meta Is Increased Revenue from Breeding for Cheese Milk Possible? :: The Bullvine - The Dairy Information You Want To Know When You Need It

Is Increased Revenue from Breeding for Cheese Milk Possible?

For a business to be successful, it must be continually searching for new revenue sources. Profitable sales of extra breeding stock are now decimated for most North American dairy farms. The average farm gate milk price is challenged to be able to cover all costs on many farms. For these reasons dairy farmers need to be searching for ways to increase revenue using genetics. If your farm fits or will fit this scenario within the next five years – what are you considering for increasing revenue per cwt of milk shipped?

Is Increased Revenue from Cheese Milk Possible?

The Bullvine sees some dairy farmers increasing revenue by producing specialized milk for cheese production. Other farms see this as too much effort, not possible, not viable, not sustainable or having the opinion that milk processors will not pay a premium for milk from herds where all cows are superior (BB) for Kappa Casein.

Although not directly related to milk for cheese production, the other important casein (Beta Casein) also has the potential for increasing the farm gate milk price.

Kappa Casein – What is the Story?

The Bullvine published an article on breeding for Kappa Casein three years ago – (Read: Breeding for Kappa Casein to Increase Cheese Yield.)

A synopsis of key points reported in that article include:

  • There are three prevalent alleles for Kappa Casein – A, B and E.
  • Milk from BB cows clots 25% faster and produces cheese twice as firm as compared to milk from AA cows.
  • Milk from BB cows produces 10% more cheese than milk from AA cows.
  • Milk from AB cows is about midway between BB & AA cows for clotting, quality and volume.
  • Milk from EE cows does not clot and is not suitable for cheese making.
  • Milk for AE cows is usually considered unsuitable by cheese makers.
  • Milk from BE cows is slightly less desirable compared to AA cows.
  • Milk from EE and AE cows, with impaired clotting properties, is not improved by mixing it with an equal amount of well-clotting milk from BB and AB cows.

This provides dairy farmers with the information necessary to move a total BB herd of cows.

Kappa Casein Situation on North American Dairy Farms – 2020

The Bullvine studied both the current North American cows and sire populations and found the following:

Table 1 – Kappa Casein (KCN) Allele Frequency Based on Breed Registrations */**/**

  KCN Allele            A             B             E 
Breed Society      
Holstein – Canada (2019-2020) 43% 37% 20%
Jersey – Canada (2019-2020) 9% 91% 0%
Jersey – USA (2018-2019) 6% 94% 0%

* Based on Sire Allele Profiles for 20 sires with Most Daughters (weighted by # of daughters)
** In USA approximately 15% of dairy animals are registered with breed societies / in Canada – 80+%.
*** Data supplied by Holstein Canada, Jersey Canada and US Jersey.

On average the Jersey female population is superior to the Holstein population for having the B allele. The occurrence of the E allele is almost non-existent in Jersey herds. So, currently, Jersey herds can be composed entirely of BB females and are thereby able to guarantee that BB milk from their herds can be used to make cheese. Achieving all BB cows in Holstein herds will take extensive testing and culling.

Table 2:  Kappa Casein (KCN) Allele Frequency Based on Dec 2020 Sire Listings */**/***

    KCN Allele            A             B             E 
Sire Grouping        
USA Sires   Genomic 29% 66% 5%
    Proven 36% 52% 12%
Canadian Sires Genomic 25% 71% 4%
    Proven 41% 39% 20%
USA Sires   Genomic 7% 93% 0%
    Proven 11% 89% 0%
Canadian Sires Genomic 10% 90% 0%
    Proven 13% 87% 0%

* Based on Sire Allele Profiles for top 20 sires on national and breed total merit indexes
** Calculated as raw averages for the twenty sires as sire usage rates are not available.

The superiority of top Jersey sires for having the B allele can be seen in Table 2. It is encouraging for dairy cattle breeders wanting to use BB Holstein sires to see that A.I. (aka breeding companies) organizations have moved to selecting and marketing sires with B alleles in their breeding programs. A.I.’s genomic Holstein sires have significantly more B and fewer E alleles in their group compared to proven sires.

The exact details for current top North American proven Holstein sires are that there are 3 EE, 9 AE and 18 BE sires being marketed to dairy farms. For top genomic sires there are zero EE, zero AE sires and only 9 BE sires being sold to dairy farms. With genomic sires being used extensively (up to 70%), the conversion to all BB and AB Holstein females would be possible within a few years.

In 2021 top Jersey sires in North America are 90% BB with most of the remainder being AB. Just three of the sires are AA.

Buy and Use Only BB Sires

Even though breeding companies are leading in eliminating the E allele and minimizing the A allele, sire allele profiles do not always appear in sire promotional materials. Dairy Farmers wanting to move to a BB herd will need to work in collaboration with their semen suppliers and purchase only BB sires.

BB Sires Suggestions for Breeders to Consider

The Bullvine searched the top North American sire listings for BB sires. A sample of the Holstein and Jersey sires currently being marketed are listed in Tables 3 and 4.

TABLE 3:  Sample of North American Dec 2020 High Ranking Holstein Sires* with BB Kappa Casein Profiles

Sire NAAB Code  KCN/ P (#) P % / CM$  P Yield REL PL/SCS/DPR UD/DCA/HH        TMI              BCN      Sire Stack
Ricochet 250HO15321    BB / 68   0.04 / 761 77%  4.5/2.89/0.9 1S / 110 / 106    gPro$ +3405       A2A2 Renegrade x Resolve x Josuper
AltaTopShot 11HO11779    BB / 62   0.05 / 757 99%  5.5/2.78/-0.7 4D / 108 / 107    #1 DWP$        A2A2 Supershot x AltaEmbassy x Robust
Extra-P 7HO15349    BB / 61   0.05 / 735 77%  3.8/2.95/-0.5   0/ 113 / 103    #6 P gTPI        A1A2 Renegade x Charley x Josuper
Jarvis 551HO04305    BB / 57   0.13 / 864 76%   6.4/2.88/1.5   1S / 112 /102    #10 gTPI        A2A2 Decisive x Charl x Director
AltaZazzle 11HO15036    BB / 56   0.08 / 907 78%   5.7/2.79/0.4   4S / 110 /108    #1 gDWP$        A1A2 Marius x AltaTopShot x Silver
Tennessee 29HO19580    BB / 55   0.04 / 1002 77%  6.1/2.85/-0.6  1D / 109 /104     #1 gCM$        A2A2 Heroic x Achiever x Bookem
Medley 29HO18343    BB / 50   0.05 / 775 98%   5.9/2.84/0.9  2D / 108 /106     #3 CM$         A2A2 Yoder x Balisto x Oman
Nipit-PP-RC 724HO02005    BB / 50   0.11 / 592 77%   1.6/3.06/-0.4  8S / 103 /104    #1 PP gTPI         A2A2 Hotspot-P x Splendid-P x Powerball-P
Lambda 551HO03379    BB / 48   0.03 / 554 98%   4.1/2.81/0.0  7S / 101 /104     #1 LPI         A1A2 Delta x Uno x Snowman
AltaFlashBack  11HO15202    BB / 46   0.11 / 668 77%   4.5/2.75/0.3  7S / 106 / 103    gLPI 3675         A2A2 Positive x AltaRobson x Silver
Mainstreet 200HO11999    BB / 40   0.08 / 840 76%   7.4/2.68/2.4  5S / 112 / 105    gPro$ +3639         A1A2 Robert x Positive x Jedi
Ranger-Red 200HO07956    BB / 39   0.05 / 788 76%   7.1/2.65/0.4  4S / 107 / 104    #1Red gPro$         A1A2 Rubels-Red x Salvatore-RC x Rubicon
Totem 250HO13531    BB / 34   0.04 / 603 92%  3.6/2.63/0.3  4S / 101 / 110    #1 Pro$         A1A2 Millington x Jacey x Sudan
Achiever 29HO18296    BB / 26   0.07 / 840 98%  5.0/2.78/-0.7   0 / 109 / 105    #1 CM$         A2A2 Yoder x AltaEmbassy x Robust

* Sires are high ranking sires on various listings and are listed in order of their CDCB Protein Yield Index (#/lbs.)
Abbreviations: KCN – kappa casein; UD – udder depth; DCA – daughter calving ability; HH – hoof health; TMI – ranking on another total merit index; BCN – beta casein.

Most of the Holstein sires in Table 3 are breed toppers for various total merit indexes. These sires are above average for all currently marketed sires for: Protein, %P; PL, SCS; DCA and HH. There is a variety of sire stacks. One caution, DPR’s for these sires are average. Over half the sires in Table 3 are A2A2.

Table 4: Sample of North American Dec 2020 High Ranking Jersey Sires* with BB Kappa Casein Profiles

Sire NAAB Code KCN / P (#) P % / CM$  P Yield REL  PL/SCS/DPR  UD/DCA/HD         TMI              BCN          Sire Stack   
Succession{6} 7JE01716     BB / 55   0.02 / 498 77%  4.7/2.82/-1.3   1D / 105 / -11      JPI 127         A1A2 Got Maid {5} x Harris {4} x Hilario
Orbicularis 97JE00203     BB / 47   0.10 / 541 72%  4.6/2.67/1.1  1D / 104 / -14      JPI 156         A2A2 Obsidian-P x Listowel-P x Hilario
Jalapeno 551JE01829     BB / 44   0.05 / 532 74%  5.2/2.83/0.0  0 / 106 / -8      JPI 143        A2A2 Jiggy {6} x Listowel-P x Monument
Archie {5} 507JE01769     BB / 43   0.05 / 585 77%  3.9/2.76/0.5  1S / 104 / -8      JPI 149        A2A2 Maldini {6} x Bancroft x Visionary
Spiral 200JE01248     BB / 43   0.03 / 518 74%  4.9/2.90/-1.0  4D / 103 / -5   Pro$ + 2594        A2A2 Chief {6} x Viceroy x Genominator
Latitude 200JE01264     BB / 42   0.15 / 602 76%  4.6/2.89/0.1  2D / 103 / -11   Pro$ +3030        A2A2 Mighty x Charmer x Hilario
Tucker {6} 507JE01816     BB / 41   0.05 / 612 73%  4.6/2.93/0.7   0 / 103 / -7      JPI 156        A2A2 Daniel {5} x World Cup {4} x Jammer {4}
Sugar Daddy 551JE01798     BB / 41   0.10 / 580 74%  4.0/2.81/-0.7  1D / 102 / -4      JPI 137        A2A2 Jiggy {6} x Chrome x Dimension
AltaSasso{4} 11JE07161     BB / 41   0.10 / 579 72%  3.8/3.01/0.2  5S / 103 / -9      JPI 140        A2A2 Zinc {5} x Deluca {3} x Mario {2}
Federer-P 97JE00202     BB / 30   0.11 / 542 74%   5.4/2.85/0.7  3D / 102 / -8      JPI 143        A2A2 Iroquois-P x AltaBlitz x Holmer

* Sires are high ranking genomically evaluated and are listed in order of their CDCB Protein Yield Index (lbs.)
Abbreviations: KCN – kappa casein; UD – udder depth; DCA – daughter calving ability; HD – heal depth; TMI – supplementary total merit index; BCN – beta casein.

The Jersey sires in Table 4 have high ratings for production and functional traits as well as for CM$ and Pro$. Nine of the ten Jersey sires are A2A2. Sire stacks are not dominated by common sires.

If there are EE, AE, BE or A1A1 sires in the farm semen tank that do not form an integral part of a herd’s breeding plan it would be best to consider dumping that semen.

Further Considerations when Breeding for Kappa Casein

Consider the following:

  1. To be eligible for a Kappa Casein premium all milk in a shipment must be from only BB cows. The same applies for Beta Casein – all milk from A2A2 cows.
  2. Kappa Casein and Beta Casein ratings for sires are not included in total merit index calculations – so selection for these caseins will need to be an initial or final edit at time of semen purchase.
  3. Genomic testing of herd replacements for Kappa and Beta Casein profiles and subsequently removing EE, AE, BE and A1A1 animals will speed up achieving elite status for females in a herd.
  4. Farms with on-farm processing with only BB & A2A2 milk will have the ability to brand their product(s).
  5. The question ‘will processors pay more for BB and/or A2A2 milk?’ is likely to take time to arrive at an answer. Definitely, working relationships, guarantees and closer collaboration between farmers and processors will be required in the future.
  6. The cost for conducting a progressive breeding program for Kappa Casein and Beta Casein will not increase current semen costs but there will be costs for genomic testing of female replacements.

Include a Timeline Moving to Elite Casein Status

For farms planning to specialize and not to focus on a generic, least cost and high-volume basis, a decision by the end of 2021 on only selecting sires that are BB and A2A2 would be advantageous. For most herds, it will take 4-6 years of using only BB and A2A2 sires, genomic testing replacement females and culling EE, AE, BE and A1A1 heifers and milking cows to be positioned to ship premium eligible milk.

Delaying the Decision on Breeding for Caseins– Yes/No?

By now Bullvine readers should be asking themselves:

1) What will our farm’s plan be for shipping premium eligible milk?  and

2) When should our farm start breeding for Kappa Casein (BB) and Beta Casein (A2A2)?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

A decision on breeding for a BB (Kappa Casein) and A2A2 (Beta Casein) herd is an opportunity to grow revenue.

The tools to breed for the most desired alleles for both Kappa Casein and Beta Casein are currently available to be used in both sire and female selection.

 For many dairy farmers including caseins in their breeding program may seem like a chicken and egg situation – why start until you know if processors will pay a premium for Kappa Casein &/or Beta Casein? However, breeders need to remember that being prepared comes before being able to reap the rewards.




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