Archive for August 2013

For Love of the Ring!

Last night I had the opportunity to go back to the county show that I had exhibited at for over 20 years.  It has been a few years since I was last at the Brant Wentworth County Show held at Paris Fairgrounds, but man did many memories come rushing back to me.


Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in all the big names and issues like show ethics, that you forget what it really means to show dairy cattle.  Watching the 19 pre 4-H show people in the ring brought back many memories for me.  While the faces have changed, many of the names have not.  I guess it’s a sign of getting older, but all the same kids that I used to compete against when I was young, now have children of their own in the pre 4-H class.  There is something so pure about watching these young people compete.  These kids are not doing it for the money.  They are not doing it for the glory.  They are doing it for the love of dairy cattle and the show ring.


This is when   you remember what makes county shows so great.  It’s not the money you are going to make by breeding or selling a class winner.  After all, let’s face it there is none.  It’s not the fame that will come from it because, in most cases, no one will ever really know about the results.  It’s about community experience and love of dairy cattle.  For me last night was   the purest confirmation of why we love dairy farming that I have seen in a long time.  These kids put on a show second to none for enthusiasm, tension and crowd appeal.  I loved it!  I grew with much the same experience as many of these kids:  working each day on the farm, helping my parents and learning to appreciate being a dairy farmer.  There is something about being a dairy farmer that is very special.  It is hard to describe to someone who has not had the experience.  Ingrained in every child raised on a dairy farm is a set of values and sense of accomplishment, that can’t ever be taken away, even though many of these youth eventually end up off the farm.


Getting the opportunity to talk to many of the dairy community members that I have known for over thirty years was great.  It was also super to meet so many new faces that will be the next generation leading the dairy industry into the future.


L-R John Innes, David Loewith, Anne Louise Carson

As much as it seems like the world is changing every day, events like this remind me how deep the roots of the dairy industry remain.  At this local show we had many generations of dairy producers as well as several different types of producers.  We are fortunate in our county to rub shoulders with  some of the most progressive milk producers in the industry, such as David  Loewith (seen here with Holstein Canada Secretary Manager  Ann Louise Carson), as well as one of the top index herds in Canada, Mapelwood Holsteins.  By the way, Mapelwood also took home Grand Champion honours with Willsey Jasper Rockette.


Grand Champion – Willsey Jasper Rockette
Exhibited by Mapelwood Farms.

In talking with Clarence Markus about his recent barn fire and how they are already starting to build again. (Read more: Your Barn Is On Fire!)  Clarence commented about how the dairy community from around the world has been great in supporting him through this tough time.  He also said the thing that surprised him most was how, even though you don’t realize it, everyone is watching you and that the great things that you do to support others, don’t go unnoticed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes I wonder what the future of the dairy industry holds.  At one time, Wentworth County that I grew up in had over one hundred   dairy producers and its own show.  Now there are less than thirty and it can be hard for two counties, Wentworth and Brant, to get enough cattle out.  At times I wonder if there is much future.  Then I have moments like last night, when these 19 future dairy leaders showed the world exactly what it means to fall in love with dairy cattle and the show ring and I think to myself, “Man the future is looking bright!”

For more pictures click here and for show pictures click here.

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Let’s Talk Longevity

Herd profitability is front and centre in the minds of breeders as they build their genetic base for the future. Current and future profit does not come by chance. It takes both breeder instinct and skilled management. Two important factors breeders and managers must consider is how long the workers stay on the job and how productive they are. And when it comes to workers on dairy farms it starts with the cows. Longevity along with productivity go hand in hand with making a profit.

What is Longevity?

According to our current indexes longevity is productive life (PL) or herd life (HL). But what does that mean? Is it one more month in the herd for an average daughter of a bull? What makes the difference?

Let’s take a moment and think about how great it is when your workers stay with your organization for at least five years. Instead of frequently giving new staff basic training, the organization can spend more time on advanced skills training. Productivity will increase and thereby profit can be pushed to new heights.

When it takes 1.0 to 1.5 lactations before a heifer you have raised or purchased to start to show a net lifetime profit, then culling heifers before the end of two lactations means just breaking even. A couple of months longer stay before the end of the 2nd lactation is really no big thing. Especially if the cow is below average for productivity.

When considering longevity how “long” is long enough?

What is Ideal Longevity?

Let’s start with what it is not. On a highly bred, fed and managed farm, averaging 25,000 lbs and 13.0 month calving interval, longevity is not a cow that stays around for five lactation yielding 20,000 lbs and calving every 14 months. She has two problems – her volume of output is below average and she takes a month longer off work than her contemporaries. In short she is a free-loader.

Each of us will have our own definition of longevity. Years back for many breeders longevity was the cow that won the county show, produced okay and from which daughters could be sold. For other breeders it is the cow that causes no problem, conceives on 1st or 2nd service and produces at least 10% above her contemporaries.  For today’s profit oriented breeders it is the cow that produces 200,000 lbs (90,909 kgs) in 8-9 lactations, that calves back within 13 months. It is the cow that, after calving quickly and smoothly, moves into lactation, does not require vet visits, maintains a low SCS as she ages and operates without problems within the herd’s housing and milk systems. Now that is longevity that is measurable and profitable!

Breeding for the Ideal

We can all see what we like when we look at the twelve year old cow but breeding is not a retrospective matter. Breeding is about creating the future. Idealizing the past is not breeding. Breeding is creating that heifer calf that arrives healthy without causing momma any problems, is able to resist illness and then calves before 24 months of age, is functionally correct and can cost effectively produce above her contemporaries and stays for many lactations.

Achieving ideal longevity takes more than genetics. Management plays a major role. When breeders get both genetics and management on longevity right they are able to have low herd turn-over (25%), save considerable dollars by raising fewer heifers (every heifer not raised saves $2200), and less expense for drugs, insemination, labor, feed, ..etc.

Current Tools Available

Two overall indexes currently published are PL (USA) and HL (Canada). Many other supporting indexes assist in interpreting PL and HL. Those include: SCS, DPR/DF, Udder Depth, Feet, Rear Legs Rear View and Maternal Calving Ease.  Of course yields of fat and protein (Link – Is Too Much Water Milking Your Profits) are important however a few more pounds of fat and protein in a lactation can in no way compare to getting that fifth, sixth and seventh lactation from a cow. Lactations where yield and profit are at their peak. Total merit indexes, like NM$, TPI™ and LPI, do factor in longevity but if breeders have genetically overlooked length of herd life, by placing their focus on show type or production, then these indexes will under estimate the emphasis that should be placed on longevity.

Future Tools Needed

What our current PL and HL indexes fail to do is to place emphasis of getting cows that make it to those fifth, sixth and seventh lactations. Adding a couple more months to cows that stay for 2 to 3 lactations is not what breeders need. They need some way of knowing which bulls leave daughters that profitably make it to those later lactations. Hopefully our genetic evaluation researchers will study some accurate way to identify bulls that produce long lived productive cows.

Let’s Talk Bulls

In breeding it always comes down to which bulls to use. Should I use Atwood or Bookem or should I use Windbrook or Fever?

Atwood, a current popular bull of show type, has  PL of –0.5 while Bookem, a newly daughter proven bull, has a PL of 5.7. Bookem’s stay in the herd over six months longer. How does Bookem do that? Well it is by having higher DPR, superior calving ease and maternal calving ease, lower stillbirths and higher production.  If show winnings are not important to you then Bookem should be your choice.

Both Windbrook (+15) and Fever (+16) sire superior conformation, yet Fever has a HL of 116 compared to Windbrook’s HL of 103.  Fever’s significant superiority in SCS, DF, milking speed and daughter calving ability give him the distinct advantage. DCA is often not used by breeders but Fever at 111 is in the top 2% of the breed for his daughters to calve without difficulty.

So in breeding for longevity breeders must dig deeper and find out all the facts. Bulls that have a PL over 5.5 or a HL over 110 are unlikely to produce daughters that have problems for somatic cell count, daughter fertility, milking speed, maternal calving ease, depth of udder or mobility.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Longevity is a lot easier to describe than it is to achieve. What are our choices? We could sit and anticipate a ‘genomic-like’ breakthrough in this area of dairy breeding and management. That would be easy. But that way we are losing dollars and productive animals every day. Or we can act to immediately incorporate strategies that keep our animals, trouble free, healthy and producing longer. When it comes to longevity proactive means profitable.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.




Is Too Much Water Milking Your Profits?

Over the past couple of weeks the Bullvine has published articles about having a breeding plan for your herd. (Read more: Flukes and Pukes – What Happens When You don’t Have a Plan and What’s The Plan?). Examples cited of herds with a breeding plan have included North Florida Holsteins who breeds for production and profitability (Read more:  North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable and The Truth About Type and Longevity) and Quality Holsteins (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day) and Ferme Jacobs (Read more: Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family!) both of whom breed for type. Today we wish to bring you some thoughts to consider for your breeding plan as it relates to the components in milk. For the vast majority of herds that is the major source of their revenue generation.

mount victoria tb plaque4% Fat

T. B. Macaulay, Mount Victoria Farms (Montvic), (Read more: Mount Victoria Farms: The Art and Science of Great Breeding) ninety years ago had a plan. One component of his plan was 4% butterfat. He built his herd around Johanna Rag Apple Pabst and his 4% fat daughters. The history books do not specifically identify Macaulay’s reason for wanting 4% butterfat except we know that back then Holsteins were considered to be ‘low testers’.

Roy Ormiston, breeder of the world famous Roybrook Farms, developed an excellent herd with the three pillars being high % fat, excellent conformation and high lifetime production.

The importance of fat yield has also been stressed by many leading USA breeders. Over forty years ago Dr. Gene Starkey, the very well respected Wisconsin Dairy Extension Specialist, in his speeches talked about herds where cows averaged over 900 pounds of butterfat per year with only limited reference to the milk yield number for top herds.

When Protein Ruled

Fat took a backseat to show conformation and then to % protein in the later 1970’s and into the 1980’s. The trendy thing was to use a bull the improved % protein but dropped % fat. The thinking was that consumers wanted to exclude fat from their diets but that protein was needed to make cheese. The trend meant the majority of breeders paid only limited attention to % fat and the national Holstein averages for % fat dropped.

How Milk is Sold

On a global basis the majority of milk is sold in a solid and not a liquid state (Read more: “Got Milk” is becoming “Got More” and MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost”). Milk processors and marketers recognized this and so payment to farmers changed from volume and % fat to become based on the component yields. This is known as MCP, multiple component pricing. Today the pendulum has swung to where butterfat is back in fashion. Thus the quantity of solids a cow produces is important to her ability to generate income.

Milk is sold as a drink often has fat removed by processors. That fat is used to make other products and thus it is a source of revenue, not a cost, for the processor. .

The end result is that breeders are paid for the total fat and protein content in the milk they ship.  And in the future it is entirely possible that breeders will be paid for the specific fats (i.e. conjugated linoleic acid) and proteins (i.e. casein) they ship.

Avoid the Water

In today’s and likely tomorrow’s world having more water than necessary in milk is a cost and not a source of income. These cost factors include:

  • high peak milk yields adds stress on the cow and increased labor and health costs
  • high milk yields magnifies the challenge and cost to getting cows to conceive
  • to achieve higher milk yield adds to cow feed costs for high energy grains
  • cows and their rumens function best when a high percent of the diet is high quality but low cost forages
  • longer milking times to harvest the higher volume of milk adds labor and utility costs
  • on-farm more volume adds to cooling cost and the need for increased storage capacity
  • water removal at the farm is costly
  • extra milk volume adds to transportation cost
  • added volume increases processor cooling costs and storage capacity
  • high volumes adds to environmental costs and the disposal of water at the processing plant

If we could calculate the total for those ten items it might shock us how much money could be saved by having a higher content of fat and protein in milk. It all starts with the milk our cows produce.

Let’s Talk Genetics

At the farm level cows that produce 85 pounds at 4.0% fat and 3.4% protein are generating the same revenue and at less cost to all the partners in the supply chain than cows that produces 100 pounds at 3.4% fat and 2.9% protein. For sire selection this means selecting for fat yield, protein yield, % fat and % protein. Ideally, although not always possible, this means selecting bulls for less milk yield. Today most total merit index formulas (TPI™, LPI, NM$,…etc.) are based on fat and protein yield of a bull’s daughters without regards to the volume of milk they produce. This means that high yield bulls that drop % fat and/or % protein do not ranking near the top on these indexes. A help to breeders when selecting bulls to use.

Top Sires

The following table identifies top total merit bulls for their daughters’ genetic ability to produce fat and protein and have a high % fat and % protein. For bulls to appear in this table they had to be breed improvers for productive life or herd life.

Bulls Ranked by Fat plus Proetin Yields

Bulls Ranked by Fat plus Protein Yields
* USA – pounds / Canada – kilograms
Click on image for enlargement

Supersire tops the list for the ability to sire daughters for fat yield and total fat and protein yield  Jabir is high in all areas including NM$. For breeders wanting higher % fat and % protein should consider AltaIota, AltaRazor, Eloquent, Ahead or Overtime P.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Much emphasis is currently being placed on cows that are functional and healthy, yet productivity can’t be ignored. Without the ability to generate high levels of revenue from milk sales, it is hard to make a profit from dairy farming. When it comes to production, don’t let low component milk water down your success.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.




Farming With the Stars!

From soap bubbles of the past to the milk moustaches of today, farming is putting stars in our eyes!

Whether it’s famous celebrities like Dwayne Johnson or Carrie Underwood or newly minted rising stars like the Petersen Brothers, agriculture is turning on the star power! Actors used to sell soap and cars and endorse life insurance. Today they’re milking farming for all it’s worth.  Well known and wannabe stars both see the benefit of appealing to the rural roots of the spending public.  Milk jugs and melting butter are sharing the spotlight with bachelors and beauties down on the farm!

We Have Stars in Our Ears!

There’s big money in celebrity-endorsed advertising and the agents who spend their days poring over Nielsen ratings and viewer demographics are happy to have their stars in the agricultural spotlight.  From the consumer side, we feel we “know” these folks and because of that familiarity and their obvious success, we tend to listen to what they’re saying.  Rightly or wrongly we are prepared to trust these folks who are high above us in the stratospheres of fame. They capture our attention.

Agriculture’s Rising Star

There is no question that the “So God Made a Farmer” commercial that aired at Super Bowl XLVII on February 2013 resonated with millions of viewers.  It began:  “And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.”  Entirely comprised of pictures it nevertheless told a story that engaged the audience and generated an avalanche of comments.

Star Roars

Not all celebrity attention brings a pat on the back.  On April 18th 2013, singing star Carrie Underwood posted her viewpoint on the so-called ag-gag bill on Twitter and Facebook.  It rapidly went viral with huge numbers of views and comments.  Probably unwisely Tennessee State Rep Andy Holt responded that Underwood “should stick to singing”. Carrie’s prompt comeback verified how wrong it is to try to shut-down social media or to bully the opposition. She replied. “I should stick to singing? Wow…sorry, I’m just a tax paying citizen concerned for the safety of my family.”

Look Who’s Talking

There are two sides to every story.  Celebrity draws the attention.  Agriculture needs to respond with the same desire for what is best for the consumer, while making reasoned explanations of the valid issues facing farmers.  When the bright light is shining on the stars it can also pick out all the details of any skeleton’s agriculture might prefer to have in the shadows.

Farmers Are Stars Too!

You don’t have to have millions of dollars and an advertising slot at the Super Bowl to become an agricultural celebrity. The video filmed by the 11 year old sister of the Peterson Farm Brothers proved that.  Their parody “I’m Farming and I Grow It’ is a parody of LMFAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” It was uploaded to YouTube on June 25th. Three days later the video had broken the 1 million views mark and continues to generate a phenomenal response.  At this writing it stands at 8,644,701 views and continues to light up farm Agvocacy with lively discussions around the issues of growing the food we need to survive.  Another of their parodies is my personal favorite.  Entitled “Fresh Breath of Farm Air” it is a Fresh Prince Parody and is making stars of these three farm boys simply by showing every day farming exactly like it is.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While we might hope that all the publicity farming gets is positive, at the end of the day what is most important is that agriculture is being talked about.  Open communication is the first step toward positive progress.  Personally – good or bad — bright or dull — I love it “when the stars come out!”

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RF Goldwyn Hailey Unbeatable?

top13of2013It had to happen and this past weekend it did.  Over the past 21 months RF Goldwyn Hailey has been unbeatable.  But this past weekend the inevitable happened.

Throughout her reign, Hailey has faced some stiff competition and came out on top. From the likes of the living legend, Harvue Roy Frosty (Read more: Who’s Next? World Dairy Expo Holstein Show Preview and World Dairy Expo 2012 Holstein Show – A Battle for the Ages), to the fan favorite Ebyholme Goldwyn Marcia (Read more: The 2012 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – One of the greatest stories ever told), Hailey has faced the best.  Each time Hailey rose to the challenge and came out victorious.  This weekend she was coming into a battle with some more greats, namely, Jacobs Goldwyn Britany and Bonaccueil Maya Goldwyn.  (For complete show results click here and click here for more photos)

RF Goldwyn Hailey Getting ready for the show.

RF Goldwyn Hailey
Getting ready for the show.

Given the fact that Hailey has been milking for 15 months and recently injured her non show hip,  many wondered if she could do it.  When I first heard that Hailey had been hurt and that she was at the show, I wondered if she had bitten off more than she could chew. Both Britany and Maya are fresh again and are looking amazing.  Hailey was sure to have her toughest battle yet.

Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96-2E Getting ready for the show

Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96-2E
Getting ready for the show

As I watched Hailey over the 24 hours prior to the show, there was  no doubt that she would come out looking great for a cow milking 15 months! But would that be enough?   Maya and Britany were tied side by side in the Ferme Jacobs string (Read more: Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family! ) and it is there that I started to realize that Maya was in top form.  Her width and power throughout and her udder was the best I have ever seen it.  I started to wonder. Could this be the day? Could it really happen?

Bonaccueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95

Bonaccueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95
Getting ready for the show

As Hailey walked to the show ring, I realized that her injury had not in any way affected her mobility and would not be a factor in the results.  Then it came down to Judge Melanie Boulet’s preference.  Both Hay and Maya  looked great and you could give  reasons either way.  Certainly a tough decision. One that reminded me of the 1997 Royal. When Acme Star Lily faced off against Rainyridge Tony Beauty.  Judge Marc Comtois had to choose between two amazing cows. It came down to preference and style.   (Note: Comestar was not at this show as Marc was judging in South America. Also absent from the show was Ferme Boulet and Pierre Boulet, as their sister was judging and Ferme Blondin, yet the show still had a great turn out).


RF Goldwyn Hailey EX-97
1st place mature cow

Judge Boulet had done a very good job all day. Now the Mature Class would be her toughest decision of the day.  Giving it lots of thought, Judge Boulet went with Hailey. A decision that got mixed reviews. But, until you are in that position, it’s easy to be a ringside judge.  While I would have gone with Maya, who for me now becomes the mature cow to beat for the upcoming World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter fair, I do respect Judge Boulet’s choice.

Bonaccueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95 2nd place mature cow

Bonaccueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95
2nd place mature cow

After the mature cow class, everyone, including myself, thought that it would be smooth sailing to Grand for Hailey.  But on this day that was not to be.  As Judge Boulet was  about to name the much anticipated but expected Grand Champion, I had my camera focused on Hailey.  Thinking that I would  get that perfect moment when the judge does the Grand slap.  Then as Judge Boulet was walking around the Intermediate Champions, and I am taking a moment to rest my hands, thinking that she is just adding drama to an already inevitable decision, Judge Boulet slaps Roquet Jasmine Sanchez, also owned by Gen-Com Holsteins, as her Grand Champion.

Grand Champion – Roquet Jasmine Sanchez (Sanchez), Junior 3 Year Old, Gen-Com Holsteins Ltd, PQ

Grand Champion – Roquet Jasmine Sanchez
Junior 3 Year Old, Gen-Com Holsteins Ltd, PQ

To say I was shocked would have been an understatement.  While Jasmine certainly had a very impressive mammary system and loads of dairy strength for a Jr. 3 yr old, I did not see her contending for Grand. I actually thought she should have been Reserve Intermediate Champion, behind the winning Jr. 2yr old, Belfast Goldwyn Lasenza, a young cow with a great future.  Two former classifiers at ringside commented that Lasenza should be used as the True Type Model for what a Junior 2yr old should look like. A special thanks to Gilbert Valois for the great visit to Ferme Boulet and Pierre Boulet’s operations, where I saw the great Kendra…..looking amazing at 13 years of age.  My father first hired Gilbert many years ago as a classifier at Holstein Canada and the two share many stories.

Reserve Intermediate Champion – Belfast Goldwyn Lasenza (Goldwyn), Junior 2 Year Old, Belfast Holsteins Enr. & Mary Inn Holsteins, PQ

Reserve Intermediate Champion – Belfast Goldwyn Lasenza
Junior 2 Year Old, Belfast Holsteins Enr. & Mary Inn Holsteins, PQ

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I always say that as long as you get the correct group in the parade of champions, the judge has done a great job.  On this day, Judge Boulet did  just that.  She moved through the heifer classes with relative ease naming Jacobs Windbrook Bally, Junior Champion. Here is  a heifer that should be able to contend at WDE.  And then she went  with Jasmine and Lasenza as her Intermediate Champions. Again two cows that will be contending at WDE.  Although  Judge Boulet caught at least me by surprise by going with Jasmine as her Grand, I certainly do appreciate the added drama that her selection brought to this amazing show. For the Gen-Com team, there is a silver lining. If Goldwyn Hailey is going to be beaten, it`s certainly a good thing when it`s  done by one of your own cows.


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Flukes and Pukes – What Happens When You Don’t Have a Plan

Sure when a mating works out you say you planned it or it was the result of a great mating decision.  But what do you say when it doesn’t work?  Most of the time you blame the sire.  In reality, you cannot leave your breeding programs to chance.  If you do you are just as likely to end up with a puke as you are to get a great one by a fluke.

No matter what your breeding goals are you need to have a plan (Read more: What’ the plan?).  Recently there has been a lot of discussion resulting from our interview with Don Bennink (Read more:  North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable and The Truth About Type and Longevity). Bennink does not look at type when making his mating decisions.  Instead, Don uses the following criteria when selecting what herd sires to use:

  • 60 pounds or more of protein
  • 5 or above for  PL
  • 1 or above for DPR
  • 2.9 or less for SCC
  • 8 or below for Calving Ease

While some of us may not agree with Don’s filters for which sires he uses, there is no arguing that he has a very clear plan.  A clear plan that is based on what works for the management style and profitability of his North Florida Holsteins.  .

While many breeders dream about getting a cow that looks like this

While many breeders dream about getting a cow that looks like this

The problem with many breeders’ breeding programs is that they don’t have a plan that centers around the way their farm makes money.  Think about it.  How often do you select a mating sire for the reasons you typically cull animals, as opposed to what your perceived ideal cow looks like?  Sure when it works and you get that great show cow you claim that it was planned and was a result of years of thought and that you have cattle sense.  BS to that.  Unless you set out a clear plan for your herd, then claims that these animals are a result of great “dairysense” are just bull.  Trust me I have walked through herds and asked them, what the “iffier” looking ones are sired by and more often than not they blame it on the sire not working instead of taking responsibility for not having a plan and making smart breeding decisions.

The reality is they should be breeding for something like this

The reality is they should be breeding for something like this

Sure flukes do happen.  But, even in the show ring these days, I  see less and less flukes and more and more show winners coming from generations of great breeding that have had careful thought put into exactly which  sire  to use.  For most of these herds that does mean using the high type sire that is obviously getting the job done.  But if you are like most breeders you are not making your money selling show winners.  Your money is coming from those that deliver the most milk, as efficiently as possible, and last for multiple lactations.  So tell me why don’t your sire selection filters reflect this production goal?

Now you ask me, “Andrew how do you know that we are not doing this?”  and my answer to that is pretty simple.  Most breeders are not looking at fertility and SCS  as their top two filters, and yet those are the top two reasons most cows are culled from the herd (Read more: FACT VS. FANTASY: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection). Instead I hear comments like she needed more dairy strength as a key issue.  Did you know four out of the top five sires for dairy strength are below +1000 kg.  of milk.  And four of the five are also negative on at least protein% or fat% deviations.  So I ask you how much does dairy strength correlate to overall production?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Don’t get me wrong there are herds that have done very well and been very profitable breeding for high type generation after generation.  Two great examples are Ferme Jacobs (Read more: Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family!) and Quality Holsteins (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day).  Both these herds have bred for type generation after generation and have amazing high conformation herds to visit.  But that is because they had taken a lot of time and energy to carefully plan out how they will make money and how their breeding program will map to it, instead of the other way around.  The big lesson is that instead of leaving everything to chance you need to have a plan, otherwise all you will end up with are the flukes and pukes.


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Dairy Nutrition. The K.I.S.S. of Wealth!

Thinking of our personal health and hearing the term ‘nutrition’, you might be motivated to eat more vegetables.  That’s simple and we all like the K.I.S.S. (keep it sweet and simple) principle.

Dairy Breeding is Simple Too

All you have to do is pick the right dairy breed, the right dairy genetics and, at least occasionally, manage to have Mother Nature and the marketplace somewhat on your side and it follows that you will produce buckets of milk and be the proud owner of a sustainable dairy business.  And that’s exactly why we more often face the O.U.C.H. syndrome – Overworked Underproducing Cattle Herds. Why is it that, with all the technology, science and passion at our fingertips, we are missing something?
nutrition consultant scott b

They Are What They Eat!

Cows eat every day.  Cows are milked every day.  It would seem to follow that those simple, daily actions could be the key to simplifying our dairy success.  Perhaps dairy breeders are missing opportunities and should seek expert help from nutrition consultants. After all, meeting production, herd health and economic goals directly affects the profitability of every dairy herd. The tricky part is that every dairy operation has unique issues that must be considered as part of the nutrition solution.

Why Bother With a Nutrition Consultant?

Scott B_ppAn effective nutrition consultant will investigate and analyze all the issues impacting your cows and thus impacting your success.  The Bullvine went to Dr. Scott Bascom to get some insight on the value of working with a nutrition consultant.  Dr. Bascom is the Director of Technical Services at Agri-Nutrition Consulting, Inc. (ANC) (Read more articles about animal nutrition by Dr. Bascom). He confirms “nutrition consultants can design a customized feeding program to meet their client’s specific goals and make the best use of the resources they have on the farm, and are skilled at feeding cows, heifers, and dry cows in a manner that will keep them healthy and highly productive.”  However his years of experience starting at college have given him a wider viewpoint.   While in college he attended a lecture given by Dr. Paul Chandler.   Chandler shared,  “There are many reasons beyond economics that a nutritional consultant provides value.” He feels that one of the best resources that a good nutrition consultant can develop is in maximizing the human side. “You have days when you are also a financial advisor, psychologist, marriage counselor and a loyal friend.” He continues, “At the time I didn’t comprehend what Dr. Chandler meant but now I recognize that he was telling us we would have to go beyond our skill in nutrition to develop a high level of trust with our clients if we were going to be successful.”

Not Just a Quick Fix. And BORING is good too!

The very nature of dairy breeding has conditioned breeders to the fact that any process we implement or change we make must be undertaken not as a short term fix but with a view to profitability for many years to come.  Changes are both feared and welcomed. Feared because they’re never easy.  Welcomed because of the potential for improvement. Dr. Bascom has a somewhat unconventional view of change as it relates to nutrition. “With my clients I am striving for BORING.  I want a boring ration that never changes because we feed the same thing all the time.  I want cows that are BORING because they are healthy, comfortable and get bred in a timely fashion. I want my herd visits to be BORING because we have no major issue to consider. My point is the goal is to get our clients to a place where we are meeting our goals and rarely need to make any big changes.  At this point we make very minor adjustments when we need to make a change.  The cows are happy, the producer is happy, and I am happy.”

From the Bunker to the Bank!

We spend research dollars to identify a cow’s genes to the smallest snippet.  We spend millions of dollars on the cow with the best dairy conformation. But we can’t agree on what to feed her at the bunker. Dr. Bascom feels that dairy nutrition is economically imperative. “The producer that isn’t working with a nutritionist has a lot as risk financially.  The value of feed fed to a lactating cow can be $8 or more per day. For a 100 cow herd the value of feed fed in a year is well over $250,000!  With feed costs so high, optimizing income over feed cost becomes critical. He backs up the statistics with personal experience. “When ANC picks up a new client that was not using a nutritional consultant prior to me, it is not unusual for us to increase income over feed cost by $0.25/cow/day. This adds up to a significant increased annual income.”

Keep Your Money Growing Just for You

“Another significant reason to work with a nutritional consultant is that they can bring new ideas to the farm.  Consultants are exposed to a diverse range of information including what we learn from other clients, trade shows, continuing education, and other people in our support network.  Part of our job as an advisor is to filter through all this information and bring back to our clients what is most applicable to their situation?”

How to Increase Milk Production

As I write this, I begin to see that the practice of nutrition is like the practice of medicine.  Being blessed with both an animal nutritionist and a medical doctor in the family, it is increasingly clear to me that the really good practitioners in either field are the ones who not only understand the science but can put it into practice.  Dr. Bascom readily is a storehouse of working examples derived from dairy nutrition consulting. “Let’s talk about increasing income over feed cost. Often this includes increasing milk production.   However, too often we can fall into the trap of pushing for higher milk production in a way that isn’t profitable. When we decide that higher milk production is the key to increasing income over feed cost then we look at forage quality, cow comfort, facilities, and a variety of management factors to decide how to reach this goal.   The answer is different on every farm.    For example if I have a client that has average days in milk of 250 days then we are not going to increase milk production until we improve reproduction.  On the other hand, a client that is overstocking their facilities might experience an immediate increase in milk per cow and total milk shipped by culling out some of their bottom end cows thus improving cow comfort for the rest of the herd.”

What Does Quality Cost?

In polling dairy breeders who do not use consultants, the number one reason given is that either the consultant or the feed program will be too expensive.  Dr. Bascom appreciates the opportunity to answer this concern. “Again, we start by talking about income over feed cost!  Sometimes decreasing out –of-pocket costs drops income over feed cost! The answer to this question is to look for ways to make the best use of the resources available on the farm.   We ask questions like, are we getting the most value out of the forages we are feeding? Are we feeding commodities that are competitively priced? Are we wasting feed?” Too often we measure financial success by decreased input dollars.  Sometimes we have to spend a little to make more.  A key learning to internalize is that you can waste money just as easily on excessive quality as you can on deficient quality.  Optimum quality is the goal.

Let’s Ruminate on Components!

“In most cases increasing components will increase income over feed cost.  The exception would be in markets that don’t pay premiums for high component milk. Low components could be an indication of cow health issues.   So fat and protein tests are something I watch closely.

The first step in high component milk is about feeding a healthy rumen. Forage quality is paramount.   We need high quality forages to optimize rumen health. So the first step is to make sure forage quality is optimum.  We also balance carbohydrates and degradable protein to encourage rumen health. The rumen bugs produce very high quality protein that drives both milk yield and components. After we have designed a diet for optimum rumen health and to maximize the production of high quality protein by the rumen then we look at additives. These would include bypass protein sources and rumen protected amino acids.”

Beyond the Basics to Practical and Personal

One of the most rewarding aspects of being connected to the dairy industry is hearing stories such as the ones Dr. Bascom shared with us.  “Years ago I worked with a dairyman in the southeastern part of the US that told me I got more milk for him than anyone else. I was only able to get his cows to 50 lbs. of milk but he was close to 30 when we started. This won’t get me on the cover of a major dairy magazine but to him it was a really big deal.”  Of course there are times ANC’s client’s success has meant rising to a challenge. “One of my ANC clients challenged me to feed as much forage as we could feed to his cows and maintain healthy cows, production at 75 lbs. of milk, and high components.    We were able to get the diet up to 82% forage as a percent of dry matter.   We maintained milk at 75 lbs., fat test over 4.0%, protein at 3.3%, cut purchased feed costs, cow health improved, and reproductive performance improved.  I didn’t think we could take the forage to this level without losing milk!”  Every client has different goals, says Bascom. “Several years ago I started working with a new client that markets embryos.   The goals were to maintain fat test at 4.0%, protein at 3.4%, and cut purchased feed cost. We made adjustments to the diet to feed more of their homegrown forages to cut purchased feed cost. We also added a liquid feed to the ration and made some adjustments in how the TMR was mixed.  Not only did we save money but the cows came up in both protein and fat test. This put more money in the milk check and also made more cows in the herd eligible for the foreign embryo market.”

ROF is Good. Return on Relationship (ROR) is Great.

It doesn’t matter what facet of the dairy industry you work in, you’re going to find passionate people.  Dr. Bascom is one of them. “I love cows,” says this ANC consultant and adds, “Following a career in nutrition allows me to be around cows and people who love cows.”  And that is a key motivator for him. “The cow success stories are rewarding but perhaps the most rewarding experiences are the people success stories. I have celebrated weddings and the birth of children with my clients. I have watched their children grow-up and find their way into the dairy operation. I have cried tears at the loss of their loved ones. These experiences are just as rewarding as celebrating high rolling herd averages, the sale of bulls into AI, All-American nominations, and high classification scores. This is very much a people business and it is so rewarding to gain the trust of my clients in a way that they want to share good times and the hard times in life with me.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We can all identify with the passion that makes a career in dairying the focus of our daily lives.  However, we can’t let rose colored glasses cause us to limit our dairy herd success.  Dairy nutrition consultants help us to investigate and discover ways to overcome unnecessary or unseen obstacles.  So that leaves the Simple Question: “Why bother with nutrition consultants?”  And leads to the Simple Answer:  “You can’t afford not to.”

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Genomics at Work – August 2013

Five years ago dairy cattle breeders were first hearing the word genomics. Over many generations of cows they had followed the recommended practice of using plus proven A.I. sampled sires on the majority of their herd with limited use (20-30%) of high indexing young unproven bulls. This practice had made it possible for them to improve their herd, help the breed improve and to generate revenue from the sale of breeding animals. And then along came a new way to look at accuracy for young animals and the merits of a cow without having to wait for her to have many milking daughters.

For most of us it was something that shook the foundation of what we knew about breeding cattle. How could an analysis of the genes change the method of breeding we knew and had been very comfortable with using? As expected breeders have had a variety of reactions.  Some instantly adopted genomics. Some cautiously considered and used it to a limited extent. Many took a wait and see approach.

Today much has changed to the point where half the semen used is that of genomically evaluated bulls. We are learning more every month and every index run about genomics. The Bullvine decided to address some of the current questions and thoughts about genomics that we are hearing expressed by our readers.

Learning from Observer



De-Su Observer, a former high ranking genomic bull, born in November 2008, received his first official proof, which included daughter performance, in April 2013 and he had a gTPI of 2332.  However with last week’s index release (Read more: August 2013 Holstein Sire Evaluations Highlights From Around the World) his gTPI dropped by 188 points to 2144. Many breeders are asking why? Can we trust genomics and the very first proofs with daughter performance included? Let’s think this one through.

High genomic bulls are now used by A.I. and breeders as mating sires for the next generation mostly using ET. The female mates of these bulls, with few exceptions, are also high indexing. Their progeny’s genetic evaluations will be adjusted for their parent’s high genetic merit by the genetic evaluation centres. However the extra care and treatment breeders give to these future star females, from birth to the end of their first lactations, cannot be totally adjusted for in the genetic evaluations. This means we can expect these young bulls to be over-evaluated in their first official proof based on the performance of their first 30-60 daughters. Until we can capture more details at the herd level for yields, health, reproduction, herd management, type assessment and heifer performance we can expect that high genomic bulls, after they get their very first official proof, will subsequently fall back slightly in some part of their proof.

This just happened to Observer.  Between April and August he added 582 milking daughters to reach 800 and 283 classified daughters to reach 349.  In April he was and in August he still is a 99%RK gTPI sire but he dropped from #1 to #21 on the TPI list (#8 among those with 99% reliability for MF). His breeding pattern for type did not change. His daughters have outstanding mammary systems but are only average feet and legs and below average dairy strength. His ratings for fertility and longevity were essentially unchanged. If anything they are up slightly. However Observer’s ratings for the yield traits dropped. The decreases were milk -14%, fat -26% and protein – 21%.  He is still a top proven bull and a good bull to have in the pedigree or to use to make productive profitable cows. With the high number of daughters now in his proof we can expect he will not changed to a similar extent in December.

Considering a bull’s rank on a total merit index list is the first step in selecting bulls. However knowing how his strengths and limitation match your herd’s genetic needs is the important second step.

What about Robust, Bookem, AltaMeteor and AltaRazor?

All these bulls had their first official proofs in August after being highly rated on their genomic information. Their August Reliabilities range from 89% to 91%. So we can expect some movement in their indexes, as they have information added on daughters, the same as happened with Observer. Remember they can go up as well as down. They are all top of the class graduates but like all new graduates we can expect to know their attributes more exactly come December or next April. For discerning breeders this means use them but not any one of them to an excessive amount. Between them these four bring to the industry high NM$, high protein yield, high udder composite and high fat yield. All things commercial breeders include in their breeding plans (Read more: What’s the plan?).

What about Inbreeding?

Some breeders are asking the Bullvine – “so where are the bulls that are below 5% for inbreeding”?  Readers have taken seriously the need to decrease the inbreeding level in dairy cattle (Read more: 6 Steps To Understanding & Managing Inbreeding In Your Herd and Twenty Things Every Dairy Breeder Should Know About Inbreeding).  It is not easy to find bulls to use that are low for their inbreeding coefficient.  To readers it seems that the high genomic bulls come from the same sire lines – Planet, Shottle, Oman, Goldwyn, Bolton,..etc. From time to time the Bullvine does produce lists of outcross sires (Read more: Going off the map: 14 outcross Holstein sires that don’t include GPS and 12 Sires to Use in Order to Reduce Inbreeding) so check those out. It would be a benefit to breeders if CDCB or CDN would produce listings for genomically evaluated bulls over 2000 PA gTPI of +2500 PA gLPI but under, at least, 5-6% for inbreeding coefficient. (Read more: Crossbreeding: Breed Help or Hindrance?).

Can more Genomic Related Information be Published?

To most breeders, it seems that genomic indexes are high, and constantly increasing. It is almost impossible to keep up. Go to an auction sale and hear the pedigree person say that ‘this bull is leaving many high genomic progeny” and what is the average breeder to take that to mean. It can be confusing even for people “in the know”. But what about people who do not follow the results closely? Furthermore for breeders that follow more than one breed, they see what is top numbers in one breed may seem ordinary in another breed. Has the time come to consider changes such as:

  • Publishing the %RK for indexes – that way an animal’s strengths and limitations was be easily seen
  • Widely publishing the levels for all indexes for 99%RK, 90%RK and 50%RK
  • Identifying animals that leave top genomic progeny for all traits not just for the total merit indexes.

Keep moving Forward

Genetic Evaluations Centres around the world are studying ways to use the records from bulls’ daughters where the bull may not have been randomly sampled. Excluding records from analysis is not as easy as not using the data from ET daughters or for the first 50 to 100 daughters born. These steps could be well and good if this matter only involved the genetic side of our business. But it impacts marketing and revenue generation from top animals and therefore it gets complicated. It could well be some time before we have a solution.

Breeders need a breeding and marketing plan for their herd. And then they need to use the most up-to-date genetic indexes for both bulls and cows. It does not change the process: first sort the bulls by your preferred total merit index; and then correctively mate your cows or group of cows with the best mate on your selected list. It is up to each breeder to decide whether to use the genomic information or not. The advantages from using genomic information are a faster rate of genetic improvement by having more accurate indexes on young animals and the use of the very top animals, especially bulls.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Breeding is about creating animals that are genetically superior to our current herd of animals. It does not simply happen by adding one and one to get two. It involves using all the skills including planning, cow awareness, genetic theory, accurate information, the turning of generations,..etc. Genomics is proving to be a good new tool. No doubt it and genetic evaluations will improve considerably over the next five years. More knowledge is always a good thing.

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

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“The Dairy Queen” has All the Answers!

jerseyadMany of us grew up with the jingle, “Let’s all go to the Dairy Queen!”  The promise then – and now – is that dairy products, especially fresh frozen ones, are a delicious answer to the question, “What should we do now?”

Derrick Frigot, WJCB President, was raised on a well-known dairy farm on Jersey.  Today as an co-author and with an international team of researchers and contributors, he has helped carry to completion the book “The Dairy Queen.”  This isn’t a cold calorie laden dairy dessert but it does dish up dairy information about Jersey cattle that is magnetic in its appeal, broad in scope and richly satisfying.

The Isle of Jersey Marks the Beginning

Derrick thoroughly enjoyed those early days on his uncle’s farm. “He was a leading breeder and exporter of Jersey cattle. As a youngster it was exciting to meet well-known North American Jersey importers like Paul Spann and Lea Marsh.” This experience prepared Derrick for his career path. “When leaving school, I worked in the office of the Royal Jersey Agricultural & Horticultural Society for six years, followed by a couple of years in a livestock feed company, and finally as manager of the Jersey Artificial Insemination Centre Ltd, the Island’s first AI company.”

Co-Author Derrick Frigot

Co-Author Derrick Frigot

Artificial Insemination Provides the Background for Authorship

AI on the island of Jersey became the next influence on the unfolding of Derrick’s career. “In 1975 the island’s government took over the local operations of artificial breeding and our company concentrated on cattle and semen exports from Jersey.  In the mid 1980s we began importing international Jersey semen into the UK and became the leading suppliers to UK Jersey breeders. “

Now not everyone who works in the AI field automatically becomes an author but for Derrick writing “The Dairy Queen” was a welcome extension of his interest in Jersey dairy cattle. “I was delighted to be asked to assist with the completion of this book so ably started by Hans Norgaard who is a dedicated Jersey breed historian from Denmark. “

Co-Author Hans Norgaard

Author Hans Norgaard
(Photo by Niels Damsgaard Hansen)

“The Dairy Queen” is the Unique Written Record of an Exceptional Breed

jersey bulletinA book for anyone interested in dairy cattle, The Dairy Queen, is the first truly global account of the development of the world’s most efficient dairy producing cow. Derrick points out the unique features of this special book. “It tells the story from the early origins of the breed to modern times, throughout the world.  It will appeal to all dairymen interested in cattle breeding and its 300-plus pages with over 700 pictures is a glorious presentation of the Jersey breed.  The great cattle breeders and individuals who influenced the historical progress of the Jersey cow are well documented along with anecdotes of incidents that literally changed the progress of the breed.  For example, the concerns of cattle breeders in the Island of Jersey in 1947 when dockworkers refused to load cattle onto ships for export – they were concerned about shortage of milk for island families following the five-year occupation by German forces in World War II.


Another example is the introduction of multiple component pricing that triggered the strong move to Jerseys in the USA coupled with the success story of Hilmar Cheese in California, owned by a group of Jersey cattlemen that has expanded the breed greatly in that state and also Texas.”

Showing in the first half of the 20th Century (A page from the book)

Showing in the first half of the 20th Century (A page from the book)

The Written Word is Inspired and Supported by Jersey Enthusiasts

Such a significant undertaking obviously would require a huge commitment of time.  Derrick appreciates those who influenced his work on the book. “Anne Perchard, MBE who was the Patron of the World Jersey Cattle Bureau and a long-time close friend of mine.  Anne was the World Dairy Expo’s “International Person of the Year” in 2011 and the first woman to be awarded honorary membership of the American Jersey Cattle Association. She wrote the foreword for the book and sadly, passed away just a month before publication.”  Derrick also appreciates “All the Jersey breeders of this world for sharing their stories.  It has been my privilege in working with the dairy industry all my life, which your readers will agree, is the greatest industry in the world.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Bullvine does agree with Derrick Frigot that dairying is the world’s greatest industry and so we congratulate him on the publication of “the Dairy Queen” and for answering so thoroughly the question “And why is that?” So next time you need to discover more about the people and passion that have made such a positive impact on the Jersey Breed, you would be wise to go to “The Dairy Queen!”

To learn more about how to get your copy of “The Dairy Queen – A History of the Jersey Breed Worldwide” check out their Facebook page.

What’s the plan?

Are you just starting out?  Are you growing your breeding program and needing to get bank financing?  Maybe you’re transitioning to the next generation.  Whatever your situation a well-thought-out business plan is the vehicle you need to get you there.  Like any other viable business, your farm is more likely to succeed with a written business plan.

For many the thought of taking the time to write a business plan seems too daunting.  There are so many other things that need to be done.  But that is exactly the reason you need a business plan.  With so many things that can impact your dairy operation, you need to know how to steer through the issues.  The following are just a few reasons why your farm needs a business plan:

  • To avoid big mistakes: The last thing you want to do is work on something year after year , only to realize you were doomed from the start to fail.  That is exactly what can happen to many dairy operations.  Because they don’t take the time to plan everything out, they don’t account for all the potential mistakes they could be making.  Instead, they try to “change” the plan as they go along.  The problem was there never really was a plan to start with.  Developing and sharing a business plan can help ensure that you avoid the hurdles and sprint down the right path.
  • To counterbalance your emotions: If you are like many dairy breeders you are very passionate about your ideas.  The problem is this driving passion can make you susceptible to losing sight of reality.  It’s a lot to carry on your shoulders.  There are times that you may be overwhelmed by doubt, fear, or exhaustion.  When your emotions get the best of you, having a business plan lets you step back, and take an objective look at what you are doing and why, what you know for a fact and what you are trying to figure out.
  • To make sure everyone’s on the same page: Chances are, you are not building your farm by yourself.  Ideally, you’ll have family, children, maybe even parents involved.  A business plan helps get everyone involved and heading in the same direction.  There is nothing worse than find out part way down the road that someone on the team had a different plan than you did.  When I was in University, many classmates went back to the family farm.  Now some of them were very wise and established a plan before going back to the farm.  However, others didn’t and now find themselves lost and facing an uncertain future.
  • To develop a game plan: Dairy farming is a business.  Breeders forget that at their peril.  As with any sustainable business, execution is everything.  That means you have to set priorities, establish goals, and measure performance.  You also need to identify the key questions to answer, like “What will we specialize in?”  “Will we breed for profit or personal genetic gain?” and “What is the next generation transition strategy?”  These are all things you’ll address during the business planning process.
  • To raise capital.  If you raise or borrow money—even from friends and family—you’ll need to communicate your vision in a clear, compelling way.  A good business plan will help you do just that.  A good business plan will not only make it easier for you to get the financing you require to achieve your goals, but oftentimes it will help you achieve lower financing rates, or qualify for a  larger amount of financing.

More often than not, dairy producers have a basic business plan for their farm, but they certainly don’t have a plan for their genetic programs.  They may have some basic ideas about what type of cow they want, or what are their minimum requirements for sire selection, but they haven’t sat down and developed a clear genetic program.  This means setting measureable goals from start to finish.  What sires they are going to use.  How will genetics play a role in herd profitability?  What type of cattle will be needed in two years.  You see the breeding decisions you make today, typically won’t affect your profitability until two or three years from now.  This is especially true if you are planning on selling genetics (embryos, calves, bulls…).  You need to have a very clear plan.  These ventures require a significant financial investment, and no financial investment should be made without a clear understanding of exactly what the expected return is.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Of course no plan is any good if you don’t follow it.  That doesn’t mean you cannot change the plan.  Actually, I think the plan should always be adjusting.  The marketplace is always changing.  A clear but flexible plan is exactly what you need to steer you through the good times and the bad times.  Plan on it!


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Is Red Still Relevant?

After attending the Ontario Red and White Show (Read more: 2013 Ontario Red & White Holstein Show Results) and watching the events unfold at the US Red & White Convention Sale, I find myself asking if red is still relevant in the marketplace?  To answer that question I thought I would look at both sides of the argument.

The Case for Red

For years there has been growing demand around the world for Red and White Holsteins.  In the US last year the largest total number of Red Holsteins were registered in history.  The top selling animal for $184,000 at the Parade of Perfection Sale, OCD McCutchen Duchess-ET *RC, was a red carrier from Curr-Vale Obsrvr Delta and the second highest seller at the World Classic sale for $122,000 MS M-P Dak 4777 Pie-Red the #1 gTPI Red Animal in the USA at the time.  In Europe, at the recent All-European Show in Switzerland, the top sellers were all red & white or red carrier animals.

Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96 2E

Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96 2E
Reserve Supreme Champion Royal 2011 & 2012
Grand Champion R&W Royal 2010, 2011 & 2012
Grand Champion Red & White Madison, 2010, 2011 & 2012

Red Holsteins are also seeing their greatest success and popularity ever.  Cows like Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96 2E and KHW Regiment Apple-Red-ET EX-95 2E are two of the most popular cows in the world today.  Many descendants of Apple are winning in both the show ring and on the red index charts.

KHW Regiment Apple-Red-ET EX-95 2E  Unanimous All-American Red & White 1st 4-year-old & HM Senior Champion, 2012 International Red & White Show

KHW Regiment Apple-Red-ET EX-95 2E
Unanimous All-American Red & White
1st 4-year-old & HM Senior Champion
2012 International Red & White Show

Then there are red sires like Kulp-Dale Golden PP-Red.  Golden PP-Red’s first five units of semen sold for $50,000 (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen).  With that came a 90-day exclusive guarantee, a unique deal struck between some very progressive thinkers.  While there is no question being the highest homozygous polled bull at the time-helped drive the demand, the fact that he is red also added another desirable element to his market appeal.

The Case against Red

First let’s look at it from a milk production standpoint.  While some will make the comment that their red coat helps them in the heat, in reality red coat actually has relatively low relevance to efficient milk production.  Even polled that is more a consumer/animal welfare issue than it is a herd management issue, has more relevance to efficient milk production than red cattle.

Then there is the issue of genetic potency.  The top R&W proven sires are almost 18% lower for genetic merit than the top black genetics available, and the top *RC are 17% lower.  When it comes to young sires, the top Red or Red Carrier bulls are 9% lower than their black contemporaries are.  While it does show that Red genetics are advancing at a fast rate they are still a significant distance behind.  This means that red breeders have to take a substantial genetic loss in order to obtain the red gene.

Part of the reason for red’s relevance issue may be the popularity of polled (Read more: From The Sidelines To The Headlines, Polled Is Going Mainline!, Why Is Everyone So Horny For Polled?, Polled Genetics: Way Of The Future Or Passing Fad?).  For years red has been one way for breeders to breed for something unique.  Something that makes the animal special.  Both in the barn and in the sales ring polled has gained significantly in industry popularity.  While proven polled bulls are almost 23% lower in genetic merit than their horned contemporaries, genomic polled sires are 13% behind.  This shows that polled genetics are actually advancing at a faster rate than red genetics.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While it is hard to predict the future, there is no question that the demand for polled is both a good thing and a bad thing for the red and white breed.  With polled being far more prevalent in red and red carrier cattle, the Red and White breed has seen significant increase in demand as a result of the increased demand for polled.  That blessing can also be a curse.  Since polled has now gone mainstream, many of the top polled sires are no longer red or red carriers.  Contrary to polled, Red and White cattle will always have a challenge gaining traction in large commercial herds.  For that reason it is destined to be a niche market.

However, after attending recent red and white events and seeing the demand for red in Europe, there is no question that while small in number, red and white breeders are some of the most passionate in the industry today.

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Which Full Sister Do I Buy?

It used to be that when you went to a high quality sale you looked the animals over and selected one or two that would most help your herd and were within your price range. That was when a cow produced one calf every thirteen months and proven A.I. sires stayed in vogue for half a decade. Well that was yesteryear and yesteryear is behind us now.

What do you do today if there is a choice of three high genomic full sisters in a sale? To become the successful buyer here is what do you need to do?

Homework Required

Very definitely before going to the sale you need to research the national data file to get the facts. Don’t get only the pedigree but also the dam’s performance, the sire’s indexes, the number of and indexes of the siblings. And it does not stop there. You need to decide if the animal you may buy will give you the opportunity to achieve your goal. Bidding without having a goal and plan and knowing the facts is dangerous. Not physically dangerous, but dangerous from an investment point of view. This homework will pay big dividends in time.

Step One – The Plan

Decide what your plan or goal is in buying.  Do you want the animal for improving your herd, for breeding top indexing progeny, for selling embryos … etc? You decide. Play it as if you are the manager of a major league baseball team. Will your decision on the player’s contract (aka animal) you purchase enhance your team’s chances of winning the World Series? I always admire how cool and confident 99% of the baseball managers are. They have a plan for the game and for the year and they stick to it.

In setting your plan, you will need to decide which piece of information is most important for you. Is it TPI, LPI or NM$? Or does the pedigree have cow family or show appeal? Or is it high genetics for Health & Fertility or longevity that you want to add to your herd? Are there any minimum index values that you will not go below when purchasing? Does the conformation of the animal you are purchasing matter? Be fully prepared.

Step Two – Know the General Sales Details

Check out on-line or using a hard copy catalogue what is listed about the sale lot. And what the terms are for payment. Very definitely you need to know the animal’s health & vaccination status. In the future we will need to know the health status of all animals at the sale. As biosecurity and the health status of animals is becoming more important every day. The Bullvine strongly suggests that you wear clean clothes to the sale and most definitely clean footwear or plastic boots over your footwear. We can’t be too clean.

Canadian Dairy Network - Progeny List 2013-08-15 08-16-07Step Three – Check Every Animal Detail

Now it is time to get down to the nitty gritty details.

Check to make sure you know if the sire stack and the cow family qualify according to your plan. If you are looking for something novel or non-inbred, make sure those criteria are met. Do an extensive check of all the dam’s progeny. Are there other full sisters not offered in the sale and what are their indexes? You do not want to have a choice of the three poorest full sisters with the seller having the best ones that will be competing with you for selling embryos. Also check out the half sibs for their genomic indexes. They may be high and the competition for selling embryos.  Check not only the performance of the parents but also the gTPIs or gLPIs.  Personally I like to carefully review the DGVs (Direct Genomic Values) of the sisters and compare them. DGVs are the basis on which every animal’s index is built.

If you are wanting to operate in the elite of the Holstein breed, you will need to be thinking of only buying animals over 2400 gTPI, over 3000 gLPI or over 700 NMS, over 2.0 PTAT / +9 CONF, below 2.90 SCS, above 3 Productive Life / 108 Herd Life and above 1.0 Daughter Pregnancy rate / 105 Daughter Fertility for black and white horned animals. As yet few if any polled or red animals have reached these levels but it will not be long before that occurs.

Step Four – At the Sale

Now you are ready to attend the sale with your research file and chequebook in hand. Remember the clean clothes and footwear. Do a thorough inspection of all of the full sisters present. Try to imagine what they will look like as they grow. Will they make at least GP83 and 9,000 kgs in their first lactation? We all know that heifers go through many stages before they calve but feet, legs, stature/mass, strength of topline, pin setting,… are all body parts that can be judged at any stage of life. Make sure you ask for any updates to the catalogued information. Often those details are crucial when you are deciding to bid or not or what level you are prepared to bid to.


Everyone has their own techniques they use when bidding. Some want to know who they are bidding against. Others like to bid quickly or slowly.  There are almost as many techniques as there are bidders. Do whatever works for you.


While at the sale make sure you network with breeders and marketers.


International Intrigue 2013

In preparing for this sale Lot 2 stood out for me. It was a choice of three Cashcoin females from the Lot #1 MS C-Haven Oman Kool, a high indexing fresh VG87 first lactation Man-O-Man and the #2 protein cow in North America. The sire stack was Cashcoin x Man-O-Man x Shottle x BW Marshall x Patron x Aerostar. All well respected sires. These three full sisters were very early Cashcoins. The indexes were not in the catalogue as the calves were very young but it was reported that the genomic information would be available on sale day. My last minute research before leaving for the sale showed that there were about seven Cashcoin x Kool daughters but none had genomic results in the CDN data system. As you would expect all seven have exactly the same PA LPI when I looked them up.

MS C-Haven Oman Kool  VG-87-2YR

MS C-Haven Oman Kool VG-87-2YR

When I got to the sale Kool was there and she looked awesome – what a mammary system and she was milking 111 lbs per day. However the calves were not present being less than two months old and likely not old enough to be health tested to enter Canada. The genomic information was available and they very very similar and high. The ranges in indexes were gTPI 2418 to 2426, gLPI 3357 to 3413, NMS 789 to 809, Productive Life 4.8 to 6.2,  DPR 0.2 to 0.9 and PTAT 2.72 to 3.00. The update sheet said the buyer would get the 2nd choice from the three. I wondered how these three compared to the other four. I tried logging into CDN and find out the DVGs for the other four but I could not find out that information. The question, at sale time, being would potential buyers have enough facts to feel confident to bid, knowing that these three were like peas in a pod for their indexes but where did they rank compared to the other four. I had done my homework but would have liked to know more.

MS C-Haven Oman Kool VG-87-2YR

MS C-Haven Oman Kool VG-87-2YR

Since the sale I have done some checking and I found that the three offered were #3, #4 and #5 based on gLPI of the Cashcoin x Kool daughters. All are within 46 gLPI of each other.  The second choice of these three is only 120 LPI behind the #1 and 62 LPI behind the #2.  Of course the end to the story has not been written and I do not know which of these three full sisters the buyer took. But I know how the calculation formula for  gLPI indexes works and with all seven of the Cashcoin x Kool daughters so close it will depend very much on their own performance as cows that will identify which one is the best.  The buyer likely made a very good decision having paid the very reasonable sum of $18,000 for the second choice of the three offered at the sale.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In general full sister are not as close as the three Cashcoin x Kool’s above. Often there is clearly one that stands out.  The key is to do your homework and the vast majority of the time you will get an animal that will fulfill your needs.  Buying on genomics indexes is quite accurate and it will become more accurate as more animals are genomically tested and then performance tested. It is quite simple in the end. Buy the sister that most closely meets your needs.



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August 2013 Holstein Sire Evaluation Highlights From Around the World

top13of2013It’s that time of year again.  Time when you have to dump all the semen you have out of your tank and replace it with the new hot sires. Or if you have been good about choosing your sires, your semen usage may not change that much.  The following is a recap of the sire genetic evaluations from around the world.




Proven Sires

Interesting things are happening on the US list.  CO-OP BOSSIDE MASSEY moves up from his #5 spot last time to regain his #1 ranking.  More notably is how DE-SU OBSERVER drops from his #1 spot down to #21 (Dropping 144 TPI points).   There was also some new release sires catching attention:

    Socrates x Oman x Manat
    The popular genomic sire of sons comes through with a strong proof.  His extreme production and components power him to the #6 position on the International TPI list.  While his type is solid, he will need to be protected on rumps and especially dairy strength.  At -5 for stature, -6 for body depth, and -3 for chest width and angularity he is certain to be more widely used in commercial environments.
  • DE-SU 521 BOOKEM
    Planet x Ramos x Hershel
    Similar to Robust, Bookem was also a popular sire of sons and adds more daughter numbers to be officially released as a proven sire at #7.  He is also an extreme production sire that offers breed leading protein and milk, with strong health and fertility traits.  Showing a little more balance than Robust, Bookem’s type breakdown shows the only significant protection needed on his rumps.
    Planet x Shottle x Oman
    Continuing Alta’s strong proof run was AltaMeteor.  A full brother to the popular bull dam SULLY PLANET MANITOBA GP-83-2YR, AltaMeteor  offers a pretty balanced package.  His component scores are slight negatives, but he does offer strong production.  He does excel in his type improvement, specifically his udders and legs, though he will need to be protected in his rump angle and teat length.  Also catching our attention was his Dtr PG rate and semen fertility.
    Planet x Shottle x Outside
    Cancun is the Planet son from the extremely popular LARCREST COSMOPOLITAN VG-87-3YR-USA DOM GMD.  With solid numbers across the board, he is sure to add to the popularity of this cow family.  However, his higher calving ease score would mean that he should not be used on virgin heifers.

Genomic Sires

There is excitement around the GPA TPI results with many newcomers to the list.  Gulliver (also known as Alta1stClass) drops to the #2 spot, with former #2, 1757 (also known as MegaSire) moving into the #1 spot.  Making a big jump from the #18 spot to the #3 placing is EDG RUBY MOGUL 1336  (also known as Rubicon).  Newcomers to the top 10 are:

    McCutchen x Robust x Zenith
    From the Wesswood-HC Rudy Missy family, Monterey, like his sire, offers extreme health and fertility traits.  Look for his daughters to be extremely low maintenance cows that will last a long time in most herd environments.  Though I would protect him on high pinned heifers and cows.
    McCutchen x Superstition x Shottle
    Another McCutchen son with high health and fertility traits, this time from the Whittier-Farms Lead Mae family.  With a similar transmitting pattern to Monterey, it will be interesting to see which sire gets used more. The determining factor may be the slightly higher dairy strength of Kingboy vs the slight edge in health and fertility of Monterey.
    Supersire x Shamrock x Shottle
    From the Select Sires ART program (Read more: Select Sires vs. Semex – A Contrast in Cooperatives and A Wake-up Call to All A.I. Companies) comes Magicday.  Magicday traces back to the Lynmead Celsius Minnow family.  Talk about a balanced sire with strong rankings in all major categories.  This is a sire that is sure to work on many different cattle, though will need to be protected on his quality of bone in his feet and legs.



Proven Sires

While Man-O-Man maintains his #1 ranking, four newcomers emerge in the top 10 with three in the top five.

  • Mel-Crest AltaRazor
    Baxter x Goldwyn x Throne
    Coming in at 110 kgs for Fat puts AltaRazor number 2 in the breed for Fat as well.  AltaRazor traces back to the legendary MARKWELL BSTAR E RAVEN EX-95-3E-USA  GMD DOM 5*.  He combines that with strong type (+12) and solid health and fertility traits.  AltaRazor will need to be protected on rumps, especially pin setting and has an extreme rump angle (9L).
  • Regancrest AltaIota
    Oman x Ito x Emory
    AltaIota gets a strong Canadian proof to go with his established US numbers.  Great components and outstanding health and fertility traits are the trademark of AltaIota daughters.  He does have strong overall type, though would need some protection on Feet & Legs and Rump.
  • De-Su Authority
    Joc x Oman x BW Marshall
    This much hyped sire comes in at #5 (#4 protein) and is one of the first Joc sons proven in Canada.  Combined with his extreme protein is elite fat and production with solid type.  He will need to be protected on dairy strength and body depth.  One area that is particularly glaring is his 58 rating for semen fertility.

Genomic Sires

Joyride’s ride runs short as three sires move above him to top the list.  As the extremely popular sire of sons Supersire moves into the #3 slot, there are 2 newcomers in the top two spots:

  • Champion AltaBookel
    Bookem x Man-O-Man x Shottle
    With Bookem coming out strong in the US his sons are going up as well.   AltaBookel’s pedigree may not be that well known to North American breeders, but he traces back to Broeks MBM Elsa (Read more: 2012 Golden Dam Finalist).  AltaBookel fits well in the Canadian LPI system, with his outstanding production and type.  Sure to be a popular flush sire, I would advise breeders to make sure that they are using him on high health and fertility families as that is where the international market is heading.
  • Ste Odile Satisfaction
    Epic x Man-O-Man x Baxter
    An early Epic son, Satisfaction traces back to COMESTAR MODEL LADY VG-89-4YR-CAN 22*.  Like most of the top genomics sires, Satisfaction possesses outstanding type and production numbers, but he also combines that with strong health and fertility traits, sure to make him a very popular flush sire. Though I would caution his use on straight legged cows and heifers.
  • Boldi V Lifeline
    Hefty x Planet x Shottle
    Another high genomic sire that traces back to LYLEHAVEN LILA Z EX-94-CAN 16*.  Lifelion is like many members of this family that excel in their production and type numbers, though may need to be protected on some health and fertility traits, specifically calving ability.




  • The top 5 NVI proven sires are: Delta Atlantic, Skalsumer Blitz, Flevo Genetics Snowman, Heuval Saurez, MR Goldwyn Amos.
  • The Top 5 NVI genomic sires are: Camion Van De Peul, Hjr Windstar, Delta Fidelity, Capnation Absolute and Cherokee Van De Paul.



  • Top Proven RZG bulls in Germany
    1. Guarini (S:Goldwyn) RZG 148
    1. Magorian (S:Mascol) RZG 148
    3. Bakombre (S:Baxter) RZG 145
  • Top Genomic Young sires ranked on RZG
    1. Boss (S:Bookem) gRZG 161
    2. Borussia (S:Butch) gRZG 158
    3. Sundance (S: Sudan) gRZG 157



  • Top proven bulls for type
    #1 Heavenly Golden Dreams (S: Goldwyn) Conf 5.84
    #2 Go-Farm Pitbull (S:Mr Burns) Conf 5.48
    #3 Zani Shott Neapol (S:Shottle) Conf 5.10
  • Top proven bulls for PFT
    #1 Zani Bolton Mascalese (S:Bolton) PFT +2785
    #2 DM Ramos Memolo (S:Ramos) PFT +2586
    #3 Pirolo Goldwyn Wyman (S:Goldwyn) PFT +2527
  • Top Genomic Young sires in Italy for PFT
    #1 Giessen Inseme Clapton (Hunter) PFT 2812
    #2 Go-Farm Royal Eudon (Million) PFT+2768
    #3 All-Nure Secretariat (Numero Uno) PFT+2741


1194989019702707184british_flag_felipescu_01r.svg.hi[1]United Kingdom

  • Top proven bulls UK & International for type
    #1 Heavenly Golden Dreams (S: Goldwyn) TM 4.53
    #2 Toc-Farm Goldsun (S: Goldwyn) TM 4.40
    #3 Bertaiola Mincio (S:Bolton)TM 4.07
  • Top proven bulls UK & International for PLI
    #1 Guarini (S: Goldwyn) PLI +262,
    #2 Cogent Twist (S:Shottle) PLI+256
    #3 Ballycairn OMan Pello (S:OMan) PLI+252
  • Top genomic bulls on the UK system for type
    #1 Stantons Eberle (S:Shamrock)TM 4.0
    #2 Mr Atwood Brokaw (S:Atwood)TM 3.97
    #2 Ladys-Manor Savior (S:Lauthority)TM 3.97
  • Top genomic bulls on the UK system for PLI
    #1 De-Su RB Moonray 11038 (S: Robust) PLI +279
    #2 Welcome Armitage Pesky (S:Armitage) PLI +274
    #3 Parile Locarno (S:Pierre) PLI+268


The Bullvine Bottom Line

While you may not have to throw out all your old semen.  With so many new sires coming out, you will certainly have many new choices in deciding just what are the perfect crosses for your genetic programs.

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


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Keep Your Mind Open But Not Your Cows

For generations dairy cattle breeders have had reasons to explain why their cows did not quickly conceive or why the show cows needed to stay open and then calve at a particular time of the year in order to look their best for the show season. Well those are not reasons. They are excuses. We buy equipment, use drug therapy, manage groups, ask the vets to perform miracles and yes even lose sleep in attempts to raise our herd’s conception and pregnancy rates and lower our day’s open and extra days in the dry pen. But then we tell ourselves and fellow breeders that at only 5% heritability there is nothing we can do about genetically improving fertility in our dairy cattle.

If it was anything else, like a broken tractor, we’d go about getting it repaired even though it was a costly undertaking. Enhancing the genetics of dairy cattle fertility however falls into that ineffective area where –  we keep doing things the same old way but expect different results. The truth is we must do things differently. Until we revamp the genetics of the dairy cows, we can not expect to reduce the costs and lost revenue associated with infertility.

What Oman Has Shown Us

Mention the name Oman to a Holstein breeder and you can expect a reaction.  He is categorized as either the best sire to come along in years or he has ruined the breed.  This icon does not inspire fence sitters. On the like side both Don Bennick (Read More – North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!) and Chris Buchner (who I recently visited with at Elmwold Farms) extol Oman’s virtues. Don’s favourite cow is an Oman daughter.  Chris put it this way – “We just loved our Omans. Sure they would not win a show but the Omans did it for us as we are in the business of efficient profitable production measured by maximizing fat and protein in the tank per cow per day of course at reasonable input costs’.  This raises the question “Does function follow form or does form follow function?”.  For Don and Chris, it is form that follows function

Oman did many things right when it comes to fertility. Calves are born easily, able to be productive cows before two years of age, able to breed back quickly while yielding a high volume of solids and able to do it year after year. And they do it in any environment. Oman showed us that calving ease, reproduction and longevity can all fit into a package and that cows do not have to be tall, dairy, flat boned or angular. In fact what Oman did was to show that there are genetic differences between sires when it comes to female fertility and it stimulated breeders to measure all traits independently instead of trying to define the model perfect cow.  One size does not fit all.

Female Fertility

Both phenotypic and genetic trends for female fertility have spiralled downwards as production increased in the past forty years. We put our focus on milk production and picture perfect conformation, using what is often called a combined production and type index. But the amount and quality of data captured and stored relating to female reproduction has been sadly lacking. For the milking herd that situation has been reversed in the past half decade due in part to the great expansion in herd management software programs with the data uploaded to central data bases where genetic analysis and evaluations are performed. But the same can not be said for heifer information.  Any data that does exist for heifers remains on farm so, except in education or research herds, we can not correlate, on a population basis, the heifer stage of development with lifetime performance.

Where once we relied on what we called “cow sense” we now have genetic evaluations, for cows and bulls, for the following traits that correlate well with female fertility:

Calving Ease
For years breeders felt that calves had to be large at birth to develop into large framed cows. Today commercially oriented breeders want live calves that are born unassisted and cows, especially first calvers, that deliver a live calf without assistance. Two genetic indexes are published – one for the birth of the calf (Calving Ease / Calving Ability) and one for the mother’s ability to deliver ( Maternal Calving Ease / Daughter Calving Ability). Sires rated above 7 in the USA or below approximately 97 in Canada for either calving ease index should be avoided unless breeders are prepared to attend and assist the birth. The cost of a difficult calving is significant when you consider the risk of death of calf and mother, vet and drug costs, an anestrous period, a longer time in the dry pen and less yield for both the lactation and lifetime.

Pregnancy Rate – No pregnancy, no calf, no lactation!
That says it all. Getting a pregnancy when a cow is lactating at a high level is no mean feat but is the reality of dairy cattle farming. Sires that rate below +1.0 for Daughter Pregnancy Rate (USA) and 105 for Daughter Fertility (Canada) will not improve the genetic merit of a herd for pregnancy rate.  Correlated positively with sire ratings for Daughter Fertility in Canada is Body Condition Score (BCS). Correlated negatively is Dairy Form (USA) and Angularity (Canada). Bulls that have a rating above 105 for BCS have daughters that get pregnant whereas bulls above average for Dairy Form and Angularity are more difficult to get in calf. Using all these indexes assists breeders to get the overall picture so wise decisions can be made when selecting sires to use.

Length of Life
Some breeders prefer to select only for Productive Life (USA) or Herd Life (Canada) instead of selecting for the fertility traits. Additional factors beyond fertility go into calculating the length of herd life including SCS and udder depth. Therefore selecting for longevity may not get the boost in female fertility a breeder may be looking for. Again, as with the other indexes sires will need to have high ratings for Productive Life (over +3) and Herd Life (over 105) to positively impact the genetic merit of a herd.

Genomic evaluations
have been a major step forward in ranking bulls for female fertility traits.  Accuracies of genomic indexes are more than double what they were with Parent Averages alone. The general recommendations on using genomic sires applies when addressing daughter fertility – use many sires not just one or two.

So what is improved female fertility worth?

A definitive answer may not be available, but considering that for the average cow it starts when she is bred as a heifer and finishes when she has completed about three lactations. This, on average, covers about 54 months, and the total can mount up to a considerable amount from loss of revenue and added expense. If improving the genetics for female fertility in a herd could give you an added profit in a cow’s lifetime equivalent to the value of milk for half a lactation would it be worth putting more selection pressure of female fertility? I think it would.

Male Fertility

A.I organizations go to considerable effort to package the semen from each sire so the optimum conception rates can be achieved from that bull. High semen fertility is not a genetic measurement for male fertility but it has a very positive effect on herd profit. Dr Bob Welper of Alta Genetics estimates that in a 500 cow herd using somewhat below average bulls for Sire Conception Rate (SCR) compared to using bulls that are above average for SCR costs the breeder a minimum of $35,000 per year. Having six more pregnancies every twenty-one days, higher herd average production, less semen cost, less labor required and more calves in a year are where the added profits come from.

Perhaps a breeder’s semen tank should have a warning label that reads – “Warning- Semen put in this tank must be above average for conception rate and able to produce fertile female offspring”.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Female fertility can no longer be ignored when selecting sires to use or cows that are to be the mothers of heifer calves. Many tools exist that assist with female reproduction on a farm however the use of genetically inferior animals for female fertility as the parents of the next generation is costing much more than we care to admit. In time there will no doubt be additional female genetic fertility index. The time to start using the current indexes is now. Big dividends await breeders who make the effort to use the current genetic tools for female fertility.

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“Got Milk” is becoming “Got More”

“Drink your milk.”  Dairy farmers aren’t the only ones who have been raised with this mantra and its follow-up don’t-argue-with-me reasoning, “It’s good for you!”  There are many parenting proverbs that haven’t stood the test of time. but milk`s goodness has.

Milk has Already Got More Good Stuff

There is significant recent scientific research to prove that milk contains several disease- fighting compounds. Research is also evaluating the potential health benefits of proteins that are found in milk.

Cows are Putting More Good Stuff Into the Milk

With the proof of milks’ already healthy properties, comes the good news that scientists have learned that these properties can be increased by feeding cows specialized diets. The potential is definitely here for dairy farmers to change the way they feed their cows and thereby raise the health-enhancing properties of milk.

For example, in a recent study, Oregon State researchers were able to increase the level of omega-3 fatty acids in milk.  They also were able to decrease the amount of saturated fat.  Both these results came through feeding flaxseed to cows. This is great news for consumer health.  Less cholesterol and more omega-3 fatty acids in our human diet reduces the risk of heart disease.

What More Has Milk Got for Me?

Research trials have shown that consuming butter with elevated levels of CLA can reduce the size of cancerous tumors. CLA is Conjugated Linoleic Acid and is a naturally occurring anti-carcinogen. Researchers at several universities, including Cornell. have discovered they can increase the level of cis-9 trans-all CLA by feeding cows certain nutrients.

Other news from this area reports that a2 brand milk comes from cows specially selected to produce A2 beta-casein protein rather than A1. Most cow milk contains both types of beta-casein protein – A2 and A1. The A1 beta-casein protein has been linked with digestion and health issues so having more A2 is a plus.

A2 Corporation, the manufacturer of a2 brand milk products, targets three areas of growth: building its beverage business in Australia and New Zealand, capturing niche shares of global milk and dairy product markets and developing an infant formula business with an initial focus on China.  In April 2012, they announced a strategic agreement with Synlait Milk Limited in New Zealand to manufacture a2 brand nutritional powders, including milk powders and infant formulas for A2C.  According to A2C managing director Geoffrey Babidge, the a2 brand’s growing credibility will provide a platform for the firm’s expansion plans in the UK, Ireland and China. In December 2012 production of the China-destined a2 branded infant formula was set to begin.

Milk has Got to Have More Taste!

When a food has earned the label “good for us”, we sometimes choose not to eat or drink it claiming it doesn’t register on our taste scale.  Since the 1970s milk consumption has been declining and certainly consumer taste preferences are part of that statistic.  In the U.S. the volume of total liquid dairy is declining. Consumption of white milk is forecast to decline by 6.5% between 2011 and 2015.  But then comes the “good taste” news.  Consumption of flavored milk is growing and expected to increase to 9.5% by 2015. Flavored milk, the second most widely consumed Liquid Dairy Product (LDP) after white milk, is forecast to increase globally by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1% between 2012 and 2015, rising from 17.0 billion liters to 19.2 billion liters.

The World Wants More Flavors

In the past five years, 2009 to 2013, four emerging countries – Brazil, China, India and Indonesia – are driving the increased demand for flavored milk. While developing countries accounted for 66% of flavored milk consumption, this is forecast to rise to 69% by 2015.

Research shows that China, South Asia and Southeast Asia drink more than half the world`s flavored milk. In fact, just six Asian countries – China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand – consume 47% of the world`s flavored milk.  This highlights that emerging economies are the growth engines of the dairy industry.

North America`s Got Apple Pie Milk and More

While not leading the consumption of flavored milk, North America is certainly not out of this tasteful picture.  Just in time for birthday celebrations on Independence Day Shatto Milk Co. of Osborn, Mo., stocked store shelves with apple pie-flavored milk to celebrate its own 10th anniversary.  Other flavors this flavorful company produces include cherry chocolate and mint chocolate milk. According to Dennis Jonsson, President and CEO of Tetra Pak Group “For consumers unwilling to compromise on taste, health or convenience, flavored milk is proving to be an increasingly popular alternative to other beverages.”

Flavored Milk’s Got More with Less Packaging

Cartons have become the established packaging format for flavored milk, according to Tetra Pak.  They accounted for 62% RTD (ready to drink) flavored milk packaging in 2012, up from 57% in 2009, and are expected to rise to above 64% in 2015. Portion packs are expected to reach 81% of RTD flavored milk consumption.

Milk’s Got More Added Value

Whether you`re attracted to milk for its high nutrition, health benefits or good taste, milk products today can meet a huge range of  needs.  It starts with the desire for nutritious and healthy food.  Developing countries are turning to nutrient-rich milk products.  In prosperous urbanized areas of the world the fast pace of modern life demands tasty, flavored milk in convenient packaging. Consumers are eager to try new and unusual food and drinks. New varieties of milk products will most definitely increase milk consumption.  Additionally, these “designer” dairy products could sell for premium prices.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Kudos to dairy producers, the scientific community and marketing wizards.  The production of milk with so many “Got-More” features means we are improving the health of the consumer and the health of the dairy industry simultaneously! Now that’s more like it!  So “Drink your milk!  It’s good for you!”

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Does The Dairy Genetics Industry Have A Drug Problem?

Just like Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball, the dairy genetics industry has a drug problem.

You cannot go very far without reading something about the latest drug scandal involving a pro athlete.  This week it`s 13 major league baseball players headlined by Alex Rodriguez the league’s highest paid player.  Experts in sports doping believe that the problems in baseball — and cycling, track and field and other sports — remain widespread and that policing sports is proving to be nearly impossible.  With recent events at a few of the dairy cattle shows, has me asking whether the dairy industry also has a drug problem.

There are many similarities between the professional sports world and the dairy cattle show scene.  (Read more:  Is the Show Ring the Center of the Dairy World? and Dairy Cattle Showing: For Ego or Profit?) However, for me this is not just a show ring issue.  The problem of people wanting to test the limits and sometimes go over the line is not a new one to the dairy industry.  There have been breeders whose ethics have had a greater effect on the industry than that of those in the show ring.  (Read more:  Has Genomics Knocked out the Hot House Herds?  And The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling).  While a cow that wins  the show may catch the attention of many breeders, it’s the 2yr year old who is getting illegal drugs (such as rBST in Canada) to help inflate their production, or their pictures enhanced or udders juiced for picture day that causes a bigger issue for the industry (Read more: No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct).

Why do we test in the first place?

According to major league baseball, the point of the testing is to keep the sports-entertainment industry functioning, to maintain its loyal public and to stay in business.  For these very same reasons, wouldn`t it be a good idea to set up some form of rules around the use of performance enhancing drugs in the dairy industry?

Yes I am well aware that there is the use of ultrasounds at the Royal and World Dairy Expo.  However, they can only catch so much and it means that some exhibitors just switch to a different drug of choice.  For some that means the use of dextrose to get that cow alert and veins popping while she is in the show ring.  Though many have admitted that dextrose is not that effective, it still could be viewed as a performance-enhancing drug.  The big issue is that, whenever there is testing, there will always be those who are one-step ahead of the tests.

However, as I said earlier, the bigger issue is not with the show ring but rather with the fact that some of the genetic index stars are getting that extra edge on classification day, or on the day they are pictured or they are even getting the day-to-day production boost they need in order to get ahead of the rest.  These animals have absolutely no testing to prove whether they are simply living up to their genetic potential or why they are far exceeding it.

In talking with many average producers, and especially in talking with many commercial producers – both groups who represent the largest purchasers of semen, I have heard a consistent theme, about how they have lost trust in the seed stock industry, especially certain high index cattle.  They feel that generation after generation have shown that they are unable to cut it in the working day-to-day environments.

Do we really want to clean it up?

The dairy industry is guilty of ignoring the drug issue, just like the NFL. Just because you don’t have positive tests, does not mean there is not an issue.

Even with all the talk about what needs to change, there has been very little done over the years to actually bring about change.  It’s kind of like the way the NFL does not want to admit it has an issue with drugs.  Do you really believe a 300-pound lineman can run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds?  The National Football League generates millions and millions in revenue, clobbers everything in the television ratings and is a national obsession.  The NFL brags about its drug-testing program and, while they catch a few players from time to time, the inference is that the majority of the players are clean.  Yep, that’s probably true.  Those offensive linemen are bulking up to 335 pounds on good diet and weight lifting.  Sure they are.  Instead of dealing with the issue, they would rather look the other way.

The same is true in the dairy genetics marketplace.  Instead of addressing this issue, many in the industry would rather sweep it under the carpet and not discuss it.  Here at The Bullvine we have written many articles on marketing ethics (Read more:  Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist?  and Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle Genetics), and for the most part the A.I. companies, those who make the most money from these practices, have decided to bury their heads in the sand, not wanting to buck the system.  That is because they are the ones making the most money from this and yet not the ones actually committing the crime.  Similar to how the owners of the baseball, hockey, soccer, and football teams are trying to pin the issue of drugs in professional sports solely on the athletes.  If they really wanted to clean up the game, they could do so, since they are the ones controlling the most important part in this equation.  The money.

Are we doing enough?

One of the big knocks on sports like Hockey and Football is that you never hear about any players actually being caught for the use of illegal drugs.  The same is true for the show ring.  You never hear about a cow failing a test, as we recently did in the beef industry (Read more: Stampede steer champion disqualified after drug test).  While some would tell you that is because there are none, those in the ring and the barns know that is not the case.  At least the shows are doing something.  What are the photography and seed stock industries doing?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While certainly everyone loves to talk about what show cows are fixed and which ones are not, the bigger issue for me is that of the seed stock industry.  Yes genomics has helped eliminate some of the hothouse cattle but it certainly has not changed the way many of these top cattle are cared for (Read more: Preferential Treatment – The Bull Proof Killer) and how they are marketed.  So the answer to the drug question boils down to this. Until changes are made in these areas the dairy genetics industry will continue to have a problem!!!

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Who Will Feed The World? Global 4-H Summit Takes Action Packed Focus on Feeding the World

feedingahungryplanetThe Global 4H Summit which will be held in Calgary, Alberta from August 19th to 25th is shaping up to be an outstanding event targeting the vital issue of “Feeding a Hungry Planet”.  As a natural extension of the 100th anniversary theme of “Food for Thought” the summit will tackle food challenges facing the world today. The global representation includes 60 Canadian delegates from across the country, 20 American delegates, and 40 international delegates from 22 different countries (Australia, Brazil, Chile, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, South Africa, Taiwan, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, and Zimbabwe), plus 25 mentors and other staff, for a total of 161 representatives will attend and participate in the Summit.

Tammy Oswick-Kearney, Special Projects officer for 4-H Canada, provides some background on why feeding world populations is such an important issue. “In November 2011, the United Nations declared that the planet’s population surpassed 7 billion people. By 2050, experts predict an additional 2 billion people will need healthy food and nutrition. No one person, company or nation holds the answer, but through discussion, collaboration and innovation, these young adults know ground breaking agricultural solutions can be found, acted upon and achieved.”  Fortunately, there were groups who saw the need and stepped up to address the possibilities. The Summit came about because of the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Canada. 4-H and their partner, Bayer Crop Science wanted to host a “unique” event that would address “Feeding a Hungry Planet” and be in line with the 100th anniversary theme of “Food for Thought”.  In the intervening time, much has already taken place. “The summit will use a combination of pre-summit work, guest speakers, group discussions, tours and a facilitated process towards viable actions, to enrich the experience of participants from around the world. There will also be the opportunity for youth from around the world to be engaged in the summit, even if they are unable to participate.”

Click on map for enlargement

Click on map for enlargement

Over 400 Applications Received

It is obvious that 4-H youth today are inspired by the urgency of the issue.  Applicants were given the following question to address in an essay or video presentation.  Over 450 applications were received from around the world.

“In the next 40 years the world’s population will grow from 7 billion to 9 billion, yet already today, 1 billion people do not have enough safe and nutritious food to eat.

Using your own village, town, city or country as your point of reference, tell us what YOU think the underlying causes of food insecurity are and why, and the effect it can have on a population (both locally and globally). Explain how sustainable agricultural practices could solve these issues and how you would use the Global 4-H Youth Ag Summit to advance your solution(s).”

The Summit Marks Commitment to New Beginnings

Through combined pre-summit work, guest speakers, group discussions, tours and a facilitated process towards viable actions, youth will have the opportunity to create, discuss and further implement their action plans when they return home. Each delegate will leave the event with three personal actions that they will commit to follow through on with the support of their mentor, upon returning home. We encourage that these individual actions are S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. The entire delegation will develop a collective action plan that all delegates are willing to commit to, using the content of the working group presentations, to build a shared action statement.

Click on image for enlargement

Teamwork brings a great idea from concept to reality

There are many times when a wonderful plan breaks down on the long road through red tape, finances and other logistics of international endeavors.  There can never be too many “Thank you’s” extended to Bayer Crop Science who has been working alongside 4-H Canada to ensure that this Summit comes to fruition, as well as continuing beyond the August 19-25th dates.  It boggles the mind to think of how many dedicated volunteers have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to also ensure that this Summit is successful.  Tammy emphasizes their importance. “Without the volunteers, we may not have been able to deliver such a diverse opportunity to so many deserving young adults around the globe.”  There is an extensive list of sponsors who support this Summit including – Agriculture Canada, Alberta government, Cargill, Agrium, John Deere, Richardson Pioneer, Farm Credit Canada, Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions, who have come to the table to ensure the success of this event. As well Agri-Trend, Alta Genetics, the Calgary Stampede, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Copithorne Ranch, McDonald’s Canada and Sunterra who are participating by providing speakers and/or giving tours.

Passion with a Purpose

The purpose of the Summit is to identify, connect and create ideas, all aimed at progressing agriculture around the world with the next generation of agricultural participants.  This collaborative approach aims to leave participants with actionable ideas that they can take back to their home country as well as their personal operations/careers.  The core themes throughout the week are: Goal setting, innovation, Sustainability, Leadership and Celebration.

A Lofty Goal for the Global Summit

It is exciting to even consider such incredibly challenging topics.  To do so with enthusiasm and with the ultimate goal of taking action is astounding.  Speaking on behalf of the committed visionaries and volunteers Tammy Oswick-Kearney says, “I hope the delegates will take away their action items and implement them quickly. I want the delegates to continue to use their mentors for support and advice as they move to implement the united Youth Ag Summit plan. I want the conversation, ideas and solutions to continue long after the Summit has come to a close. With the growing world population set to reach 9 billion by 2050, we cannot let this conversation, these ideas and solutions, die.”

A “Working” Committee with Milestones to Reach

Organizers report that a working committee will be established to carry forward the work that will be completed over the course of the Youth Ag-Summit.  From its inception the Youth Ag Summit milestones have been:

To create awareness and garner interest in the global food crisis by inviting youth ages 18-25 to apply to attend an expense paid trip to Calgary, Alberta, Canada to address the issue of “Feeding a Hungry Planet”. This gathering will provide an avenue for agriculturally focused 4-H youth from around the world to dialogue on how they can address feeding a growing world population in an atmosphere that fosters international networks and friendships and provides the opportunity to produce youth-driven action plans focused on feeding a growing world population, for themselves and policy makers around the world.

The Ultimate Goal of the Global Summit

The three key outcomes of the summit are:

  1. To provide an avenue for agriculturally focused 4-H youth from around the world to dialogue on how they can address feeding a growing world population.
  2. To create an atmosphere that fosters international networks and friendships.
  3. To produce youth-driven action plans focused on feeding a growing world population, for themselves and policy makers around the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The global 4-H Youth Ag Summit [YAS] will bring young people together to share knowledge, while pursuing a vital cause.  They will also share understanding and become a forum for future leadership at the highest levels. We can only applaud and encourage these young minds and hearts that are prepared to put their hands to work to feed their families, their community and the world!  Bravo!

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ANDERSTRUP HOLSTEIN: Danish Breeding Rises to the Top!

There are many pivotal moments on the way to cattle breeding success.  Niels Erik Haahr is clear about his personal ones, “I was born with the virus to be a breeder.” His father was interested in horse breeding and cattle breeding but the next big impetus came when Niels Erik was thirteen. “I invested in my first Holstein calf and she was successful.” There is no inoculation that can cure that fever but it burned even hotter after Niels Erik visited Glen and Vanda McNeil when he was 18. “I went to Heather Holme farm in Canada and, from that moment, it was clear in my mind that my mission was to create a top Holstein herd.”  (Read more: Glen McNeil: Communication, Common Sense and Respect for the Speed Bumps Delivers Holstein Leadership)

It Isn’t Lonely for Anderstrup at the Top

Located in Denmark, Niels Erik Haahr of Anderstrup Holsteins in some respects has a somewhat unique dairy resume. “Today I farm together with my brother. We have an operation of 300 milking cows, 500 heifers, and 100 bulls. We milk 3 X. The herd average is 14,350 Kg 3.7 % F 3.3 P somatic cell last 12 months 103,000.” So having noticed the 100 bulls, the details on this herd continue to catch our attention. “The average score is VG 86.5.” The logistics are also interesting. “We handle 350 hectares of land with grass and corn. We make 175-200 ET calves every year.” For this dairy breeder, the main market is Scandinavia (NTM), Germany (RZG), and Holland (NVI). But the outstanding piece of information is that this single herd has produced four of the top 10 bulls on their AI list. And an outstanding further addition is that “In the last 12 months 32 bulls from Anderstrup Holstien have been accepted into A.I.!”

Anderstrup Goldwyn Mali VG-89-DK 2yr. She has 8 sons in AI She has 9 daughter which 8 of them are already contracted @ CRV She is the highest producing 2yr. Old in her herd Maternal sister to the #1 Jango son World Wide: Dukefarm Highlife @ Semex Same family produced the great sire Long-Langs MAN-O-MAN

Anderstrup Goldwyn Mali VG-89-DK 2yr.
She has 8 sons in AI
She has 9 daughter which 8 of them are already contracted @ CRV
She is the highest producing 2yr. Old in her herd
Maternal sister to the #1 Jango son World Wide: Dukefarm Highlife @ Semex
Same family produced the great sire Long-Langs MAN-O-MAN

Anderstrup Aims High

Not everybody can build such a resounding success story.  Niels Erik gives credit to his parents influence.  “My mother and father always taught us that if you work hard and you have a little bit of talent, in the end you will succeed at whatever you are working with.  To make good results in breeding you need to be hard working the year around. With the genomic world you need to try to be up front every day to make the next high one. If you slow a little bit down you can very fast be out of the game of selling bulls to Al.”

What Makes the Difference?

The Bullvine always encourages breeders to pinpoint the differences.  Niels Erik starts with obvious national ones. “I think the difference is getting smaller and smaller – but no doubt our cost per kg of milk produced is higher in Denmark than in the US. We have more debt per cow because of high prices of buying land and quota for the production and the salary level – for staff- is also higher than in the US.”

Those would appear to be hurdles rather than easy steps.  Haahr continues. “My passion has always been to breed great cows. When I was young I did focus mostly on breeding great show cows – but with the years it changed.  Now I go for total breeding with high production, with good secondary traits combined with great type. But we still want to make some top show cows so we have a small part of the herd that is bred to top type bulls. So today the herd is split in 3 groups 1 – Cows/heifers with high genomic potential 2 Type cattle 3 Recipients”

Anderstrup MoM Carien

Anderstrup MOM Carine VG-89-DK EX-91-MS 2yr.
The #3 GTPI Man-O-Man daughter in Europe!
She is dam to the #1 & #2 GTPI Bookem dtrs in Europe and to the #1 & #2 Levi dtrs in Europe
The #1 genomic cow in Denmark with +40 NTM

Carine Means Success — Pure and Simple

Of course, the Anderstrup method is working well. “My best home bred is Anderstrup Didrik Carine EX 92. She managed to be a show cow together with making 365 D  18,255 kg 4.5 F 3.5 P in her 2 lactations.  In her 2nd lactation, she was flushed to Man O Man. The result was the number 1 bull in Scandinavia Viking Mandel and the Number 1 cow in Scandinavia Anderstrup Man O Man Carine VG 89 2 Y. This Man O Man is also testing well in the US with a gTPI of 2292. She is the dam of number 1 and 2 Bookem and the number 1 and 2 Levi in Europe.” Those are astounding benchmarks to be set by a single herd.

Anderstrup Levi Classi he #1 GTPI Levi-daughter in Europe! Her full sister is the #2 GTPI Levi in Europe Dam is the #3 GTPI Man-O-Man in Europe - #6 GTPI Cow in Europe and #1 NTM Cow in Denmark - Anderstrup MOM Carine VG-89-DK EX-91-MS 2yr.

Anderstrup Levi Classi
he #1 GTPI Levi-daughter in Europe!
Her full sister is the #2 GTPI Levi in Europe
Dam is the #3 GTPI Man-O-Man in Europe – #6 GTPI Cow in Europe and #1 NTM Cow in Denmark – Anderstrup MOM Carine VG-89-DK EX-91-MS 2yr.

At the Top with Anderstrup

The success story continues to build.  Anderstrup is working with several high cows and heifers including

  • Anderstrup Man O Man Carine and daughters by Bookem, Levi and Massey
  • Anderstrup Snowman Heaven (Snowman x Boliver VG 87) is the Number 1 gTPI Snowman in Europe and the highest RZG heifer in Germany at 159.  At the moment there are 25 pregnancies coming from her.
  • Tirsvad Big Time Noma (Big Time x VG 87 Stol Joc x VG 87 Oman, owned with Tirsvad Holsteins). She is the dam of Tir An Uno Nyala gTPI 2525 RZG 155. She sold in the Eurogenes summer sale at 84.000 Euro. Noma is also the dam of several heifers above gTPI 2400 and over 150 in RZG. Her 2 Lexor sons are numbers 2 and 3 of all European bulls tested in Germany both at RZG 161. Noma has 2 full sisters and in total there are 25 heifers from the 3 sisters. One of them is the number 1 heifer in Scandinavia sired by the German bull Maximum. Niels Erik reports that the 3 sisters will soon be fresh and they look promising.
  • Anderstrup G-Force Malin (G Force x VG 89 Bismark x VG 87 Baxter) is the number 2 heifer in Denmark and the number 5 in Germany at RZG 158.
  • Calbrett Supersire Barb RC (Supersire x Rainyridge Super Beth VG 86 x Talent Barbara EX 95) gTPI 2527. Number 1 gTPI RC in the world. She is owned with Diamond Genetics and Drakkar Holsteins. Recently topped the Cormdale Summer Sale at $265,000.  (Read more: Cormdale Summer Sale 2013 Results)

Topping the sale Cormdale Summer Sale at $265,000 was the #1 gLPI and gTPI *RDC heifer of the breed Calbrett Supersire Barb. The Seagull-Bay Supersire daughter from the extremely popular Superstition daughter Rainyridge Super Beth VG-86-2yr projected to 222-218-239% BCA who sold for $75,000. The next dam is Rainyridge Talent Barbara (Ex-95-2E-USA-2*), the “Talent” who was All-Canadian and All-American 5-year-old in 2010 who traces to the noted Rainyridge Tony Beauty (Ex-5E-9*). Offered in the sale by Cormdale Genetics Inc. and their partners Diamond Genetics of Holland and Al.Be.Ro. Land & Cattle of Italy, she was purchased by Anderstrup Holsteins with partners Diamond Genetics and Drakkar Holsteins.

Investing in the Top End is The Key to Exceptional Dairy Breeding.

Niels Erik says: “Invest in the genetics from the top end.” Currently at Anderstrup they are using the following bulls:

Genomic :        Mandel (DK), Miracle (DK), Boss (DE), Big Point (DE), Balisto (US), P.Aiko (Tjekk), Seargeant (US), Shottglass (US), Aikman (US),Model (US), Predstine (US), Chevrolet (NL), Picanto (DE)

Type:   Gold Sun (US), Goldwyn (CA), Attwood (US), Bradnick (US), Fever (CA), Lauthority (CA), and Meridian (US).

Anderstrup Gets Genomics and Gets the Calls!

Once again, we learn how important it is to get name recognition. ““We do a little bit of advertising in different magazines. We try to get our best cows’ pictured so we have them ready for the catalog and future Ads but the only thing that really works is to have your cattle high on the genomic list. That is what makes people start calling.” He goes on to describe why genomics is a big part of the Anderstrup program. “For us genomics has been great. It has been a big challenge to get the Al to travel the long way to come to Denmark. With the genomic test it makes it so much easier to catch the attention of customers around the world. It has not changed the dairies in Denmark but we have picked up genetic speed. Hopefully the results will mean there are more profitable cows for the commercial farmers.”

Anderstrup has been was the Premier Breeder and Exhibitor for the last 8 National shows they have been at in Denmark. 2013 will mark a end to this streak as Niels will be the judge.  Pictured here is part of the 2012 team, Gr.Champion Anderstrup Goldwyn Jolly EX  Res.Gr Champion Anderstrup Stormatic Krista EX Hon Mention Gr Champion Anderstrup Damion Jenny EX.

Anderstrup has been was the Premier Breeder and Exhibitor for the last 8 National shows they have been at in Denmark. 2013 will mark a end to this streak as Niels Erik will be the judge. Pictured here is part of the 2012 team, Gr.Champion Anderstrup Goldwyn Jolly EX, Res.Gr Champion Anderstrup Stormatic Krista EX, Hon Mention Gr Champion Anderstrup Damion Jenny EX.

Where Do you Go When You’re Already at the Top?

Having already inputted an amazing 40% of the top 10 bulls on the Scandinavian AI list, you might assume that Erik Niels would have rested on his laurels for awhile.  You would be wrong to do so! This committed dairy over-achiever still had very definite targets that he aimed for and achieved. He shares them. “In the Index world to breed the number 1 bull, Mandel (Man-O-Man), and 2 bull, Miracle (Miracle) in Scandinavia and the number 1 and 2 female in the same year 2013.” The herd has 6 females in the top 10 females in Scandinavia. He already had set his sights on the show world and was the Premier Breeder and Exhibitor for the last 8 National shows they have been at in Denmark. And the icing on the dairy breeding cake for this gentleman who started judging at 16 came when he judged the European Red and White Show in 2013.  No doubt with such focus even more aspirations will become achievements.

Don’t Overlook the Challenges

With such commitment and enthusiasm also comes an awareness of the challenges. Niels Erik confirms his concerns. “I am nervous that the Al companies only focus on making the next top bull and forget our bigger and bigger inbreeding problem in the Holstein breed, we are all focused on making the new leader – and in that battle we all forget to make enough outcross combinations because that what the breed really needs. I am also nervous that in the future the laboratory breeding will more or less take over the influence that breeders have today. If we see what has happened in the last 5 years in the labs I am really concerned that in the future it is more important that Al companies work with the best labs and then they work with the best breeders”.

Anderstrup Roumare Gisela VG-89-DK 2yr. Former #1 GTPI Roumare in Europe Dam is the full sister to DT Improver and DT Impress Dam is maternal sister to Tenetic @ Amelis, France Her Grand dam Genua has over 20 sons at European AI's

Anderstrup Roumare Gisela VG-89-DK 2yr.
Former #1 GTPI Roumare in Europe
Dam is the full sister to DT Improver and DT Impress
Dam is maternal sister to Tenetic @ Amelis, France
Her Grand dam Genua has over 20 sons at European AI’s

Better Management = Better Performance. Better information = Better Decisions.

For those who can only dream about such a high level of achievement, Niels Erik has clear advice. “Start with putting your management of the herd at the highest level. Visit top farms. Get inspired and try to copy all the things that can bring your herd to a top management herd. If you have a top management herd, the chances for success in breeding are much higher.” Along with high management levels, Haahr feels that there has to be equally high information. “Be updated at all times about what is going on in the breeding world.  Ask leaders in the breeding world that you trust to advise you. You need to be a 100 % updated to be up front.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line – Dairy Passion:  Catch it. Breed It. Live it.

“Work hard and be focused on what your goal is.”  Niels Erik Haahr knows that actually doing that can sometimes be easier said than done. He encourages dairy breeders. “Don’t lose your focus if the results are not coming. We are working with spreading of Mendel in the genetic world so you also need luck – but – in the end, you will succeed if you keep your focus on your goals and work hard to reach them”  Good advice from someone who caught the dairy passion and lives it at the highest level.

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Pick The Right Bull – Your Future Depends on The Decisions You Make Today!

There are many ways to get from Point A to Point B whether you’re on the asphalt highway or the genetic highway.  A genetic plan for your herd is like a GPS – it can help you reach your genetic destination faster, with fewer detours and more profit in your pocket. It really depends on picking the coordinates that mean the most to you.

Your Future Starts Now!

The time to put in place a genetic plan is now.  The bulls used will be 90% of that plan in all but the very elite genetic herds.  In those herds the emphasis will be 60% bulls and 40% females.  Remember that with a four year average generation interval in a herd, it means that the bulls selected this month will form the base of the herd you are milking in four to five years time.

The Clock is Ticking!

Next week will be bull selection time again for dairy cattle breeders.  It’s time to decide whether to stick with the same or similar bulls  or is it time to chart a new course?  Over the past few month The Bullvine has covered various breeding approaches covering the spectrum from a main focus on show winning animals such as Riverside Jerseys (Read more: Riverside Jerseys: Travelling Hearts – A Girl, A Guy and Their Jersey Love Story) to a very definite focus on functional profitable cows as selected at North Florida Holsteins (Read more: NORTH FLORIDA HOLSTEINS. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!). Both these breeders have a dynamic plan and they follow it successfully.  Both have secured a profitable pinnacle but there are many who struggle in various low points in between.  We feel their struggle relates directly to herd genetics decision planning that is unfocused or not undertaken at all.

Where Has the Money Gone?

The premium for selling good quality purebreds no longer exists.  The animals that formerly sold for $4,000 to $10,000 now bring just slight over the cost of raising them.  The market for replacement cows is a fraction of what it once was.  With the use of technology such as sexed semen and better herd management practices, herds that formerly bought replacements have enough of their own.  The few they do have to sell contributes to lowering the market price for replacements.

On the bull side, indexes for young sires are now almost twice as accurate thanks to genomics.  Fewer are being sampled and incentives for young sire use or price discounting of their semen have disappeared.

Show Money is a “No Show”

There once was a market for animals that could win the county show. Today, with 4H calves being one exception, the average milk producer have discontinued exhibiting cattle. At a practical level, the large tall show type animals aren’t the best fit for modern housing facilities. The trend is that show type farms will be a much smaller portion of national herds.  Where once perhaps up to 20% of farms selected bulls based mainly on their PTAT or CONF proofs, that is likely to be one in a thousand farms within five years time.  Selecting bulls only on their type indexes will not position breeders to generate a profit from cattle sales or to have efficient milk production.

Where is the Money Now?

Cattle sales once made up 10 to 30% of revenue for purebred breeders.  Today the milk check is the key revenue source.  The embryo market does not match former cattle sale levels.  The most valuable animal on the farm is no longer the 4-5 year old brood cow but the high genomic indexing 6-8 month old heifer from a proven cow family.  Buyers want first lactation females only.  Second and later lactation females are suspected as being sold for a problem (i.e. high SCS).  Commercial breeders are speaking out for efficient more agile cows with high yields. We can expect to see the trend for high prices for the genetically elite but after that there will be little or no premium pricing.

Put Your Money Where the Bull Is

If your farm’s primary focus is profit from efficient fat and protein production, then consider using NM$ as your primary selection index.  Once you have a list of bulls over NM$ of 600 you can eliminate bulls from that list based on their inferiority for traits that you feel are important.

Using second tier bulls (gTPI below 2100, gLPI below 2500 or NM$ below 600), daughter proven or genomically tested, will not give you animals or a herd that are in demand by other breeders.  Red adds little to a breeding program unless you can generate significant income from cattle sales. It would be a wise move to start using polled bulls on a portion of your herd. (Read more: Is Polled the NEW Red?) It is false economy to use anything but the top bulls. Don’t skimp when it comes to buying the semen from the top bulls for genetically advancing your herd. Do not be swayed by a salesperson.  They are looking out primarily for their own bottom line.  It only works if it’s right for your plan.  Using the right bulls will drive up your revenue and keep costs due to genetic issues under control.

Healthy is Wealthy

Using bulls with breeding values in the bottom 60% of the population for Daughter Pregnancy Rate, Daughter Fertility, SCS, Productive Life and Herd Live (below 1.0 on USA indexes of below 105 on Canadian indexes) will mean that you are not advancing the genetic merit of your herd for these increasingly important traits as fast as your fellow breeders are.  Today more accurate predictions are available on bulls for their daughters’ longevity, SCS and fertility, using genomic indexes.  With the increasing number of animals per worker, there is less time for individual care. Genetic selection for better health and reproduction is high on the priority list.  Feet and hoof care are receiving more management attention but on the genetic side this area needs more focus. Technology, equipment and management of herds are advancing all the time and health and reproduction needs to keep up. Never forget that animal treatment and welfare are also receiving more focus. Polled is going mainline and herds with lame animals will be centered out for negative attention. (Read more: From the Sidelines to the Headlines, Polled is Going Mainline!)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Without clear thinking, five years from now you may find you haven’t made any forward genetic progress.  Analyze your genetic program.  If certain decisions you made in the past are no longer producing profitable results, then be ruthless, and move on to something better.  Times have changed.  Have you?

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.




The Shocking Speed of Social Media and the Dairy Industry

There is no question that social media has changed our world.  From the ability to talk to people of like mind from anywhere in the world to the ability to learn the latest news instantly, the dairy industry has changed dramatically as a direct result of social media.(Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Every second 2,200 tweets are posted, 580 users update their Facebook status and 24 minutes of video are uploaded to YouTube.  The scary part is that adoption rates of new social networks are accelerating.  It took LinkedIn 3.5 years to reach 10 million users.  The same feat took Twitter just over 3 years, and Facebook 2.5 years.  Most recently Google+ did it in just 2 weeks.  The reach of social networks is spreading faster than any infectious disease in the history of mankind.  From 2005 to2010, Facebook gained over 500 million users.  More than the entire world population at the time of the Black Death. (Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Shocked and Amazed in the Show Ring at Summer Show

This past week’s events highlighted for me just how astonishingly fast social media is.  First, while attending the Ontario Summer Show, the power of the Internet and social media certainly flexed its muscle (Read more: Ontario Summer Show 2013 Holstein Results).  Coming into the show, I would have told you that Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2yr, the Res. All-Canadian Sr. 2yr old from 2012 and 1st Senior 3 & Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion Ontario Spring Show 2013 would be able to stroll her way to an easy win.  Then entered Raivue Sanchez Pamela and Desnette Alexia Roseplex and you could hear the excitement in the crowd rise to another level.  Roseplex, a cow that probably has one of the greatest side profiles I have ever seen, has been developing well since winning Intermediate Champion at the 2013 Quebec Spring Show and has gained more chest width and rear udder width to go with that amazing profile.  Then there is Pamela that on any other day, against any other competition might have been the talk of the town.  Instantly, I was getting messages from breeders around the world saying how amazing that class was and speculating about who would win.  The shared pictures from all three cows were extremely popular.  But once you saw these three amazing cows in line, you realized that Rae Lynn was simply that much longer and dairier than these other two also outstanding cows.


Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2YR
First Senior 3 year old, Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand Champion
Owned by Quality, Granja Ponderosa, Al-Be-Ro Land & Cattle, ON and Spain

Almost instantly the questions switched to asking when we will see Rae Lynn against the likes of Butz-Butler Gold Barbara VG-89-2yr and Eastriver Gold Deb 850 EX-92 EX-92 MS?  The challenge is that since Rae Lynn has been milking since last October and is not due again until March 2014, we may not see her again until the Royal, passing on the long trip to World Dairy Expo.  Let’s hope that we may see her at Madison to give us the greatest Senior 3 year old class in history.

Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show - Calbrett Goldwyn Layla (Goldwyn), Mature Cow, For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.  Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95
1st Mature Cow and Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show
For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.
Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Having said that, none of this chatter could compare to what was to follow around Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95.  Normally, when it’s time for the mature cow class, it comes down to which cow has had held up to the wear and tear.  However, this year at Ontario Summer Show, things were a little different.  The winning mature cow was a 3rd calf 7 year old.  This became a subject that was very polarizing to breeders at ringside and especially online.  She was shown perfectly by the great showman David Dyment.  He always seems to know how to make a cow stand out.  There is no question that Layla catches your eye.  She is extremely dairy and strong and looked the part.  She did handily win the class.  The part that shocked many was when Judge Bruce Mode went on to name Goldwyn Layla Grand Champion of the show.  We are certainly fans of judges who take bold moves here at the Bullvine (Read more: Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage)

The reaction online was certainly mixed.  Almost instantly, there were comments being posted either in agreement or disagreement.  Questions starting coming in about just how good did she look and did she need extra help in order to make it to the ring?  It’s not unusual for these rumors to swirl around champions. And stories — true and false — begin to be shared. Today they’re shared instantly!! Call it marketing.  Call it borderline ethical.  The concern is there, especially for young breeders who are looking to get into the marketing of elite cattle genetics.  If the concerns are true, what message does this send to them?  Here we may have a cow being rewarded for all the wrong reasons.  Will she contend at Madison or the Royal?  Will she even be there?  Moreover, how is she beating a cow that has the potential to become one of the greatest of all time?

Changing the Conversation

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the conversation to change to a more positive note.  This year’s International Intrigue Sale hosted by Ferme Blondin was certainly a positive for the industry.  (Read more: International Intrigue: Forget the Records It’s About the People and International Intrigue at Ferme Blondin Sale Results 2013).  While the sale didn’t have some big name World Dairy Expo Grand or Intermediate Champion contender, it certainly did have a strong line up with many outstanding individuals.  Extremely popular online was Jacobs Sid Bamba, a Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96 who sold for $50,000 and 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, who sold for $92,000.

Jacobs Sid Bamba

Jacobs Sid Bamba
A Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96
Sold for $50,000 at the International Intrigue Sale

While Layla selling to Comestar and Ponderosa for $125,000 at the Cormdale Summer Sale on Monday (Read more: Cormdale Summer Sale Results) re-ignited the conversation, I thought we would have a quieter time for the rest of the week.  However, that certainly was not the case.  Normally it’s my personal opinion editorial pieces that get us here at The Bullvine in trouble.  This time it was our interview with Don Bennink (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!)  that took the conversation in a different direction and to completely new levels.  This time is wasn’t just the small segment of the marketplace that follow the shows, but rather it was the dairy community at large who felt the need to let their opinions be known.  There is no question that Don’s opinions about type classification, type evaluations and how they predict longevity have fueled this    polarizing subject.  .  As a strong supporter of type classification, it has caused mixed thoughts in my own head (Read more: The Truth About Type and Longevity) and has generated some amazing conversation on Facebook.

Just When You Think It’s All Over

Just when I think that it’s all over, and that we can now settle down to a holiday long weekend with the family, a completely new fire erupts.  One of our news items from the weekend about how the Whitaker family of Georgia had the unfortunate occurrence of having one of their trusted employees  suspected of illegal activities leading to 40+ cop cars, and SWAT personnel in cooperation with the family descending on the farm.  This led to the finding of several guns, marijuana and methamphetamines, which investigators estimated could be worth $50,000.  While this is certainly unfortunate for a great family who are strong members of the dairy community, the reaction to the news article we collated “FBI Storms Whitaker Farm For Drug Bust”, certainly caused a commotion on Facebook with a few breeders who felt the title did a disservice to this family.  Yet another example of the power and speed of social media.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.  Dairy farmers have never been short on having them.  The difference is that, through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, breeders can now share their opinion with thousands instantly instead only with a few local breeders.  You no longer have to call several breeders to find out what happened at the show or sale.  You don’t even have to wait for it to be printed in one of the old school magazines.  Things are happening in real time and the news is now coming to you, instead of you having to go and find it.  One of the biggest changes we have noticed since starting the Bullvine is how many breeders no longer go to the news sections of the dairy publications anymore.  They now watch their Facebook news feed and if there is an article or news item of interest that has been shared by a fellow breeder or company they follow, they go ahead and read it.  No longer do they have to surf through many sites just to find the few tidbits they would be interested in.  Now they can get it all in their Facebook news stream complete with the ability to share their opinion with their friends and fellow breeders.  It is truly shocking the speed of Social Media and how it has affected the dairy industry.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

The Truth About Type and Longevity

For years there has been  debate about whether show type is relevant to the commercial producer.  But more recently the deeper question is coming up that asks  if type itself in any form matters anymore.

This issue was further highlighted by our extremely popular interview with Don Bennink (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!) where he made the following comments:

“Don feels that the current philosophy of the Holstein Association is very contrary to (profitability).”  He gives three main targets that he seeks out as profitable.  “High production with health traits and feed efficiency are our bywords.  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 .59.  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.”

Don also highlights:

“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 +3.00 and +4.00 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.”

The question really becomes why do we evaluate type?

The ultimate reason for evaluating type is to predict longevity.  In the Canadian LPI formula type is actually called durability.  In the US TPITM formula type elements are used to calculate longevity.  But then I ask why are we creating a composite index of other elements to help predict longevity when we actually have the data in Herd Life (CDN) and Productive Life (US)?  This makes me ask  what is the more accurate  index? An index we have created based on evaluation of many subjective parts? Or is it more accurate when derived from the actual herd data on  longevity? That data would  show exactly how long a bull’s daughters last in a herd.

When you look at the current top twenty Productive Life sires over 95% reliability in the US, you notice that only 2 sires have a PTAT over 2 points (DE-SU OBSERVER and SILDAHL JETT AIR) and as a group they average 0.65 for PTAT.  Even more alarming is that as a group they average 0.86 for UDC and 1.02 for F&L composite, two traits that are typically key in predicting longevity.   On the other hand, relating directly to longevity they all have relatively high net merit scores,  low somatic cell scores and, for the most part, are calving ease sires.   Why the disconnect?

DE-SU OBSERVER-ET16027.22.7667922.73.020.892332
HONEYCREST BOMBAY NIFTY-ET2367.22.627553-0.46-0.130.971810
POTTERS-FIELD KP LOOT-ET10047.22.6876500.081.71-0.241954
KELLERCREST BRET LANDSCAPE817.12.3685060.651.271.161838
WHITMAN O MAN AWESOME ANDY2026.92.5557540.32-0.171.212063
ZIMMERVIEW BRITT VARSITY-ET4106.82.6266680.71-0.471.552013
CLEAR-ECHO NIFTY TWIST-ET9426.82.628748-0.32-0.421.172039
KED OUTSIDE JEEVES-ET3556.82.83105151.370.971.741913
ENSENADA TABOO PLANET-ET22166.72.9867211.931.44-0.472176
GOLDEN-OAKS GUTHRIE-ET10786.72.786535-1.15-1.240.361728
DALE-PRIDE MANFRED ALFIE5196.62.966461-0.63-0.36-0.011702
LAESCHWAY JET BOWSER 2-ETN2006.52.8474551.622.031.831940
ELKENDALE DIE-CAST-ET-8726.52.7263700.681.851.991718
LAESCHWAY JET BOWSER-ET2006.52.8474551.622.031.831940
BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE12366.42.757791.571.62.872292
CABHI AUSTIN POTTER-ET1516.42.8165200.050.410.021766
CABHI MOOSE-ET456.42.6463730.180.31.111625
SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET11186.32.6466442.882.262.912168
SPRING-RUN CAMDEN-676.22.9174330.571.790.61762
KERNDT MAXIE GOLDSTAR-ET1996.22.576449-1.28-0.61-0.961631

The Canadian story is not that much different.  When you look at the top 35 sires with CDN proofs, only 3 sires (CRACKHOLM FEVER, TRAMILDA-N ESCALADE and SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET) are over 10 for Conformation and all have relatively low SCS. In fact NORZ-HILL FORM WIZARD who is tied for the top proven Herd Life sire in Canada is -3 for conformation, -4 for feet and legs and -10 for dairy strength.  And as a group the sires average only +3 for conformation, +4 for Mammary System, +3 for Feet and Legs and -2 for dairy strength.

CRACKHOLM FEVER279762015131371172.63
NORZ-HILL FORM WIZARD-ET1914521-30-4-101172.57
TRAMILDA-N ESCALADE-ET25956931371261152.69
DUDOC BACCULUM1630-52709-1-101152.95
SILDAHL JETT AIR-ET2824129212101171142.64
BADGER-BLUFF FANNY FREDDIE29851717585-51132.74
KEYSTONE POTTER1933110014-1-41132.91
BOSS IRON ET1925-72066141132.74
RUBIS LOTUS1908-51499141132.79
JOHNIE FRANCIS1754-561-2-1-3-41132.59
BARKA FETICHE1009-1793-14-11-14-131132.47
GEN-I-BEQ ALTABUZZER2748141764801122.82
HEATHERSTONE-V MCGUIRE-ET25701417911851122.67
MICHERET INFRAROUGE25217107811-11122.66
DUDOC RADIUS2518134442601122.67
RALMA CARRIBEAN-ET250175663731122.74
SANDY-VALLEY DEPUTY-ET2424801565-31122.37
HASS-ACRES BRAVEHEART222563957411122.68
KED OUTSIDE JEEVES-ET2216580443-21122.99
SHAWNEE ALTASTRATOS-ET22091867105-41122.51
DESLACS DUSTER21341598811-21122.83
MARKWELL DUCKETT-ET2094117378-91122.71
KLASSIC BILLBOARD20336181-10-21122.68
WHITTAIL-VALLEY COOPER-ET2015461234-71122.61
BONACCUEIL LORD195469603-2-41122.64
FLEURY LOTION18839630-13-61123.11
GRASSHILL CAREW1824-12-4-1-3-41122.68
CEDARWAL TAIT1816-985040-61122.55
CANCO ARMAGEDDON1664254-8-10-7-31122.73
JACOBS EMAIL1642-1179-6-2-4-121122.65
HILLCROFT MAJESTIC1396-95242221122.61
CLAYNOOK GARNET1319-431-5-5-4-31122.89
HENKESEEN NIGHTSTORM1238-1215-2-13-41122.78

I have always been a big proponent for type classification (Read more: Is Type Classification Still Important? and Tom Byers: “That’s Classified!”).  My father ran the Canadian system for many years.  But I now find myself asking “Are we missing the mark?”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For years I have heard commercial producers tell me that they don’t care as much about type and that it’s the seed stock breeders that are putting all the emphasis on type.  The thing is, as Don points out, “the function of a seed stock producer is to produce the animal that is the most profitable for the commercial dairyman.”   If that is the  case are we as seed stock producers missing the mark by emphasizing type sires?  In today’s free agent bull market, it is more profitable to have a sire that sells well in the commercial market than just in the pedigree market.   Should we work to have the correlation between PTAT /Conformation with Herd Life/Productive Life as high as possible, as that is the whole point in evaluating type traits?


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Are We Playing Hide and Seek With Supply Management?

When it comes to supply management, many proclaim to know the absolute truth. They either profess “It will never be sold out.” or they’re emphatically on the other side stating “Supply Management is dead!” (Read more: Why the Future of the North American Dairy Industry Depends On Supply and Demand) Unless you can read the minds of the politicians (and even The Bullvine won’t pretend to go that far), you are putting your future in someone else’s hands.

Come Out Come Out Wherever You Are!

The issue of supply management raised its head in the late 60s. Many think that once implemented that’s all there was to it! WRONG.  In 1976 the MSQ was decreased by 18% in response to a serious surplus of production.  RIGHT MOVE. Then later on the word was out that Supply Management was coming to an end. Some prepared instantly. WRONG.  Today many aging dairy farmers want to retire … but their children are not sure whether the “security” their parents had is going to continue.  Others worry that a closed off dairy industry will be unable to provide the opportunities they’re looking for.

In the Beginning

Supply-management was introduced by the federal government in the 1970s as a way to ensure local farmers could meet domestic demand and be rewarded fairly for their effort.  The introduction of quota levels helped to control supply while creating stable prices for Canadian consumers. Prices for milk worldwide had led to fluctuating prices and instability in Canadian markets.  The government sought to fix this by implementing a system to provide milk and poultry for the Canadian market by Canadian producers.

Is Government the Game Changer?

Why do we modern day business people never ask ourselves what our parents did to adapt to change? Unlike them – we accept that their solution is “forever”. At a certain age somewhere between 40 and 65, we assume that we have done all that there is to do and the way things are right now is the way they should remain…. full STOP.  But that’s just the problem.  Why would the next generation want to come into an industry that is fully stopped?

But back to the issue of supply management.  What if— supply management ends in the next 5 to 10 years? What if supply management stays?  How will your children continue dairying? Oh! They’re not interested you say.  Well then how will the next generation of dairy farmers get interested in getting into the industry?  We know it’s an awfully expensive entry price.  And, if we keep the status quo, the industry is shrinking from both ends of the marketplace.  Less consumption.  Fewer producers.  What’s the game changer that we MUST find?

Is Everybody Playing Fair?

Canada`s milk supply management is increasingly a hot button issue when it comes to trade negotiations.  Many quote rules of fair trade that exclude supply management never acknowledging that there are hidden subsidies supported by other players in other countries.  Subsidies accounted for only 14% of gross farm receipts (2011) in Canada.  Considerably less than the 19 per cent average of among OECD countries.  This raises the question of what would happen if in the interest of big picture trade negotiations Canadian officials eliminate farm marketing boards and subsidies while other countries were able to keep subsidizing their farmers?  In Japan, South Korea, Norway and Switzerland that means more than half of what farmers earn is from government support.  Yes! Over 50%!!

Are Governments Changing the Playing Field?

Everyone loves to throw the term “level playing field” into the discussion.  But is it really possible?  After all can you name any industry that isn’t subsidized?  And secondly, is a level field really what you want when it involves food production.  After all, without food we die.  That’s more level than I’m looking for!

True Lies

The theory is that if supply management was terminated, larger more efficient farms would readily compete against cheaper imports.  Really?  And who is prepared to deal with how “larger” farms will rile up the anti-large contingent?  But consumer prices will be lower and that makes it all worth it, right? WRONG. The cost comparison between supply management and the market-determined price is like comparing apples and oranges. When the market sets the price, the direct expense to consumers does not generally reflect the outlays incurred by the farmer.  As a result, government must provide billions of dollars worth of subsides annually to farmers if they are to stay in business. The critics of supply management do not factor these hidden taxpayer dollars into the cost of a litre of milk, no matter how critical that support may be to its production.

Is Free Trade Fair Trade?

Economists Jason Clemens and Alana Wilson of the Fraser Institute unfortunately get it wrong in their assessment of Canada’s supply-management system for dairy products in their May 15 column: “Free market for groceries is better for the poor”. Where is their proof that there is suddenly a lower retail price without supply management? A real example is the experience in New Zealand.  They once had supply-management before switching to a free-market situation in the mid-1980s. Surprisingly, to some, prices increased for consumers and a monopoly was established where one dairy controls 90 per cent of the milk farms.  A parliamentary investigation has been undertaken to determine why prices increased. Milk is known there as white gold.

It’s Better for the Consumer

Opponents claim that supply management gouges consumers at least when compared with prices set by “the market”. They talk glowingly about free trade and the positive impact of open markets on industry.  Where do they look when there are market meltdowns, rising unemployment and natural catastrophes? It’s obviously their choice to turn a blind eye to the crutch provided by governments in these “healthy” economies. Even if we could accept the global marketplace who decides the priority markets when drought devastates the food supply of your global partner?  I suspect that the home market would be highest on the list.

Who (or What) is Hiding?

There are certainly a considerable number of issues with the Canadian food system. Surface comparisons would suggest that food is much cheaper in the States.  Closer to reality, is the fact that there are 300 million more people to share the cost of subsidizing the industry. Ron Versteeg of Dairy Farmers of Canada says Canadians have nothing to hide. “We stand alone in providing, clean, consistent and transparent access to our market, while other countries hide behind phony non-tariff barriers.” There is no hidden subsidy provided by Canadian taxpayers to dairy farmers.  Each time consumers buy milk or cheese they contribute to dairy sustainability and resilience, to say nothing of this country’s food security.   By comparison, U.S. Subsides to dairy producers represent about 40 per cent of American dairy farmer incomes, when it reaches them.  These subsidies come directly from taxpayers’ pockets.  At the store, the U.S. consumer pays only a portion of the overall cost of producing milk.  The rest is paid through their taxes. Without that hidden support, American dairy products would be much more costly for consumers, and much more expensive than the equivalent Canadian product.

But You Can’t Get Into the Game!

The quota value for a small forty cow operations is over $1 million. Barrie McKenna, columnist with the Globe and Mail, suggests decline in farms is directly related to barrier of entrance in the industry. Making it impossible for young farmers to finance that in addition to cattle, land, barns and equipment.  Supporters of supply-management argue the high quota shows that the industry is healthy and, like other profitable businesses, dairying require high start-up costs, similar to purchasing franchise fees to begin operations. There are many other non-agricultural businesses that no longer have “mom and pop” operations.  Decreasing economies of scale make it difficult for small businesses to compete; this decline in numbers extends beyond the dairy industry.  Having said that, just because the problem is difficult does not mean that we should give up.

The BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE “Nowhere to Hide!”

You can hide in the bushes and hope that it will all turn out right in the end. But wouldn’t you rather be “It!”  In the past successful builders of the dairy industry did not wait for the dreaded pronouncement “You must be caught!”  Supply management was their solution.  What is ours?


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