughter who cares for non-milking females. Besides those key family members Bob points out that there are thirty family members, covering three generations, either close by or within an hour’s drive, all of whom help out at various times throughout the year. All are Holstein enthusiasts. Mil R Mor will be a breeding herd into the future as Bob proudly says ‘after I slow down a little more’. “I am so proud of my kids and grandkids, they are all genuine caring people’. A proud man is another thing that Bob Miller is.

Glenridge Citation Roxy EX-97-4E

Glenridge Citation Roxy EX-97-4E
“Queen of the Breed”

Queen of the Breed

Much has been written and yet the story is not finished on the Roxy Effect. Twice named Queen of the Breed and also the International Cow of the Year, now that is like being at the very top of Mt Everest. You can not go any higher up. In fact we often see in print that ‘everyone wants a Roxy’. What they want is exactly what Bob saw in Glenridge Citation Roxy forty years ago. A cow with moderately high production, high components, great dairy strength, width throughout, a capacious soft udder high off the ground and feet and legs capable of long winters in a stall in Saskatchewan or walking the pastures around Grenville. Another way of thinking of it is to think of Roxy’s grandson Hanoverhill Raider (EX –  Extra) and the way he left daughters around the globe that fulfilled the need for long lived productive and profitable cows. Over 500 direct female descendents of Roxy have classified Excellent.

When Bob visited Glenridge to picture cows in 1974 he not only found Roxy but also her A.I. sired dam and grand dam both of whom would classify Excellent and produce over 200,000 pounds of high fat milk in their lifetimes. That must have been a very exciting day for Bob to find his dream come true. All that remained for him to do was to somehow be able to get the opportunity to work with this family.

SCIENTIFIC GOLD DANA RAE EX-95 2E Reserve All-American 5-Year-Old 2012 Goldwyn x SCIENTIFIC DEBUTANTE RAE-ET *RC EX-92

Reserve All-American 5-Year-Old 2012

Under Bob’s care and breeder instinct Roxy, 4E EX97, GMD 6*, produced sixteen Excellent and four VG daughters (none lower). Most of which were also Gold Metal or Star Brood Cow dams. Her most influential son was Glenridge Citamatt (No-Na-Me Fond Matt) who attained Superior Type for his owner United Breeders. Elevation crossed very well with Roxy, the most complete daughter being Mil R Mor Roxette Ex 30* with 7 EX and 10 VG daughters in addition to son Raider (Hanoverhill Starbuck). Bob started the Roxy Effect and many many top-of-the-line Holstein breeders from around the world have stepped up and bought into the Roxy’s. Notable Roxy’s include Scientific Debutante Rae 2005 World Dairy Expo Reserve Grand Champion and Golden-Oaks Perk Rae – Red as leader in both red and polled (Read more: GOLDEN-OAKS PERK RAE – 2012 Golden Dam Finalist).



Pedigrees and Bulls

In conversation with Bob he told the Bullvine that he had always focused on pedigree including both cow families and sire stack when mating for the next generation. Now with genomic evaluations Mil R Mor is using genomics but the animals must still come with strong pedigrees. So Bob continues his pattern of using all the tools. For him genomics is one more, very good, tool.

In case you might be wondering, Mil R Mor is not just a one cow family herd. The Pearl family is one other prominent family and they also match Bob’s breeding philosophy for medium sized cows with outstanding reproductive efficiency and long herd life. One of the Pearls has produced 300,000 pounds of milk. Now that is also some feat. When I hear Bob explain his breeding philosophies it makes me think that I should be booking a trip to Mil R Mor just to see this man in action. Action like 14 cows over 40,000 pounds of milk, 23 cows over 1500 pounds of fat, 194 EX cows, 18 Gold Metal Dams, 30 Dams of Merit as well as 4 national and 25 state production leaders and a herd BAA of 110.3.

Mil R Mor Holstins - Orangeville Illinois

Mil R Mor Holstins – Orangeville Illinois

Bob has Done It All

Most of us have three careers in our lifetimes. But not Bob Miller. He has had ten. They are hired man, herdsman, AI technician, breeder-herdowner, photographer, ET recover technician, industry business owner, breeding stock marketer, elected industry leader (in Illinois, the USA and internationally) and now family patriarch. No wonder the breeders of Illinois continue to have him as a Delegate to the Holstein US Annual Meeting. It was interesting to learn that Bob, a pioneer in ET, had developed his own device for the recovery of embryos.

Bob Shares Well

This knowledgeable, humble and caring man has given extensively of his time to youth, fellow North American breeders as well as traveling to numerous other countries.  Many others including the National Dairy Shrine and Illinois Youth have honored him. Recently at the 2013 Holstein Canada Annual Meeting where she herself received special recognition Patty Jones, the accomplished livestock photographer, gave much credit to Bob Miller for giving her her start. Yes Bob truly helps others.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Bob Miller is the Bullvine’s definition of an elite breeder. An elite breeder is a dairy cattle breeder who sets a high goal for the kind of cow he or she wants to have in their herd, starts with a solid foundation and builds from that to a herd of cows or a battery of bulls that moves their breed to new heights.  Bob Miller has done that extremely well. He has lead by example. Bob we are all following you.


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Over-Scored and Over-Rated – Are we helping or hurting the dairy cattle classification system?

It seems that daily there is a new EX-95 cow somewhere in the world, or a VG-89-2yr that will never see the light of day.  While in many cases these cows deserve the recognition they receive, it also seems at times that cows are getting over scored.  However, there comes a point where the animal needs to be worthy of the score, as many breeders have expressed to us here at The Bullvine, they are getting tired of watching cows get over scored.

Over the years I have seen cows get over scored for many reasons.  The most prevalent among them have been:

  • Dispersal
    I see it often.  A breeder who has been a long-standing member of the dairy industry is selling out (typically because the next generation does not have the same passion in relation to the reward), and they decide to sell their Master Breeder herd.  Just before the sale they have a dispersal special classification.  During that time, there are reliably a few animals that get an extra point or two.  I am not trying to say this is totally a bad thing, as I do believe these long established breeders do deserve some level of recognition.  I just get concerned when I see cows that should be 92 to 93 points at best being bumped to 95 points.  When you put these animals beside other 95-point animals you will typically find significant difference in how they resemble the breed ideal.
  • Show Results
    Just because a 2-year-old won the local county show, or a cow was All-Canadian does not mean they deserve the maximum score.  There is a difference between what shines in the show ring and what should be the 89-point 2 year old in the classification system.  I have seen cows that could not even content at the Royal or Madison go 89 points that, when you break them down, should be no higher than 87 points.  Nevertheless, since she won some show, and someone got in the classifiers’ ear this does happen.
  • High Value Animals
    This is the worst one I have seen by far and the one that has the greatest impact on the breed and breed improvement.  It happens when a cow that should really be 83 points (at best) as a 2 year old gets classified 85 points, because she is one of the top index animals in the world.  Now I am sure they will get an amazing photo, but how much can you trust that?  (Read more: Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct) This is the greatest disservice the classification program can do.  These animals will now have their genetics marketed around the world. The perception of high conformation will have a greater impact than all the other biased factors combined.  Makes me think – Is Good Plus Good Enough?

All these headaches with cows being over scored reminds me of the many conversations I have had with my father, Murray Hunt, (he ran the Canadian classification program for many years) and Tom Byers, currently in charge of the classification program (Read more: Tom Byers: “That’s Classified!”).  Tom would point out to me that as a percentage there is actually just the same proportion of cows going to the extremes as their ever was.  It’s since there is more dairy cattle being classified and the power of the internet that we are seeing more of these animals. (Read more:   The Anti-Social Farmer: On The Verge of Extinction) Then Murray will add that we need classifiers to use the full range of the system in order to ensure the best results.  You see the wider the spread in scores the greater the difference in the resulting genetic evaluations.  Instead of being afraid to use the extreme scores, classifiers should actually use it more.  Both for the 89 point 2 year olds, as well as the 65-point ones.

The greater the range the more accurately the genetic evaluation system is able to identify those sires that can breed your extremes.  I think as an industry we do ourselves a disservice by having mainly a 17-point range (75-92) in final score.  In order to truly identify top animals we need to be able to spread them out as much as possible, so that we can pick the best from the rest.  It’s when we stick to the middle that we actually do the most damage to the genetic evaluation system.  When all animals are so closely scored that those animals that do sire the good ones do not rise to the top.  It’s also why classifiers should slap on the Fair-65 classification more often.  Remember classification is relative and dynamic.  A cow that might have been an 89 point 2-year-old 10 years ago might be lucky to go 85 to 87 points today.  It’s not about comparing to the past, but rather identifying the current outliers in the breed. Hence why we need to use the full range of the system.  To accurately identify the true outliers.

Now both Tom and dad would point out to me, how can you stand in a breeders barn and put a score of 65 on one of his cows and ever expect to be back there again to classify.  And I understand that. Trust me years of dad telling me stories about going into different herds and how breeders reacted to certain situations would make a great book. The bigger issues is that there is a perception challenge with using the full spectrum.  Many breeders do not want to be pay money to be told their cow is ugly. But I ask you, why do you classify in the first place?  Is it not to advance the genetics and management of your herd?  Then why do you not let the system work to it’s maximum potential?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Type Classification has two main purposes, marketing and breed improvement.  From the marketing standpoint I can understand the benefit of over scoring some cows from time to time.  The part that worries me more is when classifiers don’t use the full range as often as possible.  Not just in overall score, but especially in the scoring of each trait as well.  The more often classifiers use the extremes the greater the breed’s rate of advancement will be.  This will help the genetic evaluation system truly identify those sires that are the best for type.  After all isn’t that why we keep score in the first place?


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Worried Sick About GMOs!

Arguing about the methods used to grow our food is a luxury of people living in affluent nations.  There are one billion chronically undernourished people of low income in underdeveloped countries. They would find it appalling to reject a plate of food based on whether it was natural or genetically modified. Daily they face a life and death situation. So called “consensus based best practices” mean nothing to their struggle.

We need to put food production into its proper perspective.  Biotech or organically produced food inspires wildly opposing positions. But are they really so far apart?  The answer is “Yes!” if you hold the all or nothing position that natural is all good and artificial is all bad.

I have been part of conversations (usually after eating too much of a delicious meal) where the proposal from full stomachs is that the world would be a “better place”  if we in the west ate less meat and fewer calories so that people in developing countries would have more.  Pardon me.  But that is baloney! Appreciate what we have? Definitely. Believe that our restrictions can be fairly doled out by some imaginary balanced delivery system?  No way.

Do I dislike natural?  No.  But there are good reasons why most of us live longer than our natural farming forefathers. That reason is that some of the natural killers like e-coli and mould are not now taking their toll on our crops, our food and our years. I am also a realist and decided when my children were young to make it a mother-task to take classes in Materia Medica and Pharmacology. Like everyone, I am surrounded by naturals such as foxgloves, castor beans and lily of the valley that are all natural and all poisons that I keep away from my loved ones. Natural sugar, a not so obvious poison, is a particular sick-maker in our family. You won’t find me saying, “It’s natural so how much harm can it do?”  “Natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown” and “all natural” are the holy grail of anti-GMO law makers who seek to keep those terms off of genetically modified or genetically engineered crops. The label alone won’t make any difference if sustainable agriculture becomes impossible.

Natural does not mean harmless. Everything has a chemical makeup which can be studied and copied and or modified – hence Genetically Modified Organisms.  We are chemical beings.  The good and the bad are derived from the combinations not the source of the combinations!  So if you’re forewarned and realistic about natural, what is your position on modern technology?  If it’s new, shiny, computerised and different…. does it necessarily follow that there will be health risks?  We need to be responsible for the choices we make to nourish ourselves.

There has to be reasoned decision making.  For example in 2011 natural organic bean sprouts were the cause of fifty-three deaths and thousands suffered kidney failure in Germany. The bean sprouts from Egypt were infected by animal manure.  Closer to home, I have often marvelled at neighbouring organic farmers, who without bias use manure from their less enlightened neighbours to raise “all organic” food products that are then sold at a premium price.  Talk about a loaded pitchfork. Any natural organism can be infected by pollution from ALL sources around it. Like the people in Germany, consumers chose this food because they thought it was safer, healthier and natural.  The unfortunate conclusion.  There are many natural ways to get sick and die.

In the 60’s we were bombarded with warnings that, because of overpopulation, millions of people would soon starve and that there was absolutely nothing that could be done to prevent it.  Thankfully Paul Ehrlich’s “It’s already too late” warning in his book “Population Bomb” was proven to be wrong.  His advice to allow people in India to starve sooner rather than later also never became the solution to population growth.  Instead, Norman Borlaug, who did not succumb to this “truth”, was inspired to create the Green Revolution.  Malnutrition was cut dramatically and India became self sufficient.  Poverty and malnutrition continue to need addressing.  Today there are close to 800 million people who go to bed hungry each night.  They are the ones who need food that is safe to eat.

We are told that GM foods have not been shown to be safe to eat.  If you accept that statement, there is nothing to be said to help you.  If twenty years of people consuming genetically modified corn, soy and other crops isn’t proof enough, nothing will be. In actual fact corn has been genetically modified since the first Europeans arrived in North America.  Imagine the trillions of meals consumed without a single substantiated case that GMOs have caused harm. Where do the naysayers place the documented cases of death from organic causes?  Organizations including the World Health Organization and the National Academy of Science believe GM foods pose no likely health risk.

Let’s turn to the potato for another example.  A blight-resistant potato was being developed by both the Sainsbury Lab and Teagasc, a publicly-funded institute in Ireland.  However the Irish Green Party was so adamantly opposed that they took court action against it. The attack was undertaken despite the fact that the blight-resistant potato would require 15 less fungicide sprays per season. Further pollen transfer was not an issue because potatoes are clonally propagated.  The offending gene came from a wild relative of the potato.  The case was won and for the second time in their history, the Irish suffered potato loss.  The first time a million or more died during the 19th century famine. In the 21st century they lost the opportunity to defeat blight.

There are emotional stories on both sides of the GMO issue.  It affects me personally and several members of my family. We would suffer if there was a total GMO ban. As a diabetic and two-time cancer survivor, I am really quite happy to keep chugging along with GMO insulin. Facing the issues with a balanced approach and trusting in the science makes an informed decision the healthiest one for me.

The issue is never about who is right and who is wrong.  It is about who is fed.  Who is healthy?  As discussed in today’s challenge is how we will manage to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050 (Read more: GMO’s Beyond Right and Wrong).  How can we do it on about the same land as we use today because we do suffer if natural areas are taken over by agriculture. How do we achieve this production using limited fertiliser, water and pesticides in the context of a rapidly changing climate?

Angry voices are raised by people who would not have their own children grow up to be farmers or grow food themselves.  They are angry about how the food is produced – despite the abundance. Yet in countries where growing your own food is the only option, these same voices insist that food production must be done in the slowest method possible. Sitting at a computer where you can “share” anti-GMO sentiments with the tap of a finger does nothing to provide for those with empty stomachs.  The image of natural works best when you have three meals a day!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Today we face risks as food producers and consumers.  But the risk is definitely not who will be harmed by GM food but who will be denied enough food.  Yes the image of “natural” has appeal!  But only for the rich.  And that’s exactly what has me worried sick.


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Low Heritability – High Importance

The Bullvine is often asked, by our readers, why we place so much, or any emphasis at all, on Health & Fertility traits in our sire recommendations ((Read more: Bullvine Performance Index and Mating Recommendations). We have decided to share with our readers some of our thoughts on breeding for traits that have low heritabilities which includes many traits in Health and Fertility.

Which Traits?

On an individual traits basis we are talking about traits like heel depth (heritability 8%), daughter fertility/daughter pregnancy rate (7%) and calving ability / calving ease (6%). On a composite trait basis this includes Feet & Legs (15%) and Herd Life / Productive Life (10%).

Heritability Hidden

Experienced breeders know that there are difference between cow families in how they transmit for these traits.  To date we have not been able to analyse the data and produce accurate genetic evaluations for these traits. It is all about how we collect the data or analyse it.  For instance when a classifier looks at heel depth he/she is to score it compared to the ideal. Yet we all know the significant effects that hoof trimming (or the lack thereof), bedding keepers and cows walking in slurry all the time can have on the scoring of heel depth by the classifier. Likewise effectiveness of routines, management, environment, nutrition and season have a significant influence pregnancy. The same can be said for calving ease. Many non-genetic factors interfere with identifying the true genetic differences between animals. Little wonder that with using our traditional data capture and genetic evaluation systems we ended up with low heritabilities.

Ignoring Was the Solution

In short the inaccuracy and lack of adjustment possible for the data we have used to evaluate these traits has meant that we have not accurately identified the best or the worst on a genetic basis. As a result the majority of breeders have ignored the genetic indexes for low heritability traits and have relied on managing around any problems their animals have had or their sire selections choices created.

So Much in Composites

With composite traits there are many individual traits combined into one overall number for FLC / Feet & Legs and PL / HL. The end result can be a high or low score for the overall but, unless we dig deeper and find out the ratings for the individual traits, we do not know the actual areas of genetic superiority or inferiority of animals. Classifiers combine many descriptive traits for feet and legs to come up with the overall score for Feet & Legs. Of course, for genetic evaluations for longevity we can not wait for a cow to complete her time in the herd. We therefore predict PL / HL by a calculation that is a combination of SCS, DPR/DF, Udder Depth and Milking Speed. These are all significant factors in how long a cow stays in a herd, but still are an estimate at best.

Genetic Evaluations

The data we have had available has not been complete enough, with enough related details, to calculate accurate genetic evaluations for these traits.  We therefore have called them low heritability traits. In fact it could well be that the extent of the data captured is not complete enough to produce accurate results.

Until about 1950 breeders used raw, unadjusted data to base their cow and bull selections on. Virtually zero progress was made in advancing the genetic merit of dairy cattle. Any advancement made was usually made at the herd level by owners that were more fortunate in the animals they owned. Evaluation techniques following that time have included dam-daughter comparisons, contemporary comparisons, BLUP (sire model) and then BLUP (animal model). These were each improvements on their predecessor yet even with the latter the accuracy of predicting a young bull or heifer’s true genetic merit for low heritability traits was only about 25-30% Reliable. The end result was that breeders paid little attention to the genetic indexes for these traits. They hoped that by breeding for the traits of high heritability, they would more often than not be lucky and make some improvement in traits like heel depth, fertility and calving ease. Over time A.I. organizations addressed the low accuracies for these traits by having at least one hundred daughters in sire type proofs and more than three hundred observations in conception, fertility and calving traits.

Progress Made

Over the past six decades, the genetic progress has gone from zero for all traits to rapid advancement for the most heritable traits (i.e. milk, fat & protein yields, stature, udder depth, teat placement, rump width, ..etc.). Over the past two decades calving ease has been a concern for breeders. With the move to hundreds of observation recorded and analysed some genetic progress appears to have been made. But not so with longevity, feet and female fertility.

Important traits

Breeders know and often state that they see these traits as being very important, in the future, to their herd’s profitability.  Labor and input expenses to treat problem animals, loss of production and animals too long in the dry pens can be robbing farms of ten to twenty-five percent of their profits. Yes, important but the means to improve genetically has not been available.

Along Comes Genomics

As our readers already know, The Bullvine strongly recommends the use of genomic indexes in making breeding decisions.  The primary reason for that is that the accuracies of the index predictions are almost double for all traits what they were with Parent Averages. For female fertility reliabilities have gone from 30% to 55% when genomic results were added in. That is huge.  It means that breeders no longer need to ignore or hope for the best with low heritability traits like they did in the past.

All A.I. sires are now genomically tested and therefore have 55 to 65% reliable indexes for longevity, fertility and calving ease when they are released for use. Breeders can now place much more trust in the genomic indexes for these traits than they could in the Parent Averages from the past. (Read more: ACCURATE GENETIC EVALUATIONS: Can We Hit the Bull’s-eye?)

Health & Fertility in Total Indexes

Health & Fertility make up 35% in NM$, 33% in the Bullvine’s BPI (Read more: Bullvine Performance Index), 29% in TPI™ and 15% in LPI of the emphasis in these total merit indexes.  The reason for that amount of emphasis is because of their importance to the profitability of operating a dairy farm.

What do Breeders Need to Do?

Breeders need to decide which total merit index best suits their needs.  Some will use only one index while others will use more than one index. No matter which index is used it is always best to corrective mate using the genetic, preferably genomic, index of both the bull and the cow.

For the female side this does require that the herd be milk recorded and type classified and that all females be genomically tested. The expense of recording is a very worthwhile investment to better decision making. Remember new information is continually coming available on genomic results for areas beyond genetic indexes. Parentage verification, heifer management and disease resistance are just the beginning.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Great forward strides have been made with genomic testing and it is no longer a matter of yes or no in using genetic indexes for Health and Fertility traits. Doubling index accuracy to 55 to 65% is a quantum leap. The future is very bright for enhanced genetic improvement and herd profitability for breeders that use all the tools.


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Alice In Dairyland: This Wonderful Dairy Tale Begins with Alice!

Sixty-six years ago, did organizers know that fairy tales would be getting renewed attention in the 21st Century? Last year there was Snow White And The Huntsman and then Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters  and now Jack The Giant Slayer. None of them however have the hands on experience (pun intended) of “Alice in Dairyland”, who writes a new chapter of dairy memories in Wisconsin every year. It may not start, “once upon or time” but for 25 year old, Kristin Olson, who is the current Alice in Dairyland, carrying out this role is definitely a dream come true.


Seeing the World Through The Milking Glass

Every good dairy tale starts on a farm and Kristin‘s story is no exception.  The 2013 Alice recounts some of the benchmarks that prepared her this role. “I grew up in Fond du Lac, WI with my family’s small show herd, Crestbrooke Holsteins and Jerseys, with my parents, Tim and Barb, and brother, Kyle. Throughout my youth, I was very active in the Wisconsin Holstein Association, as well as 4-H and FFA. I pursued a degree in Life Sciences Communications from UW – Madison, where I held numerous leadership roles in the Association of Women in Agriculture, Badger Dairy Club and National Agri-Marketing Association, and several internships, before graduating in 2010. After graduating, I worked at Accelerated Genetics in Baraboo for about three years as the Dairy Advertising Coordinator, before being selected for my current role as the 66th Alice in Dairyland last month. I reside in the Windsor-Deforest area with my husband, Trent, who is still involved with his home farm in Lewiston, MN, and is also employed with ABS Global in Deforest.”

Kristin (Natzke) Olson, with her family.

Kristin (Natzke) Olson, with my parents, Tim and Barb, and hubsand Trent and brother, Kyle.

Kristin has always felt a magical connection with agriculture!

We should always remember no matter what role we play in business, life or the dairy industry that we are making lasting impressions on formative young minds.  Such was the case for Kristin. “Having first met Alice in Dairyland in 4th grade, Alice has always been a figure I’ve looked up to and respected throughout my life. All of my combined experiences during my youth and college years really developed my passion for communicating agriculture’s story.”  With such strong early impressions of Alice and her lifelong ties to agriculture, it isn’t surprising to hear her say, “I am so excited to now be able to share my passion with Wisconsin and hopefully inspire people along the way!”
alice and swine

Waving the Agriculture Wand On Behalf of Wisconsin!

Kristin’s enthusiasm is exactly what the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection looks for in their official agricultural ambassador. Becky Paris, the Alice In Dairyland Program Manager, outlines how the selection of this one year, full-time public relations employee is made. “Each year a diverse group of highly qualified applicants make the position selection a difficult process.  The Alice in Dairyland selection puts everyone through a rigorous three day series of interviews including public speaking, writing, TV and radio interviews, tours and an individual interview.” The 66th Alice in Dairyland Finals were held in Calumet County in the Northeast section of Wisconsin. Speaking of the  selected candidate, Becky notes “Kristin proved she possessed the ability to positively impact Wisconsin agriculture in the role of Alice in Dairyland.” Kristin deflects the emphasis from herself and onto the host county. “Calumet County’s agriculture is so diverse, which was showcased on the agri-business tours they put on. We enjoyed a wide variety of tours from an innovative dairy farm featuring a rotary parlor, to Honeymoon Acres greenhouse which offers a variety of plants for everyone and sells over 15,000 hanging baskets annually, to the world renowned Sargento cheese. There was so much to see and learn!”  A gracious  Alice indeed!

Kristin doing an interview with WSAW channel 7

Kristin doing an interview with WSAW channel 7

Dairyland: “All the better to delight you with!”

With her banner and tiara and her ongoing passion for dairying, Kristin will go far and experience much as Alice in Dairyland. “Throughout my year as Alice, I will travel nearly 40,000 miles, make over 400 appearances and speak with 10,000 students on the importance of Wisconsin’s $59 billion agriculture industry. I’m very much looking forward to traveling throughout the state and meeting people from all backgrounds and walks of life while sharing the message of Wisconsin agriculture!” Becky Paris tells us the ways in which this is a one-of-a-kind program is constantly changing to reflect innovations in Wisconsin’s agriculture industry.  “Alice is unique in the versatility of her role: one day her role is relaying the modern picture of agriculture to a growing urban population, the next she is educating students on careers in agriculture, and the next she is reaching out to all consumers through TV interviews discussing one of the many diverse agricultural facets in Wisconsin.  Working with our agricultural industry partners, Alice provides a relatable link between producers, processors and consumers.”

Thanks to the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board Alice in Dairyland will travel 40,000 miles in the flex fuel Tahoe across the state on E-85, a cleaner burning fuel made from corn!

Thanks to the Wisconsin Corn Promotion Board Alice in Dairyland will travel 40,000 miles in the flex fuel Tahoe across the state on E-85, a cleaner burning fuel made from corn!

Alice’s Ag Adventure is Just Beginning

Alice in Dairyland is contracted public relations position for which Kristin will receive a $40,000 state paid salary.  Coinciding with Dairy Month, the fully packed year of activities is off to a good start says Kristin. “Having started on June 3, I’m just beginning to scratch the surface of all of the wonderful opportunities that lie ahead for the year. So far, my greatest experience has been traveling throughout the state and meeting wonderful people while being able to celebrate June Dairy month in America’s Dairyland and share my passion of the dairy industry with others.”

aliceindairyland-working with kids

Life Before Alice In Dairyland

No doubt there will be many times during the coming year when Kristin will reflect on the experiences, training and personal support that led her to this exciting opportunity.  She gives much of the credit to her parents Tim and Barb Natzke. “At a very young age my parents   taught me the importance of hard work, dedication and perseverance. From practicing leading stubborn calves for hours and hours on end as a little girl in order to win that showmanship contest, to preparing for the Alice in Dairyland finals in order to make a dream a reality, they’ve always been there for encouragement and also to push me to my highest potential.”

kristin olsen showing

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Both Kristin and Becky encourage others to seek out this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “Whether you’re considering the job of Alice or not, I advise people to cultivate their passion for all things agriculture and spread its message to those you meet. It is our food, fiber, fuel and for many, a way of making a living.” Kristin agrees with Becky and invites people to follow Alice on her travel blog or on Facebook and Twitter and adds this endorsement. “Consider the role of Alice in Dairyland and then absolutely go for it.”

It is indeed a wonderful dairy world out there. Congratulations to Kristin and warm thanks for inspiring our Bullvine readers to share the Alice in Dairyland message “Agriculture! Happily ever after!”


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Stud Wars – The Battle for A.I. Supremacy

A long time ago in a galaxy far away……Who are we kidding the A.I. stud wars are now and the battleground is the USA, the most lucrative genetics market in the world.  For years I have heard the debate from all sides about which stud has the best sire line-up.  The problem is most of it has been anecdotal and no one has really backed it up with numbers.  So, in true Bullvine fashion, we thought we would bring numbers to this galactic battle.

To settle this confrontation, we decided to let genomics and genetic evaluations determine exactly which stud rules the empire.  Specifically we looked at top 50 proven and genomic sires for TPITM, NM$ and PTAT to determine who are the studs and who are the duds.  The following is what we found.  (Please note we deemed a sire to be available if the had an NAAB Code)


tpi proven siressw

Click on image for enlargement

It’s interesting to see how the percentages seem to be similar to market share, prior to the genomic era.  The big five being ABS, Select Sires, Alta Genetics, Accelerated Genetics and Genex.

Click on image for enlargement

Click on image for enlargement

The top gPA TPI sires tell a very different story than that of the proven sires.  Studs like ABS Global and Alta Genetics do not have as large a portion of the top bulls whereas Semex and Select Sires have invested heavily in obtaining top gPA TPI sires.

Click on image for enlargement

Click on image for enlargement

When it comes to strength of line-up from a TPI perspective, it’s interesting to see how Semex and some of the smaller studs have made a big push on getting the top genomic sires, in order to have that stronger line-up in the future.  On the other hand, some of the established studs are resting on their proven laurels. (Please note for top list we used the top 50 genomic and top 50 proven sires.)


nm$ proven siressw

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It is interesting how the studs that are more milk producer focused as opposed to breeder focused rise up on this list.  Specifically Genex, Alta Genetics and ABS have their best showings here.

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Even the studs who have not gone heavily into genomics, are at least sampling some high genomic sires for NM$.  When it comes to selling volumes of semen, nothing compares to a high NM$ sire.  Yes the top TPI sires will sell well, but the high NM$ will move in volume as they attractive the commercial market.


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The greatest spread of the top sires amongst the studs occurs in NM$.  This is not surprising since this is such a lucrative market for so many studs.  They all are trying to get the top sires.


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When it comes to the top type bulls, it seems like everyone wants a shot at them.  Type sires are a premium market delivering high margins to the units.  This is certainly one area where type oriented countries and their respective studs excel (Example, Semenzoo and Semex).

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Similar to the proven bull list, this is an area where everyone wants to play.  It is interesting to see that many of the type niche studs don’t have more on these lists.  That could be due to the fact that they are focusing on show type and not necessarily on sires who have high genomic tests for PTAT.

ptat siressw

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A subject of great debate on our Facebook page has been who has the better type sire lineup, Select Sires or Semex.  If you go by the numbers, there is no question that Select Sires has the advantage.  Looking deeper into this, we decided to take the top 5 proven and the top 5 genomic sires from each stud and see whose were better.  Select Sires averaged 4.14 PTAT and Semex averaged 3.72.  So Select not only has an advantage in numbers but also in quality.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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It’s always interesting when you get into the debate about which studs have the best sire lineup to see the perceptions people have.  Most look at it based on what their breeding goals are and state their opinion relative to that.  Nevertheless there are many that are guilty of looking at things through rose colored glasses for the studs they prefer and hence discrediting other studs because of it.  The one thing you cannot deny is that, when you look across the board,   the US sire line up at Select Sires has the largest market share and are a player in each major market.  Studs like Semex (type) and ABS, Alta Genetics, and Genex (NM$ and TPI) do well in niche segments.

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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Who Really Has The Best Dairy Cattle Genetics In The World?

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


tpi proven sires

tpi genomic sires

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


NM$ proven sires

NM$ Genomic Sires

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


ptat proven

ptat genomic sires

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


lpi proven sires

lpi genomic sires

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


conf proven sires

conf genomic sires

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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

For complete genetic evaluations from around the world click here.


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USA – Leading the way in the Dairy Genetics’ World

In honor of Independence Day in the United States, the Bullvine decided to take a closer look at the top USA bred bulls.  In the world market, indexes like TPI and NM$ dominate much of the discussion. But, in typical Bullvine form, we decided to look at things a little differently.  Instead of ranking them all by TPI (Holstein USA’s national index – Read more Everything You Need To Know About TPI and LPI), The Bullvine decided to rank them by BPI (Read more – Bullvine Performance Index). Note that all animals are percentage ranked compared to the highest bull (Mr. Lookout P Enforcer).

Top BPI Proven Sires

DE-SU OBSERVER160261527922.70.9999.8%
BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE123654437791.570.9998.7%
DE-SU GULF148973405492.80.9292.9%
MORNINGVIEW LEVI87668546931.40.9591.3%
COYNE-FARMS SHOTLE YANCE181575545161.90.9389.6%
DE-SU HISTORY152484585672.410.9389.2%
LONG-LANGS OMAN OMAN126281735882.170.9988.3%
END-ROAD O-MAN BRONCO-ET177047625122.080.9988.1%
O-BEE MANFRED JUSTICE7816346643-0.070.9987.4%
VA-EARLY-DAWN SUDAN CRI126882535381.790.9286.8%

Top BPI Genomic Sires

MR LOOKOUT P ENFORCER173174677082.750.73100.0%
MR LOOKOUT PESCE ALTA5G102053466.123.960.7298.4%
DE-SU JEROD 1223161089518472.710.7497.5%
COYNE-FARMS JABIR144195558852.660.7296.7%
RMW ANCHOR147498477163.040.7294.8%
MR LOOKOUT P EMBARGO148594566443.380.7293.8%
DE-SU DISTINCTION 111301754976483430.7293.8%
WELCOME ARMITAGE PESKY102492637442.30.7293.6%
SULLY MCCORD 269141390537803.170.7192.9%

Top BPI Polled Sires

TIGER-LILY LADD P-RED-4030314773.030.7583.8%
SANDY-VALLEY CHIPPER-P137929465682.60.7281.5%
DA-SO-BURN MOM EARNHARDT P155776735981.970.7481.0%
PINE-TREE OHARE-P207353556821.920.7478.7%
KERNDTWAY ELIMINATOR-P60458234882.430.7378.0%
HICKORYMEA PARKER P19133205422.240.7578.0%
RI-VAL-RE OBSRVR DOLO-P114349365712.780.7376.6%
LIRR SPECIAL EFFECTP-RED12239175771.780.7375.5%
RI-VAL-RE OBSRVR DAVE-P136753465392.540.7374.9%
SANDY-VALLEY COLT P-RED70510264681.780.7573.3%

It is interesting to see just how closely ranked the top Genomic sires and proven sires in the USA are.  Unlike Canada that recently adjusted its LPI formula to bring indexes closer together (Read more: Canadian LPI Rescaling Explained (April 2013)), the US has always had a very close ranking among top sires.  Even the most progressive Genomic breeder, should still consider using sires like DE-SU OBSERVER, BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE and DE-SU GULF.  Having said that, many may choose to use the highest of their sons in order to stay ahead of the rest.

Another interesting note is how quickly the top polled sires are catching up to their non-polled counterparts.  Only a year ago the top polled sires would not have been within 30% of the top non-polled.  These days they are within 20% and at this current rate, in another 5 years they will be at the same level.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that, when you look at the top bull lists around the world, the USA dominates (Read more: What the Experts Will Tell You about Who Is Winning the Genetic Improvement Race).  Between the use of TPI and NM$ US breeders have been leaders in the identification of top bloodlines for health, fertility and profitability.  The question now becomes, “Can they stay on top?”


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From the Sidelines to the Headlines, Polled is Going Mainline!

Until recently, if you were talking about polled dairy genetics you were talking about a minor portion of the breeding population.  However, modern dairy genetics has seen dramatic changes in that situation. The rising popularity of polled has been propelled in part by activists, consumers and breeders all of whom are seeking better ways to provide healthy products to the marketplace in an efficient, profitable and sustainable manner.  Polled is a proactive opportunity to solve issues and meet needs in one genetic swoop.

Polled Pioneers Past and Present

Polled pioneer breeders have been few and far between. Thirty-nine years ago Burkett Falls Farm (Father Dave & Son John Burket, East Freedom, Pennsylvania, USA)  had an Elevation daughter born, Sophie EX93, from which the majority of today’s polled Holsteins trace.  The desire of breeders to have polled Holsteins until now has remained just that, a desire. Some polled bulls have entered AI but except for Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red (born in 2002) few have gained much attention. Perhaps two reasons for that are that polled may have been associated with breeder proven bulls, known for unreliable single herd proofs, and a frequent association between polled and Red & White, which in North America represents only about 5% of the Holstein population.

Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red (EX-93-GM)

Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red (EX-93-GM)

Changing Polled Perceptions

On the one hand, the dominance of the polled trait in beef cattle has given rise to the false impression that polled Holsteins are descendant of a beef background.  Today’s DNA testing capabilities answer that concern. However, despite this, the attitude of leading edge breeders is changing. No longer is the approach, stated in 1964 by the then Holstein Canada CEO George M Clemons, ‘we have other more important traits to improve’, in line with current breeders’ thinking.  Today, having doubled the 1964 production levels, breeders want to avoid unpleasant work, unnecessary costs and raise a positive animal welfare reputation.

Polling for Dollars

Just last month at the Ri-Val-Re Sale, in Michigan,  Bomaz Numero Uno 5904 PC (Numero Uno x Lawn Boy P-Red x Laudan x Garter),  the #3 TPI™ polled heifer in the breed at 2365, sold for $(US) 215,0000. (Read more: Ri-Val-Re Select Sale Averages an Outstanding $25,910) Polled has come of age. Not only is Uno 5904 high indexing for fat, protein, mammary systems, productive life, daughter fertility, milking speed and milking temperament but she is also an outcross.  In the same sale Ri-Val-Re The Best P-Red, the #1 TPI™ & NM$ female in the breed (Special Effect P-Red x Macguiness x Advent-Red x Ranger x Factor) sold for $(US) 38,000.  Again an outcross to Oman, Goldwyn, Shottle, Bolton and Planet. Their buyers obviously have plans.  Polled also made the headlines last fall when five doses of semen sold for $50,000 (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen). It was five doses of semen and the right to exclusivity of use for a few months of the homozygous polled bull Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red (Colt-P x Goldwyn x Redman x Perk-Red x Rubens).

Ri-Val-Re The Best P-Red, the #1 TPI™ & NM$ female in the breed (Special Effect P-Red x Macguiness x Advent-Red x Ranger x Factor) sold for $(US) 38,000 at the Ri-Val-Re Select Sale.

Ri-Val-Re The Best P-Red, the #1 TPI™ & NM$ female in the breed (Special Effect P-Red x Macguiness x Advent-Red x Ranger x Factor) sold for $(US) 38,000 at the Ri-Val-Re Select Sale.

Going Down the Polled Road

There are two ways to use polled in a herd’s breeding program when it comes to sire selection.  One way is to go all out and only use PP bulls. All heifers born will be polled. The limiting factor will be that the heifers will not be as high for gTPI™, gLPI or NM$ as using P bulls (heterozygous for polled)

The alternative method would be to use P bulls. In the first generation half the heifers will be polled and in the second generation 25% will be homozygous polled, 50% will be polled but heterozygous and 25% will be horned. Definitely a slower route but the heifers will be higher indexing than using PP bulls.

More Bulls Are Polled Apart

The rise in polled popularity goes beyond two top selling heifers and five doses of semen. A search of the CDN files of Black & White polled bulls waiting to be old enough to be sampled, shows six bulls born in later 2012 and seven born and registered already in 2013 over +2750 LPI. Two are over +3000 LPI. Note that, on the CDN files, bulls cannot get a gLPI or have a DGV LPI listed until they are one year of age, These thirteen young bulls are the result of breeders breeding their top indexing females to polled bulls. As more and more top gTPI™ and gLPI cows and heifers are flushed to top polled bulls, 2500 gTPI™ young bulls and heifers will only be a short time down the road.

How to Pick Up Speed On the Polled Road


Roy MacGregor of DairyBullsOnline

It is always wise to ask questions and follow advice of the experts in new procedures.   shares his insights on where to start when establishing polled genetics in your herd (Read more: They`re Sold On Polled!!). “The first procedure is to check for horn bud. If no bud do not dehorn. If after 3-4 weeks no horn bud develops your animal is likely polled. Another really good indicator is double eyelashes. A smooth head and double eyelashes should mean polled right away. Some calves and especially males can develop small immature buds or scurrs much later at 4-6 months or even older. In this case testing your calf with the German test or the UC Davis test is the best idea to avoid confusion.” He offers this encouragement “

There is a small learning curve but after a breeder gets a couple polled calves he will understand that smooth (like glass smooth) means polled, and it will get easier from there. “

Polled Procedures or “When in doubt, test!”

The test currently used through Holstein is the Igenity test, which we are told is accurate to 95% which is really quite good however we are all aware of the bulls Shine, and Balti being the exception. The most accurate test today is the German or UC Davis test closer to 99.9% or greater. However nothing can be said to be 100% because in genetics natural mutations can, and do occur. It should be noted no polled test can save poor management of mixed up hair samples.  Of course, to err is human but when in doubt, test. For Homozygous calves obviously the only way to know is either wait until several offspring are born polled from one horned parent, or test.  However in today’s day and age nobody wants to wait so we simply have to trust the best test at our disposal.

Is Polled Suffering from a Bad Code

Firstly the POC code currently in place naturally tends to lead some to believe there are “polled carriers” which only confuses the matter even more. There is no such thing as a “Polled carrier” animals are either polled or horned. Roy MacGregor, offers this opinion. “I think giving a dominate trait a recessive code is the wrong approach. It would be simpler to add P or PP right in the name. Nobody has to go looking for codes. It’s all right there right in the name, and with proper protocol at registration (simple pedigree research) and proper testing (when needed) this could easily be automatic.”

The Polled Learning Curve

For those who have been following some of the questions and concerns, MacGregor provides his viewpoint. “I think A.I’s all over the world have now panicked and realized all polled bulls need to tested at UC Davis, so the initial shock is probably over. However the problem now is what to do with all the females coded as POC on the 95% accurate Igenity test? This whole POC coding adventure has been especially frustrating for those who have been dealing with polled for years. Imagine being told you have to test something for POC that is obviously polled? Would you ask a breeder with a Red calf to test it for *RC? Polled is still fairly new so hopefully over time common sense will prevail, people just need to relax, slow down, and follow step one (check for the horn bud).”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

So, how do you see polled in your breeding program? Is it an opportunity? Is it an annoyance? Is it a necessity? The genetics are rapidly being established that mean there is no sacrifice in genetic merit if you breed for polled dairy cattle.  The first choice of public opinion is moving quickly in favor of polled. From the sidelines, to headlines to main line it’s time to ask yourself, “When it comes to polled, what line will I commit to?”


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MARK NUTSFORD: The British Invasion Continues On Three Fronts

Mark, Susan and family

Whether it’s wartime or rock music, we have learned to expect the best from the British.  The dairy industry is no exception. As The Bullvine gets to know our international peers better, we travel to Ravenscroft Hall Farm in the heart of Cheshire, England.  Here Mark Nutsford and his wife Susan run the Riverdane Herd.  Targeting real goals has helped them achieve their dairy aspirations says Mark. “My granddad on my Mother’s side was a dairy farmer, so from an early age I spent as much time on the farm as I possibly could. Dairy cows have always been my passion and I always knew that one day I would have my own dairy farm.” Having said that, they don’t rest on their laurels but continue to charge ahead to broaden their dairy horizons.

Not Ready to Surrender to the Status Quo

Trained as an embryologist and ET technician, Mark’s main job is to run Celltech Embryo Transfer. Additionally, the Nutsfords have a semen company called KingStreet Sires. It is run by Susan and their general sales manager Sam Wake.  Mark explains how this arm of their business endeavours came to be. “KingStreet Sires was born out of the frustration of not being able to get a decent price for our bulls entering into AI or even purchase the kind of semen we wanted to use on our cows.”

Appleview Rudolph Mattia  EX 97

Appleview Rudolph Mattia EX 97
Mattia scored max. every lactation

Reconnaissance to Build Genetic Potential

Immediately after they sold their first herd in 2008 to the Willsbro herd in Cornwall, the Nutsfords began to scour the world to purchase embryos” We wanted to purchase from what we thought were the best breeding families. This resulted in purchasing embryos and calves from such renowned families such as Attlees, Ashlyns, Red/Black Roses, August, James Rose, Roxys, Jolies etc. but we also kept some embryos from our own established families which came originally from North America, such as the Tony Beauties, Sara’s, and Mattias. As well as from three 97 point cows that were at Riverdane. Pansys Dilys and Mattia the latter still alive at Riverdane may be the only 97 point cow ever to be scored max points in every lactation i.e. and the British system, 89 as 2 years, 90 second calf, 93 third calf, 95 fourth calf and 97 fifth calf. We have bred or owned 13 VG 89 2 yr olds and numerous max pointer cows of which there are four on the farm at the moment.”

Bressingham Raider Pansy 2 EX-97-4E Pictured after 12 calves

Bressingham Raider Pansy 2 EX-97-4E
Pictured after 12 calves

Strategic Planning “Develop a profitable cow”

Mark describes what they look for. “Our breeding philosophy is to develop a profitable cow.” He expands on the reasoning. “Because maize silage, grass silage and whole crop wheat is what we can grow on our farm fairly efficiently and is our cheapest source of feed, we want a cow that can produce on average 60/70n tons in five lactations, can consume large amounts of forage and then synthesize it into milk.  We are looking for a cow with great quality and plenty of dairy strength as well as the traits that everyone else wants such as great feet and legs and udders. It is very important to us when we choose a bull that we can see where the greatness comes from or he will not interest us. Most of the bulls we use now are genomic bulls from great cow families that have strength and depth.”

Lavenham Adeen 1st Senior Cow and Black & White Champion AgriScot 2012

Lavenham Adeen EX-90-UK
1st Senior Cow and Black & White Champion AgriScot 2012 & UK Dairy Expo

Generating Milk Pail and the Show Ring Awards

Mark emphatically points out his favourite cow. “The greatest cow I have ever owned is probably Appleview Rudolph Mattia  EX 97. Her accolades are too numerous to mention but she has scored max points in every lactation and also been nominated every time as well as being crowned All Britain in 2004. She has produced 150+ tonne of milk and at 16 years of age is still the boss! Her breeding accolades are also impressive and we are currently showing a granddaughter by Goldwyn that was undefeated as a 2 year old and as a 3 year old in her class. As far as a show cow we have a daughter of the great Skychief Adeen by Durham that has been Grand Champion at both her recent outings at Agriscot and the UK Dairy Expo under two of the greatest judges of all time John Gribbon and Barclay Phoenix.”

Lavenham Durham Adeen EX-90-UK Sister to the dam of  MD-Delight Durham Atlee EX-92-USA

Lavenham Durham Adeen EX-90-UK
Sister to the dam of MD-Delight Durham Atlee EX-92-USA

The Genetic Torch Marches on from Renowned Families

Persistently seeking the best is showing results for Riverdane. “Most of our better cows are from world renowned families such as Shottle Autumn VG88 2 year from Roy Autumn All American Milking Yearling and Junior Champion at Madison.  Goldwyn Atlee VG89 is a full sister to Ariel and Atwood. Durham Adeen, from Skychief Adeen, is from a family I have known well from the days I used to travel to Aitkenbrae. I even remember Starbuck Ada’s dam as a 2-year-old (Sheik). Talent Ashlyn granddaughter of the all world cow Tri day Ashlyn is one of our best growing cows and has recently being raised to max points as a second calver. A cow that I own with ADI and Ponderosa has just being made max points 93 as a third calver just back from winning the 5 year old class at the European show. She is on flush to Goldwyn or Gold Chip. One 2 year old heifer that has just calved is a Goldwyn from a Dundee from James Rose that is showing great promising qualities for the future.”

Riverdane Talented Ashlyn EX90 3YR All Britain Intermediate Heifer in Milk Champion 2012 1st Milking Heifer & Supreme Champion Holstein & Best Udder Cheshire County Show 2012  1st Junior 2yr & Reserve Champion Holstein Heifer Great Yorkshire Show 2012

Riverdane Talented Ashlyn EX90 3YR
All Britain Intermediate Heifer in Milk Champion 2012
1st Milking Heifer & Supreme Champion Holstein & Best Udder Cheshire County Show 2012
1st Junior 2yr & Reserve Champion Holstein Heifer Great Yorkshire Show 2012

Irresistible Sire Stack

Mark has specific requirements when purchasing cows too. “The most exciting one that I have ever purchased is Ridgefield Goldwyn Atleen (A Goldwyn from Durham Atlee). For me the stack up of sires in that pedigree was irresistible:  Goldwyn, Durham, Storm, Skychief, Starbuck and Shiek. For me these are six of the greatest sires of all time The family seems to produce an all fronts whether it’s genomics, milk, fat, protein, shows or just great to work with.”

The Outcross Search is On

Adding it all up, Mark has what he calls “30-ish” years in the dairy industry. “We are in an era where the two greatest bulls of all time are having a massive influence, Shottle and Goldwyn. Our herd is based on these two great bulls either through them or their sons, so at the moment we are looking for outcrosses. This is proving very difficult at the moment as we are not great fans of the Oman and Planet bloodlines. The sires that I am currently working with are Goldsun, Goldchip, Cashcoin, Cashmoney, Explode, Aftershock, Atwood sons Brady and Mars Yorik.”

Riverdane Shottle Amber VG-88-UK 2yr High Shottle daughter from the full sister to Atwood!

Riverdane Shottle Amber VG-88-UK 2yr
High Shottle daughter from the full sister to Atwood!

Following Distinguished Mentors

Finding exceptional mentors has been an easier task for Mark. “Peter Heffering was always my mentor although I didn’t know Peter that well, we used to speak occasionally and I followed his career. I was inspired by his attitude, work ethic and his ability to take things to another dimension. (Read more:  Hanover Hill Holsteins: Peter Heffering 1931-2012) Martin Roburge from Quebec was also a great friend and teacher. In the UK two great cowmen John Gribbon and the late Harold Nicholson have had a massive influence on my showing and judging career. John in my opinion is one of the greatest cattle judges the world has seen in recent years, it’s not just how he judges it’s the way he also handles people especially the crowd and how he involves them with the show, I think the Europeans are better at the then the North Americans.”

Learning the Art of Judging

I have been lucky enough to have twice been invited to the Canadian judging school which also includes tutorials as well as judging. One of the subjects we talked about and were tutored on was mentoring. Dan Doner gave a great tutorial and one I will always remember and try to practice, so anyone starting out in the business which is always a good idea to have a role model to ask advice and try to copy their strengths as I did with the likes of Peter Heffering, Harold Nickolsen and John Gribbon and with judging, people like Richard Keane from New York who today is still one of the best judges I have been able to learn from (style, manner, accuracy and professionalism) and admire.
mark nutsford judging

Success Before the Judge

My greatest accomplishment was in 2003 when we were champion (Reserve once) at every major show (8 Majors) in England + Scotland with different cows at every show except the royal Highland but we bred the champion there. We were also the second highest yielding herd in the UK according to National Milk Records. Peter Heffering did it with Charity in her prime which was always a major influence with me.”

…..And When He Is the Judge

The influence of mentors continues when Mark himself is the Judge. “I’ve judged in a lot of European countries and most of the big shows in the UK and Ireland but never in North America. Not a lot of Europeans get asked to judge in North America which is a shame because I think a lot of the best judges and cow men are in Europe. It is always a good idea to bring someone in that is not part of the ‘scene’ to give a fresh prospective. A lot of North Americans have judged in Europe over the years and have done a great job. It would be nice if these invitations were reciprocated back to North America.”

Dairy Breeding Never Stands Still

It is unrealistic to think that there will be a time when all the problems are solved and the battles won. Mark has had to deal with many events already. “The biggest change I have seen is happening at this present time. It is genomics and affects the way we breed our cows and choose our bulls. I am a big believer in the formulas e.g. in the TPI formula 20% of the formula is made up of productive life 9% (8% heritable) and daughter pregnancy rate 11% (4% heritable) is this wisdom. In the UK our PLI formula is 45.2% PIN 21.1% Lifespan (6% heritable) Fertility 18.5% (3% heritable) Scc 5.5%, Udder 5.6% and locomotion at 4.1% so nearly 40% of the formula is approximately 4.5% heritable . To me this is a hoax on a large scale.

Select Sires in the U.S have a TPI formula that makes sense to me, 40% production traits (Milk (PTAM), fat pounds (PTAF), protein pounds (PTAP), 40% type traits (Udder composite(UDC) Feet + Leg composite (FLC, Strength) 20% Fitness traits – productive life (PL), Somatic Cell Score (SCS), Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR), Calving ease (DBH). Bulls are excluded from receiving the designation if they do not meet predetermined levels for udder composite, feet and leg composite and Type. I think most discerning dairy farmers would agree to this common sense approach to breeding.”

Isaac Lancaster, Mark Nutsford and John Gribbon taking a toast to the last ever Royal show in England.

Isaac Lancaster, Mark Nutsford and John Gribbon taking a toast to the last ever Royal show in England.

Today’s Selection Criteria and Future Skirmishes

You can’t make decision without having a realistic perspective on dairying.  Mark considers one rising dilemma. “AI companies are paying a lot more money for the bulls that meet their criteria so a lot of breeders are spending a lot more money to achieve their goal to try and push the TPI, LPI, PLI boundaries. This is ok if you are happy with the formulas but if like me you are reticent about the formulas but have more confidence in the individual breakdowns, to a certain degree that nothing has changed it just another set of figures to work with. A more ‘balanced’ formula for type, production, and health traits is the way I see going forward especially when the genomic figures become more refined in the future.”
It’s All About Breeding and Balance

Mark anticipates where the industry is going. “I think the genetic companies will continue to buy in to the female lines to save money on sire procurement which will push the prices of the top female lines up. Bull prices will continue to make record highs as AI companies compete for the top genomics possible on on-line auctions or special bull sales. There will be a trend in Europe to cross breed, but most people who try it usually come back to Holsteins when they realize the cross breeds aren’t as efficient in milk production and that’s what pays the bills. I still think that the true type model cow (The British one) is still the best model and if you want a definition of what balanced is look at the British Holstein model cow!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Mark and Susan Nutsford hope to keep broadening the horizons of KingStreet Sires, Celltech, and Riverdane. “We want to try to be a part of and influence the Holstein breed in whatever small part possible.”  It’s no wonder that The Bullvine feels this British invasion is, once again, music to our ears! “Charge on!”

Check out more about the British Invasion – Isaac Lancaster: The British Are Coming. The British Are Coming


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Canada Eh!

In honour of Canada Day, the Bullvine decided to take a closer look at the top Canadian bred animals.  But, in typical Bullvine form, we decided to look at things a little differently.  Instead of ranking them all by LPI (CDN national index – Read more Everything You Need To Know About TPI and LPI), The Bullvine decided to rank them by BPI (Read more – Bullvine Performance Index). Note that all animals are percentage ranked compared to the highest animal of their gender.

Top BPI Proven Sires

CRACKHOLM FEVER62056202.63150.93100.0%
GEN-I-BEQ BRAWLER91062462.85100.9499.8%
GEN-I-BEQ TOPSIDE119772452.75120.9291.1%
GEN-I-BEQ ALTABUZZER141782462.8260.8990.2%
DOMICOLE CHELIOS84578412.78140.9389.2%
COMESTAR LAUTREC116872473.0690.988.9%
BUTOISE BAHAMAS172552733.1860.988.7%
HYLLTOP PRESLEY RED86678563.0260.8988.4%
DELABERGE DEMOCRACY44369472.6590.8586.9%
GILLETTE WINDBROOK93762403.06150.8586.0%

Top BPI Genomic Sires

SUNTOR JOYRIDE216287922.72170.6683.0%
GENERVATIONS LEXOR163590842.89120.7282.1%
COMESTAR LAUTRUST189690802.75120.6781.9%
LEOTHE DAUPHIN180588722.74110.6681.5%
JEANNIESTAR D MILKMASTER195594882.99110.6779.9%
GENERVATIONS LIQUID GOLD1546102822.87140.6579.9%
BOLDI V S G ANTON191090722.8170.6479.4%
GENERVATIONS LIMBO1755103752.85100.6779.0%
GENERVATIONS BIG KAHUNA216780762.82140.6578.8%
GENERVATIONS L1423237476872.91150.6578.7%

Top BPI Polled Sires

WEST PORT ARRON DOON MITEY P-10149162.5840.9480.9%
MEMENTO BENEDICT P1023-11102.7590.9278.4%
VENTURE TRANSFORMER P92853442.7370.773.7%
LA PRESENTATION BEAR P56721192.9440.972.6%
WEST PORT ARRON DOON MALTBY P136333422.5700.972.4%
OCONNORS BERKLEY166152512.6380.6971.7%
ERBCREST SATCHEL P113721402.72110.770.5%
LA PRESENTATION BROYARD P119051452.6770.6969.8%
VENTURE MAN O POLLED P76937583.06100.6969.6%
HICKORYMEA-I OKA P-8746162.6590.969.1%

Top BPI Cows

STANTONS FREDDIE CAMEO1784108712.8170.7195.4%
STANTONS MANOMAN EZRA1607103812.9120.7394.5%
MAPEL WOOD M O M LUCY2174106902.95120.7294.5%
VELTHUIS SG MOM ALESIA189791712.84160.7293.8%
DELABERGE OMAN DOILEE160470882.92100.7393.4%
STANTONS OBSERVER EXTREME273191912.67140.6892.2%
BENNER MANOMAN JANESSE1467113783110.7291.8%
OCONNORS PLANET LUCIA2452101992.92150.7291.4%
STANTONS OBSERVER EXPOSE220079842.83110.791.2%
COMESTAR LAUTAMAI MAN O MAN215685932.88120.7190.5%

Top BPI Heifers

GILLETTE MOGUL CARREL1056107642.67150.66100.0%
STANTONS MCCUTCHEN 1174 AGREE2101103812.59190.6598.7%
VELTHUIS S G SNOW EVENING2859103952.83160.797.6%
VELTHUIS SG SNOW EVENT2859103952.83160.797.6%
LOOKOUT PESCE PONDE KREED182694842.86140.6597.1%
MAPEL WOOD SUDAN LICORICE2326108972.7120.6796.3%
LOOKOUT PESCE EPIC HUE188893832.88180.6594.5%
STANTONS SNOW ELAISKA226885982.81130.6692.2%
STANTONS MCCUTCHEN PROFIT220394872.88120.6591.5%
OCONNORS LIVING THE DREAM222888872.79160.6491.0%

Top BPI Polled Females

MAPEL WOOD LADD LEAH P150981672.92120.6586.4%
VENTURE MCCUTCHEN SATIN P102972472.72150.6186.3%
VENTURE EPIC SCARLET P118969462.75120.6585.5%
BRYHILL ONE SASSY P126296502.58130.6385.4%
BRYHILL SS SASHA P2160100742.72130.6184.8%

Show Ring Success


Show Winnings:

Of course, our look at the top animals in Canada would not be complete without checking out the show ring.  The undisputed show Champion would have to be RF Goldwyn Hailey.  Her extreme balance has dominated the North American show circuit for the past 2 years.  However, there are  up and comers including Valleyville Rae Lynn,  Ms Pride Gold Invite 761 and Desnette Alexia Roseplex.


1ST ALL-ONTARIO SR.2-YR 2012,2012
2ND SR.2-YR ROYAL 2012

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As Canada seeks to regain ranking as the top source for Holstein genetics, it’s these bloodlines that are going to lead the charge.  Happy Canada Day!!!!


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