Archive for Holstein Canada

Mario Perreault – Leading From the Holstein Heart

We have all heard the buzzwords that claim to be the answer to moving the dairy industry forward: cow sense; walk-the-talk; strategic marketer; team player.  There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these descriptions. In fact, Holstein Canada President Mario Perreault embodies all of these, but he goes beyond labels to another level altogether. Mario recognizes that dairy industry growth is not simply the external label that we give Holstein breeders … or even Holstein cattle … it goes much deeper than that.

Holstein Breeders with a Common Goal

Although his experience with cows brought him to this role, it is his passion for the people of dairy breeding that excites this dairy industry leader. “I made a clear statement in my first editorial of the Info Holstein: I will focus on teamwork – with our Board members, with our very qualified staff and with our industry partners. The reason is simple: the more goals we have in common, the more benefits our members will receive.” Mario believes passionately in Canadian Holsteins.


Holstein Canada’s Ambassador Walks the Talk

As is often seen in the dairy industry, passion is the foundation for successful dairy operations. This is certainly the case for the current President of Holstein Canada who is a successful dairy farmer from Quebec (Read more: Vieux Saule Holstein: Rooted in family Values). It has been seven years since Mario was elected to the Board of Holstein Canada. With the support of his wife Linda, he has not only become fluently bi-lingual but he also speaks the language of passionate dairymen everywhere and is an enthusiastic and approachable ambassador for Canadian Holsteins.  This owner operator of Ferme du Vieux Saule in the Lanaudiere region enjoys sharing his personal experience of the potential of the Canadian dairy breeding industry and is always excited to attend shows, visit farms and work with people who share his enthusiasm for Holstein cattle.

Vieux Saule Allen Dragonfly Ex 94 2E
14* NOM. ALL-CANADIAN 4-H JR.1-YR 2003
2 Superior Lactations
Nominated Holstein Canada Cow of the Year 2013

Supporting and Listening to the Next Generation of Holstein Leadership

There are many challenges in attracting the next generation into the dairy business and doing so is high on Mario’s and Holstein Canada’s priority list. “The younger generation is very important to Holstein Canada – after all, they are our future!” He outlines how Holstein Canada is taking action to support that priority. “Our Young Leaders program has been enhanced to support, motivate and train tomorrow’s leaders, in collaboration with our Industry Partners. Our activities range from scholarships, domestic and foreign exchanges (6 young Canadians will represent us the European Breeding School this fall), to a Young Leader program at our annual convention, and supporting youth in our Branches and at the Royal.” Mario and the Holstein Board are always looking for new and creative ways to support the next generation. “We are working on other new things such as a Leadership Convention similar to the Young Dairy Leaders Institute (YDLI) held in the United States.” Holstein Canada is committed to bringing finding new opportunities that build on experience and enthusiasm. “Projects are endless as we get our ideas directly from our youth.” The entire association benefits from that kind of commitment to and connection with the next generation.

Mario and wife Lynda as well as son Jimmy Perreault operate a 200 acre family farm in Saint-Esprit, in the Lanaudière region of Quebec.  Pictured here is son Jimmy as well as his son.

Mario and wife Lynda as well as son Jimmy Perreault operate a 200 acre family farm in Saint-Esprit, in the Lanaudière region of Quebec. Pictured here is son Jimmy as well as Mario’s grandson.

Holstein Canada is Pulling down Barriers and Losing the Labels

Less focus on internal differences and more focus on profitability for the breed.Squabbling is counterproductive agrees President Perreault,who is happy to see changes in how breeders see their peers. “Labels such as ‘commercial’ and ‘breeder’ are not used by Holstein Canada – all producers strive for increased profitability, and the source of income is first and foremost the milk cheque! Each farm is diverse and takes a different road to reach this goal but the goal remains the same!”

Mario Perreault  with his first official signed registration as Holstein Canada President.

Mario Perreault with his first official signed registration as Holstein Canada President.

HOLSTEIN CANADA VISION: Creating a Competitive Advantage Beyond Registration

Mario appreciates that interesting ideas come from many sources, including those who occasionally ruffle feathers.  He embraces the fact that in our common goal is a sustainable industry.  “To this end, Holstein Canada’s services are tools to support increased profitability. We are talking more in terms of economics and added value – for example genotyping heifers is to decide which ones to breed, while classification is an indispensable herd management tool: cows with good conformation last longer, etc.” With characteristic enthusiasm, he looks forward to great things. “Holstein Canada will  soon unveil the results of a study completed by a third party, revealing the financial benefits of our services – expect great things this fall.

Educate the Breeder.  Elevate the Breed. “Registration. Education. Elevation”

President Perreault is committed to making sure that Holstein Canada Members are up to date on advances in the dairy breeding industry. “We know we must better inform and educate our members – it is always the key to success when introducing something new on the market.  We must especially deal with misinformation or misinterpretation.” In particular Mario is gratified regarding the uptake of genomics. “The use of genomics increases each year – we had 20% more genomic tests in the first six months of 2014, as compared to last year.” He reports on steps taken to keep this trend growing. “Holstein Canada has hired Extension and Education staff, to better inform our members on the value of using this new tool in the future. I believe the percentage will gradually climb each year, so my forecast for 2016 would be approximately a 20 – 25 % increase. The more we learn about properly using genomics, the more important this tool will become for all milk producers.” Mario balances his optimism with a definitive statement that genomics is not the only answer to advancing the Holstein breed. “We cannot repeat it enough – Genomics is a tool to be used in conjunction with other important factors: classification and cow families.”

Holstein Canada Classification and Field Service Team

Holstein Canada Classification and Field Service Team

Classification Provides Added Value

Change is the only constant in the dairy industry marketplace.  Holstein Canada has to adapt to new goals of Holstein members and the dairy marketplace. “We have changed our approach in these changing times. People no longer just want to talk about four generations of VG or EX – they want to see the added value of our functional Holstein cow.”  Mario acknowledges that other industry partners are also addressing these changes. “Our AI Partners still support their clients (beyond paying for bull daughter classifications) and some are simply doing it in other ways, such as price discounts.”  He sees an important role for the breed association. “It is up to Holstein Canada to promote the economic value and return on investment of classification – it is a Herd Management tool, first and foremost.” He is proud of ongoing and future plans in this area. “The goal remains the same: to promote a well-balanced Canadian Holstein cow that produces a lot of milk for many years, all while improving its health traits. Our very devoted classification team is doing this every day – and stay tuned this fall for more on this level.”

Holstein Canada Board of Directors (back row, l-r): Robert Chabot (QC); Doug Peart (ON); Gilles Côté (QC), Ron Sleeth (ON); Gerald Schipper (ON); Harry Van Der Linden (Atlantic provinces); Ron Boerchers (SK & MB); and Orville Schmidt (AB). (front row, l-r): John Buckley (ON)- Vice President; Mario Perreault (QC)- President, Richard Bosma (BC); and Elyse Gendron (QC).

Holstein Canada Board of Directors
(back row, l-r): Robert Chabot (QC); Doug Peart (ON); Gilles Côté (QC), Ron Sleeth (ON); Gerald Schipper (ON); Harry Van Der Linden (Atlantic provinces); Ron Boerchers (SK & MB); and Orville Schmidt (AB).
(front row, l-r): John Buckley (ON)- Vice President; Mario Perreault (QC)- President, Richard Bosma (BC); and Elyse Gendron (QC).

The Future of Holstein Cattle Data Capture Changing with the Times

The Canadian dairy cattle improvement industry has a very progressive approach to making animal information universally available. With automated animal data capture increasing at a rapid rate and less third party verification, The Bullvine put forth this idea to the Holstein Canada President. “Do you see it possible that information from automated systems will be used by the Association and made available on the Association website?” Mario responded with characteristic passion regarding the potential in this area. “This is an excellent question!  I also have the opportunity of sitting on the CDN Board, and we have formed a committee to study this issue.  Other partners, as well as a few producers using automated systems, also sit on this committee.” Mario sums up that this area of research is a given. “Of course Holstein Canada is there. We must change with the times!”

Holstein Canada's CEO Ann Louise Carson attending the  World Holstein Friesian Federation (WHFF) Council meeting in Berlin, Germany.

Holstein Canada’s CEO Ann Louise Carson attending the World Holstein Friesian Federation (WHFF) Council meeting in Berlin, Germany.

Collaboration -At Home and Abroad – Expands the Holstein Marketplace

When it comes to marketing Canadian Holsteins Mario is especially enthusiastic. “This comes back to my strong feelings about teamwork! Yes, we want to help our member’s market Canadian genetics, and our way of helping is to work closely with The Canadian Livestock Genetics Association.  In fact, our CEO sits on the CLGA Board.” He elaborates how working with CLGA is part of an ongoing Holstein Canada strategy. “Our goal is to work with exporters, to contribute in lobbying Government and to promote the quality of our Canadian Holsteins around the world. There are some things a generic and neutral association can do to help international marketing. This will be a priority in the coming years.”  As well, Mario eagerly points out that collaboration within Canada is also a high priority for Holstein Canada. “Another very important issue for me is to put even more emphasis on the work accomplished with Dairy Farmers of Canada in the last couple of years.”  His reasoning is not only based on “protecting our system of supply management” but also goes back once again to a basic commitment to all Holstein members that is best realized through teamwork. “Together we are stronger in promoting Holstein Canada’s profitable tools to all Canadian milk producers.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We must never underestimate how the world looks in on our national dairy associations. It is so easy (from the outside) to see where the other national association has cracks, negativity or blind spots.  Getting to know Mario Perreault is a positive experience.  He speaks with pride, enthusiasm and passion about the Canadian dairy industry and especially about Holstein people.

All the best to Holstein Canada President Mario Perreault from the Bullvine and our readers. Congratulations for helping our industry to succeed not only on the balance sheet but from the heart as well. 




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Does Classifying Excellent Mean Profitable? Now? In the Future?

During this past week many of my Facebook friends have been debating on whether a third generation Excellent cow with good milk production should she be used as an ET recipient or should she be bred to produce her own calf (Discussion Part 1Part 2).  The debate started when one friend shared the picture of his Excellent cow with her latest calf – an IVF heifer from young highly rated genomically evaluated parents. Opinions weighed in from all points of view, each participant stating emphatically why their position was the one that was most correct. The majority said that, if it were their cow, they would breed her to produce her own calf. Well as I see it – that should depend on your herd’s genetic plan and how you define profitable.

Tradition Is Shifting

For quite some time, Excellent cows were few and far between. In Canada 0.2% were Excellent and in the USA it was about 1.0% Excellent.  Because of scarcity, daughters from Excellent cows would bring a very good price in leading sales. Sons, if by the right sire, were often of interest to A.I. for entry into young sire proving programs. Therefore if you owned an Excellent cow you owned a revenue generator.

Forty years ago the focus in breeding was the long lived Excellent cow with good lifetime milk production. Then the focus shifted to first or second lactation high scoring (minimum VG85), high producing and high indexing cows from respected cow families. With genomic evaluations coming on the breeding scene, high genomically evaluated heifers, three to twelve months of age, are now the sought after group. This change in focus to a 65+% reliable high indexing heifers has created a divide in breeder thinking and breeding goals.  (Read more: Is Type Classification Still Important? And Is Good Plus Good Enough?)

Take Your Pick

Today some breeders long for a return to the days when Excellent or 1st prize at a major show was all you needed to know about a cow. Other breeders are uncertain as to what they should be breeding for. Others simply state that they want cows that are less prone to being culled than in the past. Others have incorporated production and type genomic evaluations into their breeding programs. And still others are thinking in terms of using total selection indexes that put significant emphasis on health, immunity, fertility, labor efficiency and feed efficiency.  (Read more: The Truth About Type and Longevity and RF Goldwyn Hailey: Cash Cow or Cash Hog?)

Reality Check

The fact is that we now live in a new era for dairy cattle breeding.

Let’s look at some 2014 realities for Holstein breeders that did not exist in 2000:

There is no going back to former times!

Looking Forward

Type and also milk production will receive less attention in the breeding of dairy cows in the future because breeders have already made significant progress for those traits. Specific proteins, fats and solids in milk will be what consumers want in the milk products that they include in their diets.  Producers will breed for a herd of cows that return the most profit (Read more: She Ain’t Pretty – She Just Milks That Way). And yes, cows will be polled (Read more: From the Sidelines to the Headlines, Polled is Going Mainline!, Polled Dairy Genetics: The Cold Hard Facts and The 24 Polled Bulls Every Breeder Should Be Using To Accelerate the Genetic Gain in Their Herd). Excellent cows will not be a singular focus.  Perhaps I should qualify that statement. The Excellent cows of the past will not be sought after. It could well be that breeders will redefine what is required for a cow to be classified as Excellent.

Dr. Paul VanRaden, USDA-AIPL, has laid out the challenge for breeders in the future. He identified that today the best animal has a Net Merit of $1009 but knowing what we currently know about the genome, the best animal could have a Net Merit of $7515. (Read more: The Genetic “SUPER COW” – Myth vs Reality)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Technological advancements make breeding more profitable Holsteins a reality for future breeders. Conformational correctness will be only a fraction of what we need to know about a cow relative to profitability. For the breeder of the cow in the Facebook discussion, profitability included milk in the tank while producing a calf of high genetic worth. Excellent did not matter. We cannot ignore the realities relative to consumer demands, business management and genetic improvement. If we ignore them, we do so at our own peril.



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Herd Health, Management, Genetics and Pilot Projects: A Closer Look at ZOETIS

Zoetis is a global animal health company with 60 years of experience.  Zoetis, formerly Pfizer Animal Health, was a business unit within Pfizer Inc.  On February 1, 2013, Zoetis became a stand-alone animal health company.  Zoetis is a publicly traded company on the NYSE.

When DNA profiling in herds, the program at Zoetis is to get dairy producers to focus on genotyping the entire heifer group.  This allows breeders to make selection and management decisions, before investing the full cost of raising each heifer.  Depending on where breeders are located, the cost of raising a heifer ranges from $2000 to $3500 (Read more: Should you be raising your own heifers?) By testing animals at a young age, breeders can decide if they want to sell the heifer, breed her to a beef sire, use her as an embryo recipient or consider flushing her.  It’s about making accurate choices and, ultimately, profit.

Which Benefit Category Works for YOU?

  • Do you have an excess of heifers?
    DNA profiling means you can manage your heifer inventory more precisely and invest your rearing budget in the heifers that you need to keep.  Keeping control of the heifer inventory also has an indirect health benefit. Reduced numbers prevents heifer facilities from being overcrowded. A less stressful environment reduces calfhood and heifer diseases. Remember that heifer rearing is the third largest on-farm cost after labor and feed.
  • Do you use sexed semen?
    This higher priced tool can be best applied to the top 50% of heifers based on their genetic merit. Doing so is a significant step toward elevating the genetic potential of the next generation of heifers in your herd.
  • Is your herd unregistered? 
    You have the most to benefit from genomic testing because you will be going from zero genetic information to more genetic information than you could ever get from simply registering your animals. Now you can make better selection and mating decisions.
  • Is profitability your first priority?
    The top priority profitability traits for most herds are selection for milk components, with the remaining emphasis on traits that contribute to longer herd life (SCS, DF, HL, F/L and mammary).  LPI is a great index to use as a first sort in selecting the most profitable animals.

Analysis.  Assessment.  Action.

Zoetis has developed the “CLARIFIDE” program. Veterinarians are trained in understanding the basics of genomics and how this information can be integrated as part of the herd’s management program.  There are over 100 veterinarians across Canada that have been given the designation of “CLARIFIDE Accredited Veterinarian”.  Many of them underwent a multi-day training program taught by representatives from Zoetis, CDN, Holstein Canada and Semex. Today, if a local vet has not been trained through the CLARIFIDE program, but they have a client that is interested in submitting through CLARIFIDE, Zoetis will conduct training with these vets either in person or on-line.” Dr. Melodie Chan, Zoetis Business Lead and Manager Veterinary Services, concludes. “With access to this information, breeders are able to allocate their resources more effectively.  As genomic research progresses, we may even be able to consider health protocols to match each animals’ potential to respond – such as response to vaccination.”

Clarifying Genetic Potential

The goal of every dairy breeder is to identify and act upon the genetic potential of their dairy animals. “Through the CLARIFIDE program, Zoetis has worked closely with its Alliance partners.” says Dr. Chan, who outlines the benefits and potential. “By working closely with CDN, Holstein Canada and Semex, the CLARIFIDE genomic consulting program offered through Zoetis provides a truly Canadian perspective. Furthermore, this Alliance has also fostered research initiatives and collaborative funding towards projects that ultimately benefit the Canadian dairy industry. In 2012-2013 Zoetis funded genotyping of approximately 2,000 Canadian proven sires so that their offspring could be included in the genome pool.  The addition of this genetic information will aid in the predictive value of genomic testing, in particular for Canadian only traits, such as temperament and milking speed.”

ZOETIS + SEMEX + HOLSTEIN CANADA + CDN – Combined Strengths. Collaborative Approach.

Effective May 1, 2012, Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health) joined the existing alliance between the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN), the Holstein Association of Canada (Holstein Canada), and the Semex Alliance (Semex).  Dr. Chan describes the strategy. “The intent of this alliance is to foster a collaborative approach to delivering predictive genetic information to the Canadian dairy industry, to promote female genotyping and to assist Canada’s dairy producers in using genetic information to make sound management decisions and propagate desired traits. “The members of the alliance feel that by engaging in this partnership, breeders ultimately benefit from the combined strengths of each organization.”

Update on Pilot Study Results

Dr. Josh Lindenbach, Warman Saskatchewan, a Clarifide Approved Veterinarian, shared some of the economic analyses that he did with two of the Zoetis pilot-project herds.  In both herds, Dr. Lindenbach sorted the animals based on LPI and compared it to kg of BF shipped.  “In Herd #1, there was a $960 average gross profit advantage between the top 1/3 and bottom 1/3 of the herd based on LPI (48 animals genotyped).  In Herd #2, there was a $1345 average gross profit advantage between animals that had an above average LPI number vs. a below average LPI number.”


Zoetis has received the following comments from breeders and vets involved in the CLARIFIDE program:

  •  “This gives us a better way to manage the heifer inventory by knowing which ones to keep, sell or use as recips, and which ones to use sexed semen on.”
  • “Herd weaknesses were known before but now we find them younger and more accurately“
  • “We are now buying semen from bulls that address herd weaknesses as identified by genomics”
  • “More targeted use of sexed semen”
  • “We have more open discussions of breeding discussions involving both vets and AI reps, sometimes even together!”
  • “By culling my bottom end heifers, the heifers coming into the milking herd are more solid producing animals. We have higher milk production and have been able to raise the overall health level of our herd.”
  • “It’s not the top half of my herd that I ever have to worry about – it’s the bottom half.  I want to be able to know ahead of time who could potentially cause me problems and be able to manage my heifer inventory appropriately, based on this knowledge.”


There have been interesting results from three different groups from the Zoetis field trial as Dr. Chan reports. “Breeders that are in the top 10% ,from a farm management standpoint, who are excellent at raising calves and keeping them alive, have reached a plateau with their production and are looking for the “next thing” that they can improve on to help them become more profitable were the first ones to trust in genomic technology and see its value.  Dr. Chan states, “The key is to make sure you have invested fully in your calf raising program to ensure that disease issues are kept to a minimum and calves have doubled their birth weight at 56 days – then you can be assured that these heifers will reach their full genetic potential.” She continues with the benefits for two other groups.”Breeders that are sitting on excess heifers and looking at their expenses were also quick to jump on board.  For a group of Hutterite breeders that are limited to the use of natural service bulls only, genomics provided them with an opportunity to push their genetic progress by culling some of the bottom end animals and replacing them with purchased animals that ranked higher on LPI.”  Using data that CDN supplied, Dr. Chan in 2012 looked at phenotype vs. genotype.  “We took the CDN database as being “one herd” and took the raw data without adjusting for any environmental effects.  Despite that, we were still able to show a significant difference in performance, if we used genomics as a predictor for performance.”

zoetis chart

The Bullvine Bottom Line

This sounds like every breeder’s dream.  It checks off several breeder, service provider and advisor goals. “Now breeders not only know a heifer’s genetic potential early in her life but have the information to find more accurate ways to allocate resources.”  Whenever the tools advance dairy breeders` goals and profitability, that’s a win-win for everybody.


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VIEUX SAULE ALLEN DRAGONFLY: 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee

Vieux Saule checks off many points on what could be described as a pre-flight checklist for an excellent Cow of the Year Nominee.  It all started eleven years ago. Her birth in March of 2002 put her at an ideal age for a 4-H calf in 2003 and, in that year, she took her caretaker Jimmy Perreault all the way to second place in the National 4-H show and 5th at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  That was just the beginning.  Vieux Saule Allen Dragonfly and her progeny propelled Vieux Saule Holsteins to Master Breeder Status in 2009 and lifted them to recognition as a world supplier of elite genetics. (Read more: Vieux Saule Holstein: Rooted In Family Values)

VIEUXSAULE ALLEN DRAGONFLY EX-94-2E-CAN      14* NOM. ALL-CANADIAN 4-H JR.1-YR 2003 2 Superior Lactations

2 Superior Lactations

Dragonfly’s Pedigree Gives Her Wings

Great cows like Dragonfly come from careful constructive breeding by dedicated breeders. Not only is Dragonfly’s dam Excellent, but so too were her fifth, sixth and seventh dams. These were the bookends and in between were high-classifying two year olds by Charles, Astre and Tab. A close look at Dragonfly’s dam, Vieux Saule Outside Mary Sol EX95-3E 4* reveals great performance. She classified EX95 3E and completed 4 Superior Lactations, one of which was a Super 3 Lactation. Mary Sol has a 4* Brood Cow rating. In the show ring, she was 1st Mature Cow at the 2012 Rive Nord Exposition, after having been 1st Senior Two Year old ten years earlier at Beauce.  Here Dragonfly’s pedigree brings persistence and performance together. It is repeated on the sire stack side as well where Dragonfly’s sire stack is loaded with bulls that Canadian breeders hold in high regard.  These bulls are Allen, Outside, Charles, Astre, Tab, Elevation and Arlinda Chief.

VIEUXSAULE OUTSIDE MARY SOL  EX-95-3E-CAN      4* 1ST MATURE COW RIVE-NORD EXPOSITION 2012 1ST SR.2-YR BEAUCE 2002 2ND MATURE COW RIVE-NORD EXPOSITION 2007,2009 1 Super 3, 4 Superior Lactations  Dam of Dragonfly

1 Super 3, 4 Superior Lactations
Dam of Dragonfly

Dragonfly’s Performance in the Barn Also Soars

As mentioned earlier, Dragonfly was a 4-H calf in 2003 and went all the way to becoming Junior Yearling.  That was only the start of her high performing career.

Her classification scores are a steady progression from high to outstanding.

  • July 2004 VG86-2yr
  • February 2005 VG87-2yr
  • October 2005 VG88-3yr
  • September 2007 EX91-5yr
  • January 2008 EX93-5yr
  • August 2008 EX94-6yr
  • August 2009 EX-2E

Dragonfly was also filling the milk pail at the same time as she was being extensively flushed.


Dragonfly’s Progeny are Flying High

Vieux Saule Allan Dragonfly has earned a 14 Star Brood Cow rating. She has 93 progeny.  The majority are in Canada, with some in the US, Czechoslovakia and Germany.  Dragonfly had two Excellent, three Very Good and two Good Plus Sons that have been used as private herd sires.

Thirty of her Canadian daughters, by eleven different sires, are an impressive group: 1 Excellent, 21 Very Good, 6 Good Plus and 2 Good.  Their average BCAs are high and stand at 245-266-248.  Five daughters have at least 1 Superior Lactation.  Eighteen of Dragonfly’s daughters were Very Good as two year olds. No matter which sire Dragonfly was mated to, she produced quality daughters.

Dragonfly’s highest classifying daughter is Vieux Saule Modest Cleopatra EX90, with one Superior Lactation.  Cleopatra herself as one daughter who has also earned one Superior Lactation.


GPA LPI 2973 DGV 2991 GTPI 2286
Her son Vieuxsaule Flame is the #1 GTPI Genomic Young Sire at + 2561

Dragonfly’s highest gLPI daughter is Vieux Saule Bolton Halia VG87-2yr 2*. Bolton Halia’s production record at 1-11 (305D) was 11,912 kilos of milk, 4.7% fat, 3.5% protein, with BCAs of 317-399-348.  That also makes Halia Dragonfly’s highest production daughter.  Halia has six very high gLPI Freddie daughters. The top Freddie is Felicia VG85 gLPI 3166.  Felician has a UNO son, Vieux Saule Flame who, at one time, was the #1 gTPI genomic sire.


Bolton X Dragonfly

Another superior Dragonfly daughter is Vieux Saule Toystory Haley, a VG85 2yr 2*.  Haley has a VG85 2yr Man O Man daughter Haydie with a gLPI 3061. Haydie’s outstanding production record is 2-03 (305D) 17,341kilos of milk, 4.5% fat and 3.3% protein with BCAs of 437-523-451 and almost unheard of BCA deviations of +202 +275 +215. These are seldom seen records.

VIEUXSAULE TOYSTORY HALEY  VG-87-5YR-CAN      2* Toystory x Dragonfly

Toystory x Dragonfly

Vieux Saule Dragonfly was on an extensive flushing program and has many daughters born in 2012 and 2013 by bulls such as Goldwyn, Aftershock, Goldchip, Sid and Dempsey.  She provided the takeoff for a cow family that will continue to soar high on the wings of her high achieving progeny. 

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Although the Cow of the Year competition shines the spotlight on one individual, we are inspired by all of them. Each of the nominees is a winner in her own right simply for rising to this level. Over the past few days we have had the opportunity to get to know the nominees better. Obviously they are all worthy of cheering on to the finish line. Who is your pick for 2013 Cow of the Year?


Please like and share if you think Dragonfly should be the 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year!

The Cow of the Year nominee booklet which includes a resume on each finalist and a voting card will be mailed to Holstein Canada members in the February-March 2014 Info Holstein. Voting options include mailing the postage-paid, tear-off voting ballot; faxing your ballot; emailing your vote to; or voting online from a confidential Holstein Canada online account.



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RAINYRIDGE TALENT BARBARA: 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee

The journey of Rainyridge Talent Barbara EX95 3* to the 2013 Cow of the Year nomination is one where genetics, breeder passion and marketing potential all came together in one cow. Barbara is a 4th Generation Excellent Red Carrier recognized and admired worldwide for her exploits as a show cow. Her impact on the Rainyridge herd is the stuff that cattle breeding dreams are made of.  The next chapter of Barbara’s intriguing story will no doubt be defined by her growing influence as a brood cow.   (Read more: LASTING LEGACY: A Tribute to Rainyridge Talent Barbara and RAINYRIDGE HOLSTEINS: A Turn in the Road)



A Winning Pedigree

Rainyridge Talent Barbara EX95 3* comes from the Rainyridge Tony Beauty EX-5E 9* cow family.  Tony Beauty goes down in history as the oldest Grand Champion that has ever won World Dairy Expo. This occurred in 1999.  Beauty was a well respected show cow by all standards, having achieved All Canadian and All American Mature Cow status multiple times.  Barbara`s own dam is RF Outside Breeze EX94 2*, with show winnings and two Superior Lactations. Behind Breeze is the EX 2E 6* Rainyridge Briana Milan. Then comes Barbara’s 4th dam Tony Beauty. On the sire side, Talent Barbara comes from a solid sire stack including Talent, Outside, Milan, and Tony. Superior Type and Extra and Gold Medal sires fill her pedigree.

RAINYRIDGE TONY BEAUTY EX-5E-CAN 9* - 3rd dam of Barbara

RAINYRIDGE TONY BEAUTY EX-5E-CAN 9* – 3rd dam of Barbara

Barbara, Breeze, Briana and Beauty all have low inbreeding percentages.  In today`s day and age that is looked for.

The Spotlight Shines on Barbara`s Performance and Production Awards

In both production and classification, Talent Barbara was just like all the others in the Tony Beauty family. She kept improving with age. Talent Barbara first gained recognition early in her productive life when, at 26 days fresh as a two year old, she was made VG86. She continued to go 87 and 88 as a two year old in subsequent classifications.  As a three year old, during her second lactation, she went VG89 (maximum score). In her third lactation she earned EX92. While in Canada she was raised to EX94 and in the US she scored EX95 in 2010.

Her production records also set her apart. Talent Barbara earned 1 Superior Lactation at three years four months. She has completed three lactations totalling 45,920kg.of milk, 3.9% fat and 3.2 protein. Rounding out her excellent career to date is her exceptional conformation index (CONF) which stands at +15, putting her in the top 1% of the breed in Canada.

Talent Barbara Has Got Talent!

Talent Barbara started her show career as a Junior three year old in 2008, when she placed first at the Manitoba Spring Show, first 3 year old at the Westerner Championship and Intermediate Champion and Reserve Grand there as well. Quite a start. She was 1st 4 yr old and Grand Champion at both the 2009 Manitoba Spring Show and the Morris Exhibition.  She was Honorable Mention Grand at the Calgary Spring Show in 2009.

As a show cow, she really came to the forefront as a five year old with these outstanding results:

  • All Canadian and All American 5 Yr Old 2010
  • 1st 5-YR Royal 2010
  • 1st 5-YR Madison 2010
  •  Grand Champion Morris 2010

Celebrity Barbara has Star Power Progeny

Talent Barbara was well travelled among elite breeders in both Canada and the US including Kueffner-St. Jacobs where emphasis was placed on producing show type progeny from this Bull Dam.  Barbara currently has 38 progeny and in 2013 they shone. (Read more: KUEFFNER DAIRY TEAMWORK “2 Dream the Impossible Dream!” and The Judge’s Choice – Investment advice from Tim Abbott)

Her best mate was Charlesdale Superstition. She has three VG high indexing daughters from that mating. In June of 2013 her daughter Rainyridge Super Beauty classified VG87 as a two year old and topped the Rainyridge dispersal at $48,000. At that same sale in June 2013 she had six daughters sell for $97,200. Cornerstead bought many of those six daughters and already owned Rainyridge Super Belinda VG85 2yr old.

Rainyridge Super Beth VG-86-CAN 2yr.

Rainyridge Super Beth VG-86-CAN 2yr.
Dam to the #1 GPA-LPI Red Carrier Heifer, Calbrett Supersire Barb *RC
Calbrett Supersire Barb *RC is the top seller of the Cormdale Summer Sale for $265.000
Daughter of Rainyridge Talent Barbara

In July of 2013 Talent Barbara`s daughter, Rainyridge Super Beth VG86 sold for $75,000 in the Cormdale Summer Sale and Beth`s daughter, Calbrett Supersire Barb, topped the sale at $265,000.  Barb, Barbara`s grand-daughter, was the number one gLPI and gTPI RDC heifer. Her DGV is very high at +3600 gLPI.

Talent Barbara`s first proven son came out in 2013, Rainyridge Perseus, sired by Jasper with +12 for CONF, +0.46% F and +0.11P. Barbara will have more proven sons because she was on the St. Jacob`s bull dam program.



To end off 2013 she had her first Excellent daughter, Rainyridge Rampage Barb RED EX92 as a third calver. Talent Barbara’s 10 daughters are 1EX, 8VG, 1 GP and their average BCAs are 221-230-217.

Many more progeny can be expected to make their mark. Talent Barbara has several Goldwyn daughters born in 2013 at River Valley Farm in Ohio.  Furthermore she has young sons and daughters by Lauthority, Destry, Secure and Ladd P at EK-St.Jacobs.

As a Cow of the Year, Talent Barbara represents herself very well as a show cow and as the dam of elite progeny

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Each of the nominees is a winner in her own right simply for getting this far. Over the next few days we will get to know all of the nominees better.  Some are already household names.  Others are less familiar.  Obviously they are all worthy of cheering on to the finish line. Who is your pick for 2013 Cow of the Year?

Please like and share if you think Barbara should be the 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year!

The Cow of the Year nominee booklet which includes a resume on each finalist and a voting card will be mailed to Holstein Canada members in the February-March 2014 Info Holstein. Voting options include mailing the postage-paid, tear-off voting ballot; faxing your ballot; emailing your vote to; or voting online from a confidential Holstein Canada online account.



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GEN-I-BEQ SHOTTLE BOMBI: 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee

Gen-I-Beq Shottle Bombi EX92 6* is the result of many generations of well thought out breeding. Although Bombi’s third dam, Braedale Gypsy Grand VG88 37*, is the famous bull dam that most Holstein breeders are familiar with, there were generations before her that contributed to the making of this 2013 Cow of the Year Nominee, Gen-I-Beq Shottle Bombi.

Gen-I-Beq Shottle Bombi(s)

Dam of twelve VG daughters!

Bombi Has Pedigree Power that Pops

Bombi’s sire stack is loaded with top proven Extra sires. Shottle, Champion, Storm, Grand, Aerostar, Chief Mark and Elevation are a stellar group well able to contribute correct conformation and high production with show appeal to light up the mix.

On her dam’s side, the pedigree is even more outstanding. Here we have Bombi’s dam, EX90 4*. Bombi is the highest LPI indexing daughter of Champion Bambi and is full sister to Gen-I-Beq Shottle Barbi who was a Cow of the Year nominee last year. (Read more: GEN-I-BEQ SHOTTLE BARBI: 2012 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee)

Braedale Baler Twine VG-86-2Y-CAN 33*

Braedale Baler Twine VG-86-2Y-CAN 33*
Full sister is dam to Final Cut & Gillette 2nd Wind VG-88-CAN 3yr.
Canadian Cow of the Year 2007
2008 Global Cow of the Year
2nd dam of Bombi

Bombi’s second dam is none other than Braedale Baler Twine VG86-2yr 33* the dam of many great animals including Braedale Goldwyn, the Extra sire of many great show winners. (Read more: Durham vs. Goldwyn: A Clash of Two Titans)

Braedale Gypsy Grand VG-88-5YR-CAN 37* 3rd dam of Bombi

Braedale Gypsy Grand VG-88-5YR-CAN 37*
2003 Canadian Cow of the Year
3rd dam of Bombi

And then we find Bombi’s third dam, Braedale Gypsy Grand VG88 37*, the dam of six Extra sires and other ones as well that are Superior Type or Superior Production.

With this stellar pedigree power there was no hesitation when Mapel Wood Farms took the opportunity to invest in her at a 2006 sale. (Read more: Mapel Wood Farms – Invest in the Best! Forget the Rest!)

Bombi Has High Flying Performance

Bombi was flushed to a limited extent as a heifer but, since there were three sisters, she was not considered totally unique.  However, once she calved in early 2008, she quickly began to attract attention.  First by classifying VG87.  She followed that up with a Superior Lactation of 2-01 (305D) 12,378 kg of Milk, 4.9% Fat and 3.4% Protein. Her BCAs were 311-413-331, with BCA deviations of +75 +153 +88.  That butterfat at 4.9% caught everyone’s attention! From there she never looked back.  Gen-I-Beq Shottle Bombi was destined on her way. Her true value was about to be confirmed as she became the mother of elite progeny.

Bombi calved again in the fall of 2011, classified VG89 (maximum score for a second calver) and started off on an outstanding record at Mapel Wood. In early 2012 the Siemers Family of Wisconsin where looking for a top cow. Soon Bombi was off to Wisconsin.  She classified EX92 and produced 25,027 kilos of milk (55,176 pounds), 3.5% Fat, and 3.3% Protein. That record would have been a Superior Lactation, if it had been completed in Canada. From then on, Bombi’s sole purpose was to produce quantities of fertilized embryos.

It’s worthy of note that Bombi was the #38 gLPI cow in January 2009.  She had Milk +2271kg., Fat +123kg. (+0.37%), Protein +76kg. (0.00%), CONF. +15 and SCS 2.85.  This is very high for fat and conformation.

Bombi Has Progeny That Soar

Bombi has 163 registered progeny, 82 born in Canada and 81 born in the USA. She is continuing to add to her US total as Siemers Holsteins flush her using the very best genomically evaluated sires.  Bombi has 16 daughters and five sons that are 3000 gLPI or higher. An outstanding achievement.  Fourteen of her daughters scored Very Good, twelve of them as two year olds. The average BCA for this group stands at an impressive 253-284-256. Four of her twelve VG two year olds made Superior Lactations.

Mapel Wood Baxter Bethany VG-85-2YR-CAN  Maternal sister to Boulder & Brewmaster Bombi Baxter daughter

Mapel Wood Baxter Bethany VG-85-2YR-CAN
Maternal sister to Boulder & Brewmaster
Bombi Baxter daughter

Bombi’s first daughter to rise to prominence was Mapel Wood Baxter Bethany VG85 2yr 1*. Bethany made a first lactation record of 2-03 (305D) 15,785 kilos of milk, 4.5% Fat and 3.5% Protein. A Superior Lactation.  Bethany was the #2 gLPI cow in August of 2011. She now has 13 daughters over 300 gLPI. The top one, sired by Mogul, stands at DGV gLPI 3506.

Mapel Wood Man O Man Brooke VG-86

Mapel Wood Man O Man Brooke VG-86
Bombi’s highest indexing daughter

Bombi’s highest gLPI daughter 3274, Mapel Wood Man O Man Brooke, is VG86 2yr and sold in October 2013 to join her dam at Siemers Holsteins, where she is completing a high record. Brooke has 16 daughters over 3000 gLPI. Brooke’s top daughter, sired by Epic, has a DGV LPI that stands at 3294.

 Mapel Wood Man O Man Bombi VG-85-2YR-CAN

Mapel Wood Man O Man Bombi VG-85-2YR-CAN
Bombi’s 2nd highest indexing daughter

Bombi’s second highest Canadian gLPI daughter is Mapel Wood Man O Man Bombi VG85 2yr who herself has six daughters over 3000 gLPI.  Man O Man Bombi’s top daughter, sired by Liquid Gold, has a DGV LPI of 3252.

Bombi has had many high gLPI daughters born at Siemer Holsteins in 2013. They include Bombi’s number two to number five gLPI daughters:  (#2) Siemers S-Sire Bombi –ET gLPI 3151; (#3) Siemers Shan Bombi gLPI 3143; (#4) Siemers Shan Bombianna gLPI 3141 and (#5) Siemers Uno Bombi gLPI 3119.


Bombi has 3 Excellent and 9 Very Good sons that have all been sampled in AI. The highest son is Mapel Wood Boulder (Man O Man) whose daughters will be calving in 2014. Boulder had two daughters that were top selling animals in the Genetics by Design Sale in 2012.

Other high gLPI sons of Bombi include Barometer (Gerritt), Brewmaster (Gerritt), Bandana (Man O Man) and Balsam (Snowman). In Wisconsin, Siemers Holsteins have three high gLPI sons by Genervation Luxor.

Bombi is definitely a superstar when it comes to consistently producing progeny that rank high on the LPI formula.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Each of the nominees is a winner in her own right simply for getting this far. Over the next few days we will get to know all of the nominees better.  Some are already household names.  Others are less familiar.  Obviously they are all worthy of cheering on to the finish line. Who is your pick for 2013 Cow of the Year?

Please like and share if you think Bombi should be the 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year!

The Cow of the Year nominee booklet which includes a resume on each finalist and a voting card will be mailed to Holstein Canada members in the February-March 2014 Info Holstein. Voting options include mailing the postage-paid, tear-off voting ballot; faxing your ballot; emailing your vote to; or voting online from a confidential Holstein Canada online account.



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COMESTAR GOLDWYN LILAC: 2013 Canadian Cow of The Year Nominee

As second time nominee for cow of the year Comestar Goldwyn Lilac VG89 6*successfully ticks all four boxes:  classification, production, the show ring and genomics. In 2013 Lilac not only had daughters and granddaughters continue to hold high rankings on elite lists but she built on her famed Lila Z foundation. (Read more: COMESTAR GOLDWYN LILAC: 2012 Canadian Cow of the Year Nominee)



Lilac`s Pedigree Shines from A to Lila Z

The sires behind Lilac are Goldwyn, Durham, Formation, Starbuck and Astro Jet. These five are some of the greatest sires in North America and have made a significant contribution to Lilac’s success story.  Goldwyn especially, who is known as an impact sire, certainly did that for Lilac.

Lilac`s dam, Lila Z EX94 17* is already hailed as a legend in her time.  Lila Z was preceded by two generations of EX 94 cows with high production.  The Million Dollar Cow was living at Comestar, when she was flushed to Goldwyn to produce several full Goldwyn sisters, including Lilac. (Read more: Lylehaven Lila Z : Was She Really Worth $1.15 Million?LYLEHAVEN: Developing the DreamLYLEHAVEN LILA Z – 2012 Golden Dam Finalist, and The Legend – Lylehaven Lila Z Passes) They all carry high type, high production and high index. Like Lilac the other daughters have also placed bulls in A.I. and inspired global demand for their embryos. Many breeders are confidently using Lilac to reap the rewards of owning a Lila Z.


Dam of Lilac
1ST JR.2-YR ROYAL 2004

Lilac Produces Outstanding Progeny

It is obvious that Lilac carries on the strong transmitting potential of her pedigree. Many of her high indexing sons and daughters are setting outstanding benchmarks. Originally in the spotlight as a descendant of the Lila Z family, Lilac is establishing herself as a matriarch in her own right. Currently Lilac has 141 progeny: 74 daughters and 67 sons.  Offspring born in 2013 added polled and red to the family. And, once again, the numbers are excellent. The daughters of Goldwyn Lilac now claim star power that stands at 6 stars for Lilac, having added 3 in 2013. Lilac currently has 26 classified daughters: 19 Very Good and 7 Good Plus. Nothing lower than Good Plus is a remarkable record. That is also the case with the standard being set by Lilac’s top daughter Lucy. Lucy is Lilac’s top gLPI daughter, with Lucia in second and rising close behind are other daughters yet to calve by Uno, Brewmaster, Snowman and Epic.

MAPEL WOOD M O M LUCY GP-84-2YR-CAN Lilac's highest DGV daughter by Man-O-Man

Lilac’s highest DGV daughter by Man-O-Man

Lilac Loves Lucy … and Lucia!

Mapel Wood Man O Man Lucy is Lilac’s top gLPI daughter at 3363.  Lucy herself has seven daughters that are all over 3000 gLPI.  Lucy’s top daughter is Sudan Licorice who was a sale topper at $200,000 at the 2012 International Intrigue Sale. (Read more: International Intrigue – The Secret Is Exposed!) Lucy’s top son is Genervations Morley (Mogul) has a very high gLPI of 3326 and will be available to breeders in 2014. Lucy classified VG86 and made a superior production lactation in 2013.

OCONNORS PLANET LUCIA VG-86-2YR-CAN Daughter of Lilac #1 LPI Cow in Canada

Daughter of Lilac
Former #1 LPI Cow in Canada

Lilac’s Planet daughter Lucia was the #1 LPI Cow in August and December 2012.  She classified VG86 and completed a superior production lactation. In 365 days, at two years of age Lucia produced 15,287kg of milk at 4.5% fat and 3.6% protein. Lucia has 21 daughters that are 3000 gLPI or higher. For a year now, breeders have been using three of Lucia’s popular Boulder sons: Liquid Gold, Fuzion and Gizmo. Her highest gLPI indexing son by Enforcer at +3347 was born in October 2013. (Read more: $750 Dollar Semen! Are You Crazy?)

The Sharing of the Great Lilac Genes

Obviously, Lilacs great genes are being passed on to the next generation. Daughters beyond Lucy and Lucia are rapidly adding to those 28 high achieving grand-daughters as they too produce daughters that score at 3000 gLPI or higher. As the Lilac crop is scored it is clear that Lilac’s daughters classify high early in their lifetimes with 16 being VG in their first lactation of which 4 also had superior production lactations. It is also interesting to note that, early on, one of Lilac’s popular mates was Shottle. Her combination with him has produced two VG88 Shottle daughters who have superior production lactations. (Read more: LESSONS LEARNED: 6 Dairy Cattle Investment Secrets Revealed)



The Lilac Family has Son Shine Too!

Lilac’s son Leading Edge (BWM Leader) received his first daughter proof in December 2013. That proof came in at 2684 gLPI with high ratings for component percentages and feet & legs.  Other high genomic Lilac sons that are yet to be proven include Luxor (+3293 gLPI), Lanyard (+3164 gLPI) and Lingo (+3103 gLPI) all sired by Man O Man and Latimer (+3023 gLPI) who is sired by Freddie.

Sensational Lilac Performance Where it Counts!

Lilac is owned by Genervations Inc., Mapel Wood Farms and O’Connor Land & Cattle Co., of Jerseyville, Ontario. Over two lactations Lilac produced 53,569 kgs at 4.6% Fat and 3.6% protein.  Her component percentages are outstanding. She has garnered two Superior Lactation Awards: 2-03  (305D)   14,556 kgs  4.6%F   3.7%P and 4-06  (305D)    19,612 kgs  4.6%F   3.4%P.

Not only did Lilac perform in the barn, she also did so in the show ring where she was All –Ontario Sr. 2-Yr 2008 and was Nominated All-Canadian Sr. 2-Yr 2008. At 183 days in milk, in her second lactation, she was raised to VG89  – the maximum possible classification score.

Lilac has been competitive on the index list as well.  She has placed as high as #6 LPI cow but, even more amazing, is that she has placed in the top 16 on the LPI list no less than 9 consecutive times.  That’s blooming great no matter how you look at it.

Goldwyn Lilac`s record of success is also rounded out by records made in the auction ring. Lilac’s family accounted for approximately 66% of the 2012 Genetics By Design Sale’s total! As well, son Lexor had many high selling daughters in sales over the past two years. (Read more: Genetics by Design – Crosses the $4,000,000 Mark)

With all these achievements it is quite easy to forecast that the impact of the Comestar Goldwyn Lilac family will continue to positively build Holstein genetics around the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Each of the nominees is a winner in her own right simply for getting this far. Over the next few days we will get to know all of the nominees better.  Some are already household names.  Others are less familiar.  Obviously they are all worthy of cheering on to the finish line. Who is your pick for 2013 Cow of the Year?

Please like and share if you think Lilac should be the 2013 Canadian Cow of the Year!

The Cow of the Year nominee booklet which includes a resume on each finalist and a voting card will be mailed to Holstein Canada members in the February-March 2014 Info Holstein. Voting options include mailing the postage-paid, tear-off voting ballot; faxing your ballot; emailing your vote to; or voting online from a confidential Holstein Canada online account.



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What is the Role of a Dairy Cattle Breed Association?

Recently I took the opportunity to review the Canadian Breed Strategy presented by Holstein Canada.  (Read more: Holstein Canada Breed Strategy, The Bullvine Feedback) I started to ask myself, “What, exactly, is the role of a modern dairy cattle breed association?”

First of all let’s get one thing clear.  I have the Holstein Canada logo tattooed on my chest.  That was a decision that I made as a young adult in order to display my passion for two of the greatest things in the world, Holstein cattle and Canada.  So for me to take a critical look at this is something I do with passion.  The perspectives that motivate me result from personally observing both the producer side as well as the association side.  My father was head of type classification and genetic improvement at Holstein Canada for 18 years.  That background motivates my review which essentially boils down to one question.  “Are breed associations still relevant?”

Now let’s be realistic, the role of the Holstein breed associations is much different than that of the colored breed associations.  Holsteins represent 92% of the dairy cattle in North America.  So for the colored breeds focus is driven by the need for  awareness and preservation.  What is the focus of the Holstein breed associations?

Politics vs. Corporation

For me this question really begins with the fact of how you look at breed associations?  Are they similar to a government entity and therefore they are to represent the best interests of their members and function mainly in a political role?  Or are they to function similar to a corporation and work at growing the profitability of the association and its members?  For me, I would answer that it’s a little bit a both.

The Elephant in the Room

It`s time now to consider the elephant that is hiding in the corner of the room.  In North America  approximately 22% of all Holstein cattle are registered with either Holstein USA or Holstein Canada.  That means that the large majority (78%) of the Holstein cattle in North America are not registered with either breed association.  When such a large majority is not seeing the value in registration and the association programs, I have to ask, “Are Holstein associations relevant to the majority of today’s dairy producers?”

On a personal level, I see great value in purebred dairy cattle, registrations, type classification, and the many other programs.  But obviously the fact that almost 78% of the Holstein Cattle in North America are not registered tells me that the large majority do not see the value.  Why is that?

When I ask that of many the commercial producers that I chat with the answer often boils down to one comment.  “I don’t see the value in the investment.”  Most of the time this position is held by commercial producers that run their operations more like a corporation, rather than passion for a specific breed or way of life.  While many are larger operations, I get the same answer from both large and small.

Technology has changed the world

In the 1980s the value of a purebred heifer of fresh cow was far greater than that of a grade.  But in today’s marketplace, the difference in prices does not warrant the need for registration.  Also reducing the  pressure  for registrations is the fact that computerized record keeping has evolved to a state that the records available on-farm are as complete as those available from the breed associations.  This has further reduced breeder’s perception of the value of registration.

So then it comes down to the other programs that breed associations provide.  The largest of them has to be type classification.  Now let’s be clear I am a HUGE fan of type classification.  But more and more I hear producers wondering if it is really worth it.  (Read more: Is type classification still important?)  They cite things like the use of genomics as a reason that they no longer need to type classify.  Well as we all know Genomics is not a perfect (Read more: The Genomic Bubble Has Burst?, Genomics – Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications! and How Genomics is Killing the Dairy Cattle Breeding Industry), but it is a great tool.  However, in order to improve its accuracy, the breed still requires the phenotypic data from programs like type classification and milk recording.

While we are talking about technology, why can’t we use more of this on-farm information for genetic evaluations?  Sure I have heard the concerns about accuracy of data, and the ethics of allowing producers to record their own data.  But who said that this data had to be used for female genetic evaluations?  Why can’t we include this large data set in bull genetic evaluations, so that we can greatly increase the accuracy of sire proofs?  We could even develop more management based genetic evaluations that connect more directly to the bottom line?

Who Cares About Index?

From many of the most passionate breeders in the world, I hear “mixed” comments about the index systems, like TPI, LPI, etc.  (Please note that TPI is a trademark of Holstein USA) Yet breed associations continue to focus on this as a major issue.  While there is no doubt that having a national index has done wonders for marketing and genetic advancement.  In reality every breeder should have their own index.  The best index is the one that the works hand in hand with specific management goals.  Having one National Index isn’t working.  First of all we are in a global marketplace.  Secondly, we need at least have three difference indexes.  One that represents the needs of the seed stock producer (similar to TPI or LPI).  One that represents the needs of the commercial producer (similar to NM$).  Finally one that works for those breeding for the show ring (similar to CONF or PTAT).  Only then will you start to settle this debate.

As long as we continue to try to promote one “unified” national index, it will continue to be seen as nothing more than a marketing tool.  If you really want to have a tool that is for breed advancement and not for marketing, you need to understand that every breeder’s needs are different.  And when you start to look at things from the different perspectives of all producers, and try to represent and respect each one of their individual needs, you will start to see the greatest advancement in the breed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Really the breed strategy must come down to, “How do you make me more profitable?”  All other issues are secondary to that.  For years I have heard “Well a higher classified cow will last longer in your herd and produce more milk over their lifetime.”  Well I am sorry to tell you that the data does not always support that conclusion.  What if the cow has reproduction issues?  What if they don’t milk very hard?  All of these challenges to profitability also greatly reduce their productive life, yet they are not factored into most of the programs that breed associations currently offer.  If you really want to get a larger share of the national herd pie, you need to show the average producer the measurable effect that registered animals and the associated programs have on their bottom line.  All other issues are just smoke and mirrors that many of the politicians (Breed association board members) spend far too much time focusing on.  I want my breed association to “Show me the money!”


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Why Do We Register?

As long as there have been organized herd books (about one and a half centuries) there has been the question of why breeders should register their purebred animals in them. The reasons as to ‘why register’ had undergone many changes and we can expect the reasons to continue to change over time.

In the Beginning

The first herd books were in Europe and were local or regional in nature. One breeder took on the job of recording the births based on the details supplied by his fellow breeders. Documentation was provided listing the birth, parents and a description of the animal. As the systems became more organized registration numbers were allocated. Since the proportion of the cows that were registered was small compared to the unregistered and because the animals that were registered were selected they commanded a premium price. Grade breeders wanting to garner some of the increased price would purchase a registered bull for use on their grade cows. Quite often a breeder would own a bull that his neighbours could use for a fee.  Cattle were on display or exhibited at local fairs and class winners or their offspring brought a premium price.

Cattle to America

The initial animals brought to America were multi-purpose – draught, beef and milk. Their value to their owners were likely in that order of importance. The Dual Purpose Shorthorns was common and popular in the later part of the 19th Century. From about 1875 onwards breeds maintained in Europe primarily for milk production purposes were imported into North America. Again regional herd books sprung up and dairy cattle registration mirrored the systems in Europe. Purity and in Holsteins color or color pattern were key to eligibility for registry.

Improvement Introduced

Early in the 20th Century groups to measure milk production were started. In Canada in 1905 selected cows were measured for the pounds of butterfat that they could produce in a seven day period. That added value to the sons and daughters of top cows and bulls. This was followed by recording for an entire lactation using DHI clubs and DHIR (Breed recognized) in the USA and ROP in Canada. And it moved, over time, from selected animals to all cows in a herd being milk and fat recorded. The cows on these yield improvement programs were required to be registered in the herd book, which by this time had become national in scope. There was real financial value in terms of performance and animal sales from having registered cattle even though it required record keeping and verification by a third party authority.

In the 1920’s North American breeders with foresight saw the need to add longevity to their dairy cattle and they started conformation evaluation programs for registered animals. Animals with high conformation scores, authenticated by approved evaluators, commanded higher prices.

For history buffs there are numerous books (Read more: HALTER, PEN and GAVEL. That’s Just the Norm, Edward Young Morwick – Country Roads to Law Office and “The Dairy Queen” has All the Answers!) that document advancements and the spread of purebred registered animals from the late 19th to the start of the 21st Century.

What is Purity?

Mainly because of the use of A. I. which required that the bulls standing in stud be registered and their ancestors performance tested, the entire population of dairy cattle improved for their productive ability. It got to the stage where many unregistered animals were capable of matching or even exceeding the performance of some of the average or lower end registered cattle. For registered cattle to maintain their value breeders were put in the position to accept entry into the herd book of animals originating from unregistered background. They could be entered into the herd book provided proof could be shown for the use of registered sires in their pedigree.  This increased the proportion of the total dairy cattle population that were registered. These new entries into the herd book came from breeders that were using milk recording. This put in place a three tier value system. The top was high quality registered performance tested purebreds followed, in order, by graded-up cattle with performance records and then by registered purebreds that were not performance tested. The mould was broken. Simple registration of lineage no longer always meant a premium. Some breeders fought the move to include graded-up animals but in the end they were included. So it became not just registry but also performance that set an animal’s value.

Dairy Cattle Move Global

For about sixty years following WW II, dairy cattle moved first from Europe and North America and then Oceania to all regions of the globe. First bulls and then heifers moved and were used as the basis for establishing dairy cattle farming in their new homes.  However the biggest change in these countries came through the use of high quality A.I. proven sires. All these moves re-enforced the value of registered and recorded animals. Breeders in the countries of origin benefited because they had invested in registration, milk recording and type classification. As the 20th Century closed and the cost of transporting animals increased the sale of embryos began to replace live female sales.

The Pace Quickens

Nothing lasts for ever.  Starting around the turn to the 21st century and with some outbreaks of animal diseases and the move for increased food safety, disease testing became necessary and so all animals had to be permanently identified and their movement tracked. State and national data bases became necessary for all dairy animals. In Canada the purebred registry societies saw the light and expanded their databases (herd books) to include all dairy animals.  Every country has or is now establishing identification and animal tracking systems. It is not a “maybe” any longer. Farms producing milk must guarantee the health of the animals producing it. Registering animals which started as optional and a way to garner more income (cattle sales) from a dairy farm is or will soon be the law everywhere.

Time Waits for No One

So far in the 21st Century two advancements have changed the scene in a major way for the value of registration. First there was sexed semen, leading to more heifers being available. Then in 2008 genomic testing arrived. The combination of these two technologies resulted in a lowering of the premium for good quality registered recorded animals. Young full pedigreed above average conformation cows worth $4,000 to $10,000 a decade ago are now only $200 to $500 over replacement milk cow values. There is still a premium for registered and recorded females but not a farm revenue center like it once was. Only elite genomically evaluated animals garner a large premium. But it does not stop there.  Accurate evaluation (genomics) of the genetic merit of young animals has placed the premium on young superior animals at the expense of milking females.

What Does the Future Hold?

None of us can exactly predict the future for the registered recorded evaluated dairy cattle populations. We can expect the pace of change to increase. Consumers’ needs (high quality safe food) and demands (polled) will expand (Read more: MILK MARKETING: How “Got Milk?” BECAME “Got Lost” and Why the Future of the North American Dairy Industry Depends On Supply And Demand and “Got Milk” is becoming “Got More”). More and more information on the genetic make-up of animals will become available using DNA analysis. IVF will move from being only available at specialized centers to a service available on-farm. Automation and computers will be universally used. Data services will be web based covering all aspects of dairy farming.

And those items only cover what we currently know and not what will come as a result of both research and development in genetics, reproduction, health, nutrition and management. Can you see the day when cows will be monitored and recorded 24-7 and the results stored on the information ‘cloud”? Definitely every farm will need a breeding plan (Read more: What’s the plan?, Flukes and Pukes – What Happens When You Don’t Have a Plan and Are you a hobby farmer or a dairy business?). We live in exciting times.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

A century ago registration was new and novel.  Today registration is a vital first step in the information gathering process. For progressive breeders registration will continue to be an investment opportunity and not a cost.

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Glen McNeil: Communication, Common Sense and Respect for the Speed Bumps Delivers Holstein Leadership

So much about dairying in North America is in a state flux, that it is reassuring when people are willing to take leadership roles.  Glen McNeil, the Immediate Past President of Holstein Canada, demonstrated his commitment to Holsteins and leaves the position still committed to continuous improvement of the industry and hopeful for changes ahead. “There will be speed bumps that give us a reality check and that is called balance and experience.” But overall he is positive. “People seek, adapt and embrace change at different stages. Developing proactive policies and direction on an ongoing basis is the responsibility of the Board of Directors as is due diligence…”  This doesn’t mean he sees the world through rose-coloured glasses. “The constant degree and speed of change, and the methods of communication that are being used today mean that everything becomes super fast paced.”  Adapting to the times and respect for the people on all sides of an issue has worked well for Glen.

Barn to the Board Room – Respect for the Roots

gm2Glen has great respect for people in the barn and in the Board Room. It has served him well and been returned to him. He highlights his experiences while at the Holstein Canada Board table. “This enriching experience at the Board table has helped me develop an attitude of respect towards people and their opinions. People remember how you treat them and how you make them feel, longer than what you said. The most important ingredient of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

Getting the basics right about people and developing cow knowledge skills has been important to Glen. He looks to those who influenced him early on. ” My parents taught me work ethic, morals, respect and care of livestock. Dave Houck (Romandale Farms) taught me the art of breeding including aAa. Dave introduced me to Bill Weeks from Vermont, Frank Phister of Mexico, and many great Holstein enthusiasts worldwide. Earl Osborne, Bill Grieve and Pascal Lemire, all Past Presidents of Holstein Canada, were great leaders that inspired me.”

The Triple Excellent Heather Holme Team

The team of Glen and Vanda took over ownership of Heather Holme in 1977 and they have always focused on “the vital importance of developing positive relationships with family, employees, clients, and suppliers to our business.” Attention to detail has helped the McNeils to bring out the best in their cows. Having won three Master Breeder Shields is a unique and rare achievement. It is always amazing that those who reach these heights make the success sound simple. Glen has a four point philosophy.  “Sire selection and animal care on a day to day basis is paramount! Consistently using elite breed improving sires in complimentary matings for generations is vital. We use our classification information and aAa in every mating. We avoid incorporating inferior genetics. “ Simple but true. And yet it goes beyond genetics to the people involved. The McNeils praise each team member on-farm at Heather Holme or through their service suppliers for the expertise that they contribute to the overall success.

(L) Heather Holme R Josee EX 4E (C) Heather Holme Gibson Jolene EX 2E (R) Heather Holme Golden Jewel VG

(L) Heather Holme R Josee EX 4E
(C) Heather Holme Gibson Jolene EX 2E
(R) Heather Holme Golden Jewel VG

The World Wide Excellence of Canadian Holsteins

Glen is equally emphatic about his commitment to Canadian Holsteins and their role.  “There is not a country in the developed world that is short of milk or we would not have the milk price issues that are as evident as they are today in so many countries. Canada needs to continue to breed a balanced dairy cow that can sustain the high production to enable them to express their genetic potential over a lifetime to increase profitability. Every dairyman in the world wants trouble free, profitable cows, with the correct conformation to withstand the high production that today’s dairy cow is capable of producing.”  A big order but one Glen is confident can be achieved.

Holstein Canada CEO Ann Louise and President Glen McNeil share their Canadian "hockey" heritage with Irish and Finnish #2012WHC Participants!

Glen McNeil and Holstein Canada CEO Ann Louise share their Canadian “hockey” heritage with Irish and Finnish 2012 World Holstein Conference Participants!

Achieving More Close to Home Too

With the pressures on all organizations to provide relevant and needed services to its members, The Bullvine asked for Glen’s thoughts on Holstein Field Services “Field Service is just that, an extension service to our members to communicate to and educate our dairies on the profitability opportunities with registration, classification, milk recording, genome testing, etc. The pricing model for services must be flexible and will evolve as more dairies see the advantages of these services. Communications in different forms is paramount today.”

The Next Turn in the Road

Having seen the Holstein industry from various viewpoints, Glen shares his perspective. “I have tremendous respect and faith in our youth involved in the dairy business at many different levels. In having the opportunity to travel worldwide I have great appreciation for supply management in Canada.” New opportunities will present themselves with all the hills and valleys that progress demands.  McNeil knows it will take willingness to change. “We would never consider using the same sires that we used 20 years ago, or farm the same way, feed or manage our cows the way we did 20 years ago. Common sense and understanding what Genomics can and cannot do will be very revealing in the next 2-3 years.”

Holstein Canada CEO Ann Louise Carson, President Glen McNeil, and Board member Mario Perrault were very pleased to recently attend the All-European Championship Show in Fribourg, Switzerland

Glen McNeil and Holstein Canada CEO Ann Louise Carson, Mario Perrault were attending the All-European Championship Show in Fribourg, Switzerland. The traditional alpine horns in the picture are played in the Swiss Alps.

“One Door Closes. Another Opens.”

History will continue to be written at Heather Holme where one theme they have built on is that “challenges are also opportunities”. Glen welcomes the changes opening up in his schedule. “I am fortunate to be able to return to our farm on a more regular basis than I have for a few years to assist Curtis and Vanda as required and spend more valuable time with our family”. No doubt there will be new evolutions ahead. It is noteworthy that the McNeils are using Facebook to share their ideas and to market their cattle by almost daily updates. Look for the McNeils to have and sell healthy cattle as they have maintained their CHAH (disease free) Herd status when others found it an expense rather than an investment.

Curtis and our Herdsman Greg Feagan, Greg has been working with us for 31 years.

Son Curtis and herdsman Greg Feagan, Greg has been working with Heather Holme for 31 years.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The McNeils at Heather Holme believe in taking good stock and best practices, making them better and getting results. Adapting to and changing with the times has built their success. Glen looks to the future with the same equanimity that has served both Heather Holme and Holstein Canada well. “Change is inevitable and desirable. Adapt and harness new technologies to continue to be profitable and competitive and learn how to adapt to change. “We applaud McNeil for his dedication, vision and commitment.  It smoothes out the speed bumps so that Glen can confidently declare. “The future is bright for Holstein Canada and the Canadian dairy industry!”


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Are You Ready For Genetically Modified Cattle?

The recent announcement by Canadian Dairy Network, Holstein Canada, Pfizer Animal Health, The Semex Alliance and its owner partners to support delivery of genetic services to the Canadian dairy industry got me thinking about what the future holds for the dairy breeding industry.  This alliance has me drawing parallels to what has occurred in the corn industry and the effects that had on consumers as well as producers.

While the announcement just covers the identification of genetic markers that has already revolutionized the dairy breeding industry, the part that catches my attention is a company the size of Pfizer entering into the marketplace.  When Monsanto entered into the corn breeding industry, it not only became a competitor to the other established players but it also used its vast resources to take the process to a completely new level.  While Monsanto had been a market leader for many years in the sale of herbicides this research gave them the ability to apply their expertise on the genetic level.

With Pfizer entering the genomics game, does that mean that we will start to see them  offer their own genetics available for sale that have been bred or rather modified to be disease resistant or even worse modified to produce more milk, or have better feet and legs.  If you thought the manipulation of photos to make cattle look better was an issue (read more here Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far), what happens when they can do it on the genomic level?  While the practical side of me sees how having cattle that are more disease resistant, that is polled and milk 20,000 kgs, for 10+ lacations would be beneficial, the breeder in me has concerns.  Part of what makes animal breeding great is the fact that it’s an art form.  What happens when that art form is handed over to science?

One thing that you will know for sure is that the sale of animal genetics will become a commoditized market place dominated by the big players such as Pfizer, Monsanto, and other multinational conglomerates.  While there is no question that these conglomerates will dominate over the average breeder, they will also dominate over the current major A.I. companies.  It has me asking myself “Is this move by Semex a step in building a partnership because they see the future coming?”  If so good on them for at least being proactive and at least trying to sustain their long-term viability.

If it’s more by chance, as I think it is, I think the whole industry needs to look at what the future holds and maybe have a wakeup call to where this is all heading.  Animal breeding is becoming big business, as evidenced by companies like Select Sires that have expanded their breeding programs to include owning females (read more about this at Should A.I. Companies Own Females?).  As the ability to deliver predictable results at a lower cost of development continues, larger and larger companies will enter the marketplace and begin to dominate the current players.

In the past, dairy cattle breeding has benefited from great moves, such as happened when T.B. Macauley, an insurance executive, started Montvic, when J. Rockafeller Prentice, from oil and banking fame, started A.B.S. and, likewise, when Peter Heffering, using outside industry investors, collected great cows and started Hanover Hill Holsteins.

There is also the consumer side to this equation.  We all witnessed consumer reaction to the use of rBST.  Over time while there has remained a small portion of the marketplace that actively buys non-rBST milk.  However, for the most part the issue has died off.  In the same way, the GMO corn issue has died off and much of the general public is not even aware that it exists.  Thus, there may be uproar as this “new technology” enters the marketplace, however, in time, the result will be the same for this commoditized product.  As long as the cost to consumer is lower, they will buy it.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

On the one hand, Thanks to genomics, the future of the animal breeding industry has never look brighter.  On the other hand, it also may be facing its greatest risk. Genomics has taken animal breeding from an art form to a science.  Furthermore, science will continue to define and refine the process.  With companies like Pfizer entering the marketplace this process will be accelerated at a completely new pace.  Those players that have the most resources available will also dominate it.  This means that the average breeder, as well as the current A.I. companies, need to realistically consider what the future holds as this happens.

So my question to you is, are you ready for GMC (Genetically Modified Cattle)?


Tom Byers, who is in charge of classification for Holstein Canada knows a lot about the differences in cattle. “The show ring cow, with the emphasis on red carpet style is more the extreme. This is exactly what she should be. When you see her at the Royal in that ring every Holstein breeder in Canada wants to own her whether he thinks he’s commercial or not . Good breeders know that. They appreciate a good cow, show ring or barn.” Having said that, Tom points out that the Canadian classification system does not reward extremes.  He goes on to point out where they are similar. “There are two things that make the show cow and the cow in barn the same, when it comes to being judged or classified. Those two things are the two most important traits – udders and feet and legs.”

Tom Byers - Ferme GilletteUDDERLY EXCELLENT

Byers has classified many amazing cows but, when it comes to udders, he tells about one cow that got him excited. “It was at Ferme Gillette and it was the old Smurf cow who is the new World Champion for Lifetime production. We were walking past her stall when I asked Louis, ‘What is that cow classified?’ He gave her a pat on the rump and she immediately got up. Faster than some two year olds I might add. When I saw that udder and felt the texture I could have stretched it from Ferme Gillette to the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa and it would have sprung right back. Looking at her spring of fore and rear rib, I knew I had to make her EX.” Classification doesn’t reward extremes but Byers can sure describe them!


Tom doesn’t really think it is necessary to have cows ready for the previously mentioned red carpet when the classifier comes. “The simple answer is ‘No!’ it’s not necessary.  But I do think it makes a difference to the Holstein member. A self satisfaction if you will. Classifiers always appreciate good housekeeping.” Having said that, he goes on, “If you mean getting up in the middle of the night to have their udders full and most times over full to present to the classifier, I would just like to quote an old colleague and mentor of mine, Don Aylsworth “Feed the cow and the udder will fill itself.” Classified information indeed!

Future of Dairy Cattle ClassificationFACING FORWARD WITH CLASSIFICATION

Dedicated to his career and the members he serves, Byers takes his customary positive approach to the future. “I think we will continue to evolve our program to meet the needs of the dairy producer. Classification is without a doubt a very important animal welfare program and by identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the individual, we can corrective mate to help the next generation take care of herself in the different environments we ask her to work in. We have always combined science and cow sense as we have made changes.”


Byers feels that “Classification will be the conformation verification of our Genomic selected sires.” He is justifiably proud of the dairy industry, “We must always remember that the world comes to Canada for its cow.  If Genomics can enhance our accuracy of genetic selection that will be a bonus! Our cow in Canada has never been better than she is today.  She is calving from 22 to 25 months of age. For the first time her udder is 5 inches above her hock and she wants to milk 40 plus liters.” That’s “Oh Canada” as sung by classifier Byers.


Tom Byers feels it has been his privilege to represent Canada domestically and internationally and to build lasting memories with his colleagues and Holstein Breeders.


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