Archive for March 2016

Barn Design: Interaction of robotic housing systems and health – Dr. Ken Nordlund – Robotics conference #VMSPRO2016

Join Dr. Ken Nordlund from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as he discusses the four key topics: Calf Barns Designed for Calf Health; Ventilation Issues in Cow Milking Facilities; Freestall design and lameness; and Key factors for transition cow health.  This informative session will open your eyes to many of the problem areas on your dairy.

About The Presenter

DELAVAL - VMS2016-01-25Dr. Ken Nordlund is a clinical professor in the Food Animal Production Medicine group in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He received his veterinary degree from the University of Minnesota in 1977 and was a private practitioner and practice owner in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, from 1977 to 1989. Ken is a board-certi ed dairy specialist in the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners. In 1989, he joined the University of Wisconsin and helped to found the Food Animal Production Medicine program. His research interests include dairy record systems and the development of the Transition Cow IndexTM, as well as interactions between dairy cattle housing and health.

Yellow Briar Farms: The Cows Are Sold But The Memories Are Priceless!

“Yellow Briar Ayrshire Farm isn’t on TV or listed in travel brochures of Southern Ontario but at eleven o’clock on Saturday morning it was the center of dairy farming not just for the Stephens family but for their friends, neighbours and farming colleagues as fifty years of dairy farming saw 70 head go under the auction hammer in Troy.”


Change the name and location and you will find similar events happening all over North America as the aging baby boomer generation decide to take the next … or even the last … step in their dairy journey. There is nothing unique about families dispersing the dairy herd that has been their 24/7 life for several decades.


“Three generations of ‘The Bullvine’ marvelled at the coating of ice that covered barns, eves and the auction tent as we drove up the typical farm lane that is the introduction to Yellow Briar.  After getting parked, the walk back through the barns to the sales arena was like a meet and greet of what has become a dwindling number of local dairy farmers.  Those who had already sold out of dairying compared how it was on their sale day.  Those who grew up with the “Stephen’s boys” compared how the next generation was growing up and looked just like Mom or Dad or Grandma or Grandpa.”

Champion Classic Team that contained 3 Hunt children as well as 3 Stephens boys.

Champion Classic Team that contained 3 Hunt children as well as 3 Stephens boys.

That single day when a multi-generation dairy herd goes under the hammer presents every range of emotion.  Excitement for the future.  Anticipation for a profitable sale.  Nerves about what comes next, After all, for 50 years or more, life on the dairy farm has been solely focused on raising, breeding, caring for and showing dairy cattle. Nothing against other careers but dairy farming doesn’t wind down in the same graceful way that other careers do.  Even though it seems to take forever to arrive,  the day of that final sale seems almost unexpected. The whirlwind of cattle fitting, catalogue details and keeping the cattle and the prep crew fed and happy is a high intensity contrast to that moment when the last of the sale cattle roll out the lane and a new — non-milking routine begins. Is this what we really want?

john and grand

“The story of Yellow Briar embraces a history of generations of family and the roots that go deep into the community.  As our Huntsdale Holstein and Yellow Briar Ayrshire families shared community activities and show ring teams, the legends (some true, some embroidered) have grown as four generations shared fun and hard work that will always be fondly remembered.”


For those who may unexpectedly pass by a dairy dispersal, they probably wonder what exactly has compelled people to park down both sides of the highway outside the entrance to that farm and may not have anything more than the words “Auction Today” to answer their questions.  They might not be aware of the years of planning and breeding that saw this dairy provide sustenance for families, dairy stars born, judging skills developed and milking records completed and center stage at the very best shows. Unless you have lived it, it’s hard to explain, all the love, sweat and tears that build a life’s work.


“As I sit a ringside — absolutely loving the roll of the auctioneer’s call – and the excited shouts of the ringmen, I was in the perfect place to see the full spectrum of emotions slipping across the faces of the Stephen’s family.  Happiness in welcoming friends and neighbours.  Welling of tears as the progress of the sale also marks the approaching end of one way of life and the start of something different.”


So many factors impact the “success” of a dairy dispersal.  The quality of the cattle.  The size of the market.  The effectiveness of the marketing.  The hard work of the family and the sales team.  Even weather plays a role.  Who would have foreseen an ice storm in March 24th? Oh yes and how is the dollar doing?


“Explaining to a city person that there is excitement in listening to the auctioneer and pedigree reader count the opportunities that are being presented for those in attendance. They put their entreaties before those in the crowd and wait patiently for those who are on phones.  Cattle dispersals are international.  And also inter-generational. For our grandchildren hearing the large dollar amounts gradually going higher and higher until the hammer slams down may have given them one more reason to like the cows that Daddy is so passionate about.”


Looking around a dairy dispersal, you will see folks from all aspects of the industry. Breed officials.  International dairy owners.  Auctioneers.  People in sales.  Show personalities.  The dream is that there will be a balance between getting a great price for the sellers and getting a great price for the buyers.  The one side is taking a final step.  The other continues to build their herd or someone else’s for the future. It’s not always easy for either one.  It doesn’t always work out for everybody.  But one thing every dairy person is familiar with, you must always “keep on going”. Forward is the only direction that counts.

“Yellow Briar isn’t just cows.  It’s Marilyn’s good food from the bounty of homegrown vegetables and fruit.  That will go on. It’s shared experiences on local fair committees. That will continue.  It’s their three kids and our three sharing past memories and making new ones in the modern dairy industry. More to come.  It’s knowing that John is just one phone call away from helping with whatever you need. Hay wagons, bale wrapping or getting a stuck tractor out of a mud hole. The sharing and caring will continue.” 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Even though the paths between starting, growing and dispersing dairy farms may become less travelled and perhaps worn, the friendships forged will never wear out.  Congratulations to the Stephen’s family for what you have accomplished and all the best, as you look forward to what is yet to come!



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New Innovation in Genomic Selection to Reduce Disease Risks – Video

The future outcomes of your dairy begin with the genetic potential of your herd.  Genomic testing with the new CLARIFIDE® Plus from Zoetis can help identify heifers with the greatest potential to help producers reach herd health and profitability goals.

CLARIFIDE Plus is the first commercially available genetic evaluation specifically designed for wellness traits in U.S. dairy cattle.   With CLARIFIDE Plus, Holstein producers can directly select for and amplify the genetics that will help reduce risks of disease for mastitis, lameness, metritis, retained placenta, displaced abomasum and ketosis.

Zoetis also introduced a new, exclusive animal ranking index called the Dairy Wellness Profit Index™ (DWP$™). DWP$ is designed to provide a more comprehensive and profitable genetic selection decision across the entire range of traits available with CLARIFIDE Plus that influences lifetime profitability of dairy cattle.

An extended educational video includes the following topics:

  • Introduction to CLARIFIDE Plus – Cheryl Marti, MS, MBA
  • Creating the new wellness traits – Dr. Sue DeNise, PhD
  • Defining and validating the wellness traits – David Erf, MS
  • Achieving genetic progress with wellness traits and DWP$ – Dr. Dan Weigel, PhD
  • Improving profitability with DWP$ – Cheryl Marti, MS, MBA

This webinar is proudly sponsored by:

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The webinars will be moderated by The Bullvine with presentations by Zoetis.  The Bullvine is an online source for dairy genetic and other industry happenings around the world, through their coverage via articles, videos and podcasts.

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Improving Feed Access and Consumption on Robotic Dairies – Dr. Trevor DeVries – Robotics conference #VMSPRO2016

Join Dr. Trevor DeVries from the University of Guelph as he discusses the importance of making sure cows can get to feed they need when they want it.  During this informative presentation Dr. DeVries covers how to ensure feed is delivered consistently and  is consumed as delivered and in a healthy manner.  Dr. DeVries shares how to keep fresh feed in front of cows, by feeding multiple times per day and what the optimum push up feed frequently is as well as how to give cows the optimum amount of space to eat.

About The Presenter

DELAVAL - VMS2016-02-39Dr. Trevor DeVries is a Canada Research Chair in Dairy Cattle Behavior and Welfare and an Associate Professor in the Department of Animal Biosciences at the University of Guelph. Trevor received his B.Sc. in Agriculture from The University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2001. Immediately following he began graduate studies at UBC, focusing his research on dairy cow feeding behavior. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2006, he worked for one year as a post-doctoral researcher at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, focusing his research on ruminant nutrition. In 2007 he was appointed as faculty with the University of Guelph. In his current position Trevor is involved in research and teaching in the areas of dairy cattle nutrition, management, behavior, and welfare.

GENETICS vs. ENVIRONMENT: Do Genetics Perform Uniformly in All Environments?

In current genetic evaluations, we lump data together, nationally and internationally. It is combined into one data set where we carry out the various analyzes to arrive at genetic indexes for all animals. But is that combining correct? Are there, in fact, any genetics by environment interactions situations that need consideration when combining data?  Should genetic evaluations be run separately for grazing herds compared to barn fed and housed herds?

What Does Cow Sense Tell Us?

Cow people know that there are some sire daughter groups and some cow families that perform differently when placed in different environments.

How often have you heard knowledgeable cow persons say – “He sires good useful barn cows but not enough show ring worthy daughters to have a PTAT of 3.21.” Or. “That cow family is great provided you go to the effort of pampering them like babies.”

Some Examples Where Proofs Have Not Always Told the Story

I have seen situations where sires’ daughters do not uniformly perform according to their indexes across all environments.

Quality Ultimate sired strength and stature as well as average milk and good fat percent, but he got the knock for not being tie stall friendly and lacking in daughter mobility in Canada, where he was proven. Yet in Australia breeders have told me that his mobility was not a problem. Why? Well, in Canada in tie stall barns with little to no access to exercise for 60% of the year, Ultimate daughters did not get the exercise they needed and so his proof was accurate, he had a feet and legs limitation. But, in Australia where cattle are outside walking on the ground all year, his daughter’s feet and legs were not a problem. (Read more: Mobility – The Achilles Heel of Every Breeding Program)

Looking beyond Ultimate, each of us can think of other bulls that may not suit all breeders’ needs. I think of Roybrook Starlite whose daughters were high yielders, but they often needed some special care and close monitoring. That is not something most commercial milk producers were prepared to do. Starlite’s maternal line had been a line bred family from a herd that took superb care of their animals.

Love Them or Hate Them

Today breeders either love or hate show bull Goldwyn and the commercial breeder’s dream bull, Oman. (Read more: Why Braedale Goldwyn Wasn’t a Great Sire of Sons)

A bull’s proof is an estimate of his average daughter. In extreme situations or environments, a bull’s proof may not be an accurate prediction of his true worth. How can breeders know if a bull will work, as his proof predicts, on their farm? Very little gets a breeder more upset that having a bull not perform in accordance with his proof.

Goldwyn in large commercially run groups of cows and Oman in the show ring are not good fits for what their proofs said should have ben expected.

Cow Indexes Open To More Environmental Influence

Of course, when it comes to cow indexes there are numerous examples of cows and cow families where the indexes are not accurate in predicting how they will breed on. (Read more: Has Genomics Knocked Out Hot House Herds?)

Now with genomic information included in genetic evaluations, the accuracies of prediction for cow indexes have been doubled and, therefore, may not be quite as variable in accuracy as they were in the past. Discerning breeders know that some cow families work best in certain single environments.

Points To Ponder

When conducting genetic evaluations, assumptions are made. Most of these assumptions have been shown to enhance the resulting genetic indexes. However here are a few assumptions that may contribute to inaccuracies when the indexes are used across all dairy farming situations.

  • Including Only Partial Herd Data
    Not including all contemporaries in type classification or herd recording data, when conducting BLUP genetic evaluations, violates the BLUP assumption that all animals are handled in a similar manner within a herd. Applying the results from selected data can lead to breeders questioning the daughters they get from a sire or cow family based on their genetic indexes.
  • Combining International Data Sets
    Definition of traits, variances within the data and methods of farm operation are different country to country. Interbull includes data from many production environments from many countries when doing its index calculations. Breeders should carefully interpret the results of combined international indexes when applying them back to their own herd environment.
  • Multiple Breeding Programs Within A Herd
    BLUP genetic evaluations assumes that only one breed program, one feeding program, and one management system exists in a single herd. If that assumption is violated then genetic evaluation results, especially cow indexes, can be less accurate than reported.
  • Sires Proven on Early Release Semen
    Most breeding companies release their high genomic young sires to themselves or selected herds six to nine months before it is made available to all breeders. It is imperative that the genetic evaluation procedures used for evaluating early release sires accurately adjusts for the genetic merit of the sire’s mates and the herds where the daughters are found.
  • Cows and Technology
    With many new technologies coming to market, breeders can expect to see genetic indexes for how cows adapt or perform within a technology. One such area is how cows work in single robotic milking farms. For example, breeders need to understand what is included when a bull’s daughters are called robot ready. Is that simply rear teat placement or does it include other factors as well (i.e. udder depth, milk let down, milking temperament, etc.)?
  • Genomic Information Not Yet Universal
    Even though the global dairy cattle breeding industry is almost into the ninth year of using genomic information, the genomic information and method of including the genomic results in genetic evaluations are not universal country to country. Breeders using genomic indexes from other countries need to do their homework before buying semen or embryos from abroad.

Does This Topic Need Attention?

The short answer is YES. To constructively improve their dairy cattle, breeders need to trust the numbers they use when making breeding decisions. Differences, biases, and inaccuracies in the data must be accounted for when conducting genetic evaluations.  As milk products become more of the global diet and as dairy cow populations expand, especially into more tropical conditions, breeders will need to know which cow families and sire daughter groups will work best in which environments.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The genetic evaluations of tomorrow need to make sure that biases and inaccuracies are not created but rather eliminated when data sets are combined. The saying “Horses For Courses” comes to mind when considering bloodlines that will work better in one environment than another.



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Reese Burdette: An Inspirational Little Girl and a Medical Miracle is Going Home

10462709_1021928441187387_967791446083398029_n[1]It has been 662 days since Reese Burdette entered Johns Hopkins Hospital fighting for her life after being pulled from a house fire. She has spent almost two years in Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, recovering from the severe burns she suffered in a fire at her grandparents’ home over Memorial Day weekend in 2014. Reese and her younger sister, Brinkley, were staying with their grandparents Patricia and Mike Stiles at Waverly Farms in Clear Brook, Virginia, when the fire apparently started with an electrical cord and quickly spread in the two-story home.

Patricia Stiles was a hero for running into the fire to save Reese. Both were burned and suffered smoke inhalation. Stiles was airlifted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Reese was airlifted to Johns Hopkins Hospital. She was burned on over 35 percent of her body and sustained damage to her heart and lungs from smoke inhalation. (Read more: PATRICIA STILES –DAIRY FARMER, GRANDMOTHER, HERO, FIGHTING FOR HER LIFE!) During her time in the hospital, she has endured five cardiac arrests, daily blood transfusions, internal bleeding, collapsed lungs, and surgeries to repair holes in her lungs. She emerged from a medically induced coma after almost four months, then ticked off a list of surgeries, recovery milestones, and therapies in her quest to return home.

Today is that day.

“I’m going to be in a parade,” said Reese.

Reese grew up on a dairy farm with one special heifer, Pantene; that gave birth this week.

“I want to go to the farm to see my cow,” Reese said Wednesday.  We were all touched when, earlier this year, the family brought Pantene on a surprise visit to see Reese at the hospital. You could not help but shed a tear when Pantene was named Reserve Grand at Pennsylvania’s State Holstein Show, and Reese was able to see it all.  Through the advances of mobile internet, she was able to watch the whole show through FaceTime. (Read more: EXTRA SPECIAL DAY FOR REESE BURDETTE – PANTENE WINS RESERVE GRAND)

Asked what she plans to say to the cow, Reese said her message will be “I miss you.”

That same sentiment is already being expressed by the hospital staffers who have grown to love the Burdette family. Close to 400 people were invited to a going-away party.

Dr. Kristen Nelson, director of cardiac critical care in pediatrics, cries when she thinks of not having daily interaction with the Burdettes. Nelson said she will carry Reese in her heart.

“I say to people: ‘I could retire today and be fulfilled,’ she said.

Reese’s treatment will soon be featured in medical journals. It is discussed already at conferences about the machines that supported her heart and lungs as they healed. She spent longer with ventricular assistance than any other known patient.

“She persevered and succeeded at everything we asked of her,” Nelson said.

Justin and Claire Burdette consider Nelson to be part of their family, as does Reese. That means the doctor can’t escape Reese’s trademark sassiness, like the eye-rolling that accompanies Nelson’s tears about the pending goodbye.

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The Burdettes have split their time between the farm and hospital for the duration of Reese’s stay. They developed a schedule to ensure their daughter had a family member with her every moment.

“We wouldn’t do it any other way,” Claire Burdette said.

The family was called the hospital too many times in those first several months to say what doctors thought would be their goodbyes.   Reese’s first four months in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit was like a nightmare the family just could not wake up from.  They had no idea throughout those long months if Reese would still be Reese when she woke up.  It was suspected that all the heart attacks might have resulted in a loss of brain function. Would their spunky little girl who loves her family and friends, music, her cows, belly laughing and being in 4-H still be there? Yet, Reese is here today so full of spark and life; doctors say she is a miracle child.  For Reese’s father Justin, the turning point in her recovery — when he knew she would recover — was the successful open-heart surgery she had Dec. 7 to remove the ventricular assistance device.

Burdette said he knows being at home on a new schedule without the professional caregivers will present its own challenges.

“It’ll be a big learning curve for everybody,” he said.

The family hopes to take a few days of quiet, personal time before welcoming guests to the farm.

“I think that’ll be an adjustment because she’s a people person,” Claire Burdette said, pointing out that Reese has had people buzzing around her 24 hours a day for two years.

Those two years have changed many lives.

In situations like this, it is important to advocate for your child, keep the faith and work to keep strong your relationship with your spouse, Justin Burdette said.

“Never give up on hope. I could tell you stories all day long where God has shown himself,” Claire Burdette said. (Read more: THE BURDETTE FAMILY – TRIUMPH AND TEARS, PERSEVERANCE AND PAIN LEADS TO HOPE AND HEALING and GRACE UNDER PRESSURE)

Her school and the surrounding community have rallied around her all along, forming “Team Reese” and raising money for her medical expenses and just keeping her spirits up.  Burdette’s elementary school is also decked out in her favorite color, purple. Everyone, there is anxiously awaiting her return.

“I’m excited for her to come home because she’s been away for almost two years now and we just miss her a lot,” said Daisy Donahoe, Reese’s friend.

Despite the injuries and recuperation, Reese has been able to attend school at Mercersburg Elementary School using a virtual presence device to view what was taking place in the classroom. Reese has been using the robot since last October. This all came after Reese missed more than a year’s worth of school due to her injuries. Burdette’s resistance is teaching her teachers a lesson.

“I think that we all just see her as our hero because she’s been through so much and she’s just shown us that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” said Jaimie Pine, Reese’s teacher.

Initially, Reese was supposed to have several police and fire departments escorting her home from the hospital. According to Reese’s elementary school principal, Ryan Kaczmark, Reese decided that she didn’t “want to be tied down” and hold anyone up on the family’s way home, so there will not be any escorts until she arrives in Mercersburg.

“She declined her motorcade,” Kaczmark said.

However, Reese will be escorted by the Mercersburg Fire Department through town once her family arrives. The family will meet the fire department at Montgomery Elementary School first and will then head north, stopping at Mercersburg Elementary and then on through downtown Mercersburg before finally returning to her family’s home for the first time in almost two years.

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The Bullvine Bottom Line

“It was sort of her goal this year to try and be home before her birthday,” said Mercersburg Elementary PTO President Kelly Sanchez.  Reese will celebrate her 9th Birthday this Sunday, at home. Happy Birthday, Reese we Love You!”

Precision Dairy Tools: Explore the potential – Dr Jeff Bewley – Robotics conference #VMSPRO2016

Ever wonder how precision dairy tools could help you take your dairy to the next level?  Then you are going to want to watch Dr. Jeffrey Bewley’s presentation from the 2016 VMS Pro conference in Las Vegas.  During this robotics conference Dr. Bewley presented the scientific research around many of the latest technologies and if they actually work or if they are not worth the headaches.  Dr. Bewley also shared with attendees a great method to help evaluate new technology and if it’s worth the investment for your operation.


About The Presenter

Dr. Jeffrey Bewley is from Rineyville, Kentucky, where he grew up working on his grandfather’s (Hilary Skees) dairy farm. He received a B.S. in Animal Sciences from the University of Kentucky in 1998. In 2000, he completed his M.S. in Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin- Madison under the direction of Dr. Roger Palmer. His PhD work under Dr. Mike Schutz at Purdue University focused on the application and economics of Precision Dairy Farming technologies. Jeffrey’s current teaching program at the University of Kentucky focuses on precision dairy technology implementation, mastitis prevention, cow comfort, lameness prevention, and decision economics.

About The Conference – #VMSPRO2016

Learn about the latest robotic milking, feeding concepts and innovations – from calf to cow. DeLaval lined up some of the best scientists, specialists and DeLaval VMS producers from North America, Europe, Oceania and Latin America to share and build knowledge around our DeLaval integrated robotic solutions.

Managing Inbreeding in the Genomic Era – Video

Producer concern is on the rise over whether genomics is creating too much inbreeding in the dairy cattle population. The worry is that there will soon be limited options to which a herd can be bred to avoid negative effects of inbreeding. Please join Charles “Chuck” Sattler, Vice-President of Genetic Programs for Select Sires Inc as he helps us understand how you can leverage the power of genomic selection while limiting inbreeding in your breeding strategy.

During this informative video you will learn:

  • Why inbreeding is an issue and what level of inbreeding is acceptable
  • How you can Manage inbreeding to maximize profit
  • Why sometimes its good to have high levels of inbreeding

About the presenter

chuck sattlerAs the Vice-President of Genetic Programs for Select Sires Inc, Charles (Chuck) Sattler is responsible for leading, managing and developing the sire department in the areas of administration, genetic research programs and the industry-leading Program for Genetic Advancement™ (PGA™). Prior to working at Select Sires, Sattler spent 12 years working for the National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB), most recently as its genetics programs and information services administrator. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Association of Animal Breeders and also serves as a Director for the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding.

This video is proudly presented by:




Your Baby Is Ugly

It’s not something many of us want to hear.  If you’re like most dairy farmers, your farm is your baby.  Moreover, hearing that your baby is ugly could be the hardest thing anyone could ever say to you.  However, it could be the best thing that ever happens to you as well.


If you are like most dairy farmers or parents, the hardest thing you could ever admit is that your child/business is ugly.  We all want to believe that this entity that we have poured our heart and soul into is the most beautiful thing in the world.  But it takes that ability to realize that your baby/business is not perfect that allows us to help them/it become the best it can be. One thing I have realized in the many businesses that I have run, and now as a parent is, my baby is not beautiful, but it is amazing.  And it’s my job as the parent/business owner to do all that I can to make that ugly baby become the beautiful person/business I know it can be.

Sure dairy farming is a way of life for many, but it is also a business.  And maybe because we have trouble separating the two, is why most dairy farmers have a harder time understanding our baby is ugly compared to other industries. Well except 20 something tech startups, they all seem to think they have the next great Billion dollar idea, that they don’t realize is ugly until they have spent 2 million of their parents, grandparents and family members hard earned cash.

The weak among us, love to fool ourselves that everything is fine, everything is going to be ok.  The thing is everything is not fine.  Milk prices are low relative to input costs, and the industry is probably facing some of the toughest challenges it has ever faced.  However, we all want to believe that is external and that our baby is beautiful.  The thing is, those who are most successful understand that their baby is not beautiful.  They understand that their business that they are so passionate about is not perfect.  That there is opportunities to improve their business in order to make it beautiful.


We can all see the flaws in other people’s babies, but yet can not even begin to understand the challenges our babies are facing. We all have the fear that if you react negatively to your own baby, it will die.  But I am not saying you can not love your business.  You have to.  This is a tough industry, and you have to love what you do.  But you also need to be able to look at your business objectively.

Because people are inherently nice. We all want to be loved and treated with respect, so we usually do the same for others. We all love to surround ourselves with those people who will tell us how beautiful our business/farm is.  What parent/business owner does not like to listen to praise about how pretty their baby is.  Even the meanies and shit-stirrers will wait until the parents are out of hearing range before turning to a friend to say, “Wow, that baby was fricking ugly!” The thing is you are cheating yourself.  The problem is that does not bring about change.  That does not force you to make the changes your business needs in order to be the best it can be.

You cannot see the ugly because it’s your baby. What you need is to surround you and your business with the people who are willing to tell you the truth and what you need to hear, no matter how uncomfortable. The best advisers help you understand the changes you need to make, why you need to make them, and how to make them in order to improve your results.

Over time, the businesses that are led by people who would rather hear what they want to hear run into big trouble. The baby gets uglier and uglier. After they limp along for a while, the responsibility to make a decision falls to someone who wants to hear what he needs to hear. If you are wise enough to listen to the input of others, you can determine which parts are pretty and which parts need some work.


The difference between the literal baby and the metaphorical baby, your farm, is that the real baby cannot be changed.  You cannot alter a little human’s appearance, so pointing out his or her ugly traits won’t help anything, and just makes you look like a total asshat. But when it comes to something that can be changed, and when constructive criticism may save someone from wasting even more time and money, then does it make sense to speak up and give your opinion?

Dairy farmers need to have thick skin. They need to persevere. They can’t get too attached to their baby because it may very well be hideous. Dairy farmers need to be able to take all the feedback they can get—the positive and the negative—and keep driving forward along the most appropriate road. If someone building a dairy business runs home crying after their baby is criticized, then as far as I’m concerned, they shouldn’t be in business.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Your baby is ugly, but understanding that, and being willing to make the changes necessary help makes for a much prettier baby.

The Complete Guide to Understanding Zoetis’ New Wellness Traits – CLARIFIDE® Plus

For the first time, dairy producers can genetically select heifers to build a healthier herd.  But with this new ability comes the challenge of understanding Zoetis’ New Wellness Traits marketed at CLARIFIDE® Plus (Read more:  ZOETIS LAUNCHES CLARIFIDE® PLUS and Can you breed a healthier cow?).  In order to help you understand the power of this new tool here are some useful resources to guide you in your understanding.

Key Points

  • CLARIFIDE® Plus represents the first commercially available dairy genetic evaluation specifically designed for wellness traits in U.S. dairy cattle.
  • CLARIFIDE Plus genomic predictions for wellness traits provide reliable assessments of genetic risk factors for economically relevant health challenges in Holstein cattle.
  • The use of Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP$) would be expected to offer very similar selection emphasis to that achieved by Net Merit (NM$), making it a practical consideration for producers that have historically used NM$, but would like to apply additional selection emphasis on wellness traits.
  • CLARIFIDE Plus provides an expanded suite of genetic selection tools that provide highly relevant information to dairy producers who seek to incrementally improve the health, productivity and profitability of the dairy cattle they care for.

Genetic evaluation and selection in dairy cattle has largely focused on production traits such as milk and protein production. Indirect predictors of health and fertility (e.g.,somatic cell score, productive life, daughter pregnancy rate) are available and there is evidence to support some genetic improvement for these traits. However, presumably as a result of genetic antagonisms between production and health traits as well as changes in management practices, data supports increased incidence of many common diseases in contemporary dairy production systems. Consequently, dairy cows are considered to be less ‘robust’ than previous generations, which has serious implications for the health and fertility of the modern day dairy cow.

Profitable dairy cows are fertile, productive and require minimal extraneous inputs to maintain their health through all phases of production. They generally require fewer veterinary treatments or interventions, without compromising the health, welfare or economic efficiency of the cow, and are less likely to be prematurely culled. Genetic improvement programs that incorporate knowledge regarding differences in risk of disease into selection and breeding strategies have the potential to improve profitability of dairy production through improved prevention and control of economically relevant diseases as well as enhanced animal productivity.

Improving health and fitness traits, commonly referred to as functional or wellness traits, through genetic selection presents a compelling opportunity for dairy producers to help manage disease incidence and improve profitability when coupled with sound management practices. To date, direct predictors for wellness traits related to common disease conditions in dairy production have not been readily available in the U.S. CLARIFIDE® Plus represents the first commercially available dairy genetic evaluation specifically designed for wellness traits in U.S. dairy cattle, providing predictions describing the risk for six common diseases. Routine dehorning of commercial dairy cattle is also of concern for the industry as it relates to animal well-being and costs associated with routine dehorning methods. The selection and breeding of polled stock has been proposed as a strategy for proactively managing these concerns, including use of direct tests for polledness in cattle as well as including the economic benefits within selection indexes. CLARIFIED Plus includes the Zoetis Polled genomic test prediction in the offering to accurately identify and differentiate homozygous vs. heterozygous polled Holstein animals.



  • Mastitis, lameness, metritis, retained placenta, ketosis, displaced abomasum and other health events referred to as wellness traits have a significant impact on herd health, saleable milk and overall herd profitability.
  • Profitability is enhanced when the dairy has the advantage of mature cows that are productive for multiple lactations. To reach this longevity, cows must stay healthy and be reproductively sound, in addition to producing milk. Until now, management practices were the primary way to help cows either avoid or survive these health events.
  • CLARIFIDE Plus represents the first commercially available dairy genetic evaluation specifically designed for wellness traits in U.S. dairy cattle. Dairy producers can now genomically select heifers for wellness traits at an early age to help build a healthier herd.
  • CLARIFIDE Plus is the only genomic test that allows producers to rank animals with the new Dairy Wellness Profit IndexTM (DWP$TM) based on traits that affect health, performance and profit.
  • The use of Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP$) would be expected to offer similar selection emphasis to that achieved by Net Merit (NM$), making it a practical consideration for producers that have historically used NM$, but would apply additional selection emphasis on wellness traits.
  • CLARIFIDE Plus derives accurate genetic predictions for six new wellness traits derived using cutting‐ edge genetic evaluation methodology applied to data collected from millions of health records within U.S. commercial herds. This results in an average Reliability of 50% for the six traits.
  • Higher values are more desirable for all traits, thus selecting for a high Standardized Transmitting Abilities (STA) will apply selection pressure for reduced risk of disease.
  • In addition to wellness traits, CLARIFIDE Plus includes genetic information for the Zoetis propriety Polled trait.
  • DWP$ includes production, fertility, type, longevity and the dairy wellness traits, including polled test results.
  • Wellness Trait IndexTM (WT$TM) focuses on the wellness traits (Mastitis, Lameness, Metritis, Retained Placenta, Displaced Abomasum and Ketosis) in addition to Polled and estimates difference in expected lifetime profit associated with risk of disease.
  • DWP$ differs from other economic indexes because it includes direct predictions for economically important diseases. By including more characteristics affecting profitability, DWP$ describes more variation in profitability than other indexes.
  • With the use of DWP$, producers can potentially make more than $55 more profit per selected female over 10 years using a 15% culling selection strategy, even when test cost is higher than a NM$‐based ranking.

Development of Dairy Wellness Predictions

Genomic predictions for wellness traits were developed by Zoetis based on an independent database of pedigrees, genotypes and production records assembled from commercial dairies and internal assets. Health events were assembled from on-farm dairy production records provided with consent by commercial dairy producers. Data editing procedures to reduce recorded disease incidence to a common format were developed based on review of event codes in on-farm software and consultation with dairy production and veterinary experts. Targeted phenotypes included:

  • Mastitis (MAST)
  • Lameness (LAME)
  • Metritis (METR)
  • Retained placenta (RP)
  • Displaced abomasum (DA)
  • Ketosis (KET)
 All diseases were defined as a Holstein female diagnosed with the respective disease one or more times in a given lactation on the basis of qualifying event codes in on-farm dairy software in the case of commercial data, or clinical research records in the case of internal research assets. As of August 2015, the database used to derive CLARIFIED Plus predictions incorporated, primarily large commercial U.S. dairy operations from across the nation and included more than 10 million lactation records; 4 million cases of mastitis; 3 million cases each of metritis, retained fetal membranes, displaced abomasum, and lameness; more than 1.9 million cases of ketosis; and more than 15 million pedigree records. Additional records are continuously added to this database on a monthly basis from producer-supplied farm records.

Genomic data was obtained from commercially tested animals with owner consent or available genotypes within Zoetis research databases. More than 100,000 genotypes were available for consideration as of August 2015. Additional commercial genotypes are added on a weekly basis. Genotypes included in the evaluation were derived from both low and medium density genotypes, all imputed to Illumina®  BovineSNP50v2 using an internal imputation reference set and FImpute.CLARIFIDE Plus predictions are derived from a weekly internal genetic evaluation that employs single-step statistical methods for estimating genomic breeding values. This method for genetic evaluation derives a joint relationship matrix based on pedigree and genomic relationships and provides a unified framework that eliminates several assumptions and parameters, thus enabling more accurate genomic evaluations. Table 1 shows the average reliability of genomic predictions for wellness traits in CLARIFIDE Plus. Among approximately 29,901 Holstein heifers less than 2 years of age within the reference dataset, the average reliability was greater than or equal to 49% for all traits. Notably, as direct predictions for individual wellness traits are not presently available, this represents a substantial increase in reliability from zero. Further, the average reliability of genomic predictions for wellness traits continues to increase as more records are added to the evaluation.

Table 1 - clarifiedplus

Reporting of Wellness Traits in CLARIFIDE® Plus

CLARIFIDE® Plus predictions for wellness traits are expressed as genomic standardized transmitting abilities (STA), similar to how type traits are expressed. Values are centered at 100 with a standard deviation of 5. The reference population included 76,840 animals that had wellness predictions and CLARIFIDE results (Table 2). For all wellness trait predictions, a value of 100 represents average expected disease risk and values of greater than 100 reflect animals with lower expected average disease risk relative to herdmates with lower STA values. Higher values are more desirable for all traits, thus selecting for a high STA will apply selection pressure for reduced risk of disease.

Table 2 - clarifiedplus

CLARIFIDE Plus predictions for the Polled test will be reported as:

  • Tested homozygous polled: The genotype demonstrates that the animal is homozygous polled and will always produce a polled animal regardless of the horned status of the other parent.(Coded PP)
  • Polled carrier: The genotype reveals a heterozygous polled animal capable of producing a horned progeny. (Coded PC)
  • Tested free of polled (i.e., horned): The genotype is consistent with an animal that is horned. (Coded TP)
  • Indeterminate: The polled status of the animal cannot be definitively determined. (Coded I)

Two New Dairy Wellness Indexes

In addition to reporting of individual wellness traits, CLARIFIDE Plus also reports two economic selection indexes to inform selection decisions. Selection indexes are a critical component of many selection strategies as they provide a path for dairy producers to select for comprehensive genetic improvement across many economically important traits. The use of economic selection indexes helps to ensure that the distribution of selection pressure applied to component traits is appropriately balanced relative to the economic impact of the individual traits on dairy profitability. To support selection for reduced risk of disease in dairy females, two economic indexes were developed.

  • Wellness Trait Index (WT$): This multi-trait selection index exclusively focuses solely on the wellness traits1 (Mastitis,Lameness, Metritis, Retained Placenta, Displaced Abomasum, Ketosis and Polled) and directly estimates potential profit contribution of the wellness trait for an individual animal that will be passed onto the next generation.
  • Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP$): This multi-trait selection index includes production, fertility, type, longevity, calving ability, milk quality and the wellness traits, including Polled test results. By combining the wellness traits with those found in the current Net Merit (NM$) index, DWP$ directly estimates the potential profit contribution an individual animal will pass along to the next generation.

Table 3 - clarifiedplus copyThe economic indexes in CLARIFIDE Plus were derived using standard selection index theory. Economic assumptions were derived from those used in NM$ for the case of core traits, and from a review of peer-reviewed literature for wellness traits. Economic values for health traits that are considered in the derivation of NM$ were removed to avoid double-counting of the contributions of disease to dairy profitability. Economic values were then adjusted within the range of reported values based on the covariance among traits to achieve the final index weights.
To assess the extent to which use of CLARIFIDE Plus wellness trait indexes would alter selection emphasis relative to use of NM$, the expected response to selection per standard deviation of genetic improvement in the index was estimated. In examining the response of selection between DWP$ and NM$, it is clear that use of DWP$ will result  in greater genetic improvement in wellness traits and largely the same selection response for the rest of the traits. There is some decrease in selectionemphasis and expected genetic progress for production traits associated with the use of DWP$ (Table 3), which is consistent with our understanding of the relationship between increased production and disease risk. However, selection using DWP$ will increase milk, fat and protein production, just at a slightly lower genetic rate than would be achieved with alternative indexes that do not consider direct selection for wellness traits. Importantly, the use of DWP$ would be expected to offer very similar selection emphasis to that achieved by NM$, making it a practical consideration for producers who have historically used NM$ but would like to apply additional selection emphasis on wellness traits to achieve healthier, more profitable cows.

Table 4 defines the relative values for component traits in each of the two  wellness indexes. All indexes are expressed in a dollar value with higher positive numbers indicating the animal has the genetic potential to generate and transmit more profit over her lifetime.

Table 4 - clarifiedplus

CLARIFIDE® Plus Educational Videos 

  •  Improving Dairy Health and Profitability With CLARIFIDE® Plus in Holsteins
    CLARIFIDE Plus represents the first commercially available dairy genetic evaluation specifically designed for wellness traits in U.S. dairy cattle. Dairy producers now can genomically select heifers for wellness traits at an early age to build a healthier herd. Cheryl Marti, associate director of genetics and reproduction with Zoetis, provides an overview of the technology and how it benefits Holstein dairy producers.
  • Creating Wellness Trait Genomic Predictions
    Dr. Sue DeNise, executive director of VMRD genetics with Zoetis, describes the process and research that went into product development for the wellness traits associated with CLARIFIDE Plus.
  • Understanding How CLARIFIDE Plus Wellness Traits Are Reported
    Dr. Dan Weigel, director of Outcomes Research at Zoetis, describes the wellness traits associated with CLARIFIDE Plus and how the genetic results for each wellness trait are reported.
  • Exploring CLARIFIDE Plus Wellness Traits: Mastitis
    Mastitis is one of the most costly diseases on U.S. dairy herds. Dr. Gary Neubauer, senior manager of Dairy Technical Services, and Dr. Dan Weigel, director of Outcomes Research, discuss the genetic components of mastitis and how the wellness trait is reflected within CLARIFIDE Plus.
  • Exploring CLARIFIDE Plus Wellness Traits: Lameness
    Lameness is a widespread disorder among the U.S. dairy cattle population and has a significant impact on health and productivity. Two Zoetis technical services personnel — Dr. Gary Neubauer, senior manager of Dairy Technical Services, and David Erf, a Dairy Technical Services geneticist — provide an overview of the genetic component of the lameness wellness trait.
  • Exploring CLARIFIDE Plus Wellness Traits: Metritis and Retained Placenta
    Metritis and retained placenta are two significant disorders that impact fresh cows. Two Zoetis technical service personnel — Dr. Michael Lormore, director of Cattle and Equine Technical Services – Dairy, and Dr. Anthony McNeel, senior scientist with Global Genetics Technical Services — discuss the genetic components of these traits and how they are reflected within CLARIFIDE Plus outcomes.
  • Exploring CLARIFIDE® Plus Wellness Traits: Ketosis and Displaced Abomasum
    Two Zoetis technical service personnel — Dr. Michael Lormore, director of Cattle and Equine Technical Services – Dairy, and David Erf, a Dairy Technical Services geneticist — explore two traits included within the CLARIFIDE Plus offering: ketosis and displaced abomasum. The presentation details the significance of the two disorders and the genetic components of each trait.
  • The CLARIFIDE Plus Wellness Trait Index™ (WT$™)
    Brenda Reiter, a Global Genetics Technical Services scientist with Zoetis, provides an overview of the Wellness Trait Index (WT$). The index is a multitrait selection index that focuses specifically on genomic predictions for common health disorders of dairy cattle.
  • The Power of the Dairy Wellness Profit Index™ (DWP$™)
    CLARIFIDE Plus is the only genomic test that allows producers to rank animals with the Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP$) based on important traits that affect health, performance and profit. Dr. Jason Osterstock, director of Global Genetics Strategic Marketing with Zoetis, describes how DWP$ was developed and how dairy producers can use DWP$ to make more informed heifer selection decisions.
  • Strategies for Using the Dairy Wellness Profit Index™ (DWP$™)
    David Erf, a Dairy Technical Services geneticist with Zoetis, provides an overview of how to use the Dairy Wellness Profit Index (DWP$). The presentation outlines strategies dairy producers can use to implement DWP$ data to sort, select and mate Holstein dairy heifers.
  • Achieving Faster Genetic Progress with DWP$
    In traditional breeding programs without genomics, it can be challenging to make significant progress within traits that have low heritability. Dr. Dan Weigel, director of Outcomes Research at Zoetis, describes how faster genetic progress can be made through genomic technology by using direct selection of the new wellness traits and using DWP$ within CLARIFIDE Plus.
  • Achieving Dairy Wellness Outcomes with CLARIFIDE Plus
    Cheryl Marti, associate director of genetics and reproduction with Zoetis, provides an overview of the Zoetis Dairy Wellness outcomes approach and how CLARIFIDE Plus supports this process for healthy animals and healthy dairies

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What health events will be covered by wellness trait predictions?
A: Common diseases in dairy cattle including mastitis, lameness, metritis, retained placenta, displaced abomasum and ketosis will be part of the wellness trait offering.

Q: Why do I need DWP$?
A: There are several reasons to utilize DWP$ in an effective genetic management strategy:
* DWP$ provides comprehensive, accurate and specific information on wellness traits to provide clarity and opportunity to make more profitable animal rankings and decisions.
* By including more characteristics affecting profitability, DWP$ describes more variation in profitability than other indexes.
* The use of DWP$ would be expected to offer very similar selection emphasis for production, reproduction and type traits as NM$ but with additional selection emphasis on wellness traits.

Q: As a dairy producer, if I select cattle based on their wellness trait profile, does that mean that they won’t get mastitis, metritis, etc.?
A: Risk of disease is influenced by genetic and environmental factors. CLARIFIDE Plus describes differences in the genetic risk factors, but genetic selection will not compensate for suboptimal management practices that may cause animals with apparent lower risk of disease to get sick. Producers should continue to use best management practices to prevent disease and apply CLARIFIDE Plus as another tool to improve dairy wellness.

Q: How long before I see a benefit to using these wellness traits?
A: The rate of Genetic progress depends on 4 factors—selection intensity, genetic variation, heritability and generation interval. Herds can make faster genetic progress by using DWP$ through greater selection pressure and higher genetic variation compared to NM$.

Q: How can I justify the investment in CLARIFIDE Plus?
A: The combination of wellness trait information and economic implications delivered through DWP$ provide dairy producers with powerful information that can be used to help build a healthier, more productive herd. With DWP$, producers get a more comprehensive ranking because of the additional differences in profitability described by including direct predictions for economically important health events such as mastitis, lameness, metritis, etc. By including more characteristics affecting profitability, DWP$ (offered only in CLARIFIDE Plus) describes more genetic variation in profitability than other indexes.

Q: How can I order the wellness trait predictions or find additional information?
A: Currently, CLARIFIDE Plus is only available for use in Holstein cattle. Holstein producers can order the CLARIFIDE Plus test through the order form at or via Enlight® . For more information, contact Zoetis Customer Service at 877‐233‐3362 or your Zoetis representative.


Dairy producers have enjoyed the availability of a comprehensive list of economically relevant traits and a robust genetic evaluation system to fuel their genetic improvement strategies. To date, a gap has existed in the ability to improve dairy profitability and dairy cow well-being through direct genetic selection for susceptibility to common diseases. CLARIFIDE® Plus provides accurate genetic predictions for wellness traits derived using cutting-edge genetic evaluation methodology applied to data collected from commercial production settings. The result is an expanded suite of genetic selection tools that provides highly relevant information to dairy producers that seek to continue to improve the health, productivity and profitability of the dairy cattle they care for.

Want to learn more?  Check out our upcoming webinar  “New Innovation in Genomic Selection to Reduce Disease Risks” presented with Zoetis on March 16th  & March 23rd

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FARM BOOTS and CAREER MOVES. Ag Grads Juggle Multiple Job Offers.

If you have an agricultural background, there are three things you need to know about university and the post-graduation job market.

The GOOD NEWS:                  This year nearly 2 million college students will graduate from college with a bachelor’s degree.
The BIG QUESTION:                Will graduates find a job?
The SIMPLE ANSWER:            Yes…if they majored in agriculture.

You may be surprised to hear this, especially if you are aware of the challenges that face some branches of agriculture and the world economics of dairy farming in the past several years.  If you have college age children who are graduating, you may also be swayed by the “graduating gloom” that pervades these young people, as they leave higher learning to enter the workforce, often accompanied by debt.

Yes!  There is a shortage.  But it’s a shortage of graduates NOT a shortage of jobs.

According to a report released nine months ago by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University, employers have 57,9000 job openings in agriculture and related fields each year.  But just 35,400 students graduate annually with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture.  That means there is a shortfall of 22,500 ag graduates! If you’re graduating this year or selecting courses in university, it’s a good plan to customize your resume or your curriculum to make the most of your agricultural interests and assets.

The grass is greener on the Ag side of the career fence.

All employers face a catch 22 situation.  They look for entry level employees but find that it’s a challenge for them to find someone with practical experience before that graduate has had a chance for hands-on experience.  A farm background is like the ‘farm league’ for a major sports team.  Employers look here to see who has the skills, work ethic and passion to contribute to their business team.  Many “ag” kids have those attributes in spades!  These grads are known to cross the urban/rural work line easier than those who don’t have comparable hands on experience. Farm life, 4-H, and multi-tasking from an early age means they have experience that will translate well into project management, work logistics, business analysis and commitment to starting and finishing what they start.

Growth in job opportunities will vary.

The facts reported by the USDA study don’t mean that the picture is rosy for everyone.  Some employers will struggle to find enough graduates to fill jobs.  In a few areas, employers will find an oversupply of job applicants.  As well, companies will continue to face the challenge of hiring a diverse workforce reflective of society as a whole.  Generally speaking, this is good news for Ag graduates.  By it’s very nature agriculture is all-inclusive when it comes to practical training to manage climbing the career ladder.  Employers recognize how important self-motivation, work ethic, and passion is to moving their businesses forward, and ag graduates have had numerous practical experiences in learning and applying these skills. Being able to relate to employer’s needs is one of many opportunities that ag graduates have to differentiate themselves in the competitive job market.

“The agriculture workforce is shrinking with age.”

The modern agricultural workplace is not immune from the major changes that are affecting all businesses.  One of the major ones is the aging workforce.  About 25 percent of the existing professional agriculture and food workforce is 55 and older. Inevitably retirement will become the next step for this large group.  Simultaneously this will mean that there will be new opportunities for a steady flow of young people. Discerning employers and human resources departments are planning and preparing ways to handle this migration so that outgoing and incoming changes don’t negatively affect their workforce and financial sustainability.

“Ag students need to be prepared for these opportunities!”

Those who don’t prepare for the job market, even if they have the right background and skills, are overlooking ways to get themselves to the front of the pack.  Practical experience is always an asset.  Many ag students work as summer interns in areas where they have or want to gain expertise.  Graduates who are mobile will also have more job offers, especially if they are willing to use their technical and professional skills in other states or countries.

“How much ag background is needed?”

Full-time employment for new graduates in the agriculture industry spans dozens of fields with nothing more in common than that they work with crops or animals at some point along the production chain.  No wonder knowing what to expect from this industry is tough.  Throw into the mix the fact that there are ever-changing demands from consumers and society, and it is clear that ag careers are raising the bar to a place where job skills include fielding hard questions and media challenges. Once again many ag raised grads have had experience with this aspect of modern society’s not always friendly focus on the food production industry.

Having said that, there are still many significant areas that the USDA research is reporting as having great potential for job seekers between 2015 to 2020.

Here are five areas that are reporting needs for Ag grads.

  1. Veterinarians
    “Graduates with expertise and experience in traditional food animal production will be in demand, especially in poultry, dairy, and swine operations.”
  2. Nutrition
    “Consumer demand for nutritious and safe food will contribute to the high demand for food scientists and technologists in new production development, food processing, and food safety. Food-animal nutritionists will see a continued strong employment market in research and development programs connected with feed and animal health”
  3. Technology.
    “As companies explore the precision ag space, they will be looking for job candidates with experience with software, hardware, and agriculture to develop and enhance their offerings.”
  4. Sustainable
    As the number of specialty producers of fruits, vegetables, and organic products (to name a few) grows, so will the need for knowledgeable workers and advisors. “Graduates with degrees in sustainable crop production and management will likely fare better in the employment market than will those with degrees in animal production and management.”
  5. Management and business.
    Almost 50% of the new ag-related jobs each year are found in this area. “Most graduates with bachelor’s degrees in business management will enter sales and technical and service jobs.  Those with advanced degrees will more likely begin careers as economists, financial analysts, lending executives, marketing managers and human resources specialists.”

Where do you fit in best?

College graduates with an ag background or an ag degree will no doubt find they can make the best of both worlds.  Long gone is the narrow view of agriculture that only saw it as a production industry.  Everyone from the farm gate to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack is singing the praises of ag. “It’s not just production agriculture now, but this is an expanding, entrepreneurial, creative, opportunistic aspect of our economy that I think will continue.” One of the consultants in USDA’s job study summed it up perfectly, “People realize that this sector isn’t our traditional ‘cows, plows and sows’ industry anymore.  It’s tremendously diverse.”

“Show me the money!”

We’ve covered a lot of positive aspects of getting a job offer upon graduation.  Last, but far from least, is a quick overview of what kind of remuneration can be expected. According to Mike Gaul, career services director for Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences “The average starting salary for ag college’s 2014 grad was about $48,000-with around half going out at about $50,000.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Regardless of whether you are entering or graduating from university, make sure you consider to emphasize your agricultural background as you look at the broad range of opportunities within agricultural business. Not only will you be warmly welcomed by employers but you will also have the satisfaction of working in a field that addresses the world’s most significant challenge…food production. Great work!



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SHOWCATION: Swiss Expo – The Greatest Experience in The World

SHOWCATION - IDW swiss expo- BadgeAnyone who has ever attended Swiss Expo will tell you that there is nothing like it in the world.  Even before the cows enter the ring, the ambiance is electric. Your heart rate increases and you can’t wait for the stars of the show to enter.  Simply put, attending Swiss Expo will be one of the greatest show experiences that you will ever have in your life.

Getting in

Each year the show is held in January in Lausanne Switzerland.  The closest airport, Geneva airport is served by almost all European carriers and by four daily trans-Atlantic flights: one from Washington-Dulles on United, one from New York, JFK on Swiss, one from Newark on Continental and one from Montreal, on Air Canada.

Let’s Talk

Lausanne is part of Suisse Romande/Romandie and thus is French-speaking. However, English is not as commonly spoken as in Geneva, and less than half the population can speak English at a competent level. You will probably have trouble communicating with a commoner on the street, but most service-sector employees speak a little English.

Getting Around

Walking is an excellent way to get around Lausanne. There are a number of sites within a short walk of the Main Station with the largely carfree streets beginning right across the street on rue du Petit-Chêne, which leads up to Place St. François in the old town. Like many streets in Lausanne it is a bit steep, though, so if that’s a problem consider taking the Metro M2.

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Sights to See

  • Swiss Expo Holstein Show
    From the dual purpose breeds that kick off the show to the culmination with the Holstein Show, you heart will race and you will keep thinking, “It can’t get better than this” …. but it does. The Red & White show is the best Red show in the world….bar none.  No one, I say No one in the world puts on a better show than the Swiss.  The Swiss ring is the most visually amazing place to see a cow shown in the world.  And the people are so passionate about the cows that the capacity crowd keeps the building electric. (Read more: 2016 Swiss Expo Holstein Show2016 Swiss Expo Red & White Holstein)
  • Explore The Old Town
    Thanks to the hills making it hard to pave over, Lausanne’s old town is larger than most found in Swiss cities, with the notable exception of Zurich. You can spend days wandering the old cobbled streets and still not know all of its nooks and crannies. After the shops close, there are dozens of quaint, cozy, hip, or just warm restaurants, cafes and nightclubs to experience, especially considering that at Place Central the old town joins with the Flon nightclub/gallery district. Wander as long as you like for, of course, there’s no charge for that,
  • Climb the Cathedral Tower
    The view from the top of the Cathedral tower is well worth the climb. Ask the nun at the souvenir shop in the Cathedral. From 10 PM until 2 in the morning, a watchman shouts the hours, perpetuating a tradition that dates back to 1405.
  • Musée Historique de Lausanne
    Here you will find a collection of maps, images and documents about the history of Lausanne, and the Lake Geneva Region from the earliest times through the long Bernese occupation to liberation and the present day. A beautifully hand-crafted diorama of 16th-century Lausanne is worth a visit all by itself.


Also, be sure to see the sights in Geneva including:

  • Jet d’Eau, the Rade
    One of the crowning symbols of Geneva is the great Jet d’Eau, a fountain of water pumped 140m into the air. The spectacular plume was once an occasional pressure release for hydropower generation on the Rhône River, but people liked it so much that in 1891 the city created a permanent pumped fountain. It’s beautifully lit at night. Best viewed from a distance — the surrounding half kilometer is soaked with water. However, the more adventurous might want to try the pathway leading right up to the Jet d’eau — prepare to get enjoyably wet!
  • Cathédrale St-Pierre
    The Cathedral and its towers, originally Catholic, both embody the high point of the Reformed tradition and explore the origins of Christianity with an extensive archeological site, and they are now complemented by the International Museum of the Reformation on the ground floor of the Maison Mallet. An underground passage reopened when the Museum was created, connects the two buildings. The archeological tour beneath the cathedral is excellent for those interested in such material, and it explains the origins not only of the cathedral but the reason for Geneva’s location back to pre-Roman times. Those willing to climb the steps of the Cathedral’s towers will be rewarded with magnificent views of Geneva and the lake.
  • Old Town
    Aside from the cathedral, the Old Town, in general, is worth walking around in for an hour or two. Among the highlights are the city hall with the cannons in the little square opposite to it, Rousseau’s birth house and various antique shops with all sorts of interesting stuff in the windows. The Old Town is situated on a hill with quite steep streets leading up to it.

What to eat


The best souvenirs from Lausanne are probably food specialties from the Canton of Vaud:

  • Saucisson Vaudois (pork sausage) and Saucisse aux choux (pork and cabbage sausage), both protected (IGP) brands. Each sausage carries a green seal with an individual registration Best eaten with papet Vaudois, a dish of leek and potato in a sauce made from cream and white wine.
  • Pâté à la viande – a small muffin-like puff pastry baked with a piece of meat inside. Join the never ending discussion, which pâté à la viande is better: the one bought from a baker or the one bought from a
  • Taillé aux greubons – another cake made from puff pastry mixed with small pieces of bacon.
  • Tarte à la crème – a pie baked with cream and sugar on top.
  • Tarte au vin cuit also called Tarte à la raisinée – a sweet pie with condensed fruit juice, typically apple or pear.
  • Tomme vaudoise – a soft cheese with a mold Best eaten if it is warmed up so that it melts inside.

Where to stay


Most of the hotels in Lausanne are in the mid-price range though there are also some luxury hotels as you would expect in the city which hosts the International Olympic Committee. There are also a few cheapies.


The Bullvine Bottom Line

There are some experiences you just know you will never forget; Swiss Expo is one of those experiences.  From the great cattle to the incredible atmosphere, Swiss Expo is simply the greatest cattle experience in the world.  Add to that two historic cities and you have a SHOWCATION that is out of this world.



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“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!”
Everyone on the dairy farm knows how to start feeding calves.  At least they think they do.  The problem may not be in the way they feed colostrum, but in the way they measure success.  Calves are born.  Calves are fed colostrum.  Calves do well.  Until they don’t. The sneaky hidden challenges or problems can be overlooked by seeing what appears to be a healthy calf.

“How much does it cost?”
Here again it’s the method of measurement that could be the problem. Many times if you write a check for the input that alone makes it seems to costly. However, anyone who feels that feeding the mother’s naturally produced colostrum is “free” is only fooling themselves.  Milk costs money.  You should always know the real cost to produce milk on your farm including each step from raising your herd to filling the bulk tank.  Secondly, not all costs are out of today’s pocket.  If a calf grows into a poorly performing milk cow, do we ever look back and determine if those first few days of her life had any cause and effect on that situation.

“It’s too much work!”
In the dairy business we often grow into the work practices that we use.  When you perform the same skill repeatedly, you modify your methods, tools and results as time goes on.  Or maybe you don’t.  This is true for feeding of colostrum. Many times the best way can gradually give way to the fastest or easiest way.

“My part of the calf program is successful just the way it is!”
Sometimes the person or team who manage calf care and feeding do not overlap with the team that works in the milkhouse.  There may not be dialogue on what is working and what is not so successful.  One should be especially aware that a calf that does not make it into the milk line is a major failure of the program.

“I want the best colostrum.  Does that mean fresh, frozen or replacement?”
Dairy farmers love to talk dairy and here at The Bullvine we are thoroughly enjoying the input and insights we get through the magazine and through discussions on The Milk House. Recently colostrum came up for discussion with this question: “What’s everyone’s opinion on feeding colostrum vs. colostrum replacer? We’re paying $30/bag of colostrum replacer we feed fresh colostrum if the calf is born in the morning.  We never freeze colostrum but are starting to think about it since it’s just going down the drain anyway.  Opinion on freezing it? Tried it years ago and had terrible luck with it.” What followed was a fantastic discussion that spilled over into emails, phone calls and even my extended family had interesting viewpoints.

“Mother’s Milk”
A Milk House member started the discussion by reporting, “According to Mike Van Ambrugh of Cornell, you should always feed the colostrum from the dam to the calf.  That cow has a unique set of antibodies in the milk that will help the calf succeed.” A response quickly came in noting the downside of this factual viewpoint which was being experienced on their farm. “Sometimes you can’t feed the mother’s milk. We can’t feed our heifers mom’s colostrum due to Leucosis positive cows.  Until we know exactly who is positive and who is negative, all heifers get colostrum replacer.  Bulls get whatever mom gives unless we’re keeping the bull then he gets the replacer too!” Some skeptics may quickly say that they don’t have a leucosis problem. That too was addressed by one respondent. “We just recently found out that Leucosis was an issue, when a cow presented with visible symptoms of it.”  Many others chimed in with a list of other reasons that make it impossible to give mother’s milk. “If the cow dies, it is a downer cow –or for various reasons, you cannot get her milked in time.”  Two key questions were also raised, “What if her colostrum is not good enough? Or she doesn’t produce enough?”

“Who knows the best way to manage colostrum feedings?”
Dairy folk are no different than any other business managers.  When looking for advice, we can look until we find the answer that supports what we are already doing thus avoiding any need for the dreaded change situation.  Of course, it is always wise to consider where the advice is coming from.  Don’t fall into assuming that if you read it or heard it, that it must be right.

“Develop your own colostrum protocol.”

It is always a good idea to have well thought out best practices for managing colostrum feeding. One dairy person wrote. “I save colostrum from ladies who are 5+ year old and have two negative Johnes tests…especially for first calf heifers.” Another manager explained, “It depends for us.  If it’s nowhere near milking and we don’t have any colostrum frozen, we use a mix. If we milk the cow right away or if she will let us strip her, we will.” There are many variations and one that we heard was this one. “We always freeze colostrum from older cows in jugs. If she’s a second calver or older, we will milk or strip her for the calf.  All heifer calves from heifers get frozen colostrum.”

“I’m not changing!”
As you can imagine, opinions about colostrum vary widely in exactly the same way that our readership represents a broad spectrum of dairy folks.  One stated emphatically, “I would rather have colostrum from my own cows instead of replacer any day.”  The reasoning was clearly stated. “It doesn’t make sense to me to buy someone else’s crap even though it’s ‘superior’ when we vaccinate our cattle etc. so the colostrum should be a ‘good’ fit for our calf’s needs.” The clincher came down to money. “Colostrum is ridiculously priced if you ask me…margins on it are just amazing I imagine.” These are good points provided one major question is accurately determined. “Whether your colostrum is home grown or purchased, make sure it has been tested” This is not an area to base on your assumptions!

“Colostrum MUST be tested!” 

Personally, many of us felt that the best advice shared was that all colostrum must be tested.  “Test with a brix meter.” “We only freeze colostrum that’s over 25 on the Brix scale.” One reader expressed another question, “Where does one find a Brix?  I have seen several people mention them. I have only heard of Brix being measured for grapes.”  The answer was concise.” It’s one and the same…just Google. We purchase through local vets.”

“Great discussion.  I might be changing our SOPs.”

Choices always turn on what actually works on the dairy operation. “We vaccinate our cows with the rotavac corona vaccine.  We bring cows in ASAP after calving, clean the teats with wipes, then collect the colostrum.  We test it with a Brix refractometer—above 24% we will put into an Udder Perfect bag and add potassium.” Sounds good and may influence other dairy managers. “All of our cows get their mums colostrum and they do great.  But, seeing the posts about people checking the quality of colostrum has made me want to try testing just to see what the results would be.”

“What containers do you use for colostrum?”
There were many suggestions for how to collect colostrum, with many contributors suggesting gallon zip lock bags or gallon freezer bags.  “I double bag in 2 gallon freezer bags.” One suggestion was to “Only fill with 1 newborn feeding (depends on your breed and size). I lay them in the large wash vat sink to warm them.” Perfect Udder Bags received a lot of support. “All the colostrum for our heifers is in Perfect Udder Bags.  We switched about 2 years ago and will never go back to anything else.  We pasteurize, store, freeze and reheat them with little to no trouble.  We have an occasional bag break but very few.  We will keep bags froze up to 6 months but it never lasts that long around here.”

“Colostrum mistaken identity.”
It isn’t surprising that sometimes people can be confused when they discover colostrum in half gallon jugs, coffee cans or other suitable containers. The best story came from the dairy which used pails. “We typically freeze our colostrum in 2 gallon pails. I did that and Boy, was my hubby in for a shock when he grabbed the ice cream.  We learned to keep the ice cream in a separate freezer now.  I used to have to really watch.”

“Thawing must be done with precision.”
After carefully making all the right decisions, it is especially important not to ruin it all by improper preparation of the colostrum.  “You are supposed to thaw frozen colostrum slowly in warm, not hot, water – not above 60 degrees. And not below 50 degrees centigrade. ““Don’t microwave it.”  When mixing colostrum speed must be sacrificed for correctness.  ALWAYS follow directions exactly.  This is not the time to think more about your time than about the needs of the calf.

“Colostrum is a revenue stream”

Sometimes you just can’t help looking at the dollar difference. “What we do is basically sell all our surplus colostrum to a company and we buy the powder replacement.” Another says, “We sell to a company that makes replacer and to a neighbor who occasionally needs some for a new fawn.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We have only started to consider the many factors that must be assessed when setting up an effect colostrum protocol for your dairy. One breeder summed up.  Always take into consideration that there are factors in colostrum that you can’t immediately see i.e. growth hormones, the health and vitality of the new calf, scour rates.  Many factors affect milk production in their lifetime and they are now being linked back to colostrum.”  Best regards to you in getting your herd off to a great start!



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Can you breed a healthier cow?

The most profitable cow on most farms is the cow the gives the greatest amount of milk but goes almost unnoticed because they do so while breeding back year after year without adverse health events.  That challenge, until now has been that we cannot accurately genetically identify these animals, until now. Breeders are asking their breed societies to do research that helps identify these cows earlier in their lifetimes.

Profitable dairy cows are fertile, productive and require minimal extra inputs to maintain their health throughout all phases of their lives.  The challenge is that the current genetic evaluation and selection systems in dairy cattle have primarily focused on production traits such as milk and protein production with only indirect predictors of health (e.g., somatic cell score, productive life,). Sure we know which cows give the most milk, and what cows last the longest, but the modern dairy cows are less ‘robust’ than previous generations. That is because we have been unable to accurately assess the genetic risk factors for economically relevant health challenges in Holstein cattle.

To accurately identify which cows last the longest and are the least amount of trouble we need to look at the top reasons producers cull cows.  The top known genetic component reasons for culling or removing cows are:

  • Low production 19.6%
  • Reproduction problems 15.1%
  • Mastitis 12.9%
  • Locomotion problems 4.5%
  • Undesirable conformation 0%
  • Bad behavior 0.1%
  • Unspecified reasons 30.6%

Yet except for reproduction, for which we have (Daughter Pregnancy Rate), we currently have no direct trait to predict mastitis, lameness, retained placenta, displaced abomasum and ketosis. Even DPR does not account for such reproduction issues as metritis.  However, all this is about to change as Zoetis has now introduced their new wellness trait evaluations as part of their CLARIFIDE® Plus genomic testing. (Read more:  ZOETIS LAUNCHES CLARIFIDE® PLUS)

What Has Changed

Zoetis has introduced six new traits that are directly connected to the key wellness issues that producers encounter.  The new traits are Mastitis, Lameness, Metritis, Retained Placenta, Displaced Abomasum, and Ketosis.  None of these have had a direct trait to assist in genetic selection decisions on who to keep and making breeding decisions on in the past. This new single genetic test will provide U.S. Holstein producers with direct comparable and viable assessment tools for assessing the genetic potential for production, health, fertility, longevity, and profitability like we have never seen before.  Producers will be able to use genomic information for more comprehensive heifer selection and breeding decisions.


When you consider that the cost of a single instance of mastitis is between $155 – $224 per case and that it occurs in 12% to 40% of lactations, the ability to now accurately make direct breeding decisions on this issue is truly game changing.  How many times have you had to cull a cow because she retained her placenta, got metritis and would not breed back and yet you had no way of knowing if she was genetically more predisposed to it than others animals?  Well, now you will know.

Where does the data come from?

Genomic predictions for wellness traits have been developed by Zoetis based on an independent database of pedigrees, genotypes and herd records assembled from commercial dairies and internal assets.  The database incorporated primarily large commercial U.S. dairy operations and included more than 10 million lactation records; 4 million cases of mastitis; 3 million cases each of metritis, retained fetal membranes, displaced abomasum, and lameness; more than 1.9 million cases of ketosis; and more than 15 million pedigree records.

Health events were assembled from on-farm dairy herd records provided with consent by commercial dairy producers. Data editing procedures to convert documented disease incidence to a standard format were developed based on a review of event codes in on-farm herd management software and in consultation with dairy production and veterinary experts.

Private vs. Independent Database Accuracy and Reliability

The first thing that will occur to many breeders’ minds is that this is a private or selected database.  While the database is certainly more from commercial than seed stock herds, it is in no way selective with any inherent herd biases.  While some metrics produced by AI organizations could come from a selective data set, this independent database is derived from a broad spectrum of herds. As well thanks to the parentage verification of genomic testing has already accounted for the large percent of records that might have been miss-identified.

Also, all the data talks to each other in one step, vs a 2 step process, allowing for more reliable results with the same amount of data. This is a cutting-edge genetic evaluation method that has become the new gold standard, and requires a lot of computer power to do.

Don’t Forget Polled

In addition to wellness traits, the new CLARIFIDE Plus includes information for the Zoetis proprietary Polled trait. Results will indicate animals as either tested homozygous polled, polled carriers, tested free of polled or indeterminate. This is an even more conclusive polled test than other options as it contains a wider range of markers for the polled gene than other options currently on the market.

Two New Dairy Wellness Indexes

Zoetis is also introducing two economic selection indexes based on these six new traits.  They are:

  • Wellness Trait IndexTM (WT$TM)
    This multitrait selection index exclusively focuses on the new wellness traits (Mastitis, Lameness, Metritis, Retained Placenta, Displaced Abomasum, Ketosis, and Polled) and directly estimates the potential profit contribution of the wellness traits for an individual animal that will be passed on to the next generation.
  • Dairy Wellness Profit IndexTM (DWP$TM)
    This multi-trait selection index includes production, fertility, type, longevity, calving ability, milk quality and the wellness traits, including Polled test results. By combining the wellness traits with those found in the current Net Merit (NM$) index, DWP$ directly estimates the potential lifetime profit contribution an individual animal will pass along to the next generation. DWP$ identifies greater genetic variation around profitability than other industry indexes due to greater description of the actual disease risk.

Using DWP$ for selection decisions can have significant financial impacts on the dairy by increasing expected profit per cow by an extra $53,000 when compared to no selection strategy for genetic selection based on NM$ parent average. In fact, DWP$ also outperforms using NM$ as your selection index with 15% cull rate by over $55 or 44% greater lifetime return.($185.65 vs. $129.72)

The Elephant in The Room

For many breeders when they choose to genomic test there are two parts to it.  Firstly, there is the ability to make culling decisions, which these new six traits and two indexes will assist in.  However, the second part is the ability to make breeding decisions.  The challenge is that currently there are only values for your animals and any sires you wish to mate your animals to do not have publically available indexes for these traits.  For example, currently if you identify that you would like to improve on lameness issues, you can cull problems, but there is nowhere to find out which sires are genetically superior for lameness.  When I asked Zoeits about this, they explained that they are indeed talking with AI units about the potential for them to test or obtain this information. However, just now the data is not available.

It will be interesting to see if Zoetis goes the route that Semex has gone with Immunity+ Plus where it became a sole use for one AI unit, or will it become like Sexing Technologies has done with Sexed Semen where they license the technology to all partners, with each putting their branding on the process. Zoetis has commented that “we are open for business” to provide testing for customers wanting our new CLARIFIDE Plus outcomes for both females and males.   The offering will be commercially available for Holstein dairy cattle and we are looking forward to overall industry adoption.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For years many producers have been screaming for these traits and the industry side has been hesitant for two main reasons: 1) low reliability for health and management traits, and 2) the lack of verifiable data. All this data is based on user generated information and has not been supervised by any testing organization like milk recording or breed associations.  The lack of supervision indeed does enter the possibility for bias, but with genomic testing, that bias is certainly minimized.  While it appears that this change would put Zoetis in direct competition with the likes of CDCB, they insist that is not their intent, but rather they are moving to develop their differentiated solution that is more ideally fitted for modern commercial producers to complement the other core CDCB information.

One thing is for sure, with the introduction of these six new traits, breeders have greater insight into exactly what causes many of the profit-robbing and labor-intensive events that have never been accounted for under the current genetic evaluation system.  While it will be interesting to see how the industry responds to this, there will certainly be some significant changes to the genetics industry in the weeks and months to come.

Want to learn more?  Check out our upcoming webinar  “New Innovation in Genomic Selection to Reduce Disease Risks” presented with Zoetis on March 16th  & March 23rd

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