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Selecting The Sires of Tomorrow’s to Get the Best Herd Replacements

The entire dairy cattle improvement industry is involved as new data points are captured and analyzed and the information is provided back to the farm level for both genetic and management purposes.

The challenge that presents for each herd genetic manager is to determine which sire information and sires need to be used starting today to produce tomorrow’s heifer and milking herds.

Sire Selection is Important and Challenging

Using top-ranked sires is and will continue to be important. It is a known fact that over ninety per cent of a herd’s genetic advancement is the result of sires used to produce the sire stacks of a herd’s females.

The on-farm decisions are no longer as simple as which breed to own and making breeding decisions based on phenotypic sire daughter averages and female phenotypes. Dairy farmers realize that sires that leave average or below average performance in their daughters are not the best choices.

Refining Sire Genetic Indexing

The global dairy cattle breeding industry is working on research and development to identify sires which have the important heritable traits for maximizing tomorrow’s milk checks and minimizing on-farm costs of production. This work is not a new initiative but the rate of change in traits with data points, in the importance of traits and in identifying superior parents is ever increasing.

What is the Scope of Future Dairy Cattle Breeding?

Until the present time in dairy cattle breeding the major focus has been on the milking cows. That has already started to change. It will continue to expand to cover both milk composition and meat production.

Breeding will include all animal lifecycle stages, starting at conception. Data definition, data accuracy, trait heritabilities and economic values will continue to be key components in male and female genetic indexing. We can expect the scope and rate of change in dairy cattle breeding information to speed up. This is called dynamic progress.

Future Breeding Themes in Sire Selection

Dairy farmers recognize that the process of genetically improving their animals is dynamic. The Bullvine offers the following four sire selection themes for the consideration of our readers:

Theme #1 – Sire Selection for Revenue Generation 

Milk composition has become a key determining factor in the size of every milk check. Ways to maximize future revenue via sire selection decisions can include shipping only A2A2 beta casein milk, shipping only BB kappa casein milk and shipping high %Fat milk.

Other revenue sources can include beef animal sales and breeding stock or genetic sales. Profit margins for these sources will depend on marketing of the product, customer availability or preference and cost-control.

Theme #2 – Sire Selection for Production and Efficiency 

Increased on-farm profit from sire selection for increased production and efficiencies will be an even more integral part of every herd’s and the dairy industry’s future success. Animal genetic indexing associated with feed conversion and methane reduction will gain in accuracy and use in the next few years.

Theme #3 – Sire Selection for Functionality and Longevity

With automated data capture occurring for more functional traits dairy farmers will be able to select sires that improve heifer performance, reduce cow cull rates and extend average female lifetimes. In a few years there will be sire indexes available for genetically improving feet, locomotion, parlor performance and heifer performance.

Theme #4 – Sire Selection for Health and Fertility

Many traits are now genetically evaluated for both health and fertility traits, but dairy farmers can expect genetic indexes for more traits coming from new data capture systems. On the health side the data will be beneficial at both the farm level and at the consumer satisfaction level.

Sire Selection Step #1 – Getting in the Ball Park

From the top 25 Jersey to 100 Holstein sires on the total merit index lists (TMI’s) select 10-20 sires for closer examination. Include in the list only sires that are breed improvers (60-99%RK) for at least three of the four above themes.

Some notes:

Sires selected can be either daughter proven or genomic.

National or company TMI’s are designed to improve a dairy cow population. However individual herds may see benefit from using a customized TMI.

Sire Selection Step #2 – Fine Tune the Selection

Narrow down the list of sires from Step #1, ensuring there is at least one breed leading sire for each theme and then purchase semen from either or both proven and genomic evaluated sires. Sires should be mated to females according to their breeding theme strength(s) and their mates breeding theme limitations(s).

Some notes:

  • The number of sires from which semen is purchased will vary by herd size. Larger herds should purchase more sires, especially genomic sires. That will spread the risk.
  • Some dairy farmers may choose after purchasing sires to randomly mate their females.
  • Make semen purchase decisions based on cost-benefit, not lowest cost. Semen cost is only 1% of dairy farm expenses.

It is Best to Rank Sires Relative to Their Peers

A sire’s genetic index number is not informative on where a sire ranks amongst his peers. The index number does not tell what the population average or range in animal index values are for a trait.

Productive Life (PL) for USA sires, born 2015-2022, average (50% rank) 2.8 in Holsteins and 1.7 in Jerseys. Note those averages are not zero. For PL to be significantly improved in USA dairy cattle sires should be more than 84%RK. That means that a sire’s PL’s need to be greater than 4.7 (proven) and 5.9 (genomic) for Holsteins and 3.5 (proven) and 5.1 (genomic) for Jerseys.

Functional traits published by Lactanet must be 105 for a sire to have an 83%RK for a trait. Sires rate 115 and higher are 99%RK.

Analysis of the Current Top TMI Sires for %RK

Tables 1 and 2 contain twenty-seven breed leading sires (April 2023) for Holstein and Jersey breeds and their %RK’s for four currently genetically indexed major categories/traits and three milk composition assessments.

Table 1 Breed Leading Holstein Sires %RK for Breeding Themes

Rank in Population (April ’23) for Breeding Themes

Sire(NAAB Code) Industry Leadership Production    Fertility     Longevity Conformation   Beta Casein Kappa Casein % Fat Change                Sire Stack              
Holstein – Canada – Lactanet                  
Alligator(200HO10593)     #5Tie CONF & #8 LPI     65 %RK     77 %RK     83 %RK     99 %RK     A1A2     AE      zero Kingboy x McCutchen x Observer
Lambda (551HO03379) #2 LPI & #5 tie CONF     78 %RK     70 %RK     98 %RK     99 %RK     A1A2     BB      zero Delta x Uno x Snowman
Master (799HO00016)     #1 tie CONF       11 %RK     08 %RK     17 %RK     99 %RK     A1A2     n/a      – Avalanche x Doorman x Goldwyn
PUNCH* (200HO12619)     #1 gPro$       99 %RK     91 %RK     92 %RK     88 %RK     A2A2     BB      +++ Ranger Red x AltaZazzle x Yoda
Pursuit (200HO11186)     #2 Pro$ & #5 LPI     95 %RK     44 %RK     83 %RK     91 %RK     A1A2     AA      ++ Imax x Profit x Supersire
RANGER RED(200HO07956)      #1 Red gLPI       94 %RK     91 %RK     98 %RK     96 %RK     A1A2     BB      ++ Rubels x Salvatore x Rubicon
Sidekick (200HO10992)     #1 tie CONF       13 %RK     48 %RK     72 %RK     99 %RK     A2A2     AB      +++ Abbott x McCutchen x Lavanguard
Unix (20003913)     Highly Used       13 %RK     37 %RK     55 %RK     96 %RK     A1A1     BE      Uno x Domain x Goldwyn
Zard (200HO12711)      #1 gLPI       99 %RK     38 %RK     94 %RK     99 %RK     A2A2     BB      ++ Ranger Red x Cockpit x Helix
Holstein – United States – CDCB                  
Captain (551HO04119)     #1 TPI, #3 NM$ & #3 CM$     99 %RK     89 %RK     88 %RK     65 %RK     A2A2     AA      ++ Charl x Sabre x Shamrock
Frost Bite (7HO15821) #1gDWP$, #6gNM$, #6gCM$     99 %RK     99 %RK     97 %RK     25 %RK     A2A2     AB      + Granada x Lionel x Samuri
King Doc (250HO12961)    Highly Used & PTAT 3.23     60 %RK     18 %RK     58 %RK     99 %RK     A1A2     BB      zero Kingboy x Mack x Snowman
Lockstep (001HO16537)     #1 gNM$ & #1 gCM$     99 %RK     77 %RK     96 %RK     30 %RK     A1A2     AB      +++ GreyCup x Stealth x Positive
Lionel (7HO14454) #1NM$&CM$, #2TPI&DWP$     99 %RK     36 %RK     65 %RK     46 %RK      A2A2     AA      + Frazzled x Montross x Supersire
Luster-P (7HO14160)     #1 P TPI & PTAT 2.83     81 %RK     57 %RK     64 %RK     99 %RK     A2A2     AB      + Zipit-P x Kingboy x Supersire
Myriad-P (29HO20620)     #1 P gTPI       99 %RK     94 %RK     62 %RK       59 %RK     A1A2     AE      +++ Mendel-P x Luster-P x Achiever
Parfect (7HO15085)     #3 TPI & PTAT 2.71     95 %RK     77 %RK      80 %RK     96 %RK     A2A2     BB      ++ Renegade x Lambda x Denver
Thorson(551HO04520)   #2 gNM$, #2 gCM$, #3 gTPI      99 %RK     80 %RK     57 %RK     42 %RK     A2A2     AB      +++ Cowen x Charl x Director


* Punch has an identical twin with exactly the same indexes
%Fat – +++/++ significant improver, + improver, zero no improvement, -/– lowers %Fat
Color – (Red) theme <60%RK and daughters will be average or below average
         – (Black) theme 60-83%RK and daughters will be above average
       – (Blue) theme 84-99%RK and daughters will be significantly above average
Data Sources – CDCB and Lactanet files, reports and publications – April 2023

Table 2 Breed Leading Jersey Sires %RK for Breeding Themes

Rank in Population (April ’23) for Breeding Themes

              Health &     Potential for Increased Revenue  
Sire(NAAB Code) Industry Leadership Production    Fertility     Longevity Conformation   Beta Casein Kappa Casein % Fat Change                Sire Stack              
Jersey – North America                  
Chatham (7JE01789)     #1 CM$ & #2 JPI     99 %RK     99 %RK     92 %RK     70 %RK      A2A2     BB      Enzo x Lemonhead x Pharoah
Chief (200JE10034) #1Pro$, #2LPI, #2CM$, #4JPI     99 %RK     60 %RK     80 %RK     89 %RK     A2A2     BB      – Checkmate x Chrome x Fastrack
CINNAMON (200JE01422)     #1 gLPI       99 %RK     97 %RK     87 %RK     91 %RK     A2A2     BB      zero Machoman x Got Maid x Cord
Schooner (29JE04426)     #1 gJPI & #5 gCM$     99 %RK     50 %RK     56 %RK     53 %RK     A2A2     BB      zero  Thrasher x Completely x Marlo
TheBoss (200JE01334)     #1gCM$       98 %RK     97 %RK     95 %RK     68 %RK     A1A2     BB      + Got Maid x Chief x Viceroy
Thrasher (7JE01758)     #1 JPI & #3 CM$     99 %RK     99 %RK     87 %RK     50 %RK     A2A2     BB      — Pilgrim x Viceroy x Soleil
Victorious (7JE05032)     #1 CONF       41 %RK     60 %rRK     83 %RK     99 %RK     A2A2     BB      + Barnabas x Iatola x Duaiseoir
VIVALDI (200JE07756)     #1 LPI & #2 Pro$     97 %RK     71 %RK     85 %RK     99 %RK     A2A2     n/a      ++++ Lix x Implus x Paramont
Wichita (200JE01343)    #1 gPro$       99 %RK     21 %RK     38 %RK     81 %RK     A2A2     AB      Sinatra x Dancer x Tarheel
%Fat – ++++ significant improver, + improver, zero no I,improvement, –/- lowers %Fat
Color – (Red) theme <60%RK and daughters will be average or below average
       – (Black) theme 60-83 %RK and daughters will be above average
         – (Blue) theme 84-99 %RK and daughters will be significantly above average
Data Sources – CDCB and Lactanet files, reports and publications – April 2023

Some takeaway points from Tables 1 and 2 are:

  • All the sires in the table are breed leaders for one or more TMI or trait indexes.
  • %RK is a good and quick tool to position a sire’s indexes in the national herd for its breed.
  • It is a high standard but only two Holstein and two Jersey sires of the twenty-seven are improvers or leave the desired milk components for all seven categories in the tables.
  • 85% of the sires are breed improvers for production. It is the other categories that require focused consideration when selecting sires. 37.5% of the time in the six other categories the sire is not an improver or desired for milk composition.
  • A TMI index is a good first sort for selecting sires, but it is necessary to dig deeper and identify a sire’s strengths and limitations.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Dairy farmers should be prepared to select and use sires based on new functional, health and performance trait indexes once those indexes become available.

It is recommended that dairy farmers have a plan for which traits need genetic improvement in their herd.

Use all the genetic facts when making sire selection decisions, including if a sire is below average for a trait.

The saying – Select the Best (>83%RK) and Ignore the Rest (<60%RK) – should be practised when selecting sires.



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