Archive for May 2021

Stud Wars May ’21 – Attack of the Clones

The world has been battling one of the greatest viruses to ever hit man and now, just like the battle with Covid-19, the war between the Artificial Organizations has heated up to epic proportions.  What started as The Battle for A.I. Supremacy back in July 2013, has seen many changes in the power struggle when it comes to sire lineups. Many of the smaller A.I. units have been purchased by larger genetic players, and the rate of change has accelerated considerably. Let’s see who has come out on top this year and who has fallen behind in the genetics race.


While Select Sires once dominated with 52% of the top proven sire TPI ranks back in Stud Wars Episode IV – The Force Grows Stronger 2016, they still hold control though ABS Global has bounced back in recent years and now occupies the #2 spot, by filling their genomic pipeline three years ago.  Also coming on strong is STgen who, like ABS Global, made significant investments in recent years and saw positive returns.  Of interesting note is that despite the merger of Genex and Alta Genetics that held a combined 28% back in our initial battle for supremacy, they now only occupy 8% combined. 

There is no question that ABS global has gone heavily into the top Genomic TPI sires.  With 41% of the top sires, they have control over the top end TPI sires in the world. Some key partnerships with De Novo Genetics (De-Su Holsteins), Windstar Genetics and Pine-Tree Holsteins have paid dividends for ABS.  Topping this list are Genosource Captain and his two clone brothers Jack and John available from STgen.

At one time there were many players in the Top TPI sire lists. But with sexed semen and AI companies launching their own female programs, the top TPI sires are now controlled by very few organizations.  ABS has taken over the crown from Select Sires. The two companies now control over 59% of the top TPI sires in the world.


Continuing their dominance from the top TPI lists, Select Sires and ABS Global also dominate the NM$ proven lists.  Of interesting note here is that Semex has come on in this category and now occupies 15% of the top proven NM$ sires.  STgen has also seen significant improvement as a result of heavy investment in genomic NM$ sires three years ago (16% of total) which has translated into 12% of proven NM$ sires. 

Looking to regain the lost ground on the proven NM$ sires lists, Alta Genetics/Genex’s Peak program has invested heavily to regain ground lost to the other organisations. 

While Select Sires maintains their crown as the best source for NM$ sires, ABS Global has regained ground over the past three years and is now tied with Alta Genetics/Genex for the #2 spot.  Semex has been the biggest mover in this category over the past three years and now holds the number three spot with 16%.  If the ABS investment in top genomic NM$ sires three years ago is an indicator, watch for Alta Genetics/CRI’s Peak program to move them up on proven sires lists shortly.


Semex and Select Sires continue to have over half of the top PTAT proven sires in the world.  The interesting part about the top PTAT proven sires is that there is still a significant portion, 31% of the sires, that are not controlled by the major AI companies.  ABS Global’s significant investment in top Genomic PTAT sires three years ago has seen their share go from under 6% to 12% now.

What was at one time controlled by a select few organizations, the top PTAT Genomic sires are currently spread out among many organizations.  Of interesting note among them are the relatively new Blondin Sires in Canada and Ascol from Spain who both have over 10% of the top genomic sires. This is pretty impressive considering the size of their organizations.


What was once a category where Semex and Select Sires controlled over 55% of the sires, there are now several AI companies making their play for this marketplace.  Watch for Ascol and Blondin sires to move up, as their recent investments in top genomic sires should pay dividends and result in more top proven sires.


Polled sires was once a segment that many of the larger organizations did not show much interest in. It now sees all the major AI companies holding a significant share of the top sires.  The one standout among these giants is Vogue, which is operated by David Eastman, the man behind GenerVation’s program before selling to Select Sires, and Sean and Kelly O’Connor.  (Top 100 TPI Polled sires were included.)

Red and White

Significant investments by STgen have changed the red landscape in recent years.  With new players like Blondin Sires, with sires such as Unstoppable, the red landscape continues to change and is certainly one segment of the marketplace that will probably see the greatest change over the next three years.  (Top PTAT 100 Red & White Sires used.)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Select Sires retains its crown as the top source for proven sires.  The biggest change over the past three years has seen ABS Global regain its market share and is now tied with Semex for the 2nd strongest proven sire lineup.  STgen has also shown significant return on their investment in genomic sires and now cracks the top 4.

By just 6 sires Select Sires maintains the #1 spot for genomic sires.  Players like ABS Global and the Peak program from AltaGenetics/Genex are making significant impact on who has control of the top genomic sires worldwide.

Select Sires retains the crown as the best sire line up.  Of interesting note are the gains made by ABS Global that has almost doubled their share of the top sires and now is the 2nd best sire line up worldwide.  Semex maintains its share and holds the #3 spot, followed by STgen that has increased their market share. 

As the performance over the past 6 years of doing this analysis shows, A.I. organization global positioning is not a forever  – it is only maintained if an investment is made in the very top genomic sires.

Learn from The Best Herds – What Programs and Strategies Do They Use to Maximize Performance

Dairy Farmers gauge their practices and performance by comparing their herds to those of fellow farmers. In Canada one way to compare dairy herds that participate in Lactanet’s recording, testing and management services, is the annual Herd Management Score Report.

Herd Management Formula

The six criteria in this herd comparison formula are: Milk Value (50% of weighting); Udder Health (15%); Calving Interval (10%); Longevity (10%); Herd Efficiency (10%); and Age at First Calving (5%).

On seeing the results published by Lactanet early in 2021, The Bullvine asked – “So what is known about the results for top herds, especially their genetics, the improvement services top herds employ and what are top herds planning for future years?”

Top Herds Surveyed

To dig deeper, The Bullvine conducted a phone survey of twelve, top 0.5%, herds. The herds surveyed, from across Canada, were the top herds by breed (Holstein, Jersey & Ayrshire), the top herds by region (W Canada, Ontario, Quebec & E Canada), the top organic herd and four additional herds selected at random from the top ten Canadian managed dairy herds.

How Do Top Herds Perform?

As would be expected these top twelve herds on average performed at extremely high levels (Table 1).

Table 1 -Top Managed Herds (12x) Performance

Criteria   Holstein(8x) Other Breeds/Organic(4x)
Average Number of Cows   116 64
Kgs Fat / Cow / Day   1.81 (4.0#) 1.52 (3.35#)
Kgs Protein / Cow / Day   1.47 (3.24#) 1.12 (2.47#)
Average SCC   115,000 154,000
Age at First Calving (months)   22.6 22.4
Average Calving Interval (months)   12.8 12.4
Longevity (% cows in 3rd+ lactation)   52 50
Herd Efficiency (% of herd in milk)   87 86
Animal Housing  Free Stalls 5 1
  Packs 1 0
  Tie Stalls 2 3
Milking Frequency 2X 3 3
  3X 3 1
  Robot 2 0

The Canadian milk supply managed system is based on a herd’s daily production of kgs of fat. As a result, daily fat yield per cow per day is on the minds of farmers in all aspects of their dairy enterprise – genetics, nutrition and management. The daily fat and protein production per cow for the twelve herds are exceptional. Payment to farmers for the milk they ship is based on fat, protein and other solids volumes. Therefore, having high protein yields per cow per day, is also important.

Milk Sales have a 50% weighting in the Management Score formula. It is not surprising that the very top herds stand out for daily production of fat and protein.

With ninety milking cows being the average dairy herd size in Canada, it is noteworthy that the Holstein herds combine superior performance with the ability to take advantage of the economies of scale. Both of which significantly contribute to herd profitability. Additionally, two categories where all twelve herds stand out are Calving Interval and Age at First Calving.

Which Programs and Services Do Top Herds Use?

Dairy farmers rely on programs and services to achieve superior performance. Table 2 shows the usage rate for a multitude of programs and services for the twelve herds surveyed.

Table 2 – Programs & Services Used by Top Mananged Herds

Percent of Herds Using      
100% Lactanet Services (recordin, testing, management),  A.I., TMR, Herd Health (including ultra sounding),    
  Animal Identification & Traceability   Automated Milker Take-Off
80-99% Beef Semen on low cows Sexed Semen on Heifers  
  Transition Cow Program Various Herd Management Softwares  
  Multiple Herd & Farm Advisory Services    
60 – 79% Type Classification Electronic Activity and Rumination Monitoring  
  Various Apps – monitoring events, performance,…    
Also mentioned Genomic Testing, Use Only Genomic / Proven Sires, Ovsynch/CIDR,     

Some additional interesting facts reported during the phone surveys include:

  • 50% of the farms have a family member employed off-farm in the agricultural industry (veterinarians, veterinary technicians, cheese/ice cream store owner, chicken broiler farm owner, salespersons – seeds, equipment, farm supplies, …)
  • 75% of the farms have a family member elected to serve their community or agriculture – municipal councilors, directors of local, provincial and national farmer organizations and directors of agricultural industry advisory service organizations.
  • These farms often share farming machinery with neighbors. One herd has a neighbor that prepares and delivers their TMR to their herd.

Traits Top Herds Select For

 Sire selection was always mentioned by survey participants as being especially important.  Whereas cow families and awareness of female lineage were not considered in decision making by most farms. 80% of the farms reported using sexed semen on heifers. Beef semen is used on all the farms for 30% to 70% of the inseminations for milking cows. The survey did not ask if the farm had decreased the number of heifers being raised but many responders volunteered, that with sexed semen, they are now using fewer A.I. services to dairy sires.

The traits important in sire selection for these top herds are listed in Table 3.

Table 3 – Traits Top Managed Herds Use in Sire Selection

Percent Usage by Herds    
100% Fat Yield & Fat %  
80-99% Milk Yield Protein Yield & Protein %
  Health Traits (including SCC)  
  Feet & Legs Longevity
60-79% Udders Fertility Traits
Also Mentioned Milking Speed, Chest Width, Overall Type, a2a2,   

These herds have high production, yet the owners still place their primary trait emphasis on milk yield and milk components. Only three herds mentioned that they select for overall conformation. Some herd owners commented that their herds were not in need of improvement in final score and calving ease.

For these twelve herds their model cows are productive, healthy, mobile, require minimal labor and are efficient converters. Many responders reported that they do not use sire mating services and that after selecting sires that will improve their herd, they use the sires randomly.

Where Top Herds Are Headed

The responders to the survey were very forthcoming in their plans for the future. Some of the plans shared include:

  • Owners plan to buy additional daily fat production quota and to bring family members into their operations. Quality of life, including time for family, was mentioned as being important.
  • Some owners mentioned that they had conducted genomic testing on animals some years back, but they did not see benefit so stopped testing. It is interesting that some are now returning to genomic testing calves as they can see future benefit for both genetic improvement and improving management.
  • Many owners reported planning to improve their calves, heifers, dry cows and fresh cow programs and facilities now that they have outstanding performance in their milking herds.
  • Most owners mentioned plans to purchase new on-farm technology in order to have the most accurate and best data in order to make improved decisions.
  • Individually owners reported considering ways to generate increased revenue or to reduce costs, including producing specialty milk (organic, a2a2, … etc.), having more cash crops, starting new livestock enterprises (i.e. broilers) and decreasing feed costs.
  • A couple of responders commented that attention needs to be given by the dairy industry to producing milk the processors can make into products consumers will buy and implementing on-farm practices that consumers see as necessary in order for them to buy milk products.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The survey of the very top managed Canadian dairy herds clarifies information that every dairy farmer can use. Discerning on-farm service providers – data capture services, business/financial advisors, nutrition programs, genetic programs, animal welfare/housing, environmental programs – can use the information from these top farmers to improve the services they provide.

It all comes down to dairy farm productivity, efficiencies and sustainability. It was very encouraging for The Bullvine to interact with twelve very progressive dairy farmers. These twelve top managed herds have both a vision and a plan for their farms and herds. They have achieved superior performance, yet they are planning to be even better dairy farmers in the future..

The Bullvine thanks Harley Nicholson for his generous time and commitment in conducting the surveys. Special thanks goes to the herd owners for their participation and for sharing their futuristic approaches for dairying in Canada.



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