As I watch how the dairy industry has changed over the recent years, and more specifically the dairy breeding industry, I find myself asking the question “is the tail wagging the dog?” Specifically I want to know, “Are dairy breeders dictating to A.I. companies what bulls they want to use and what trait they are looking for, or, is it the other way around?
So much has been made of how genomics has changed the dairy breeding industry lately, and yet, it still seems as though the large A.I. companies are trying to tell dairy breeders what they should be interested in, instead of dairy breeders, who know their own needs, telling the A.I. companies what’s important to them.
In any marketplace it should always be the consumer dictating to the producer what’s important. For the dairy industry that means that “Joe public” should dictate what’s important. Do they want hormone free milk, do they want milk that is from non-genetically manipulated animals. All this should be and, ultimately, will be determined by the end consumer.
Then as the milk producer, based on your own goals or strategy to deliver a product that is of high value to the end consumer you manage your herd appropriately. That means selecting of sires and genetics that will help you satisfy “Joe public.” Too often, I find that A.I. companies are caught up in themselves. They either have a new hot sire that they want to push, or they have developed what they think is a “distinct” differentiation from the other A.I. companies and want you to buy into that.
Your breeding program should not be dictated to you by who the popular sire of the moment is or what is the cheapest semen you can get. Dairy cattle breeding is not a popularity contest. It is something you should put time into and carefully consider based on your overall farm/herd goals and where you’re genetic programs fit into that. You can then decide what traits are important to you and what sires will help you achieve the desired results. As a progressive dairy breeder you need to be in charge of your genetic programs, not the local semen salesmen who get their marching orders from someone who does not know your specific needs and goals.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
The biggest thing I have learned in my years working with various large corporate entities is that it all starts with the end consumer. Look for what they want and work your way back. For dairy breeders who want to be market leaders, that means looking at milk consumption. What trends are happening there, what trends are going on in animal welfare? By looking ahead instead of behind you will not only not be caught in the latest fad, but rather you will see the rewards in your pocket book.