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Does Genomics Belong in The Show Ring?

In our recent article about the 7 Sires to Use In Order To Breed The Next World Dairy Expo Champion we highlighted six test sires and one proven sire as the best sires to use in order to breed the next generation of great show cattle. The response to this article has been insane.  First from a readership perspective we had over 10,000 people reading the article in the first 2 days alone.   Of even greater interest were the reactions that breeders had to this article (over 200 comments on Facebook, Twitter and our website).  Many breeders felt that genomics had nothing to do with the show ring.  Instead they felt that it was more important to stick to proven sires when mating their top type cattle.

Ignorance Is Not the Answer

This actually demonstrated to me that awareness of what genomics is and how to use it is desperately needed.  Far too many breeders confuse genomics with the index system.  Genomics is not a kin to Holstein USA’s TPI formula or the Canadian LPI formula.  Rather, it is tool to use in order to predict each sires ability to transmit a certain trait.

Given that the genetic information for every animal is contained in its DNA, technology now makes it possible to predict a sire’s ability to transmit certain characteristics to their progeny.  It has nothing to do with the relative weights or importance of one trait over another.  Rather it is solely about a sire’s ability to transmit that specific trait.  How you use that information and what weights you put on some traits over others is entirely up to you.

Less Science more Cow Talk

So that is all fine and good.  It sounds very scientific but what does it mean at the show ring level?  Let me take a stab at that in “show speak.”  It doesn’t take much to know that some show cows are “managed” into greatness and others are bred for it.  We have all seen the ones that on the average day look like they are a lucky to be “all-barn” let alone “all-world.”  Those cows are the ones that I call managed into greatness.  Then there are those other cows that have the complete package.  They come from a strong type pedigree that and are sired by a sire who has proven to deliver top show cattle.  These are the cattle that are bred to be great.



A great example of this is last year’s World Dairy Expo Supreme Champion, EASTSIDE LEWISDALE GOLD MISSY EX-95-CAN.  Missy comes from a strong type sire stack with a dam that has sired 35 daughters all have scored GP+, with 33 of them being VG+.  No doubt that Missy’s dam, STADACONA OUTSIDE ABEL VG-88-4YR-CAN 29* is great at breading type cattle.  In addition to that if you look at Missy’s own genomic test you will notice that she scores well above breed averages for type traits.

Another great example of a show cow that also has the genomic test to back it up are MD-DELIGHT DURHAM ATLEE EX-92-4YR-USA DOM GMD 2*.  Of course, we all know Atlee as the All-American Sr. 3yr from 2005 where she also won Reserve Intermediate Champion at WDE.  However, we also know Atlee as the dam of the top type sire MAPLE-DOWNS-I G W ATWOOD EX-90-4YR-USA.  If you look at Atwood’s CDN type proof you see the following.

Conformation Mammary System Feet & Legs Dairy Strength Rump
Official Proof 18 16 14 15 3
DGV 19 16 14 15 2
Parent Average 17 15 11 13 8
Estimated Daughter Performance 18 15 15 15 3

What you will notice is that his genomic test is the closest to his actual daughter performance.  Rather than looking at the sires in his pedigree, or the performance of his maternal line (which by the way is one of the strongest type pedigrees in the world today), it’s his genomic test that would have accurately predicted that his rumps would not have been as strong as expected, and that his feet and legs would be better than expected.  This is very valuable insight, when trying to breed the next great show cow.

So how does that help me breed a great one?

It’s great that we can show that genomics validates what we already know about sires like Atwood and great show cows like Missy and Atlee.  However, how can we use that to help us to breed the next great show cow?  To answer that question let’s take at two high genomic test type sires, MR ATWOOD BROKAW and CANYON-BREEZE AT AIRLIFT.


MR ATWOOD BROKAW is the Atwood son of REGANCREST MAC BIKASA VG-87-2YR-USA.  In Brokaw you combine the two greatest type families in the breed today.  No question that from all angles Brokaw has it all.

Conformation Mammary System Feet & Legs Dairy Strength Rump
Official Proof 20 17 9 18 7
DGV 22 19 9 21 7
Parent Average 15 14 10 11 4

What we notice from his genomic test is that we can expect Brokaw to be far greater at transmitting dairy strength than his pedigree would indicate.


Then there is CANYON-BREEZE AT AIRLIFT the Atwood son from the same family as CANYON-BREEZE ALLEN.

Conformation Mammary System Feet & Legs Dairy Strength Rump
Official Proof 17 12 18 16 16
DGV 19 12 21 18 21
Parent Average 15 12 11 13 4

What we notice here is that Airlift will sire rumps that are light years better than his pedigree would indicate while needing to be cautious on his mammary systems.  Something that anyone who use enough Allen in their herd would attest to.  What genomics does is it gives us this insight light years sooner that waiting for 100’s of daughters to help prove it out.  That can be all the edge you need in breeding the next great show cow.


Do you think this is all hogwash?

Well let’s take a look at the current undisputed show ring champion BRAEDALE GOLDWYN GP-84-8YR-CAN    EXTRA’05 GM’12.  Here is a sire that by his own conformation would have never been considered potential for greatness in the show ring.  A sire that by his maternal line of high classifying cattle had no great show history to them at all.  So let’s look at the numbers:

Conformation Mammary System Feet & Legs Dairy Strength Rump
Official Proof 12 11 13 7 3
DGV 10 9 13 6 4
Parent Average 5 5 -1 4 2
Estimated Daughter Performance 14 13 13 8 3

As you can see by the numbers, Goldwyn’s direct genomic values would have predicted his type prowess long before anyone would have suspected it.  This is especially true in regards to feet & legs.  Something no one would have expected from a James son.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We all know that to win in the show ring it takes more than just great genetics.  It takes genetics, management, and luck.  Slacking on any parts of these means that you have to go “outside” the rules in order to make things happen.  Instead of putting yourself in that precarious position, stick to what has been proven to work and use the best genomic sires available.


The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


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

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

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