Archive for February 2024

Johanna – Foundation Families of the Holstein Breed

Johanna 344 H.H.B., the foundation cow of the Johanna family, was born in 1871 in the Dutch province of North Holland. According to breeders at the time she developed into “the best dairy cow of Holland” and was transported to the United States by Gerrit Miller in 1878 as a seven-year-old cow. There, she was regarded as “one of the best cows of the breed”; in 1880, she was honored at the New York State Fair as the first prize milking cow for all breeds. Her son Joe became a popular bull at the time.  Johanna is the 23rd dam behind Hanoverhill Starbuck, one of the breed’s fifteen most influential sires. Both of Canada’s principal foundation sires – King Toitilla Acme and Johanna Rag Apple Pabst – both owing substantial debts to the white, slope-rumped cow.

Johanna 344 H.H.B, was bred by K.J. Akkerman of North Holland and imported by Gerrit S. Miller in 1878. She immediately made her presence felt at Miller’s Kriemhild Farm, winning the prize for best dairy cow of all breeds and taking her place as a member of Miller’s Gold Medal herd at the New York State Fair in 1880.

Johanna’s best yearly production while running with Miller’s general herd was 12,264 lbs. milk. When she reached ten years of age, Miller turned her and Empress out to pasture in a field that fronted his residence, milking up to 88lbs on their best days. Johanna made 2,407 lbs in a 31-day month, believed to be extremely rich.

When Wilson Gillett bought Johanna, he sold her to Gillett & Moore of Wisconsin for $500.00. Johanna’s descendants born under Gillett ownership were given the word “Johanna” for their first name. Johanna transmitted principally through two Gillett-bred daughters, Johanna 4th and Johanna 5th. Johanna 4th produced two daughters of influence: Johanna Aaggie and Johanna May; while the important daughters of Inhanna 5th were Tohanna Rue and Johanna 5th Clothilde, who founded the four branches of the Johanna family.

  • Johanna Aaggie made a junior 4-year-old record of 22.86 lbs. butter from 479 lbs. milk in May 1898, sired by Aaggie Cornelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial. Three of her four Advanced Registry daughters transmitted through their own daughters, while the fourth, Johanna Aagoie 2d, was dam of Johanna Aaggie 2d’s Lad. In one of the Holstein-Friesian Advanced Registry lists of the time, there were no less than forty females whose names began with the words “Johanna Aaggie,” which is one measure of the influence of this animal. The pedigree of Wayne-Spring Fond Apollo (GP-GM), sire of To-Mar Blackstar’s dam, shows the same thing, only in slightly different form. Johanna May’s Aaggie Clothilde, her sire, was out of Johanna May; second and third dams were Johanna 4th and Johanna. These animals represent the fulfillment of a capability inherent in all of the family trees of the Johanna clan. This potential was there at the beginning, making its presence felt numerous times in various places.
  • Johanna May, the second influential daughter of Johanna 4th, was primarily transmitted through her son, Paul Johanna DeKol, sired by Paul Mutual DeKol. This bull sired Pearl of the Dairy’s Joe DeKol, one of the foundation Homestead sires. Johanna May’s Aaggie Clothilde, son of Aaggie Cornelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial and Johanna May, was used in the Cascade herd of William Todd & Sons, Yakima, Wash., the first of three Gillett-bred sires used in that herd. Johanna May’s maternal granddam, Bessie Lassie, was the maternal granddam of Cascade Jessie, with 1,276 lbs. butter from 24,866 lbs. milk at nine years of age.
  • Johanna 5th had two influential daughters: Johanna Rue, by Ben Nicolaas, and Johanna 5th Clothilde, by Aaggie Cornelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial. Johanna Rue was the premier female of the Johanna family, with her 21-1b. record made in 1896. She had five Advanced Registry daughters from 20 to 24 Ibs., of which, four were strong transmitters. Johanna Rue 2d, by Aaggie Cornelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial, was one of the early 21-1b. cows. Her four proven sons included Johanna Rue 2d’s Paul DeKol, grandsire of King Segis and Sir Johanna Canary DeKol, sire of Spring Brook Bess Burke 2d. Johanna Rue 3d, a world’s champion junior 2-year-old with 16.85 lbs. butter, was famous for three proven sons, the strongest of which was Johanna Rue 3d’s Lad.
  • Johanna Rue 4th, son of Johanna Rue and Aaggie Cornelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial, was dam of Johanna Rue 4th’s Lad, by Sarcastic Lad. Sold as a yearling to Matt Richardson, Riverside Farm, Caledonia, Ont., Johanna Rue 4th’s Lad left 32 tested daughters and 21 proven sons. One of his outstanding daughters was Jemima Wayne Sarcastic, dam of Jemima Johanna of Riverside, Canada’s first 30,000-1b. milk cow and 1,000-lb. fat producer.
    Johanna DeKol, another good daughter of Johanna Rue, was a 20 lbs. senior 4-year-old and dam of the former world’s champion, Johanna DeKol 2d, who was the first 24 lbs. senior 4-year-old. Johanna DeKol 3d, a daughter of Johanna DeKol, had a daughter, Johanna De Colantha, whose Colantha Johanna Champion son was Johanna De Colantha Champion. Johanna De Pauline, the second transmitting daughter of Johanna 5th, was sired by Aaggie Comelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial.
    Colantha 4th’s Johanna was the first cow to cross the 35-lb. butter barrier on seven-day test.  Continued for the full year she produced 1,200 lbs. butter (998 lbs. fat), a new high mark over all breeds for fat production on yearly test.  The record closed on December 18, 1907.  During the course of Colantha 4th’s Johanna’s record, Gillett’s neighbours grew worried.  The man was spending night and day with his cow.  When a friend admonished him, “Gillett, you are going to kill yourself looking after that cow”, he replied, “If I do, I shall die happy.” Colantha 4th’s production of 24.49 lbs. butter and 513 lbs. milk won the first Association prize for the year 1899.  Her sire was Aaggie Cornelia 5th’s Clothilde Imperial, mentioned earlier as one of the best sons of Clothilde 4th’s Imperial.  Colantha 4th’s Johanna’s sire was Sir Johanna, a son of Johanna Rue 2d, a great-granddaughter of the Gillett foundation cow, Johanna 344 H.H.B.
    One prime example came in Johanna Rue 4th’s Lad, his dam, which produced the dam of Jemima Johanna of Riverside, Canada’s first 30,000-lb. milk and 1,000-lb. fat cow. He also sired Toitilla DeKol Sarcastic whose son sired King Toitilla Acme (Extra), sire of the 1937 All-American get. Jemima started the Jemima family while the King daughters provided the underpinning for Ontario’s Glenvue and Spring Farm herds. The same kind of Johanna strength is found in the pedigree of Johanna Rag Apple Pabst – his first name wasn’t “Johanna” on a whim.

Both of Canada’s principal foundation sires – King Toitilla Acme and Johanna Rag Apple Pabst – both owing substantial debts to the white, slope-rumped cow that Gerrit Miller brought over from Holland in 1878.  For Elevation one of the most influential sires of the Holstein Breed, it was stated that “His dam Eve traces 20x back to Johanna Rag Apple Pabst”. Johanna Rag Apple Pabst is undoubtedly one of the most important transmitters of the Holstein breed, and is heavily developed by Johanna breeding.

Gerrit Miller agreed to sell Johanna to Wilson Gillett and Howard Moore in 1882, four years after importation. For Miller, she had generated a male, Joe 1002 H.H.B.; and two females, Joy and Joan of Arc. At the time of sale, she was eleven years of age. There’s another plausible reason for the sale, one that appeals to Miller, who had become fond of Wilson Gillett. The Wisconsin man was attractive personal qualities and ambitious, one who could get the best out of this animal. Miller likely thought the cow could do his new acquaintance a world of good. So Johanna went to Springdale Farm with Miller’s blessing, in retrospect a fortunate turn of events. On the Gillett farmstead, she accomplished things that likely weren’t even in Miller’s realm of experience. At Gillett’s, she gave Johanna 4th and Johanna 5th to the breed, and Gillett exploited these daughters to the fullest. His was a sparkling program set in a classy domain, where concentrated feeding, regular testing, aggressive merchandising, and the use of high octane herd sires were the norm. Gerrit Miller, on the other hand, inhabited a different world – a laid-back sort of enterprise when compared to Gillett’s, a place where it wasn’t necessary to sell a bunch of bulls every year to pay the bills.

Enjoy reading about the foundation cows of the Holstein Breed?  Then check out Edward Morwick’s latest book “The Holstein History” click here.

Holstein Canada Female Registrations Trending Higher….Genetically

This article addresses recent animal genetic improvement for purebred Canadian Holsteins. To do that The Bullvine studied the sires used to produce females registered at Holstein Canada for the years 2021, 2022 and 2023. Thus, covering inseminations from early 2020 to early 2023.

Overview of the Study Results

Studying all the sires that produced female registrations would be a time-consuming task. Therefore, the study was limited to the thirty sires per year with the most female registrations. The following is a summary of the overall details found for the top ninety places for the three-year time period.

  • Many sires were in the top thirty for female registrations for more than one year. This resulted in only 53 individual sires (24 daughter-proven and 29 genomic) producing 238,306 female registrations (2021-2023) of which 36.4% of the females were sired by genomic sires. A relatively large number of genomic sires being on the most used sire lists was not expected as the recommendation to breeders is not to over-use genomic sires in order to spread risk. Nevertheless, Canadian Holstein breeders obviously have faith in genomic indexing. Three genomic sires with the most registered daughters attained 5th place (3147gLPI, A2A2) in 2021, 3rd place(3346gLPI, Pp) in 2022 and 5th place (3675gLPI, A2A2) in 2023.
  • All 53 sires were Beta Casein evaluated and, on a proportional female registration basis, 45% were sired by A2A2 sires, 45% by A1A2 sires and 10% by A1A1 sires. The 29 genomic sires were 63% A2A2, 28% A1A2 and 9% Breeders are rapidly taking up using Beta Casein test results when selecting sires. In all years, the proven sires with the most registered daughters were all A2A2.
  • 19% of the female registrations were sired by BB kappa casein sires*, 4% by PP polled (/POS) sires, 11% by Pp polled (/POC) sires, 3.4% by red (/RW) sires and 4.4% by red carrier (/RDC) sires. This study of the most used sires may underrepresent the usage of polled and red Holstein sires in Canada. [* All the sires did not have a kappa casein profile in the national database so beyond the BB category a percentage could not be determined.]
  • Significant improvement occurred on a weighted average LPI per registration over the three-year time period for both proven and genomic sires in the study group. The percentile ranks for the LPI’s of the study group sires were – proven sires were 70%RK LPI in 2021, 81%RK LPI in 2022 and 88%RK LPI in 2023 while genomic sires were 76%RK LPI in 2021, 90%RK LPI in 2022 and 97%RK LPI in 2023. The increases were due to an increased emphasis being placed in sire selection on health, fertility and functional traits.

Analysis of Sires Used

Daughter Proven Sires were used for their specific attributes in genetic improvement. The 24 sires averaged +9 CONF with high mammary system and stature indexes, averaged 95+% index accuracy and their daughters often had showring appeal. All were well-known proven sires for their owners. However over 40% of the time these sires had one or more deficiencies in fertility, milking speed, mastitis resistance, milk volume, or %Fat. Any of these deficiencies can negatively impact the HL index for a sire. As well for 30% of these sires, their high positive indexes for type (CONF based of first lactations only) and stature were not uniformly good predictors of longevity. As well the Feet and Leg indexes of these proven sires did not show a consistent pattern in predicting longevity, yet hoof health, depth of heel and rear legs rear view were useful predictors of higher HL indexes.

Genomic Sires were used to address future Holstein breed needs. These 29 sires had a different genetic index profile pattern than did the proven sires. They were not as highly indexed for CONF or stature, but their indexes were superior to the proven sires for %Fat, milk solids yield, Herd Life, Mastitis Resistance, Teat Length (they added length), Milking Speed, Daughter Calving Ability, Feed Efficiency and Beta Casein profile. The current genomic sires will greatly assist breeders with their plans for healthy, efficient and functional animals. A review of the most used genomic sires indicates that 90% of them had been selected by breeders based on their genetic merit rather than on their pedigree popularity.

Predictions for Breed Outcomes and Further Research Needed

Outcomes that Canadian Holstein breeders can expect by using breed leading sires over the next decade will include.

  • There will be increased fat and protein yields, increased %Fat and a prevalence of A2A2
  • There will be increased animal functionality and efficiency for many traits including foot health, locomotion, parlor traits, feed conversion and reduced labor per animal. Cows will be of moderate stature.
  • There will be increased animal longevity to an average of four lactations or 4,500 kgs of fat and protein per lifetime.
  • There will be increased animal health and welfare (including polled). Resulting in a positive impact on margins and consumer confidence.
  • Animals will be monitored, recorded and managed 24/7. The data in national databases will be paramount for benchmarking, evaluating and creating the future for farm, animal and industry success.

Further Genetic Research is needed in the following areas.

  • Feet: The jury is out on the most desired foot. Much more in-depth research is needed.
  • Transition / Fertility: The genetic factors associated with the time from pre-calving until when a successful pregnancy post calving is achieved need to be studied and then indexed genetically.
  • Body Size: The optimum body measurements are currently a topic being discussed. Objective study is needed for the best definitions for how body parts affect profitability.
  • Calf and Heifer Performance: There is much that has yet to be determined on calf and heifer performance and genetic traits as they affect an animal’s lifetime productivity and profitability.
  • Revised Total Merit Indexes: Most of tomorrow’s dairy farmers will select sires that produce productive, efficient, functional, fertile, trouble-free daughters. There are economically important traits not yet included in national or stakeholder total merit indexes.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Canadian Holstein Breeders are constructively using genetic information in selecting sires. Given that 90% of a herd’s genetic improvement comes from sires, breeders need to have an open and proactive approach to the genetic merit of the sires they purchase and use. Returning a profit will always be important when selecting sires. Select the best and ignore the rest.

Notes: 1) The Bullvine thanks Holstein Canada for providing the list of sires with the most registered daughters, and 2) The Dec ’23 Lactanet genetic indexes were used for the calculations.



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Dairy Cattle Breeding in 2044

The dairy cattle breeding industry is poised for significant transformations in the coming decades as technological advancements, sustainability concerns, and shifting consumer preferences reshape the agricultural landscape. While genomics, sexed semen and IVF technology have greatly changed the dairy breeding industry over the past 10 years, technology like gene editing is going to totally change how the dairy industry operates in the future.

 The following trends are going to change the dairy industry over the next 20 years:

  1. Precision Breeding and Genomic Selection:
    The future of dairy cattle breeding will see an increased reliance on precision breeding techniques and the leveraging of genomic data to make more informed breeding decisions. Genomic selection, powered by CRISPR-Cas9 (gene editing), will enable breeders to enhance desirable traits such as milk production, disease resistance, and feed efficiency with unprecedented accuracy.
  2. Data-Driven Decision-Making:
    The integration of big data, artificial intelligence, and machine learning will become standard practice in the dairy cattle breeding industry. Comprehensive datasets on individual cow performance, genetics, and environmental factors will empower breeders to optimize breeding strategies, improve herd health, and increase overall productivity.
  3. Focus on Sustainability:
    Sustainability will be a central theme in the future of dairy cattle breeding. Breeders will prioritize developing cattle with lower environmental footprints, focusing on reducing methane emissions, improving feed efficiency, and minimizing water usage. Sustainable practices will not only align with consumer preferences but also address the industry’s responsibility to environmental stewardship.
  4. Disease Resistance and Animal Welfare:
    The breeding industry will place greater emphasis on enhancing disease resistance and promoting overall animal welfare. Advances in genetic research will enable the development of cattle that are naturally resistant to common diseases, reducing the reliance on antibiotics and improving the overall health of the herd.
  5. Customization for Niche Markets:
    Consumer demand for specialty dairy products, such as A2 milk or milk with specific nutritional profiles, will drive customization in breeding practices. Breeders may focus on developing specialized breeds or individual cows tailored to niche markets that cater to the diverse preferences of consumers seeking unique dairy products.
  6. Technological Adoption on the Farm:
    On-farm technologies will continue to evolve, with the widespread adoption of automated systems for monitoring, feeding, and health management. Robotics and smart sensors will play a crucial role in optimizing the efficiency of dairy operations, reducing labor requirements, and improving the overall well-being of the cattle.
  7. Regulatory and Ethical Considerations:
    As gene-editing technologies advance, the industry will grapple with evolving regulatory frameworks and ethical considerations. Striking a balance between innovation and responsible use of technology will be crucial to gaining public acceptance and regulatory approval.
  8. Global Collaboration:
    The future of dairy cattle breeding will likely involve increased collaboration and information-sharing on a global scale. International partnerships and research initiatives will accelerate progress, allowing the industry to address challenges collectively and share the benefits of technological advancements.

What will dairy farms look like in 20 years?

Ultimately there will be four different types of dairy farms in 20 years:

  1. Milk Production Operations:
    These dairy farms will solely focus on the production of milk. Automated milking systems, precision feeding, and sensor-equipped wearables for cattle health monitoring will become standard and thereby improving operational efficiency, and ensuring the well-being of the herd.  Comprehensive data on milk production, cow behaviour, and environmental factors will empower farmers to optimize feed formulations and overall herd management for enhanced productivity.  Robotic systems for feeding, cleaning, and even herding will reduce labor demands, allowing farmers to focus on strategic decision-making and herd welfare. Robotic milking systems will become more sophisticated, ensuring a stress-free and efficient milking process.  These milk production facilities may embrace vertical integration by incorporating various elements of the supply chain within their operations. This could include on-farm processing facilities for dairy niche products, allowing farmers to diversify their income streams and have greater control over the quality of their end products. All dairy cattle at these facilities will be bred to beef cows and they will do no heifer raising and get all their replacement animals from heifer raising facilities.
  2. Heifer Raising Operations:
    Similar to the milk production facilities these heifer-raising operations will use precision feeding, and sensor-equipped wearables for cattle health monitoring will become standard, improving operational efficiency, and ensuring the well-being of the herd. Data-driven decision-making will become integral to heifer raising practices. Farmers will leverage technologies such as sensors and wearables to monitor heifer health, growth rates, and behavior. This data will enable precise management strategies, ensuring each heifer receives personalized care for optimal development. Automated feeding systems will play a crucial role in the future of dairy heifer raising. Precision nutrition programs, tailored to individual heifer needs, will be administered through automated feeders. This not only ensures efficient nutrient utilization but also reduces labor requirements, allowing for more attentive and strategic care. Improved housing facilities will prioritize the comfort and welfare of heifers. Innovative designs, including spacious and well-ventilated barns, will provide optimal living conditions. Additionally, practices such as the use of soft bedding, proper lighting, and access to outdoor areas will contribute to the overall well-being of the heifers.  These facilities will focus on the raising of heifers and calving of 2-year-olds.  But the genetic component of their operations will be under the control of PharmaGen corporations.
  3. PharmaGen Corporations:
    Genetic technologies like CRISPR-Cas9 will change the dairy breeding industry and who controls the breeding programs. Gene editing technology such as like CRISPR-Cas9 will lead to the development of high-performance and disease-resistant dairy cattle.   Not only will this change how dairy cattle breeding is done, it will also change who is in control of the industry.  Instead of it being the large AI companies that currently control the industry, similar to what happened in the corn industry, big pharma will come in and take over control.  Companies like Zoetis merged with Genus PLC (parent company of ABS global), or MSD Animal Health merged with Inguran LLC (parent company of Sexing Technologies) or even Boehringer Ingelheim merged with URUS (parent company of Alta Genetics and Genex) will be responsible for the seed stock production.  They are the ones that will be doing the mating programs and embryo development of the seed stock used in the heifer raising facilities.
  4. GMO Free Operations
    Similar to the corn industry there still be a niche demand for GMO free product. This is where current pedigree breeders and show herds will survive.  While there will be end to end management of their cattle, they will not leverage technology like CRISPR-Cas9 to produce greatly improved cattle, but will leverage traditional breeding strategies to produce a GMO free product.  While they may be small in numbers, they will still be able to be profitable due to servicing this niche market.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy cattle breeding industry in twenty years is poised to be a dynamic and technologically advanced sector, driven by precision breeding, sustainability, and a deep understanding of animal genetics. The adoption of gene editing technology such as CRISPR-Cas9 will totally change how the industry operates, to a point that we will have four types of operations: milk production; heifer rearing; PharmaGen corporations;and GMO free breeders. As the industry navigates these changes, a commitment to ethical practices, environmental stewardship, and meeting consumer demands will be essential for ensuring a thriving and resilient future for dairy farming.




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