Archive for December 2013

The Bullvine: Evolution vs. Revolution

Change is inevitable.  Anyone who denies that will be left behind!  And even though the dairy industry is stereotyped as one that is “behind” other industries, in reality the dairy business has evolved significantly in recent years.  Technological advancements such as smart phones, tablets, GPS systems and robots have radically affected our day to day lives and, inevitably, how we farm.  Nevertheless, there are still those among us who refuse to evolve.  They hide their heads in the sand and are missing the revolution that is modernizing agribusiness.

Since starting the Bullvine we have had the opportunity to meet many people from all facets of dairy life.  From producers, to seed stock breeders to industry members, the dairy industry is certainly where you find amazing examples of people who are passionate about this incredible industry that we are all part of.  While there are many characteristics that unite us, change is the one area where I see the greatest differences between us.  On the one hand, there are those who prefer a slower more evolutionary approach to change.  They are happy to take calculated incremental steps towards change.  And, on the other hand, there are those who prefer a more revolutionary approach.  These are the ones who are ready to run with the latest technology and be at the front of the line.  Change for them is always moving forward.  Making adjustments. Getting better all the time.

Genomics is another area that defines our different approaches and highlights the variation that can separate even those who have the same ultimate goal. (Read more: Dairy Cattle Genomics)   While some producers have embraced genomics to a point where the majority of the semen used on their farms is from genomic young sires, others have not been so fast on the uptake.  They have decided to take a wait-and-see approach on genomics until more substantiated proof is available.  While there are merits to both methods, the strongly held opinions and significantly different approaches can only be settled by the results produced.  And … that takes time!!!

Speaking of strong opinions, many more of those opinions have been pushed to the forefront as a result of articles we have written here at the Bullvine.  While regular readers certainly recognize that we have taken a much more revolutionary approach to genomics, we have also taken a much more revolutionary approach to how we run our magazine as a whole.  We don’t do a print edition. We provide all our content free online and we let passion drive what we write about not who pays us the most money.  This is certainly a revolutionary approach compared to most of the options available to dairy breeders.

There is no question that our content has been revolutionary as well.  As the year winds down and we take a look about at some of the most popular articles of the past year (Read more:  Top 13 of 2013 – The Bullvine’s Most Popular Articles of the Year) and some of the top editorial choices (Read more:  EDITOR`S CHOICE 2013 – The Top 12 Picks from The Bullvine) there is no question that revolutionary is the best word to describe the overall flavor of the content we produce. In fact I can confidently say that if you took these 25 articles and compared them to all the other articles our competitors produced, there is no question that they would stand out for their unique content and unbiased perspective.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Since starting the Bullvine we have always tried to take a revolutionary approach to change, as opposed to that of our competitors that are stuck in their evolutionary mindset.  It’s with this aggressive approach to change that we have many new and exciting things planned for 2014. We will continue to drive change instead of simply trying to keep our heads above water.  In the coming year we plan to bring our revolutionary perspective to all aspects of the dairy industry as we increase our coverage of the key issues that all producers face.  We greatly appreciate everyone who joins us and cheers us on in the revolution.  We look forward to sharing the insights, passions, frustrations and visions that will power the dairy industry throughout 2014.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


Top 13 of 2013 – The Bullvine’s Most Popular Articles of the Year

With over 2 million visits to the Bullvine website so far, it has certainly been a busy year.  The following are the 13 most read articles of 2013:

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

In an industry where a few major players dominate the world market it can be very intimidating for new participants  to enter the marketplace.  But that is exactly what AI Total, DairyBullsOnline, Jetstream and Trans America Genetics are doing.  Read more – Fortune Favors the Bold – Four A.I. Companies that are Taking On the World

12. Top Sires North American Breeders Are Using

One question we are asked very often is “How much are genomic sires being used?”  To help answer that question the Bullvine looked at daughter registrations to see  what sires breeders are actually using.  The following is what we found:  Top Sires North American Breeders Are Using

11. No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures

“If steroids are illegal for athletes, then shouldn’t Photoshop be illegal for models?” That is the question that inspired us to write our 11th most read article of 2013.  Toplines that have had “hair” added, udder texture that has been enhanced and teat placement that has been corrected all seem to be more prevalent than ever.  Check out just what is going on in the world of dairy cattle photography and photos – No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures

10. 16 Sires Every Dairy Breeder Should Look At For Their Breeding Programs

If you are like most breeders, between the time spent sorting through the many different lists from around the world and listening to the propaganda the A.I. companies put out promoting their sires, the hype is enough to make a breeder’s head spin.  In order to bring clarity to the confusion, the Bullvine filtered through the many lists, brought them into a common base and  developed the following four categories of sires that you should take a look  at for your specific breeding program.  Check out the 16 Sires Every Dairy Breeder Should Look at for Their Breeding Programs

9. 30 Sires that will produce Feed Efficient Cows

Commercial milk producers want to breed cows that have high feed conversion efficiency, that avoid culling and that take the least extra care or staff time.  The problem is where do you find a list of the bulls that will do all  that?  Well here at the Bullvine we developed that list for you.  Check out – 30 Sires that will produce Feed Efficient Cows

8. The Winners of the 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards Are…

In the age of American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and countless other franchises where the fans decide the outcome, it’s about time for Dairy Breeders to join the decision-making fun.  That is why the Bullvine  created the Breeder’s Choice Awards.  The Breeder’s Choice Awards celebrates fan favorites in the show ring, index cows, sires and bovine celebrities.  It stands alone as the only major award where real people – not industry insiders – determine the winners.  With over 3000 dairy breeders casting almost 8000 votes in a one week period for their favorites in 21 different categories, the inaugural Breeder’s Choice Awards were certainly a big hit.  Find out  who won by reading The Winners of the 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards Are…

7. August 2013 Holstein Sire Evaluation Highlights From Around the World

No one has the time to pour over all the different lists, from all the different countries….well no one but those of us here at The Bullvine.  Maybe that’s why unbiased genetic evaluation reviews are so extremely popular.  Check out August 2013 Holstein Sire Evaluation Highlights From Around the World, to see  what everyone is reading.

6. 12 Sires to Use in Order to Reduce Inbreeding

When you look at the sires of the top 100 genomic young sires lists, you notice a  variety of sires with 30 bulls siring the top 100 sires.  However, a pedigree analysis on only the paternal side reveals that 90 percent of the bulls either have Oman, Planet or Shottle represented as the sire or grandsire.  The remaining 10 bulls represent genetic diversity.  However, the list needs further refining because 3 of the 10 remaining bulls have Oman’s sire or Shottle’s sire in their pedigree.  That leaves seven bulls with unique sires among the Holstein breed’s elite.  To help guide breeders in dealing with this inbreeding issue, we decided to look for outcross sires either proven or genomic tested sires that would offer breeders the near maximum genetic gain while providing the needed diversity.  The following is what we found: 12 Sires to Use in Order to Reduce Inbreeding

5.  Some Cows Just Want to Dance…

On an average day we get about 100-120 different comments on our website, Facebook page and other social media sites about how dairy cattle showing is inhumane and unethical.  Now fortunately we do have filters and staff setup to handle this, but it still got me thinking about this issue.  Is dairy cattle showing cruel and unusual treatment, or is it that the general public doesn’t understand that some cows just want to dance?  Check out Some Cows Just Want to Dance… to find out.

4.  I’m Sorry, But I’ve Had Just About Enough Of…

I like to believe that I am someone who sees the best in people.  Even if someone might rub me the wrong way at first, I try my hardest to give that person the benefit of the doubt.  That being said, if I’m being completely honest, there is one person out there that I’m really at my wits’ end with.  I’d even go as far as to say this person sometimes has taken things too far.  Read our 4th most read article of 2013 I’m Sorry, But I’ve Had Just About Enough Of…, to find out just who that person is.

3. RF Goldwyn Hailey Unbeatable?

Throughout her reign, Hailey has faced some stiff competition and still came out on top.  From the likes of the living legend, Harvue Roy Frosty, to the fan favorite, Ebyholme Goldwyn Marcia, Hailey has faced the best.  Each time Hailey rose to the challenge and came out victorious.  Until this one time…  Read more in RF Goldwyn Hailey Unbeatable?

2. Your Barn Is On Fire!

What would you do if you were awakened in the middle of the night to thumping and banging on your doors and windows, only  to discover  that 30 years of your hard work was burning to the ground?  That is exactly what happened to two time Master Breeder Clarence Markus.  Read more in our 2nd most read story of 2013 – Your Barn Is On Fire!

1.  Fantasy Exhibitor – World Dairy Expo 2013

Everyone has heard of or participated in Fantasy Football, Baseball or Hockey games.  Now the Bullvine is bringing that excitement to the dairy show ring.  The competition that took the show scene by storm is now complete.  With 5293 entries, the inaugural Fantasy Exhibitor© competition far surpassed our expectations.  – See more in Fantasy Exhibitor – World Dairy Expo 2013 – The Results

The Bullvine Bottom Line

A lot has changed since 2012, (Read more: The Top 10 of 2012 – The most read articles of 2012) in both the dairy industry as well as here at the Bullvine.  Looking ahead to 2014, I am sure things will continue to change.  It certainly has been a very busy year and these 13 articles were among the most talked about in the industry.  Thanks again for your continued readership and support.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


EDITOR`S CHOICE 2013 – The Top 12 Picks from The Bullvine

As we close the year, we invite you to look back with us at the highlights from articles published in 2013. With almost two years logged in, we at The Bullvine are more enthusiastic than ever about the dairy industry people we meet. It is a privilege to share their enthusiasm and insights with our readers. With more than 250 articles to choose from, choosing the best is like trying to choose a favorite from the lineup in the milking parlor. There is something special about each one.  The twelve articles that follow are the ones that we found the most timely, useful or relevant. Many of them struck an emotional chord as well in the areas of cows, people, cattle breeding and the dairy industry. These are the 12 that kept us clicking away day and night so that our readers can catch the enthusiasm.  We hope you enjoyed them!  We certainly did!

12. 30 Sires That Will Produce Feed Efficient Cows

You can’t come to the end of one year and the beginning of the next without making a list.  Dairy breeders love lists. One of the most popular was “30 sires that will produce feed efficient cows.”  With feed the biggest cost on farm, it stands to reason that even minor genetic gains in feed efficiency would resonate with dairy breeders. We couldn’t leave the list dealing with inbreeding out of our choices because with genomics there are rising concerns about inbreeding. So let’s make it a “Baker’s Dozen” and include the popular list “12 Sires to Reduce Inbreeding”.

11. Halter, Pen and Gavel.  That’s Just the Norm

While keeping Bullvine readers updated on the industry events, marketing and science of the dairy industry, one of the highlights for us is getting to know the people working in each of these areas. Whether it’s behind the scenes, in the show ring or in a laboratory there are many fine people dedicated to improving our industry. We treasure the opportunity to share dialogue with the likes of  Richard Caverly (Richard Caverly A Passion for Perfection) and Paul Ekstein (PAUL EKSTEIN – 2013 Recipient of the Prestigious McKown Master Breeder Award). It is one of the special perks of editing The Bullvine that our day to day experiences are touched people such as Norm Nabholz (HALTER, PEN and GAVEL. That’s Just the Norm)

10. Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publication

A true top 12 list from The Bullvine has to recognize that not everything or everyone we deal with in the dairy industry will come up smelling like roses. That’s why we have inaugurated “The Marketing Code of Conduct” and it was certainly the case when we reviewed concerns over accuracy of genomic indexes. “Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications!”. The Bullvine doesn’t back away from the touchy subjects. These are but two examples of our desire to source, write and share facts that are honest, accurate and a reliable basis for breeder decision making.

9. Lessons from Andrea Crowe. What You Do Every Day Defines Your Life.

Sometimes sunshine and shadow come simultaneously into the human stories that weave their way into our hearts.  Andrea Crowe is one of those stories that both lift our hearts up and breaks them.  Here was a young woman who embodied the real meaning of dairy breeding passion. While her time here was far too short, her enthusiasm for dairying and focus on breeding the Canadian Kind set a shining example for all of us what can be achieved through day to day joyful dedication. (Lessons From Andrea Crowe: What You Do Every Day Defines Your Life!)

8. How Got Milk Became Got Lost

As much as it’s a lot more fun to share only the good news, sometimes at the Bullvine we are required to take the iconic image of milk the perfect food and provide a more realistic view of how the marketplace is evolving.  We have to listen to the end user. We can’t continue to let narrow focus override finding the consumer and serving them the milk products they want. Laying blame won’t stem the downward trend of the dairy industry.  At the end of the day, we are only sustainable if we have consumers who like — and consume — the product we produce. If we fail to meet their needs we might indeed find a reason to cry over spilled milk.  (MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost” and Got Milk” is becoming “Got More”)

7. Australia: Is Down Under Going Under?

A lot of news is channelled through The Bullvine.  Sometimes as many as 12 articles and news items a day. At one point we picked up on news out of Australia and wrote “Is Down Under Going Under?”  You might say this focus was more provoking than provocative for Australian dairy breeders  Di and Dean Malcolm who took the time to provide their viewpoint on the situation. The bright side is that the resulting dialogue produced two articles “Gobsmacked in Australia” and “Forward in Five Gears”. The continuing correspondence between The Bullvine and the editor of Crazy Cow Magazine has been mutually enjoyable and a fine example of the international connections dairying opens up for us.

6. North Florida Holsteins. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable

There are many different ways to find success in the dairy business and Don Bennink is clearly forging new paths at North Florida Holsteins. (NORTH FLORIDA HOLSTEINS. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!)  North Florida Holsteins is the single largest dairy in Florida and is home to roughly 4800 cows and 4400 heifers.  Don is passionate about both the possibilities and the problems facing the dairy industry today. “We have tools available to fix the problem within our breed. The future is to be had by those that please the commercial producer and the consumer.”  Bennink`s views on cattle longevity are a wake-up call to all dairy producers.

5. Dairy Farm Moms Are Unstoppable

It’s not every day that the dairy industry makes national headlines or is featured on “Live with Kelly and Michael”. When the popular television show featured Mary Lou King “Dairy Farm Moms are Unstoppable” and it was positive for everyone. Mary Lou was cast into the national spotlight and like “The Farmer” Super Bowl commercial her story has done wonders to portray the dairy industry in a positive light. The past year saw many shining moments for agriculture (Farming with the Stars) and Mary Lou King is a shining example of what makes Dairy Farm Moms are Unstoppable.

4. This Bullvine Son is Unstoppable Too

Speaking of unstoppable, there just had to be a place in my 2013 Editor’s Choice listing for our “unstoppable” son, Andrew. Little did we know twenty-two months ago that the Bullvine would become such a driving force in our day to day lives. Husband Murray and I love agriculture and our careers and home have revolved around dairying.  When Andrew came up with the novel idea of an online magazine, we were excited to join in. The great ideas have kept on coming from contests, to controversy, including this year’s fabulously successful Fantasy Exhibitor Contests at World Dairy Expo and the Royal Winter Fair.

3. KHW Regiment Apple-Red:  Beauty, Performance and Record Accomplishments

No matter how you slice it, dairy history was made in Madison Wisconsin in October 2013. Side by side – three Apples — had their shining moment in the spotlight at World Dairy Expo and set new benchmarks at the top of the ladder of show ring success. (KHW Regiment Apple-Red – Beauty, performance, and even more record accomplishments) Never before was the red carpet so gloriously Red and dominated by a single family!  While the crowd roared their approval of the final placings assigned “Bing, Bang, Boom!” by Judge Michael Heath, the record books took note that for the first time ever one special cow not only earned Reserve Grand Champion but was flanked on each side by the Grand Champion, her clone, and, on the other side by her daughter, the Honorable Mention Grand Champion. Many people are putting the genes of this cherry red Apple into their herds and for good reason. The Apple family are an investor’s dream and – already proving that they are capable of bushels of success.

2. Cassy Krull – Success Without A Stopwatch

At the Bullvine, we are provided with a front row seat from some of the most special moments in the dairy industry.  Being at ringside when Cassy Krull won the Merle Howard Award easily rises to the top of those experiences!  We have shared the successes of many dairy industry icons and two things always stand out when we interview these award winners.  They work hard and they are humble. We were inundated with people who wanted to know more about Cassy Krull and her journey to the winner’s circle. She found it exciting too! “Winning the Merle Howard Award is by far the most humbling achievement I have received. To receive such an honorable award helps put all the hard work into perspective. I like to watch the presentation every year to see who they recognize. Little did I know I would ever be able to stand next to the other amazing recipients of the Merle Howard Award. I am truly honored and blessed to have been selected for this milestone achievement in my life.” A shining example for all to emulate. (Cassy Krull – Success Without a Stopwatch)

1. World dairy Expo Proposal! First Comes Cows Than Comes Vows!

And so we come to the Editor’s Choice that stands out in a year of outstanding experiences. When it comes to connecting with people – and especially in the dairy industry – it is always comes down to the love story! This was never truer than in October 2013 when the cameras flashed capturing Mark Hornbostel’s proposal to Bryn Quick in the timeless dairy setting of World Dairy Expo.  “First Come Cows.  Then Comes Vows!” rocked the romantics, not only of the dairy world, but from coast to coast.  For us, this story represents how dairy dreams can grow into personal fulfillment.  It wasn’t the first time that we spoke to dairy breeders who along with their spouses put dairy cattle first on their list.  For the Bullvine, it is completely natural that the #1 Editor’s Choice would be a heartfelt proposal based on lifelong dairy devotion.  We wish all the best to Mark and Bryn and all the dairy romantics who love dairying with all their hearts.


And so, as 2013 rolls to a close, we thank you our readers for giving us the opportunity to do what we love.  We are constantly inspired by your passion and commitment.   We are grateful to each one of you who took the time from your very busy lives to interview with us. Your insight on the widely ranging facets of our industry inspires everyone! We thank our readers too! It is thrilling to hear your responses that encourage us to constantly strive to push the envelope in the hope of making a difference in dairying. Every day it is our fervent wish that you will pick “the best story ever!”  off of The Bullvine.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.



Natural Breeding – Could It Work For You?

The Bullvine has received the following question from readers – “Why does The Bullvine always talk about using AI and never refer to or talk about using natural sires?” After doing some research on natural use bulls, we decided to share our findings in story format.  We often list statistics and science, but we would like to present something closer to real life in order that other, like minded, producers can evaluate a possible scenario and consider it for their own operations.

Here’s The Scenario

“A couple runs, as they call it, a milk production factory of 400 (2x) milking cows. They have found that, for best results, they should have their four key (human) employees putting their focus on cow care. That means focusing on the close-up and fresh pens, feed mixing, caring for calves that are less than a month old and attending to cows that are sick. The remainder of their staff are mostly part-time and involved in milking, pushing up feed, moving animals, bedding, cleaning up and manure handling. The husband manages the operation and the wife manages the records when they are not skiing or spending time with their family of five very active high school and college students. A few years back they were having trouble catching cows in heat and the fallout from that was that they had too many late lactation cows, had too much non-producing time spent in dry pens and there were heifers calving over conditioned at 27.5 months of age. This meant not enough profit or ROI.  Their milking cow pregnancy rate was 9%, 4.1 pounds of fat plus protein were being shipped per cow per day and the cull rate was 40%. They needed to keep every heifer calf born on the farm for herd replacements. They knew drastic action was needed. So they went to focusing their attention on the most problematic areas and on using natural bulls for breeding both the heifers and the cows.

(CHECK THIS) The husband clearly understood that the system of using herd bulls instead of A.I., is not for every dairy farm, especially not for herds that do not have facilities that are bull strong, bull safe and where only one person is involved when groups are being moved or worked with in their pens.

How to Hire a Working Bull

For several years in the representative scenario, prior to the change to natural bulls, they had used 50% young sire semen. The main selection criteria had been NM$ (>$500) with the added requirement of +1.0 for both UDC and FLC. They wanted a blend price for semen of less than $20. The cattle were registered in the national herdbook so the DHI records could be used in sire proving. Numerous different staff were trained in A.I. but the results were just not there, even though they routinely used an off-sync program. Heat detection and breeding was a drag and it sapped energy from everyone.

The change to natural bulls occurred after the introduction of genomic indexes to the dairy industry. They found there were many high quality genomically tested bulls, that did not make it into A.I., that were available at a reasonable price. They have required that the young bulls, generally purchased at 9-12 months of age, are above average for size and have good feet and legs but cow families have not been considered when purchasing. They are now milking daughters of their first genomically tested bulls and find that they are, on average, quite superior to what their young sire daughters were in the past.

Their current requirements for their bulls are: NM$ >$650; FLC >+1.5; UDC >+1.5; and SCS < 2.90. But from here on they will also be requiring a positive number for DPR and >3.0 for PL.  Additionally under consideration are ways to avoid inbreeding, increasing protein percent, using only polled bulls and, if they could get it, some way of knowing the growth rate and body condition score. Definitely sons of sharp chinned, deep ribbed show cows are avoided. The reason for a higher protein percent is because the milk is shipped to a local specialty cheese factory which pays an incentive for protein content.

Cow Performance under Natural Breeding Scenario

The time formerly spent checking for and breeding cows and heifers in heat is now focused on close-up, calving and just fresh pens. These groups are housed close to the milking parlour and can be easily seen from the staff room and the office. All staff are encouraged to watch and make sure cows in these pens are getting up and eating. Temperatures are taken and recorded, twice a day, for the first three days after calving and before moving into the voluntary waiting pens. There are no bulls in these pens so staff can safely check a cow at any time.

Improvements obtained were in the magnitude of

  • average production 5.3 pounds of fat + protein per cow per day,
  • cow pregnancy rate from 22-24%,
  • cow cull rate 25% and
  • heifers calving at 22-23 months of age

Cows are grouped by staged of lactation or pregnancy. First calf heifers are housed separate from mature cows in close-up, voluntary waiting and breeding stages. Maximum group size, when cows are 150 – 300 days in milk, is 80 cows. Parlour size accommodates twenty and they like cows back to their pen within one hour.  Breeding pens are kept to 40 cows so that only one bull is needed per pen. Herd management software data is used and the movement of cows and bulls in and out of pens is recorded. All cows seen to be in standing heat are recorded but less than 50% of the actual heats are observed by staff. A milk weight is taken every Wednesday morning. Fresh cows are continually added to the fresh pens and stay there 3- 10 days. Otherwise any movement between pens takes place on Thursday after the morning milking. One staff member monitors on Thursdays for any bullying or fighting. The plan is to purchase ultrasound equipment and have two people trained to use it for pregnancy checking.

The Beef Enterprise Revenue Stream

An expanded version of the scenario sees the wife’s family owning and operating a small slaughter and retail beef business, specializing in marketing and selling lean beef that guarantees to its customers that all animals can be traced and for which there are no drug residues.

The dairy farm supplies animals to that beef processing business. As a result all calves are raised on the farm. Males calves are castrated and marketed when 1400 pounds. Heifers with poor feet and legs or not in calf by 14 months are finished for beef. Only about 60% of the heifers are raised for dairy purposes, as it costs more to raise them than they being when sold as a springing heifer or fresh first lactation cow. Young (<50 months) cows that have problem udders or feet and legs or that are not in calf are also marketed through that business. Settlement for their animals is on a weight and rail grade basis. All other animals are sold through an auction mart.

Where the beef side of the farm was once only a by-product, it now forms a significant revenue stream. It has meant that they want Holstein bulls that produce progeny that carry more condition and, therefore, go to slaughter at a relatively young age.

Other Specifics

Most details about the operation are unchanged when the farm converted to using natural bulls.  Bulls upon arrival are kept in isolation at a neighbor’s small barn that they rent. Bulls must be negative for TB, Brucellosis, Anaplasmosis and Johnes. Bulls not in use are housed in individual pens. As mentioned previously any pens with a bull in it must have two people present for movement or entry into the pen. Bulls slipping and injuring themselves during mounting has not been a problem. If and when herd expansion occurs, they are planning to use manure pack barns for the breeding pens. The bulls travel with their pen to, through and back from the milking parlour.

The farm in this scenario definitely benefits financially from less labour spent heat checking and breeding, from a younger age at first calving, from fewer days in the dry pens, and from more production per day. It must be stressed that, without genomics and 65% accuracy for the major indexes, they would not have been able to achieve the high percentage of high quality animals. All changes combined have helped them double their annual net returns from the milk sales side of their business.  This scenario strongly recommends not attempting natural breeding with bulls that only have a parent average index or much worse still have no known parental information.

Although this is a composite scenario, farmers moving to natural sires can expect to find that bull buying and maintenance expenses were balanced by  previous expenses for semen, labor for heat checking and breeding, vet checks and drugs. The higher production per day and the fewer non-productive days for both heifers and cows (without an increase in labor costs) are the profit makers.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Bullvine thanks our readers who have drawn our attention to this area of dairy operation management. Using natural bulls instead of A.I. is not for every dairy farm. Definitely it does not assist with sire proving by A.I. companies. However, it can allow for labor to be focused away from reproduction and more on that critical 2-3 weeks before calving and 3-4 weeks after calving.  The Bottom Line? If designed and operated properly natural sire use can return a greater net profit and that’s a scenario we can all relate to!


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


LYLEHAVEN: Developing the Dream

Sue Brown, Farm Manager of Lylehaven

Sue Brown, Farm Manager of Lylehaven

Sometimes we laugh.  Sometimes we cry.  Both emotions rise easily to the surface when Sue Brown, Farm Manager of Lylehaven, looks ahead to May 23, 2014 and the “Celebration of Lylehaven” final sale. Her ready laughter punctuates the stories and at times her memories bring a tear to your eye and put a lump in your throat.

Surrounded by Positive Mentors

Sue has been at Lylehaven almost twenty years.  Previously she worked for ten years for the Briggs family (Brigeen Farms Inc.) “They taught me a lot about cow families”. Her friends and mentors had an impact on her career. “I was good friends with Mike Wilson (Wilsondale Holsteins, Maine).  Basketball and his daughters drew us together and at times I helped the girls do chores. Mike instilled lessons that had a big impact.  “Mike felt that ‘Timing is everything.’  And we were taught a good work ethic which is more important than anybody ever realizes.  He would say, ‘Do a job and do it well!’” These were lessons well learned by a multi-tasking farm manager who, after getting soaking wet on a rainy day while feeding seventeen calves nonchalantly provides insights and stories about Lylehaven.  “I always knew that I wanted to work with animals. After I graduated from University of Maine in Dairy Science, Bob Fitzimmons hired me.”  Sue succeeded Bob when the day came that Bob went on to focus on being General Manager of Carousel Holsteins.

Lylehaven Loyalty

The Lylehaven farm is located in East Montpelier, Vermont and has inspired years of loyalty from those who work there.  Susan points out the commitment of the staff.” There are six staff in total and together they represent 125 years of dedication to Lylehaven. “Three others have worked more than 20 years each.” Sue has high praise for this loyal team. “They treat Lylehaven like their own.  Any time day or night!”  Sue herself is a 24/7 365 day a year manager and is always connected in some way to Lylehaven and cows. “Facebook is a great source of information. I really like it!”  She points out and notes that it is a great way for her and Jerry Rappaport, the owner of Lylehaven, to keep in touch. “Jerry spends the majority of his time in Florida so we communicate by cell phone, emails and Facebook.  He “follows” me. It’s a good way for him to keep in touch with grand kids and great grandkids too.”

Cattle Breeding is About Developing Full Potential

Conversations with Sue easily move between cattle breeding and the showring however she quickly points out. “Cattle showing is not the be-all-and-end-all of my life! There is a lot of stress.  It is not an easy job! ” Indeed Sue Brown’s dedication has all the passion of the show ring enthusiast but is focused in a slightly different direction. “I really enjoy developing cows.  For me that is a bigger thrill than buying a show cow and winning with it.”  Having said that, Sue has developed her cattle searching techniques along with the Lylehaven herd. “Today I go to and search for bulls to use. I used to go to shows and sales in Quebec and around the US.  I would study the show book and see what was winning. That was how I used to breed the cattle here at Lylehaven.”  Sue once told a reporter that she had one goal when breeding cattle,

“I want to hear the vet say, ‘She’s pregnant!’”

She points out that at the end of the day “Even if they’re showing they’ve got to breed back for the next year!”  This focused attitude covers all areas of Sue’s cattle breeding philosophy. “I have never really been interested in getting bulls into studs.  I want a barn full of great cows.  We work at that every day and I wouldn’t trade any part of this work.  You take what you can use and walk away from the rest.” She applies that measurement to new technologies such as genomics too which she feels complement her strategy for building cow families. “Albert Cormier four or five years ago told me that when you have a cow family, you have genomics.  It’s there.  A cow family that transmits is going to have genomics.”  Susan has the optimism and persistence it takes to make the plans and wait for the results.

Finding Lili Foretells the Lila Z Future

Enthusiasm followed by patience is the story of Sue’s favorite cow Thiersant Lili Starbuck-ET 5E 94. “I bought Lili.  It was Jerry’s 70th birthday. Julian Chabot called from a show in Quebec about a just fresh two year old that I needed to see. We went up and I bought her that day.  I grew up in an era when Starbuck was very popular.  She was not a hard sell and I liked the pedigree behind her. I don’t know if she had ever won at a show. Then she was just a fresh junior two year old.” The compelling story continues. “After 30 or 40 days she had not bred back so in December I decided to flush her.  That’s what prompted the Formation flush. Julian made the mating. The credit goes to him.” She sums it up with the give and take dynamic that had been established. “Julian knew we were looking.  We trusted Julian. There was a big trust factor”.



Starbuck Lili “This is a Great Brood Cow!”

Once at Lylehaven, Lili’s story was about to unfold. “Lili was only flushed twice as a two year old and we didn’t flush again till she was four or five. She has had several matings and we never really had a bad one.” Looking back at 18 years with Lili, Sue knows what the development process takes. “It’s called patience. I’m not sure with today’s fast pace that we have it any more!” Lili’s story certainly needed patience before seeing the momentum build. “Lili was six or seven when the Formations started to calve in and we said, ‘Hey! This is a great brood cow!” Not only did she breed well but her offspring show well too!


“No other cow family has had three first place winners at the Royal in one year.”

In 2013 there were three Lili family members in first place! Sue enjoyed the excitement of all three winners having Lili as their third dam. “When I saw the Lili’s winning at the Royal, I knew the families and how they got the daughters.  First came the Senior Calf winner, Comestar Larion Goldwyn and then the 2 year old, Belfast Goldwyn Lasenza.  Then Calbrett Goldwyn Layla won Mature Cow!”  No other cow family has had three first place winners at the Royal in one year!

1ST JR.2-YR ROYAL 2013

Love for a Cow Family

With all those years together and the growing list of successful offspring, it isn’t surprising that the greatest love of all for Sue Brown was for Lili. Unfortunately, all those years came to a sudden heart-wrenching end.  Sue recalls her day-to-day admiration for Lili. ”I could place four hands in between her eyes!” The relationship with Lili had been more than just manager for one of the cows in her care. ”She was in the same stall her whole life. Never ever was Lili in a different pen.  The day she went down I was at a football game.” Not being able to see her on her last day was hard to say the least. That empty space when I got home at 11 o’clock was a shock. “When I got back to Lylehaven Hal said. ‘Sue, it’s better that you weren’t here. She went down and you always told us not to let her suffer.’”  Sue speaks from the heart. “That was the hardest thing I’ve had to go through in a long time.”  And so that space will always echo the one in Sue’s heart as Lylehaven and Lili’s legacy continue. But her love for the process lifts her up. “We must have six Lili’s milking right now. ” After Lili’s passing each new Lili calving took on a new feeling. “When they were born and Lili wasn’t here it was bittersweet!” The past and the future… not quite together.


Families Who Love Cow Families

As with cow families, Sue feels dairy breeding families are extra special as well and puts one family very high on the list. “It would have to be the Chabot family. They each have their strengths.  They are always willing to help and promote the breed. They’ve always been by my side.” Sue knew Julian Chabot as a sire analyst before she went to Lylehaven. “We are only an hour from Quebec. I have such admiration for this family. They are still real breeders. They still have the passion.” It is this passion that brings people together in the extended dairy family.  Sue has many there as well. ““I like talking to real dairymen.  It gives you back your perspective. “She appreciates Don Bennink of North Florida Holsteins and includes him in the ‘real breeder’ category. They shared their Raidar stories, “Loved them but couldn’t get her bred back!”

Of course her years at Lylehaven have been touched by another gentleman who loves cattle, cow families and people. “Jerry Rappaport is a great family man.  That is one of the reasons he still has this farm. It’s part of his family.  Jerry never saw it as a burden but as a passion. What first started as a retreat from Boston … and then discovered to be fun.  He absorbs a lot and he is really smart.”  You really never know when dairy cattle breeding fever will hit and there is irony in Sue Brown’s own dairy history.  Although she doesn’t herself come from a dairy breeder family, her twin sister is a Holstein Consultant for Holstein USA in Pennsylvania and Maryland. With her trademark laugh in full swing, Sue reports that her Mother who lives in Massachusetts thinks it’s interesting. “Although Mother grew up on a dairy farm, she wonders how the oldest two got the cow bug.” Maybe Mom always knew that dairy-love requires 365 days of taking care of the cows and probably wishes her girls had more time for visiting!

At Lylehaven the Price is Always Right!

For Sue Brown time for visiting usually has a lot to do with buying and selling and then developing great cows. Believing that every cow should be priced Sue says, “We will always sell one!”  She has always held true to this philosophy.  It led to the selling of Lila Z. “When asked for a price on Lila Z she priced her at $20,000.  She was a baby March calf and I probably though it might have kept her at the farm. But you never back away from a cheque.  You do what you say you’re going to do and live with it.”  And sometimes everything works out perfectly. “Steve Briggs phoned after the 2013 Royal and said Lylehaven didn’t even have to spend one dime on advertising.  Three family members won at the Royal! It was the right place at the right time.”   (Read more: Lylehaven Lila Z : Was She Really Worth $1.15 Million?)


1ST JR.2-YR ROYAL 2004

The Celebration of Lylehaven Sale

And now the sale becomes the right next step. “And so it is good to have a sale.” says Sue. “It is the final accomplishment for Jerry.”  Looking ahead to May 23 Sue sees the numbers shaping up.  “We will be selling about 120.  There will be closer to 140 in sale. There will be some guest consignments out of the Lili family. People have been great to us.” We’ve flushed an Atwood (two Jr 3 91) to Bradnick and Numero Uno.  We will have nine or ten of her daughters in the sale.”

The Dream of Lili Continues

The legacy of Lili’s descendants will keep rising as her offspring continue to take centre stage. “I think the best Lili is still here.  The Atwood – junior three year old scored 91 points.  She was just fresh three and a half weeks.” Julian Chabot saw her and exclaimed. “Formation Laura with a chine!”  As a dairy industry supporter Sue sees the importance of the next generation being as important as the next cattle generation. “There will always be young people. When I think of the people who cultivated me, I wonder if I’ve given back enough so that young people see the passion and dedication this calling inspires.  That is part of the excitement.  Young people are the future of the dairy industry. We must give them a chance.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sue sums it up. “Everything changes. That’s the beauty of our industry.”

While in some ways the dream is departing for Jerry Rappaport, Lylehaven and Sue Brown, the legacy of cows, cow families and great dairy memories will carry the legacy they have developed far into the future.

Thank you for showing us that to achieve your goals you have to develop your dreams. 


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


Casualties of the Genomic Wars – The End of Seed Stock Producers

The other day I listened to a well-known breeder vent about how his bull had been turned down by an AI unit because they had an equal quality sire of their own that  cost them a lot less to procure.  Can I say I was shocked?  Nope.  That’s because, since starting the Bullvine, we have been telling breeders who provide seed stock to AI units that those  days are numbered.

It’s hard for me to look at this objectively.  You see, when I look at it with my dairy breeder hat on, I am outraged at the whole scenario.  But, when I look at this as a businessman, (something I am asked to do daily for many large corporations outside of agriculture), it just makes good financial and strategic sense.

I Hate To Say I Told You So…..

You see over a year ago in our article, How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry, we outlined exactly what was going to happen.  We even put it in graphs to show clearly what and how and when it would occur.  So now a year later, when exactly what we predicted is occurring, it is no surprise to us here at The Bullvine.

What Happened?

Now some would ask,   ”If they are sampling 1/3 the number of bulls that they used to, why have sire procurement costs gone up?  Well that’s simple. Even with the reduction in the number of sires, there has been a much larger increase in the price of each bull.  Gone are the days when the average sire cost was  between $5,000 and $10,000. Now the costs are currently approaching $100,000 for a top genomic sire.  From the outside looking in, that looks like a big win for the seed stock producers.  Of course things are not always as they appear.

What Does the Future Hold?

You see the AI companies cannot  operate at a loss.  Therefore,  the AI units really only have three possibilities to combat the increased cost of sire procurement:

  • Increase semen price
    Since they now have greater expenses, A.I. companies will be forced to increase price.  As demonstrated in many other industries, the market will not respond favorably to this and ultimately will drive prices back down.  You see the largest segment of the marketplace (commercial producers) have no desire to pay more than the $10-$15 blend price they have already been paying.  While yes the elite seed stock producer is prepared to pay  more to get early access to truly special sires, the marketplace as a whole is not.
    END RESULT: No change
  • Cap contracts
    So, if A.I. companies cannot increase revenues they will have to try and cut their costs.  The procurement of sires will become the major expense they will seek to control.  One way to do this will be to cap bull contracts.  However, as the NHL has shown us, even if they could introduce a cap, some members will break that rule and other breeders will not stand for it.  Also, outside of pro sports, when organizations come together to create a false ceiling on prices, anti-trust laws tend to break that up pretty quickly.
    END RESULT: No change
  • Produce their own product line
    If A.I. companies cannot buy the bulls at a cheaper price, then they will have to go out and buy females and produce their own product.  This will lead to cheaper acquisition costs.  A.I. companies can now buy the females for $50,000 to $250,000 and only need to have that female produce one son.  That will still be cheaper than leasing the sire on an open lease.  This also allows them to have greater control of their bloodlines, accelerate their genetic advancement and develop their own distinctive product.
    END RESULT: Cheaper product development costs and a distinctive product.

So it’s no surprise that large A.I. units are  doing exactly  that.  Over the past year, the number of top 50 gTPI females owned or controlled by large genetic organizations has gone from 11 to 23.  Give it another year and that number will probably reach 30 maybe even 40. “Why you ask?”  There are two main reasons: First the larger A.I. studs and genetic corporations have the resources to IVF these females extensively, so they will have   many more potential top progeny;  Secondly, the breeders who do own the remaining 27 animals, will not have the revenue streams (bull and female sales) to support the continued IVF programs they are running, thus  resulting in less potential list topping females.

What does this mean to Other AI Units?

Here at the Bullvine we took a lot of heat when we published Semex – The Rise and Fall of a Semen Empire.  But even that article is proving to be accurate. You see, in this in-between period where A.I. units, especially those that used to sample massive numbers of bulls, are seeing insane cost savings, studs like Semex should be turning a much larger profit.  Why is that you ask?  Well it’s simple math.  In this transition period the studs are paying next to nothing for the sires.  That is because they don’t have to pay out the average $7,500 per  sire that they used to, because most new sires are all on lease.  This results in at least a $1,500,000 decrease in sire procurement costs alone for Semex, and that does not factor in the extra savings in operations, housing, marketing, genetic evaluation fees, etcetera.  Add to that the increased revenue from higher young sire semen prices and you can see why Semex is having “Record Performance”.  That record performance is more correctly the result of the transition caused by  changes in the industry than it is better operations.  The question now becomes, what happens to companies like Semex who refuse to own their own females, once this transition is complete and the cost savings period is over?

What does this mean for seed stock producers?

There are really only two options. Fight it or live with it?  Recently I read a very interesting post on Facebook by  In it they compared the current dairy industry with the 1960’s and 70’s NHL hockey scenario.  That was when  the players had not yet unionized and so they were receiving a small fraction of the profits.  While this is certainly the same case in the Dairy Seed Stock world, there are some big differences between the two scenarios.  The first and foremost difference is  that, in the NHL’s case, when the players unionized they had control of the product.  Yes the NHL owners could have gone out and gotten non-unionized players, but the product they put on the ice would have been far inferior.  In the current seed stock world, that is not the case at all.  As we highlighted earlier in this article, the large A.I. units and genetic corporations already own or control almost 50% of the top females, and that number is  getting higher.  That in itself is the greatest union breaker in the world.

So, when you factor in no bull sales and very limited female sales, the future does not look bright for the seed stock producers.  You see if they start selling off their high-end females (the only females that are really worth anything), they you don’t have the next generation in their  own program. But if they  don’t sell, then they  don’t have the revenue to support their own programs.

A little while back I had a great conversation with Ari Ekstein.  It hit home. He was highlighting to me how there is still a good market for well bred, non-index cows.  That is something their Quality herd has been able to produce generation after generation.  (Read more: Quality Holsteins – Well-deserved Congratulations and Quality Cattle Look Good Every Day)   Ari was highlighting several points.  Today they don’t sell many bulls to the large studs.  Also today they don’t see that many $300,000 calves being sold.  However what they do have is a consistent market for selling high quality, young cattle to fellow breeders.  As I look to the future, this may be the only true market that will survive in the near future.  It’s already happening.  If you look at the sale prices at the recent sales, genomic heifer prices are down almost 50%, while pedigree heifers have remained relatively unchanged. (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As someone who loves the dairy industry more than anything (how many other people do you know that will lay in the piss just to take pictures at the cattle shows?), this is a hard message for me to share.  When we first launched the Bullvine, it was my desire at that time, to also go out and buy many top females.  My father had the exact same  passion.  The problem is that as we penciled out the numbers and did a five and ten year forecast, the numbers just didn’t work.  So instead we have sunk our time and energy into producing the Bullvine, something we see as more viable over the long term.  While yes we have purchased several animals over the past 2 years at some of the major sales, it was more  from the passion mindset than because of the financial one.  For other producers that are still investing heavily in top genomic females, I ask you to really look at the current marketplace and answer one question, “Where will my revenue be coming from in 10 years?”  If you can’t answer that question specifically, maybe it’s time to rethink your whole business strategy.  If you don’t,  you could  end up being a casualty of the genomic war.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.



Dairy Cow Behavior –Nature vs. Nurture?

Which animal behavior type do you prefer to work with on your farm? The meek, the aggressive, the laid back, the eager calf that bunts the milk bottle out of your hand, the cows that get to the feed bunk first and stay there the longest …etc?. Perhaps the question should be “are animal behavior related traits something that cattle breeders need to be paying more attention to as they continue to replace people in their barns with machines?” If they are important, then more thought needs to be given to capturing field observations so we can have actual facts to base decisions on instead of some random comments in sire catalogues about a bull’s daughters’ behaviour characteristics.

New Technology

Each year breeders add new machinery or procedures to their operations in order to cut costs or increase revenue. The cows are simply expected to adapt and keep on producing large volumes of milk, fat and protein and get back in calf. Of course all the time doing it more cost efficiently.  Well it just does not work that way.  So breeders must cull the animals that do not adapt to the robotic feeder or milker, the new loud noise, the isolation in a pen, the crowding in pens and the list goes on.  Seldom is the behaviour of our animals given a second thought when breeders make a change.

Behavior – Management or Genetic?

Recognizing that management plays a role in animal behaviour, we do need to ask ourselves if there are genetic difference between sires in how their daughters react to and cope with the daily routines and procedures on farms.

University of Guelph researchers and Holstein Canada, in 1985, surveyed breeders on behavioural traits and from the findings determined heritabilities of 0.16 for milking temperament, 0.12 for ease of handling and 0.11 for aggressiveness at feeding.  The study also showed a strong correlation between milking temperament and ease of handling. From that research, milk recording in Canada started collecting breeder assessment of milking temperament on the second test day for all first calvers.  Sire proofs for milking temperament are calculated by CDN. That has proven to be helpful information as no breeder wants cows that kick the milking unit off, do not easily settle to the milking routine and are not easy to handle or move.

In 2012, Kees van Reenan, Wageningen University reported that, based on many researchers’ studies, balanced breeding for animal lifetime profit includes selection for three main areas: i) milk production, ii) temperament / behavior (which includes animal fearfulness, ability to cope with stress & socially interact with contemporaries) and iii) fitness (which includes health, fertility and longevity). Breeders are already quite aware that selection for lactation milk yield without regard to fitness has left us with animals that may be inferior in health and longevity but definitely are inferior for fertility. With van Reenan’s findings we can also see that, if we do not include animal temperament and behaviour in our selection indexes, we could well be limiting our genetic progress for lifetime profit. In his research report heritabilities for temperament and behaviour are reported as moderate, similar to the Canadian study mentioned above. However the same old problem still exists – we do not have farm data to use to genetically evaluate animals for behavioural traits.

Let’s switch to beef cattle for a moment. Renowned Colorado State Animal Behavior Professor Temple Grandin reports that beef animals that remain calm in the squeeze chute when being weighed or worked with have 14% higher weight gains than agitated animals. Part of her studies also report lower fertility and poorer meat quality for the agitated cattle group. Since we do not have data for dairy heifers we do not know if fearful heifers, when under stress, may have lower fertility.

The take home message from research is that behaviour involves both management and genetics and it points to the need for more studies into dairy cattle behavior and how it impacts profitability.   

Stress On Farm

Since the topic of animal behaviour is not frequently talked about in breeder circles, it can likely be said that breeders do not routinely think of ways to minimize animal stress. Breeders talk about the stresses associated with a cow having a difficult calving, with lameness and with mastitis. However what about the stress on a calf after a difficult birth, of boss animals on their pen mates, of the fear of isolation, of loud rough farm staff and of a host of other factors.

The approach breeders often take is to allow animals, that do poorly due to stress, to self eliminate. Yes breeders want calm, not easily stressed, animals but in designing their buildings and selecting their sires they may not be giving adequate attention to animal behaviour and temperament.

Where Does This Leave Breeders?

Only in the Nordic Countries and Canada are there genetic evaluations for temperament. So the vast majority of breeders, around the globe, do not have access to genetic information for behavioural traits. Since we do not have genetic evaluations based on farm data we can not even calculate genomic indexes from DNA profiling.

All breeders can do is: i) not raise heifers that themselves or their family’s exhibit poor behaviour or temperament (link to not raising all heifers article); ii) redesign their facilities or management to minimize animal stress factors; or iii) cull problem animals.

Some sires with high ratings for milking temperament in Canada include:

  • Long-Langs Oman Oman-ET             113
  • Picston Shottle                                    112
  • Amighetti Numero Uno-ET                110 (DGV)
  • Zahbulls Alta1stClass-ET                   110 (DGV)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The area of animal behavior could definitely benefit from more thought and study. At both the farm and research levels, there needs to be input. Until there is data captured at the farm level and genetic evaluations are produced, breeders will only be able to address this problem from a management perspective or by culling otherwise valuable animals.  Knowing the genetic answers to animal behaviour problems would have the benefit of giving both breeding stock and milk production focused breeders the opportunity to enhance on-farm profits.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.



The 16 Sires Every Dairy Breeder Should Be Using to Accelerate Genetic Gain in Your Herd

With each new proof round comes new sires, new rankings and, frankly, new headaches.  Wanting to do more than just pump out the same old lists that really do not mean anything to anyone but the semen marketers, or just promote the bulls from the studs who pay us the most money, the Bullvine took a look at the recent December 2013 Genetic Evaluations to find not only the list toppers, but a deeper look to find those unique sires that will address your key breeding challenges.

Overall Performance Improvement

When looking for the sire that  will help improve your herd across the board, we looked for sires that have a balance of production and longevity, and most importantly a proven pedigree that ensures that their performance  will last. We also wanted great health and fertility traits that will deliver a low maintenance cow (Read more – Fact vs. Fantasy: A realistic approach to sire selection). Here are our top four:

    Socrates x O Man x Manat
    Proven Sire –  Select Sires
    +1464 lbs. Milk +0.12 %F  +87 lbs. F +0.04 %P +53 lbs P 5.5 PL 2.95 SCS +1.95 PTAT +2248TPI
    +1946 kgs Milk +0.41F +116 kgs. F +0.15 %P +79 kgs P +110 HL 3.00 SCS +5 Conf. +3188 LPI
    Long a popular high genomic sire, with his high debut in August and sustained numbers as he adds more daughters, Robust has proven to be a great performance improver. He  is a high NM$ (+765) Velvet-View-KJ SOCRATES-ET (EX-94-GM) son from Seagull-Bay Oman Mirror (VG-86-DOM). He transmits exceptional components (+.12% Fat, +87 Fat, +.04% Protein, +53 Protein) and outstanding longevity (+5.5 Productive Life).  A Calving Ease and relative outcross sire, ROBUST moderates stature and adds height and width to the rear udder.   Robust will work best on tall deep cattle that need feet and leg improvement.
    Bolton x Boliver x Bombay
    Proven Sire –  ABS Global
    +2534 lbs Milk  -0.07 %F  +73 lbs. F -0.01 %P +72 lbs P 0.7 PL 2.95 SCS +1.84 PTAT +2067TPI
    +2978 kgs. Milk -0.25F +85 kgs. F -0.05 %P +90 kgs P +102 HL 2.99 SCS +7 Conf. +2953 LPI
    With so many O Man, Planet, Goldwyn, Shottle, and Freddie sons dominating the lists, it nice to see a sire like RUBLE ranking among them.  The cow family behind RUBLE features five consecutive generations of AI bull mothers. RUBLE’s five closest dams all produced milk records in excess of 32,000 lbs. RUBLE’s grand dam, Bombay Rale was a tremendous brood cow leaving 6-VG & 4-EX daughters in the herd by seven different sires.  RUBLE daughters are moderate stature and dairy. Protect for strength as they can be narrow through the chest. Udders are everything  you would  expect from the two popular pedigrees. High, wide rear udders, smooth blending fore udders, and a deep seam to carry their high production through many lactations. Daughters track straight with a correct foot, though you need to protect for a slight set to rear legs and protect rumps for pin width.
    Mogul x Snowman x Planet
    Genomic Sire – Semex
    +1964 lbs Milk  +0.04 %F  +81 lbs. F +0.01 %P +61 lbs P 4.3 PL 2.68 SCS +3.31 PTAT +2446 TPI
    +2516 kgs. Milk +0.07F +100 kgs. F +0.01 %P +82 kgs P +113 HL 2.69 SCS +18 Conf. +3483 LPI
    Wickham’s high genomic numbers should not surprise anyone.  Coming from the same family that has produced genomic giants, Epic, Emmet and many others.  Wickham is an early Mogul son from the Whittier-Farms Lead Mae family.  Look for Wickham to sire tall angular daughters with average depth.  Expect great mammary systems and feet and legs though he should be protected on straightness of leg and chest width.
  • DE-SU 11236 BALISTO
    Bookem x Watson x O Man
    Genomic Sire – ABS Global
    +1725 lbs Milk  +0.12 %F  +96 lbs. F +0.01 %P +78 lbs P 4.3 PL 2.71 SCS +2.72 PTAT +2424 TPI
    +1923 kgs. Milk +0.31F +104 kgs. F +0.30 %P +94 kgs P +111 HL 2.54 SCS +10 Conf. +3409 LPI
    For those of you looking for a high genomic outcross sire, Balisto can certainly do the trick.  Balisto is the Bookem brother to the #1 gLPI sire in the world De-Su Mg Davinci 11288.  Their dam is the outcross Watson daughter of Pine-Tree Missy Miranda (Full sister to De-Su 199 Chart Topper), then of course Wesswood-HC Rudy Missy herself.   Look for Balisto to sire outstanding components, with solid type and health traits.  Balisto will need to be protected on rumps as he  will tend to have a high rump angle and will be a touch weaker in the loins.

Production Improvement

It might be easy to just take the top milk lists or combine the fat plus protein and say those sires are the best for overall production. We here at the Bullvine would not want to totally forgo type as well as health and fertility, so we are looking for the sires that give you the maximum production gain, without sacrificing everything to get it.  In addition to Robust, Ruble and  Balisto mentioned above, some other production improvement sires to consider include:

    O Man x BW Marshall x Aaron
    Proven Sire
    +2075 lbs Milk  -0.03 %F  +67 lbs. F -0.01 %P +61 lbs P 1.9 PL 2.79 SCS +2.43 PTAT +2109 TPI
    +3059 kgs. Milk -0.15 F +98 kgs. F -0.03 %P +94 kgs P +104 HL 2.67 SCS +11 Conf. +3112 LPI
    When it comes to production improvement it is hard to argue with  Snowman.  While many people are mixed on Snowman daughters, there is no question that they know how to milk.  Snowman is your classic milk bull. He has extreme component yields with average type.  However,  as history teaches us, extreme sires are exactly  the ones that we need to use most in order to accelerate genetic advancement.  While  not high type, Snowman daughters are surprising many by being solid VG  milk cows.  He certainly needs to be protected for fat percentage and straight rear legs and most definitely DPR.  But if you have the high fat percent heifer or cow that needs an instant production hit, Snowman is the man.  Since semen is in limited supply maybe consider a couple of his sons, full brothers SEAGULL-BAY PLATINUM or DIAMOND or maybe S-S-I SNOWMAN MAYFLOWER.
    Fibrax x O Man x Sinatra
    Proven Sire – Alta Genetics
    +911 lbs Milk  +0.19 %F  +84 lbs. F +0.12 %P +60 lbs P 0.3 PL 3.13 SCS +0.91 PTAT +1986 TPI
    +1246 kgs. Milk +0.52F +100 kgs. F +0.36 %P +78 kgs P +104 HL 3.22 SCS +3 Conf. +2918 LPI
    With the exception of O Man,  most breeders would probably never have heard of many of the sires in AltaFixman’s pedigree.  That’s mostly a result of the international genetics marketplace these days, as his sire, Fibrax is from Italy and his dam, FROUKJE 375 is from the Mars herd in The Netherlands.  But don’t let this relatively unknown pedigree scare you.  It is actually based on generation after generation of strong type and production. Although his overall Milk numbers may seem average,  his components are out of this world.  At +.19%F +84 lbs of Fat and +.12%P +60lbs of Protein, AltaFixman is certainly a strong component punch whenever you need it. Type wise look for AltaFixman to sire good all around solid cows that could be protected on median suspensory ligament and body depth. As an added bonus, since AltaFixman is such a non North American pedigree, he is certainly an outcross to most North American cattle.
    Robust x Planet x Shottle
    Genomic Sire – Select Sires
    +2342 lbs Milk  +0.08 %F  +107 lbs. F +0.02 %P +75 lbs P 5.4 PL 2.80 SCS +2.38 PTAT +2413 TPI
    +2586 kgs. Milk +0.25F +122 kgs. F +0.06 %P +91 kgs P +111 HL 2.85 SCS +9 Conf. +3395 LPI
    Of course it’s hard to mention any  production improvement without including Supersire.   This Robust son from AMMON-PEACHEY SHAUNA VG-87-2YR-USA, really is a genomic wonder. Not only does he have the highest genomic values in the breed for production but he also has great functional type and health traits to go with it. Here you have a sire that is 2342 lbs. for milk, with positive component deviations, 2.38 for type, and over +5 for productive life.  Supersire daughters and sons are already topping many of the lists.  While Supersire daughters will not be winning many shows, his no holes type linear has resulted in his widespread  use and so far he has delivered on all expectations.
    Robust x Massey x Boliver
    Genomic Sire – Alta Genetics
    +1603 lbs Milk  +0.13 %F  +93 lbs. F +0.09 %P +71 lbs P 4.5 PL 2.85 SCS +2.41 PTAT +2373 TPI
    +858 kgs. Milk +0.41F +113 kgs. F +0.28 %P +89 kgs P +110 HL 2.89 SCS +7 Conf. +3256 LPI
    Another Robust son that should certainly get your attention is AltaBgood.  While not an international pedigree like AltaFixman, AltaBgood’s pedigree will not spark instant recognition for most breeders.  What you do get is generation after generation of genomic performance that is higher than their parent averages.  While those wanting pedigree power to go with the genomic test may not want to use AltaBgood, those that have confidence in the genomic system should  certainly take a look.  Like AltaFixman, AltaBgood will also sire extreme component improvement (+.13%F +93lbs F +.09%P +71 lbs P).  He combines these outstanding components with a strong type linear and average health traits.  AltaBgood will need to be protected for high pins and dairy strength.

Longevity Improvement

While some would try to tell you that high type equals longevity, that is not necessarily the case.    When it comes to longevity, it’s  hard to argue with actual performance indices like Herd Life and Productive Life.  In order to give a more balanced approach to longevity, we looked at both and came up with the following top sires:

    Bolton x Bret x Rudolph
    Proven Sire – ABS Global
    +1603 lbs Milk  -0.04 %F  +46 lbs. F -0.01 %P +46 lbs P 4.9 PL 2.70 SCS +3.00 PTAT +2267 TPI
    +1721 kgs. Milk -0.16F +48 kgs. F -0.02 %P +53 kgs P +114 HL 2.67 SCS +13 Conf. +2971 LPI
    Another popular genomic sire that has become a mainstay on the proven sire lists is Dorcy.  DORCY offers breeders a little different pedigree with no O Man, Planet, Goldwyn or Shottle  in it. The impressive combination of type and production from his cow family and daughters are readily evident in DORCY’s proof with +1603M +46F +46P +623NM 2.70SCS +4.90PL and +3.00T +3.22UDC +3.07FLC. He has good ratings for all functional traits except for calving ease. Breeders interested in a Bolton son from an outcross pedigree, top notch udders, very good feet & legs and functional traits may consider Dorcy. Dairy Strength and Rump are only slightly above breed norms.  Look for Dorcy to sire balanced dairy cattle that have great udders and very good feet & legs, though he will need to be protected for  fat percent and dairy strength, specifically his body depth and chest width.
    Planet x Ramos x Bullet
    Proven Sire – Cooperative Resources International (CRI)
    +1156 lbs Milk  +0.11 %F  +71 lbs. F +0.02 %P +39 lbs P 7.7 PL 2.76 SCS +0.93 PTAT +2157 TPI
    +1386 kgs. Milk +0.36 F +90 kgs. F +0.06 %P +50 kgs P +112 HL 2.70 SCS +2 Conf. +2853 LPI
    While Erdman is a Planet son, the rest of his pedigree Ramos x Bullet x Brandon actually makes Erdman a relative outcross sire.  His pedigree also demonstrates one high productive life sire after another.  A product of the Genesis program by CRI, he has been built to sire highly profitable (+803NM$) cattle.  While many type breeders will not love his +0.93 PTAT, his 7.7 for productive life (112 herd life), his 2.76 SCS and 110 daughter fertility (+1.9 DPR) will certainly catch the eye of many producers. Expect Erdman daughters to have strong mammary systems and sound legs. He will need protected on foot angle, pin width and dairy strength.
    Mogul x Observer x Shottle
    Genomic Sire – Semex
    +908 lbs Milk  +0.09 %F  +56 lbs. F +0.03 %P +36 lbs P 7.4 PL 2.49 SCS +3.01 PTAT +2417 TPI
    +1375 kgs. Milk +0.21F +73 kgs. F +0.08 %P +53 kgs P +119 HL 2.43 SCS +14 Conf. +3243 LPI
    Fix’s dam SPEEK-NJ OBSERV FANDANGO VG-86-2yr has the rare combination of being high index and from 8 generations of EX behind her (Read more: FERME J.P. POULIN: YOU’RE ALWAYS WELCOME! TOUJOURS BIENVENU!) a testament to the longevity of his maternal lines Combine that with the high productive life sire Mogul and you certainly have an unbeatable longevity package.  Look for him to sire great udders with  strong feet and legs though he may need to be protected on stature for some breeders preferences.
    Mogul x Observer x Shottle
    Genomic Sire – Alta Genetics
    +1282 lbs Milk  +0.03 %F  +45 lbs. F +0.02 %P +50 lbs P 6.7 PL 2.64 SCS +3.12 PTAT +2426 TPI
    +1666 kgs. Milk +0.05 F +66 kgs. F +0.09 %P +63 kgs P +118 HL 2.63 SCS +14 Conf. +3273 LPI
    This seems to be the magic sire stack for longevity improvement.  With a linear that is off the charts and strong production numbers and health and fertility traits, AltaRoble certainly deserves your attention.  A +6.7 productive life, +2.4 Daughter Pregnancy Rate and +2.64 SCS certainly shows that AltaRoble not only has the type numbers, he actually has the longevity numbers to back it up.  Breeders may want to protect him on body depth and teat length.

Health and Fertility Improvement

With the constant improvement in the accuracy of health and fertility  index calculations, more and more breeders are confidently including Health and Fertility traits in their breeding requirements.

    Planet x O Man x BW Marshall
    Proven Sire – Select Sires
    +1416 lbs Milk  +0.00 %F  +43 lbs. F -0.01 %P +49 lbs P 5.9 PL 2.84 SCS +2.64 PTAT +2186 TPI
    +1973 kgs. Milk -0.05 F +68 kgs. F +0.02 %P +66 kgs P +111 HL 2.83 SCS +12 Conf. +3072 LPI
    Carrying the flag and riding the wave of the health and fertility trend is  De-Su Observer.  This sire has been the poster child for high health and fertility since his early genomic numbers came back and catapulted him into international use.  With his daughter performance validating his early numbers, Observer has to be one of the quickest sires in history to get to 99% Reliability.  His daughters stamp out a pretty consistent pattern with strong production and solid type.  Type wise he has actually performed pretty well, with daughters exhibiting outstanding udders (watch out for short teats) and solid feet and legs.  One area you will also want to protect him on is his dairy strength, as his daughters are certainly not deep and could stand to have more chest width.
    Bolton x O Man x Adam
    Proven Sire – Semenzoo
    +1562 lbs Milk  +0.02 %F  +53 lbs. F +0.01 %P +59 lbs P -0.3 PL 2.75 SCS +2.79 PTAT +2072 TPI
    +2084 kgs. Milk -0.05 F +73 kgs. F +0.07 %P +75 kgs P +104 HL 2.76 SCS +14 Conf. +3091 LPI
    With such a push on health traits over the past few years, it’s actually almost impossible to find an outcross sire on the top lists.  If you are one of the few that didn’t go heavy on Mascalese as a genomic sire, you certainly can take advantage of that now by using him or one of his many sons.   Possessing greater conformation than his sire stack would indicate, MASACLESE sires strong dairy cattle that are durable and possess good health  traits.   For those looking for a more outcross sire that is high for health and fertility, try Erdman mentioned above.
    Facebook x Shottle x O Man
    Genomic Sire – Semex
    +1628 lbs Milk  +0.05 %F  +62 lbs. F +0.03 %P +68 lbs P +4.7 PL 2.76 SCS +2.42 PTAT +2348 TPI
    +1955 kgs. Milk +0.05 F +78 kgs. F +0.13 %P +78 kgs P +114 HL 2.82 SCS +13 Conf. +3352 LPI
    This Marbri Facebook son has some of the highest DGVs in the breed. Look for him to sire extreme component yields from strong dairy cattle with great feet and legs. One area to be cautious about, when using him, is his body depth. Both his sire stack and his DGVs would say this area needs protecting.
    Hunter x Massey x Ally
    Genomic Sire – Cooperative Resources International (CRI)
    +1265 lbs Milk  +0.21 %F  +101 lbs. F +0.08 %P +61 lbs P +3.9 PL 2.81 SCS +2.46 PTAT +2401 TPI
    +1474 kgs. Milk +0.51 F +107 kgs. F +0.22 %P +72 kgs P +112 HL 2.78 SCS +12 Conf. +3353 LPI
    If you’re looking for something a little different and an outcross pedigree, try Salvino.  Another product of the Genesis program at CRI, Salvino is a 2nd generation product of this program. His dam’s sire, Massey, was one of the early success stories of this program.  Look for Salvino to sire strong component improvement with a solid type linear.  In a market place flooded with many of the same bloodlines, finding a sire that is a little different and yet still able to deliver top progeny can be a challenge.  Salvino may be your best option for a relative outcross sire that still can compete with the other top genomic sires.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We have stated it many times. In maximizing your genetic gain, you can’t just pick from the top of the TPI or LPI list.  You need to make sure that your matings are the best corrective cross.  Breeding great cattle is part art and part science. You need to have both parts.   It takes careful consideration and generation after generation of corrective mating to breed great cow families.  That is why, instead of just giving you a list of the top 12, we have tried to provide you with insight into which sires will provide you with the maximum gain in each specific area.

Check out our Genetic Evaluations Section for more information.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.




Tidings of Cow Comfort and Joy

As the Christmas season gets into full swing it`s time to share the spirit of the season with the hard-working cows in the barn. Very soon we will look back on all the numbers that brought the dairy operation success in the past year.  Genetics, feed, health and environment all contribute to the bottom line.  Cow comfort can represent up to 30%.  Sometimes it receives the least attention.  We can`t afford to throw away $3 of every $10 on an average $4500 annual revenue per cow. In a 100 cow herd that is disregarding $135,000.  That doesn`t work at Christmas time or any other time of the year.


When dairymen invest in something that improves the comfort of their cows, it pays itself back. The cows are the one line item that cannot be dispensed with.  Anything done to improve the working environment and how the cows operate in it is a win-win.   It is impossible to send your herd on a vacation to a warmer climate. Even if you could, they probably wouldn’t perform well in the hotter conditions.  Nevertheless there are ways to give them a holiday from the stresses of their living current living quarters.  You have to start by considering everything — from bedding surface and stall size to ventilation and lighting.  New products and technologies are continually being introduced and developed. It is up to each breeder to find innovative solutions to get the most out of the dairy operation.  In this win-win situation your bottom line will celebrate too!


Cow comfort is one area of dairy operation management where it pays to go to great lengths to provide optimal cow comfort since it affects not only herd health, but their production and, most importantly, their reproduction!  Here are some comforting  Christmas season reminders:

  • The weather outside is frightful. But the barn is so delightful. A combination of fans and mechanical curtain walls play a critical role in ventilating some barns. The fans and curtain walls are engaged by a thermostat, which ensures the barn is kept at a constant temperature. There are many possible systems but the final result is fresh, moving air.
  • Let there be Light. Automatic controls to regulate the lighting system will ensure that cattle receive 16-18 hours of full light per day.
  • Lying All Snug in Their Beds: There are many options – sand, waterbeds, and straw packs etcetera. The goal is to provide a clean, dry surface for the cows to lie on.
  • Walking in a Winter Wonderland:  While it’s unlikely that your herd is walking through snowdrifts, it is important that the surface they walk on is clean, slip-free and not so hard that it causes leg injuries.
  • Everything is Shining and Bright:  In free stall barns the brushes clean the cow, remove old hair, and studies have shown they increase blood flow. We also think the brushes provide a bit of fun for the cows.
  • It’s Christmas Cow Party Time: Dairy nutrition is a separate discussion on its own but cow comfort is impacted by hygiene and the design of access to clean feed and water 24/7.  If you want your party eggnog you may want to provide ceramic tile feeding areas and always, always make sure that head gates or feed access don’t result in injury.


Of course milking is the key activity that takes place on a dairy farm. We know how that effects that milking.  How does it affect the milk-producing team? When you look over your herd from their viewpoint, would you be on the naughty or nice list?

Let’s take that a step further and look at milking systems such as the move to robotic milkers.  Here is another new technology that also pays big dividends in the area of cow comfort.  Promoted as “letting cows be cows” robots don’t drive the milking schedule, the cows do.  They eat when they want. They milk when they’re ready.  They drink and sleep as they need to. The robotic system makes sure that milking is done as needed. Cows enter the robotic system where their identification is scanned and it is confirmed whether she needs to be milked or not.  If she doesn’t need milked, a gate opens and the cow leaves the area. If she is ready to be milked, the milking cups are automatically attached. The entire process takes approximately 8 minutes, and the cow is fed food pellets while she’s waiting.  All pluses from the comfort side of the pipeline.


Before you make the decision to invest significant dollars in increasing cow comfort you need to know exactly what you need.  It is ironic, that we all look at our cows every day but are we really seeing them in terms of how comfortable they are in the environment we are providing for them? There are several checkpoints that should be on your comfort checklist. Once you have checked them often enough that they become second nature, you will have an idea of what issues might need resolving. You need to be like Santa and make a list and check it much more often than twice.  Here are some things to start with:

  • Locomotion.  An unbalanced walk or a curved back could indicate lameness or digestion problems.
  • Body Temperature. A cow should have a temperature of 38 to 39 °C. Cold ears might indicate milk fever or blood circulation problems.
  • Foot or leg injuries. Heel erosion or skinned hocks are mainly caused by problems with bedding or bedding materials, incorrectly adjusted barn equipment and/or hoof infection.
  • Cud chewing: A cow should ruminate for seven to 10 hours per day, ruminating 40 to 70 times on a cud. Taking less time indicates inadequate rations.
  • Contented: A contented cow looks alert and powerful, with a glossy skin and a full stomach.
  • Neck injuries: A swollen neck is mainly caused by a feed fence being too low or incorrectly adjusted barn equipment.
  • Hoof health:  Healthy cows stand straight and still while eating. Tipping or walking with a lame gait are signs of discomfort. This can be caused by bad rations, poor floors or lack of hoof treatment. Always look underneath hoofs during hoof trimming for extra signs and judge hoof health with locomotion scoring.
  • Respiration:  Normal breathing ranges from 10 to 30 breaths a minute for a cow. Faster breathing indicates heat stress or pain and fever.


One of the best indicators that you are providing your herd with optimum cow comfort can be seen by observing how often they are lying down. It takes high levels of endurance to meet the stresses of high performance dairy production. As cattle caregivers it is our job to provide the highest level of comfort for them to perform.  What does comfort have to do with performance?  The real question is “How much does discomfort affect results?” If your herd could talk to you about their comfort levels, what would they say? Would they compliment the soft, bedded freestalls, the wide alley ways, and the roominess of the feedbunk? Or would they be more likely to mention that they spend more time competing for feed than they do eating it and resting afterward? Are they interacting with their own age group or are they being edged out by older cows? Don’t be caught under the haystack fast asleep when it’s your cows that should be resting.


In a study that was done in Sweden several years ago, herds that had more free stalls than cows got as much as 5 lbs more milk per cow per day.  Other studies have reported similar results of increased milk production when stocking density is decreased and the cows have more time to rest.  Generally speaking, herds that have less stocking density in relations to stalls will have more available feed bunk space. We measure the milk they produce, we classify the conformation they achieve and we use Genomics to plan their breeding. We say, “We do just as well as everybody else.”  AH! There’s the rub! Is that good enough or even true? Studies were done in Spain of several herds that were of the same genetic merit that were fed the exact same ration. The only factor that was variable was the management and housing of the cows. There was a 29-pound milk production difference when comparing the farms. How the cows were handled and housed accounted for the 29 pound difference! Multiply that by herd size and you understand how cow comfort really impacts your herd profitability.


While it is fun to prepare for the holiday season, our real dairy work must go on and taking cow comfort into consideration can bring our passion for cows and constantly improving dairy management onto the calendar. The Bullvine joins cow lovers everywhere in looking forward to a happy holiday barn and home season this December and, even more importantly, “A HAPPY MOO YEAR!


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


Ferme Jacobs 2013: A Journey of Magic, Maya and Mastery!

Have you ever heard someone describing something that they thought was truly magical?  For Ysabel Jacobs the description sounds like this: “You dream about it all your life.  You work for it. And then it happens. It’s like the world has stopped turning just to see one cow.” Such was a magical experience for Ferme Jacobs Inc. of CapSanté Quebec when Bonnaccueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95-2E was named Supreme Champion of World Dairy Expo. (Read more: World Dairy Expo 2013 Holstein Show Results and World Dairy Expo 2013 – Memories to last a Lifetime) Standing in the spotlight, she had fulfilled Ysabel and Yan Jacobs’ vision. “We bought Maya with Tyler Doiron and Ferme Drolie as a 2 year old because we thought she had the potential to one day to be a great cow. After working with her for many years it was an amazing accomplishment to see her make it all the way to World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion!” For us to achieve this goal was especially exciting. From the beginning we knew what we were looking for. We love a good balanced cow with a tremendous udder. To develop a cow to this level and see one of ours in the middle of the Supreme Champion Parade was a proud moment for us!”

Bonnaccueil Maya Goldwyn EX-95-2E
Supreme Champion of World Dairy Expo

“Magic Can’t Be a One Time Thing”

You might be tempted to say that Christmas came early for these Canadian breeders.  However this outstanding success in 2013 wasn’t confined only to October. Or only to the showring. In March Ferme Jacobs received their third Master Breeder Shield.  This represents three shields in three generations and, according to the Jacobs, teamwork earns the credit. “We are very proud to be on a team that goes on from generation to generation. Now we are looking forward and striving to have our 4th one someday. As long as the passion for good cows is there, the success will follow.” Ysabel & Yan have the experience to admit. “There is no such thing as overnight success when you are developing cattle from the time they are born to the time they show.” Obviously, there are a lot of years of work behind the success and this year set two new benchmarks. “This was the first time Ferme Jacobs won Premier Breeder and Best 3 females at the 6 major shows we went to. This also was the year we had 3 cows out of 4 in the Bred and Owned Championship at World Dairy Expo and won the Exhibitor award at the Royal with bred cows and heifers!”   In somewhat of an understatement they sum it up modestly. “All together these wins made it a big year for us. The best we have ever had!”


“It takes Working Together and It Takes Focus”

Ysabel describes what is needed. “It takes lots of people around us to make this happen but mainly, Dad, Mom, Yan and Veronic and Tyler and I. Dad is a “perfectionist”. Everything has to get done on time and in a perfect way whether it’s in the barn or in the field. Mom is the greatest mom you can have. She is a hard worker that supports her kids and grand kids all the time.”Ysabel feels strongly about her brother’s impact on Ferme Jacobs. “Yan has a grand passion for true type Holstein cattle. He is always in the barn working with cows to have them look the best they can.” The dialogue between Ysabel and Yan is frequent and that’s why it works.  “One of our keys to success is that we must call and text each other 25 times a day. All this even though we live right next to each other and work together!!!” We also have the support of our sister Laurie, who attends university and Kevin who has started a new farm with his wife Stephanie.


“There is a Secret Formula that Always Works for Ferme Jacobs!”

It is human nature to want to know the “secret” behind the magic that inspires us. For Ysabel and her husband Tyler Dorion it always comes down to “family” (Read more: Success is All in the Family at Ferme Jacobs). With such a big show season the family support is vital to their success says Ysabel. “At home, Dad and Mom are there full time when we are at the show. They will arrive at the show half way after the heifer show starts. Usually they arrive with all the kids and Yan’s wife Veronic. They always do chores and make sure everything is fine at home. Brother Yan will be there the night before or early that morning. Tyler usually comes the night before too! That’s the way that works best and is the way we’ve done it for a long time.”


“The Show Magic Depends on Hard Working Teams!”

When you’re on the outside looking in, it often appears that showring success comes easily. We forget that, in reality, there is a tremendous amount that goes on behind the scenes and it requires teamwork both on the farm and at the shows. Ysabel & Yan outline what is involved. “When Ysabel leaves for the shows, she often goes with her sister Laurie, her cousin Sam Drolet and her cousin Sonia Laganiere. The night man has an important job on the show crew. It takes somebody reliable and dedicated to do this job like Jason Agnew. We also have two clippers that work together. This year they were Pier-Olivier Lehoux and Mathieu Jalbert who has joined our team lately. We also work on show day with our past fitters for many years, Jonathan Lemay and Grabriel Richard (Cachou). On show day many other people like Kevin Jacobs, Xavier Lemay, Sylvain Cabonneau and Joelle Saucier who help make this team stronger year after year. As well we have a trainee every year who helps at the show and looks after the show cattle at the farm. This year Phillipps Whatman from Australia worked with us for nine months and went with us to almost every show.  Of course, what makes it work so well is that we have a team at the farm that also believes in what we do at shows. The secret of the team is they all want to win, so everyone will have done their part to make the animals look their best on the show day.” She sums up the results realistically, “After that it’s the judge’s opinion.”


“There Must be a Method to Mastering Seven Shows On the Road”

The logistics of Ferme Jacobs show season are huge. “We go to 7 shows a year. Quebec Spring Show (17 head), Trois-Rivieres (18), Portneuf (8) (Local show), Quebec Provincial Show (22), WDE (18), EIHQ (20) and the Royal (15).” Ysabel feels that decision-making is working well. “To know who is going to the shows is simple. We bring out the one we like. Sometimes we try a new one or we hope for one, but as the show day comes, we know if we were right or wrong. We always have a few heifers on the show program and before the show we look at them on the walk and if we like them we take them. They usually skip a milking in the morning and around 1pm we look at them full of milk, and once again we bring out the one we like or we try a new one and see.


The Most Important Achievement for Ferme Jacobs is Always “The Next One!”

For breeders who have tasted showring success there never comes a time when they feel they have done it all and that it’s time to stop!   “When you have a good year, the market is really good. So far we have had good year every year since 2008. Marketing embryos is there for those cow families. We flush for what we believe can be good for us and we always keep a few for export at the same time. This year, we feel that we needed extra help for marketing embryos and so we had Frederic Fillion join our team. On the cow side we have had a good market for good pedigree cows for a few years. We have a lot of cows that are good enough for breeding from and to start a good flush program for a new farm.” For Ferme Jacobs there are some that they are watching to produce some more magic. “Jacobs Goldwyn Valana will be calving out as a 5 Year-Old. We also have two 4 Yr Olds calving, Blondin Alexander Armana  and Jacobs Atwood Melody, that look really good.” With modest understatement, she sums up the future. “We are hoping that we can find some more heifers to show and that we can calve new cows to show to everyone one more time!” Voila!

Jacobs Goldwyn Valana

Jacobs Goldwyn Valana

“Ferme Jacobs Stays Connected and Shares Their Passion”

“Winning the breeder banner for the first time at WDE in 2011 opened the market up for us! World Dairy Expo is the best marketing show that you can have. You have the time, the place and enthusiastic people from all around the world looking at your cattle.” Ferme Jacobs also uses technology to keep in touch with the dairy marketplace worldwide. “We use Facebook and the Internet.  You can reach so many people.  Quite often it is simple news bits that raise the interest of other breeders who are as passionate as we are about cattle. It’s fast news and it’s quick and easy. All you have to do is “LIKE” Jacobs Facebook page if you haven’t done it already!” She says laughing before getting more serious about the effectiveness of the internet. “Our small videos that we’ve done on different ideas are followed by a lot of people. Some of our videos have been seen more than 10 000 times.” She enthuses about why this method is good for everybody. “Those videos give everybody the chance to see great images of the cattle, of the farm, from shows… etc and by using FACEBOOK to promote them, it’s perfect. Fast news once more.  Remember people are busy. Especially farmers.  So we have to provide small news. Videos are perfect when you are tired and you just want to look without reading.” Magical!

“They Stand Out Because They Never Give Up!”

Ysabel is quite realistic about show results.  “There is little difference between a 1st to a 5th place and it’s usually decided in the first six seconds that the judge looks at you.” She does not find this discouraging. “To be between 2nd and 5th just gives you more reason to come back stronger next show or next year… We are hard workers and never give up when we believe in something… We will do the extra hour of work 365 days a year to make those cows look better on one day. That’s why our kids know all the show cows and they’ve been heard yelling their names at the show! For them they are cheering on the best of the best!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Not everyone can have the kind of year that Ferme Jacobs has experienced in 2013 but many can appreciate the passion it takes to aim for it. Ysabel sums up what reaching the pinnacle of success at World Dairy Expo meant to Ferme Jacobs “There is a magic energy around that show ring that you cannot find anywhere else.”

The Bullvine congratulates Ferme Jacobs on capturing both the magic and the mastery in 2013! That’s SUPREME!


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


The Dairy Breeders Christmas Wish List

Are you stymied about what to buy your father, wife, brother, sister, best friend or hired help?  Sure they would all love to get a national show winning cow or early release genomic young sire semen, but we all know that is not possible.  In order to help you with this most important holiday challenge, we have assembled a list of top 10 unique gift Ideas for the dairy enthusiast in your life.

expo photo book thumbnail2013 World Dairy Expo and 2013 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show Photo Books

The response to our photos from this past year at World Dairy Expo and The Royal Winter Fair has been quite humbling.  We have had over 50 different pictures used in ads and as special Christmas gifts.  After a special request from one of our readers, we decided to release these pictures in two special commemorative photo books.  These 90 page 10”x8” coffee table books each contain over 200 hi-resolution photos.  You can relive all of the action and excitement of the 2013 World Dairy Expo Holstein Show and The Royal Winter Fair 2013 Holstein Show with these one-of- a- kind photo books.  Check out these photo books here.


Legends of the Tanbark TrailLegends of the Tanbark Trail by Tim Baumgartner

Dairy cattle have been on exhibit for nearly 200 years and taking home the coveted title of National Grand Champion has always been a compelling force.  Tracing the first 100 years of U.S. national dairy cattle shows, Legends of the Tanbark Trail is a salient account of the people, the places, and the superb and unparalleled animals that have graced the show ring throughout its history.  Be sure to get your show enthusiast their copy of this special book.


936758_151665811679208_797367680_n[1]The Dairy Queen: A History of the Jersey Breed Worldwide

This 300-page book is a great Christmas present for anyone interested in the Jersey breed.  It chronicles the origins and development of the Jersey breed through detailed text and photos.  Be sure to check out our interview “THE DAIRY QUEEN” HAS ALL THE ANSWERS! with Co-Author Derrick Frigot.  He tells how this book came to be and what makes it so unique.  Supplies are limited, so be sure to check out their Facebook page and order your copy for the Jersey breeder in your life.



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

Probably one of the most talented young artists I have ever come across, Emma Caldwell is well on her way to becoming a worldwide household name.  Though just starting out in her career, she has already done some amazing paintings of Hailey, Smurf, and Francesca.  Check out our feature interview with Emma, Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart, as well as her many great prints available from her web shop.






Millionaires in the Cornfield: The Glory Days of the National Dairy Cattle Congress by Norman Nabholz.

For me Norm is probably one of the greatest cattle minds of the past 50 years.  It only takes a few moments of chatting with Norm to recognize his passion for this business we all love.  His book is easy to pick up but hard to put down.  Not only does it recount the achievements of legendary breeders and showmen with words and countless pictures, the background information and behind the scenes look are most entertaining and interesting.  The Bullvine had a chance to sit down and interview this multi-talented man in our feature article – HALTER, PEN and GAVEL.  That’s Just the Norm.


The Dairy Breeders Guide to FacebookFacebook Page for Their Farm

Instead of wasting hundreds of dollars on a web page that no one will ever read, give the dairy breeder in your life a Facebook page that will reach the world.  The best part about it, it’s free.  That’s correct, it will cost you nothing.  All you need to do is download this simple guide, The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook and you will be well on the way to helping the dairy breeder in your life market to the world.


Puttin on the Ritzy

Paintings by Gary Sauder

Since the first time I saw Gary’s work on Facebook, I was amazed by the super-realism of his paintings.  His passion and understanding of what great dairy animals look like comes through in each and every one.  We had the chance to interview Gary in our feature article – GARY SAUDER: The Muse in His Studio. To order some of Gary’s fine art work visit Cow Art and More.


first-christmas-bonnie-mohrPrints by Bonnie Mohr

For a long time Bonnie Mohr has been the industry standard for great dairy paintings.  Like many, our family has had the opportunity to appreciate Bonnie’s great work.  My wife has purchased me a Bonnie Mohr print every year on our anniversary.  That is why when we had the opportunity to interview Bonnie – Bonnie Mohr – Science and Art Together Creates a Holstein Love Story-; it was an honor for us.  Be sure to check out her website for more extraordinary fine art from rural America.



Edward Young Morwick

The Chosen Breed and The Holstein History by Edward Young Morwick

Anyone who likes history, even in the slightest, will greatly appreciate either the US history (The Holstein History) or the Canadian History (The Chosen Breed) by Edward.  Each of these books is so packed with information that they are each printed in two separate volumes.  We had a chance to interview Edward – Edward Young Morwick – Country Roads to Law Office and you get a true sense  of his passion and quick wit and they  also come shining through in his books.  Be sure to get your copies of amazing compilation of Holstein history in these books.


Don't Bother Me While I'm Milking Sleevless T-shirtsBULLVINE T-Shirts

That is correct! The shirts that have had the Holstein world buzzing are now available for sale!  After thousands of requests, The Bullvine has finally decided to put some of our amazing shirts up for sale.  Here is your chance to get that dairy breeder in your life exactly what they have been asking for.  New shirts are being added all the time, check them out.


The Bullvine Bottom Line

Instead of buying the tie that they might only wear for weddings or funerals, or the work gloves that could get lost the first time they are worn, consider these 10 great gift ideas.  Not only do they connect them to their dairy passion, but also the thoughtfulness will touch dairy breeder’s hearts and make lasting memories this Christmas!

Be sure to LIKE and SHARE this post on Facebook to let your friends and family know just what you are wanting for Christmas.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.



Can you produce milk for less than $46USD/100 kg of milk?

Milk is a commodity.  While you can get different levels of fat and protein content etcetera, for the most part all milk is seen as the same.  As the world goes to more and more global trade, milk producers around the world need to realize that in a commoditized market, he who produces the lowest cost milk will win.  Currently the world average cost of production is $46USD/100 kg of milk.  So for those countries and producers that either don’t know their cost of production, or know it and see that it’s over $50USD/100 kg of milk, this is a direct wakeup call!

A recent IFCN report shows that low cost regions Argentina, Peru and Uruguay, Central and Eastern Africa  Central and Eastern Europe and some selected countries in Asia (except Japan and large farms from China) all had the lowest costs of milk production  in the world.  Also very noticeable in the report was how countries like Canada, Mexico, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal and France all had costs of production over $60US/100 kg milk.


While most major milk production countries in the world have seen their costs of production increase significantly over the past 12 years, the range of difference has come much closer together.  Some low cost production countries from 12 years ago are now almost at par with countries like the US.  New Zealand was actually the lowest cost producer back in 2000, with average cost of production at $12 USD/100 kg of milk, but with increases in input prices and an appreciating currency, costs increased to a level of $35 USD per 100 kg milk.  That is an increase of over 291% in just 10 years!  With such drastic changes in costs of production, it’s no wonder that New Zealand milk producers are having trouble competing on the world market.

As milk production becomes more globally than regionally focused, it’s countries like Chile, Peru and Saudi Arabia that are going to have the competitive edge.  It also means that countries like Canada, Sweden and France are going to find it harder and harder to compete.  Furthermore, it indicates that the world’s biggest dairy product exporters (on a milk equivalent basis) who are currently New Zealand, the European Union and the U.S. could start to see South American countries joining them on these top lists.

Actually the world’s cheapest milk is made in Cameroon, where it comes from beef cows and is a by-product of producing meat.  There the production costs work out to just $1.82 per hundredweight.  But it is not produced in such mass amounts that it can be considered a world player.

One of the scariest trends for all dairy producers is how the cost of production is increasing while the price of milk is not increasing at the same rate.  This trend is sure to cause many problems for producers around the world as we go forward.  Another scary trend for producers is the volatile price of feed, as was very evident in the summer of 2012 when milk prices fell and feed prices increased. Also when you factor in the increasing costs for transportation, environmental issues, food safety and labor, in the future where milk is produced could be quite different from where it has been produced up until now.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

World economic models will show you that, over time, those who can produce their products the cheapest will win.  This is also true for Milk.  As free trade agreements are breaking down the barrier to entry into many countries and the removal of government support programs, more and more producers are going to have to look at their operations and see if they can compete in a global marketplace.  If you cannot produce your milk for less than $46 – 50 USD/100 KG of milk, or you simply don’t know your cost of production, now is the time to either shape up or get out. The future does not look bright for those who can’t answer those two questions.  It is not too early to start planning for your future.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


December 2013 Holstein Sire Evaluation Review – Lack of Excitement is a Good Thing

Many dairy producers and industry staff woke up Dec 03 with an early agenda for their day. They had to check out the index release for latest and greatest in list toppers. Well if they were looking for a major change and many new hot sires they may have been  disappointed. To say it was a relatively quiet index run is an understatement. Nevertheless females must be bred and some flushed so here are some thoughts for Bullvine followers to consider.

Just Another Day

Normally by the end of day on December 3rd there would have been a breeding company claiming to have the #1 newly proven bull that is the must have sire for contracts, flushing and embryo sales. Off would rush the marketers to get the materials ready for both hard copy and electronic promotions. At the same time, owners of top heifers and cows would source out semen so they could quickly flush their animals to the new Mr #1.  Well it was not that kind of a day.

What Happened with Proven Sires

In the United States it was Planet day. By that we mean – the top newly proven bull is a Planet son (Shamrock #7 gTPI +2227), ten of the top thirteen newly proven bulls are Planet sons and eight of the top twenty gTPI sires are Planet sons.  That is great for Planet but not necessarily for genetic diversity. Beyond that Dorcy moved to #1 gTPI bull. Observer regained some of the ground he lost in August (Read more: Genomics at Work – August 2013). And top proven bulls like Bookem, Robust, AltaMeteor and Jett Air that were high genomic young sires held their proof levels from their first proof release in August. Reassuring for breeders that have moved to exclusive or very high use of young genomic bulls across their herds. It is worthy of note that there are only 126 points separating the top gTPI bull, Dorcy +2267 to the twentieth bull Soto +2141. And in between there is considerable variety in pedigrees and in areas of high genetic merit, so that breeders can make the choices to meet their genetic plans such as inbreeding (Read more – articles on dairy cattle inbreeding) and yet not be using a bull that is not at the top of the breed.

In Canada, Man-O-Man held on to #1 gLPI and below him bulls did some repositioning with only one bull (Medford) dropping significantly (-204 LPI). On the positive side Jett Air moved from #12 to #4 gLPI and Atwood retained his #1 CONF ranking, even gaining a point to now be +19. As well he made a significant gain from #17 to #7 gLPI sire.

In the top twenty sires on both the gTPI and gLPI lists there are bulls that stand out for traits that discerning breeders include in their breeding plan (link)

 Total Merit

  • Coyne-Farms Dorcy-ET                      gTPI +2267
  • Long-Langs Oman Oman-ET             gLPI +3247

Fat + Protein Yield    

  • Mainstream Manifold                         +150 lbs
  • UFM-Dubs AltaEsquire-ET                + 175 kgs


  • Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood           CONF +19
  • Sully AltaMeteor-ET                          PTAT +3.02


  • De-Su Gulf-ET                                   UDC +3.62
  • Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood           MS +18

Feet & Legs               

  • Coyne-Farms Dorcy-ET                      FLC +3.07
  • Maple-Downs-I G W Atwood           F&L +21


  • Kings-Ransom Erdman CRI-ET         PL +7.7
  • Sildahl Jett Air-ET                              HL 115


  • Badger-Bluff Fanny Freddie              DPR +2.5
  • End-Road O-Man Bronco-ET                        DF 108

Calving Ease              

  • Mainstream Manifold                         CE 3.7
  • End-Road O-Man Bronco-ET                        CA 111


  • Sildahl Jett Air                        AltaBaxter x B W Marshall
  • Mel-Crest AltaRazor               AltaBaxter x Goldwyn

Check out more proofs in our Dairy Cattle Genetic Evaluations section

Many Elite Bulls in the Genomic Lists

New or about to be available top genomic sires continue to get better and better with each proof run. Some people ask The Bullvine how that can happen and will it continue. The answer to those questions appears to be a very definite YES.  When you think about it it makes sense when the accuracy of prediction has been doubled for young bulls, heifers and most cows and with very extensive use being made of ET, the opportunity to find the high outliers is greatly increased.

The use of genomic sires has sorted out to about three scenarios. Breeders pick out a limited number of genomically evaluated bulls that meet their selection criteria for use as young sires to help prove the bulls as they have done for many years. An ever increasing number of breeders use genomic sires exclusively and so use many genomic sires in order to spread their risk. A small number of breeders use the very top genomic sires on their elite females in order to produce a unique product so they can have available embryos for sale or top heifers and bulls for A.I. Three very different approaches all using genomic information.

Some bulls from the top twenty of both the December 2013 CDN and Holstein USA Genomic Young Bull lists, born in 2012, that are available and that may interest breeders who selectively use genomic sires, are as follows:

Total Merit

  • Morningview McC Kingboy-ET         GPA TPI +2598
  • Zabulls Alta1stClass-ET                     GPA TPI +2598
  • De-Su MG Davinci 11288-ET            GPA LPI +3513


  • Welcome SS PeterPan-ET                  2201*
  • De-Su 11236 Balisto-ET                     2067*


  • MR Lookout Pesce Alta5G-ET          1397*
  • Silverridge Ascend                             1277*

Health & Fertility*     

  • Butz-Hill Megasire-ET                        430*
  • EDG Rubicon-ET                               427*

* Components of the Canadian LPI Formula (Read more: Everything You Need To Know About TPI and LPI)

Check out more proofs in our Dairy Cattle Genetic Evaluations section

Polled Coming on Fast

Very rapid increases have been seen in the merit of polled genomic bulls over the past year. From a search of the files on polled bulls that will come available in the next 6+ months, it appears that it will not be long before polled bulls will be almost equal to horned bulls. The Bullvine’s advice to breeders using polled sires is not to buy a great amount of semen from any one bull as new higher ones will be coming out on a continual basis. Current top ranking polled bulls, born in 2012, available or about to be available follow:

Total Merit

  • S-S-I Earnhart Modern-P-ET              +3216 GPA LPI
  • Bryhill Science P                                 +3096 GPA LPI

 Bulls to Halt Inbreeding

More and more breeders are mentioning that they wish to use sires that do not increase the level of inbreeding in their herd. There are two factors to consider about a bull when considering inbreeding. One is the amount the bull himself is inbred and the other is the degree of relationship that he has to the female population, and more specifically your herd and animal you are mating. A bull can be inbred (> 9-10%) but be lowly related (<12-13%) to the female population. Some bulls on the December 2013 CDN and Holstein USA Young Genomic Sires lists that are not inbred and have a below average relationship to the female population follow:

Total Merit Index   % Inbred    Relationship %

Double-Eagle Ransm Kobra-ET         +3457 GPA LPI        4.58               10

Bacon-Hill Maguire-ET                      +3347 GPA LPI        3.07               10

Zahbulls Alta1stClass-ET                   +3341 GPA LPI        3.39               10

Looking to the Future

The pace of genetic advancement in the Holstein breed now exceeds anything either breeders or scientists thought possible even decade ago. The Bullvine offers the following ideas for our readers’ consideration:

  •  Have we now advanced to the stage with genomics and genetic evaluations to the stage where we can expect ‘non-eventful’ index release days in the future? That would be when 95% of the time a bull’s daughter proof will be very similar to his genomic index.
  • Is there merit to considering both the degree to which an animal is inbred and the degree to which it is related to the female population in order to take positive steps to halt the ever increasing rate of inbreeding?
  • Marketers like to say that their animal is #1. Yet the difference between the top 100 animals is small for gTPI. In fact it now appears that the difference between #1 and #100 is about like the difference there was a decade ago between #1 and #10. In order to advance the breed do we need to designate sires as #1 for traits like fertility and herd life instead of limiting the #1 designation to the traditional major traits?
  • Many breeders comment that it seems like there is a new top 10 gTPI or gLPI sire every three months and that by the time you can use this top sire, there are newer ones even higher on the list. This happens due to the rapid rate of genetic progress that is being made, That is in part due to top females only being mated to reliable high genomic sires and being on extensive IVF programs. The chances of having list toppers are just that much greater than they were in the past.

 The Bullvine Bottom Line

On the surface it appears that few new elite bulls were identified by the December 2013 index release. However, more likely, the truth is that breeders, through the use of genomic information, were already aware of the top sires. This is not to say that there will not be index release days in the future where there are unexpected results.  Choose your bulls wisely.

Check out more proofs in our Dairy Cattle Genetic Evaluations section


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.




Should you be raising your own heifers?

Every week dairy breeders read about better ways to raise their heifers. Take care and precaution at birth, follow health protocols, feed them properly and calve them at 24 months. These are all topics contained in the dairy farm press or on the Internet. However for most breeders there are four significant things that stand out as being topics that still need breeder attention. In Bullvine fashion we decided to weigh in on them with renewed vigour. We want every breeder to take the opportunity to be more successful.

Raising Too Many

Can you believe it – the vast majority of breeders just cannot get past raising every heifer calf that is born alive?

Their long established practice has been that we raise every heifer and sell, at a profit, the ones we do not need for herd replacements. Well sadly but truthfully today that profit has disappeared. An Internet search shows that dairy extension specialists are saying that it costs $2,000 to $2,500 in North America and 1,500 to 1,800 Euros in the EU to raise a heifer to calve at 25-26 months of age. And that does not put an initial value at birth for the heifer which can be from $300 to 500 Euros depending on genetic merit. Yes, in total, it is costly. And we have all heard the justification that labor should not be included in the total. That thinking is totally old fashioned. Especially given, that at the present time, average quality fresh first calvers are selling for $1,600 to $2,100. It just does not make economic sense that the sellers should be subsidizing the buyers to the tune of 500 to 800 dollars.

Yes, I know breeders say, “But it is different for me”. Oh really? How does that work for breeders focusing on using their forages, labor and facilities to produce milk efficiently? It is better to use the homegrown forage to feed heifers, to keep workers busy and heifer barns full rather than producing extra milk, using fewer staff and finding an alternate revenue generating use for the extra space? I think not!

On a breeding stock basis in the later part of 2013 many 2000 GPA TPI or 2500 GPA LPI bred heifers sold in North America for less than $2000. (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions 2013) I heard breeders sharing with other breeders that that price was okay. But was it profitable? No! And if you had added expenses to get the calf, like ET or IVF, then definitely not! Sometimes there is the opportunity to sell a heifer here or there that might do some show winning.  But those are few and far between and then their maximum value is likely before the show season starts not afterwards. I know of parents of 4Hers or Junior breed members who want a show calf for their child. That is all well and good but it seems to me that it is much easier to buy a high quality calf rather than try to breed it. Besides including the young person in the buying experience may be quite beneficial for their learning experience.

Current prices on fresh first calvers all boils down these things. A current limited demand, an over supply of heifers and milk prices or quota limitation holding back major industry expansion. The use of sexed semen and producers getting their involuntary culls under control are also significant factors. Heifer rearing costs doubled from 1997 to 2007 and are likely to double again by 2015. No matter how you look at it raising more heifers than you need at this time is a waste of your time, resources and assets.

No Records – Can’t Manage

Traditionally dairymen have recorded the inputs and performance of their cows but not their heifers. Well that practice is no longer enough as on-farm margins tighten. Inputs to the heifer herd and heifer performance need to be monitored using herd management software. Many such types of software exist. Usually it is easiest if the heifer programs from the milking herd software is used for the heifers and dry cows as it makes the transition from non-milking to milking automatic.  It is highly recommended that the information inputted also include financials in addition to growth, health, reproduction and nutrition.

To benchmark your heifer herd here are some Central North America numbers to use to compare to your herd:

Per Heifer per Day

*          Total Cost                                                  $2.90 (Birth to 26 months)

*          Average Feed Cost                                   $1.30 (45%)

*          Avg Labour & Management Cost      $0.69 (23%)

*          Avg Variable Cost                                   $0.29 (10%)

*          Avg Fixed Cost                                         $0.12  (04%)

*          Initial Value at Birth                           $0.50 (18%)

Of course these costs will differ based on a number of factors including degree of automation, facilities, feeds fed and size of operation. The average daily cost will be highest for the babies (perhaps $3.25+) and lowest for second and third trimester pregnant heifers (if on pasture it could be as low as $2.00).

Definitely, if you don’t have the facts, you cannot manage and improve your heifer operation.

Breed Them Younger

Dairymen following an aggressive growing program now have their heifers at breeding weight (700 lbs / 320 kgs) by 11 months of age. Some dairymen report breeding at the first heat after this weight is reached while others using those programs adhere to breeding on the first heat after 12 months of age. One thing often referred to in the literature is that young heifers like that routinely have higher conception rates (70%) than 17-18 month old heifers (60%), can have less edema at calving and less difficult calvings due mainly to a smaller calf. Heifers on aggressive growing programs can easily reach 1300 lbs at 22 months of age.

Average age at first calving across North America is about 26 months, while a recent number from the UK is 28 months. Reports show a double edged benefit from calving at 22 rather than 26 months, Firstly there is a $300 saving in raising cost. Secondly there is $7,000 more milk revenue in their lifetime.

Pick the Right Genetics

For breeders focusing on milk as their major source of revenue the Bullvine has frequently produced criteria and lists of bulls to use (Read more: Mating Recommendations). The factors important to efficient milk production can also be important to getting healthy calves and include, calving ease, fertility, temperament, mobility including rear legs rear view and feet and body condition score. Additionally it would be nice to know about heifer growth rates, disease resistance and ability to compete in large groups but without field data genetic evaluations cannot be produced. It is quite important to consider the heifer herd in addition to the milking females when making your breeding decisions.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As breeders plan for their next calf crop it is time to thoroughly review heifer rearing practices. If the heifer herd on your farm is not vital to your milking operation or it is not already a profit center, then it is time to get your pencil out, calculate your heifer rearing numbers and make the decisions to realize more farm profit.  Ignoring today’s economic realities when it comes to the heifer herd can be very costly.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


FERME BLONDIN “Passion with a Purpose Builds Success”

The story of Ferme Blondin is partly the history of a family farm and partly the story of dedication to a dream of showing and selling exceptional dairy cattle. Simon Lalande speaks of how both have had an impact on him and the St. Placide Quebec dairy operation. “I am the 7th generation on the farm and when I was young, the herd was entirely grade cows. I always enjoyed looking in the magazines and, seeing all those great cows, I hoped to have those same kind of cows in our barn one day!” That day has come for Simon and his partner Kim Côté.


Shared Passion Inspires New Directions at Blondin

Successful dairy operations always tell you that they have invested in the cattle and people they feel most passionate about. Many times that passion is caught from other people in the dairy industry, as Simon Lalande confirms. “When I was a teenager, I had couple friends that were passionate about cows.  My parents were sending me to some sales in Western Ontario with my good friend François Paiement (Ferme Mystique) where I had a specific amount I was allowed to spend on one or two cows, depending on how much I was spending on the first cow.” Simon appreciates his parents for opportunities such as that one. “I am very thankful to my parents for the trust they put in me since from a very young age.”  From that first responsibility Simon continued to travel to learn about, talk about and buy cattle. “I always enjoyed going on the road and meet with other breeders and that’s what brought me into the cattle sales business.” Because Simon loved to get together at auctions, in barns and in the show ring, it was a natural next step to develop Ferme Blondin into an elite cattle sales and show operation.  “Today Ferme Blondin has 90 cows milking and the herd has a total of 550 head including dry cows, replacement heifers, recips and baby calves.” The new direction has impacted the financial picture as well says Simon. “More than 75% of our income comes from cattle and embryo sales and the rest from our 118 kg of quota and cash crop.”


Simon Lalande’s passion and excitement for great dairy cattle is 2nd to none.

Great Blondin Teamwork in the Show Ring and Behind the Scenes

With such an evolving business, the team members at Blondin also have a variety of skills that keep the multi-faceted business running smoothly. “I am in charge of all the management decisions, cattle sales and purchases.” says Simon as he outlines how everyone pulls together. “Kim does all the paperwork which involves not only accounting but also registering calves, import & exports, genomics and bull sales.” Simon emphasizes what a challenging job this is.

Kim Côté is a big part of the success.  She and Simon make the perfect team.  They are extremely passionate, hard working and committed to achieving success.

Kim Côté is a big part of the success. She and Simon make the perfect team. They are extremely passionate, hard working and committed to achieving success.


Dann T. Brady is the Sales and Marketing Manager for Ferme Blondin

“Accounting is a big challenge at the farm as we have more than 225 animals owned in partnership!” He goes on. “Dann Brady is in charge of all the marketing and embryo sales and we also have Jenny Henchoz part time that updates the website and assists Kim & Dann when necessary. “ On a day to day basis there is a lot of work to do acknowledges Simon. “I have very good help with Richard Villeneuve (our herdsman for 10 years) that manages all the barn crew and the herd, and Marc Ringuette (that works with us for over 20 years) who manages the field work and keeps the machineries and buildings in good shape.  We also have Chris (from Belgium) that assists Richard and Marc, Tommy (from Japan) and Jonatan & Moris (from Guatemala) that are helping with chores and cattle care.  My father (Louis), Kim’s father (Guy) and my uncle Rosaire are helping part time with fixing the machineries and for the crops.” Blondin family rounds out the team. “My sons, Olivier & Nicolas, are also working with us.  Nicolas is working part time at the farm and is studying at the college and Olivier is finishing his third year at McDonald College and will be with us full time early this summer!” Five year old twins, Thomas and Anthony are the youngest team members and no doubt represent a lively part of the Blondin’s love for cows, farm and family!!

Blondin Skychief Supra EX-93 3E 24*

Cattle Families are Important to Ferme Blondin as Well

A dairy operation such as Ferme Blondin is built on the ability to breed cows that milk, reproduce and show. Simon talks about one particular favorite. “The greatest cow I ever bred is Blondin Skychief Supra EX-93 3E 24*.  She comes from one of the first purebred heifer that my father purchased as a gift for me at the 100th Anniversary of Holstein Canada Sale in 1984.  Her dam is a Starbuck and for me at that time, Starbuck daughters had very good legs but average udders and Skychief had average legs with awesome udders. Ten years after this mating, Supra became the foundation cow of the Blondin herd.” Blondin success has also been impacted by cows that have been purchased “The greatest cow I ever owned is Rockymountain Talent Licorice EX-95.  I bought her at the WDE in 2010 as a fresh Sr 3Y Old.  I fell in love with that cow at first sight.  For me, she was a total package: Red carrier from a world famous cow family (same as Lotto, Lynley and Lustre), amazing sire stack and one of the best cows I had ever seen (tremendous udder, good legs and impressing dairy strength)!!!”

Aingers Advent Bambi *RDC EX-91
Intermediate Champion Royal Winter Fair 2013,and EIHQ 2013

Best Barbie Forward

Every passionate dairyman loves to talk about cow families and the difference developing a strong female line can make to developing a strong herd that is attractive to buyers and herd builders.  “I always have been a big fan of the Barbie family, that’s why I bought with François Paiement a full sister to Chassity: Regancrest S Celebrity EX-94-9.  She is one of the most popular cows in the barn when we have international visitors as she catches the eye with her impressive dairy strength and udder.  We are also working with Blondin Talent Salena-Red EX-93, which is a maternal sister of the famous Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96 and her Destry daughter, Blondin Destry Sally TB-87 2Y Old (owned with Dupasquier).  She was 2nd Sr 2Y Old at the Royal and 4th at WDE in the R&W.  We have a lot of expectations for this young cow in the future!  One of our best cows right now is Aingers Advent Bambi *RDC EX-91 3rd calf, 3Y Old (one of the youngest cow to classify EX in Canada).  She was Intermediate Champion at the Qc Fall show and the Royal!  She will be flushed this winter and already has many embryos sold but we are also excited to make some calves out of her!”

Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96 Grand Champion R&W Royal 2012 Res. Supreme Champion Royal 2011 Grand Champion R&W WDE, Madison 2010 & 2012 Supreme Champion Royal 2010

Blondin Redman Seisme EX-96
Grand Champion R&W Royal 2012
Res. Supreme Champion Royal 2011
Grand Champion R&W WDE, Madison 2010 & 2012
Supreme Champion Royal 2010

Going Once … Going Twice … Going for Many Years

We all love the excitement of the auction ring and the show ring but having success in the spotlight must be built on breeding success in the barn.  “We want to breed good balanced type cows that can produce a lot of milk for many years because we think this is what every dairy producer wants to have in their barn every day.” Simon talks about his philosophy on sire selection. “When possible, we are still using Goldwyn a much as we can.  He is the best bull that the breed ever had and we still can see it in the show ring and everyone barns…  The only problem we have is that we already have a lot of Goldwyn daughters or granddaughters!!!  We are also using Windbrook, Aftershock, Sid and Cancun as proven sires and some of the best genomic bulls available (different ones every month) on our genomic cattle. “


Blondin Marketing Stands Out Inside the Show Ring

One of the unique strategies used by Ferme Blondin is that they see the showring as a marketing tool.  “For us, one of the best ways to market our herd is the shows.  This is the best way to show everyone what you have special in your herd type wise.  We like to consign some high caliber animals in some sales (which gives a lot of visibility to the farm).  We are also very active on Facebook and it is important for us to keep our website updated weekly.  We advertise in the most popular magazines in Canada and United States but also like to advertise in other countries.”   Regardless of the method, Blondin wants their customers to get lasting value.


Expert Advisors for Everyday Challenges

It’s hard to point to a single person or event that has had the most impact on growing this great dairy or sales operation. Simon feels fortunate to have several role models that have influenced him. “François Paiement, my brother-in-law (Ferme Mystique) was AI technician and was coming at the farm when I was a young teenager.  He transmitted his passion every time he was coming to breed a cow by talking to me about the bulls and cow families.  Charles Ménard (Ferme Rubis) taught me what a good young cow was and how the udder and dairyness were the most important parts of the cows.  When I was 17 years old, I went to learn my English at Don Johnston (Cherry Crest Holsteins).  He taught me a lot on cow families, how to keep your cows and how important it is to enjoy what you do every day.  These three good friends are still very close to me and if I need any advice, I still contact them to have their opinions.”

Blondin Lyster Beauty EX-93 Intermediate Champion The Royal Winter Fair 2007

Blondin Lyster Beauty EX-93
Intermediate Champion The Royal Winter Fair 2007

Success is Golden for Blondin

Many of us in the Canadian dairy industry are familiar with the growing achievements of Ferme Blondin.  Kim and Simon are justifiably proud of their progress toward the goals. “Two of the best successes are the Master Breeder Shield we won in 2002 and Canada’s cow of the year in 2009 with Blondin Skychief Supra because this is a breeder’s dream. I am also very proud of the 6 Premier Exhibitor title won at the Royal and/or the WDE and the three Intermediate Champions at the Royal in the last 7 years with Blondin Lyster Beauty EX-93 in 2007 (as a Jr 2Y Old), Rockymountain Talent Licorice EX-95 in 2010 and Aingers Advent Bambi EX-91-3Y in 2013.”

Rockymountain Talent Licorice EX-95 Intermediate Champion The Royal in 2010

Rockymountain Talent Licorice EX-95
Intermediate Champion The Royal in 2010

Growing with Goldwyn and Genomics

Of course as the years add up, so do the changes that affect the dairy industry. “The biggest change I have seen since the last 10 years is the dairyness and the udder qualities of the cows.  For sure, a bull like Goldwyn helped a lot for that!” Change has also been affected by technology such as genomics and Ferme Blondin has moved quickly with those changes too! “We have decided to invest in the genomic cattle because we think this will help us to breed better cows for the dairy producers to work with every day (lower ccs, temperament, fertility, calving ease…).  This is also a good marketing tool for us as there is a good market for these animals and their embryos but cow families have to be there first.”


Facing Future Challenges

Today Ferme Blondin is comfortable at the leading edge and always seeks to share that passion with others who dream the dairy dream.  It isn’t without its challenges admits Simon.  With herds that are getting bigger and bigger, we will have to breed cows that will be able to live in big groups. That’s why we think health traits will be more and more important in the next few years.  Although, we think there will still be a market for exceptional individuals (genomics, show or cow families).”


The Bullvine Bottom Line

Simon is proud of previous generations and he and Kim are working hard to shape how the future will unfold at Blondin. At the Bullvine we wish Ferme Blondin all the best as they continue to leave their legacy on the dairy industry by using the philosophy that Simon and Kim share. “Success is built on three simple things: passion, hard work and perseverance!!”

Check out the details of their upcoming Vente Blondin-Sicard sale on February 20th.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


Send this to a friend