Archive for June 2015

Maxville Holstein Show 2015 Results

June 27, 2015 at Maxville, Ont.
Judge: Pat Conroy, Angola, Ind.
129 Head

Grand Champion


Cavanaleck Dempsey Bozica
Senior 3-Year-Old
Sire: Lirr Drew Dempsey
Yvon Sicard & Pierre Boulet
Saint-Justin, Que., & Montmagny, Que.


Reserve Grand Champion
Cobequid Goldwyn Leno
Mature Cow
Sire: Braedale Goldwyn
Yvon Sicard, Pierre Boulet, Ghyslain Demers & Butz-Hill Holsteins
Saint-Justin, Que., Montmagny, Que., Trois-Rivieres, Que., & Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Intermediate Champion

Cavanaleck Dempsey Bozica
Senior 3-Year-Old
Sire: Lirr Drew Dempsey
Yvon Sicard & Pierre Boulet
Saint-Justin, Que., & Montmagny, Que.

Reserve Intermediate Champion
Blondin Goldwyn Sunsation
Junior 2-Year-Old
Sire: Braedale Goldwyn
Ferme Blondin
Saint-Placide, Que.

Junior Champion


Belfast Doorman Lovestruck
Intermediate Yearling Heifer
Sire: Val-Bisson Doorman
Vogue Cattle Co., Cormdale Genetics Inc., Silvercap Holsteins & Blackrock Livestock Co.
Brighton, Ont., Bethany, Ont., Puslinch, Ont., & Wrightstown, Wis.


Reserve Junior Champion
Bonnie Brae Ape Africa
Intermediate Heifer Calf
Sire: Kingsway Gold Ape
Bruce & Susan Mode
Vankleek Hill, Ont.

Premier Breeder
Ferme Blondin
Saint-Placide, Que.

Premier Exhibitor
Ferme Blondin
Saint-Placide, Que.

Post Show Interview With Judge

Jr. Calf

Riverdown Atwood Jiggalea 1st Place Junior Calf

Riverdown Atwood Jiggalea
1st Place Junior Calf

1st Riverdown Atwood Jiggalea – Riverdown Holsteins
2nd Kirklea Doorman Remarkable – Robert & Bethany MacDonald and Rob Heffernan
3rd Harvestacre Golddust Frozen – Andrew McOuat
4th Winwright Sid Lulu – Lookout and Frank and Diane Borba
5th Phoenix Sildajak Specialsugar – Barclay Phoenix & Sildajak

Intermediate Calf

Bonnie Brae Ape Africa 1st Place Intermediate Calf

Bonnie Brae Ape Africa
1st Place Intermediate Calf

1st Bonnie Brae Ape Africa – Bruce & Susan Mode
2nd Miss Ducket WBK Breeze – Velthuis Farms Ltd
3nd Bonnie Brae Ape Alaska – Bruce & Susan Mode
4th Cherry Crest Dartmouth – Cherry Crest Holsteins
5th Blondin Atwood Jade – Pinehaven Farm

Sr. Calf

Cerpolait Doorman Roselyne 1st place Senior Calf

Cerpolait Doorman Roselyne
1st place Senior Calf

1st Cerpolait Doorman Roselyne – Velthuis Farms Ltd
2nd Riverdown Doorman Lottery Lynn – Riverdown Holsteins
3rd Embrdale Exquisite Lauthority – Embrdale Farm
4th St Jacob Brazzle Hermione – Bruce & Susan Mode and Ian Dingwall
5th Kingsway Goldwyn Roscoe – George Morasci

Summer Yearling

Barrvalley Reginald Misty 1st place summer yearling

Barrvalley Reginald Misty
1st place summer yearling

1st Barrvalley Reginald Misty – Barrvalley Holsteins
2nd Harvestacre Dendion 18k Gold – Andrew McOuat & Ferme Desdion
3rd Eastside Goldwyn Elegance – Knonaudale Farms Inc
4th Delcreek Misbehaving – Peter Rylaarsdam
5th Dannaville Explode Anneabelle – North Star Holsteins

Junior Yearling 

1st Barrvalley Brady Twinkie – Barrvalley Holsteins
2nd Petticlerc Atwood Alexine – Riverdown Holsteins & Fricosons Holsteins
3rd Seavalley Atwood Yantzy’s Pride – Signature,T Edwards, E Farlinger & C Halpenny
4th Idee Goldchip Lucky – Mikeal Leclerc, Jordan Blais and Kevin Moffat
5th Signature Gold Katwin – Glennholme, Signature, Edwards and Farlinger

Champion 4-H Holstein Calf
Bonnie Brae Ape Africa – Arriana France
Embrdale Exquisite Lauthority – Brett Stockdale
Honourable Mention
Signature Gold Katwin – Emma Farlinger

Intermediate Yearling

Belfast Doorman Lovestruck 1st place intermediate yearling

Belfast Doorman Lovestruck
1st place intermediate yearling

1st Belfast Doorman Lovestruck – Vogue, Cormdale, Silvercap & Blackrock
2nd Fairmont Doorman Laurisa – Moffet, Vent D’or, Leclerc, Coulombe, Houdon
3rd Harvestacre Be My Doorman – Andrew McOuat

Sr. Yearling

Yorellea Winbrook Manhattan 1st place senior yearling

Yorellea Winbrook Manhattan
1st place senior yearling

1st Yorella Windbrook Manhattan – Yorella Farms
2nd Rotaly Windbrook Ombré – Rock Hebert & Nathalie Dumas
3rd Robrook Winbrook Beauty – Mary Inn Holsteins & Ferme Gillette
4th Redlodge Saloon Avenue – Redlodge Farms
5th Ludwigshafen SG- I Jasper Ellie – Remi Leroux and Ferme Maher

Jr. Breeders Herd
1st Bruce and Susan Mode
2nd Riverdown
3rd Barrvalley
4th Redlodge
5th Signature

Jr. Breeder – Andrew McOuat
Reserve Breeder – Bruce and Susan Mode
Jr Exhibitor – Bruce and Susan Mode
Reserve Exhibitor– Barrvalley

Jr. 2 year old

Blondin Goldwyn Sensation 1st place Junior 2 Year old

Blondin Goldwyn Sensation
1st place Junior 2 Year old

1st Blondin Goldwyn Sunsation – Ferme Blondin
2nd Roggua Goldwyb Andy ETM – Signature Holsteins
3rd Walkerbrae Doorman Locket – Ferme Blondin
4th Garay Sid Black Beauty- Enright, Jaquemet & Fletcher

Sr. 2

Mabel Fever Divinare 1st place Senior 2 year old

Mabel Fever Divinare
1st place Senior 2 year old

1st Mabel Fever Divinare – Blondin, Sicard, R.Villeneuve
2nd Blondin Goldwyn Svetlana – Blondin
3rd Willswick Sid Bombshell – Kingsway
4th- MS Licorice GC Lovely – Sicard, Boulet, Crasdale, Blondin & Fortale
5th & BU Vinbert Bradnick Lexus – Ferme Vinbert

Jr 3

Outaouais Sid Hailey 1st place Junior 3 year old

Outaouais Sid Hailey
1st place Junior 3 year old

1st & BU Outaouais Sid Hailey – Blondin
2nd Breamont GE Beulla – Enright
3rd Signature Golds Reward – Signature
4th Samido Gold Chip Debra – P. Boulet

Sr.3 year old

Cavanaleck Dempsey Bozica 1st place Senior 3 year old

Cavanaleck Dempsey Bozica
1st place Senior 3 year old

1st & BU Cavanaleck Dempsey Bozica – Sicard & Boulet
2nd Blondin Braxton Kansas – Blondin
3rd Gendarra Sanchez Taskar – Gendarra Farm
4th Murryholm Windbrook Lely – Lookout, Murryholm & G. Halbach
5th Signature F Latte – Signature

4 year old


Mystique Goldwyn Moreale 1st place 5 year old

Mystique Goldwyn Moreale
1st place 4 year old

1st & BU Mystique Goldwyn Boreale – Blondin
2nd Blondin Goldwyn Kally -Blondin
3rd Signature Gold Kenya – Glennholme, Signature, T. Edwards
4th Blondin Supreme Ruby – Blondin
5th Gendarra Circuit Twinkle – Gendarra

5 year old

Glengarry Atwood Anne 1st place 5 year old

Glengarry Atwood Anne
1st place 5 year old

1st & BU Glengarry Atwood Anne – Enright
2nd Lindenright Atwood Bounce – Enright & Velthuis


Cobequid Goldwyn Leno 1st place Mature Cow

Cobequid Goldwyn Leno
1st place Mature Cow

1st & BU Cobequid Goldwyn Leno – SIcard, Boulet, Demers & Butz-Hill
2nd Willowholme Goldwyn Jessica – Blondin
3rd Aija Goldwyn Greta – Enright & Jaquemet

Senior Breeder’s Herd
1st Ferme Blondin
2nd Signature Holsteins

Grace Under Pressure

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in the moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.  Who we are as human beings presents itself more fully at times of adversity than at times of ease.  I have had the pleasure of knowing the Burdette and Stiles families a long while know and always found they to be great people, but over this past year I have learned through their actions after the horrible accident that happened to them, that they are also people of extraordinary character. (Read more: WHY THE DAIRY COMMUNITY IS THE GREATEST IN THE WORLD….)

Robin Sharma once wrote, “Anyone can be positive, polite and kind when things are going well.  What distinguishes people with an extraordinary character character from the rest of us is how they respond when life sends one if its inevitable curves.”  Some would give up and surrender, some who claim woe and complain how life sucks.  But those people of extraordinary character don’t crumble, they don’t surrender.  Like the Burdette and Stiles families have exhibited over this past year, they reach deeply into themselves and present even more of their true nature to the world, and shine bright at times of great adversity.

This past week the family and friends of Reese, brought her favorite cow, Pantene , to come and see her and help her through her healing process.

This past week the family and friends of Reese, brought her favorite cow, Pantene , to come and see her and help her through her healing process.

Nobody is perfect, and nobody has the perfect life.  I am certainly not, and my life certainly isn’t.  We all face challenges on a daily basis that are both large and small. But when we are facing these challenges it helps to keep this in perspective.  Every minute of every day their are people dealing with the death of a loved one.  There are people dealing with problems much greater than the once that I face.  I find myself at times of great stress and challenge, having to step back and look at people who are dealing with these situations, and take perspective on life.  It’s at these times that people like the family of Reese Burdette that are watching their amazing little girl show such character, such strength, such grace going through something I can not even imagine.


This past weekend I saw this picture of Justin Burdette holding his daughter, and I could not help but cry.  Crying tears of joy, tears of sadness and more importantly feeling inspiration.  I am inspired by the amazing character that the Burdette and Stiles families have displayed over this past year.  It’s starts at the top of this families, with Patricia risking her life to save that of her grand daughter, and it is exhibited daily by the class these families have exhibited in a time that must rock you at your core.  These families have rallied in support of Reese, they have also shown the world what makes them special.  It’s also at this time that the dairy community has also exhibited its extraordinary class.  Sure we may not be as “rich” an industry as others.  We may not all drive big fancy cars, or have billions of dollars.  But as a community we have shown to the world  through our support of these amazing families, that we are a group of people with extraordinary character.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No one get’s through life without experiencing adversity.  But you and I have the ability to rise above these circumstances and show our true nature, like the Burdette and Stiles families have demonstrated over this past year.  We all have the ability to choose to be strong and positive when things fall apart.  We have the right to use our stumbling blocks as stepping stones to a greater life.  Over this past year the Burdette and Stiles families ability to show grace under pressure, and extraordinary character through a time that certainly it would seem much easier to give up.  What distinguishes these families and our industry is the extraordinary character we all are able to show when life sends us one of its inevitable curveballs. Grace under pressure.  Thats what separates leaders from followers and inspires all of us.



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Using Genomics as the Ticket to the Future

“Genomics has taken dairy cattle genetics to new heights.” Of course, there are breeders who agree and others who disagree with that statement. Regardless of our individual opinions, breeders definitely know more about the genetic make-up of the top animals than we did prior to 2008.

Let’s do an analysis on using and relying on genomics to achieve genetically improved dairy cattle in the future through increased accuracy, profitability, and genetic advancement.


  • allows for reducing the effects of biases found in the phenotypic data used in genetic evaluations (accuracy)
  • can be used for both parentage verification and genetic indexing (accuracy)
  • increases the accuracy of genetic indexes for young bulls and genetically elite females (accuracy)
  • provides for enhanced accuracy when culling of heifers based on genetic indexes (accuracy)
  • allows for decreasing the generation intervals (rate of genetic advancement)
  • reduces the number of young bulls that need to be sampled. Each one costs $50,000. (profitability)
  • allows breeders to focus on replicating their best genetically indexed animals or families (genetic advancement)
  • can be used for decisions beyond genetics including in health and management (profitability)
  • fits a breeding model that uses genetic indexes and yields rapid genetic gain (genetic advancement)


  • currently, not enough young females are being tested to know accurately the population average and ranges
  • adds to the cost for documenting animals
  • took some control out of the hands of breeders and breed associations
  • resulted in more friction amongst breeders
  • required that breeds incur the cost of education/awareness programs
  • does not fit a breeding model that uses show results or requires 90+% reliability for sires used


  • provides the opportunity for more on-farm profit including the need to raise fewer heifers (profitability)
  • reduces the loss that breeders incur when they get low-end heifers from low genetic merit unproven sires (profitability)
  • allows for breeders to implement new models for breeding and marketing (profitability)
  • results in a more rapid genetic improvement for both herds and breeds, at less cost (genetic advancement)
  • allows for the genetic evaluations for additional important traits (profitability and genetic advancement)
  • allows for the genetic evaluations for traits on which it is hard to capture field data (profitability and genetic improvement)
  • allows for the accuracy of comparison for animals originating from foreign sources (accuracy)
  • allows for re-structuring of or adding to services that breeders need (profitability)


The following threats are largely based on changes in the status quo.

  • devalues some animals previously considered elite and of some animals capable of winning at local shows
  • if not used wisely can result in increased levels of inbreeding
  • provides for breeders to discontinue participation in performance recording programs, yet they can make significant genetic improvement
  • could result in fewer A.I organizations and thereby potentially less choice for breeders
  • may require that a new genetic evaluation formula be developed 

Where from here?

The position taken by breeders relative to genomic information very often depends on whether they see genomics as a threat or as an opportunity. It’s time to be positive.  It’s impossible to turn back the clock. We need to stop the negativity on the topic of genomics or toward the people using that information. Breeders and industry stakeholders need to work nationally and internationally for collective benefit. With further research and development genomics will provide discerning breeders with information so they can achieve their breeding and profitability goals.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Bullvine strongly supports using genomic information. Although it is not the only tool, it is a very constructive one for improving the total genetic merit of dairy cattle. Progressive and pro-active breeds and breeders will use and further develop this tool.


The first webinar in the series to be held on Noon (EST) Wednesday July 8th 2015, and will focus on the basics of genomics to provide producers with a better understanding of the benefits of knowing more about their heifers. Click here to reserve your seat!

Missing Fathers: Have You Missed the Mark with Your Sire Selection?

Yesterday was Father’s Day and our focus was on what our fathers do for us. For fathers no longer with us, yesterday would have been all about the memories. For some fathers, perhaps, it was about how successful they have been as fathers.

Future Bovine Fathers

Dairy cattle breeders know all about the importance of great fathers when it comes to creating the next generation.  The breeders of future generations of dairy cattle will have the opportunity to feed the world high-quality protein and fat.  For this article let’s focus on the protein that consumers will be needing in the milk products they purchase. Let’s also consider the possible ways that consumer needs will impact the selection of the bovine fathers that breeders use to produce future generations of cows.

Cheese Predictions

Recently there has been considerable positive media coverage on cheese.

Elizabeth Crawford on June 15, 2015, article entitled Cheese could be the next health food, industry expert suggests”. Author Crawford’s summary from her research concludes that “The tide may be changing for cheese, as science helps re-position the dairy food as a protein-dense, calcium- rich, healthy snack rather than as a high-fat and high–sodium food to be enjoyed in moderation”. Now, isn’t that a breath of fresh air for the dairy cattle industry!

It Could Very Well Go Beyond Cheese

Also, hot off the press on Friday was the announcement of the Dairy Innovation Forum to be held Wednesday July 29, 2015. It will be a free-to-attend online 60-minute forum.  An expert panel of milk product innovators and marketers will address the following:

  • How difficult is it to launch a new dairy brand?
  • What are the hottest new trends in dairy?
  • What’s natural? And does it matter?
  • What keeps you awake at night?

Although many breeders may question the importance to them of such a forum, it will provide food for thought for leading edge breeders or geneticists at breeding companies who are considering what will follow a2 Milk (Read more: 12 Things You Need To Know About A2 Milk) and Greek yogurt. Both of these products focus on the protein in cows’ milk.

In the next five years, there will be other new products that are built on the presence of unique proteins in bovine milk. It is not a “what if situation”. It is only a matter of time until milk with certain protein combinations will be given a premium farm gate price. That means big bucks when it comes to farm profit.

The Impact on Bovine Fathers

With the protein in milk garnering much attention, the genetic merit of service sires currently being used is essential. Well, not just important, the sires need to excel.

The Bullvine recommends that breeders interested in having hard-working, long-lived, trouble free cows make the primary selection criteria for their service sires – protein yield (Protein), length of life (Productive Life) and total merit (NM$).  (Read more: Mating Recommendations)

Differences do exist between breeds for what the genetic merit of active sires are. For Holsteins, the top sires have 60+ lbs Protein, 5+ Productive life and 750+ NM$. For Jerseys, they are 45+ lbs Protein, 5+ PL and 200+ NM$. Some breeders may wish to include in their selection criteria DPR, SCS, inbreeding level (Read more: The Truth About Inbreeding) and polled (Read more: Polled Genetics: The Cold Hard Facts). However, that will limit the progress that their herd will make for protein, herd life and total merit. Sires are now rated for beta casein and kappa casein, in demand by some cheese producers. It could very well be that other proteins will be identified as necessary in the future to make other specialty milk products.

The current top five active Holstein protein sires that do not have negative ratings for DPR or SCS are:

  • Jedi (7HO13250) 79 P, 6.0 PL and 859 NM$
  • Supershot (224HO02881) 70 P, 7.5 PL and 853 NM$
  • Supersire (7HO11351) 68 P, 6.5 PL and 834 NM$
  • AltaStratify (11HO11462) 68 P, 6.6 PL and 777 NM$
  • Superman (200HO07846) 67 P, 5.4 PL and 783 NM$.

How Do Your Current Service Sire Stack Up?

There is no time like the present for breeders to compare the sires they are presently using.  If those sires do not favourably compare, the best decision could well be to dump the semen from the lowest half and replace them with top protein sires. The $25 to $50 lost per dose of semen dumped may be small in comparison to the money lost in the milking daughters four and more years down the road.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If the milk that you plan to sell in the future needs to be protein rich, then the sires used today need to be top of the line. Compromising in sire selection is like not doing the best we can for our children. Fathers, in the house or in the barn, need to do their best.



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6 Tips to Becoming a Great Showperson!

We would all love to be able to walk into the ring and have our animals instantly pulled to the top of the class as we win a big show like World Dairy Expo, The Royal, IDW or The EU Championship.  But that doesn’t happen easily.  While there is always great discussion about what it takes to win a big show, one area that does not often get the attention it deserves is showmanship.  With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look at what it takes to be a great showperson.


While the debate goes on over how much a big name on the halter helps the animal place higher, I would argue that the best escorts are those that focus on getting the job done.  (Read more: Exposed: The Tanbark Trail Escort Service) With that in mind here are six tips to help improve your showmanship skills:

  1. Always have your heifer looking her best
    The first thing that a great showperson does is evaluate the animal they are leading.  Long before you get into the ring, you need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the animal you are leading.  If your heifer looks better on the walk, then you need to make sure that, when the judges are looking at your animal on the outside of the ring,  you have her on the move.  Conversely, if your animal tends to fall apart on the walk, then you want to be in a situation where the judge evaluates your animal for the first time when she is standing still.  Also, when you are in line, if you have an animal that is much deeper and more open of the rib than the animal ahead of you, you want to make sure you leave extra room so that the judge can see this advantage.  The same holds true when the judge is walking around the front of your animal.Make sure he sees that you have an advantage of cleanliness of the neck over the bull ahead of you. Another factor to consider occurs when the judge is on the other side of the ring.Most show people tend to let their showmanship slip then.  At most bigger shows, this is not a good practice.  At the larger shows that have an associate judge, this is when they will be watching you and their opinion can go a long way in making sure that you don’t  get missed.  This is also the time that many of the better photographers will be taking pictures of you and your animal.  That is because, if they are doing their best to stay out of the way of the judge, they will set up on the other side of the ring and take pictures from there.  I am often asked why I did not get a better shot of an animal. It’s an easy answer.  The showperson did not go to the effort of having their animal looking its best at all times.  Most experienced showpeople I work with have realized this and they will actually take this opportunity to pose their animals for me so that I get that shot they can use for their marketing purposes.
  2. It’s not about you
    Now this might be tough for some showpeople who may have an ego the size of a jumbo jet “Newsflash! It’s not about you!” When you work at putting on a personal show, i.e. being dramatic on the halter, having your elbows too high, or always fixing your pants that are falling, it shows the judge that you are not there for the correct reasons.  A great showperson manages to disappear. The animal they are leading stands out, and you barely notice the showman.  That means you need to relax.  Showman that are always fidgeting with their animals, putting on a show that they are “working it” are actually doing more harm than good.  One thing that  I have learned at the hundreds of shows I have been part of is that showmen that do their job do it quickly.  They are never noticed but are the showpeople that are known to get consistently achieve the best results. The best show people make it look effortless when a judge sees someone having to work nonstop that tells them there are major flaws that that showperson is trying to cover up.
  3. IMG_3735Train your animal
    I don’t care if you are the greatest showperson in the world, if the animal you are leading is not trained, you will never get the best results. Animals that can walk smoothly and don’t require the showperson to pull them like a stalled Mac truck will always get better results.  Sure we all wish that a judge would be able to see around this issue, but it’s just not that simple.  I can still remember when I first started 4-H and a couple of the senior members in our club would bring their projects to the show never having led them. .  One would complain that he was beaten by a show person who was “not as good” as he was.  And sure he might have had more experience, but, when he was spending all his time trying to get his animal under control, he was not able to demonstrate that experience.  You can never put too much time into training your animals for the show ring.  Consistently top show people have learned this lesson when they were young and have never forgotten it.
  4. Respect your competitors
    I see it in every class at every show. A showman who thinks they are getting an “edge” by creeping their animal into the center of the ring, or by running up the backside of the calf in front of themselves, in order to get a better look from the judge.  Everyone likes to think they have a winner, so they do what they can to win. However,  you should never do this at the expense of the others who are exhibiting.  I have been at shows where one part of ring starts to look so small that you could lasoo the whole group with one throw.  Moving closer to the other animal does not make your animal look better. It also does not get you pulled in any faster, especially at the big shows.  It just pisses off those around you and makes you look stupid.  It’s more important to make sure your animal looks their best, then to be worrying if the judge will see you.  That’s his job.  Do yours. The best way to stand out is to always have your animal looking their best.  This is also true when standing in line. Don’t stand three feet in front of the other animals in line thinking it will make you stand out.  You will get noticed but not earn the results you’re looking for. This also makes a big difference in getting an excellent picture.
  5. Stay calm and look through the eyes of the judge
    Often when I see a showperson always “working” their animal, they are worried about things that don’t even matter. Instead of being fidgety on the halter, look where the judge is and view it from their angle.  I have seen many show people fidget with how the front end looks when the judge is standing behind them and yet they have their animal’s rear legs incorrectly placed.  I have also seen that many of the showpeople in first do not change the rear legs to accentuate best the length of their animal when viewed from the top of the class.  Remember, just like switching the legs when you are on the outside of the ring, you need to switch the rear legs when you are in 1st  place as well.  For heifers, this means that the leg nearest the judge is back and the opposite for cows.  This also makes a big difference in getting a great picture.
  6. Slow And Steady Does Not Always Win The Race
    One of the hard lessons I learned early in my show career is that walking slowly does not always get the best results. What I mean by that is, if you are in first you need to walk your animal to the next line as promptly as your animal can handle.  The slower you go, the more time you give the judge to change his mind and move an animal ahead of you.  Unless you have an animal that walks very poorly, you need to move at a good pace. Even for animals that walk relatively poorly, you can still move your animal fast when the judge is looking at animals further down the line.  As for the animals  lower in the class, how can you expect the judge to move you up, when he can not even compare your animal to the one ahead of you , because you are walking so slowly that they cannot see both animals at the same time?


The Bullvine Bottom Line

The best show people are the best, not because of genetics, but rather because they understand these six steps that help them take their showmanship to a level that is beyond all others.



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12 Tips to Improve The Bottom Line of Your Dairy Operation

Dairy farm businesses are under extreme pressure. Producers everywhere are looking to boost their profitability wherever possible.  When it comes to growing profitability, the goal is to use simple, common-sense tactics for cost savings that go directly to your dairy bottom line.

Forget the TOP Line – YOUR Profitability starts on the BOTTOM Line

Too often we mistakenly focus on the topline (gross revenue, sales, even wins in the showring). That is costly and pays attention to the wrong end. Start by looking to the bottom line. The bottom line focuses on expenses. Not just the cost paid out but the benefits gained. And remember it’s the little things that count – a ten percent increase in profit is more likely to come from twenty things that contribute one-half percent each than from one thing that gives you the full 10 percent.

Here are 12 tips to start you on your way to a better bottom line and more profitability.

  1. Bottom-up budgeting. The first thing to think about is the net that your dairy enterprise must earn. Everyone involved in the dairy needs to contribute to this investigation of what is absolutely required to sustain a profitable operation. Communication of successes, challenges and future potential must be openly communicated. One of the primary advantages of bottom-up budgeting is that it is traditionally very accurate. As long as everyone takes care to look responsibly at their area of the operation, it will generally come out with an accurate estimate of costs. It is important that all input be received – without padding.  Accuracy gives the foundation to build on. Padding could defeat the whole purpose!
  2. Set targets and achieve You need to be looking at key performance indicators (aka KPIs) and measuring your dairy against them. It is essential to know what you are comparing to so you can work towards it. . When possible, try to quantify the results you are aiming for with quantities, percentages, dollars or time. This will allow you to measure what you have achieved and readjust accordingly. Ideally, you should set goals for the long-term, and then mini goals that are short-term and ultimately tie in with the bigger picture. Differentiating between the two will help you from becoming overwhelmed or discouraged, and will also assist in always keeping the long-term perspective in mind when the day to day threatens to make you lose sight of it.
  3. Make sure the goal is in the right hands. This means the goal must be achievable as a result of your own hard work and determination, or with the willing assistance of someone already in your network. If you have no control over the outcome, it does not make for a realistic goal. Everyone has a role in meeting goals. Each individual, each team and every dairy animal will contribute to the bottom line profitability if they are assigned measurable goals that are linked to that outcome. In order to increase motivation, employees need to be allowed to participate in the goal-setting process. With agreed upon actions and measurable outcomes everyone can identify how their contribution contributes to the success of the dairy operation. Most importantly, when approaching completion of a goal, set a new one.
  4. Beware of false savings. When times get tough, it is tempting to cut back on expensive inputs. Fertiliser or other soil treatments might go on the chopping block. Grazed pasture is the cheapest feed for dairy cows.  When ensiled for the winter it is the lowest cost feed. Saving on crop input costs could indeed be false saving. A better way of saving money would be testing soils tri-yearly and applying the right quantities of slurry, farmyard manure and fertiliser. False economies are everywhere, and the way to avoid them, as much as possible, is to take a strategic approach to thinking through them. Economies of taking away feed additives; doing without automation or adding more free labor (i.e. family) could actually cost more in the long term.
  5. Shop around. Make sure you get three quotes for everything that is purchased for the farm. Don’t forget to look at electricity, labour and even borrowing money. Getting quotes from power companies is easy, or you can use a broker. If you use self-employed labour or a contractor getting quotes can be appropriate or comparing other affordable options. Quotes for money means, simply, talking to other banks than your own. It’s in your profitability’s best interests to compare all suppliers on the basis of price, capabilities and performance. It’s false saving to have a cheap price that doesn’t provide results (see #4).
  6. Milk your milk check. Depending on particular countries, provinces and states .. there are many different rules to meet in order to receive your milk check. It is in your profitability’s best interest to increase the milk price in whatever ways are available to you. Take advantage of all the bonuses available. That could be for butterfat, protein, quality or pattern of supply. Seasonal incentive pricing exists in many areas so take advantage of it also!
  7. Make good on your grazing. Some advisers suggest that now is the time to intervene if your grass is not at its best. With half the season left you could still fix it. Mow and either feed the grass or bale Fertilise the field and get it back in the grazing rotation within 30 days. Also reconsider those late cuts. They are always more expensive to harvest as silage, so graze it or make dry bales to reduce costs.
  8. Manage the short term AND always make sure you have a plan B in every scenario. A plan is the one which has been put on the piece of paper. If it is not on the piece of paper, if it is not in black and white then it is just some random set of ideas and not a If you are really serious about creating a profitability plan, you will make efforts to write it down somewhere and share it with others. Of course, just writing your plan down on paper won’t make it “profitable”. But it is a good start.
  9. Always be better. In many countries, dairying is definitely seeing difficult times but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities for improvement.Set some goals for changes that you want to make to your dairy ­
    1. Continuous improvement should be the number one “VALUE” of the profitable dairy operation.
    2. Continuous improvement is linked with rewards and recognition.
    3. Continuous improvement should be supported by continuous training that is measured for effectiveness.
  10. Calculate the ROI of everything you do. ROI is a more important metric than any conversion rate simply because it takes ‘COST’ into account. As long as you take ‘Cost’ into consideration, you can’t go wrong with improving your business bottom-line. Calculate ‘cost per acquisition’ for all of your dairy (show string; advertising; genetics). Even calculate ROI of all of your meetings, business travel and lunches. What about the days it takes for you to do all your accounting? Equipment repair? Building maintenance? Does your milk production suffer when you have to wear one of your other hats? Vet? Office manager? Field manager?
  11. Hire an Expert. There is always an opportunity – lost or gained – when you choose to do things yourself in which you are not an expert or when you hire someone who is not an expert.
    While you may gain by not writing a check to someone else, you could still be putting money down the drain. When your bookkeeping, animal health protocols, feed supplies or equipment maintenance are sub-par, any one of them could be substantially reducing your bottom line and be costing you your time, your health, mediocre results and even complete failure.
    Hiring an expert may not be profitable at first but, in the long run, can be the best bang for your buck. Not only will you recover your entire hiring cost sooner but you will also make a lot of money on top of that, and you will continue to do so for an extended period. However, all of this can happen only when you first understand that you can’t be an expert in everything and that you need someone who is really an expert in their field.
  12. Manage for Improvement. Efficiency is gained when revenue per cow grows.  Technology, genomics, robotics all are tools, so your herd can become more productive and you don’t have to add new headcount to grow.  What if you could replace your lowest 10% of performers with new cattle that matched your top 10%?  This would result in an enormous productivity boost at virtually no incremental cost.  There are many techniques to improve productivity, but the point is that constantly growing headcount certainly will result in overhead growth but won’t necessarily lead to profitable revenue growth. Focus on acquiring or raising only the best animals. Your best milk producers are your most profitable producers. If you don’t know your best producers yet then get to know them ASAP. If you don’t know which animals are driving up expenses …. Find out ASAP. According to the Pareto Principle (also known as the 80–20 rule), 80% of your costs come from 20% of your herd. These 20% of your herd are hurting your bottom line. The other 80% are your high-value You need more of these best producers to improve your business bottom line. So gradually start reducing your herd of those high expense producers. Aim to breed more cattle targeted at reducing your most limiting genetic factor or factors (reproduction, feet and legs, calving ease).  It is not really rocket science, but some dairy business owners and managers just don’t get it. They remain busy in acquiring low-value animals because they have never made the effort to identify and target their best producers.  Low-value producers — still produce milk — but all milk isn’t equal.  Even though it’s all the same once it’s in the milk tank, there can be quite a difference in the cost that got it that far. The lowest producing cow in the milk line may already have run up extra costs because she was sick as a calf.

The Bullvine Bottom Line
A dollar gained in revenue is an excellent thing assuming it builds profitability. However, remember, only a small portion reaches net earnings.  A dollar saved from cost, however, goes directly to the bottom line.  So move your focus away from the top-line and engage in a systematic approach for improving the bottom line. It’s the best way to ensure long-term dairy profitability and sustainability.



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10 Common Dairy Industry Misperceptions!

It doesn’t matter what industry your business is in, you have probably encountered misperceptions about what you do or what you sell. The problem with misconceptions is that they can be hard to shake. Just like an urban legend, they become beliefs that are assumed to be facts.

Dairy month is a good time for us, as an industry, to consider the stereotypes and misconceptions that affect the dairy industry.  A recent discussion on the Milk House started with the question “What is the biggest misperception that you think consumers have about the dairy industry?” The lively discussion that followed highlighted several misperceptions and even noted some responses that could be helpful. The following list is in no particular order.

#10. “Organic Is Better Than Traditional Milk”

Response: Everyone is promoting what makes their product different.  Consumers are aware of this and look for points to help them choose between products. Says Seth Snook, When organic producers claim no antibiotics no hormones, etc. it is not intended to hurt the conventional producer but the implication that our products are tainted is damaging.

#9. “All Large Dairy Farms are Bad”

Misperceptions are not always outside of an industry.  For example, even those with hands on in dairying are influenced by the good and bad experiences they have been exposed to.  Some, like Dave Puppe, are disappointed by the growth and changes in the industry which leaves them feeling that all large farms are equally bad.

Response:  Painting all big farms with the same brush is playing with the same fire that consumers play with when it comes to farms and livestock in general. It’s safe to say that not all small 40 cow dairies are ethical, and not all big farms are factories. Sloane Michelle Sanders further clarifies her point, The general public seems convinced that every farm that has a free stall/parlor environment over a tie stall/pasture set up is abusive. I’ve seen cows flourish in both settings. Look at Luck-E. Kandie hangs out in the free stalls and still looks perfect.

Response: Cliff Shearer gives this definitive answer. In some ways all farms are ‘factory’ farms and no farms are factory farms. They are all factory farms in the sense that in a contained area ‘ factory ‘ they take a raw product ‘ animal food ‘ and produce a marketable product ‘ milk, beef, eggs, etc. ‘ which is basically how every factory on the planet works. However, none of them are factories because they all deal with animals which makes them into Farms a different thing. No factories are farms because they don’t have livestock, but no farms are factories. To call any farm a factory is misleading – you may as well say General Motors is a farm. Its just yet another word used by ignorant people to try and devalue what farmers do. I don’t think you can call intensive pig and poultry farms factories – they are still farms – just different systems of farming. Even a 20,000 cow farm is still a farm.

Response: Ashley Elizabeth Morin weighed in with this considered response. I would think of a factory as machines producing a product. The work, dedication, time, and effort we put into our livelihoods are what make it a farm. It’s generations of families working together from the past to present to leave an even better tomorrow for our children to carry on. I don’t think the almond milk CEO goes to the factory in the middle of the night because there is a glitch in the system.

You will find the farmer out in the barn, no matter the hour, pulling a calf, iv-ing a cow… the list never stops. That’s the difference to me: the amount of dedication and love it takes to do this every day. It’s not for the faint of heart.

#8. “Dairy Farmers Mistreat Their Animals”

Response: The cows are what make me money, so there’s no way I could ever abuse them.  I think that goes for most dairies in general.  The truth is when prices are down, and cuts have to be made, cows still get fed better than me. Always will.” Noting other aspects of animal care, Mark Yeazel and Amber Kilgour report that people are surprised that the cows are not only registered but have names and are recognized by their spots. All respondents agree, “That we couldn’t care less about our animals really makes us angry!”

#7. “Dairy Farmers Are Hands-Off of Everything Except the Profits”

Supporting this position, Dave Puppe declares “I’ve experienced both the smaller and the mega size….the bigger it is, the less respect for the animal….it turns into a factory and the less hands on debate over large farms, Puppe conceded slightly, “I see your point but confining that many cows to concrete and milking them to death is unnatural and wrong……” To which Sanders responds.

Response:  Milking them to death? Define milking them to death because as far as I can tell, most farms only milk 2 or 3 times a day, regardless of size. I’ve also heard of several smaller herds who never let their cows out of their tie stalls EVER for fear of them hurting themselves. They are in the more-desired (to some) setting, and yet they never see pasture either. There’s good and bad to each. 

Sloane Michelle Sanders responds with her personal experience.

Response: I worked for a farm that milked 1,000 cows. The owner is involved in every single operation on that farm. Every single day, he’s out with the team he’s hired, and can frequently be found out in the barn cutting out cows, pushing them up to the parlor, and on occasion lending an extra set of hands in the parlor.

#6. “Dairies Heartlessly Separate Cows from Calves at Birth”

When non-dairy observers question taking calves from the cow at birth, some dairy managers make the effort of explaining how it is for the good for the health of both mother and calf. In humanizing the event, the general public overlooks the potential for the environment and other animals to pass germs on to the newborn.

#5. ”Dairy Farms Pollute the Water”

The biggest misconception in NZ is that all dairy farmers are filthy rich and also are polluters of the waterways. There is a phrase often trotted out in the media “Dirty Dairying” which means farmers who pollute the water. The belief is that we make so much money that we don’t care about the water or the environment. The truth is that we are most closely watched of all industries in the country, and any pollution is quickly picked up and harshly dealt with. And yes most farm owners [who have worked bloody hard for many decades] are asset rich but we are almost all cash poor. We don’t get our money till we retire.”

Patty Traxler reported a situation regarding an ironic turn of events. “Here in the land of 10,000 lakes as farmers it makes applying manure even more challenging! We have lake people monitoring us all the time which pushes us to do an excellent job. But when the county got a grant to check septic systems of the area 86% of lake homes failed! They now have to put a pipe in to move the waste to a nearby city costing each home hooking up $40,000 or so!!!”

#4. “Dairy Farmers are Rich!”

Since milk is so expensive in the store, consumers assume dairy farmers must be rich.  This misperception was on many lists – some were amused — some wished it was so. Regardless, what farmers get paid is assumed to be making them rich.

#3. “Twice a day Milking” and “Lots of Holidays”

Some who joined the discussion noted that the public thinks “That we simply milk the cows twice a day… And that’s it.” Mark Yeazel’s has experienced this mistaken viewpoint, “You milk with robots, what do you do with all your free time now?” Some were surprised to hear that dairy farmers have vacations, “We have holidays?” Daniel Drummond described dairy farming in a non-holiday framework:” 24/7 on call…..ass to the fire….full bore. Try living with a rocket strapped to your back called debt…..but forget about it when you come in the house and see your kids. Bless the farmer, they need all the help they can get.”

#2. “Women Don’t Do Much on the Dairy Farm”

Dairy women are also misrepresented in the minds of those who don’t know and think “Women don’t do much on the farm. Or that every female farmer is a ‘farm wife’.” Ashley Elizabeth Morin notes, “I’m the farm girl, and my fiancée is the farm wife.” Melynda Naples also pointed out that “Often the female is “the farmer”.  It would make a fascinating article (and statistical study) to see the numbers comparing woman who do the dairying while the husband works off the farm.

#1. “Dairy Farmers are Dumb”

Mark DeBoer and Sam Kenney listed the misperception about farmers being considered dumb.

Kirt Sloan added that some people feel, “Anybody can do it! The truth is that it’s a very complex business with animals, people, and nature… is a calling of maximum intestinal fortitude. And I am grateful to work in this industry.” Michael Steele also notes this misconception is out there and adds. “The truth is that most Americans are 4, 5, 6 generations from the farm, we have to do a better job of educating the public.” On that subject, Patty Traxler shared her experiences.” I spend a lot of time educating kids and the public; I want people to see that I am college educated, that I take amazing care of my animals, that they aren’t just a number, that I can be a great mom & a great farmer, and that I work hard to produce an incredible product for the world!!”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Thanks to everyone who took the opportunity to share their experiences.  Being heard is really what fighting misperceptions is all about! That … and not being buried in a pile of misinformation!



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Culling for $$$ – The Six Animals You Need To Cull Immediately

Today I drove past a crew of highway maintenance workers and one was pounding in a stake, one was holding the stake, one had a white hard hat and was obviously the crew chief and three were watching. Like most Bullvine readers, my mind reacted by saying – “Now isn’t that an inefficient use of our taxpayers dollars!”  Fifty percent of that crew were taking their pay check but not giving back.  You could be correct if you were to say that I judged too quickly. Perhaps I did not have all the facts. Most of us are quick to judge outside situations. However when it comes to our own milk producing work force are we business like, when it comes to the number of workers required to get the job done?

Tighter Margins Means Stringent Culling

Last year when milk was $22.00 /cwt FOB the farm gate, cows below herd average for revenue generation or above herd average for problems could be tolerated. But 2015 is a new year. Milk is only returning $18.00/cwt. That $4.00/cwt difference in revenue has a significant impact on cow to cow margins. Cows are your work force. 2015 is good year to get the pencil out and do the math on which cows to cull and thereby, in fact, increase the daily herd profit.

Jack Welch 10% Removal Method 

A previous Bullvine article called Why You Should Get Rid Of the Bottom 10% was based on former Chairman and CEO of General Electric Jack Welch’s theory of removing the bottom 10% of workers every year. Even though that may sound extreme, few can argue with the 4000% growth in GE’s value over the 20 years Mr. Welch led the company. That previous Bullvine article focused readers’ attention on reproduction, heifer rearing, animal health and technological changes. This article aims to apply dollars and cents to identify potential cull animals. So you can allocate the feed and energy to the animals retained.

Calculate The Dollars

Once the very obvious culls have been removed from the herd, breeders need some way to decide which animals are the next ones to be culled. As dairying is a business, it seems appropriate to make the decisions based on what drives profit. More profit comes from either less cost or more revenue.  Let’s look at how that could play out on dairy farms.

These Six Animals Can Be Culled Immediately

By attaching dollar values the following six scenarios came to the top of our list:

  • Her Somatic Cell is Over 3.00
    Think about it. You spend $2500 to raise a heifer only to have her produce milk that is over 3.00 SCS. Cows like that help put you in a potential penalty position, when it comes to the requirement that herd average SCC be under 400,000. Why keep cows that must be milked separately and their milk pasteurized and then used to feed calves? There are no dairy purpose sale opportunities for high SCS first calving cows. With a beef market value at $1300 (net), you have just lost $1200 on her. There is considerable documented field research to show that when a cow gets a third case of mastitis in a lactation that immediately puts her in the category of loosing money, no matter what the production level is. Considering lost saleable milk, drug costs, labor costs and consumption of valuable feed, cows that have high SCS’s can easily be costing you $2.00 per milking day. And that is not to mention the danger of shipping milk that contains a drug residue.
  • Her Conception Rate is Costing Time, Resources and Money
    Cows that take more than three services and heifers that take more than two services to conceive, cost big time. They have increased costs of $400 – $500 per year and likely $2000 per lifetime. That is based on added semen, labor (farm manager, farm worker, vet & technician) and drugs costs. Also included are the extra days she spends being non-productive (prior to first calving and in dry pens) and her time at lower production levels in her lifetime. These types of animals are losing you $1.60 per milking day. Looking at improved reproduction from a net perspective, Jeff Stevenson of Kansas State University determined that moving up pregnancy rate by 2% will net a dairyman $132 per cow per year as a result of more milk revenue, more calf revenues and increased value of cull/dairy sales of cows when milk is $18 per cwt. It would be even more if the sale price of milk is higher.
  • She Cannot Keep Up in the Milk Pail
    Yield is comprised of both volume and solid content.  Cows that are 10% below their age-lactation contemporaries for solids corrected milk on average are generating $1.50 (1st lactation) – $2.50 (mature) less revenue per milking day than their piers. Again why raise a heifer just to have her be 10% or more below other first calvers?
  • She is a Problem at Milking Time
    Slow milking animals were tolerated in stanchion barns. Every breeder knew it was not a good thing but after investing in raising the heifer they thought they needed to get a return on their investment. Times have changed. Slow milkers in palor or rotary barns create extra work and lost through put time. Even in robot herds, slow milkers reduce the volume of milk that can be harvested per day. No one wants a slow milker. Another problem are the heifers that are hard to train to the milking routine. Staff can only be expected to be patient for a couple of weeks with first calf heifers that kick the milking unit off. Unlike the cows themselves, staff must be adaptable, but at what cost? It is almost impossible to put a dollar value on the cost of slow milkers and mean tempered cows. Definitely bloodlines with undesirable milking speed and temperament should be avoided.
  • She Visits the Hoof Trimming Chute Often
    The Bullvine has previously covered animal mobility (Read more: MOBILITY – THE ACHILLES HEEL OF EVERY BREEDING PROGRAM).  Putting a dollar value on the cows that need extra foot care ($15 per trim), eat less so they produce less, require medication and therefore milk withdrawal,  require numerous extra inseminations to conceive thereby spending extra time in the dry pen can mount up quickly. A simple foot problem can take a very profitable cow and make her a money losing one. If even 5% of a herd falls into this category, it can be costing $0.25 – $0.50 per milking cow day for the entire herd.
  • She’s a Poor Doer / Goer
    Animals that do not thrive and therefore require extra care can make the life of dairy people a drag a best but at worst can make people leave the industry. On a heifer basis we have no population figures on averages or the relationship with bloodlines of animals that do not thrive, get sick easier or do not reach puberty by 12-13 months of age. On a cow basis we know which ones have metabolic disorders, but we do not know how that relates to their genetic make up.  As The Bullvine has stated on other occasions we need to be capturing and retaining more extensive information on these areas for both the heifer and cow herds. As yet we cannot put a dollar value on these costs.

Opportunity Lost

Culling is usually viewed by dairy managers as a cost. It should be viewed as an opportunity. An opportunity to improve your farm’s bottom line.  In a hundred cow herd carrying an extra five cows and ten heifers every day of the year amounts to $23,725 per year for feed costs alone. As feed is 55% of all expenses, total costs for carrying these extra animals is $43,136. That is sure not pocket change.

Sires and cow families that leave progeny that fit these six scenarios need to be eliminated from herds and the entire population. Good judicious culling, like pruning a tree, always makes the harvest better.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It’s time to base culling on dollars – either extra costs or lost revenue. Operating a successful dairy enterprise is all about maximizing profit. Removing problem animals can impact the bottom line a significant, positive way.



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Thinking about Ending it All…

There is no question that farming is one of the toughest industries to work in. The fact that farming is a 24 hours a day, seven days a week commitment – usually working alone and in all sorts of weather – can easily trigger feelings of stress and depression. The comparative isolation of rural life means it is far from easy to find a neighbour or friend to chat with and, when taken all these elements are taken together, it is not difficult to see why farming is one of the highest professions for suicide.

Working in agriculture can be extremely stressful. As well, working with heavy machinery means that not only is the work hard labor, it is also dangerous.  There were 216 farm accident fatalities in 2012 alone, prompting Forbes magazine to rank farming as one of the nation’s deadliest jobs. Beyond the stress of farming and the workplace hazards, a farmer is also at the mercy of nature. And nature can be cruel. When the earth doesn’t cooperate, then a farmer’s livelihood can be completely in jeopardy, resulting in a suicide rate that is 1.32 higher than average.

In the U.S. the rate of farmer suicides is just under two times that of the general population. In the U.K. one farmer a week commits suicide. In China, farmers are killing themselves daily to protest the government taking over their prime agricultural lands for urbanization. In France, a farmer dies by suicide every two days. Australia reports one farmer suicides every four days. India yearly reports more than 17,627 farmer suicides. — Newsweek 2014

As I child growing up on a dairy farm, I was raised in a very protected loving environment.  But I was also raised with a strong belief system.  One such belief was that it was a sign of weakness to have a mental health issue. When I played sports this belief system was further engrained into me.  I was a member of such a small community that the saying that everyone knows everything about each other is true. Going to a mental health professional or admitting you are depressed would quickly become news. To the point where we would look down on those who had “mental issues”.  I never wanted to admit my own weaknesses, as I thought it  would make me a “lesser” person.  Then I met my now wife, who was a student in medical school, training to ultimately become a physiatrist.  She really opened my eyes to the fact that mental health was not just for the weak, but it can affect everyone.  (Read more: HOW I USED EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT ANIMAL BREEDING TO CHOOSE MY WIFE)

Stigma and lack of education about depression are the main culprits of farmer suicides. It was certainly the case for me.  Like most farmers I tended to adhere to the stereotypical image of the self-reliant, tough farmer who doesn’t complain. I believed that a farmer who complains of being depressed would be labelled crazy, whiner or wimp by  fellow farmers. This is probably why instead of talking about their depression, most farmers might say, “I’m just tired, worn out.” Ignoring or hiding depression is not the way to deal with depression.

So how can we help farmers reduce their rate of suicide? 

In the U.K. the charity organization YANA (You Are Not Alone) works to help depressed farmers. They have GPs, counsellors and people who know what it’s like to farm. The Farming Community Network (U.K.) also helps farmers and their families. From 1999 to 2010, the United States federal office of Rural Health Policy funded Sowing the Seeds of Hope, a network of phone hotlines for rural communities. The project was shut down due to lack of funding. NY FarmNet has since filled the void left by Sowing the Seeds of Hope.

The other and most important part of dealing with depression is talk. Talking about depression is key to understanding and healing yourself. Talk removes or smashes apart stigma and brings new ideas, proper advice and sources of help. Talking about depression in farming at agricultural shows and events also helps. We know depression affects farmers. Bring the issue into the public as a workplace health concern that is talked about at these venues. The old saying, “The more you know…” goes a long way in dealing with depression.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes it’s hard to admit when you are wrong or when you have a problem.  We all like to think we can just handle it and bury our nose in our work.  Add to that the limited isolation that comes with being a farmer and it starts to make a lot of sense why farmers have one of the highest suicide rates of all professions.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are many productive ways to deal with stress and anxiety.  Life doesn’t have to be a constant grind, where you think about ending it all.  You just need to ask for help and talk.



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Dairy Breeding Lessons from Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah

It considered to be one of the greatest accomplishments in horse racing.  All you have to do is win three races in five weeks. Until this Saturday, when American Pharoah did it, there had only been 11 of them in history and none in the past 37 years.  In that same period, America has elected five presidents, fought three wars and lived through at least three economic downturns since Affirmed last completed the feat in 1978.  In that time, there had been 12 horses enter the final leg of the Triple Crown, The Belmont Stakes, at the grand old racetrack in Long Island. Twelve with a chance to accomplish that feat but ultimately failed.

screen-shot-2015-06-06-at-7-08-51-pm[1]Sometimes it happens by a nose. Sometimes it’s right out of the starting gate.  It was believed to not be possible any longer since so many horses in this final and longest leg of the Triple Crown, don’t race in the first two races, saving themselves for the longer track and, thus, making it very hard for those horses trying to accomplish the taxing triple feat.  Last year California Chrome came into the Belmont Stakes with a chance at immortality to ultimately fail (Read more: The Story of Kentucky Derby Winner California Chrome is an Inspiration to Dairy Breeders).  Chrome’s co-owner Steve Coburn argued that the Triple Crown should be a closed circuit – No parachuting in to run the Belmont if you haven’t already run the previous races in the series. “It’s not fair to the horses that have been in the game since day one,” Coburn said. “It’s all or nothing. This is the coward’s way out.” Coburn has a point. Post-race recovery is no joke for a thousand-pound animal that can run more than 40 miles per hour. There are two weeks between the Derby and the Preakness, and three weeks between the Preakness and the Belmont. That tight schedule—and the super-specific needs of racehorses—mean horses competing in the grueling back-to-back-to-back Triple Crown races have a significant disadvantage when they are up against fresh horses.

So How Did American Pharaoh’s Pedigree Help Him Win?

“The sire line is very stamina oriented, but the female line of descent — the dam, the second dam, the third dam — they’ve all been very speed oriented horses,” says Sid Fernando, president and CEO of thoroughbred research and consultant Werk Thoroughbred Consultants. “It’s a unique pedigree, in a way.”


American Pharoah’s pedigree includes horses adept at classic race distances on his sire’s side and endowed with speed on his dam’s side.  Sire, Pioneerof the Nile, won the Santa Anita Derby and ran second in the 2009 Kentucky Derby, with all of his wins at distances of 1 1⁄16 or more. Prior to American Pharoah, Pioneerof the Nile had sired five other winners of stakes races of a mile or more in his relatively new career as a stallion.  Through Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah is a grandson of Unbridled, who won the 1990 Kentucky Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He carries lines to Grade I champions Toussaud and Fappiano and to the top-rated European two- and a three-year-old colt of 1983 and 1984, El Gran Senor. He is also descended from Northern Dancer, Buckpasser, and Mr. Prospector—whose descendants have won 43 Triple Crown races—all through Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile’s sire, who won the 2003 Belmont Stakes. Ultimately, via Unbridled and his ancestors, American Pharoah’s sire line traces to the Darley Arabian.

Meanwhile, the bottom side of this pedigree is slanted toward sprint success. His dam, Littleprincessemma, by Yankee Gentleman, was unplaced in both of her career outings. Her only other starter is Xixixi, who scored both career wins at six furlongs. Littleprincessemma is a half-sister to graded stakes-winning sprinters Storm Wolf and Misty Rosette.  Her own undistinguished racing career, combined with the modest record of her sire, Yankee Gentleman, dampened initial public expectations for her second-born foal. Yet American Pharoah’s maternal bloodline includes Storm Cat, a Grade I winner retired early due to injury, Northern Dancer, a Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, and Terlingua, a celebrated broodmare, through whom he is a fifth-generation descendant of Secretariat. He is also descended through his dam from Flying Paster, a Grade I champion who was 1978 California Horse of the Year, and Exclusive Native (sire of Affirmed and Genuine Risk). Through both sire and dam, American Pharoah is a fifth- and sixth-generation descendant of Bold Ruler, as well as a sixth- and seventh-generation descendant of Tom Fool, one of the top thoroughbreds of the last century.

american-pharoah-bob-baffert-ab8804342ee79687[1]Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert observed that Pioneerof the Nile also raced with “a big, long stride” and had “that same springing motion as American Pharoah, whose acceleration is pretty remarkable.” To Baffert, American Pharoah’s bloodline is a source of fascination: “Every time I work him, I go back and look at the pedigree, and I go, ‘What is going on here?’”

What is going on is that, instead of very selective breeding for distance races as is practiced by most breeders dreaming of winning the Triple Crown one day, American Pharoah bucks that trend and his maternal line is more geared for short speed.    This breeding was so outside of normal that, when American Pharoah was offered for sale at the August 2013 Fasig-Tipton Select Yearling Sale in Saratoga Springs, N.Y by Taylor Made Sales, no one wanted to pay the $300,000 reserve bid on him (Note: Taylor Made Sales was also the principal speaker at the recent Day at the Derby sale).  American Pharoah was in the sales ring for all of five anticlimactic minutes. Horsemen from around the globe appraised the animal and refused to raise the bidding to the listed minimum sale price of $300,000 – a figure that would be reached or surpassed for 32 of the 151 other yearlings up for sale in the two-day event.


The thing that American Pharoah has in common with many of the greatest impact sires in the Holstein breed is that he bucks the conventional breeding pattern.  Instead of doing balance on balance or long distance racehorse on a long distance racehorse, American Pharoah, looks to leverage the power of mating two opposite extremes together to raise the results even higher.

This is something many dairy breeders overlook when developing their dairy breeding strategy.  Generation after generation most breeders like to use balanced sire on balanced sire and, while this will give you the most overall herd consistency, it will not deliver that one game-changing animal that will cause the world to take notice.

The Bottom Line

In today’s high-end genetics market, there is no question that the biggest money and most impact comes from sires that are built for extremes.  Sure there will be those animals that don’t deliver but, for the ones that do, they will produce in a big way.  American Pharoah demonstrates to us that it takes looking outside the box of what is expected. It means, selecting from the extremes to achieve extreme results.


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Tail Docking, Dehorning and How to Make Heads or Tails of the Saputo Announcement

Last week Saputo Inc. announced measures to control dehorning pain and to ban tail docking. (Read more: DAIRY GIANT SAPUTO MANDATES DEHORNING PAIN CONTROL AND BANS TAIL DOCKING) Company policy requirements will be put in place in response to a widely publicized video of animal abuse at Chilliwack Cattle Sales in B.C. Canada, which is a milk supplier to Saputo. (Read more: Dairy Cattle Abuse Video – A black eye for the dairy industry) Saputo is one of the three biggest milk buyers in Canada and a global company with operations around the world.

Saputo’s plan, unveiled on Monday, includes a commitment to end tail “docking” or cutting, and for the use of pain control when removing horns. The dairy company is also spending $1-million to sponsor animal-care education at two leading agricultural universities, University of Guelph in Ontario and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

A spokesman for Saputo acknowledged how they came to implement this process. “We recognized last year after the incident … that there, quite frankly, was not enough leadership in the industry to carry this issue forward. So we have taken a much more robust position.”

“The Cut Stops Here!” says Saputo.  Other milk buyers to follow.

Saputo, which employs 13,000 workers at plants in Canada, the United States, Australia and Argentina, said it will require farms that are direct suppliers to follow the new policies. The Globe and Mail article also reported that Saputo will pressure milk-marketing boards and milk purchasing co-ops to encourage members to do so, as well.

The Bullvine is always pro-actively interested in initiatives that will impact the dairy industry and encourages dairy managers to evaluate what it means to them.  Members of The Milk House were given the following invitation to weigh in. Saputo has mandated dehorning pain control and banned tail docking. Do you think more dairies will follow? Does this change how you will manage your herd?” (Read more: Introducing The Milk House – Dairy Breeder Networking on Facebook)

Tail Docking Questioned?  The Short Answer:  “Don’t do it!”

If you are not involved in dairy farming, hearing that the tails of dairy cattle are amputated, for any reason, could be alarming.  Furthermore, you might assume that everybody does it.  While this practice is more common in New Zealand, it has been used, to varying degrees in other countries as well.  The Milk House discussion group felt it was not as common a practice today.  One herd that previously had docked tails, no longer does so and commented “we only trim switches twice a year.” Another respondent asked, “Who docks tails anymore? It’s truly unnecessary to dock tails. You say they get covered with flies if you keep their tail on, yet if you remove their tail you are removing their first defense against flies. And if you have a fly problem, get more fans in your barn. Problem solved.” In other words, if the problem is with flies or sanitation, deal with those problems before docking tails.

Disbudding%20with%20Caustic%20Paste[1]Cats De-Clawed.  Cows De-Horned.  Children restrained.

Most animal rights proponents are not against having cats declawed.  After all, it saves the furniture and cat lovers as well from scratches. One reader saw the irony in leaving horns on dairy cattle and painted an extreme picture of the dangers that they pose. “Yep it is much better to leave the horns on and go to the sale yards and see animals bleeding because they have holes poked in their sides” Or in her own barn “I’d much rather be head butted by a heifer with horns.” She wrapped up her fearful horn wrangle with, “It would be so much fun to dangling from a bulls horns as he charges around the paddock with me.” Yes, an extreme picture but we know too well that it can happen and therefore leaving the horns on is not considered an option.

Safety in the barn and pasture has evolved in the same way that car safety has changed.  Today we would not consider driving anywhere unless our children were properly buckled into their car seats and seatbelts.  I have been trying to imagine the look on my parents and grandparents faces if they had foreseen that children of the future could not ride in the front seat and had to be properly restrained with buckles and belts. Alternatively, looking back, what would today’s parents think of little ones climbing over seats while the car is moving? Not to mention, my siblings and I often took turns riding in the back window!

Horn Removal! What’s the Alternative?

Several options for horn removal methods other than burning were discussed on the Milk House.  Paste and drugs were two of the options. One reader noted that paste is banned in Australia.

As with all protocols, new, chosen or mandated, questions concerning the added expense for drugs, labor or vet costs, become part of the implementation issues. Added price could mean added costs to the consumer … and that too is a concern.  However, if the consumer isn’t happy with the raising methods, they are less likely to choose the product.  No, consumer.  No, dairy business!  It seems like a Catch-22 situation.

Pharmaceutical Methods of Dehorning

Several readers mentioned that they have always used a sedative and lidocaine.  Medicam was more widely discussed and had several enthusiastic supporters. “It’s a great idea to use Medicam when dehorning” said some and one explained “We have used it when dehorning and there is a total difference.”  The questions all boiled down to who could administer the drug and most often that means veterinarians. Some managers noted that there are differences between vet practices regarding use and approval and handing out of drugs … and who can administer them.  One reader, citing their great relationship with their vets, emphasized that it’s important to discuss what it will be used for. Another outlined the logistics he uses in New Zealand, “Yes vets and/or vet assistants come and dehorn calves here – they do most of the calves in this area – I think about 120,000 last season. I even had the CEO vet come and dehorn one lot of mine last year because everyone else was busy.”

Testimonial for Medicam”

Dianna Malcolm (Blue Chip Genetics and CrazyCow in Print) also recommends Medicam. “It’s just an excellent all-round drug that is also awesome to use in conjunction with pneumonia treatments if calves are well hydrated and old enough, and colic too – among other purposes.” She urges contacting your vet and working out a protocol and a price. Dianna expanded even further. “The manufacturers of Medicam halved its price to the vets so that farmers would use it for dehorning. It is a staple drug in our fridge and very easy to get…I did a story on it in CrazyCow, and I can confirm that the difference between using it and not using it for dehorning is night and day! I’d never go back – it’s fantastic.”

dehorn calves with paste

One dairyman did a trial on about 120 calves for Boehringer using Medicam on every other calf. He administered three cc under the skin at disbudding. Disbudded between 2 weeks and five weeks normally. He reports “From observation calves with no Medicam kicked their heads and rubbed off gates, etc. Medicam calves gave no signs that they had been done at all. All got three cc of local anesthetic near each horn before. Growth rates averaged slightly better from birth to weaning at 56 days. Probably between 3 and 6kg a calf better than their counterparts who had sore heads for a few days after we dehorned with the burning type device, one with the screw-in gas cylinder that heats up the little cup that fits over the bud. For all the cost of doing it, roughly four bottles of Medicam a year, even if it didn’t give me better growth rates I would definitely continue it for the sake of happier calves. Happy stock is profitable stock!”

Producing a Food Product, without Consumer support, means dairying is Redundant

One reader spoke emphatically for listening to the dairy consumer.  He said, “Anyone arguing against this, needs to get their head checked out. Don’t forget that we as dairy farmers, like every other business, are driven by what the consumer wants. And if Saputo made this decision in order to please the consumer then if you care at all about the economic influence that may potentially have on us, you’d stop bitching like a little school kid and change your management practices. Saputo is not saying you have to do this, only if you want to ship milk with them. If you’d rather try to sell your own milk, then best of luck on that and let me know how that works out for you”

SIDE NOTE: In this particular thread on The Milk House, no one mentioned Polled animals. Raising polled dairy cattle is as natural, pain-free and consumer friendly as it gets! And, as has been noted numerous times by The Bullvine, the genetic merit of polled Holsteins is fast catching up to that of horned Holsteins. (Read more: Polled Dairy Cattle)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The Dairy Industry Can’t Leave Image to a Tossup between Consumers and Suppliers

These milk-buyer initiatives impact the dairy industry.  It requires buy-in not only from the suppliers but buy-in from the consumers too.  Milk companies are using education, protocols and training to turn around the negative impact that some animal handling practices have had on the image of the industry. They naturally have an interest in seeing that their business survives. Breeders should be interested in seeing dairying thrive.  The toss up for me is, “What’s the other side of the coin if dairying isn’t a growth industry?”  “Is there another side at all?



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CALF FEEDING FREQUENCY: The more often the merrier?

There are so many questions when it comes to managing a dairy farm and achieving the ultimate goal of producing a healthy milk product in a profitable and sustainable way.

Not About How Much Feed but How Much Milk

You might think that the size of the calf doesn’t really matter because, until they’re in the milking line, they are in limbo.  Right? Wrong! Everything that impacts the health and growth of the dairy calf will, ultimately, have a significant impact on whether or not she reaches her full potential as a dairy cow

And, furthermore, the point is not about how much feed you get into them … but rather it’s about how the nutrition the calf receives can impact the speed with which they get to breeding maturity.

Disadvantages of 2X Milking

When calves are only fed twice a day, the abomasum sits empty too long.  This causes low pH level to result, and it might lead to ulcerations.

What Are You Willing to Give Up for Convenience?

With the 24/7 nature of dairy managing, we are always looking for ways to save time.  However saving time with calf feeding could prove to be costly, in the end.  What are you willing to give up?  Weaning age?  Weaning weight? Age at first calving? Total lifetime production?

By changing the frequency of feeding – up OR down – be clear about how that changes the expected outcome of your calf program. You may prefer the logistics of 2X for human scheduling, but the goal should be about the calves growing as fast and efficiently as they can.

There are several ways to fit in the three feedings. Those who work with this system agree that once there is a will to make it work, the best method can be figured out.

Not ALL Dairy Calves are Created Equal

Sometimes a new calf needs extra attention.  However, even after receiving that, there are a few who still don’t do well.  It’s a challenge to the animal caregiver to make sure that every animal gets the best opportunity.  Having said that, there has to be the realization that a sick calf will carry the stresses and delays of that slow start with her right into the milking line.

Calf Raising Consultants

Having recognized the importance of an excellent start to a productive milking life, dairy managers would do well to get their questions answered by consulting with calf raising specialists.  Together you can determine the desired outcomes and work out the protocols that will deliver them.  Everyone connected with the calf raising program needs to accept responsibility and be accountable for improving the program. Those are the most important first steps from the human side of the equation.

Consider Where Frequency Research is Coming From

When dairy managers consider the reported results of dairy research projects, it is crucial that they receive the information using the lens of the goals they are trying to achieve.  In the case of calf feeding frequency, there has to be a choice between the comfort and convenience of the calf feeding crew and the goals that the calf program is targeting.

Years of tradition says that 2X feeding works and there are “In summary, calves on a conventional milk replacer program performed similarly whether provided their daily allotment of milk in 1, 2 or 3 feedings per day.  When fed on a slightly higher plane of nutrient, differences in feeding frequency showed no effect on calf performance.”  If you’re looking for support of 2x feeding, this is the research you will quote.  However, it is important to note the reference to plane of nutrition.

Consider Advice from People Who Have “Been There Done That!”

Recent headlines that caught my eye:

  • Three-times-a-day calf feeding gaining popularity.”
    In the not-to-distant past, feeding dairy calves three times per day was relatively unheard of. However, this 3x frequency is rapidly becoming the popular choice.
  • “Study finds 1 in 7 calf raisers feeds 3x some of the year.”
    There are always discerning managers, and there are some who have always fed 3x.  They point to lower levels of sickness and death and feel that those results far outweigh concerns with extra labor and expense.
  • “There are several advantages to feeding milk replacer 3x.”
    In 2011 Don Sockett DVM, Ph.D. epidemiologist/microbiologist for the University of Wisconsin reports his experience with 3X feeding frequency. “ When compared, calves fed a milk replacer three times daily, versus a control group fed the same milk replacer twice daily, were more feed efficient and showed improved average daily gain. Calves fed three times daily grew taller and longer, with added pounds of lean growth.  This growth is optimal for dairy calves to prepare them for desirable breeding weights and freshening at a younger age, leading to greater lifetime performance.” Researchers also noted that these calves were noticeably friskier than calves fed twice a day.  In further discussion of this topic several veterinarians and calf managers frequently report vastly improved results, “Since 3x feeding we now double our weights in less than 60 days and cut treatments for scours in less than half of what they had been.” It is important to target levels of nutrition and the corresponding feeding frequency, which will see dairy heifers reach their performance potential in their first lactation.

The 3X Effect on Profit Potential

The ultimate measure of success of your calf feeding program happens when calves enter the lactating herd.  The previously noted Wisconsin researcher Don (Sockett et al) reports that”97.1 percent (34 of 35) of the claves in the three times a day feeding group entered the milking string. In comparison, 80.0 percent (28 of 35) of calves fed two times per day entered the milking herd. This means for every six calves fed three times a day, one additional heifer entered lactation. Calves fed three times per day also averaged 1,136 pounds more of milk and calved 16 days earlier. This can also translate to improved herd longevity and increased the number of replacement heifers that successfully make it to the milking line.

3X Means Reaching Full Calf Potential

If your goal is to increase first lactation and lifetime production levels in your dairy calves, you must consider these benefits delivered by 3X calf feeding.

  • Decreased calf mortality rate
  • Improved feed efficiency
  • Healthy rumen development
  • Breeding weights reached earlier
  • Calved two weeks earlier than 2X peers

At the Very Least, Consider 3X to Relieve Winter Stress

During winter, calves are exposed to low-temperature extremes and windy and wet weather. These variables can double their daily calorie needs and, if not met, could result in sickness and greater risk of death. By consuming smaller volumes more frequently, calves can better fend off diarrhea or digestive disturbances at any time of year.

Automated Feeders Allow Ultimate Timing Opportunity

Dairies don’t leave calves with their mothers because of the potential for increased disease risk.  Although it’s not likely possible in standard calf raising situations, trying to replicate, the natural nursing frequency of 4 to 8 times per day could be considered a goal. It does become possible with automated feeders. Not only does this rapidly evolving technology work well for calf health but it further aids in reducing the labor costs associated with increased feeding frequency

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Not only is 3X feeding closer to nature’s way, it also delivers benefits for both calves and dairy managers and that’s a promise every dairy wants to have and to hold from calving day to milking day!



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Smoking is good for you…and other facts dairy breeders should know

lucky_20679[2]In the 1920’s and 30’s cigarette companies not only denied the health risks of smoking, they actually promoted them as a good thing, by putting up testimonials and stats about doctors who smoked. During the 1920s, Lucky Strike was the dominant cigarette brand. This brand, made by American Tobacco Company, was the first to use the image of a physician in its advertisements. “20,679 physicians say Luckies are less irritating,” its ads proclaimed.  Of course many years later we are well aware of the health risks (480,000 people die prematurely each year in the US, due to smoking or being exposed to smoke). It’s flashbacks to this false advertising experience that dairy breeders are referencing when they distrust the use of genomics in dairy cattle breeding.   They feel that it’s just the AI companies “forcing” genomics down their throats, in the same way that  the tobacco companies “forced” smoking down the throats of millions, by using the weight of doctors’ credibility.

camels_doctors_whiteshirt[1]For a long time, physicians were the authority on health. Patients trusted their doctor’s education and expertise and, for the most part, followed their advice. When health concerns about cigarettes began to receive public attention in the 1930s, tobacco companies took preemptive action. They capitalised on people’s trust of physicians, to quell concerns about the dangers of smoking. Thus was born the use of doctors in cigarette advertisements. Executives at tobacco companies knew they had to take action to suppress the public’s fears about tobacco products.

When genomics was first introduced to the dairy cattle breeding world, it was controlled by the major artificial insemination companies.  According to some breeders they “hammered” the benefits of genomics down their throats and left breeders almost no choice but to use high index genomic sires, as there were limited other options.  The ironic thing is that high praise for the product is about where the similarities between the Tobacco industry and the dairy breeder world part ways.


Unlike cigarettes that were eventually exposed for their many alarming health risks despite the early endorsement, genomics had the opposite reaction – distrust. At the time, almost daily I was reading warnings in other “leading” dairy publications against using genomic sires.  This pandered to the old school mentality that fosters breeder concern about using Genomics.  Instead of basing their comments on facts, they used hearsay, conjecture and outright fear mongering to defend their negative comments. (Read more: The Genomic Bubble Has Burst?)

The facts are pretty clear.  Genomics increases young sires’ reliability by 30% and 1st crop proven sires by 5%.  In effect, that says that a young sire with a 50K genomic test and a proven sire will now have reliability comparable to an early 1st crop proven sire pre-genomics.  This would indicate that, if you were willing to trust a 1st crop proof prior to the introduction of Genomics, you should now be ready to trust a genomic young sire from a  proven sire as their reliabilities are very comparable.  Furthermore,  genetics marketing is also supporting this.  Genomic young sires are set to outsell proven sires because most breeders are confident in the numbers and are making sound breeding decisions based on them.  As we mentioned in our article Genomics – Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications, genomically evaluated bulls with 65% reliable gLPIs, breeders can expect 95% of the time that their official proof will be within 400 LPI points (within about 10-15%). (Please note that this figure reflects the change in the CDN system). Yes, genomic young sires do, on average, drop below their original predicted values but, they are, on average, still higher than the current proven sires that they are competing with.

The interesting part is that, while promoting smoking was a “cash cow” for the Tobacco industry, the increased use of genomic young sires has actually caused problems for the AI companies, even though  genomic sires now account for 50% of semen sales. This led me to propose that genomics will soon be used by 84% of dairy breeders in the world. (Read more: Why 84% of Dairy Breeders Will Soon Be Using Genomic Sires!)  This is actually scary news for most AI companies.  That is because the average genomic young sire produces about 20,000 doses of semen a year.  That is about 10 to 20% of the semen production of a healthy proven sire.  This means that instead of housing 1 proven sire, these companies now have to house four to nine extra young sires, in order to produce the same amount of semen.  So while genomics was first expected to help these companies save money on bull housing, it has actually resulted in them having to increase their housing expenses.

Here at the Bullvine we think the facts about genomics speak for themselves:

  1. Genomics is a Tool
    On a daily basis, it drives me nuts to see the number of breeders who refer to Genomics as a selection tool.  Genomics increases the reliability of individual traits and indexes.  That’s it.  The term “Genomics” is misused by many. They should be referring to “High Index” sires, meaning list toppers on the gTPI, gLPI, and other lists.  This may seem like a minor thing.  I am even guilty of it myself, from time to time.  However, it’s really an enormous error when you consider it from a breeder viewpoint.  Over the past week, I looked at more than 100 comments about Genomics from naysayers.  Every single one of them would have been more accurate if they had used the term “High Index” actually than Genomics.  Most of the reservations against Genomics have more to do with reservations about the use of high index sires.  The debate between selecting for “High Index” or “Proven” pedigrees will go on for years to come.  The point that many miss is that Genomics is a tool that can help both strategies.  Since Genomics helps increase the accuracy of the indexes, it will help both approaches excel into the future.
  2. The Numbers Don’t Lie
    It’s always easy to quote a case-by-case example and find a few cases that help support a point of view.  However, it takes consideration of the full spectrum to get a truly accurate assessment of how any program or any tool is working.  This means that we can be 95% sure that the current top gLPI sire, RH Superman (gLPI of +3473), will be higher than +3000 LPI, once he has his official progeny proven index. That prediction is over 90% reliable, and that would make him among the top 3 active proven sires in Canada.  In the US, sires like Delta (gTPI of +2691) will end up over +2300 gTPI placing him in the top 20.  (Editor’s note: Prior to the regression to bring high genomic young sires closer to proven sires, sires like Extreme and Alta1stclass would have actually been higher than the current top proven sire).  Yes, genomic young sires do on average drop below their original predicted values, but, they are on average still higher than the proven sires of that time.
  3. Falling Numbers are not an Indicator of System Failure
    Whether it’s young sires’ indexes dropping or semen prices going down, neither of these two events accurately predict the value of Genomics.  You see Genomics is new to the industry and, with anything that is new, there is a period of figuring out how the “new world” will work.  During that period, aggressive breeders and semen companies have sought to maximize revenues for themselves and the breeders they represent.  This has meant testing the market to see exactly what should be the maximum revenue price for each animal or dose of semen.  Simple economics teaches us that we need to test to find the point that maximizes revenue.  That is either by selling at high prices and reduced quantities or selling at a medium prices and increasing quantities.  Both are sound strategies. At times, due to exclusivity and extremely unique genetics, young sire semen has sold for up to  $10,000 a dose and, with the removal of the exclusivity and with other sires coming out after the fact, that semen is now available at a significantly reduced price.  (Read more: $10,000 a dose Polled Semen).  The breeder who purchased this semen, Ri-Val-Re Holsteins from Michigan, actually made out very well with his investment, as he had a clear plan with the use of IVF to maximize his return.  (Read more:   Breeding R-Val-Re: Where looking good in the stall is just as important as looking good on paper) It has also led to other attempts and premium pricing or pricing models.  This is not a failure of the system.  This is progressive individuals trying to discover how the new system is going to work.  Does it always return maximum profits?….No.  However, does it help those individuals understand the new market and how they can operate to maximize efficiency in the future?  ….Yes.  Just because you are not able to justify these prices for your breeding program goals, does not mean that it will not work for others.  The important thing is for you to understand your personal dairy genetic plan and goals and make sure you are constantly evaluating and improving them.  (Read more: What’s the plan?). It is interesting to note that since the introduction of Genomics, the rate of genetic advancement has more than doubled.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so.  Today more breeders can make more sound decisions. The industry, as a whole, is benefiting.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Unlike cigarettes, where there is certainly no question left about the health risks of smoking, genomics and cigarettes are not interchangeable.  There is significant proof that genomics does, in fact, provide good “health” for your dairy breeding program.  To genomic detractors, I ask you “Where is your smoking gun”? Where is your proof that genomics does not work?

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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