Archive for Mastitis

HELLO! This Is Your Herd Calling. We’re Sick Today!

We are so used to leaving voice messages it can only be a matter of time until you hear.

 “Good morning Boss. I will be away from the milking line today.  If this is an emergency, please check with the veterinarian or better yet – find out why more than eight diseases are going through the barn? Have a great day. Cownt Me Out!

“It’s a Wake-Up Call for the Dairy Industry”

Regardless of how you receive the message about dairy health issues, there is no question that we have already received the wake-up call.  Whenever CowntMEout and her peers are fighting health issues, they are still in the lineup and could be having a negative ripple effect because they are contagious, costing money for treatment and losing money because of lowered production. You may laugh off the “cow calling” app on your smart phone, but disease is no laughing matter.  The incidence of disease in dairy cattle is increasing. So far the only way to tackle it has been through management practices and veterinary inputs. At least that’s where our thinking has been.  It’s time to pick up the phone!

Disease has your barn number. It’s going to call back often!

There is no acceptable level of poor health and, like telemarketing calls, you will receive many visits, at inconvenient times and with increasing frustration.  The higher incidence of health problems has risen side by side with the increase in milk yield, which has been sought after and achieved over several decades. However, along with poor health, increased lactation progress has been accompanied by reproduction problems and declining longevity. As if that wasn’t a big enough hurdle, there is also a genetic one. There is clear evidence that negative genetic correlations exist between milk yield and fertility and between milk yield and production diseases.  In other words, if selection for production continues unchanged, fertility, health and profitability are going to be put “on hold” permanently.

The Health Games.  Sick is costly. Health isn’t free.

As long as our cows continue to function by producing milk, we may be willing to live in denial of health issues.  Unfortunately, the list is growing well beyond the number one which is mastitis and includes: displaced abomasums; ketosis; milk fever; retained placenta; metritis; cystic ovaries; and lameness.  What is the incidence of each of these in your herd?  Do you keep records on all of them? We know from our personal health that you can’t fix what you don’t admit is a problem.  Those tiny signs add up until “out of nowhere” there is a health crisis.  That doesn’t work for people and it doesn’t work for bovines either.

Bad Prescription. “Take 2 Bales of Hay and Call Me in the Morning!!”

Don’t you just hate it when your doctor takes a laid back approach to your serious medical concerns?  Or does that feel like a reprieve?  You don’t have to fix what you don’t acknowledge.  Or does it boil down to who has the best answer?  The vet. The nutritionist.  Your neighbour.  It probably takes all three but we really need to pull back and start answering the questions about improved health even before mating decisions are made. Huge strides have been made in dairy breeding with the implementation of genomics. DNA analysis has only touched the tip of the iceberg for what is possible in analyzing dairy genetics.  This brings your genetics provider (A.I.) onto the health team. All that is needed is the will to change.

What can we do about it? Monitoring. Managing. Action.

You can hire someone to take care of sick animals.  You can pay for medication and extra care. Or you can decide to start with genetics and try to raise the genetic health level of your herd. All of these approaches start with the same first step.  You must monitor your animals and have detailed data on where, what, when and how health issues are affecting your dairy operation.

The hardest concept when dealing with health is that preventive measures are far better and less costly in the long run than the prescription, medicine and professional caregiver route. There needs to be more preventive action taken at the breeding stage.  Here is the first line of defence to reduce the diseases that lurk within genetic code and impact profitability now and for future generations of your herd.

The most crucial first step is to have accurate data. Good complete data that accurately identifies what is happening in the herd.  The information needs to be recorded and accurate before the cow is culled from the herd.  Dr. Kent Weigel, Extension Genetics Specialist, University of Wisconsin notes. “Current reports often don’t provide enough details to identify exact reasons why cows are culled. Animals can be recorded as ‘died,’ ‘sold for dairy,’ or ‘sold for beef,’ because of low production, mastitis infertility and so on. From that data, you might conclude that mastitis and infertility are the most common causes of culling on dairy farms. However, reported reasons for disposal can be misleading when one attempts to compare the management level of various dairy farms or to draw conclusions about the genetic merit of certain animals or sire families. Furthermore, once culled, that animal will no longer contribute information to genetic evaluations.  In effect, by culling time the most important source of health data has been eliminated.”

An ounce of Genetics is Worth Pounds of Cure?

As a result of research he has taken part in, Weigel says producers should not just consider the pounds of milk a cow produces as they weigh their decision about genetic traits.
You want cows that produce a live calf without assistance, cycle normally, show visible heat and conceive when they’re inseminated. Many cows fail to complete these and other important tasks because they have left the herd prematurely.” Weigel went on to say that some animals are culled for “multiple offenses,” such as difficult calving followed by ketosis and a displaced abomasum.  “She may then fail to breed back in a timely manner and be culled when her daily milk production falls below a profitable level,” Weigel says. “The farmer might code here as ‘sold for low production’ or infertility or disease. The reported reason for disposal is often a vague indicator of the actual problem.”

Get the Code – Fill the Prescription

Given the unfavorable genetic relationships between milk production and welfare indicators, the most effective route to stop the decline or even improve dairy cows’ welfare is by developing and adopting a selection index in which welfare related traits are included and appropriately weighted.

At a recent CDN (Canadian Dairy Network) open industry meeting, more than one presenter spoke on the genetics of disease and health. The proposed response to this complex topic is to develop one index that incorporates targeted health indicators.  We see the logic that cattle who have less mastitis or and lower somatic cell scores represent healthier animals in the herd. Until actual DNA snips are identified for specific health issues and diseases, an index that combines  SCC (somatic cell score) with fore udder attachment, udder depth and body condition score to produce the newly developed MRI (Mastitis Resistance Index) will take selection for healthier animals to a higher level.  The quantity and quality of the data contributing to these indices is key to how effectively they will identify sires with the healthiest genetics.  Isn`t it great that breeders, researchers and genetics providers are working together to move beyond the obvious.

Predict the Disease Proof by Building on What We Know Already

DNA markers for economically important traits could quantify the differences and be used to justify selection decisions on young animals with reasonable accuracy.

Short term, breeding organizations are urged to use available records to include fertility, health and longevity in a selection index in which greater emphasis should be placed on all fitness related traits relative to production traits. Genetic evaluations for health should complement and not replace genetic evaluations for yield.

“The udder is always the place to start evaluating a cow,” Weigel says. “Poor udder traits are the biggest problem, followed by poor feet and leg traits. Naturally, cows that avoid mastitis or injury to their udder are going to be in the dairy herd longer.” The major advantages of the genetic improvement for any trait are that changes are cumulative, permanent and cost-effective.

Who Will Answer the Call First?

Ultimately, the successful dairy industry of the future will maintain the gains made in milk production and make equal strides in the identification of healthy cattle. Whether it’s by choice or necessity remains to be seen. It will take everyone contributing accurate data.  The breakthroughs in production were made possible by tremendous amount of supporting data. To make similar progress in fighting dairy diseases, the same cooperation in building a database will be needed. Currently in Canada only 4 in 10 herds are participating in the capture of data on the 8 production limiting diseases.  In some European countries there is a database of mandatory disease recording that spans more than 30 years.

The Bottom Line

Some will write off the concerns raised here as over dramatic.  After all, personifying your cows as phoning in sick is beyond belief.  We all know that 21st Century contented healthy cows won`t phone in. They’ll text: “Guess what Boss? I’m healthy and I’m pregnant!”

The ones who are prepared for that call will be laughing all the way to the bank.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.


The Udder Side of World Dairy Expo

I thoroughly enjoyed sitting at ringside at 2013 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin and applauded the Judges as they expertly placed the lineups. As 2500 dairy cattle were being placed it became obvious that the difference between the winners and the also rans often has a lot to do with the udders. At every dairy show, the Judges’ comments waxed eloquent about “mammary systems”.  Spectators too were impressed. More than once I overheard, “I would be delighted to take the bottom three in that class home to my milking string!”

For an Ontario girl travelling with the Bullvine team, the challenge wasn’t whether I could place the classes or accurately rhyme off the pedigrees of the cattle in the ring. No. For me the challenge is to come back to the table with a bigger, better, brighter story than my two geneticist and perfectionist cow men. As I watched those milking classes and thought of the practical side of dairy operations, I was inspired to take the opportunity to take a closer look at the more than 400 commercial exhibits that bring their displays, videos, brochures and energetic sales teams to World Dairy Expo.

Imagine my delight when I discovered well-informed enthusiasts who shared their passion for the dairy business from a slightly different perspective than the show ring.  It didn’t take too long for me to confirm a simple truth that I already knew. While all of us cannot achieve the udders that place 1 to 20 at World Dairy Expo, every dairy operation succeeds or fails on the quality and quantity of the milk produced every day and thus, by extension, the health and quality of the udder itself.  Thus I set out to find out what is new relating to udders and what specifically can I learn that I can share with others who seeking improvement.

Cross-Over Technology

Two companies that stand out looking back on my WDE experience, are Qscout (Advanced Animal Diagnostics) and Vi-Cor.  Both use the non-agricultural expertise, to provide solutions for dairy related issues.  Too often we as an industry can be blamed for trying to reinvent the wheel.  With so many similarities to human health, reproduction and even environmental issues, years are wasted when dairy solutions could leap forward on a parallel path.

Catch the Symptoms Before Mastitis Catches You

Dairy operations have many recurring issues to deal with, but one for the most frustrating and costly is mastitis. By the time it’s obvious, you are already losing money and days of delayed milk shipment due to the time required by commonly used current tests.  Although there are effective treatments on the market, it is exciting to consider faster less costly options.

In April 2013 Advanced Animal Diagnostics (AAD), a developer of rapid on farm diagnostics closed a $6 million dollar venture capital financing from Intersouth Partners, Novartis Venture Funds and private investors to launch Qscout™ MLD. Looking slightly larger than a car battery, the Qscout™ MLD is an easily portable unit which is used for more accurate detection of subclinical mastitis in individual quarters. With very simple, ergonomically designed operation the Qscout was a crossover envisioned from human health diagnostics by 2001 AAD founder Rudy Rodriguez

Each test on the market or in development at AAD will be processed by the Qscout™ automated reader, so producers will be able to run multiple tests on the same instrument.

The first test marketed by AAD is the Qscout™ MLD. The benefits of minimizing subclinical mastitis in the fresh cow have long been documented through increased milk yield and quality and improved reproduction.  A recent study showed detecting subclinical mastitis with the Qscout MLD and treating only infected cows at dry-off also has benefits.  Antibiotic use was cut by 47% without an increase in infection rates 10 days after calving when compared to more costly traditional blanket antibiotic treatment.  According to AAD, funds will also be used to study use of the Qscout MLD test at other times during lactation.

Gary Winter shares his enthusiasm for Qscout. “ It is new breed of technology that sees infection long before symptoms occur. It’s a brand new way to detect mastitis.  More accurate than CMT and SCC, and providing more rapid results than culture.” He backed up the claims with financial figures. “Mastitis costs the U.S. dairy industry $2 billion annually – that’s $200 per cow.  With reliable early detection made possible by QScout MLD, you can reduce that cost and generate an extra $50 per cow.” Most convincing for me was that all four quarters are individually tested and not the more common averaging which could let a cow slip below the early detection radar. An average is not nearly as useful as 4 specific tests, which is what you get with a differential cell count by quarter. Secondly, the testing takes just 3 minutes (on average) per cow. At approximately, $15,000 this technology is not cheap unless or until you accurately add up current costs incurred by Mastitis across staff time, withheld milk, medication costs and, most importantly, the effect on the healthy growth, development and reproduction of the milking herd.

Water, Water Everywhere… it’s more than just a drink

Water touches the dairy operation in countless ways from the obvious use for drinking to countless cleaning applications, not only for the cows, but for the facility, equipment and mixing into feed and medication. In fact, any applications that water have for human health, apply also to bovine health.  We are all recognize how crucial a safe water supply is to our town water systems. Bou-Matic is currently working on dairy farm applications that derive from that well-established, well-tested, statistically effective supply of water. In speaking with Tony Spaeth he outlined how test farms in the north east, north west, Florida and New Mexico are gathering results. “Phase one will focus on water supply, parlor hoses and pre-dip.  The next phases will look at hoof issues and post dip treatments.” There are four sizes of this system, ranging from $20,000 to $85,000.  Once again, the value comes from working out the savings earned from vastly improved SCC counts, healthier teat ends, and improved skin condition and the corresponding savings in reduced medication, improved health and the bottom line effect of improved herd health.

Mastitis … How Are Your Cows Behaving?

Once early detection of mastitis becomes a priority in your dairy management program, you will be attracted to leading edge technologies such as those developed by AfiMilk. With data and trials and satisfied customers backing up their claims, their tool is another that has great potential. Attachment times, flow rates, milking curves and milking times are gathered by AfiFlo and processed by AfiMilk herd management software in the computer. This data is extremely helpful in analyzing herd health and parlor efficiency. AfiFlo, combined with the AfiMilk system can detect mastitis at a very early stage. This factor alone makes AfiFlo extremely economical.

Of particular interest, is the foot monitor that by monitoring activity, including resting periods, is proving to be a valuable tool in monitoring herd health.

Udder Health — From the Inside Out

Once the subject of udder health comes into focus, you have to start looking for ways to learn more.  I had a brief but intriguing conversation with Mario Flores of ViCOR.  He described the Udder Dissection seminars that they have been conducting.  Too often he feels that we treat the udder from an outside-in, end of the teat method. He explained the physiology of the udder and that by dissecting the udder everyone gets a practical understanding of what a healthy udder looks like and the best practices for maintaining udder health.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Standing at the bottom of the line in the show ring at World Dairy Expo still sets you in the top percentile of show winning dairy breeders.

Placing at the bottom of the line in the milking line means you are less than exceptional. It also means that your profitability and sustainability is negatively affected.

Udder health must be the #1 priority. New technology is responding with innovative solutions to these issues. What are you doing to be udderly exceptional?

Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.



Better Decision Making by Using Technology

At an ever increasing rate new equipment and information becomes available that dairy farmers can use to advance the way in which they manage their herds. The early adopters often go out on a limb and install systems on their farms that they hope will make their operations more profitable. Making better decisions or having information that gives advance notice of potential cow problems is critical to increased herd profit.
ML - Herd_navigator_analyse_unit_and_cows_-_9675

New on the Scene

Recently the Bullvine took the opportunity to get close-in on a new piece of equipment by visiting two reference farms. This equipment is called Herd Navigator™ (HN), a product of DeLaval/FOSS, and it has just completed verification in Canada using four Ontario dairy farms. It had been developed, field tested and implemented in Europe and at the present time it is being installed commercially in additional farms in Canada.

In brief what it does is take milk samples from selected cows on selected days and, based on the analysis of the milk, provides reports for herd managers to use. As one would expect, this requires equipment for sampling (a sampler and a sorter) and testing (on-farm mini lab), computer software and linkage to the herd management software used on the farm by the herd manager, the nutritionist or the veterinarian.

VMSFullCow[1]Designed as the next tool for top herds

The focus of HN is cows in robotic and parlour herds from calving to being pregnant again. (Read more: Robotic Milking: More than just automation it’s a new style of herd managment) Nancy Charlton DVM (Nutrition & Herd Management Specialist, DeLaval Canada) started her explanation and demonstration of HN by saying that “…. lets start with the basics. A herd must have an effective cow and heifer transition program. That is a well proven fact. HN is then a tool to make very good managers even better at their job.”  That made me want to listen even harder to Dr Charlton as she very adeptly went through the various procedures and reports for HN.

CHARLTON Pictures 027Multi-Purpose Tool

HN takes a milk sample at prescribed times and provides information on four areas important to herd management and profitability. Users of the HN™ system set up Standard Operating Procedures for all four areas, reproduction, mastitis, ketosis and urea level in the milk. When results for metabolic conditions exceed owner determined levels an alarm sounds (more correctly a report is generated) notifying the herdsman. Acting before a cow becomes a problem means less cost, more production and more profit.

It is a well known fact that managing REPRODUCTION takes detailed recording, considerable staff time, is a significant expense and reduces the average revenue per cow per year. For the time period starting 30 days before the voluntary waiting period until 55 days pregnant progesterone levels are monitored on critical days. Herd managers have access to detailed reports including: changes in progesterone levels; heats and the best time to breed; prolonged post partum anestrous; follicular cysts; luteal cysts; potential pregnancy; and early embryonic loss or abortion.

Life for herd managers would be much simpler if MASTITIS did not occur. But that would be a perfect world. HN uses the milk sample to measure the enzyme Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH) which is released into the milk in an affected quarter during inflammation. Increasing LDH levels are highly correlated with the increased presence of somatic cells and the early stage of subclinical mastitis.  The herd manager can choose to monitor the situation or to treat the cow immediately. At the very least the manager can look the cow up and make a visual or hands-on assessment. The creators of HN see using LDH as a more accurate way of determining the presence of mastitis. The frequency of testing cows for LDH is recommended as once per day for the first thirty days of lactation and after that it depends on the cow’s history and the herd’s standard operating practice.

The metabolic disease KETOSIS can be a thief of profit for cows by causing the loss of milk, lowering peak milk yield and cost of treatment. HN monitors the concentration of ketone bodies in a cow’ milks early in lactation. Measurements start on day four of lactation and continue until readings indicate there is a small chance of ketosis occurring. It is significant that HN reports on subclinical ketosis. Thus alerting the herd manager to take action before full blown ketosis occurs, either by altering the fresh cows diet or by treating the cow. Recent research indicates that subclinical ketosis is much more prevalent than dairymen are aware of. Potentially all herds are losing production due to subclinical ketosis and do not know it.

The final area that HN monitors is the UREA level in the milk a cow produces. This is similar to the MUN (milk urea nitrogen) service offered by CANWEST DHI but does not require that the owner wait until a milk recording test day.  As yet this part of HN may not get as much use as the three previously mentioned areas. It is important to know if protein level in the diet are too high, just right or too low. Over feeding protein, the expensive part of the ration, costs money while under feeding means a cow’s potential is not being achieved and other feed ingredients are not being fully utilized. From what I heard when speaking with the two herd owners, that I visited, this area has yet to be ‘discovered’ for use by HN owners.

In summary these four areas give herd managers the opportunity to increase the profitability of their herds from just a milk sample.

Information Provided

At any time the herd manager can go to his computer and call up any reports. HN is definitely designed for larger herds that manage cows by groups. It provides information so that individual cows within the groups can have their current problem addressed. Only problem cows need to receive the attention of the herdsman.

Sytse Heeg of Heegstee Farms commented “I only need to give my attention to cows with problems. It would not be possible for my wife and me to manage without HN. We have 110 cows milking on two robots, all the young stock and our family to attend to every day and also the field work during the summer time. We do have assistance from my father part time and a summer student.  I am so much more in control of my herd than I was before HN. And I am getting the results (profit) I wanted to get. Already 4 kgs more milk per cow per day with cows back in-calf as well as very low levels of mastitis and ketosis. In non-busy times it is even possible for us to take a vacation. But don’t forget I can remotely watch what is happening back home.”

At Elmwold Farms (Buchner Families), Jennifer is responsible for searching out the details from their 170 cow 3x herd that on the day I visited were producing, on average,  2.8 kgs (6.2 pounds) of fat & protein per day. When I visited Jennifer was on vacation so father (Chris) and brothers ( Greg and Derek) and cousin (Kevin), over a cold ice tea in the shade on a very hot summer day, described the many ways that their farm uses HN to better manage their herd. Chris Buchner provided the details.  “Our herd is focused on efficient high fat plus protein yield. That is what we are paid for kgs of fat and protein sold off-farm. But it is more than that. We were having too many cows on holidays, aka in the dry pens, too much of the time. We calve the vast majority of our heifers before two years of age so we give a bit of a break in having them calve back but the herd average calving interval is 12.6 – 12.8 months. We are running a 24% pregnancy rate, we average 2.2 inseminations per pregnancy, our reproductive cull rate has gone from 28% down to 22%, the vast majority of our cows are pregnant by 120 days into lactation and using the urea numbers we have been able to lower our TMR from 18 to 17% protein. We purchased HN to improve our daily management of cows by focusing on cows outside the norm and to use our facilities to their maximum. We will soon build additional cow housing and will give more attention to our fresh cows with one pen for fresh heifers only as we already know that they get pushed out of the feed bunk by older cows in the fresh group. We looked at using pedometers but after seeing how much more HN could do we made the decision to purchase it. We are very happy we decided to go this route. Our family operation is growing and I am proud to say that the next generation is keen to be profitable dairy farmers.”

Cost Benefit

Top notch herd managers always want to know the cost benefit of any input, service or tool. The DeLaval website suggest that using HN a herd can increase revenue by $330 US$ (250 euros) per cow per year with annual material costs of 130 US$ per cow and an equipment cost of 500 US$ per cow for a two hundred cow herd. All of these numbers do not include the savings in feed for fewer cows (milking and dry) as well as the need for less housing facilities. Definitely it does require that a herd be of sufficient size to justify the initial cost of the equipment.

Another thing about the HN system is that it  does all the work and testing thus allowing the herd manager to avoid the time to search out cows and do cow side testing. And, best of all, it does it before there is a problem not after the fact.

Muhieddine Labban (Automated Milking Systems Manager at DeLaval) sees the benefits in these ways “I like to call it return on investment with the results being: 1) accurate feeding – lower cost and waste; 2) lower cull rate; 3) lower use of antibiotics; 4) higher production per cow; 5) more effective use of the herd veterinarian; 6) higher pregnancy rate; 7) fewer inseminations lowering costs and semen used; 8) less herd manager frustration; 9) more family time for the dairy producer; and last but not least 10) the use of technology which will encourage the next generation to be dairy farmers”. An impressive list for every herd managers to consider.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For breeders looking to manage better and increase their per cow profit, more attention to cows needing individual attention is an avenue to pursue. It definitely does pay to have cows reach peak production, avoid mastitis and get back in calf as quickly as possible. Knowing the facts to base decisions on is the way to go.


Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.



From Fantasy to Reality – Top sires to address herd culling problems

In our recent article, Fact vs. Fantasy – A realistic approach to sire selection, we highlighted the need to choose sires not just on ideal conformation goals, but to also match your sire selection to the key management challenges your herd faces. In typical Bullvine style we wanted to take this one step further and to go from fantasy to reality and identify just what sires will help address these top culling issues.

The Bullvine’s Realistic Approach:  Breed to Minimize Your Profit Thieves

In the previous article, we recommended minimum sire proof levels for total index, female fertility, somatic cell score and feet & legs in both the US and Canadian genetic evaluation systems.  Since we only have access to DGVs from CDN, all values quoted in this article will be in Canadian terms.

Some considerations set for sires to qualify for consideration are worth repeating:

  1. A minimum LPI/TPI value (+2000) was set to address the problem of cows being culled for low   production;
  2. Sires had to be on an active marketing list of a North American AI organization; and
  3. Sires with only genomic evaluations had to have been born in 2011 or, in other words, they are in the initial stages of their sampling time.

Just a reminder of the minimum values The Bullvine set for bulls to be considered.

  • Lifetime Profit Index    > +2000
  • Daughter Fertility       > 100
  • Somatic Cell Score       < 2.90
  • Feet & Legs                 > +5

INFERTILITY: You can’t make milk if you can’t make calves

Breeders know that there is a difference in bulls’ daughters’ ability to become pregnant.  It’s probably one of the most important profit metrics on most herds. This is measured as Daughter Fertility in Canada and Daughter Pregnancy Rate in the USA.  This information has been available for some time, yet it still seems to be given little heed when sires are selected for use in A.I. and herds.

The Bullvine offers the following sires for use by herds wishing to genetically address infertility.

GENOMICALLY EVALUATED SIRES: ranked by DGV Daughter Fertility Index

  • 111      Ever-Green-View FONSY (Super x Shottle)
  • 110      Brant-View ALTAOTIS (Observer x Active)
  • 110      Latuch Trigger TREK (Trigger x Ramos)
  • 109      Rosylane-LLC JOSIAH (Jives x Ramos)
  • 109      Blue-Horizon ALATASUPLEX (Super x Planet)

DAUGHTER PROVEN SIRES: ranked by Daughter Fertility Index

  • 110      Badger-Bluff Fanny FREDDIE (Oman x Die-Hard)
  • 107      Synergy ALTAJENKINS (Mac x Shottle)
  • 107      Mainstream MANIFOLD (Oman x Marshall)
  • 107      Co-op Oman CAVANA (Oman x Hunter)
  • 106      Crackholm FEVER (Goldwyn x Blitz)

MASTITIS – a bane to producing high quality milk

No producer wants mastitis, the cost of loosing a valuable cows, or the possibility of having a tanker load of milk lost due to antibiotics in the load. Additionally milk producers don’t want their vet visit time consumed with mastitis problems. Can mastitis be lowered by using genetic evaluations?  “Yes!” claim many producers who know from experience that the daughters of bulls with an SCS over 3.10 are problems.  Sure, they may be fine in their first lactation but in later lactations they are usually more prone to mastitis.  The Bullvine offers the following sires for use in herds that wish to avoid mastitis, as much as possible:


  • 2.22     Coyne-Farms JACY (AltaIota x Massey)
  • 2.32     Welcome ADOLF (Shameless x Ramos)
  • 2.40     Oconnors BAROMETER (Garrett x Shottle)
  • 2.47     De-Su ALTAHALEY (Alta Meteor x Goldwyn)
  • 2.48     Stantons EVEREST (Observer x Shottle)


  • 2.45     Co-op Bosside MASSEY (Mascol x Bret)
  • 2.54     Lirr Drew DEMPSEY (Goldwyn x Derry)
  • 2.62     Coyne-Farms DORCY (Bolton x Bret)
  • 2.62     Coppertop DOBERMAN (Shottle x Granger)
  • 2.63     Crackholm FEVER (Goldwyn x Blitz)

Feet and Legs – Vital for High Performing Cows

The heritability of feet & legs is low (.20 to .25) but there are significant differences between sires in their ability to sire animals with functional feet and legs, especially feet. The costs mount up when you consider that cows with sore feet do not come in heat. And their feet must be trimmed more often. On top of that they require medication. In the end, there is milk withdrawal and definitely there is a loss of milk production. The Bullvine offers the following sires for use in herds that care about reducing their costs and losses due to feet and leg problems.

GENOMICALLY EVALUATED SIRES: ranked by their DGV Feet & Legs Index

  • +16 Blue-Horizon ALTASUPLEX (Super x Planet) Side View +7, Rear View +10, Foot Angle +7
  • +15 Ronelee Shottbolt DENZEL (Shottbolt x Outside) Rear View +12, Foot Angle +7.
  • +14 Seagull-Bay HEADLINER (Robust x Planet) Rear View +12, Foot Angle +10.
  • +14 De-Su RANSOM (Robust x Ramos) Foot Angle +10, Heel Depth +7. Bone Quality -1.
  • +13 Farnear –TBR- BH CASHMONEY (Observer x Goldwyn) Rear View +10.

DAUGHTER PROVEN SIRES: ranked by Feet & Leg Index

  • +16 Gen-I-Beq BRAWLER (Baxter x Shottle) – Foot Angle +12, Heel Depth +13.
  • +15 Crackholm FEVER (Goldwyn x Blitz) – Bone Quality +10, Rear View +11, Rear Set +13.
  • +14 Lirr Drew DEMPSEY (Goldwyn x Derry) – Foot Angle +11, Heel Depth +8, Rear View +9.
  • +14 DANILLO (Goldwyn x Oman) – Foot Angle +12, Rear View +13.
  • +12 Va-Early-Dawn SUDAN (Jammer x Sailor) – Foot Angle +8, Rear View +13. Rear legs straight.


The sires recommended here are genetically superior for reducing the nagging problems of fertility, mastitis and feet. At the same time, they are superior for their Lifetime Profit Index.  Bulls’ daughters that do not reach their potential due to any or all of these limiting factors are not needed on your farm or in the national herd. Choose the best sires that correct the actual problems that you face and thereby give you the opportunity to increase your profit per cow per year.  This method of selecting sires is not showy like winning in the show ring is but your bottom line on your year-end financial statement will be a larger number. Taking your goal of greater profits from fact to reality.

Looking for more mating recommendations and insights…click here.

FACT VS. FANTASY: A Realistic Approach to Sire Selection

How often do you select a mating sire for the reasons you typically cull animals, as opposed to what your perceived ideal cow looks like?  Further to our discussion about what the Perfect Holstein Cow looks like we here at the Bullvine started to ask ourselves, “How often do we choose our matings based on what we think the perfect cow looks like? vs. what our true management needs are?” Far too often sire selection is based on the fantasy of breeding that next great show cow or VG-89-2YR instead of facts needed to breed that low maintenance cow that will stay in your herd for many lactations and produce high quantities of milk.  Do your sire selections overlook your management needs?

Speedy Selection. Long-Lasting Problems

Discernment is the hardest part of sire selection.  Seeing your herd for what it is and what its genetic needs are is step one.  Step two is choosing what will work for you almost three years from now when the daughters of the sires you use today will be entering the milking string.  The old adage was “breed for type and feed for production.”  But how many breeding stock animals have you sold recently based solely on conformation?  How many will you be selling in three years based on their type?  What are the revenue sources for your farm now and in the future?  If your answer is “We get our revenue from the milk cheque from as few cows as possible and with as much profit per cow as possible” then selecting for type could mean that your sire selection is out of alignment with your management needs.

How Can You Tell If You Are You Out of Sync?

One place to determine where your herd has issues is to look at the reasons for and the frequency of culling. Every cow that leaves your herd for any reason other than a profitable sale is an indicator of the issues that could be arising from sire selection that is out of alignment with what is going on in your herd.

The Bullvine found the following information on milking age females that are removed from herds:

  • Over 35% of cows in a herd are replaced annually. That is costly!
  • The top known reasons for culling or removing cows are:
    • Infertility  / reproduction                    23.1%
    • Sold for dairy purposes                       21.4%
    • Mastitis                                               13.8%
    • Feet and Legs                                        9.6%
    • Low production                                     7.6%
    • Total    75.5%
  • The other known reasons for culling or removing cows are:
    • Injury               10.0%
    • Sickness           7.0%
    • Old Age           2.4%
    • Diseases          1.8%
    • Bad Temperament      0.9%
    • Difficult Calving          0.9%
    • Conformation 0.9%
    • Slow Milker                 0.6%
    • Total    24.5%

Are You Breeding to Spend Money or Are you Breeding to Make Money?

You may be comfortable with your culling rate especially if it isn’t too far off “normal”. However when you look closely at the cows that remain in your herd how “needy” are they?  Staff time, vet calls, hoof trimming, semen, drugs, supplies, extra time in the dry cow pen and removing cows from herds before they reach maturity – these all add up to significant dollars down the drain.  Therefore, anything that can be done in sire selection to minimize these costs goes right to improving the financial bottom line.  All unbudgeted costs mean less profit. If an animal is culled early, it does not matter where she placed at the local show or that her sire was a popular bull that left fancy udders.  If he also left poor feet and low fertility, that costs you money.

A More Realistic Approach: Breed for the Bottom Line Not Just the Top Number

Often top bulls for total index are put forward to breeders for their use, without regard for the bull’s limiting factors.  The Bullvine doesn’t support that approach.  We recommendation that minimum sire selection values be set for the reasons cows are culled so that sires used in a herd don’t create new problems while the breeder tries to solve the current ones.

Here are the Bullvine we recommend the following requirements bulls should meet to be considered for use by bottom line focused breeders:

  • In Canada
    • Lifetime Profit Index   > +2000*
    • Daughter Fertility          > 100
    • Somatic Cell Score         < 2.90
    • Feet & Legs                      > +5
  • In USA
    • Total Performance Index        > 2000*
    • Daughter Pregnancy Rate          > 1.0
    • Somatic Cell Score                    < 2.90
    • Feet & Legs Composite               > 1.0

* A high minimum value has been set for both LPI and TPI to address the removal of cows for low production and so animals sold for dairy purposes can be in demand for their milk producing ability.


Every dairy breeder wants a superior herd and wants to eliminate the daily annoyances, costs and loss of valuable cows due to infertility, mastitis and feet problems and low production. Breeders should choose the best sires that correct the actual problems that they face in their herd instead of chasing a fantasy that has nothing to do with their reality.

The Dairy Breeders No BS Guide to Genomics


Not sure what all this hype about genomics is all about?

Want to learn what it is and what it means to your breeding program?

Download this free guide.




Send this to a friend