Archive for Dairy Cattle Marketing

High Heels and Work Boots – You are what you wear!

Barn-appropriate attire has certainly changed over the years. Overalls, coveralls, boots and the iconic farm hat have defined ‘looking like a farmer’. The options available are weatherproof, waterproof and, if I had my way, they would be smell-proof and self-cleaning too.  Regardless of what dairy folks choose to work in, we make our choices of what’s appropriate based on the job we are doing. There are no extra points given for fashion when cleaning stalls, filling feed bunkers or helping with a calf delivery in pouring rain in a muddy field. Dust, dirt and manure are ever present and ready to turn our country fresh style into downright dank and dirty.

While most dairy folks make excellent clothes choices for barn conditions, the ones we make in public, at meetings or in the show rings are sometimes questionable. What side of the fashion line are you on?

Ring, Booth and Barn Clothes are Broadcasting Your Farm Message

Clothes make a strong visual statement regardless of the industry you work in.  Comfort and serviceability, boots and barn hats may serve their purpose in the barn.  Unfortunately, some might think wearing them directly to a meeting not only saves time but sends a message that you’re a hard working dairy professional. Well. Not so much. You want your co-workers and potential customers to take you seriously. They should not smell where you’re coming from.

Should Farmers Dress for Success?

Yes, they should.  Something as superficial as how you’re dressed does make a difference. Is there something clinging to your boots or pants from your last walk through the barn.  Does your grooming and basic hygiene suggest that you have become “nose blind” to those country smells that city folk are not so familiar with?  Maybe we are too familiarized with the messy side of our work day and forget that the uninitiated, who are also dairy consumers, are a little more fidgety about where there food comes from and what and who it comes into contact with. We have all seen how bad publicity over animal treatment can reflect on an entire industry.  Wardrobe malfunctions can hurt too. It is always better to represent the industry as a professional whose outfit does not harm public perception of the people who produce or come into contact with the animals and food they eat..

Looking like a Farmers Starts with Who, What and Wear!

You can’t not communicate. Everything you do makes some kind of statement.

The old saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” may be true, but book jacket and product packaging designers around the world have created an industry betting that people will judge and purchase products based on how they look.

Things move incredibly fast today.  Only things that catch our eye capture our attention.  That goes for magazine ads, product packaging and, of course, people. Because we are so busy, looks count for a lot more than they used to. Like it or not, we are under a lot more scrutiny and looks make the first and most lasting impression.

We at The Bullvine make a big deal about the need to tell the story of farming in a positive way. However, before any of that story can come into play, we must get past the first impression. Whether we like it or not, that starts with your appearance. That first wave of impressions severely impacts perceptions of capability and credibility.  Positive or negative that is what will stop you or start you moving forward.

“Dress for the ribbon you want”

If there were dairy ring fashion advisors, no doubt they would advise their clients to dress for the ribbon they want – in the same way job counselors tell you to dress for the job you and not the one you already have. When we stand at exhibit hall booths, or visit farms with our advice or products or simply converse with the public at a show, meeting or in the grocery story, we are evaluated by our appearance.  It is important to “look the part”.  There is no value in dressing low key in some misguided idea that it sends a humbler, more low key message. It simply says you don’t care.

You are What You Wear to the Show Ring!

To be fair, most dairy people display common sense when making their fashion statements in the show ring. Creativity is, usually, restricted to belt buckles for the guys and belts with bling and pants with sequined pockets for the girls. However, sometimes we witness some fashion statements which draw less positive attention to “those farmers”. If attention on yourself is more important to you than the animal you are leading, you might want to reconsider why you are in the ring in the first place.

First Do No Harm

When in the public eye either in the show ring or at a commercial booth – either buying or selling — the primary rule to observe is “first do no harm:  The harm referred to is what happens right after split second decisions are made.  While a showring Judge is unlikely to be affected by unprofessional, too tight, too revealing or unbecoming ring-wear, the audience has a great deal of time to ask themselves, “Is that the best they could do?” And then there’s the fact that you yourself are affected when your clothing is a distraction. We put countless hours preparing our animals for the best few minutes of their lives under scrutiny from a dairy judge who, in most cases, is formally dressed befitting the level of attention being given to selecting the top animals in each category.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Dressing for success presents your true potential. It’s like putting your “best foot forward.”

Like it or not, most of us carry subconscious thoughts about what is acceptable or not. Especially in the workplace or when doing business. When given the choice between a well-dressed person and one in sloppy clothes with unkempt hair, the public, the judge or the possible client will choose the former… hands down

Although we loudly proclaim that looks should not make a difference …One advisor suggests this test. Wear your “barn” clothes to the bank one time and “professional farmer” clothes the next time. Pay attention to the difference in the attention you receive.  Even though, we may protest, we are constantly judged on our appearance.  And admit it.  We do it too!

Start by Keeping it Covered!

We have all seen the outfit that looks great when the person is standing but becomes way too revealing when the wearer is seated on a chair at ringside or, worse yet, on a raised platform or stage.  Too revealing works with tops too.  It would be great if we all had perfectly toned bodies.  We don’t.  At the very least, keep it covered. Avoid cleavage displays, midriff tops and informal sheer T-shirts and butt views

Dairy Do’s, Don’ts and Dress Codes

In the dairy world, not all fashions are created equal. We’ve seen some pretty cringe worthy looks in our day.   Here are some examples from the ring, exhibition hall and ag meetings that deserve a spot in the Don’t Hall of Fame!

  • Skin Tight Pants. Thank goodness that, in general, they are a thing of the past. At best, they are uncomfortable at their worst they provide a severe case of TMI.
  • Too much cleavage. If it isn’t right for the grocery store, it isn’t right for the red carpet, show ring or presentation ceremony.
  • Too much color. In most dairy show rings, white and black are the best choices. For show ring photographers, many shows request all black clothing.  The focus (pun intended) is meant to be on the cows.
  • Too much glitter. So far this season, too much bling has not made it to the winners circle. My informal study indicated that glitter belts rarely place above sixth.
  • Keep your wardrobe malfunctions out of the news. With instant sharing through social media your wardrobe slip-ups or fallouts could go viral. It’s how you handle these wardrobe malfunctions that will determine whether you’re dressed for success or seen at less than your best.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

A well put together outfit sends the message that you pay attention to detail. It suggests if you put so much effort into your image, you’re probably just as meticulous in your work. If how you look is sending a message…. what are you saying about dairy farmers?



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The Truth about Dairy Genetics Publications Facebook Fan Page Statistics

Over the past few months, there has been a consistent theme to the conversation I have with many breeders about their marketing efforts. They know that they need to “leverage the power of social media” in order to get their genetic offerings exposed to the world. But they are finding it hard to do. Then they see Dairy Genetic publications getting thousands of likes and shares, but they are all from countries that will not be buying genetics from them. No wonder they get discouraged. In order to get to the bottom of this problem, we decided to take a closer look at this issue.

In a trend that we had been noticing ourselves lately, our two largest competitors (based on Facebook likes) had been growing significantly and getting likes and shares on content that, for the most part, had no viral attributes.

To get to the bottom of this, we decided to take a look at the top 10 posts for each of these publications and analyze where these shares were coming from. What we found was that for these two publications that have over 40,000 likes on their pages, they got over 70% of their likes on these posts from individuals that were not directly connected to the dairy genetics industry.

This had us wondering “How could this happen?” So we then went and looked at where each of these pages got most of their followers from using Facebooks targeting tools. The following is what we found.

For Publication A, a western Canadian based dairy genetics magazine we found that they received over 33% of their Facebook followers from Asia (India, Pakistan, etc.) and their 2nd largest content for followers was South America.

publication a
For Publication B, a US based Holstein publication, we found that almost half their followers come from South America.

publication b
We found these proportions very different to our readership and worldwide dairy genetic market share, so we decided to look at what our proportions where, and found the following.(Read more: The fakebook – Our Secret is Exposed)


So then we started to look at how this could happen and found a potential cause for this problem: Facebook Promoted Posts. Facebook has significantly y changed how often a post on a Fan Page reaches into each follower’s news stream. A couple of years ago, pretty much every post made it into follower’s streams. However, with Facebook wanting to increase revenue they have made it very hard for Fan pages to get their posts seen, forcing them to leverage paid/promoted posts. The challenge with these posts is that if you just tell Facebook to promote the post for say $10, Facebook will promote that post to the least expensive audience it has, typically this means Asia and South America. So for those pages leveraging the promoted posts they are seeing most of their paid engagement coming from countries like India, Pakistan and Colombia.

Facing this same challenge ourselves we have been experimenting with how best to be seen by the desired target audience for Dairy Cattle Genetics, (i.e. North America and Europe), and have found that we need to do targeted posts. These are posts that are specially promoted to these regions. What we have found is that while our total number of likes on each post are not as high, they are getting significant traction with our key audience and driving targeted traffic to our website (which is our main goal). When we compare our reach in regions like North America and Europe, we actually find that we have as much or more than these two publications that have almost twice the followers. What we don’t have is twice the noise. I guess that is why we have almost 50% higher Klout Score (Measure of influence in Social Media) than any of our competitors.

Some breeders who have not opted to go the paid or promoted posts route, now are creating or leveraging their current personal accounts for marketing their dairy cattle genetics to the world. This strategy while certainly cheaper also comes with many tradeoffs. First one being you get no performance reporting data, so you are unable to specifically see the success of each post, and can only look at the total number of likes or shares to evaluate the success of your company. Another tradeoff is that you do not reach as many people. Since your own posts are limited to the total number of friends you have on Facebook, (which for most is under 1,000). As compared to the number of followers, the typical fan page has which is about 2,000). (Read more: The Top 10 Dairy Breeder Facebook Fan Pages and Why They’re Successful). So while you are getting cheaper access to those people you already know (i.e. friends) you are missing out on a significant portion of the marketplace. This is often why you we see us share a Fan Page post on our personal pages in order to gain this exposure.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that Facebook marketing is not easy. It’s not as easy as “Post it and buyers will come.” It takes effort to achieve significant results from Facebook marketing. Trying to take the easy way out, or just throw money at the problem will not work. You need to make sure you have a targeted strategy in order to get significant results. Sure you can drive the number of likes and shares up by spending more money, but you will not gain any influence. In order to gain influence you need to base your strategy on producing quality content (posts) that your ideal audience actually wants to see in their streams, not what someone has paid Facebook to show you.



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The Seven Deadly Sins of the Dairy Breeding Industry

No matter what industry you look at there are always going to be those people who are immoral, shiftless, self-gratifying and good-for-nothing.  Throughout the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church hierarchy emphasized teaching all lay people the Deadly Sins.  We here at the Bullvine decided to take a look at the Seven Deadly Sins in the context of the dairy breeding industry.  The following is what we found:


Who hasn’t lusted for money, food, fame, power or sex? Come on. We are not monks.  So we are all guilty of this at some point or another.  In the dairy breeding industry there are those who lust for money, fame and power.  Lust for these three desires has led many dairy breeders to their downfall.  Instead of just making their breeding and farm decisions based on sound judgment, they let the desire for money, fame or power influence them and, in the end, make investments or decisions that make no rational sense.  Funny that the animal associated with lust is the dairy cow.


Gluttony is an inordinate desire to consume more than that which one requires. This is often interpreted as selfishness. Essentially it is placing concern with one’s own interests above the well-being or interests of others.  This is one area that I can say very confidently that most members of the dairy community are actually not as guilty of.  (Read more:  Why the Dairy Community is the Greatest in the World….).  However, there are those that have a tendency to overindulge in show ring results.  While I am as big a fan as anyone of the tanbark trail, I often have to remind myself that it is just a passion and remember where it fits relative to the rest of the dairy industry.


Greed is the desire for material wealth or gain, ignoring the realm of the spiritual. It is, like lust and gluttony, a sin of excess. However, greed (as seen by the church) is applied to a very excessive or rapacious desire and pursuit of material possessions.   “Greed is a sin directly against one’s neighbor, since one man cannot over-abound in external riches, without another man lacking them.”  Lately, I see the dairy breeding industry getting “greedy” with their genetics.  Empire building A.I. companies are not sharing their early release semen, and breeders are now not willing to sell embryos from their top females.  Greed has undoubtedly infected the dairy breeding industry.


Sloth is the avoidance of physical or spiritual work.  It certainly would be really hard to accuse most dairy farmers of avoiding physical work. However, there are definitely some areas where sloth is starting to creep in.  No, I am not talking about the skyrocketing number of breeders who are switching to robotic milking systems. These breeders are changing the type of work they are doing as opposed to the amount of work they do.  What I am talking about here are the breeders who are looking to take the easy way out.  On the tanbark trail, it is the breeders who expect to win at the big shows, but don’t realize how much work it takes and fail to do the work 365 days a year that it takes to achieve success.  For the average dairy breeder, I notice sloth tendencies when they make their breeding decisions.  Instead of taking the time to carefully do effective research on the best mate for their cows (Programs like GPS) they look for a quick and easy answer for their breeding programs. (Read more: gPs– Genetic Profile Systems – Dairy Cattle Breeding Made Simple).  Another example of sloth in the dairy breeding industry, is livestock photography.  Many professional photographers have gotten lazy and have let their ethics slide to a point where it is now downright sinful.  (Read more: Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct)


Wrath, also known as “rage,” may be described as inordinate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred and anger.  Feelings of anger can manifest in different ways including impatience, revenge, and self-destructive behavior. In the dairy breeding industry, I notice this vice in many breeders choice of which A.I. unit to purchase their semen from.   Instead of purchasing semen from the A.I. company that has the best sire for their animal, some breeders let their anger for a certain organization cloud their judgment and lead to diminished returns in their breeding program.  There are also those who have turned their wrath on us here at the Bullvine (Read more: The Bullvine: Wanted Dead or Alive and  Why I Don’t Care If You Like Me)


Envy is the desire for others’ traits, status, abilities, or situation. There are many (yes I say many) dairy breeders that are guilty of this.  From those whose envy is relatively mild, such as case of envy over ownership of a certain animal, or breeding success to those that turn almost green with envy over the success of their fellow breeders.


In almost every list, pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins and the source of the others. It is identified as believing that one is fundamentally better than others, failing to acknowledge the accomplishments of others and excessive admiration of the personal self.  In the dairy breeding industry, I notice this in many old school breeders who fail to recognize new tools such as genomics.  They believe that their “breeding strategy” is far superior to that of others and let pride get in the way of achieving even greater success.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Remember – no one is perfect. Sin, like death, is an unassailable fact of life. It is also one of the last great taboos for public debate. We here at the Bullvine feel that it is possible and necessary to talk about sin in ways that enrich our industry, as well as our personal lives.     These sins have been the downfall of some. However, others find success through overcoming them. It is important to recognize the vices you’re susceptible to and to manage them. Otherwise, these seven deadly sins will be the downfall of your dairy breeding program.




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Who’s Number 1?

It seems like everybody is claiming to have the number one sire of this that or the other thing.  The number of different sires out there claiming to be number one is scary.  There is the #1 TPI sire, or #1 TPI sire with semen available, or the #1 proven TPI sire.  The list goes on and on.  The challenge for breeders is in trying to decide who you can believe.

Everything is New and Light

Remember when the word “New” or “Light” was trendy in the promotion of consumer products?  It seemed like every company was coming out with a “New” product or a “Light” version of the double chocolate peanut butter marshmallow cookies.  There were no laws to stop them from making their claims originality and fewer calories.  Because it helped drive awareness and sales, everyone jumped on the bandwagon.  That was back in the 70`s and 80’s before there was the development of marketing ethics that helped change all that and protect consumers from  those  false or misleading marketing practices.  The problem is that this process hasn`t yet happened in the dairy genetics marketplace.

You can’t be blamed for what you don’t know for sure.  Can you?

Don’t get me wrong. I understand why a breeder gets all excited when he gets back a  genomic test  on his sire and finds out that the bull  has an astronomical TPI, LPI, or NM$.  Instantly the claim is broadcast that the bull is Number 1.  Well there are many issues with this.  First, how do you know that someone else out there did not get a higher test result on the very same day, since the full lists are only published every three months?  Also how do you know that when your results do come out on the official list that they will hold?  Many times I have seen these sires drop due to regression formulas or very recent snippet developments etcetera.  With less than 159 points (7%) seperating the top 100 gTPI sires. the differences are very minimal. Is it ethical to push the limits and make claims now and beg “forgiveness” later or not at all?  After all you can’t be blamed for what you don’t know for sure.  Can you?

Can there be three top dogs?

But then here is the bigger issue for me that happens when A. I. companies start making these claims.  And this is the one that I have seen playing out more and more often recently.  Over the past week, since the last genetic evaluation release, I have seen three different press releases come out from major A.I. companies. Each one of them claimed to have the #1 TPI sire in the world.  Doesn’t being number one mean that there are no others?  How can there be three #1 TPI sires? No one should make performance claims unless they can back them up. It’s like our competitors to have a larger readership and influence. Consistently share our numbers through Google and Facebook analytics.  But the others like to use words and “third party tools”.  If you can’t back it up with real numbers don’t say it.

Why is there a lack of accountability in the Dairy Genetics Marketplace?

This all comes back to the issue that there isn’t an enforced code of marketing ethics in the dairy genetics marketplace.  This is not a new issue.  For years we here at the Bullvine have been advocating the development of a Marketing Code of Conduct that would cover these very issues as well as other issues such as photo ethics.  (Read more: Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct and Who’s to Blame? Why is there a lack of accountability in the Dairy Genetics Marketplace, No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in PicturesDairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed, Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far? and Dairy Cattle Photography: Do You Really Think I am That Stupid?)

Do we breed dairy cows or ostriches?

The problem is that, to date, none of the major A.I. organizations are willing to put their butts on the line to be the first.  They respond like those photographers who are so worried about losing business that they just go on doing their current practices.  This has led to distrust and producers are tuning out marketing claims and are not even bothering to look at professional daughter pictures anymore.

Lack of Leadership

As our efforts over the past year with professional livestock photographers prove, they have no desire to regulate themselves, even if it’s in their own best interest to do so in order to save their industry.  The same is true for A.I. organizations. They seem unwilling to develop and adhere to a marketing code of conduct that would bring credibility back to their marketing claims.  Then, looking at the powers that be, such as NAAB or CDCB, or CDN in Canada, they also seem to prefer to bury their heads in the sand, instead of addressing the issues at hand.  This leaves the average breeder defenseless against false or misleading claims.  The practice of inflating claims or exaggerating appearance in advertising is threatening to cloud the credibility of the entire dairy industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Your reputation is your organization’s greatest asset.  (Read more: In the End, All you have is your Name!)  The longer organizations such as the A.I. centers go without establishing a clear level of marketing ethics, the more they are damaging their own credibility.  You don’t have to look any further than the professional dairy cattle photography industry to see how looking the other way or ignoring the issues can harm an industry.  The time is now for the leaders in the dairy cattle genetics industry to step up and take the Bull by the horns and be the leaders that this industry needs.  In leadership who is the real #1?

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

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The Bullvine Has Bite!

It’s hard to believe that it has already been two years since we launched the Bullvine.  Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, other times it seems like it has been a long road.  Nevertheless, here we are at 2 years and still kicking.  Something many   predicted would never happen.

Since we launched and said there would be twice the bull and half the fluff of the other publications we have held true to our word.  (Read more: Twice the Bull – Half the S**T) Unlike others, we have expressed our opinion. No matter what the issue, no matter what the ramifications, we have said it as we see it.   That has gotten us in trouble at times, but that was a risk we knew we had to take in order to focus the industry during these changing times.

Who Killed Professional Livestock Photography?

An interesting thing has happened as we have grown.  We not only grew readership but, more importantly, we have gained significant influence in the dairy cattle genetics industry.  With that influence have come detractors. There are those who blame us for the downfall of the hot houses and those trying to work the system (which we gladly accept – Read more: Has Genomics Knocked Out the Hot House Herds? And The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling), as well as the photography industry. (Read more:  Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed, Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?, No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Dairy Cattle Photography: Do You Really Think I am That Stupid?)  The ironic thing about the professional livestock photographers is that we tried to help them save themselves, but instead they were too short sighted, preferring to bite off their noses to spite their faces.  In the most recent dairy print publications, less than 50% of AI company ads had a professional side photograph.  This was once the bread and butter of the professional photographer’s income. Well they can`t say we didn`t try.

Influence Comes From Talking About Subjects No One Else Will

There are those who blame us for amplifying the problems that the genetics industry is currently facing. (Read more: How I Killed the Dairy Cattle Marketing Industry, Who Killed The Market For Good Dairy Cattle?, The Genomic Bubble Has Burst? and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry)While our egos would love to take credit for these changes, that is just not the case.  At the Bullvine we prefer to talk about the issues before they become critical.  We prefer to raise the touchy issues, instead of waiting for things to happen and then report on them after the fact. (Read more: Genomics – Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications!, MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost”, and “Got Milk” is becoming “Got More”)  Sure that may seem to some like we are creating the issues.  But in fact it simply proves that we are in touch with the issues that are currently facing the industry.  That’s what has led to the Bullvine being the most read daily dairy magazine in the world. We are not counting friends we are interacting, engaging and building community.

Unbiased Sire Recommendations

One of the areas that has attracted the most attention is our willingness to make sire recommendations.  We consistently bite off more than the others are afraid to chew. Instead of just profiling those sires that will generate us the largest ad revenue, we have always done complete recommendations. (Read more: The 16 Sires Every Dairy Breeder Should Be Using to Accelerate Genetic Gain in Your Herd, 12 Sires to Use in Order to Reduce Inbreeding, and The 24 Polled Bulls Every Breeder Should Be Using To Accelerate the Genetic Gain in Their Herd)   Often we don`t know what sire a stud belongs to until after we have published the article.  When talking with many of our readers, it`s this level of transparency that has led to such trust in our recommendations.

What does the future hold?

As we look forward to what’s to come, we will bring this same perspective to the entire dairy industry.  Sharing messages that others are afraid to.  (Read more: Select Sires vs. Semex – A Contrast in Cooperatives, Casualties of the Genomic Wars – The End of Seed Stock Producers) In our first two years we have heavily focused on genetics and the show ring. (Read more: World Dairy Expo 2013 – Memories to last a Lifetime, The Royal Flu – Did you catch it? And Fantasy Exhibitor – World Dairy Expo 2013 Edition – The Results!). As we go forward we will start to cover more issues, challenges and opportunities throughout the dairy industry.  While we will continue our high demand contests and show coverage, we will also balance that with quality coverage of all aspects of dairy farming for those who are focused on getting to the next level. The Bullvine is not worried about the status quo but is seeking out the game changers who are inventing the future. (Read more:  NORTH FLORIDA HOLSTEINS. Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!! And Sexed Semen from Cool Technology to Smart Business Decision) A relevant, profitable future for the dairy industry.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Over the past two years we have certainly not been afraid to get into our share of dogfights.  Instead of running away with our tails between our legs, we have backed up our bark with a strong bite.  As we look forward to what is to come, I am sure there will be many more skirmishes.  As we have done in the past we will continue to back up our bark with the bite of facts aimed at delivering the highest quality information to you the dairy breeder.  Thanks to all of you who have contributed to us being the fastest growing dairy publication in the world after our first year and now having the largest daily dairy readership in the world in year 2.  The Bullvine isn’t growing because important people endorse it. It is growing because passionate people do. We are very excited about dairy business success.  One bite at a time.



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The Bullvine: Evolution vs. Revolution

Change is inevitable.  Anyone who denies that will be left behind!  And even though the dairy industry is stereotyped as one that is “behind” other industries, in reality the dairy business has evolved significantly in recent years.  Technological advancements such as smart phones, tablets, GPS systems and robots have radically affected our day to day lives and, inevitably, how we farm.  Nevertheless, there are still those among us who refuse to evolve.  They hide their heads in the sand and are missing the revolution that is modernizing agribusiness.

Since starting the Bullvine we have had the opportunity to meet many people from all facets of dairy life.  From producers, to seed stock breeders to industry members, the dairy industry is certainly where you find amazing examples of people who are passionate about this incredible industry that we are all part of.  While there are many characteristics that unite us, change is the one area where I see the greatest differences between us.  On the one hand, there are those who prefer a slower more evolutionary approach to change.  They are happy to take calculated incremental steps towards change.  And, on the other hand, there are those who prefer a more revolutionary approach.  These are the ones who are ready to run with the latest technology and be at the front of the line.  Change for them is always moving forward.  Making adjustments. Getting better all the time.

Genomics is another area that defines our different approaches and highlights the variation that can separate even those who have the same ultimate goal. (Read more: Dairy Cattle Genomics)   While some producers have embraced genomics to a point where the majority of the semen used on their farms is from genomic young sires, others have not been so fast on the uptake.  They have decided to take a wait-and-see approach on genomics until more substantiated proof is available.  While there are merits to both methods, the strongly held opinions and significantly different approaches can only be settled by the results produced.  And … that takes time!!!

Speaking of strong opinions, many more of those opinions have been pushed to the forefront as a result of articles we have written here at the Bullvine.  While regular readers certainly recognize that we have taken a much more revolutionary approach to genomics, we have also taken a much more revolutionary approach to how we run our magazine as a whole.  We don’t do a print edition. We provide all our content free online and we let passion drive what we write about not who pays us the most money.  This is certainly a revolutionary approach compared to most of the options available to dairy breeders.

There is no question that our content has been revolutionary as well.  As the year winds down and we take a look about at some of the most popular articles of the past year (Read more:  Top 13 of 2013 – The Bullvine’s Most Popular Articles of the Year) and some of the top editorial choices (Read more:  EDITOR`S CHOICE 2013 – The Top 12 Picks from The Bullvine) there is no question that revolutionary is the best word to describe the overall flavor of the content we produce. In fact I can confidently say that if you took these 25 articles and compared them to all the other articles our competitors produced, there is no question that they would stand out for their unique content and unbiased perspective.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Since starting the Bullvine we have always tried to take a revolutionary approach to change, as opposed to that of our competitors that are stuck in their evolutionary mindset.  It’s with this aggressive approach to change that we have many new and exciting things planned for 2014. We will continue to drive change instead of simply trying to keep our heads above water.  In the coming year we plan to bring our revolutionary perspective to all aspects of the dairy industry as we increase our coverage of the key issues that all producers face.  We greatly appreciate everyone who joins us and cheers us on in the revolution.  We look forward to sharing the insights, passions, frustrations and visions that will power the dairy industry throughout 2014.


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Dairy Cattle Investment: Are You In or are You Out?

Investing in dairy cattle can seem risky to many breeders.  Doing so, when prices are setting new records, can scare even the most confident among us.  However, more recently, prices have taken a downward trend and now could be the time to ask, “Am I in this for the long haul?  Or do I prefer to sit on the sidelines?”

With many sales coming up throughout North America, there are certainly going to be lots of animals to choose from.  For the first time in recent years, supply might be greater than demand.  There are two main reasons for this.  First, so many of the top cattle have been on extensive IVF programs that the owners of these cattle have way more daughters than their breeding program needs.  (Read more: FAST TRACK GENETICS: More Results in Less Time and IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry)  Considering the significant investment that IVF requires, these breeders are looking to recoup their expenses as soon as possible.  Also typically these calves are most valuable at as young an age as possible, so that their indexes are as high relative to the rest of the breed as possible (Read more: Informed Heifer Buying – Are you fully prepared?)

The second reason that prices may be the lowest we have seen in years is that it appears that we have passed the investor bubble that funded massive investment and high prices over the past few years.  Many early investors are now realizing that there were more expenses associated with running their genetic programs than they first anticipated (i.e. IVF, recipients, feed etc.) and are starting to wonder if it was a wise investment after all.  Most were thinking their investment have a short-term 2-3 year payout and not take longer than that.  Perhaps they didn’t account for three specific things:

  1. Flush history of the animals they were purchasing.
    Even with IVF there is no comparison on the return of a family that flushes well compared to one that only produces 4-5 eggs even on IVF.  IVF may give more progeny than you would have had using traditional flush methods, but it also incurs more expense.
  2. Cost of recipients
    One area many breeders/investors do not account for when first purchasing is recipient costs.  From that purchase to, feeding and then adding on implanting expenses, the investment in recipients can often outweigh the cost of the actual donor animal.  After multiple years of flushing and then starting to flush the progeny of the original donor, these costs can skyrocket.
  3. True return on investment
    First things first.  I know many investors invested without even having a clear plan.  “They just wanted to make big money.”  In addition, thought that ROI would happen quickly.  Many perceptive and knowledgeable investors would have realized that a significant return would have to come from semen sales and not from live animal sales.  The problem with building your program around semen sales is that you first need to be in the top .1 percent of the breed and secondly it takes many years to actually see this payoff.

Having said all that, now just may be the wise time to invest.  You see the initial whoosh has passed and prices are now dropping on many great animals.  Over the past few months I have seen animals that are within the top .2 percent of the breed selling for less than $5,000, sometimes even less than $3,000. (Read more: Where did the money go?)  Many naysayers would say this is the price these animals should be selling for anyway.  Those who are willing to do their homework, invest their time and not just their money, are now able to pick up some great animals that can significantly advance their breeding programs.  Even if you have no interest in doing IVF on them, at those prices they can make their return with just traditional flushing techniques, or even just breeding them normally.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no question that any marketplace is going to have its highs and lows.  It’s those with the perception to understand when the highs are and when the lows are that are going to make the most return on their investment.  In the dairy genetics marketplace there is no question we are currently entering a down period.  The thing many wise investors will realize is that it takes two years of planning in advance to know when it’s the time to invest and when it’s the time to sell.  Just now, if we look two years out, it looks pretty safe to say that prices will be higher.  That is simply market economics.  Therefore, those with the cash flow to invest in some additions to their herd may find that “Now!”  is the exactly right time for them to buy.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old or heifer?
Want to make sure you are investing your money wisely?
Download our Dairy Cow Investment Calculator.


Informed Heifer Buying – Are you fully prepared?

In the heat of an auction buyers need to be well aware of the genetic merit of the animal they are bidding on. Sales managers make every effort to make sure that the numbers in the sales catalogues are accurate and complete, however there is frequently added information that potential buyers did not have when they closely reviewed the catalogue before the sale. Additionally at times buyers may not be aware if the animal in the sales ring is of elite genetic merit.

In an attempt to give buyers interested in purchasing an elite young female to add to their breeding or marketing program from future sales this fall, the Bullvine has analyzed the heifers born and registered in the herd books in North America from March 2012 to August 2013. This group of females was chosen as they are likely to be the ages of heifers that will go through sales auctions over the next two months. The information from the CDN files was used as it is the animal information that is available free of charge.

Breed Toppers

Buyers are advised to have at their fingertips the total merit indexes for the very best animals so that they can value an animal that they are considering buying. The following table lists the averages for the top twenty-five heifers.

Figure 1.0 Top Twenty-Five North American Heifers (Born March 2012 to August 2013)


Some points worthy of note from this table are: i) do not compare the Holstein and Jersey LPI values as the formulae differ; ii) the top 25 Holstein heifers are a very elite group with the DGV LPIs exceeding the gLPIs by 161 points; iii) Red Carrier Holsteins heifers have made considerable improvement in the last couple of years by the use of top BW sires on RC or Red females; iv) Polled Holsteins heifers have and are likely to continue to make rapid advancement again by the use of top horned BW sires on polled females; and v) the values listed for the Red Holstein heifers are parent averages as only two of the top twenty five heifers were genomically tested.

Use these benchmarks as you review the sales catalogues either on-line or using a hard copy of the catalogue.

Top Values

Often buyers wish to know benchmark numbers beyond the LPI value. The average index for the top five heifers for each trait in each animal category are as follows:

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Remember these are the averages for the very best five animals in the various categories.

Sires of the Heifers

Buyers often want to know the sires of the top heifers. Knowing the sires of the top twenty-five heifers gives an indication of who the competition will be when you are marketing in the future from your purchases.

Sires with more that two daughters in the various categories are listed below. Each category has twenty five heifers. The bracketed number is the number of daughters the sire has on the list.


  • Seagull-Bay Supersire (8)
  • De-Su BKM McCutchen (5)

RC Holstein

  • De-Su BKM McCutchen (6)
  • Seagull-Bay Supersire (5)
  • Mountfield SSI Dorcy Mogul (4)

Polled Holstein

  • Sea-Gull Bay Supersire (9)
  • Da-So-Burn MOM Earnhardt P (5)

Red Holstein

  • Dymentholm S Sympatico (8)
  • Curr-Vale Destined (5)
  • Tiger-Lily Ladd P-Red (5)


  • Sunset Canyon Dimension (5)
  • All Lynns Valentino Marvel (4)

Health & Fertility

In the Holstein breed many breeders are starting to place increased emphasis on the Health and Fertility rating that CDN assigns animals. The value assigned can be found by looking up the animal on the CDN website. Factors used in calculating the H&F index include: Herd Life; SCS; Daughter Fertility; Milking Speed; and some other correlated traits.

The top five Holstein heifers in the various categories had average DGV Health and Fertility ratings as follows:  Holstein 465;  RC Holstein 413;  Polled Holstein 423. Clearly an animal over 375 to 400 for H&F is at the top of the breed. An H%F value is not available for Red Holstein as so few of them are genomically tested.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It is important to know the genetic superiority of an animal when purchasing or using them in your breeding or marketing program. It is the Bullvine’s hope that the above statistics will assist. Wise investment should give you a leg up on moving your herd forward.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old or heifer?
Want to make sure you are investing your money wisely?
Download our Dairy Cow Investment Calculator.


Dare To Show Your Facebook! Twitter And YouTube!

The sales and marketing strategies that worked a decade ago are no longer viable. When our family was young there was a battle for the Holstein Journal … and the winner locked his or her self in the washroom to fend off contenders.  Today’s reach goes far beyond the throne room. Whenever the family gathers, there are several (never less than one) handheld devices in the room. This guarantees that the most familiar view that we get to see of spouses, offspring and grandchildren is the top of their heads!

Obviously, if you are reading this you know how to connect to the Internet.  Perhaps you are also following The Bullvine on Facebook and Twitter.  Perhaps one of your new pastimes is Pinterest. If these social media applications have made it to your house, they should also be making it into your marketing plan for selling your dairy cattle or dairy goods and services.

Here Are 9 Ways The Dairy Marketplace Has Changed And How We Can Stay Relevant Today!

  1. Don’t Waste Your Money!
    Everyone is watching their money these days.  The days of high spending and quick cash from international sales of bred heifers have gone the way of the dial telephone. Everyone is careful.  Everyone is informed (or should be). For many dairy operations, cash flow is tighter than it has been and they are looking to stretch their resources by purchasing less, but higher quality genetics, cattle and services.
  2. Get More Bang for Your Buck!
    Dairy breeders are looking to get the biggest bang for their buck.  When they decide to buy dairy genetics they are looking for cost savings or added value benefits. They seek to buy animals that will move them closer to achieving the goals they have set for their herd. Breeders must have “buy in” before they “shell out”. They want to be sure that the genetics, the production numbers or the conformation are going to move them ahead before they tap their resources.
  3. Go Where the Action Is
    Social media, social networking and the dominance of the internet in our everyday lives means you are now fighting for attention in a very “noisy” marketplace. If you choose to avoid the very visible interaction of social media, you are choosing to be invisible to the most dynamic and growing part of the modern dairy industry.  At the very least, not choosing social media, means not impacting the young breeders which are the future of the industry.
  4. Have Something to Say
    It isn’t enough to be seen … you must also be heard! In order to be heard, your content needs to be creative, dynamic and engaging. Okay doesn’t cut it.  You might as well surrender now if you have decided to simply move your same-as-everybody-else pictures from hard copy ads in breed magazines to social media sites.  Others will put in the time and resources it takes to create great content which will be shared and gain new life across the web. We are seeing live videos and you tube clips giving streaming pictures. Anything less will soon become another murmur that gets drowned out by the voices that are bold enough to stand out.
  5. Sharing is Caring
    It may sound childlike but sharing really is caring in our social savvy, hyper-connected marketplace. Word of mouth has always been important in how you and your cattle are known but today through social media that word is spreading to your friends, and their friends, family and social connections. Today, followers share your content on Face book, tweet their positive, and yes, negative experiences on Twitter and refer you through reviews on Yelp and Amazon.  They will send instant photos of your cows, heifers and calves and share your fan page and blog posts with their networks, which can have a reach of thousands.  It`s important to make your content easily sharable.  There are many tools that can help, but the key is to ensure that sharing is easy for them.
  6. The Social Media Farm lane is a TWO-WAY Street
    To miss out on testimonials and word of mouth that social sharing provides is a sure-fire strategy to sink into dairy obscurity.  Your most successful competitors are facilitating social sharing, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  The Internet doesn`t sleep.  Take advantage of your audience`s interests in sharing what’s happening in your herd with their networks.
  7. Go Mobile
    You have to meet your dairy customers where they are with messages that are relevant to them.  It`s not enough to blanket traditional marketing channels with generic messages.  Today`s cattle buyers spend less time reading ads in magazines and newspapers. Traditional advertising is getting bypassed. Even when your target audience is watching their favorite shows today, they are using their DVR to bypass the commercials or using the commercial breaks to browse the Internet or flip through their iPads.  To grab their attention you have to meet them where they are.  On their mobile devices.  If your website is not optimized for mobile, you are doing your web marketing a severe disservice.  If you are not spending time on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, then your potential customers, who are getting their fill of social interaction on these sites, all day long, are finding other dairy genetics providers to interact with.
  8. Are You Listening to Me?
    And if you`re failing to listen as much as you are taking on these social sites, then you are ignoring an opportunity to mine valuable research on what your target consumers are interested in, what motivates them, and what they are looking for.  Track your analytics and listen to what people are saying about you, and to you, on your social sites.  You can`t gather information that is more relevant and useful than customer feedback freely provided online.

One of the quickest ways to gain the attention of buyers of dairy genetics is to listen to them. Consumers want to be heard. It’s no longer enough to push out your message, no matter how well-crafted and attention getting your message may be. Today’s marketing has to be a two-way conversation between you and the buyer. Engagement is the best way to make an impact. Increase awareness of who you are and what you’re offering and you win the loyalty of those you are targeting.  Dairy breeders are passionate. Social sites are essential in creating that bond and ultimately the trust that is built on your care and shared interest in them, their dairy business and their feedback.

THE BULLVINE BOTTOM LINE “Are you still marketing to last decade’s customer?”

To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



Investing in Dairy Cattle Genetics – Think Outside the Box

The Bullvine has produced many articles on investing in genetics using genomic information including our early article 6 Ways to invest $50,000 in Dairy Cattle Genetics. Other Bullvine articles included Craswell Common Sense – Go For the Total Package, Mapel Wood Farms – Invest in the Best Forget the Rest,  The Judge’s Choice – Investment Advice from Tim Abbott, and the Bullvine’s frequent articles on top picks in upcoming sales (Read more: Dairy Cattle Investment Advice). All these articles deal with finding and investing in the very top genetic animals.  Today these investments are usually virgin heifers. Specifically, they are the ones that everyone sees in the press, in on-line sales catalogues or on Facebook. These young females usually sell for over $20,000 to $25,000. But what does a beginning breeder do? With limited capital what options are there if you want to kick-start the genetic level of his herd or start a new cow families? You need to think outside the box.

Invest Your Time

The term ‘sweat equity’ is often used when a person takes on a project themselves rather than hiring an outside expert.  Well the sweat equity when it comes to buying top genetics is the time that you will need to invest in researching and finding animals. This is not meant to say that your time is worth little. What it does mean is that breeders, taking this approach, will need to search, search, search,…study, study, study,… and above all exercise patience until they find the right one(s).

At every sale there will be some good buys. It just takes time to do your homework to know which ones are good and which ones you will regret.

The Concept

A concept that bottom line focused beginning breeder might consider is to buy a top heifer for $6,000 or less. Flush the heifer and put embryos in your low genetic merit animals. The heifer will need to have a Net Merit of $775, a gTPI™ of 2400 or a DVG LPI of +3200.

Some folks may ask why invest in a heifer and not in embryos. Well it comes down to economics. Embryos from top cows sell for $1500 to $2000. It takes five unsexed embryos to get a live heifer. Then you must factor in that perhaps only one in four heifers will have high enough genomic numbers to be near the top and you can have $30,000 invested in getting a top daughter. It is more cost effective to buy a heifer about which you already know the genomic numbers.

So the challenge or opportunity, depending on how you look at it, is to find and buy a heifer that does not top the charts but is close to the top and that will give you progeny whose genomic indexes exceed, by a considerable amount, their parent average and that is  also an animal that does not cost an arm and a leg to buy.

Know Your Focus

As most breeders do not attend or participate in showing, the focus for breeders early in their careers will be cow families, high lifetime yields, fertility and ability to stay in the herd and not be culled. In the future that check list is likely to include feed and labor efficiency. Above all when you’re starting out establish your focus. It will change over time but searching for show genetics one week, protein yield the next week and then before the month is out five other traits is not likely to get you to where you need to be. This is especially true if you are working with only a couple of heifers at any given time. Unlike breeders with a larger program who can likely cover a number of breeding fronts at one time.

Don’t let the excitement of the sale get the better of you.  Keep your focus and know your criteria, your price may be different than someone elses, that’s ok.  You have to do what works for your plan.

Purchase Criteria

Breeding chart topping heifers and bulls can not be achieved by starting with animals that are only moderately above average (for example gTPI™ of 2000 to 2200 or gLPI of +2800 to +3000). You need to be starting with animals that are 95% Rank or higher at least for the major traits you are breeding for.  Starting any lower will mean that you are two to three generations away from having chart toppers. The Bullvine polled a number of people who have had success in topping the charts and they provided the following necessary ingredients for success:

  • Cow Families – success is much more likely if you purchase heifers from cow families that have high genomic values
  • Sire Stack – make sure the sires behind the heifer are high indexing and that the sires’ indexes compliment your objectives
  • Ability to Flush – you need to get 6+ embryos per flush and there are differences between families in how they flush (Read more: What Comes First The Chicken Or The Egg)
  • The Heifer will need to produce well, for milk fat and protein, and classify GP83 or higher in her first lactation. Eventually she will need to score VG.
  • The heifer’s genomic indexes (DGVs) will need to be within 200 for gTPI™ or 300 for gLPI of the very best heifers on the lists
  • A cow with many daughters with very high genomic indexes is a family you should be buying from
  • Likely the heifer you will be able to afford will be the third ranking full sister by a high genomic evaluated bull. It is how she will breed that will be important not that she’s third ranked.

What are the Facts

Knowing that the our readers like to see the actual facts, the Bullvine did an analysis on the top one hundred indexing heifers born and registered from January to June (inclusive) in 2013 in North America. The sources of the data for this study was CDN as it is the only source where breeders are not charged for look-ups. Here is what we found:

  • All but three of the top one hundred indexing heifers are sired by bulls with only a genomic index. Those three are sired by bulls on the top ten International gTPI™ list.
  • Females with a DGV LPI below +3200 can produce top daughters when mated to the best bulls available. The dams of the top one hundred heifers with DGV LPIs below +3200 broke out as follows: 2 have daughters in the top ten; 18 in the top fifty and 35 in the top one hundred.
  • As we would expect the top 20 heifers are a very superior group. i) All are from well known high indexing cow families. ii) All are over +3500 for their gLPI averaging + 3568; iii) Their DGV LPIs exceed their gLPIs by 338 on average.  iv) Seven are sired by Seagull-Bay Supersire, five by De-Su BKM McCutchen and eight by six other high genomic bulls. v)  These twenty heifers make the top of the list because they are exceptionally high for traits like fat yield, protein yield, herd life, SCS, daughter fertility and mammary system. vi) Worthy of note in the fact that only one  of the twenty does not have positive indexes for %F and %P.
  • One dam MISS OCD ROBST DELICIOUS-ET has seven daughters that make the top one hundred list. Her Butz-Butler Shotglass daughter tops the list at +3682 gLPI and her DGV LPI is a very high + 3909; that DVG LPI is 401 over the DVG LPI average of her parents. The Crocket-Acres Elita Family has three heifers in the top twenty.
  • One heifer, S-S-I Zeus Mae 9096-ET, stands out as far exceeding (by 640 LPI) her parents in DVG LPI. Her sire De-Su Robust Zeus 11009-ET (DVG LPI +3301) and dam S-S-I Observ Manteca 7197-ET (DGV LPI + 3020) are not list toppers in their own right but together they produced this #6 heifer.

The Short Story

It is possible to get top progeny (daughters and sons) from females that may not quite be at the top of the indexing lists, provided, you use complimentary mating (Read more: Let’s Talk Mating Strategies)  and the very best sires available on those females.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Innovative forward thinking breeders have been and will always be the people who move dairy cattle breeding ahead. They are not satisfied to only think within the box. They use the approach that work for them. That’s always the best alternative.


Not sure how much to spend on that great 2 year old or heifer?
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Does The Dairy Genetics Industry Have A Drug Problem?

Just like Alex Rodriguez and Major League Baseball, the dairy genetics industry has a drug problem.

You cannot go very far without reading something about the latest drug scandal involving a pro athlete.  This week it`s 13 major league baseball players headlined by Alex Rodriguez the league’s highest paid player.  Experts in sports doping believe that the problems in baseball — and cycling, track and field and other sports — remain widespread and that policing sports is proving to be nearly impossible.  With recent events at a few of the dairy cattle shows, has me asking whether the dairy industry also has a drug problem.

There are many similarities between the professional sports world and the dairy cattle show scene.  (Read more:  Is the Show Ring the Center of the Dairy World? and Dairy Cattle Showing: For Ego or Profit?) However, for me this is not just a show ring issue.  The problem of people wanting to test the limits and sometimes go over the line is not a new one to the dairy industry.  There have been breeders whose ethics have had a greater effect on the industry than that of those in the show ring.  (Read more:  Has Genomics Knocked out the Hot House Herds?  And The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling).  While a cow that wins  the show may catch the attention of many breeders, it’s the 2yr year old who is getting illegal drugs (such as rBST in Canada) to help inflate their production, or their pictures enhanced or udders juiced for picture day that causes a bigger issue for the industry (Read more: No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct).

Why do we test in the first place?

According to major league baseball, the point of the testing is to keep the sports-entertainment industry functioning, to maintain its loyal public and to stay in business.  For these very same reasons, wouldn`t it be a good idea to set up some form of rules around the use of performance enhancing drugs in the dairy industry?

Yes I am well aware that there is the use of ultrasounds at the Royal and World Dairy Expo.  However, they can only catch so much and it means that some exhibitors just switch to a different drug of choice.  For some that means the use of dextrose to get that cow alert and veins popping while she is in the show ring.  Though many have admitted that dextrose is not that effective, it still could be viewed as a performance-enhancing drug.  The big issue is that, whenever there is testing, there will always be those who are one-step ahead of the tests.

However, as I said earlier, the bigger issue is not with the show ring but rather with the fact that some of the genetic index stars are getting that extra edge on classification day, or on the day they are pictured or they are even getting the day-to-day production boost they need in order to get ahead of the rest.  These animals have absolutely no testing to prove whether they are simply living up to their genetic potential or why they are far exceeding it.

In talking with many average producers, and especially in talking with many commercial producers – both groups who represent the largest purchasers of semen, I have heard a consistent theme, about how they have lost trust in the seed stock industry, especially certain high index cattle.  They feel that generation after generation have shown that they are unable to cut it in the working day-to-day environments.

Do we really want to clean it up?

The dairy industry is guilty of ignoring the drug issue, just like the NFL. Just because you don’t have positive tests, does not mean there is not an issue.

Even with all the talk about what needs to change, there has been very little done over the years to actually bring about change.  It’s kind of like the way the NFL does not want to admit it has an issue with drugs.  Do you really believe a 300-pound lineman can run 40 yards in 4.4 seconds?  The National Football League generates millions and millions in revenue, clobbers everything in the television ratings and is a national obsession.  The NFL brags about its drug-testing program and, while they catch a few players from time to time, the inference is that the majority of the players are clean.  Yep, that’s probably true.  Those offensive linemen are bulking up to 335 pounds on good diet and weight lifting.  Sure they are.  Instead of dealing with the issue, they would rather look the other way.

The same is true in the dairy genetics marketplace.  Instead of addressing this issue, many in the industry would rather sweep it under the carpet and not discuss it.  Here at The Bullvine we have written many articles on marketing ethics (Read more:  Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist?  and Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle Genetics), and for the most part the A.I. companies, those who make the most money from these practices, have decided to bury their heads in the sand, not wanting to buck the system.  That is because they are the ones making the most money from this and yet not the ones actually committing the crime.  Similar to how the owners of the baseball, hockey, soccer, and football teams are trying to pin the issue of drugs in professional sports solely on the athletes.  If they really wanted to clean up the game, they could do so, since they are the ones controlling the most important part in this equation.  The money.

Are we doing enough?

One of the big knocks on sports like Hockey and Football is that you never hear about any players actually being caught for the use of illegal drugs.  The same is true for the show ring.  You never hear about a cow failing a test, as we recently did in the beef industry (Read more: Stampede steer champion disqualified after drug test).  While some would tell you that is because there are none, those in the ring and the barns know that is not the case.  At least the shows are doing something.  What are the photography and seed stock industries doing?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While certainly everyone loves to talk about what show cows are fixed and which ones are not, the bigger issue for me is that of the seed stock industry.  Yes genomics has helped eliminate some of the hothouse cattle but it certainly has not changed the way many of these top cattle are cared for (Read more: Preferential Treatment – The Bull Proof Killer) and how they are marketed.  So the answer to the drug question boils down to this. Until changes are made in these areas the dairy genetics industry will continue to have a problem!!!

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The Shocking Speed of Social Media and the Dairy Industry

There is no question that social media has changed our world.  From the ability to talk to people of like mind from anywhere in the world to the ability to learn the latest news instantly, the dairy industry has changed dramatically as a direct result of social media.(Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Every second 2,200 tweets are posted, 580 users update their Facebook status and 24 minutes of video are uploaded to YouTube.  The scary part is that adoption rates of new social networks are accelerating.  It took LinkedIn 3.5 years to reach 10 million users.  The same feat took Twitter just over 3 years, and Facebook 2.5 years.  Most recently Google+ did it in just 2 weeks.  The reach of social networks is spreading faster than any infectious disease in the history of mankind.  From 2005 to2010, Facebook gained over 500 million users.  More than the entire world population at the time of the Black Death. (Read more: How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World)

Shocked and Amazed in the Show Ring at Summer Show

This past week’s events highlighted for me just how astonishingly fast social media is.  First, while attending the Ontario Summer Show, the power of the Internet and social media certainly flexed its muscle (Read more: Ontario Summer Show 2013 Holstein Results).  Coming into the show, I would have told you that Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2yr, the Res. All-Canadian Sr. 2yr old from 2012 and 1st Senior 3 & Intermediate and Reserve Grand Champion Ontario Spring Show 2013 would be able to stroll her way to an easy win.  Then entered Raivue Sanchez Pamela and Desnette Alexia Roseplex and you could hear the excitement in the crowd rise to another level.  Roseplex, a cow that probably has one of the greatest side profiles I have ever seen, has been developing well since winning Intermediate Champion at the 2013 Quebec Spring Show and has gained more chest width and rear udder width to go with that amazing profile.  Then there is Pamela that on any other day, against any other competition might have been the talk of the town.  Instantly, I was getting messages from breeders around the world saying how amazing that class was and speculating about who would win.  The shared pictures from all three cows were extremely popular.  But once you saw these three amazing cows in line, you realized that Rae Lynn was simply that much longer and dairier than these other two also outstanding cows.


Valleyville Rae Lynn VG-89-2YR
First Senior 3 year old, Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand Champion
Owned by Quality, Granja Ponderosa, Al-Be-Ro Land & Cattle, ON and Spain

Almost instantly the questions switched to asking when we will see Rae Lynn against the likes of Butz-Butler Gold Barbara VG-89-2yr and Eastriver Gold Deb 850 EX-92 EX-92 MS?  The challenge is that since Rae Lynn has been milking since last October and is not due again until March 2014, we may not see her again until the Royal, passing on the long trip to World Dairy Expo.  Let’s hope that we may see her at Madison to give us the greatest Senior 3 year old class in history.

Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show - Calbrett Goldwyn Layla (Goldwyn), Mature Cow, For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.  Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95
1st Mature Cow and Grand Champion Ontario Summer Show
For then owners: Cormdale, Genervations, Kruger, Al-Be-Ro land and cattle.
Now owned by Comestar Holsteins and Ponderosa farms of Spain.

Having said that, none of this chatter could compare to what was to follow around Calbrett Goldwyn Layla EX-95.  Normally, when it’s time for the mature cow class, it comes down to which cow has had held up to the wear and tear.  However, this year at Ontario Summer Show, things were a little different.  The winning mature cow was a 3rd calf 7 year old.  This became a subject that was very polarizing to breeders at ringside and especially online.  She was shown perfectly by the great showman David Dyment.  He always seems to know how to make a cow stand out.  There is no question that Layla catches your eye.  She is extremely dairy and strong and looked the part.  She did handily win the class.  The part that shocked many was when Judge Bruce Mode went on to name Goldwyn Layla Grand Champion of the show.  We are certainly fans of judges who take bold moves here at the Bullvine (Read more: Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage)

The reaction online was certainly mixed.  Almost instantly, there were comments being posted either in agreement or disagreement.  Questions starting coming in about just how good did she look and did she need extra help in order to make it to the ring?  It’s not unusual for these rumors to swirl around champions. And stories — true and false — begin to be shared. Today they’re shared instantly!! Call it marketing.  Call it borderline ethical.  The concern is there, especially for young breeders who are looking to get into the marketing of elite cattle genetics.  If the concerns are true, what message does this send to them?  Here we may have a cow being rewarded for all the wrong reasons.  Will she contend at Madison or the Royal?  Will she even be there?  Moreover, how is she beating a cow that has the potential to become one of the greatest of all time?

Changing the Conversation

Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the conversation to change to a more positive note.  This year’s International Intrigue Sale hosted by Ferme Blondin was certainly a positive for the industry.  (Read more: International Intrigue: Forget the Records It’s About the People and International Intrigue at Ferme Blondin Sale Results 2013).  While the sale didn’t have some big name World Dairy Expo Grand or Intermediate Champion contender, it certainly did have a strong line up with many outstanding individuals.  Extremely popular online was Jacobs Sid Bamba, a Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96 who sold for $50,000 and Ms C-Haven Oman Kool-ET (VG-87-2YR), the former number one gTPI “Man-O-Man” daughter in the U.S. and second highest protein cow at +80, who sold for $92,000.

Jacobs Sid Bamba

Jacobs Sid Bamba
A Sid from World Dairy Expo contender Jacobs Goldwyn Britany EX-96
Sold for $50,000 at the International Intrigue Sale

While Layla selling to Comestar and Ponderosa for $125,000 at the Cormdale Summer Sale on Monday (Read more: Cormdale Summer Sale Results) re-ignited the conversation, I thought we would have a quieter time for the rest of the week.  However, that certainly was not the case.  Normally it’s my personal opinion editorial pieces that get us here at The Bullvine in trouble.  This time it was our interview with Don Bennink (Read more: North Florida Holsteins: Aggressive, Progressive and Profitable!!)  that took the conversation in a different direction and to completely new levels.  This time is wasn’t just the small segment of the marketplace that follow the shows, but rather it was the dairy community at large who felt the need to let their opinions be known.  There is no question that Don’s opinions about type classification, type evaluations and how they predict longevity have fueled this    polarizing subject.  .  As a strong supporter of type classification, it has caused mixed thoughts in my own head (Read more: The Truth About Type and Longevity) and has generated some amazing conversation on Facebook.

Just When You Think It’s All Over

Just when I think that it’s all over, and that we can now settle down to a holiday long weekend with the family, a completely new fire erupts.  One of our news items from the weekend about how the Whitaker family of Georgia had the unfortunate occurrence of having one of their trusted employees  suspected of illegal activities leading to 40+ cop cars, and SWAT personnel in cooperation with the family descending on the farm.  This led to the finding of several guns, marijuana and methamphetamines, which investigators estimated could be worth $50,000.  While this is certainly unfortunate for a great family who are strong members of the dairy community, the reaction to the news article we collated “FBI Storms Whitaker Farm For Drug Bust”, certainly caused a commotion on Facebook with a few breeders who felt the title did a disservice to this family.  Yet another example of the power and speed of social media.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion.  Dairy farmers have never been short on having them.  The difference is that, through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, breeders can now share their opinion with thousands instantly instead only with a few local breeders.  You no longer have to call several breeders to find out what happened at the show or sale.  You don’t even have to wait for it to be printed in one of the old school magazines.  Things are happening in real time and the news is now coming to you, instead of you having to go and find it.  One of the biggest changes we have noticed since starting the Bullvine is how many breeders no longer go to the news sections of the dairy publications anymore.  They now watch their Facebook news feed and if there is an article or news item of interest that has been shared by a fellow breeder or company they follow, they go ahead and read it.  No longer do they have to surf through many sites just to find the few tidbits they would be interested in.  Now they can get it all in their Facebook news stream complete with the ability to share their opinion with their friends and fellow breeders.  It is truly shocking the speed of Social Media and how it has affected the dairy industry.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

In the End, All you have is your Name!

The dairy industry is not a large one.  It’s also an industry that loves gossip, controversy, and the latest rumor.  So when you do something stupid it does not take long for word to get around.  And that was before there was social media.  That is why I find it so surprising   that some breeders don’t realize that the dairy industry is a pretty small pond and that the ripples reach from edge to edge.

I have had the pleasure of knowing many different characters in the industry.  Some of them carried  a reputation that was much larger than life yet,  when you got to know them, they were actually pretty good people.  Then there are others who would tell you to your face how good they are or how “honest” they are and then turn and stab you in the back the second you weren`t  looking.  The challenge is that sometimes it’s hard to tell which one is which.

Whether it’s someone who loves to party hard and be the life and soul of the party, or how you conduct yourself in business, the number one thing you have is your name.   Once tarnished,  it  takes years to rebuild.   In the dairy industry there really is no difference between your personal and professional brand.  Many young people try to think that they can do crazy things and it will not affect them later in life.  The thing is, the industry is too small for that.  There are many very talented young people that  have  kissed away potentially great careers in the dairy industry by the stupid things they did in college or university.  There are also those that  have   taken years to regain the trust of others.

Social media has taken word of mouth and put it on steroids.  What used to take weeks or even months to spread through the dairy industry, now takes just minutes online.  There is a new reality in the dairy industry.  It’s no longer what you say and do to manage your brand or good name that matters.  It’s what others are saying about you online.  From our smartphones to our tablets and computers, to interacting with family, friends, colleagues and customers, our lives – and thus our reputations – exist online.

It may sound funny but it’s true.  Since starting the Bullvine I have seen it many times.  Breeders getting ripped apart by other members of the community on Facebook and other places and they don’t even realize that it’s happening.  But thanks to things like Facebook news feeds and Twitter streams, thousands of other members of the dairy industry do see it.  It may be as simple as someone being very critical of a cow or bull. Other times it can be a blatant attack on someone’s character.  However, since the victims  are not on these different social media platforms, they are not there to defend themselves.  Moreover, others that are reading these comments assume they`re the truth.

Another area where I have seen an extreme effect is dairy cattle livestock photography.  No group as a whole has been more ripped apart in social media.  While many of them have avoided Facebook as much as possible, it has not stopped breeders from expressing their opinions.  It was the barrage on photographers that led us to develop the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct, in order to help rebuild their reputations.(Read more: Introducing the Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Marketing Code of Conduct)

Now we have all been there, where someone misrepresented what they were selling or we felt that we got the raw deal in a purchase agreement.  There have been some very legendary breeders that have been able to keep things like this under wraps.  But in today’s social world, things like this can go from known by one or two people to known by thousands in a moment’s notice.  That is why in today’s industry you have to conduct yourself above board 100% of the time.  Otherwise all it takes is a few comments on places like Facebook, before the whole world knows your true character.

Every day more and more breeders are getting on Facebook.  Breeders of all ages are enjoying the many benefits of connecting with breeders from around the world.  If you want to market your cattle to the world, there is no greater more cost effective platform than Facebook.  It’s no longer optional. It’s mandatory.  But that is just the first step. You also need to become an active member of the conversation.  Not just promoting only what you want to sell, (which kills your reputation), but also joining the conversation and developing friendships and a strong online reputation. It’s funny how some breeder’s true colors  come out online.  The ones that care about building community and helping others find that their posts get promoted like wildfire.  While others, who are just in it to suck money out of others, find that they get very little response to their posts. Inevitably,  t building a credible reputation online and forming real and lasting relationships with people, pays off in substantial ways, when you find yourself the center of negative online attention.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the dairy industry many breeders talk a lot about their name and their reputation.  The thing is sometimes they don’t understand the difference between how they perceive themselves and how others perceive them.  It’s not what you say that builds your reputation. It’s what you do. The key thing is to understand that when you make good decisions and stand behind what you say, especially when it’s difficult, your name, who you are, and what you stand for becomes something everyone can trust.  Because, when we leave this earth, your good name is all you really have.


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Tarred With the Same Brush

Recently I had a conversation with a dairy cattle photographer that got me thinking about the state of dairy cattle marketing and the effect it has on the marketplace.  For regular readers of The Bullvine our very publicly expressed positions on photo ethics and dairy cattle photography are very clear. (Read more: No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist?) The points made by this photographer encouraged me to think further about our approach.  “Have we tarred all photographers with the same brush?”

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO

There is no question that many good photographers have been tarred with the same brush as those who have a lower level of ethics.  One of the effects that has happened from this is that many breeders no longer trust the images they see.  Hence why we introduced the Dairy Cattle Marketer’s Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography Overexposed)

This photographer I was speaking with pointed out to me that, since we have “brought this to light”, they cannot even set  foot on a farm without hearing some sort of negative comment toward photographers or  off-handed jabs about Photoshop.  The sad part is that was not my intent at all.  Certainly not for this photographer and the team she works with, as I have the utmost respect for them.

Contrary to public perception, there are photographers that do amazing work and do so ethically.  There is no question that photography is an art form.  Sure there is a science to it, but it is also a finely honed craft.  Especially dairy cattle livestock photography.  I dare anyone to just pick up the camera walk into the barn and expect that they can nail a great shot.  Getting the composition correct isn’t easy.  That one aspect really differentiates the talented ones from the average ones.

Another aspect that I have seen that really makes a difference between those photographers whose work I trust and those that I have some reservations about is their use of light.  Lighting is probably the most important aspect that I think many photographers have gotten lazy about since the introduction of Photoshop.  There are some that would rather edit or adjust during postproduction rather than take the time to get the shot correct in the first place.  With the introduction of digital photography, many photographers are now just taking the pictures of the animals in the barn and then cropping them out, adjusting them and putting them on a new background.  That is why I love to see videos such as this one below from Cybil Fisher and how they make sure they get the lighting correct so that they don’t have to do so much post production adjusting.

While Cybil and her amazing team do adjust tails, toplines and backgrounds, that is all they do.  By my standards this is acceptable.  They do exceptional work.  Some of the greatest shots over the past few years have been done by these talented women.  One of the reasons they do nail the shot so often, is that they take the time to respect the craft.  They make sure they get the composition correct.  They take the time to make sure they get the lighting correct.  They do this before they snap the shot, not after.  While for some this may sound like a little thing, for me it is a big thing.  Sure it would be just as “easy” to edit afterwards.  But in fact it’s not.  If you don’t nail the shot both in composition and in lighting, there is no ethical postproduction that is acceptable when marketing dairy cattle genetics.  Sure it works for super models, but we are not purchasing the genetics from these super models we are purchasing the clothes they wear (FYI Did you know that Gisele Bundchen made $45 million last year?  Maybe we should purchase her genetics)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There is no doubt that we, as an industry, need to clean up our act and improve public perception.  We also need to make sure that we don’t tar all photographers with the same brush.  That is why I encourage those photographers who don’t want to be tarred with that brush to call us and let’s talk about the benefits of the Dairy Cattle Marketer’s Code of Conduct.

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

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What Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby taught me about Dairy Cattle Marketing

Not since Wayne Gretzky ripped Leaf fan’s hearts out in game 6 of the 1993 playoffs have they felt such pain as they did on Sunday night after having a 3 goal lead on Boston with just over 10 minutes to play.  (FYI I had to forgive Gretzky as I married his cousin and it would cause bad in-law relations).  Making Leaf fans more prime for pain was the fact that they have not been in the playoffs for the past 9 years.  After watching what had to be one of the worst collapses in hockey history, I got to thinking about what it took to be great.  What I came up with is that truly great players like Gretzky and Crosby don’t only make themselves look great but they also make the players around them that much better.  Just like great cattle investments don’t only make themselves profitable but also help the animals around them  more profitable.

Lessons from Sydney Crosby

sidney-crosby-alex-ovechkin-game-7[1]Due to the lockout of 2004-2005, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin both entered the NHL in the same year.  At the time there was great debate about who was going to be the better player.  Since then the stats would tell you that Ovechkin has been the better investment.  He has 371 goals, 365 assists for 735 points, whereas Crosby has had 238 goals, 427 assists for 665 points.  However, sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Even though Ovechkin has won more individual awards (Rookie of the Year, 2x NHL goal scoring leader, 2x most valuable player, vs. 1 MVP and 1 scoring title for Crosby),  ask any NHL player which one is better and they would tell you that Crosby is by far.  That is because Crosby not only puts up numbers himself but he also makes the players around him raise their level of play. For example, before playing on a line with Crosby, Chris Kunitz highest goal total was 26 in an 82 game season. This year, playing with Crosby he had 22 in the shortened 48 game season. That is an almost  50% increase.  This outstanding ability to inspire  others around him has resulted in Crosby having played more playoff games than Ovechkin and has already won a Stanley Cup in his career.

When I got to thinking about how the truly great ones not only make themselves look great they also make the others around them better, it reminded me of a comment that Jeff Butler of Butlerview made in an interview we did with him just before Royal last year (Read more: Exciting Times for Butlerview).   In the article Jeff say’s “type brings the foot traffic to the farm, but genomics and pedigree get them buying.” This further reminded me of  an article I had written early this year about the great RF Goldwyn Hailey and how she  herself may not be a great return on investment (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey: Cash Cow or Cash Hog?).  While there is no question that Hailey’s  own numbers alone are  not the highest ROI in the market today, if you look at it from a marketing investment she and other great show cows could be the wisest marketing investment you could ever make.  Now I am not talking buy these animals for the over 1 million dollar mark.  But as Jeff says nothing drives traffic to your door like a great show cow.  Something Jeff should know considering he owns 2 of the top 5 cult following cows in the world today (R-E-W Happy Go Lucky and Cookview Goldwyn Monique).



The big thing you need to remember and as Jeff pointed out in our article is that you need the supporting cast in your herd to help convert that traffic into revenue.  For Butlerview that means animals like Regancrest S Chassity, Regancrest G Brocade and De-Su 199 Chart Topper.  These high genomic animals from big name pedigrees are the ones that help Butlerview’s big investment in show cattle pay dividends.  Key to any of this is the fact that all animals need to be good embryo producers or you might as well kiss your money goodbye (Read more: What Comes First the Chicken or the Egg?).

Lessons from Wayne Gretzky

The great hockey player  to every play the game, Wayne Gretzky, always said don’t go to where the puck is but rather, see where the puck is going and go there.  As we highlighted in our article about the marketing of Glen Drummond Aero Flower and DES-Y-GEN PLANET SILK, you need to see or even predict where the marketing is heading and make sure your marketing and breeding goals are in alignment with that (Read more: Marketing Lessons From Glen Drummond Aero Flower).  As the dairy industry develops, efficient milk production that fills the consumers’ needs will gain greater importance. National indexes are always being adjusted to reflect the marketplace.  In Canada it will not be long before greater weighting will be placed on health and fertility traits, this means you should already be breeding for this today so that your ahead of the curve when these changes occur.  Remember that it’s not only about how much milk, or how many show winning daughters a sire produces, but it’s also important to breed to a bottom line that is consumer friendly. It’s only a matter of time before the national indexes reflect this even more.


David Dyment has kept Planet Silk ahead of the curve by combining both high index, Red Factor and polled in one complete package. Her sons and daughters dominate the top of the Red and the RC list (GTPI). Her son DYMENTHOLM S SYMPATICO is one of the highest GTPI and GLPI active bulls in the breed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Headliners will get you attention, but their ability to make the others around you shine as well will be what makes you the money.  Sidney Crosby is a great player, but it’s the ability to lift up the others around him better that  wins the Stanley Cup.  The same was true for Wayne Gretzky.  It wasn’t just his own ability to dominate a game that created the opportunity for Gretzky to appear in 6 Stanley Cup finals, winning four of them.  It was his ability to see the play developing and make his team around him shine too that did it.  Until players like Ovechkin learn this key lesson he will never win a cup.  The same is true when you are designing your genetic marketing program.  Until you learn just how you are going to use your headliners to maximize the other genetic stars in your herd and look 3+ years down road and see where the market is heading, you are never going to generate  as much return on your investment as you could.



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Dairy Cattle Sales in a Digital World

With the introduction of the Internet and social media, the dairy cattle auction business has gone through a tremendous change.  In the beginning there was dairy cattle marketing 2.0 where dairy breeders could use the power of social media to promote their cattle. More recently there has evolved dairy cattle auctions 3.0.  This is where dairy cattle breeders are able to harness the triple powers of internet marketing and social media and websites like Holstein Universe, Holstein Plaza, and Eurogenes to actually sell their genetics to the world.

IMG_3364_edited-1In our recent analysis of what is selling at the Canadian Auction sales of 2013, we found that high genomic animals, (animals that are over 3,000 LPI) outsold all other animals by a whopping 61%.  (Read more at An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  This change in market demand has coincided with changes in how these sales can now be run.  A great example of this is the recent Genomic Giants Sale series held in Quebec (Read more: The 2013 Genomic Giant Sale Was a Giant Success!) and the Planet Holstein Sale at the 2012 World Dairy Expo (Read more: The Plant Explodes at World Dairy Expo – 2013 Planet Holstein Sale Recap).  Both of these sales had outstanding sale averages ($33,775 and $40,853 respectively) and yet none of the animals were actually present at the sale.  The reason this startling change works is that breeders’ buying decisions are backed by confidence in genomics and in the favorable buyer satisfaction guaranteed terms.  Breeders are investing in these animals with confidence.

The next evolution of these sales is about to happen as they are taken fully online.  There have certainly been many breeders who have taken advantage of social media (Read more: The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook) and there is no question about how it helps promote your sales consignments (Read more: Nothing Sells Like Video).  However these are all tools that facilitate the sale but do not actually result in the sale.  That is where sites such as Holstein Universe, Holstein Plaza, and Eurogenes  can help.  (Read more: EUROGENES: You Love It.  They List It! and Tag Sales: What are they? What makes them successful? and What does the future hold?) Breeders from around the world are looking to actually purchase genetics.  While sites like Facebook are great for getting the message out there, you also need a platform to list all your genetics.  Enter Holstein Universe, Holstein Plaza and Eurogenes.  Holstein Universe is like an online tag sale.  Tag sales have caught on like wildfire in North America and Holstein Universe is the digital version of a tag sale.  Holstein Plaza and Eurogenes are a combination of donor listing services, live auctions and news and events.  Breeders are looking to not only market their genetics to the world, but also to join the community and list actual genetics for sale.  These three sites offer all these aspects.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For years the knock on the internet and social media has been,”Yeah that’s great but how do I actually make money?  How do I actually sell something?  Instead of just using the internet and social media as a large megaphone, how do I use it as a sales tool?”  That is where online auction sites and dairy community sites have greatly changed the game.  No longer is it just a tool to get the latest news about your genetics out to the world but you can actually sell to the world.” Cha-ching!!



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Who’s to Blame? Why is there a lack of accountability in the Dairy Genetics Marketplace

Accountability, Wikipedia tells you that accountability is the answerability, blameworthiness, liability, acknowledgment and assumption for the resulting consequences.  Yet in the dairy genetics marketplace it seems to be a word that is seldom used, although very much required.

Dairy cattle genetics is big business.  Millions of dollars change hands every year, yet the level of accountability, in some cases, appears to be non-existent.  Once the genetics are sold who has the liability for the resulting animals?  Why are the breeders or sellers not responsible for the performance of the resulting animals?  Genomics and other tools have given us greater “confidence” in the reliability of the genetics we are investing in, so why aren`t the sellers of these genetics more responsible for the results?

Genetic Mutations

Recently there have been a couple of situations that have raised my concerns about responsibility.  The first occurred in New Zealand, about a year ago.  More than 1500 animals descended from Matrix a commercial Holstein-Friesian bull carry a genetic mutation that produces hairy, heat-intolerant, poorly lactating heifers.  The breeders affected by this problem feel the semen company did not deal openly with the problem and are being less than “cooperative” in seeking a solution for their affected members.  (Read More: New Zealand Dairy Farmers Seek Compensation For Hairy Calves).  Now this case is a very challenging one as Matrix is actually a result of a genetic mutation that occurred naturally and happens regardless of the breeding method used.  Genetic defects such as BLAD, CVM, Brachspia, Factor XI, DUMPS, CIT, and Mule Foot are all tested for and screened by the A.I. companies and as a result see very limited occurrence.  “Hairy calves” such as these ones resulting from Matrix have not been tested for and as a result it is surprising that there has been such a case.  So while it is genetically explainable and no one could have predicted this, the reaction of the company that sold and marketed Matrix, Livestock Improvement (LIC) is a concern.  They are refusing to pay any compensation as “most farmers recognize that these rare mutations are naturally occurring and simply a fact of life.” Having said that, for the future, the LIC is no longer selling Matrix semen and offers free genetic testing to identify calves with the mutation.  The question of legal and financial responsibility appears to be one that will take some time to answer in this case.


Through multiple, independent genetic tests, it has been confirmed that 7HO11781 Pine-Tree Colt SHINE-P-ET does not transmit the polled gene as previously believed.

Now not all mutations are a bad thing.  There was a time when Red & White calves where disposed of.  Today this is a “mutation” that many breeders desire.  Another mutation that is heavily sought after is polled (Read more: Polled Genetics – Way of the future or passing fad? and  They’re Sold On Polled).  In this case, the resulting polled heifers sell up to   250% higher than non-polled animals of equal genetic merit (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  However this highlights another story that caught my eye.  Recently Select Sires announced  that  Pine-Tree Colt SHINE-P-ET does not transmit the polled gene as previously reported  (Read More: Shine P Conflicting DNA Results for Polled Gene).  This touched off some very interesting reactions from breeders. The polled trait in dairy cattle can only be genetic tested with haplotype marker testing, which does allow for rare errors to be made.  This is quite different than actual gene testing that is available for genetic recessives like CVM or BLAD. Having said that, how did this sire make it to market without being more thoroughly screened?  The fact that once Shine-P’s non-polled status was discovered he was removed from their “Super Sire ™ lineup and no longer marketed”.  This indicates that his main genetic merit was the fact that he was a polled sire. Though I do commend Select for taking instant action and putting out a press release.  Not wanting to sweep it under the carpet they handled this well.  In such cases in the past other studs have not disclosed this information or claimed it was a case of mistaken ear tags.  Is there a test for stupidity?

Are Dairy Cattle Genetics Companies Made of Teflon?

Now both of these stories highlight some very rare occurrences, which in their own right would not have me thinking that the companies who sell dairy cattle genetics are not willing to take responsibility for the product they sell.  However they got me thinking about other issues, such as – inability to conceive, short herd life, deep udders, bad feet, poor production.  If a sire or animal is marketed to be high in these traits and the resulting animal proves to be well below expectations, exactly who is to blame?

Currently the only recourse is in not purchasing genetics from that company again.  This is an action many breeders are slow to take, as they seem to bleed the colors of their desired A.I. company.  After all, it’s hard to believe that the AI company they’re loyal to is unconcerned about unfulfilled claims.  However, should that be the case?  So should breeders suffer?

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO
Program members can use this logo to show that they uphold to the standards of this program.

Marketing Accountability

Another example of this is when it comes to dairy cattle marketing.  The false representation of animals has been a hot question among many breeders and has inspired us here at the Bullvine to start the Dairy Marketers’ Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed).  The lack of accountability for the resulting genetic product is one of the biggest differences between photo retouching of super models versus dairy cattle.  You are not purchasing the super model’s genetics you are purchasing the clothes, perfume, etc. that she is wearing.  Even though you are purchasing the genetics of the animal in question, you never really know if the cow/heifer/bull actually looks like she/he does in their picture.  Hence the need for some symbol to ensure that the company marketing these genetics is willing to take responsibility for the outcome.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The genetic advancement of your herd is one of the greatest long-term investments breeders make.  If you invest thousands of dollars in something you should have a minimum level of expectation for performance?  There are no guarantees in life. Having said that, what happens when expected performance and actual performance are not even in the same stratosphere?  What if it was your tractor? Your milking equipment?  That’s right.  People justifiably get mad….. in most cases.  So why is this not the case when you invest in dairy cattle genetics?

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

If you believe that there is a need for more accountability in marketing dairy cattle genetics please like and share this post.

Are You Breeding Purple Cows?

Face it, the tactics that have been used for the past 50 years don’t work anymore.  The same old ads. In the same old magazine.  Advertising the same old genetics. After you’ve seen one, or two, or 10, you’ve seen them all!  Boring!  However, a Purple Cow?  Now that would be something.  Are you remarkable enough to have a Purple Cow?  In today’s day and age of in vitro fertilization, genomics and social media, you’re either remarkable or invisible.

bigpc[1]Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable is perfectly titled for dairy breeders today.  Godin’s understanding of dairy cattle is limited as represented by his comment “Cows, after you’ve seen one, or two, or 10, are boring,” but his point about needing to be remarkable, in order to stand out from the herd, is spot on.

Every day breeders come face to face with a lot of boring stuff – even a lot of the same old boring cows – but you can bet they would never forget a Purple Cow.  Now getting a Purple Cow marketing idea doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s not as if you can just wake up one morning and change your marketing to have your “Purple Cow” idea.  You need to breed for it.  You need to manage for it.  And then and only then can you market it.

The Game Changers

For years, generation after generation of consistent breeding was enough to have your genetics in demand around the world.  However, that is no longer enough thanks to in vitro fertilization (Read more: IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry and FAST TRACK GENETICS: More Results in Less Time).  With so many breeders leveraging this technology and producing more and more cattle at the top end of the genetic scale, there has been a shift in the marketplace.  What used to be unique is becoming commonplace. In this recent spring sale season, I saw no less than three full sisters (Uno’s from the great Apple) selling at three different sales in a 1-week period.  And then of course there were still more sisters at home.  IVF has changed things so much that even at the very top end, owners of the very best genetics are having trouble differentiating their product.  Genetics that at one time would have been sale headliners, are now selling in those lull sections of the sale that minimize profits.  Combine that with the cost to produce these animals and the ROI is shrinking.  Of course IVF is a catch 22 technology.  If you don’t use it and other breeders are using it on their top genetics, you’re still left behind.

In one sense you could say Genomics has brought harmony to the world (Read more: The impact of genomics on cattle breeding and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry).  No longer are cattle from different countries viewed as inferior or of lesser genetic merit.  Genomic testing has brought uniformity to the world market.  But as a result it has also brought globalization to the industry and breeders can no longer differentiate their genetics by country of origin.  This means that instead of the top 1% of the genetics in the world being in high demand, it is now the top 0.1% (Read more: An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions).  Either you are at the very top of the lists or you had better find a new niche or way to differentiate your genetics (Read more: Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).

AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA a very popular purple cow

AMMON-PEACHY SHAUNA a very popular purple cow

If you want to get your message out to the world, there is nothing better than social media.  The power of tools like Facebook to let breeders around the world know what animals you have is amazing (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook and The Anti-Social Farmer: On the Verge of Extinction?).  The thing is, it still takes those animals that are the “Purple Cows” in order to be noticed.  Hailey, O’Kalibra, Missy, Happy Go Lucky and Rae Lynn are cows whose show ring successes have also caused social media success for their breeders.  On the genomic side, cows like Shauna, Lucia, and Hue have attracted a lot of attention.  Another aspect that helps pictures on Facebook go viral is the ones that comply with the Dairy Marketers Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing the Diary Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography – Over Exposed ). However, in order to achieve this sustained viral status you first need to be unique. You need to know your niche.  You need to be a “Purple Cow.”

Valleyville Rae Lynn is certainly a Purple Cow

Valleyville Rae Lynn is certainly a Purple Cow

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In Purple Cow, Seth Godin urges you to put Purple Cow differentiation into everything you build and everything you do, to create something truly noticeable.  It’s a manifesto for dairy breeders looking to take their genetics programs to a new level.  Pretty ads, generations of VG or EX and nice cattle pictures will not pay the bills. Either you set yourself apart or you are wasting your time.  What makes you unique?  Have you found your Purple Cow breeding program or marketing idea?



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Who is going to the show? Why attendance is down at the dairy cattle shows

Over the past month I have been to 5 cattle auctions and 7 cattle shows in 4 different states or provinces. To say that I spent some time on the road driving from one event to the next is an understatement. And, while all of these events were amazing in their own unique way, there was one consistent thing that surprised me. Less and less people are attending these events.

RF Goldwyn Hailey - Grand Champion NY Spring Show

RF Goldwyn Hailey – Grand Champion NY Spring Show

Now normally this would cause one to think that dairy cattle showing is dying, but in reality I actually think that the exact opposite is true. Consider this. The quality of cattle at these shows has been the best I have ever seen. I have had the opportunity to see the great RF Goldwyn Hailey multiple times, and this last time at NY Spring Show I would say that she looked the best I had ever seen her (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey Rides to the Top Spot at NY Spring Carousel and New York Spring Holstein Show 2013 Results). Also in NY I saw one of the most competitive Sr. 2 year old classes ever, where the legend in the making R-E-W Happy Go Lucky was beaten for the first time in milking form. Though in all fairness she is in the later stage of her lactation and the others are peaking.



At the Ontario Spring Show, I saw what I think to be a future World Dairy Expo and Royal Winter Fair Grand Champion, Valleyville Rae Lynn, giving Hailey a run for her money, though as Hailey has shown this spring she is untouchable. (Read more: Ontario Spring Discovery – Nothing Slipped Past Judge “Crack” and Ontario Spring Discovery Results). And at Quebec Spring Show I get to visit with many of the most passionate breeders in the world today (Read more: Do We Speak the Same Language? and Quebec Spring Show Results).

Valleyville Rae Lynn

Valleyville Rae Lynn – Reserve Grand Ontario Spring Show

So what is it then? Why are less and less people attending the shows?

In discussing this with Randy Blodgett, newly appointed publisher of Holstein World and mastermind behind Holstein World Productions, the answer becomes pretty clear. They are all watching the coverage online.

Decrausaz Iron O'Kalibra  Class 9 winner, Sr & Grand Champion - 2013 All European Championship

Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra
Class 9 winner, Sr & Grand Champion – 2013 All European Championship

During the recent NY Spring Show, there were over 5,000 people watching on the live video stream. This reminded me of the video stream we shared of the EU Championship Show where there were so many people wanting to watch that we had up to 1,000 people waiting to get one of the coveted spots to watch the live stream on the Bullvine alone(Read more:The All European Championship Show: The Greatest SHOW on Earth and Decrausaz Iron O’Kalibra Wins Grand at the 2013 All European Championship). Interesting note about the EU Championship show. The show itself did such a great job of covering the show, we here at the Bullvine didn’t even have to attend the show and we had the largest viewership in the world, thanks to the power of digital and social media.

3X as many people watched the 2013 All European Championships on then all other publications combined.

And now we are talking about just those who are able to take the time to watch it live. If you add in those that watch the coverage on the various publications and Facebook you would easily be over 12,000 viewers. There are more publications than ever covering the shows. Gone are the days when you were lucky to get covered in your national breed publication and that’s it. In today’s digital dairy media world, you are likely to have 4 or 5 publications there taking pictures and sharing the results. Who knows maybe someday we will have coverage comparable to a professional sporting event? Imagine it, commentators during the cow show bring you all the play by play.

From the great camera angles combined with the very professional in ring cameras combined with the outstanding music and exceptional ring announcer the experience was riveting for all.

From the great camera angles combined with the very professional in ring cameras combined with the outstanding music and exceptional ring announcer the experience was riveting for all at the 2013 All European Championships.

But already even this is starting to change. We here are the Bullvine try to do even more. While we have not gotten into the live streaming of the shows, we have started to do more and more stories about what happens beyond the placings. We try to bring you the story behind the story, such as (Read more World Dairy Expo 2012 Holstein Show – A Battle for the Ages and The 2012 Royal Winter Fair Holstein Show – One of the greatest ever told!).

Brian and Rob Eby embrace

Brian and Rob Eby embrace after Ebyhomle Goldwyn Marcia is named Reserve Grand Champion at the 2012 RAWF

Watch out for those “Moovie” Stars

Actually, it’s almost scary how much some things have changed. Just write or share a picture of Hailey, O’Kalibra, Happy Go Lucky, or Rae Lynn and the piece goes viral. These cows have become “Moovie” Stars. They have their own cult following that would rival that of One Direction, Maroon 5 or Justin Bieber.

While I am sure that many dairy breeders are not “Beliebers”, they are very passionate about great cows and these four certainly are that. And yes I am sure that many of the showmen that show these animals do have egos as big as Justin’s is. Things have changed so much that the showmen of these cattle have gone from complaining about or at least ignoring the photographers in the ring, to a point where they make sure they have the animal set up correctly. They are all looking good and appreciate the exposure. So much so that in the past 2 weeks alone we have had over 20 requests by breeders for pictures from the show for use in ads and other marketing efforts. A “money shot” of their animal winning their class or better yet the show, brings coverage you just can’t buy and a boring side shot cannot compare with. (Read more No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct)

The Power of Social Media

Starting today in Wisconsin is the Mid-West Spring National. This is a show that I am sure will be great. But I will not be there. That’s because between, myself and my trusty traveling partner (my father and Bullvine writer), we need time to rest. Yes the time in the car is fine for discussing many of the great events or challenges facing the dairy industry and leads to some great articles (Read more: Where is the Balance in Balanced Breeding?)., we need time to get caught up on the other things in our lives.

We were stressing out that we needed to be there but just couldn’t do the 11hr drive back and forth and still get everything done that we need to do. So we are not going. The amazing part is, when I mentioned on Facebook about the show and asked what animals were there and who looked good, we got some super responses. The best of them were the people that said they would take some pictures for us and share with us all the “juicy” details about the stories behind the story. To our faithful readers who are doing this for us we send a BIG thank you. To those looking for results, we say “Don’t worry we’ve got you covered”.

Touch my heart

Now there is one event that I would love to be at. And yes it does happen today, and yes it is at a cattle show, but NO it is not happening in the show ring. Since starting the Bullvine we have had the opportunity to get to know many amazing people. One such case is Beverly Donavon, the passionate owner of the great Ayrshire show cow Sweet-Pepper Black Francesca. Their story has touched our hearts and made us huge fans of both (Read more: The Magic of Francesca).

Through the power of social media we have gotten to know Beverly and her husband Richard. Recently Richard mentioned to me that a great young artist, Emma Caldwell, had painted an amazing picture of “Frannie” and that he would be attending the Ayrshire Spring Show in Quebec today with Beverly to meet the artist and pick up the picture (Read more Emma Caldwell’s Art Stirs Mind and Heart!). Now you see Richard may come sometimes come across as a sarcastic wrangler but when you get to know him, you can’t help but like him. This special event that he has arranged, and that Beverly knows nothing about, is just another reason why. When Frannie passed this past winter, Beverly was understandably devastated and Richard has done everything he could think of to help her through this tough time. This picture is just one of the many things he has done to help her through it. Emma Caldwell has graciously agreed to auction of her latest painting “Hailey” with a portion of the proceeds to go towards a charity (click here to learn more).

Emma Caldwell's painting of the great "Frannie"

Emma Caldwell’s painting of the great “Frannie”

So my interest in being there has nothing to do with the show, which I am sure will be great. It has nothing to do with covering this story, which I am sure will be a tearjerker. But rather, it has EVERYTHING to do with the power of the human spirit. Three amazing people will get to meet, share a few tears (Bev most certainly), and celebrate an amazing cow and a very thoughtful gesture by all in involved. There will not be a big presentation in the center of the ring. There will not be any announcement over the public address system. If you see Bev with tears in her eyes over her trademark heartwarming love for one of her favorites , be sure to give her a big hug and say, “Way to go, we all loved Frannie and she was one of the best ever.”

So this is where I will be this weekend.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While we here at the Bullvine will not be able to attend as many shows as we would like, I think that is also the case for many passionate dairy breeders. However thanks to the power of social media and the enhanced coverage many of the trade publications are providing, you can rest assured that you will be able to get the full story. To those who pioneered this, such as Randy Blodgett over 16 years ago, when he first did digital real time coverage at Expo, “Way to go Randy”. To those that have stepped up to help bring us the story behind the story at Mid-West Spring National, we say “Thanks”. Yes show attendance is down, but there is no question that the show passion lives on.


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No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures

top13of2013The other day I read a comment that basically asked, “If steroids are illegal for athletes then shouldn’t Photoshop be illegal for models?”  This got me thinking about the implications for dairy cattle marketing as well.  As the Bullvine approaches the one-year mark, it reminds me of one of our initial articles, Has Photo Enhancement gone too far?  In that article we first addressed this taboo subject questioning how programs like Adobe Photoshop lets designers create anything the client wants.  Our goal in publishing that article was to spur change (Read more: Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright).  Similar to the way that Jose Canseco’s book “Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits, and How Baseball Got Big” exposed steroid use in Baseball, we wanted to spur change in the dairy cattle photography industry (Read more: The Big Bad Wolf of the Dairy Industry). The reality is that no cow is perfect, not even in pictures (Read more: The Perfect Holstein Cow).

The Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow

The Bullvine Holstein Mature Model Cow

If foreign substances are illegal for show cows, then shouldn’t they be illegal for cow pictures as well?

Like major league baseball the show ring has had a transformation in its perspective on drugs and ethics (Read more: The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Dairy Cattle Show Ethics).  However,  similar to the world of cycling, the dairy cattle marketing world has yet to see this transformation (Read more: Lance Armstrong, Drugs and the Dairy Industry) That really got me thinking that, if foreign substances are illegal for show cows, then shouldn’t they be illegal for cow ads as well?

Toplines that have had “hair” added, udder texture that has been enhanced and teat placement that has been corrected, all seem to be more prevalent than ever.  Don’t even get me started about how some photographers have single handedly solved many breeder’s challenges of getting clean long necked cattle.  Even the basics of getting good lighting seem to have gone out the window.  Photoshop has made it too easy and more profitable for photographers to do it in post production than making sure the animal was the real deal to start.

model retouch

With Great Expectations Comes Great Disappointment

In an industry that already has unreal expectations about real beauty, the use of Photoshop in the fashion-modeling world has made for even greater unrealistic expectations of appropriate body image – especially among impressionable children and adolescents.  But there is one big difference between the photo retouching of fashion models and photo retouching of cattle images – The models are not the product that people are buying.

Right there is the big issue that I think many people are missing in this whole debate.  While we have all become complacent about fashion models whose appearance has been retouched, we have also become complacent about dairy cattle photos that have been retouched.  It has come to the point where most don’t even look at photos anymore to gage a sire’s potential  (Check out our recent Facebook poll).

I can remember when we first marketed Calbrett-I HH Champion and we put a lineup of 10 VG 2YR test sire daughters photo’s together – the first in the industry to do so.  But I am sure with genomic sires being used on such high caliber animals it will happen again soon.  It sold semen like none other.  Today when a new proven sire comes out, you are lucky to get two or three daughter shots and that’s about it.  For genomic sires you are often lucky to get a picture of the sire himself let alone a picture of his dam (often it is a heifer picture as she was contracted and flushed at such a young age).

This has me thinking whether there is value in picturing anymore?  I realized that while pictures today may not directly sell semen or embryos, they do a great job of generating hype.  While everyone likes to bash some livestock photographers about the ethics of their photos, there is no question that you can share a great shot of a show-winning cow on Facebook and the thing goes Viral.

So what is the average ethical breeder to do when they don’t have some great show-winning cow but wants to market their cattle?

In thinking about this challenging question, I remembered what Unilever did with their Dove line of products when facing a very similar challenge.  In 2004 they released The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty.  The principle behind the campaign is to celebrate the natural physical variation embodied by all women and inspire them to have the confidence to be comfortable with themselves.

In the dairy industry three great ways I can see for this to be done are as follows:

  • Roy - ABS Global

    Show all the angles
    Instead of just a boring side shot, try to get different angles of your cattle.  Three quarter rear shots are great at grabbing attention.  Show multiple angles of your cow, in order to gain maximum attention.  It is also hard to fake a shot when you see all sides of the animal as any changes would be amplified when comparing angles.  (Read more: 5 Tips to Make Your Next Dairy Magazine Ad the Best Ever and All Talk and No Action)

  • Leverage the Power of Video
    There is nothing better than video to help you sell and promote your cattle.  It does not have to be some big costly production.  In fact, it can be much cheaper than having a professional photographer come in.  You can simply use your hand held blackberry or smartphone and snap some quick snippets to share with potential buyers on Facebook or on your website.  Even good quality digital video cameras can be picked up at your local Best-Buy or Wal-Mart.  Many even come with some basic software so that you can add your own titles, images, and music.  (Read more: Nothing Sells Like Video)
  • Share it on Facebook
    It’s really pretty simple.  Set up your own Facebook page or a Facebook Fan page for your farm.  Tell your story.  Did you have a great classification round and want to let the world know?  Share it on Facebook.  Had a great flush and want to sell the embryos from it?  Share it on Facebook.  Your friends will spread the word and before you know it, you too will start to have a loyal following. (Read more: 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs to be on Facebook and The Fakebook – Our secret is exposed)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Yes!  There are certainly photographers who have held true to their ethics, however, it seems that they are now in the minority rather than the majority.  I understand that Photoshop, a program that I love to use, makes life easier for all.  There comes a point, however, where ease should not outweigh ethics, especially when you are editing the appearance of the very genetic product that you are selling. The reality is that no cow is perfect, not even in pictures



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



The fakebook – Our Secret is Exposed

For those who don’t understand social media, which tends to be the gray-haired generation, they like to say that Facebook is just a bunch of college kids spouting off about things that don’t apply to them.  Furthermore, many say that there is no need to get involved in social media because it’s not where the “buyers” are.  In actual fact, both statements could not be further from the truth.  The first thing breeders need to understand about Facebook and the other social media platforms is that they are simply stories.  Instead of breeders sharing stories in the milk house, or at ringside, they are happening online.  It’s that change of location that is the first hurdle.  Many are afraid of change.  It is easier to pan it and accuse Facebook of being a fake than it is to adjust to the change.

There`s an even bigger difference.  Instead of  it being a one on one chat in your barn with a few people discussing  who is the greatest show cow  of all time (Read more: The 8 Greatest North American Show Cows of All-Time and Who would you vote for as the greatest Holstein show cow of All-Time?) or the best type sire ever (Read more: Braedale Goldwyn: Is he the greatest type sire ever?  and Who would you vote for as the greatest type sire ever?)  now it is  happening online with thousands from around the world.  This allows all breeders to tell their story to thousands of people, cheaper, and easier than ever before.

It’s all about telling a Story

Before Facebook, to get your story out there you needed to be fortunate enough to get one of the major print publications to do an article about your farm.  Or you had to spend thousands in advertising to get your message out there.  With tools like Facebook breeders can tell their story at relatively no cost to thousands of potential customers.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Are there really thousands of dairy breeders online?”  The answer is “Yes.  Yes. Yes.”.  Despite the fact that some publications like to buy followers from nondairy markets in order to pad their numbers, there really are breeders who are having amazing conversations online.

Facebook competitor

Take for example the recent Breeder’s Choice Awards from the Bullvine (Read more: The Winners of the 2012 Breeder’s Choice Awards are…).  In a one-week period we had over 3,000 Dairy Breeders cast more than 8,000 votes.  Now I know the next comment will be that those are a bunch of college kids.  Well actually our Facebook page reports that 50% are over the age of 25.  Moreover, 31.6% of our followers are male over the age of 25.  That’s 2897 followers that are male over the age of 25.  That’s more than most dairy publications readership, male or female, any age. So they are not only college kids.  In fact I have conversations with dairy breeders of all ages.  Breeders who you would never have thought would spend so much time online, are actually following the conversation.  In fact our Facebook page reaches over 125,000 people on a weekly basis.  That is more than the COMBINED total subscribership of the major dairy breeder print publications in the world!

The Bullvine likes demographics

Think about that for a minute. On Facebook you can reach more people at next to no cost, than you can reach offline even when you’re spending thousands of dollars.  Why is that?  Well it’s simple, Facebook is today’s most effective tool for finding entertainment and information.  How you ask?  It’s simple.  In your Facebook stream your friends comment, share and like photos, articles, videos or other types of content.  By doing so, people who have similar interests to you (your Facebook friends) are in effect narrowing down all the content that is out there in the world, to what you’re most likely to want to read or watch.

social proofFor us here at the Bullvine Facebook has been one of the greatest sources for finding new readers.  One of our current subscribers reads something on our website, finds it interesting enough to share it or make a comment about it on Facebook, and then their friends come to the Bullvine and read it as well.  That is why you find many of our articles having hundreds of shares on Facebook, instead of donuts like the other online publications.  We don’t only publish all the same boring new releases that every other publication puts out, but rather, on a daily basis, we are producing thought provoking original content.  Instead of just bragging that we get thousands of visitors to a website a day, we have the trackable social proof from Facebook that people are engaging in our community.  Moreover, it’s the reason many breeders, who don’t always agree with us, keep coming back to the Bullvine.  Think about it, over the past year, what articles, events or content has driven the most conversation?  You don’t need to be told where the conversation is at. As a dairy breeder you are part of the conversation and already know where it`s going on.

So how does this apply to the average breeder?

It’s really pretty simple.  Set up your own Facebook page or a Facebook Fan page for your farm.  Tell your story.  Did you have a great classification round and want to let the world know?  Share it on Facebook.  Had a great flush and want to sell the embryos from it?  Share it on Facebook.  Your friends will spread the word and before you know it, you too will start to have a loyal following.


A few things to remember.  Just like that first date with that hot dairy princess, it will go better if you don’t make it all about you.  On our Facebook page we make sure for every story we share of ours, we share someone else’s story.  That is one of the major reasons many breeders check out our feed on a daily basis.  We are sharing content that we find interesting as a dairy breeder and, as a result, other dairy breeders typically find it interesting as well.  That is also why almost 70% of the breeders who follow our page share, like or comment on the information and entertainment we are sharing on a weekly basis.  Now 70% sounds like a big number and it is. On a weekly basis that is over 6000 people engaging in the conversation, that is almost 3 times as many as any other publication.  The thing that these other publications don’t get is that instead of just sharing a pretty picture each day, we are sharing interesting articles from around the world.  We are asking questions.  We are joining the conversation.  That’s because we get it.  We are breeders first and love being part of the breeder community.  We are not trying to drive traffic to our website, so we can justify the high expense to advertise on our site.  We are joining in with and, often times, starting the conversation.


A great example of this is that recently we shared an advertisement from a sale manager for an upcoming sale.  We were impressed with their list of consignments, so we shared it with our readers.  That advertisement was seen by more people on our Facebook page, than in the major print publication that they had spent thousands of dollars on.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Now I know change can be hard.  And for those who have been successful through traditional methods, it can be even harder to adjust to these changes.  But the world has already changed. Either you adjust to live within or it will move on without you.  Facebook is not Fakebook.  It is real people, real stories and real connections.  If you don’t learn to leverage the power of it, the only thing that is going to be fake is the money in your wallet.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.



All Talk and NO Action

Magazine ads promoting your herd cost a lot of money. So why are you wasting all that hard earned cash with no results? The ads that get the most attention are the ones that are eye catching, keep it simple and, most importantly, have a clear call to action.
Roy - ABS Global

You Can’t Have a Great Ad without a Great Photo

There is no question that dairy breeders love looking at great pictures of cattle. Instead of just a boring side shot, try to get different angles of your cattle. Three quarter rear shots are great at grabbing attention. Show multiple angles of your cow, in order to gain maximum attention.

The best ads use images that are interesting and large! As a general rule, your graphics should take up at least a quarter of your available space and can go up from there. Small graphics are distracting to your readers and do not have enough interest to draw a reader into the ad. (To learn more check out our interview with the best in the business, Patty Jones, about how to get the perfect picture).

Does it catch the readers Eye?

Tha Magic of Francesca

Read more about “The Magic of Francesca

Once you`ve got good photos! Make sure you get an eye-catching ad developed to go with them.  Print ads must be eye-catching and attractive to draw the viewer’s attention.  As Pam Nunes, the designer behind the great Ocean View Genetics ads says, “Remember…the purpose of an ad is to attract the reader’s eye enough to get them to read it…and want more.” (Read more – Ocean View Genetics: The Fine Art of Marketing Great Breeding).

There is no substitute for creativity.  Yes it takes more time and effort! However, it’s required in order to stand out from the crowd.  With the major dairy cattle magazines awash with ad after ad, and row after row, of cattle pictures, you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd.  The best way to do this is to think about the reason why you are doing the ad in the first place.  Who is the animal? What is the message that you want everyone to remember?

The”cow” is the center of your story.  If the best part of your cow, or the point you want to make is your cow family’s ability to produce great udders, then make the whole ad one large shot of her udder.  Keep your ad simple and put the detailed information on your website. Remember you want to accentuate how your animal is different and why they would want to buy your genetics.

Don’t Forget Your Call to Action

Probably my biggest pet peeve in all dairy cattle advertising happens when there is no call to action.  What is the point of spending all that money?  Exactly!  You want them to take action.  That is why the best ads make it very clear what that action needs to be.

In today’s age of the internet and social media there is no need to try and tell an animal’s entire history in the ad.  Instead make a clear call to action that brings them to your website or, better yet.  your Facebook page to get further information.  On those two sites you can have more daughter pictures and the rest of the story.  Breeders love big pictures so why try to squeeze so many shots into a small ad?  Instead give them one good eye catching image, with a clear call to action to come to your Facebook page to see more.

Facebook really can add a great dimension to your magazine advertising.  Recently I saw the following ad by Posal Farms that really get’s it.  It has two great cattle shots, not too much text and a definite call to action.  Posal is really leveraging the power of Facebook and is running a contest where you can vote for your favorite (Posal Daughter Contest).  In their ad, dead center and clear to all who read it, is the call for the reader to visit their Facebook page where they can be the judge.

 The Bullvine Bottom Line

Magazine advertising represents a large portion of many breeders’ promotional budgets. It is no longer enough merely to post an ad.  To attract the buyers you’re seeking, your ad must stand out and get attention.  Most of all it has to have a clear call to action.  An ad that is all talk and no action, results in no revenue.

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

Want to take your ad’s to the next level, check out our dairy ad design services.


Lance Armstrong, Drugs and the Dairy Industry

The whole world watched as Lance Armstrong admitted to Oprah that he used EPO, human-growth hormone, testosterone and other drugs to help him win his 7 Tour de France titles.  Actually, many learned about his confession second hand since, not that many people get Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network.  The part that was really interesting is how Mr. Armstrong said he doesn’t consider himself to be a cheater.  He said he looked up the word “cheat” in the dictionary and said the definition—to gain an unfair advantage—doesn’t describe his use of performance-enhancing drugs.  “So many other riders were also using them”, he said, that “the playing field was level”.  This got me to thinking, if leveling the playing field is what some of those in the show and high end genetics world consider that they are doing?

Much has been said about dairy cattle show ethics over the years (Read more – The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Dairy Cattle Show Ethics), as well as the ethics of those breeding and marketing top genetic animals (Read more – Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle and Has Genomics Knocked Out Hot House Herds?) and also  dairy cattle photography ethics (Read more – Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright and Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?).  People feel very strong on both sides of this argument.  Others simply wish to enjoy cattle shows without having to think about the ethics, politics, economics (Read more – RF Goldwyn Hailey: Cash Cow or Cash Hog) and social issues.

Show Ethics and Major Sports They Have a Very Similar Past

The one thing that caught my attention was how for the most part show ethics have mirrored those of the cycling world as well as most other major North American pro sports.  Baseball, Football, Basketball and Hockey (yes we are Canadian so we have to acknowledge Hockey) as well as cycling have all gone through major transformation in their perspective on performance enhancing drugs.

At one time, using illegal drugs or doing unethical practices was seen as a necessary evil in order to compete at the top level.  As Armstrong says the need to take banned substances was like saying “we have to have air in our tires and we have to have water in our bottles.”  Well, in the show scene, at one time, it was pretty much the same.  For the most part in order to compete at the highest level (there are exceptions) you needed to push the limits in order to win the prize.

Villains or Lambs to the Slaughter?

Lance Armstrong is to cycling what Jose Canseco is to Baseball (Read more – The Big Bad Wolf of the Dairy Industry).  Both have been tagged as the poster child for their drug era.  Both sports want to put this dark time behind them.  The debate boils down to whether these two  are really the rare villain or are they  the greatest of their time who performed on the stage demanded  by the spectators  of that time?

It’s funny when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were in pursuit of Roger Maris and his single season home run record, the world watched with great amazement.  Television broadcasts interrupted prime time shows to show a McGwire towering blast.  Previously, interruptions were restricted to an act of war or a Presidential address.  Similarly, everyone loved the great story of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories.  But now as the full story comes to light everyone looks back and labels them as horrible people, as evidenced by the treatment of Armstrong in the media, and how both McGwire and Sosa were shunned in the recent Hall of Fame voting.

Have Things Really Changed?

The question now becomes “Has the cheating stopped?  Or are those being tested just one step ahead of the testers?”  There has been great debate in the media whether baseball and the other major sports are really clean, or have the users found new and better ways to elude detection.  In the case of Armstrong, there was regular testing at the time but he was able to elude detection.  It was not until recently that new tests were developed that they were able to confirm his use, since they had his blood samples on file (Something the major pro-sports have not started until recently).  This has me thinking, has the show ring and the genetics market really cleaned up their act?  Or are they just staying one-step ahead?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

In the 90’s and early twenty first century, drug use in sports was so endemic that the moral culpability of individual players who start taking steroids after the use is widespread is much more ambiguous.  Much like the dairy cattle show scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s.  I am sure there are those that will tell you it never happened.  There are also those who will try to tell you that the Apollo Moon landing was a hoax or that there really were UFO’s recovered at Roswell.  Even better, that the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) are controlled by the big A.I companies and they just want to beat the little guy down.  The major lesson is that you can’t waste your time pointing the finger at individuals but, instead, we need to keep working together to improve the industry as a whole.


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Stanton Brothers – Doing it right

In my career I have had the good fortune of getting to know and work with Ken Blanchard, bestselling business author of all time and creator of The One Minute Manager.  One of the great things that Ken has always said to me is that you cannot always be catching people doing things wrong, you also need to highlight when people are doing things right.  It’s for that reason that since I did point out the recent challenges Stanton Brothers had been having in proving sires, that I  also highlight when they are doing things right.

Under pressure from recent  publicity, including an article here on the Bullvine that pointed out that since the introduction of genomics the average Stanton Brother proven sire had actual daughter performance approximately 712 LPI  lower than their parent averages (Read more – The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling), Stanton’s’ placed an ad in the recent Holstein Journal with some interesting Facts and Stats – as follows:

  • #1 Red Proven Sire
  • #1 GPA LPI Conformation Sire
  • #2 GPA LPI Sire Released in Canada
  • 15 Cows on the Top 100 GLPI list
  • 16 Heifers on the Top 100 GPA LPI Under 9 Month Old List
  • 19 Heifers on the Top 100 GPA LPI Over 9 Month Old List
  • 3 Heifers on the Top 12 GPA LPI Polled List
  • 135 Head Over +2200 GTPI

I love that Stanton Brothers have taken this proactive approach.  However, it did slightly miss the mark as most of these animals are still unproven and the publicity was about the inability to convert from unproven to proven.  As well, many on this list are from recent purchases of females (Read more – Genetics by Design Crosses the $4,000,000 Mark) and not proven sires.

Nevertheless we commend  Stanton Brothers for taking a proactive approach to managing their PR and continued investment in top genetics. Everyone needs an action plan for dealing with negative publicity.  We would recommend the following five steps:

  1. Look into the problem
    Identify the cause, if it’s not obvious. Get experts to verify/debunk any claims/rumors before making a public statement. The best way to regain credibility   is to quash unsubstantiated rumors with hard-hitting facts.  If the bad publicity is based on facts as this is, best to move on to #2.
  2. Acknowledge mistakes.
    If you’re receiving negative publicity because you made a mistake, people will trust you more if you own up to any issues, rather than if you attempt to cover up what happened. “That way they understand that if there is ever [another] problem, they can trust that you can be approached about it.”
  3. Get on Facebook
    The vast majority of conversation these days is occurring on Facebook.  Instead of just hitting the few thousand magazine subscribers, hit the tens of thousands that are online talking.  It’s more than just having a Facebook page, it`s about joining the community and taking part in the conversation.  (Read more – 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs to be on Facebook)
  4. Enlist supporters to speak on your behalf.
    You can’t underestimate the power of satisfied clients. When negative publicity surfaces, your loyal customers are often your best advocates.  It is best if you can get these people to comment right at the source of the bad publicity.  On the other hand, don`t leave them hanging out there on their own.
  5. Follow up continually
    After the initial storm has subsided, do not let up with re-building your image.  Once dented, your image will be vulnerable to attacks for some time to come.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Negative publicity is never easy to deal with.  With the introduction of social media things have greatly amplified (Read more – How Social Media is Changing The Holstein World).  It’s no longer just a couple of people talking over the bulk tank, it’s thousands of people talking around the world.  When bad publicity happens you need to act fast.  Even for breeders who have not faced the challenge of negative publicity, it is still important to have a public relations strategy in order to promote your herd (Read more – Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower).  You absolutely must stay engaged!

To learn more about how to get your farm on Facebook download the Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook

IVF: Boom or Bust for the Dairy Industry

With the introduction of Genomics to the dairy industry the marketplace has greatly changed.  And while this may be true, the silent factor that many don’t consider is in vitro fertilization (IVF).  While Genomics is changing what the marketplace is looking for (Read more – An Insider’s Guide to What Sells at the Big Dairy Cattle Auctions), IVF has changed who in the marketplace are actually able to make money.  Causing boom for a select few but a bust for many others.

Through IVF we can get way more progeny/genetics from the top cattle.  This causes an abundance of supply in the marketplace.  With greater supply at the top end but not equally greater demand, the prices for all sectors in the marketplace are forced downward.

In the past, when embryo exporters were looking to fill orders, they may be held to a threshold of +2500 LPI or +1,900 TPI.  Now since there is so much more supply at the top end, their threshold has risen to +3,200 LPI or +2,500 TPI.  Have a look at our recent analysis of the public auction of live cattle.  You will see that the very top cattle draw the high prices and then the prices drop significantly (Read more – Who Killed the Market for Good Dairy Cattle?).

No big deal you say? 

Well actually it is.  When the threshold gets that high you are talking about less than the top 0.5% of the breed.  This means that those at the very top who have that base can supply this market.  All those others who used to do embryo transfer work, partly for genetic advancement of their herd and partly for profit,   now have no market for their embryos.  They are having to rethink whether they can even afford to do the embryo work in their herd, without the added revenue from embryo sales, it’s hard to justify the expense.

As pointed out in a recent Holstein International article, Genomics has certainly created a gold rush, but not for the breeders, but rather for the embryo transfer companies.  During the gold rush, a few diggers struck it rich, while many others strike out (Just like those in the genomic market).  The one sure way to have made money during the gold rush was to be a supplier of equipment, food, or clothing to the diggers.  As Holstein International points out, the service provider in the Genomic gold rush is the embryo transfer industry and its range of advanced technologies.

These are Big Changes.  Are they Good or Bad?

In our interview earlier this year with Mark Allen PhD, Director of Marketing and Genomics for Trans Ova (Read more – Fast Track Genetics: More Results in Less Time), a company that has performed ovum pickup aspirations on 8,668 in the first 8 months of this year alone, we asked Mark if these changes were good or bad for the industry.  The following was his response:

“It is human nature, when presented with the latest greatest technology to look for the downside.  You ask yourself, “What is the worst case scenario?” Some breeders may be concerned that the market is being flooded, leaving no room for the middle market cattle.  To that comment, Dr. Allan gives this well-considered response, “Many technology improvements have led to dramatic increases in genetic improvement.  One of the early changes that led to a giant leap in genetic gain was implementation of artificial insemination (AI) in the dairy industry.  This technology is widely accepted today and used by producers large and small.  Historically, each time a new technology has been introduced to the reproductive technology continuum, there has been some resistance and trepidation about how it will affect breeders.  Changes in the marketplace may require that producers have to make a change in how they utilize their animals coupled with available technology.  This may mean changing the current paradigm that exists for some segments of the industry.”

Are you ready to change?

One person who has seen this coming is the forward thinking David Dyment.  While David is very well known for his work with Glen Drummond and Dymentholm Genetics, (Read more – Marketing Lessons from Glen Drummond Aero Flower) as well as being the Associate Judge at the 2012 World Dairy Expo (Read more – World Dairy Expo 2012 Holstein Show – A Battle for the Ages). David saw where the market was heading and in 2009 formed a partnership with Mike and Julie Ducket and established Genetic Futures.  A 300-acre farm in Wisconsin that has became a satellite base Trans Ova, housing top donors and recipient services are provided.

I think it’s significant when a person like David Dyment, who has worked with   high-end show cattle, high-end index animals and, as well, has run the roads filling commercial orders, is now focusing on being a supplier of the service and not the product.  The market has changed drastically.  Breeders are only left with three options:

  1. You can either purchase and be the supplier of those top genetics, which is extremely costly to buy and almost equally as costly to produce;
  2. You can do traditional embryo for personal use only and avoid the high cost of IVF;
  3. You can go broke trying to compete in a market that is just too saturated.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

As long as breeders of the top genomic index animals continue to over supply the marketplace through technologies like IVF, there will only be a market for the very select few.  So next time you decide to do a flush, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons.  If it’s to advance the genetics in your own herd?  Great!  If it’s to get rich from embryo sales?  Maybe you should think again.



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EASTSIDE HOLSTEINS – Where Modern Marketing Rises to the Challenge

For most of us The Eastside Lewisdale prefix is associated with the fame of “Missy”. Maria Jones, Marketing Manager for Eastside Holsteins modestly summarizes the connection. “Here at Eastside, we were lucky enough to have co-bred Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy EX 95, Grand & Supreme Champion at World Dairy Expo and the Royal in 2011.  That has really helped our exposure and marketing, not only of the Missy Family, but of other families here at Eastside”. As Bloyce Thompson, owner of Eastside Holsteins, points out, “When Missy took off as a Jr 2 yr old, we needed to be able to capitalize, get on board and go with her success.”  The fact that Missy’s sister Amaze flushed well put even more marketing opportunities in front Eastside and partner Lewisdale (Read More – You Can Bank on Amaze to Pump up the Volume). “Our main focus has been selling embryos from well known families and making sure each customer is very satisfied with their purchase.”


Supreme Champion WDE 2011. Grand Champion WDE 2011.
Supreme Champion RAWF 2011. Grand Champion RAWF 2011

Viewing the Future from EASTSIDE Out!

Bloyce and partner Jamie Lewis, of Lewisdale Holsteins, thought over the potential they were facing and decided to set up a new company Eastside-Lewisdale.  They plan to have it underway early in 2013. One of their visions is of an embryo community.  In order to do that, they know that they have to plan not only the financial side but also how to brand their genetic products. “We thought about it and decided we need email a web site” and all of the modern technology that puts PEI fully accessible to the marketplace. Bloyce admits “We knew we wanted someone who had great computer skills.” That’s where Maria Jones came into the picture.

Maria Jones

Maria Jones
Marketing Manager at Eastside Holsteins

MISSY meets MARIA:  Behind Every Super Star There is a Super Marketer!

It wasn’t long before the marketing part of the plan was put into action says Bloyce, with the hiring of Maria Jones. “I knew Maria had computer skills and that she was between jobs.  She lived on PEI and started part time which has grown to almost two-thirds time now.” Maria has demonstrated her technical ability and how comfortable she is with global communication. Bloyce is enthusiastic, “She is a person I can give ideas to and she can take it from there.” Sales numbers are backing up the wisdom of the hiring a marketing person.”Since Maria started embryo sales are up 90%”
Eastside Ad

New Tools Greatly Enhance Familiar Methods

Modesty is contagious around PEI and Maria points out.”Of course, you have to have the product people want and be ready to roll.” As a marketing manager, she wears many different hats and faces the challenges and logistics of, not only marketing the products but getting them delivered. She notes,” In the cattle business it can be very complex and goes beyond the designing to record keeping, financial and managing the workload.” Time pressure is an added incentive. Bloyce states what he feels is obvious, “Holstein genomics is moving so fast that you must always be developing for the future market.” He gives an example. “Hailey has taken over From Missy so we must adapt to that.” Every tool is analysed and critiqued. “Embryo sales at World Dairy Expo time went well. We will likely try that again another year.”

More Information Sourced and Delivered with New Tools

Maria is well aware of modern tools. “We have been using Facebook and Twitter. It really helps communicate to our customers what is going on at Eastside.  They know about our new purchases and what embryos we have available. We report show results and just about anything else that is happening.” They see the potential of using social media for real time updates. “On a daily basis, we broadcast to our audience around the world what is happening.  It has been a very successful tool for Eastside.” Maria feels this asset also serves another valuable purpose, “It is a great advantage that we have two-way communication with others about what is going on in the industry.”

Good Two-Way Communication = Marketing Progress

Everyone at Eastside agrees that communication is important to their marketing strategy. Maria lists her favorite sources, “The internet, magazines, mixing and communicating with others at Shows and Sales are all great ways to keep up with the industry.” She is always eager to pick up something new. “I just keep an eye on what is going on around me and always notice everyone’s marketing efforts.  I enjoy seeing all the new ideas and try to understand why they thought it was a good idea.  I always keep in mind that they are in the same boat as I am!” She sums up the three L’s of her marketing philosophy, “I am never one to judge but I listen, look and learn!”

The Challenges of Dairy Marketing

In the fast paced world of modern dairy marketing it is important to know your priorities. Bloyce says the challenge is clear.  “You must always plan ahead and have the current product that people want.” There are the usual business pressures to keep costs under control but this team feels that marketing must be able to reach the huge number of potential clients based around the world. Bloyce recalls, “A decade ago, living on PEI was a major disadvantage but, today, with the World Wide Web, location is not a problem.” This opportunity also presents the main challenge, “We are only touching a fraction of the market.” Both Bloyce and Maria recognize that creating interest means constantly facing deadlines. For instance “The website must be updated 3-4 times per week.” Although that might seem simple, it too turns on the speed of responses to email, phone calls and messages. Maria acknowledges,”It can be frustrating.” But admits that “Marketing can be a fun and enjoyable career.”

Eastside Ad 2Walk in Your Buyer’s Boots and Walk Fast

Bloyce repeats business maxims we all know to be true, “The way that you position yourself, how you use words and how you treat customers are all very important.” He sees dairy breeding evolving to produce “a more functional cow with stronger immunity, better female reproduction and requiring minimum labour.”  Maria agrees that the market drives demand, “We have turned to more of what the market will be looking for in the future, namely the polled breed and genomics.” Acknowledging that everyone is not interested in the same thing she feels that “Eastside has got you covered” by providing show cattle, type and genomics.

Develop Marketing Skills Where You Find Them

Drawing on his positive experience, Bloyce sums up the best advice he has for those looking to market their dairy genetics.  First and foremost he feels “It is absolutely necessary that you have a product people want to buy.”  Once you have met that hurdle, he suggests “Get with technology both on the farm and in marketing.”  He points out what he feels is an obvious resource to develop, “Why not bring your children into the business via the marketing side of the farm, instead of just through the labour side.” He sums up his reasoning quite convincingly, “Kids run computers with their eyes closed.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

At the end of the day, marketing only works if the story moves off the planning page and produces measureable results.  Eastside and Lewisdale are banking on good marketing based on a philosophy of “Listen, Look and Learn” to promote their supply of genetics that the market is asking for.  The future looks ready to shine brightly for Eastside-Lewisdale.



To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.




Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright

Yesterday I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and posted a picture on Facebook that I shouldn’t have posted.  The picture was a compilation of cattle parts from some of the greatest cows in the breed.  The response to the image was insane.  There were over 300 people trying to guess what parts were what, with not one comment on the ethics of the photo.  However, what I failed to realize is that in the image there were some mistakes, and for that I am sorry.

What mistakes you might ask?  Well it really comes down to three points: 1) The background of the image was a signature background of a well known photographer 2) The original images were copyright 3) The effect it could have on the perception of livestock photography.

Every Artist Has Their Signature

Just like Picasso had his Cubist movement, Michelangelo had his Mannerist style and Leonardo da Vinci had his constant experimentation with new techniques.  Every artist has their signature approach or technique that tells you instantly that it is one of his or her pieces of work.

For dairy cattle photographers that typically comes down to their signature background.  For Patty Jones, it is her Royal background that is different from Vickie Fletcher’s Royal background and Cybil Fisher has her Madison background.  Each one tells the viewer that the image is instantly their piece of work.

In the image I created, I had not changed the background from that of Cybil’s Madison background, and for that I am sorry.  Especially when I am the one who wrote the article about how and why to change backgrounds (read – Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?). As someone who greatly appreciates the work that these artists do, I worked too fast and overlooked this key element.  When one of the photographers brought this to my attention, my heart instantly sank.  I know how much work these photographers do in building their brand and, unintentionally, I had kind of slapped Cybil in the face.  I apologized profusely when she and I connected on the phone.

Photo Copy Right

Always a touchy subject with any artist is the rights to their work.  These photographers work very hard and spend many days and even weeks at a time on the road to provide a great service to the industry.  When someone takes off or removes credit from their work it can be very disheartening.

In the image in question, we removed the photo credit as it was actually the work of three different photographers and would not be accurate to put just one back on.  Since the image was more than 50% altered it technically did not qualify as one original piece of work and we did not, on the image, give the credit on it because of that.  We were expecting to give the credit with the article we planned to publish explaining why we created the image – Digital True Type Model – and explain that the image was altered not for exposure reasons but rather to help further our discussion of what the ideal cow looks like.

My benchmark for photo credit goes like this – unless the cow, bull or animals themselves have been altered in any way, photo credit should always be given.  Since the image in question at its very core was an intentional alteration of the animals, I did not want to include the integrity of the photographer in the end results, and hence no photo credit.

Photo Manipulation

Photo manipulation for the purposes of deception is 100% wrong.  Anyone who alters an image with the intent of deception is not a professional photographer or marketer and brings great disservice to the industry.

In altering this image we did not do so for any purpose of deception but rather for the purpose of education.  Everyone knows the technology exists to alter images.  We see it in the movies when people are walking on Mars or in magazines when super models are so airbrushed that you would not even recognize them in their day-to-day lives.  There is no question that it can be done.

In the dairy industry it seems to be a taboo subject.  No one wants to acknowledge it and address it.  The problem is that, by not doing so, the issue has only gotten larger and larger.  It also has led to a wide variance in each photographer’s line on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable and, in the end all photographers tend to be painted with the same dirtied brush.

In talking with some of the photographers that I hold in the highest regard about this issue, the subject always comes up that there are no technical guidelines about what is acceptable and what is not.  There is not an accreditation process to ensure that the photographers and marketers in the industry all abide by the same guidelines.

I have heard this often enough, and am offering to help establish, champion, and fund such a process so that the great work that many of these photographers do is not diminished by the few.  In saying such I would be reaching out to each of the major photographers, getting their input and seeing how we can establish such an organization.  Those I know their integrity is above reproach will be eager to join, and those that are not, will quickly identify themselves to all.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We all do things out of excitement that, looking back on, we wish we could do differently.  This is certainly one of those incidents for me.  In the past, when people have challenged my opinions or comments, I have stood my ground as I knew exactly how I felt and where I needed to hold my position (Read – The Bullvine – Under Fire).  On this issue, when certain aspects were brought to light, I instantly took action before even speaking with the photographers in question, because I knew I was wrong and for that I am very sorry.

Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire!

The dairy industry can be unbelievable at times with some of the rumours that go around.  From who has found that 65 inch Jr.  two year old to who’s making whoopee out behind the barn.  Well not exactly out behind the barn but some of the things I have heard suggest that it’s not out of the realm of possibility.  Therefore, when I heard in the spring rumor that Chris Parry was leaving Morsan I thought it was an overworked grapevine.  But then sure enough that rumor recently came true as Parry is going to become the General Manager at Westgen in September.

Westgen is a great organization.  We have all had the pleasure of working with gentlemen such as Gordie Souter and Harley Nicholson and have always had great respect for them.  Nevertheless, it has me asking why would Parry leave Morsan?

Could there be a better opportunity?

Remember when Morsan first came on the scene, spending lots of money on lots of high priced animals?  (Read Morsan Farms – Money Well Spent).  From the very start, Chris had been their marketing manager.  At the time it almost seemed odd.  Here is a dairy farm with it’s own person in charge of marketing.  Very progressive for the time.

Now we see Parry leaving, which has me asking, “What better job could you have?”  Here you have the opportunity to market the reigning Madison and Royal Grand Champion, the family of the #2 August 2012 new release sire in Canada as well as many other leading index and show cattle.  Awesome.

Do dairy breeders need marketing people?

Maybe the issue is that Morsan no longer needs a marketing manager?  For me, I almost find that’s impossible to believe.  After all, over recent years we have seen other leading breeding programs add marketing staff to their programs.  In my opinion, more dairy farmers need to think strategically about their breeding programs as a business and not just a passion.

There is more to marketing than just placing ads

When Calbrett-I H H Champion was about to come out, I learned then, and I know now, that it’s as much about the promotion as it is about the product.  There is more to marketing dairy cattle than just placing a few pretty ads in the major magazines.  It’s as much about building the brand and the community around your farm as it is actually breeding great cattle. Even if your barn is housing the best, you have to make sure people know about it.  Each one of us can name a bull that first came out and everything you could imagine was being said about the bull, the stud and the owners.  There can be as much time spent dealing with the rumors as is spent on creating the ads and marketing strategy.  The biggest difference we see  today is that, the rumour mill is no longer controlled by one or two competing  companies, but now has gone down to the breeder level.  This is because breeders can now communicate much easier with each other, instead of having the local salesman/technician coming in and controlling what is being spread.  Social media and email have changed all that.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The reasons for Parry leaving Morsan could be many, one of which might just be that both sides needed a change.  However, that does not diminish the need for all breeders to think about how they handle their marketing.  Whether or not you can afford a full time marketing staff or not, you need to remember it takes more than just a few pretty ads to market top cattle.  It’s as much about managing information as it is the ads.  With the addition of Facebook, breeders can both market their cattle and engage the community in the latest conversations.  Always make sure whatever smoke you create has fire behind it.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

International Intrigue – The Secret Is Exposed!

The wind was blowing and cash was flying”, and that was just from the auctioneer’s box.  All kidding aside!  They really blew the lid off the secret of success, when it came to the amazing International Intrigue Sale “Sell great cattle, work with great people and you will have great results!”  And so, another tremendous International Intrigue Sale went into the books with an average of $36,704 on 140 lots with a gross of $4,138,600!

Cookview Goldwyn Monique

Leading the Intrigue way is the not so secret agent – Cookview Goldwyn Monique EX-92.  In naming Monique Grand Champion at Quebec Spring Show, Judge Mike Deaver stated she was “nearly flawless and just runs away with this show.”  For some she could even be the best 3yr old ever.  According to the sales catalogue, “With natural progression and good fortune it is our opinion that Monique could be a future Grand Champion at World Dairy Expo and the Royal Winter Fair.”  No surprise then that Butlerview Farm & Joe & Amber Price who paid $490,000 are certainly ready to put their money where their mouth is.

Not since Brookview Tony Charity, over 25 years ago, has there been a reigning Grand or Reserve Grand Champion cow selling at public auction.  Silvermaple Damion Camomile did just that and brought an outstanding $290,000.  A price that may look cheap for a potential Grand Champion who is also the dam of the highest PTAT Bolton daughter in the world (4.14).  The part that makes this cow a potential major moneymaker for her new owners, Butlerview, is that she can also flush (51 Embryos on last four flushes) and we all know how necessary great flushing is, when  buying cows in this expense range (read more What Comes First The Chicken Or The Egg?).

What is a top sale without a high genomic daughter bringing insane prices?  Mapel Wood Sudan Licorice fits that sweet spot.  She is one of the highest rated protein females in the world. She is also the #2 DGV female in the world.  However, there is pedigree to go with her genomics.  Licorice is from the full sister to Lexor from the great Lila Z family.  The Lila Z’s have proven to flush well and make money (read more Lylehaven Lila Z: Was She Really Worth $1.15 Million?, Lessons Learned: 6 Dairy Cattle Investment Secrets Revealed, and It’s in her genes…).  At $200,000, Licorice will certainly need to prove that she is the next great one in that amazing family.

For great photo’s from the sales check out Butlerview Farm’s on Facebook.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When looking at the sale buyer’s sheet, we see sale co-host Butlerview buying many of the top animals.  Much like Rocky Mountain Holsteins at their recent Rocky Mountain High Sale, this is not outside their normal activity.  When you get top breeding programs such as these ones, where they are selecting cattle that they are going to attach their reputation to, of course they are going to pick cattle that they love and would buy.  Such is the case here.  Butlerview simply putting their money where their mouth is.  They worked very hard to get an outstanding lineup of cattle and they are certainly not afraid to invest.  So, “That’s the secret!!”



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The rest of the story

1 – $52,000 MS Atlees Goldwyn Ariel-ET EX-92, Goldwyn x Atlee
10 – $16,500 BVK Atwood Ana-ET (full sister to dam of Lot 9) born March ’11, Hardys Holsteins, buyer
100 – $15,000 1st choice Supersire x Fortale Marsie Observer, GLPI+2971
103 – $2000 – Butlerview Bookem Shake-ET, a 5/12 Bookem full sister to Shade
103A – $4500 – Butlerview Bookem Shade-ET, a 5/12 Bookem from Vision-Gen Sho A12024-ET x KY-Blue GW Dana-ET (VG-87 +2038 GTPI)
104 – $5500 – 1st choice Let it Snow from July IVF flush from Vision-Gen Sho A12024-ET (GTPI +2224)
105 – $5600 – 1st choice Supersire from June flush from Ms Alex Christmas Day-ET x Regancrest S Chassity-ET (EX-92 DOM) +2193 GTPI x 7 more VG & EX dams
106 – $12,500 for choice from Courtlane-UR Chassity (EX-90 DOM) x Regancrest S Chassity (EX-92 DOM)
107 – $20,000 – Ms Aubreys Gold Chip Ace-ET, a 12/11 Gold Chip at +3.29T out of Ms Atlees Shottle Aubry-ET VG-88
108 – $25,000 – 1st choice Gold Chip due in March, 2013 out of Ms Atlees Shottle Aubry-ET VG-88 then EX-92 Durham Atlee
110- $8,400 – Toddsdale Braxton Rita-ET, a September calf from Long-Haven Gold Rochelle-ET EX-92
112- $5,000 Silvermaple Windbrook Candy, Dec ’11 Windbrook maternal sister to Camomile
113- $5,700 – Delcreek Femme Fatal Dec ’11 Goldwyn x Delcreek K Royal Ruby, maternal sister to the All-American and All-Canadian Delcreek Fatal Attraction
114- $10,000 – Rotaly Sid Layton Dec ’11 Sid x Rotaly Goldwyns Lizia x Blondin Talent Lasie from the Supra’s!
115 – $4200 – 1st choice Let it Snow from July flush of Rocking-P Bowser Luna-ET +2204 GTPI
115A – $225/embyro – 4 #1 Let it Snow embryos from Luna – IVF females
115B – $200/embryo – 4 #1 Let it Snow embryos from Luna
116 – $10,000 – Claquato-RHH At Rocky Ridge – due 8/12 to Advent – Atwood daughter of High-Mountain Ridge-ET (VG-88) x Ms Astrahoe Reno Storm Riva (VG-86) x Pinehurst Royal Rosa family
119- $14,500 – Budjon-JK Atwood Elmond-ET November ’12 Atwood x Budjon-JK Durham Embrace-ET EX-95
12 – $8,500 – Sildajak Tristan Sassy 3-Red – R&W Senior 2-year-old
120- $8,000 – Budjon-JK BX Emma Lynn-ETS Dec ’11 Braxton x Budjon-JK Emilys Edair-ET EX-94
121- $4,000 MS Reese Raizel, 3/10/12 Atwood x Beldavid Goldwyn Reese VG-87 2y
121A- $6,300 – MS Reese Ribbon-ET (Atwood x Reese born 3/14/12)
124 – $20,200 – Robin-Hood Clumbo-ET (EX-91), 3rd 5-year-old Western Spring National 2012 – Durham x Carnation Mica Connie-ET (EX-90) x Carnation Cleitus Caroline-ET (EX-91 2E GMD-DOM) x 8 more VG and EX dams
125- $6,800 Butz-Butler Mac Bam Bam, Mac x Brasilia
126- $9,200 MS Gold Chip Barbra-ET
126A- $14,500
127 – $5800 – Ms Chassity Osmond Casi-ET, a 1/12 Osmond from Regancrest S Chassity (EX-92 DOM)
128 – $8000 – Ms Chassitys Arm Comical-ET, a 3/12 Armitage from Regancrest S Chassity – same family as Gold Chip and Colt 45 – GTPI +2169
129- $3,800 MS Farnear Broc Bronze-ET, an October 2011 Jeeves Jives x Brocade
13- $200,000 Mapel Wood Sudan Licorice GLPI +3992 GTPI +2543 #2 DGV female in the world at +4454 Sudan x Mapel Wood Man O Lucy x Comestar Goldwyn Lilac
130- $2,800 Farnear Brocades Butter ET, Robust x Brocade x Barbie
131 – $7200 – Ms Chassity Super Charo-ET, a 12/10 Super from Regancrest S Chassity (EX-92 DOM)
132 – $3800 – Ms Chassity Sup Charlize-ET, a 12/10 Super from Regancrest S Chassity (EX-92 DOM)
133- $3,900 Farnear Brocade Britestar-ET GTPI +2097, a May 2011 AltaJupiter x Regancrest G Brocade-ET EX-92
139- $15,000 1st choice McCutchen Female x Regancrest DGR Byrsha-ET GTPI +2325
14- $70,000 1st Choice Galaxy x MS Chassity Goldwyn Cash x Chassity
146- $11,000 A&M Bushman Dest Merritt-ET *RC, Destry mat. sister to Sunburst
147- $85,000 Earlen Goldwyn Secret VG-87 2y CAN, Grand Champion 2012 Ontario Summer Show
15- $175,000 Misty Springs Epic Savannah, GLPI +3962, DGV +4481 #1 in the world. March ’12 Epic x Man O Man x Shottle Satin
16 – $53,000 – Ralma Manoman Bluejay-ET +2272 GTPI – a 3/10 Man-O-Man from Ralma Shottle Chickadee-ET (VG-88 DOM) – full sister to Ralma Shottle
17- $165,000 Benner Lavaman Boo Boo #5 GPA LPI heifer in Canada from Gypsy Grand Family
1A- $42,000 MS Annas Epic Andreya-ET GTPI +2422, April ’12 Epic x MS Ariel Freddie Anna-ET x MS Atlees Goldwyn Ariel EX-92
2- $290,000 Silvermaple Damion Camomile VG-89 3y, Res. Grand Champion WDE 2011
20- $38,000 1st choice Mogul x Seagull-Bay Shauna Saturn x Ammon – Peachey Shauna
21 – $129,000 – Hammer-Creek Sha Kassidy-ET, a 2/12 Shamrock at +2589 GTPI – the highest GTPI heifer in the sale!
22 – $50,000 – Regancrest Shamrock Lava-TW, a 12/11 Shamrock with +2549 GTPI from Regancrest Jose Lakisha-ET (VG-87) x Miss Outside Lookin In-ET (VG-88) x 4 more VG & EX dams
23 – $135,000 – Ms Regelcreek Cmrn Ardis-ET, a 4/12 Cameron +2572 GTPI out of a Planet from the Adeen family. The #1 Cameron in the breed!
25- $10,200 – Crossbrook Minister Charity Jr. Champion NY Spring Show, Jr. Champion Mid-East Spring National 2012 Nominated All-American Spring Calf 2011
26 – $17,500 – Claquato-RH Escape-ET (VG-89) – Nom. All-American & All-Canadian 2011 – 9/09 Dundee from Skagvale Miracle Ellee (EX-91) – potential 10th gen. EX
27 – $13,500 – Budjon-Vail Damaris-Red-ET, a 9/2011 red fall calf by Camden-Red out of Budjon Redmarker Desire EX-96 3E
28 – $8,200 – Ms Winterfield SC Trend-Red, a 9/2011 Contender out of 11 EX dams
29- $18,500 Milksource Fever Golden, 1st summer yearling at IL Championship Show 2012
2B- $10,000 2nd choice Windhammer due 11/26/12 x Camomile
3- $490,000 Cookview Goldwyn Monique VG-89, Butler and Price buyers, Gene Iager, contender
30- $10,200 Ehrhardt Gold Chip Lilac-ET, a March ’12 Gold Chip x Idee Lustre EX-95
31- $11,500 Duckett-SA Braxton Fran-ET 9/4/11 x Harvue Roy Frosty EX-97
32 – $20,000 – 1st choice Mascalese or Windbrook out of Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy EX-95-CAN, Supreme Champion at Expo and the Royal in 2011
33 – $32,000 – 1st choice Mascalese due in March, 2013 out of Morsan Miss Snow Flake +2172 GTPI, the Snowman daughter of Gold Missy
34 – $23,000 – Butz-Hill Misy GC Madlyn-ET, +2332 GTPI Gold Chip our of a Man-O-Man granddaughter of Eastside Lewisdale Gold Missy EX-95
35- $19,000 1st Choice Headlienr x Regancrest S Chassity
38- $38,000 1st choice McCutchen x MS Chassity Snowman Clea x Chassity
39A- $122,000 Feb ’12 O-Man Just x Blue-Horizon Planet Edith
39B- $117,000 April ’12 AltaKool x Planet Edith
4 – $154,000 – RockyMountain Gold Winter VG-89-CAN – *RC Goldwyn that will show as a 4-year-old this fall. Nominated All-Canadian and All-American Senior 3-year-old in 2011
40- $60,000 1st choice Uno x Blue-Horizon Planet Edith
41 – $90,000 – choice of 12/11 Shamrocks from Coyne-Farms Fredi Jeven-ET +2286 GTPI x Coyne-Farms Ramos Jelly (VG-85 DOM +2109 GTPI) x 4 more VG & EX dams
42 – $45,000 – 2nd choice Numero Uno out of Sandy-Valley Robust Ruby-ET GTPI +2495
43- $139,000 Aurora-Rama Yano Harmony-ET +2570 GTPI
44- $40,000 Aurora-Rama GChip Havily-ET
45- $125,000 Curr-Vale Delish-Red-ET GTPI +2325
46 -$30,000 – SRP Magnus Z013699, a 3/12 Magnus with +2501 GTPI out of Dorcy dam then the Zip family
47- $120,000 MS Rollen-NC Cam Lexie P-ET *PO *RC #1 GTPI PO heifer in the US
47A- $95,000 MS Rollen-NC Camr Lucy-P-ET *PO*RC #1 PTAT polled animal in the world
49 – $35,000 – 1st choice Mogul due in January, 2013 out of Comestar Lautamire Planet VG-85-CAN, the #1 GLPI cow in Canada at +3584.
5- $187,000 Butz-Butler Gold Barbara-ET VG-87 bred to Atwood, Goldwyn x Brasilia EX-92 x Barbie, Budjon Farms and Peter Vail, buyers
50 – $30,000 – 1st choice Mogul due in October out of Comestar Lautamai Man O Man +2964 GLPI
51- $40,000 – 1st choice Headliner from Feb ’13 calves x Vison-Gen SH Frd A12304-ET x Applouis Jet Stream Alda VG-85
52- $32,000 – 1st choice Mogul x Miller-FF Bookem Esther-ET GTPI +2463 x Nova Shottle Evelyn-ET VG-86
53 – $17,000 – 1st choice Gold Chip x Dubeau Dundee Hezbollah EX-92 from six transfers due March 6, 2013
54- $9,800 – 3rd choice Atwood x Dubeau Dundee Hezbollah EX-92, six females due September
55 – $18,000 – Ms Emilyann Alex Emery-ET (VG-85) – Alexander x Wabash-Way Emilyann-ET (VG-88 DOM) x Crockett-Acres Elita-ET (VG-87 DOM) x 9 more VG & EX dams
56 – $4,000 – Quality-Ridge Advn Abby-Red, Res. Grand Champion MN State Show 2012 – Advent x Quality-Ridge Talent Anita (VG-87)
57 – $24,000 – Ms Talent Applicious-Red, an EX-91 Talent daughter of All-American Apple
57A – $8,500 – 1st choice of Redburst or Atwood out of Ms Talent Applicious-Red EX-91
58 – $26,500 – BBM Gold Chip Apple-ET, a *RC +2151 GTPI Gold Chip daughter of Ms Candy Apple-Red-ET VG-87, then EX-95 Apple
59- $9,500 – 1st choice Supersire x MS Goldwyn Adorable-ET RC VG-87 x MS Talent Applicious-Red-ET GP-84 CAN
6- $48,000 Regancrest Brasilia-ET EX-92, Shottle x Barbie
60 – $7800 – Robin-Hood LKI Carrissa – 3/10 Atwood x Robinhood Connie-ET (EX-90) x Carnation Leduc Connie (EX-91 2E)
61- $55,000 Mapel Wood Epic Giggle-Red +2530 GLPI Epic Man-O-Man that carries the variant red gene
63 – $27,000 – Dymentholm Sunview Satin-ET, a 4/12 *RC Epic daughter +2352 GTPI out of VG-87 Des-Y-Gen Planet Silk +2220 GTPI
64 – $23,000 – 1st choice MAS out of Dymentholm Sunview Santana, a +2961 GLPI Snowman daughter of Planet Silk
65 – $56,000 – Stantons Shamrock City Girl, a 4/12 Shamrock with +2487 GTPI +3185 GLPI from Stantons Freddie Cameo x Stantons Lucky Cameo (VG-89)
66 – $41,000 – Jolicap Emlilas Shamrock, a 3/12 Shamrock +2986 GLPI from Tramilda-N Baxter Emily-ET (VG-85) x Whittier-Farms Lead Mae family
67 – $31,000 – Ransom-Rail Facebk Paris-Et +2380 GTPI – a 1/12 Facebook from Welcome Mac Peytan-ET (VG-87) +2134 GTPI
68 – $60,000 – Siemers Snman Centuria-ET, a 6/11 Snowman +2341 GTPI out of Ralma Planet Century-ET (VG-86) +2323 GTPI from Ralma Juror Faith family
69 – $16,000 – Comestar Model Lizbosy Lobster, a 1/12 Lobster +2334 GTPI +74P out of Comestar Model Lizboli Sydney VG-85-CAN
7- $59,000 1st choice Numero Uno x RockyMountain Talent Licorice EX-95
70 – $24,500 – Vieuxsaule Supersonic Sugi +2344 GTPI, a 3/12 Supersonic from Vieuxsaule Bolton Halia (VG-87), then Vieuxsaule Allen Dragonfly (EX-94 2E)
71 – $4,100 – Farnear-BH A Barbora-ET, a 4/12 Alchemy +2307 GTPI out of Farnear Brocad Brilliant-ET, a Man-O-Man daughter of Brocade
72 – $20,000 – Farnear GC Bridg Bry-ET, a 3/12 Gold Chip out of Farnear Brocade Bridge, the Aftershock daughter of EX-92 Brocade
73 – $20,000 – Choice of T-Spruce Armitage 4756-ET +2398 GTPI 1/12 Armitage or T-Spruce Armitage 4768-ET, a +2381 GTPI 1/12 Armitage both out of Lar-Lan Time Annabelle +2136 GTPI Time daughter from the Durham Annabell family
74 – $15,500 – Choice of Wa-Del-DH Bookem Camara-ET, +2291 GTPI Bookem or Horstyle-RW Bookem Clear-ET +2317 GTPI out of Horstyle-RW Mano Cluster VG-85 +2185 GTPI
75- $18,500 MS Boyana FB Babe-ET GTPI +2413 x Farnear-TBR Bosr Boyana-ET x Klassic Mac Barb-ET VG-85
76- $30,000 MS Benshae Benish-ET GTPI+2308, March ’12 Shamrock x Farnear-TBR Benshae-ET
77- $8,400 – Tranquility AC Drear Candy-ET GTPI +2355 x Ronlee Boliver Dreary-ET x Ronlee Outside Dabble-ET EX-91
78- $18,000 – Nova-TMJ Jeeves Eleta-ET GTPI +2308, Jeeves  x Nova-TMJ Golden Echo-ETS VG-88
79- $8,000 – Choice of three Gold Chip females x Regancrest-BH Super Delish x Regancrest-BH Delica-ET x Windsor-Manor Z-Delight-ET 2E-93
8 – $34,000 – Cam-Bing Gold Nila-ET (VG-88) – Goldwyn maternal sister to Bingland Leduc Nancy (2E-96) -dam is Bingland Starb Noel-ET (VG-88)
80- $10,000 – UFM-Dubs Sherun-ET GTPI +2304, a Super daughter of UFM-Dubs Sheray-ET bred 5-29-12 to Lithium
81 – $23,000 – 1st choice MAS out of Ms Planet Cheri-ET +2257 GTPI from an EX-92 Goldwyn dam
82 – $16,000 – 1st choice Mascalese out of Gloryland Linette Rae VG-89 +2217 GTPI, a Goldwyn from the Roxys
84 – $31,000 – 1st choice McCutchen from Ladys-Manor Dominique-ET, a +2425 GTPI Shamrock from the Dur Chans
85- $25,000 – 1st choice McCutchen female x Velthuis Snowman Lorette-ETS GTPI+2360, calves due April 2013
86- $35,000 1st choice Uno x Boldi Snowman Lillico-ETS GTPI +2282 x MS Chartrois Planet Leoni-ET VG-87 2y CAN
87 – $23,000 – 1st choice Mascalese due in February, 2013 out of Larcrest Cinergy-ET +2455 GTPI Robust out of Larcrest Crimson VG-89
88 – $25,000 – 1st choice Let It Snow due in April, 2013 out of Kellercrest Manoman Lacy-ET +2411 GTPI
89 – $32,000 2nd choice Uno x Sully Planet Manitoba-ET GP-83
9- $29,000 1st choice MAS x BVK Atwood Arianna-ET VG-89, Int. Champion IL Championship Show
90 – $20,000 1st choice Lithium x Sully Hart Gerard 147 GTPI +2344 x Sully Hart Manitoba GP-83
92- $21,000 1st choice Latimer x Langs-Twin-B Christa GTPI +2455
93- $17,500 1st choice McCutchen x Opsal Planet Fame-ET GP-84, from June IVF
97 – $9,200 Marbri Shamrock Felicity GLPI +2906, March ’12 Shamrock x SerenityHill Frosty (full sister to Facebook)
99 – $12,000 for 1st choice Let it Snow female x Gepaquette Iota Ravisette +2966 GLPI – from July flush – built in PA at +2364 GTPI
99A – $11,500 for 1st choice Let it Snow female x Gepaquette Iota Ravariume +2904 GLPI from July flush – built in PA at +2334 GTPI


How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World

The days when dairy breeders could only find out the latest gossip from the local semen or feed salesman are long gone.  With the help of social media platforms like Facebook, breeders can find out who won what show or who just got the VG-89-2yr almost instantaneous.  The World Wide Web and more specifically social media have taken bulk tank conversation to a completely new level.

As a kid I could remember when our local embryo technician came in we would find out everything that was going on in the local community and then later when the sires analysts came in we would find out what bulls are hot or what gossip was going around.  I can remember that every time the sires analysts came in we were always trying to find out who the next top bull was going to be.  These days even the sire analysts are heading online to find out what’s happening.

Perception is NOT reality

The biggest challenge that has caused the dairy industry to be behind other is a perception issue.  For a long while many breeders thought, and some still think that, twitter is just about what people are having for lunch and Facebook is about sharing pictures of the kids.  The reality could not be any farther from the actual fact than that.  There are over 77,000 dairy farmers on Facebook, and that the average Facebook user logins in daily.  (To read more check out 7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be on Facebook)  Could you imaging a platform more suited for dairy breeders looking to find out the latest news?

Then there is Twitter.  While still new to lots of dairy breeders there are some great opportunities for breeders to join in real-time discussion about the issue that face them.  Two great examples of this are AgChat, a moderated Twitter discussion that takes place every Tuesday night, and Bullchat that happens on Thursdays at 1pm EST.  Since its creation in 2009, nearly 10,000 people from ten countries have attached the hashtag #agchat to their tweets, or joined in to discuss issues and share ideas related to food and farming.  In addition, the hashtag #bullchat has had many great discussions about the value of A.I. contracts, breeding cattle in the heat, Genomics, and many more pressing issues.  All topics on #bullchat are breeder driven but have had some great support from the socialally enabled A.I. companies.

Dairy Magazines are Old School

Gone are the days when the few magazines controlled what dairy breeders got to be aware of and think.  In the past information was pushed on dairy breeders as the dairy publications decided what was relevant and what was not.  In today’s socially empowered day and age, it’s now the dairy breeders who control the conversation and the dairy magazines are struggling to keep up.

If you look at how many of the dairy magazines are using social media you will see that they are just using these new channels to push out the same old message.  They are not working at engaging in the conversation.  Instead of letting breeders dictate the conversation, they are trying to dictate to the breeders.  Check out how many of these magazines allow comments on their articles?  What are they afraid of?  Better yet how many of these magazines actually share articles online?  Alternatively, are they just using their social media accounts and their website to sell more magazines?

The Bottom Line

Social media is like teen sex.  Everyone wants to do it.  But for the most part nobody knows how.  When breeders finally get on to social media and learn as they go, they discover that it was not as hard as they thought.  The biggest thing I can say, just dive in, I am sure you will enjoy the ride.

For those of you wanting a little guidance check out “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook”.

Sold! or did she?

Maybe it because it’s Friday the 13, or maybe it’s because I just like stirring things up, but recently when I was reviewing the sale list from some of the major sales, I found myself asking, “Did she really sell?”

As I look at the buyers list I see that there were many lots that were bought either by sales management or by the close friends of the person selling the animal.  While I understand in some cases, such as Rocky Mountain Holsteins, for example, that the teams putting on the sale are also typical buyers as well, I also notice cases where I see that lots sold to a close friend of the consignor or neighbor of the consignor and I ask myself did she really sell?

It has been my finding in the past that these types of sales, typically, do not result in any form of actual sale.  Ya sure you may see the new name on the pedigree for a little while, but give it about a year or so and that animal is back in the sole ownership of the breeder who was selling that animal.

I can understand that the breeder does not want to let their animal sell for less than they feel they are worth.  However, the question begs to be asked, is she really worth what they think she is?  On the other hand, are they just looking for the marketing aspect of having one of their animals on the top sellers’ list?

Creating a False Market

There is a certain aspect to having your animal appear on the top sellers list at a major sale.  Often time perception is reality.  Therefore, if breeders see family members from a certain family consistently selling well, they assume it’s a very marketable family and then want to get in on that family to cash in on the popularity.  The problem is that popularity never existed and the person buying in never makes any money.  Neither does the original seller really.  Since they have to pay the commission to the original sales management team for the commission on the animal that never really sold.

Don’t believe your own hype

For most dairy breeders, nothing compares to seeing the fruits of your hard work.  You tend to see each as though it was one of your children.  Well not quite, but pretty close.  You have put so much hard work into it that you want to see the reward for all that work.  Many times that comes in one of two ways: awards and/or revenue.  Moreover, while awards are nice, they don’t pay the bills.  Therefore, you do not want to let those animals go for less than you feel your time and effort is worth.

The problem is many breeders start getting a false sense of what their animals are worth.  You see other animals selling for big dollars, and you think, “Hey my heifer is at least as good as that heifer, if not better”.  Since you don’t want to be shortchanged on your sale price you “protect” her by having a friend or neighbor run up the sale price to what you believe is the minimally acceptable price.  The problem is that no one else in the market feels that she is worth that, so all that you have really done is increased the size of the commission check you are going to pay to sales management.

There’s a fix in the works

I cannot tell you the number of times that I could tell you who and at what price an animal would sell for, before the sale even started.  The reason I can’t tell you is because it’s against most terms and conditions of the sale agreement.  Animals being offered at public auction are to be sold in an open and equally available manner.  Often times, high valued animals are going through the sale ring for the marketability and the hype.  Yes, they are being sold to a new buyer, but the deal has already been worked out before the heifer ever enters the sale ring.

Can I say it’s wrong.  Not really, because it is a mutually agreed upon sale price, and if someone else wanted to pay more than that price they could.  The challenge is that this was more of a private treaty sale than a public offering.  However, I guess everyone wins, sales management gets a sale topper, the seller gets the sale price they are looking for, and the buyer pays a price they agreed upon and gets the added promotion on the animal.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

If you are going to sell an animal at public auction, be willing to sell her.  Don’t put her (or in many cases now him) in the sale if you are not willing to sell.  Yes, I understand the marketing aspects, but in the end, you are only hurting yourself and the industry.  Those who have been to enough of these sales know what breeders are actually willing to let their top animal go, and those who only have the animal in the sale for the hype.  Next time you are at one of these top sales, look to see who is bidding on these animals.  Is it the people who buy all the time?  Is it a breeder who you know is looking to add a new cow family?  On the other hand, is it the neighbor or best friend of the person selling the animal?  When the latter is the case, I have made it a point to stop bidding that instant.  No matter what the price.

What has your experience been?  Please share in comments box below.



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Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist?

You read the claims in ads all the time, #1 this and #1 one that.  You’re dazzled with amazing photos.  Can you believe what you see?  Are there really any ethics when it comes to dairy cattle marketing?

Ethics are a collection of principles of right conduct that shape the decisions people or organizations make. Practicing ethics in dairy cattle marketing means deliberately applying standards of fairness, or moral right and wrong, to marketing decision-making, behavior, and practice in the organization or on the farm.

Wild West Shootout

As I scroll through the major print publications, I see a wide variety of practices that may not abide by a standard definition of marketing ethics.  Pretty much every add you see has had the photo retouched, the cow cropped out and claims that they have the #1 this or the #1 that.You even see claims to be the #1 Genomics animal even when they have not been officially released.

I am not saying that this is totally wrong.  What I am saying is that there needs to be a standard or mutually agreed upon set of regulations that all dairy cattle advertising abides by. Currently it’s still a wild wild west where the people who design the ads are able to do whatever their creative heart’s desire.

Photo Ethics

Nowhere is this truer than in photos.  As we have highlighted in the past “Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?” it seems to be a free-for-all when it comes to what some photographers will do to get a great photo.  I am sure in the minds of those who make these changes they think they are doing the correct thing. Are they really? Are you really helping the breeder sell more? Or are you hurting the industry as a whole because you are causing some to distrust the legitimacy of the image?

The New Rules of Dairy Cattle Marketing

As a graphic designer this excites me but as a dairy cattle breeder this scares me.  There needs to be a level of trust that readers can expect when they are reading these publications.  Some examples of rules would be:

  • If a photo has been retouched it needs to be identified
  • No retouching of an animal should be allowed
  • Can only claim to be #1 for something if it is validated by an official list
  • Unless there is an official conversion from one country’s ranking/evaluation to another there should be no claims made accordingly

The Bullvine Bottom Line

I remember when I first got into dairy cattle marketing almost 20 years ago.  At that point in time there was actually an industry accepted standard that all organizations had to abide by when publishing sire proof information.  But at the times have changed the rules and regulations have been lost.  The problem is that, with the loss of the rules, has come the loss of the credibility.  To rectify this, I wonder if it’s time to establish a new set of rules?  What is necessary?  What is possible? What rules would you like to see when it comes to marketing dairy cattle?

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.

Dairy Cattle Showing: For Ego or Profit?

There is no question that, for many dairy breeders, there is nothing more exciting than winning at the Royal or Madison.  Along with the fame comes the fortune.  But what happens for the other 99% of people who don’t win?  Do they make any money?  Does their need for inner self-gratification get satisfied?

There are many reasons that breeders show their cattle at the local fair, such as supporting their local community, or helping teach their children the joys of the dairy cattle community.  However, when it comes to competing at the championship, state and national level, is there really justification for the time, effort and expense?

Over the years, I have seen a few things happen when it comes to making money in the show cattle business:

  1. A breeder either “gets lucky” or “by design” breeds a great one, and, if they are fortunate enough to know what they have, they sell it for a significant profit to one of the many cattle dealers that run the roads.
  2. When it comes to buying the top animals, it really comes down to a small group of buyers.  These buyers seem to trade cattle like they are playing cards, and it’s hard to tell if money is actually being made, or is it the same money going around in circles.
  3. Unknowing breeders purchase progeny from these cattle hoping that they can breed the next great one.  (For more on this read Great Show Cows: Can They Pass It On?)

Should Dairy Cattle be more like Race Horses?

The dairy cattle industry is not like the horse racing industry that has gambling revenue to support their cause.  I can still remember in Ontario when they wanted to add slot machines to the horse racing tracks and the breeders fought it tooth and nail.  In the end it more than quadrupled there prize money and made many breeders very very rich.  Is there any way we could add betting on show results?  (Oh wait that is a can of worms we may not want to touch. Watch for it in a future Bullvine article).

In reality, the only ones that really make money at this are the small few that have a class winner at Madison or the Royal, or those that are fortunate enough to get lucky with a homebred animal that can compete at the National level.  All the rest are spending a great deal of money to support their ego.

Athletes vs. Doctors

I equate it to the same amount of money that big time sports players make.  Yes, you see these million dollar contracts for the big name athletes.  However, for every one of those there are twenty that you never heard of that spent a great deal of time and energy chasing a dream.  The scary part is that, much like in real life, the big name athletes seem to make more money than say a doctor.  They’re good at a game.  Doctor’s save lives.  The same is true at the top sales.  You see the major show cattle selling for millions of dollars and yet the top LPI or TPI cattle don’t sell for as much.  Don’t the top TPI or LPI cows drive the most profit for dairy breeders? Shouldn’t they command the highest prices?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

When investing in show cattle the big question you need to answer is why you are doing it.  Are you investing to make a huge profit?  If so I wish you luck.  However, if you are investing because you love preparing  great cattle to parade in top showcase events or love the thrill of competing against the best in the business then more  power to you.  The big thing is know your own reasons and stay within what works for your operation.  Profit. Ego. Passion.  Where do you pull into the line?



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You Can’t Drive To The Future Using Rear View Mirrors!

By definition, being strategic requires that you look forward — identifying trends, opportunities, and threats. That’s how good drivers drive on super highways and it’s how good breeders keep moving forward too. You can choose the less risky route of staying in the parking lot but you won’t get anywhere. Here are a few ways to keep your herd moving toward the future.

Check out your blind spot

By the end of next year, even the skeptics will have to admit that genomics, smart phones and tablets are here to stay. The early adopters and best-practice breeders are using these devices. They love being able to see all incoming e-mail, social messaging, text messaging, and voice and video messaging in a single place. They`re using them as the new resource to learn about and manage almost every aspect of cattle breeding.

Traditional Marketing will Decrease.  New Marketing will skyrocket.

As dairy breeders zero in on genomics, finding the leaders, at the right price in the right location and instantly … will change the face of dairy cattle marketing.  The twice a year showcase or the every three to five years  reduction sale will gradually give way to a marketplace that is in “sell” mode 24-7 and 365 days of the year.  Sellers will move beyond single page ads, special events and the cattle ring for promotion as a whole new breed (pun intended) of niche players will be born with the intention of providing the best results from your advertising dollars.  The days of a few key players topping the markets with their well orchestrated, for-your-eyes only live marketing events will gradually give way to on line live video interviews, marketing and promotion one-on-one. Rather than the traditional “one-size-fits-all” advertising strategy, a targeted personalized approach will be required if you expect to have a reasonable chance to sell in the new marketplace.

Genomics will increase its impact by becoming more focused and data driven

Most dairy breeders recognize that genomics is a tool to improve selection. As results become more refined and defined the potential impact will have even more converts.  Global economic issues will be with us for years to come and that too will drive genomics development to target more and better ways to breed great cattle to their highest potentially in the fastest, healthiest and most economical way possible.

The Global Marketplace has attracted the Big Players

The continued growth of technology, social media, and easy communications now makes it possible a dairy breeder in China to come to your barn, see your cows and complete a sale with no middle men, expensive “tire-kicking” trips or costly international time zone, travel and financial issues.  Today it’s take-a-look and complete-the-deal. With the whole world able to look over your shoulder in your barn, big business definitely sees the potential and is ready to grab a piece of the pie.

Dairy cattle research is picking up speed

Remember the good old days (that would be 10 years ago) when we had to sit through breeder meetings and association animal meetings and hear about the difficulties of getting the right research done at the right time and at a reasonable cost?  Industry and government were supposed to be pulling together to fund research that would have an impact on more than the scientific community. Sometimes breeders were skeptical, or unaware, of the practical applications.  Remember CAAB?  Genomics has changed all that.  Now not only are the money streams more accessible and flowing, the really big players with the really big bucks are ready and willing to become the new best friends of the cattle breeding industry.

Farm Branding is the Express Lane to Success

You can no longer hope that a few expensive colour layouts in a magazine will give you the profile you’re looking for to sell those also expensive genetics that you’re investing in. Having good genetics, a great work ethic and savvy cow sense, is no longer enough to have you speeding through the rapidly expanding crowd where everybody says, “Been there. Bred that!”  The increased use of social media and digital marketing will be the new way for the cream to rise to the top.

The Buyer Experience

In the past, you knew who the “players” were and the rest didn’t blip on your radar.   Today, you’ve got one chance to make a good first impression.  You never know when someone’s phone will capture a video and or audio of your inventory (is that what she “really” looks like?) and share it around the world. You could try keeping your doors selectively  closed but that will send a message too and it could be a negative one!  You are caught between the camera and a hot place!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Forward-looking decision-making: Although hindsight is 20/20, if you’re moving ahead you cannot spend your time looking backward at what happened in the past. The dairy business of the future is following the growth signs:  market supply and demand; new dairying technologies and genomics to name a few. This forward-looking focus will not only improve decision-making but will lead the way to a future that is built on the past but moving way faster than we ever though possible.  Keep moving on the dairy industry express lane or you could be stuck on the off-road ramp or, even worse, left in the parking lot!

Will there ever be another distinct bloodline?

Before the recent Kueffner Kows at Cowtown Sale Horace Backus, commented that he had never seen anything like it in all his years!  “The quality of every animal and the homebred breeding was just so good.  Just before the sale started, I took a moment to walk through one of the lines of cows while it was quiet and everyone was already gathered in the tent.  I stood looking at a line of maybe 40 animals, and thought I was standing at Madison seeing that many great cows all together.”  These comments reminded me of the ones he made before the 1998 Hanover Hill Dispersal where Horace said, “In the history of the Holstein Breed, there have only been four or five herds that have created a distinct blood herd.  Today we are selling a distinct bloodline herd.”  This got me think will there ever be another distinct bloodline herd?

Over the years, the marketplace has changed greatly.  The improvements in technology have been incredible.  It is now easier than ever to market, compare and transport your genetics to anywhere in the world.  To get a better understanding how each of these will play into the potential of having another distinct bloodline, we decided to take a closer look at each one.

Marketing to the World

In the era of Hanover Hill era buyers did come in person from around the world.  The world has changed greatly with the Internet.  I often wonder what a great marketer like Peter Heffering would have done in today’s time.  The ability to market to a much larger audience through the internet and Facebook is expanding the marketplace.  You are no longer just selling to the person next door or in the same country or the few who are able to travel to buy.  You are often selling to people half way around the world.  And more importantly than where they are, is how quickly and easily you can reach them.  You no longer have to run magazine ads in each country’s major breed magazine.  Today you simply post a quick smartphone picture, or better yet video, on your Facebook page and share it with the world.

Cross Country Comparisons

One of the things that contributed greatly to each country or region having its own distinct bloodlines was that the ability to compare performance data on in each country presented challenges.  In previous generations, it was hard enough getting everyone to talk in the same units (ex. Lbs. vs. kgs.) let alone the fact that they had different methods of evaluating things.  Then came Interbull and MACE proofs. That started to open up the marketplace, but for some the confidence in the MACE system was not there and for the most part most countries still had regionalized breeding and evaluating systems.  Then came genomics that has given breeders around the world the confidence no matter where the bull was proven to use him on their cattle.  We now see that there is no longer a negative stigma in North America on foreign proven bulls.  Moreover, many of the great international cow families are gaining significant respect in the North American marketplace, especially as sons of these cattle have proven themselves well on the North American genetic base.

Transportation of Genetics

All the great marketing and evaluation systems in the world mean nothing if you cannot get the genetics to the consumers.  Artificial insemination had a drastic impact on the ability of breeders to develop distinct bloodlines.  Instead of just running your own breeding program where you sell the odd breeding bull, artificial insemination meant that when you sold that bull to an AI center, he would now be able to reach the world market.  With AI companies also becoming less regional or country focused and more world focused, that meant you could sell a bull in Chicoutimi Quebec and his semen could be used in Kamifurano Japan.  Breeders no longer had to develop their own bloodlines and could draw on the best bloodlines from around the world.  Furthermore, as embryo transfer technology advanced you could also import and export embryos and further accelerate your breeding programs.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Today breeding herds like De-Su limit the amount of genetics they sell and AI organizations like Select Sires are entering the female animal ownership side in order to develop a distinct product in the marketplace.  Nevertheless, I truly feel that with the overall changes in the global marketplace we have a much more level playing field through evaluation systems and technology and, therefore, it is highly unlikely that we will see the achievement of a distinct bloodline at the level reached by Hanover Hill.

Is Good Plus Good Enough?

For years GP-84-2YR was the kiss of death when it came to marketing and selling genetics.  However, along comes genomics and it seems that GP is good enough.  Nevertheless, the question it has me asking is “Is Good Plus Good Enough?”

I can still remember when Summershade Icebreak Luke, was the #1 LPI cow in Canada.  The problem was she was scored GP-83-2YR.  The A.I. companies where not sure if they should even sample bulls from her and how would they convince their members to use them in their young sire programs.  Then came along Summershade Igniter and Summershade Inquirer and A.I. companies took the chance.  While hindsight is 20/20, maybe they should have passed.  On the female side, Icebreak had 34 daughters classified and only 7 of them going VG.  We ourselves had one of those daughters Summershade Icemarti.  While she did score VG, it was not until her 2nd lactation, long past her peak marketing time.  In the past, we have purchased many daughters out of GP 83 and 84 two year olds, expecting them to go VG before our purchase calved in.  It has proven to be a risky move, but one that could have paid off big time.  On the male side Icebreak had six sons enter A.I. service but none where ever returned to service.

On the flip side, I can also remember when we first purchased into the Braedale Gypsy Grand family and many people around us had concerns about her GP-83-2YR dam.  While there was a very good reason why Moonriver never went VG, we still found ourselves having to explain things many times.  Then along came Second Cut, Baler Twine, Freelance and Goodluck and we found that changed everything.

As we all know genomics has changed the name of the game, and we now see A.I. companies sampling high genomic sires irrelevant of their score or the score of their dam.  With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the current high index dams that are NOT scored VG.  The following is what I found.

The Story in the US

In the US, there are three GP cows on the Top 25 GTPI Cows List (GP-83-or Higher).  Leading the way is BEN-AKERS PLANET LUISE26-ET, she the #3 GTPI cow and the #1 NM cow scored over 83 points.  While Luise is from the Ricecrest Luke Lisa family and has solid type numbers, her genomic values for type are actually lower than her parent average and yet she still has a son at Alta Genetics, Ben-Akers AltaRazzle.  Joining Luise on the top GTPI list at #18 is SURE-VIEW MP PLANET LEXI.  Lexi is from the M&M-Pond-Hill Leadman Luba family and is scored GP-83-2YR.  Similar to Luise, Lexi has high genomic values compared to her parent average but yet again has conformation scores that just meet expectations.  Unlike Luise, it appears to this point that Lexi does not have any sons currently in A.I..  The third member of the list is SULLY PLANET MANITOBA , this GP-83-2YR is out of the great brood cow, Sully Shottle May the former #1 GTPI and GLPI cow of the breed.  Of course May is believed to have more offspring genomic tested over 2200 & 2300 GPTI than any other cow in the breed.  Unlike the other two GP 2yr olds on the top list, Manitoba has outstanding type numbers and her genomic values are actually higher than her parent average.  It’s these outstanding values that have her with at least three sons currently in A.I., SULLY HART MERIDIAN-ET and SULLY HART MUNICH-ET at Semex, and SULLY ALTABRANDON-ET at Alta Genetics.

The Canadian Story

Much like the US list the #3 spot on the Canadian List is held by a GP-83-2YR, Benner Planet Jakova-ET.  Being a Planet from a Goldwyn, Jakova has strong parent average for type and has strong genomic values as well.  Coming from the Benner Luke Jean family, Jokava has yet to put a son into A.I.. Joining Jokova on the list is Delaberge Planet Lulu.  However, on April 25th Lulu was raised to VG-85-2YR, 244 days fresh.  Lulu comes from the Bryhill Lindy Lilly family and already has a son at Semex, DONNANDALE LUMI.  The third member on the list is Alexerin Oman 993. Of interesting note about 993 is that there are no VG dams anywhere in her pedigree, she has mostly production sires and yet her parent average for conformation is five and her genomic value is a six.  Not surprisingly, 993 does not have any sons currently in A.I.  The last member on the list is Calbrett Planet Empress.  Much like Lulu, Empress has since been moved to VG-86-2YR later in lactation.  Empress is from the WABASH-WAY EVETT dam of the popular genomic sire Genervations Eclipse and the same family as Epic and Highway.  Given the strong maternal pedigree, Empress has PA of +10 for conformation and actually exceeds that with a +12 for her direct genomic value.  Given her increase in score and strong maternal pedigree it is just a matter of time before she has sons in A.I..

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While GP-84-2YR use to be the kiss of death for many marketing and genetic programs, genomics has changed the game.  With genomics, we are seeing many GP 83 or 84 cattle used as dams that would have never been touched before.  While many will increase in score later in life, many do not, and yet that does not seem to be as big a factor.  Many A.I. companies and breeders are more concerned about their genomic values than that of their actual classification score.


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Nothing Sells Like Video

In the past, there was nothing better for marketing your dairy cattle than getting a great photo.  It has often been said that a cow needs to look great twice in her life, once when the classifier sees her and once when you take her photo.  Today’s problem is that, with the advancement in digital photography, some photographers have taken it too far (read “Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far”?), to the point where many people do not completely trust photo’s anymore.  This is why, in the future, video will be the #1 way to sell your dairy cattle.

Video is 100% Honest

While it is possible for photos to be touched up, in order to touch up a video it would take more resources than any breeder or A.I. organization could ever afford.  In a video, you are able to see all the strengths and flaws as well as how your cattle walk and move on their legs.  Many times I have seen a cow that would not classify well for feet & legs last 5+ lactations, just because of how they handle their feet and legs.  I have also seen the exact opposite occur as well.  A young cow or bull that has very fine feet and legs that would score well, but since they are not very mobile on them, they don’t last past their first couple of lactations or exits the A.I. stud early in life.  Watching an animal on video lets you see all this.

Check out this video by of Venture Proxy PP-Red.  Notice how with just a little intro, some music, and a little time, they were able to create a great video that really gives you a strong appreciation for what the strengths and weaknesses  of the bull are and how well he moves on his feet.

Video’s Help Sell in Live Auctions

Not every potential bidder can make it in person to the auction where you may be selling your consignments.  Not wanting to lose out on this potential revenue, Ferme Jacobs has done a great job of creating a cost effective video to help show how these potential show heifers continue  the success that Ferme Jacobs has been having at the major shows in North America (read Ferme Jacobs: Success Is All In The Family).

The world has gone digital, and that includes Holstein World.  Holstein World seeing the demand for video has even created Holstein World Productions that does a great job of covering auctions (for a cost) that helps sell the animals to a larger market.  Check out this video in support of the recent Impact of Ada Sale

With no retouching and just simply letting the heifer be natural, the potential buyers get a great understanding of what the animal is really like.  Something they could never get from a still shot.

Use Video to Promote Your Herd to the World

Have you ever noticed that most major big brand’s and company’s front page of their website increasingly resembles TV commercials?  That’s because television advertisers have spent billions over the years on what they know works and grabs people’s attention.  Advancements in technologies and increasing connection speeds have almost doubled in the past 2 years alone.  Websites are starting to catch up with what works on TV.  They don’t do it with text.  They do it with audio and video.  They know they have only 3-5 seconds to grab your attention.  Therefore, I pose this question, “what is the difference between a TV commercial and the front page of your website?” You want to grab attention and prompt someone to take time and look at your cattle, right?  Well, you’d better have video in some fashion up front in order to do that.

Taking their use of video to all aspects of their website, check out the video on Ferme Jacobs website ( welcoming visitors to their farm.  By watching that video, you are able to get a sense for what Ferme Jacobs is all about and because they have broken the ice, you feel as if you already know them and have an increased sense of trust.

Video brings with it a distinct benefit in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your site.  Recently, Google, Yahoo, and other search engines decided that they would rank a website higher in their SEO algorithms for having a video embedded somewhere within the site.  They even figured out ways to view the text within the videos themselves and use that in search engines.

The most common way to have video on your site is by using a service such as YouTube or Vimeo.  However, you do need to be smart about how to use these services if you go that route.  Your view rating will be a lot higher if you embed the video onto your webpage rather than just putting a link to show your video on YouTube or Vimeo.  Besides, why would you send someone away from your website when the goal is to keep them on your website for as long as possible?

The Bullvine Bottom Line

There really is nothing better than video to help you sell and promote your cattle.  It does not have to be some big costly production.  In fact, it can be much cheaper than having a professional photographer come in.  You can simply use your hand held blackberry or smartphone and snap some quick snippets to share with potential buyers on Facebook or on your website.  Even good quality digital video cameras can be picked up at your local Best-Buy or Wal-Mart.  Most even come with some basic software so that you can add your own titles, images, and music.  While I am not saying you don’t need to take still shots of your cattle (they are still needed for ads, and such), what I am saying is think about how you can incorporate video into your marketing plans.  You will be happy you did.  See you in the movies!

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

USA v.s. Canada: Which system is more marketing friendly

Every genetic evaluation round I am reminded of some of the major differences between the different support systems breeders have around the world.  Breeding great cattle can be challenging enough, but having a great support and marketing system around them can help greatly.  With this in mind, I take a look at the differences that breeders on both sides of the CAN-USA border have available to them.

Genetic Evaluations

Probably the most glaring difference that comes to light for me is the difference in availability of information.  While both Canadian Diary Network (CDN) and USDA Animal Improvement Laboratory do a great job of calculation the genetic evaluations.  There could not be a greater difference in how they share that information with breeders.  USDA does provide the basic top lists, but if you want to get the top TPI list you need to go to Holstein USA.  Even there you can only get the top TPI™ lists for domestic and International bulls.

Conversely, CDN provides the following at 8 am proof day for each release (for all breeds as well):

  • Genetic Evaluation Highlights
  • Top Bull Lists for
    • LPI
    • Milk
    • Fat
    • Protein
    • Conformation
    • MACE
    • Genomic Young Sires
  • Top Cow Lists for
    • LPI
    • Milk
    • Fat
    • Protein
    • Conformation
    • Genomic Heifers

Big deal you say!  Well actually, it is a big deal.  The ability to have such detailed information at the time of release gives A.I. companies marketing Canadian proven sires and breeders a great advantage over their competitors.  They can have detailed analysis of what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s happening long before most other countries even have the list of top bulls.

Animal Inquires

Probably one of my biggest challenges between the two systems is the general access to information for researching cow families and top genetics.  This really comes down to Holstein Canada vs. Holstein USA.

For free in Canada, you can get:

  • Ownership information
  • Production and Confirmation breeding values
  • Production and award records
  • Progeny Summary
  • Family Tree
  • Direct Genomic Values (for those tested)
  • Type Classification breakdown
  • Show records

In the US for $2 per inquiry

  • Genetics
  • Ancestors
  • Classification
  • Maternal Siblings
  • Ownership

This makes a huge difference when it comes to the marketability of cattle.  If prospected buyers can do a detailed search finding the specific animals that, meet their requirements online, where do you think they will buy?  Even when it comes to US sires, I find myself searching in Canada looking through pedigrees there and then only when I need official US information do I query that animal and purchase that pedigree when needed.  This saves me a great deal of time and money.


While you can argue the merits and weighting of each of these.  In reality, there is not a drastic difference.  The bigger difference is the percentage of the marketplace that understands each index.  Due to the sheer size of the US market, the number of breeders that understand TPI vs. LPI is far greater.  While you will find many Canadian breeders who understand TPI you will not find that many US breeders that understand LPI.  That is why if you are looking to market your Genetics in the US or the world for that matter, you are best to target the top TPI lists.

Canadian breeders and breeding companies also have the advantage, for breeding and marketing, of having only one combined index, LPI. In the USA there are two combined indexes, TPI and NM (Net Merit).  LPI contains the important heritible traits for both breeders and milk producers. Whereas TPI is directed at purebred breeders and NM is directed at milk producers. Another, not often used, service that CDN offers is customizing of a total selection index. I have found this service useful when comparing bulls.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

It for these reasons that you can tell why Canada has such a disproportionate amount of the world market.  I would say there is a far greater difference in the systems supporting the marketing of top cattle in the two countries than there is in the genetics.  In a world where knowledge is power, the ability to share information with as many people as possible gives Canada a distinct advantage in marketing their animals.  I wonder is the $2 per inquiry that Holstein USA receives not costing breeders more in the lost potential genetics sales?

For more information check out The Bullvine Bull Book or our Genetic Evaluation Resource Center.

Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?

Some men prefer boobs and others legs.  The debate has gone on since the stone ages.  Modern photography can enhance either choice – or both. But when it comes to photo enhancement in dairy cattle, technological advances in the past 15 years have really ramped up the discussion.  Through programs like Adobe Photoshop graphic designers can pretty much create anything you want. Where do you draw the line?  What is acceptable?  What is not?

Changing Backgrounds

First let’s take a look at what’s possible.  The ability to remove a background has been many breeders dream. Now they can picture their cow any time of year when the cow is at her best and without any bad weather or safety issues.

The right background can be an art form to do  effectively.  Let’s look at how different backgrounds can change how a cow looks.  The picture below is the photographer’s final image sent to the breeder after picturing inside the barn (Please note: cow used will remain nameless since it is irrelevant to this discussion and that in no way was the picture of the cow herself ever touched or altered).

VG 2yr Old Base Background


Very nice picture of an outstanding VG-2yr old.  But let’s take a look at how changing the background can affect the look of the picture.

Let’s say we wanted to make the cow look taller.  Well then we would lower the horizon on this image.

Lower Background


Notice how the cow looks taller, and also that it does not accentuate the fact that she is a little shallow in the fore rib.

Now let’s say we wanted her to look like a show winner.  We could simply place the cow at one of the major shows backgrounds.

Royal Background


And then there is the ever-so-trendy, stick them in front of a mountain scene.

Mountain Background


All effects have their merits and can greatly enhance the image of the cow.

Composite Image

Shine vs. No Shine

Another effect that has become extremely popular in recent years is the ability to enhance the colour saturation and add “shine” to the images.  Here are the exact same 2 pictures with just the saturation and the colour range enhanced.

Notice how the enhanced picture on the right jumps out at you with more clarity and detail and her udder shows much greater veination.  The cow herself was not altered in anyway, but enhancing the tonal range that is already in the image, you are able to make sure all the details that make that cow great show up.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Ultimately it comes down to the ethics of the designer or photographer who is working with the image.  My position has always been, as long as the cow herself has not been altered then it’s okay.  Please understand in all these images the conformation of the cow has not been changed in any way. That means changing backgrounds and enhancing shine are where we draw the line.  In an era where social media and breeders chat is easy and instantaneous, having an image of a cow that the cow cannot live up to does not do anyone any good.    That means you need to work with the greatest photographer, not the one that is great in Photoshop, but rather that one that understands how to get the best possible original image.

What are your thoughts?  Please share in comments box below.

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Dairy Cattle Marketing Lessons from Lady Gaga

Now I know the title may sound cheesy, but there are actually some important lessons that many breeders can learn from Lady Gaga when marketing their dairy cattle.  She speaks to her audience with understanding and connects with them in a very personal way.  Instead of just saying here is my song now buy it, Lady Gaga is relentless on building her brand and making sure she has a message that resonates with her audience.

The following are some lessons many marketing lessons dairy breeders can learn from Lady Gaga:

  • Don’t be afraid to have an opinion
    Lady Gaga regularly speaks out on any issue she feels passionate about.  In doing so, she not only keeps herself in the public eye but she is attracting the right kind of people for her type of music.  Remember a couple of years back when she wore a dress made out of meat?  Yeah, she probably ticked off more than a few animal rights groups, but her flaunting about in that dress made the news for several days.  The point is, Lady Gaga is not afraid to take a stance on an issue and make sure that everyone knows it.  In the dairy cattle marketing world, that means make sure you have a position that your buyers can understand.  If that means you are going to be the greatest source for genomic cattle than be so. Talk it up! Alternatively, if that means you are going to be the source for great show cattle, than make sure your market knows.  Stand up and stand out! You cannot be the jack-of-all-trades who does everything ok but nothing special.  You need to make sure that your prospective buyers know why you are special and what you stand for.
  • Leverage the power of social media
    Lady Gaga has over 20 million Twitter followers and over 48 million Facebook fans.  That does not come by accident.  She works very hard to engage her community.  She personally tweets directly to her fans and is always engaging them in conversation.  She understands that the power of her brand is to engage her community.  A lesson many dairy breeders need to remember.  Dairy farming has always been about community.  It’s probably the greatest thing that keeps most breeders so passionate about their work.  The biggest change is how social media, especially Facebook has taken the community online.  The numbers of breeders that are on Facebook is outstanding.  While they maybe got on Facebook for family or personal reasons, it’s hard for them not to let their passion for breeding great cattle show.  You need to leverage the power of social media to join the community and engage them.  In doing so you will probably find the greatest source for information as well as reward for the work that you do.
  • Be Different
    Lady Gaga has built her brand by being different.  Not because she wants to be something she wasn’t.  Actually, it’s the exact opposite.  Lady Gaga is was not afraid to be herself and promote not just how she is cool and hip, but rather how she is different.  Many dairy breeders are too afraid to stand out as different and  they just become one of the many.  With so many breeders wanting to market their genetics these days, you need to make sure that you have something  unique to offer the marketplace.  Embryo transfer and especially IVF has caused a flood of top genetics into the market place.  Knowing how you are different and  letting other breeders know how you’re different can make a big difference in your profitability. What’s your difference?
  • Produce killer product
    Gaga writes amazing music.  She doesn’t produce a huge amount of music, but everything she does is done very well and is worth talking about.  The same is true for your breeding program.  There is no substitute for breeding great cattle.  With genomics and the increased access to information (such as,, locator lists, etc.) great cattle can always be found.  You can have the greatest marketing in the world, but if you don’t have great genetics to offer, it will not have the same effect.

Gaga and the PR and marketing experts behind her did not reinvent the wheel.  They just took what works best and used it to their advantage.  The same is true when it comes to marketing your breeding program.  You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, what you need to do is use the tools that are out there to make sure your marketplace knows who you are, how you’re different and why they should buy from you.  Determine  what you stand for and the larger impact it has on the market outside of the individual animals you have for sale. What Lady Gaga teaches us is that it’s important to stand out in the crowd!

Want to take your marketing to the next level, download our free guide “The Dairy Breeders Guide to Facebook“.

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