Archive for Heterozygous bulls

Polled Genetics: Way of the Future or Passing Fad?

For years, there has been talk about polled genetics and their advantages, but, for the most part, they remain a niche market. This has me asking if polled genetics are like unicorns. Are they living in a fantasy world?

Breeders have known about the advantages for years and yet they have not endorsed using polled genetics in any significant way. While not having to dehorn your calves has economic advantages, many breeders see that job as just part of their routine and so don’t make getting rid of it a high priority. This, despite the fact that , one mating to a polled sire results in a minimum 50% hornless calves and could be 100%, if the bull is homozygous polled. These are much quicker results than breeding to get a red calf, for instance.

Why haven’t breeders adopted polled genetics?

Like any marketplace, producers must meet the demands of the consumer. When consumers wanted hormone free milk, or organic milk, producers followed. Until it becomes a pressing issue to consumers producers will not be forced to change. At this point, despite the fact that organizations such as PETA try their best to make this an issue, it has not gained significant market awareness.

Should breeders care?

Even though consumers have not yet cried out for change, that does not mean they won’t in the future. Much like tail docking, once consumers do gain awareness, they are sure to cry foul. When developing your breeding program, it’s not only about supplying the genetics that the market needs today, but also looking to the future. Similar to breeding for higher feed conversion (to read more check out Holstein vs. Jersey: Which Breed Is More Profitable?), you need to think about where the market is heading. Concerns about animal welfare as well as employee welfare are sure to become more prevalent in the future.

Are there any polled genetics worth using?

For many years, breeding for Red and White Holstein cattle or Polled genetics meant that you had to take a “discount” on the genetics. That was because there just wasn’t the same level of genetics available, when compared to the non-polled options. However, with recent increases in popularity, as well as the ability to get a polled son from a top genomic cow, there are now some great polled genetics available to most breeders. Even the major A.I. companies have started to see the demand and are sourcing polled bulls.

How can you tell if your calf is a polled carrier?

There are no such things as Unicorns or Polled Carriers! Polled is a dominant trait. Simply put, an animal only needs one polled gene for it to be expressed. Animals with horns do not have the polled gene. When the dominant gene is present you will see the trait expressed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While polled genetics seem like a niche market, and you`re not sure if it is for your breeding program, you always need to keep an eye on the future. That means not only looking for what potential buyers of your genetics want, but also what future consumers will dictate. . With the growing supply of top genomic polled bulls, as well as the relative ease to achieve a polled calf, it’s becoming harder and harder for breeders to ignore polled Holsteins in their breeding programs.

To read more check out They’re Sold On Polled.

They`re Sold On Polled!!

The next time dehorning rises to the top of your to do list, you might want to think about information provided by Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor of Dairy Bulls Online. They are promoting polled genetics as the solution that saves labour, reduces stress and improves consumer image. What more could you ask when faced with one of the most disliked jobs on the farm?

NO Horns PLEASE! It solves problems on both sides of the fence

Consumers both on and off the farm are concerned with animal welfare issues. Good farmers always seek the best for their livestock. In Europe many details of animal treatment have become legislated. Dairybullsonline states it in easily understood terms. “Any job on your farm that you cannot do in front of a bus load of school children is a job that will not be tolerated in the very near future.” Therefore “Dehorning at conception is the cleanest, easiest, safest, and most humane way to remove horns, and because the polled gene is also a dominant trait it can be bred into existing lines quickly. With polled you see the value 50% of the time on Heterozygous bulls and 100% polled calves with bulls carrying both genes (Homozygous).”

Find Your Niche in this Un-Common Market

For Holstein breeders the market for polled cattle is relatively new, yet the challenge of the small population is a potential opportunity. “The biggest challenge without question has been the small population, however, there are breeders who would argue the rarity or scarcity of polled genetics has been its biggest marketing advantage and provides them with a niche in a crowded marketplace.” There have been many changes in the past five years with the shifting focus toward genomics. Bryan recognizes that “Bulls with genomic potential are selling briskly in the genomics market.” Having said that he notes “The best young genomic bulls are selling out!”

The Market is Hot on Polled

The market is looking closely at polled genetics for several reasons. One, as stated previously, is that animal welfare concerns are growing and the presence and power of social media is demanding transparency in regards to the animal welfare practises on our farms. Polled genetics is a proactive response to this concern. Secondly the potential is huge. Bryan points out, “Less than 1 % of the Holstein population is polled. When you factor in the prices polled females have been bringing lately and take a look at those who have been buying them you can see the market is heating up.” Everyone takes notice when there is market demand and good sale prices coming together. “Ask anyone with a polled female at or near 2000 GTPI what kind of interest they are getting, and they will all tell you everyone is trying to buy them, and the A.I and embryo interest is extreme.” These are all good indicators that the time is right for polled genetics. Roy and Bryan add two more: “Breeders are mating some of the world’s top cows to polled bulls. There is a six month waiting list for the best young genomic heterozygous polled bulls.”

Broad Market Appeal

It is just good business to know where your market is before you jump onto the latest bandwagon. Dairybullsonline see a reassuringly wide response. “All markets have expressed interest from breeders to large scale commercial operations to organic producers and European markets. There are some who are looking for an outcross alternative or for genetics with that little extra edge for embryo and A.I. interests.” Having said that the partners sum up with, “It may actually be easier to ask what markets are not pursuing polled genetics!”

Answer the Tough Questions

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “Why would I use a polled sire that is much lower genomically than non-polled sire?” The DairyBullsOnline team answers, “They are not much lower. In fact they are within one generation. The Genomic predictions on polled bulls are comparable to proven bulls. In December there are 50 Proven bulls over 2000 TPI and there were 9 Polled bulls above 2000 GTPI.” If you need more convincing, they say to consider this, “Genomics has shown polled is within one generation (9 months) of being on an equal playing field with all the top animals. Anyone that breeds their top animals say 2400 GTPI to one of those top genomic Polled bulls can instantly create polled offspring that PA’s around 2200, and the law of averages says half of these will be higher genomically than their PA. Any polled bull this high is extremely marketable. The next generation can be bred back to the very top of the gene pool creating even more marketable polled genetics.”


VENTURE GOLDWYN SOUP P, Dam of #1 & #6 TPI Polled Females

The Time is Right to De-Horn In

If you’re still sitting on the horns of this dilemma, you will be interested in the success stories that Bryan and Roy give as examples. “In 2011 16 polled females from the top of the polled list sold at public auction. They averaged over $35,000 and two polled picks averaged $40,000 At $82,000 the top seller at the 2011 World Classic was a polled female.” If that whets your appetite, here are some more great stats: “The two largest offerings of top Polled animals at auction were at Arron Doon Dispersal 2008. The herd average was $4800. The average of the 12 Polled females was $13000. The Pine-Tree 2011 Sale averaged $11,000 with 14 Polled animals averaging over $15,000.” Everyone in the market place is looking to stand out. Quanbury says, “Anyone with a female at or near 2000 GTPI today knows it’s hard to draw attention, but if you have a polled female that high both A.I and embryo contracts will be coming at you from all directions.” If that makes you want to sharpen your investment pencil, there are obviously many considerations ahead of you.


LOOKOUT PESCE MAGNA P SARAH, #2 GTPI Red Polled heifer in North America and Top Seller at World Classic 2011 Holstein Sale

Polled Genetics is as easy as 1,2,3,4

MacGregor and Quanbury list four guidelines for taking advantage of this market.

  1. Pay attention to who is buying those top polled females. Watch what they are doing.
  2. Use a polled bull on only 10% of your flushes, to create that polled female or male everybody wants.
  3. As top polled females are currently very expensive you may need to partner up and spread your risk.
  4. Start.


We know the breed will not be polled in 10 years, but we believe in 10 years bulls that transmit the recessive horn trait will be very hard to market. Today there are about a dozen polled bulls over 2000 GTPI. Next year that will double. We expect that trend to continue for some time.” Bryan Quanbury and Roy MacGregor.

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