Archive for The Bullvine

The Other Woman

Today marks my eighth anniversary with my amazing wife Zosia.  However, I have a confession to make.  There is another woman.  For a long time, I have denied her existence and told myself “It is okay.  She will never know.”  But as I think about it, I think my wife has known about the “Other Woman” all along.

For as long as, I can remember the other woman has been in my life.  She has been there for me whenever I needed her.  She has provided for me in times of need and has provided me with many life lessons.  Nevertheless, now I find myself in a quandary.  Trying to decide between my wife and the other woman.

Whenever I have to make a crucial decision in my life, I have always tried to write down the pros and cons of each option and   then use logic to sort things out.  Therefore figured that I would do that now.

My Wife The Other Woman Advantage
Attraction When I first met my wife, I was like damn; that woman is too hot for me.  I figured she would not even give me the time of day. I have probably taken more photographs of the other woman than anything else in the world.  I have seen her from all angles, appreciated her curves, and been amazed are her exceptional form. No question my wife
Motherhood ability We have three amazing children.  They certainly have brought new meaning to my life.  While I certainly used corrective mating to choose my wife.  Our children have each seemed to get a unique set of the genetics available. The other woman has often been called the foster mother of the human race.  She has been one of the chief sustaining forces of the human race. No question my wife.
Intelligence My wife never stops amazing me.  She is the smartest woman I have ever met in my life.  She has achieved so many great things in her life that I could never even imagine doing. Some people like to say that the other woman is not that smart at all.  I argue that those people just have not spent enough quality time with the other woman.  She never ceases to amaze you with her intelligence, if you give her a chance. No question my wife.

While my wife has never made me choose between her and the other woman, she has often complained that the other woman gets far too much of my time.  She feels that I focus too much on the other woman and not enough on her.  I am feeling this tug of war on a daily basis and soon I may have to decide between my wife and the other woman.


The Bullvine Bottom Line

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about the other woman.  However, not in a sexual way, but rather, a passion for the dairy industry and the greatness of the dairy cow.  While my wife did not grow up on a farm, she has learned to accept my appreciation for dairy cattle and so far has been willing to share me with the other woman.  In fact, I guess I have always known this.  When I proposed to my wife, I had to let the other woman go.  In fact I had to let two of them go.  You see it was at a time when Mad Cow had stuck Canada and dairy cattle prices were extremely low, so I had to sell two cows in order to afford the engagement ring.


My wife is the most amazing woman I have ever met.  She puts up with my weirdness, which includes my annual weird anniversary post.  (Read more: How I Used Everything I Know About Animal Breeding to Choose My Wife, How I Used Inbound Marketing and Sales to Find My Wife and The Most Important Partnership in the World)  She has also learned to accept my long road trips to attend cow shows, cover a dairy event, or some other weird cow related happening.  In short, she gets me, and that is no easy thing to do. Fortunately, she is a psychiatrist.  That probably helps!


Zosia Hunt, you are the most amazing woman I have ever met, and the fact that you agreed to marry me eight  years ago and that we now have these three amazing children are the greatest things that have ever happened in my life.  Your understanding of the other woman just proves that you are my soul mate and that I could not be a luckier man. Happy Anniversary Zosia, I love you so much!



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The Bullvine Has Bite!

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

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

Who Killed Professional Livestock Photography?

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

Influence Comes From Talking About Subjects No One Else Will

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

Unbiased Sire Recommendations

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

What does the future hold?

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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



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Passion – From the Olympics in Sochi to the Show Ring in Toronto

Twitter image of Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth fixing Russian Anton Gafarovski.

Twitter image of Canadian coach Justin Wadsworth fixing Russian Anton Gafarovski.

As I was watching the Olympics today from Sochi Russia, I saw the Canadian cross-country ski coach, Justin Wadsworth, do something amazing.  You see from all accounts Justin was having a terrible day.  His team had not performed as well as they had hoped they would and he was depressed.  As he was watching the final of a race he had hoped that one of his team members would have been competing in, he spotted Russian Anton Gafarov coming over a rise.  Gafarov, an early medal favorite, was struggling miserably.  He’d crashed on a quick downhill corner and broke a ski.  Then he crashed again.  A long, thin layer of P-Tex had been skinned off his ski.  It was now wrapped around his foot like a snare.  Gafarov was not ‘skiing’ to the finish.  In a race typically decided by tenths-of-a-second, Gafarov was three minutes behind the pack.  He was trying to make it the last couple of hundred metres down the 1.7 km course. Wadsworth grabbed a spare ski he’d brought for Canadian racer Alex Harvey and ran onto the track.  Gafarov stopped.  Wadsworth kneeled beside him.  No words passed between them.  Gafarov only nodded.  Wadsworth pulled off the broken equipment and replaced it.  Gafarov set off again.  “I wanted him to have dignity as he crossed the finish line,” Wadsworth, a three-time Olympian, said. That unselfish act defines what the Olympics is all about.

This story also reminded me of an incident that occurred at the Royal this year.

During one of the most anticipated classes in history, one of the cows came into the ring very uncomfortably.  She was not walking with her usual stroll because the teat glue, something that is  legal in the North American show ring, had come partly unglued and was causing the cow discomfort and had her kicking at her teat.  While many just watched the cow and the showman struggle, one person didn’t.  The next showman behind this animal knew that the thrill and passion that drives us all to love the show ring is not about beating someone else, but rather demonstrating the passion for great cattle.  No one wants to win on a technicality or because of the misfortune of others.  They want to win because they showed the best cow on that day.  So that showman took it upon himself to relieve the cow of the discomfort by adjusting and regluing the teat.  A simple act of kindness but, in reality, a much larger gesture.

Like Justin Wadsworth at the Olympics, what drives the show ring, or a sport like cross country skiing is not only the prize money or the fame or fortune.

It’s passion for that higher level of training, commitment and dedication.  Let’s face it, for the majority of the athletes who compete at the Olympics they do so not to get rich or famous, as there just is not that kind of money in the sports they compete in (outside of  men’s Hockey).  The same is true for the majority of the people who show cows.  If you penciled it all out, the show ring for many is not a big money maker, it’s a passion.  (Read more: RF Goldwyn Hailey: Cash Cow or Cash Hog?) A passion that typically costs them far more money than they will ever make.  It’s that pure passion that drives them.

 Sometimes we are accused here at the Bullvine of forecasting doom and gloom and not looking at the positive.

And while yes I do tell it like I see it, there are parts of this industry that I know will remain for generations to come.  (Read more: The Dairy Industry – Past, Present and the Future, Casualties of the Genomic Wars – The End of Seed Stock Producers and Supermodels, Show Cows and the Future of Dairy Cattle Breeding) One such part is those who love to breed show cattle.  That is because they do so, not to get rich, or be famous.  It’s because they just love great cattle.  They love competing at the top shows.  Their passion is what drives them not profits. While I certainly see many changes to those who are breeding high index cattle, also typically those ones are trying to “get rich quick.”  They do so often times for the dream of big bucks instead of the passion for cattle.  (Read more: Richard Caverly A Passion for Perfection – Winner Gives All!, FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZ: Passion with a Purpose and Do We Speak the Same Language?)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

No matter how often we compete against each other, it’s the passion that joins together the men and woman who compete at all the local shows, regional shows, and even World Dairy Expo and The Royal.  Not high paid or well-known except during those moments of intense competition. .  I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen exhibitors help their fellow breeder, often their biggest competitor. However, they rise above the rivalry and share their mutual dedication to the craft they have spent countless hours working on.  That is what makes the show ring great.  For over 30 years I have had the pleasure of being moved by great moments inside and outside the show ring.  The medals and ribbons add up to winning histories but moments of unselfishness show us the true winners.  For me, those who do it for the passion last.  Those who do it to get rich don’t.


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The Bullvine: Evolution vs. Revolution

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

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

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

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

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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


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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, The Bullvine and The Future of Dairy Media

During the Royal there was certainly a lot of talk about Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.  He was the butt of many jokes and, to be frank, the guy is messed up.  If it was not for fact that he has money and family supporting him he would probably have been committed.  He is one-step away from being the sideshow headliner between The Elephant Man and The Bearded Lady.  But instead he is the mayor of the fourth largest city in North America and has become an international sensation.  The same can be said about the Bullvine.  Over the past 2 years we have become the talk of the dairy world and not always in a positive light.

You see, just like Mayor Ford, we strive to make things more interesting.  We have done and said things that no others in our profession would ever touch.  (Legal note:  We have never smoked crack, we don’t have an excessive drinking habit and have not been seen with a prostitute).  However, those things aside we do share some similarities with Mayor Ford.  One of which being that to those from the outside looking in we appear to have gone from being a car crash, to a ten car pile-up, to a scene in a disaster movie where space junk flies out of the sky, crashes into an overpass, it tumbles over, crushes a bus.  Well at least that is what some of our competitors and detractors would like you to think.  (Read more: Supermodels, Show Cows and the Future of Dairy Cattle Breeding, Genomics – Lies, Miss-Truths and False Publications!,  Why I Don’t Care If You Like Me and The Bullvine: Wanted Dead or Alive)

However, what they, and others are missing, is that in less than 2 years we have gone from nothing, to the most read daily dairy media publication in the world.  What producers around the world are saying loud and clear, and what other publications failed to pay attention to is that they would rather read something with an opinion, something that makes them think, than read the same exact story on every website, and then have to read it again a month later in every different magazine.  They are saying that they don’t care if we (mostly me) piss off photographers (Read more: No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures, Dairy Cattle Photography: Do You Really Think I am That Stupid?  And Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?) hothouse herds (Read more: Has Genomics Knocked Out the Hot House Herds? And The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling) and the status quo (Read more: Reality Check – Who is Really Controlling the Dairy Breeding Industry?, Don’t Hate The Playa, Hate the Game! And I’m Sorry, But I’ve Had Just About Enough Of…, as long as you give us something interesting to read.  Unfortunately for Rob Ford, interesting has become outlandish.  There comes a point when the good you do is outweighed by the sheer load of stupidity.  When Ford lost sight of his values and began to believe that the position he held gave him a might-is-right authority, he turned from a front-line city leader to a front-page headline.

Of course there is more than just reading, there are pictures.  Our competitors like to make fun of me laying down in the “piss,” and are not willing to get down in order to get the best picture possible.  They love to make fun of us, but as the viral nature of our pictures on Facebook show, breeders around the world appreciate the effort.  There’s a fine line between laughing stock and picture perfect. Besides I ask you “Don’t real dairy farmers get piss on them every day?”  (Check out more pictures in our gallery, The Royal Flue – Did you catch it? and World Dairy Expo 2013 – Memories to last a Lifetime)

The Bullvine Bottom Line

While many have seen my tactics since launching the Bullvine to be somewhat of a circus act, our readership, the community we have built around the Bullvine is very real.  In the beginning many of our competitors were quick to write us off saying there was no chance we could survive let alone thrive.  They laughed and scoffed at us.  Then slowly but steadily we have gone from the rebel upstart to the source for unique coverage of all things that matter to milk producers around the world.  The key thought for all to remember is “what matters.”  Whether you’re Rob Ford, The Bullvine or a 24-7 dairy producer, you need to keep a clear head about where your priorities are.  Success is built on knowing where you’re going rather than having to defend where you’ve been.  Therefore the Bullvine will continue to provide insight, analysis and perspective on what matters most to people who are passionate about the dairy industry.  That is why we have and will continue to have the largest daily dairy media readership!


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For Love of the Ring!

Last night I had the opportunity to go back to the county show that I had exhibited at for over 20 years.  It has been a few years since I was last at the Brant Wentworth County Show held at Paris Fairgrounds, but man did many memories come rushing back to me.


Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in all the big names and issues like show ethics, that you forget what it really means to show dairy cattle.  Watching the 19 pre 4-H show people in the ring brought back many memories for me.  While the faces have changed, many of the names have not.  I guess it’s a sign of getting older, but all the same kids that I used to compete against when I was young, now have children of their own in the pre 4-H class.  There is something so pure about watching these young people compete.  These kids are not doing it for the money.  They are not doing it for the glory.  They are doing it for the love of dairy cattle and the show ring.


This is when   you remember what makes county shows so great.  It’s not the money you are going to make by breeding or selling a class winner.  After all, let’s face it there is none.  It’s not the fame that will come from it because, in most cases, no one will ever really know about the results.  It’s about community experience and love of dairy cattle.  For me last night was   the purest confirmation of why we love dairy farming that I have seen in a long time.  These kids put on a show second to none for enthusiasm, tension and crowd appeal.  I loved it!  I grew with much the same experience as many of these kids:  working each day on the farm, helping my parents and learning to appreciate being a dairy farmer.  There is something about being a dairy farmer that is very special.  It is hard to describe to someone who has not had the experience.  Ingrained in every child raised on a dairy farm is a set of values and sense of accomplishment, that can’t ever be taken away, even though many of these youth eventually end up off the farm.


Getting the opportunity to talk to many of the dairy community members that I have known for over thirty years was great.  It was also super to meet so many new faces that will be the next generation leading the dairy industry into the future.


L-R John Innes, David Loewith, Anne Louise Carson

As much as it seems like the world is changing every day, events like this remind me how deep the roots of the dairy industry remain.  At this local show we had many generations of dairy producers as well as several different types of producers.  We are fortunate in our county to rub shoulders with  some of the most progressive milk producers in the industry, such as David  Loewith (seen here with Holstein Canada Secretary Manager  Ann Louise Carson), as well as one of the top index herds in Canada, Mapelwood Holsteins.  By the way, Mapelwood also took home Grand Champion honours with Willsey Jasper Rockette.


Grand Champion – Willsey Jasper Rockette
Exhibited by Mapelwood Farms.

In talking with Clarence Markus about his recent barn fire and how they are already starting to build again. (Read more: Your Barn Is On Fire!)  Clarence commented about how the dairy community from around the world has been great in supporting him through this tough time.  He also said the thing that surprised him most was how, even though you don’t realize it, everyone is watching you and that the great things that you do to support others, don’t go unnoticed.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes I wonder what the future of the dairy industry holds.  At one time, Wentworth County that I grew up in had over one hundred   dairy producers and its own show.  Now there are less than thirty and it can be hard for two counties, Wentworth and Brant, to get enough cattle out.  At times I wonder if there is much future.  Then I have moments like last night, when these 19 future dairy leaders showed the world exactly what it means to fall in love with dairy cattle and the show ring and I think to myself, “Man the future is looking bright!”

For more pictures click here and for show pictures click here.

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In the End, All you have is your Name!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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


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Tarred With the Same Brush

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

The Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct LOGO

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

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

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

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

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

The Bullvine Bottom Line

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

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

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

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

Since the beginning, the Bullvine has been committed to talking about the issues that others run from.  It’s not surprising that this has provoked a lot of discussion.  From both sides.  Adding to everything is the power of the internet and social media, which is the biggest megaphone the world has ever known.  There is no question that the Bullvine has taken the dairy industry by storm.

Do You Hear the People Singing?

For years I have stood in barns and at cattle picturing sessions and listened to some of the most passionate people in the industry complain that change is needed.  Hearing that cry inspired   us to start the Bullvine and give a voice to that call for change.  From A.I. organizations to photo and show ethics and hothouse herds we have faced the issues.  (Read –  Dairy Cattle Photography: Ethics and Copyright, Business Ethics and Marketing Dairy Cattle Genetics, Has Photo Enhancement Gone Too Far?, The Hot House Effect on Sire Sampling, Select Sires vs. Semex – A Contrast in Cooperatives)

At the Bullvine we did not enter this with the delusional belief that we thought it would be easy. Having been involved at various levels in this industry for many years, the team here at the Bullvine knew that this would not come quickly.  The parties on both sides of these issues are very passionate and see the virtue in what they are doing.

Whenever you raise discussion about touchy issues in an industry as passionate as the dairy industry, you know that it’s going to get personal.  That is what makes the dairy industry so amazing.  For all those involved it’s more than just a job.  It’s a livelihood. It’s a way of life.  It’s that passion that drives the need for change.  If the dairy industry was like some industries, people just wouldn’t care.  It wouldn’t matter.  In the dairy industry, it’s because we all care so much that we want to help drive change.


When you take a leadership position, you put yourself in the direct line of fire.  While some like to lead from the rear, that has never been our style (Read more: What the Dairy Industry can Learn From The Firing of Brian Burke).  When my mother and father saw the need to cut costs, redundancy and could see that the Canadian A.I. companies did not want to work together on the world markets, they led the dissolution of the company they were passionate about (The Canadian Association of Animal Breeders).  They faced putting themselves out of work rather than quietly watch that organization become nothing more than a bureaucracy and logistics organization (Canadian Livestock Genetics Association).  Likewise, my brother saw the need to further maximize breeders’ investment in the industry and led the charge for the merger of Holstein Canada and Canadian Dairy Network (CDN).  Our family has never been afraid to face change.

While I have no doubt that others share that same passion, the challenge is always finding a way to see the vision through to the end.  Change is never easy.  There are those that would rather fight than risk change.  I get that.  Therefore, it’s only natural for those who are afraid to start firing bullets at those who push for change.  The part that has always got me is that how when these bullets start firing that many run for the hills instead of picking of the flag and supporting the charge.  Those same people that talked the talk in the barns, at the cow shows and during the picture sessions now find themselves running for the hills.  While the reasons are many, for the most part it comes down to the fact that they are afraid, just like those that are firing the bullets.

Upon These Stones

A funny thing happened on the way to change. The call that was started by some of the biggest names in the industry, that have now abandoned the charge, is now supported by the average breeder.  The groundswell of support that we have received from our readers has been insane!  Upon the stones first laid by those turncoats the banner has now been taken up by those who have felt that they never had a voice.  And that too has changed the voice of the Bullvine.  What started as a voice for education in the marketplace has now become a megaphone for the marketplace to educate its leaders on the need for change.  What started as a new way to market, sell and breed dairy cattle, has now become a rallying cry for those who never had their voices heard.

I want to say thank you to those who first started with us and laid the stones for what has now grown into the most talked about and relevant community in the dairy industry.  Even though it sometimes feels like that there is no one coming to support the battle and it makes you question if the fight is worth it?  Is it worth straining or losing relationships that have been built over the years? Tough question. But then at least 2 or 3 times every day, we receive messages of great appreciation for what we do from people that we have never known or would not have expected to hear from.  This support recharges our conviction and helps us fight that much harder.

In this time when many breeder organizations are having their annual meetings, I ask these new leaders to think about stepping up and taking positions on these boards.  It is time to help those who have already started the call for change to help bring it about.  We have all heard complaints about the direction that these organizations are head in.  Well the only way to bring about change is to step up and be heard.  Otherwise, the positions are filled but, sadly,we are left with empty chairs at empty tables.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Sometimes when we look back at the original group that helped us start the Bullvine, it feels like we are left sitting at an empty table with empty chairs.  However, we are no longer sitting at a small table but rather we are standing with a much larger community.  This one has been built on passion not for dollar signs, but rather built around a vision for tomorrow that is far greater.  This community is not afraid of change but rather demands it.  New leaders have emerged and great new friendships have started.  Voices we never expected now inspire us on a daily basis.  Does this make standing on the front line easy?  No.  However, it does make it worthwhile.  Here at the Bullvine that’s all we need.



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What the Dairy Industry Can Learn From the Firing of Brian Burke

Hockey fans, which most dairy farmers are, know Brian Burke as the guy with the permanently askew necktie and reddish face, and a plug of chewing tobacco planted firmly beneath his cheek and gums as he stared down at his hockey team from the general manager’s box in the press level at the Air Canada Centre, chirping at opposing teams or on-ice officials and urging on his Toronto Maple Leafs.  They also know him as the guy who talked a good game but failed to deliver a competent goaltender and overspent for players.  Something far too familiar to many dairy industry executives.  Burke was fired this week.

The thing that many dairy farmers need to realize from this scenario is that dairy farming, just as hockey is a results oriented business.  Just like hockey, when someone is not performing, change is needed.  When Burke was ushered in to Toronto many fans were already planning the Stanley Cup parade down Yonge Street.  The problem is it never materialized.  Similar to the announcements of many dairy industry executives.

Leadership starts at the Board Level

The same can be said of many dairy organizations.  New leadership comes in and it seems to take a long time to see any change, and even longer for the boards that preside over these organizations to realize it’s not working and enact change.  Take a look at the Leafs, the board at the time when Burke was hired, was comprised of mostly hockey fans (Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan owned the Leafs as much for the PR value with membership as they did for ROI).  Then about a year ago Canada’s two media giants, Rogers and Bell, teamed up to purchase the majority stake in the Leafs for $1.07 billion, with official transfer happening in late August.  As one of their first moves, though delayed by the lockout, the very results driven board decided that Burke was not the man to lead them forward.  He’s gone.

This is one area that I think many of the dairy breeder boards (Breeds, Milk Recording, A.I., Milk Marketing etc.) do not do a good job of.  While everyone likes to be everyone’s friend, management must be held accountable for results.  This is its very mandate that every board should hold itself to.  Now I know that in many cases breeders tenure on these boards is short (something many big corporate boards would never allow), so the ability to bring about change can be hard.  However, it is also why I think as an industry we need to look closer at how we comprise these boards.

While there is no doubt I believe the breeders should be represented, it can also be very helpful to have people from outside the industry on these boards.  Any good board needs to have its stakeholders (the breeders) on its board.  However, it’s also important to bring non-investor (non-breeder) who has outside perspectives to the board.  Typically this means bringing people from financial, legal and organizational growth to the table.  This will help in bringing a more balanced approach to growing the organization.

Blue and White Disease

For all his performance shortcomings, there were certainly things about Brian Burke’s tenure that I have a great deal of respect for.  One thing is the way in which he worked at getting rid of the “blue and white” disease.  This was the clever phrase Brian used to slam the culture of entitlement they believed every Leaf was stricken with.  We see this in many dairy organizations, where staff and board members seem to have a sense of entitlement just because of their position with that organization.  They seem immune to the performance and accountability that all employees and boards should feel as paid or elected representatives of a public or co-operative organization.

Now I understand that there is a time and a place for different styles of leadership.  At times, it is better to lead from the rear than the front.  No questions asked.  However, much like William Wallace (Braveheart) and Maximus (Gladiator) there is also a time that you need to lead your organization from the front, leading the fight at risk of firing or in Wallace and Maximus case even death.  That is what it is going to take to win.  In a time where there was no superstar capable of being the front man for the Leafs, Burke took the heat and stood up for the organization.  (Don’t even get me started on Kessel, whose trade may be the one biggest mistake Burke made that ultimately cost him his job).  Now he may have partly done it out of ego, but when the organization or even certain players were under severe scrutiny (which happens a lot in the hockey crazed city of Toronto), Burke stepped up and took the heat, something that earned him a great deal of respect from all internal staff and players.  This is one thing I see severely missing in the dairy industry.  At one time there were people like Moe Freeman, Roy Snyder and George Clemons, that when it was needed stepped up and led from the front lines.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The dairy industry is stricken by its own Blue and White disease.  The sense of entitlement held by many of its breeder organizations is staggering.  These organizations need to be accountable for performance, and when performance metrics are not met, heads need to roll.  Currently, there is rising uncertainty, due to changes in consumer demand, marketplace decline and genomics.  It is time for leaders to step up to the plate.  It is time to lead from the front.  It is time for accountability.  Brian Burke accepted that leadership responsibility.  He was willing to risk it all, knowing that performance would dictate his fate.  Can dairy breeders expect the same from our boards and leaders?

Rumors, Lies, and other stuff Salesmen will tell you.

Over the years, I have often been amazed at the rumors that go around the dairy industry.  Sometimes these are just a result of a bad game of “gossip” where one person passes a story on to another and each time parts are added or changed. Other times there seems to be actual intent to spread fraudulent rumors for financial gain.  Recently some of these have come to my attention and provided a few  chuckles over the holiday season.  For example did you hear this juicy tidbit “The Bullvine is  secretly funded by Select Sires”?

The part that made me take notice, as I traced back to the source, was that these particular rumors are coming from semen salesmen!  Of course,  they vow that they are just repeating what they have been told by people higher up in their company. Is this how they are trying to contradict what they perceive as bad publicity that is out there?  These somewhat unsuspecting sales representatives have  passed on what they are told, trying to get breeders to believe that what they are saying is based on fact.

Well the fact is, as we have stated many times, the Bullvine is currently funded 100% from our own pocket books.  We have not accepted any payments from any A.I. or other companies, in either advertisement or any other form.  The comments we make and subjects that we write about are inspired by actual conversations we have had with dairy breeders or subjects that have caught our interest.  NOTHING ELSE.

While this rumor about the Bullvine gives me a good chuckle, it does not really catch me by surprise.  For years the grapevine has been a marketing tool that many companies have used.  They pass information, often incorrect or not 100% accurate, to their frontline staff in order to sway public perception (Read more – Fight the Power).  The problem is in the 21st Century, these are old school public relation tactics that, instead of demonstrating how progressive a company is, highlight the fact that they are still stuck in the  past and not ready or willing to connect to today’s breeders.

Instead of using these out of date tactics, these companies should be engaging breeders in the public forum that is social media (Read more – How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World).  I found it very funny that while these companies think they are taking a beating on social media platforms like Facebook, they choose to say nothing there.  Instead they try to use their out of date methods to combat the publicity.  Maybe they are afraid of what they cannot control?  (Read more – Got the Horns to Mess with the Bullvine?)

They have even gone as far as calling us here at the Bullvine and asking for “private” conversations, where we can clear things up.  The one thing we have said since we started is that we believe what the industry needs is transparency and accountability.  That is why we have been 100% transparent in our actions, and why we will NOT have  “private” back room conversations brokering deals or whatever with ANYONE.  We believe in our values and will  hold true to them.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

We all know many  salesmen whom we like and respect from many different  companies. Obviously one  important part of their job  is that of Public Relations.  For many companies these are the only frontline staff that will interact on-farm with breeders.  How they represent their organization can have a huge impact on the success of that organization within  that breeder’s herd.  While I have written articles in the past about the need for semen salesman (Read more – Are There Too Many Semen Salesmen Coming in The Lane?), I sincerely believe that  they provide a great service to the breeders they work with.  The ones that are most respected  build trust, offer unbiased advice, and leave the job of disseminating false rumors to those of lesser credibility.  So, the next time you hear a rumor that  seems to be too much PR bull and not enough fact, think twice and ask your source, “Where is this coming from?”

Dairy Show Judging – It Takes Courage

Sr. 3 yr old Reasons Ontario Spring Show 2012I had the opportunity to attend Ontario Summer Show last week and saw something that really got me thinking.  During the Senior 3 year old class, Judge David Crack Jr showed the courage of his convictions by choosing to win with Earlen Goldwyn Secret over the highly touted Craigcrest Rubies Gold Rejoice.

Setting the Stage

By now everyone has heard of Craigcrest Rubies Gold Rejoice.  She is the 3 time All-Canadian, 3 time All-American, Res. Int. Champion from Madison last year.  But who has heard of Earlen Goldwyn Secret?  Her only show winnings of record are 2nd Sr. 2yr at a county show last year.  Their records could not be more different.  Rejoice has people drooling in the barns over her massive size and her amazing frame.  Did this nobody deserve to beat her?

Setting the Precedent

Throughout the day, Judge Crack had always gone with the most correct, most dairy heifers and 2yr olds.  Therefore, when it came time for the Sr. 3yr old class.  To some it may have seemed that he had worked himself into a corner.  He could stick with what he had gone with all day and win with Secret or give in to popular pressure and win with Rejoice.

As Judge Crack switched the two from his initial pull to then place Secret on top, in discussion with the ringside judges it was noted that making that move  would “take a set of balls”.  Big ones! Judge Crack either had to win with Secret or he had to put her into third, as the 2nd and 3rd place cows very much typed in together.

I have always found this to be a very complex and interesting problem.  The Dairy Cow Scorecard is clear on the weightings and you are taught that every animal is to be judged individually.  So then why does a judge have to put cattle in groups?  The best way I can describe it, is to remember what Murray Reisner and Lowell Lindsay once said to me.  “While the judging scorecard is very clear every judge has their preferences, and if you are going to stray from the scorecard in your preferences, you need to be consistent.  So if there is a particular type of cow you like, be consistent.”

Consistency is actually a huge part of earning credibility as a judge.  While everyone may not always agree with your placings, if they can follow them, and see that you are consistent, they may not agree but they will respect your decision.  As a spectator and an avid show advocate this is my biggest beef with some judges.  I would like to tell them, “I don’t need to agree with you, but make sure I can follow your placings.  Follow a consistent pattern, and you will earn my respect.


A question was raised on Friday that I want to address before it goes too far.  “Is Judge Crack favoring his fellow Quebecers?”  Judge Crack’s  pattern was definitely there with  the winning Senior 2 yr Old, Junior 3 year old, Senior 3 year old and 4 year old who would eventually be pulled to the centre of the ring for the final selection of Champions.  Indeed, a heck of a day for Ferme Yvon Sicard, Ferme Blondin and Ghyslain Demers.  However, having watched the classes first hand and knowing Judge Crack as I do, I would say it was more that the exhibitors knew exactly the type of cow Judge Crack likes and knew that it would be worth their while to make the long trip to The Ontario Summer Show.

If you look at the winner of every cow class, they all type in together extremely well.  You had to have a great udder, dairyness throughout and you had better have an animal with great mobility.  That was supported  by an exhibitor of a 2nd place animal who reported that as soon as his cow stuttered (blamed on a rock in the ring) he knew that he would not be winning that class.

Lily vs. Beauty

Watching the Sr 3 Yr Old  class unfold reminded me of 1999 when I had the chance to work with the western Canadian string when  ACME STAR LILY was going head to head with RAINYRIDGE TONY BEAUTY.  With both cows being from the same show string tension and speculation was high to see how Judge Comtois would place these two cows.  Compared to Rejoice and Secret their difference in backgrounds was not as great.  At that point Lily was the two time reigning Royal Grand Champion and Beauty was six years off her Royal win and had won Madison that year.  However, in a similar way to Judge Crack’s handling at The Ontario Summer Show, Judge Comtois stayed true to the same style he had selected all day and went with Lily.  Of course, there was a wide-ranging response from the ringside.

Bottom Line

The biggest thing I love about these cases is that both Judge Crack and Judge Comtois stayed true to what they liked and did not give in to the ringside pressure.  While everyone is entitled to their opinion, the opinion that matters most is that of the judge.  For all those who would have placed them differently, “Fantastic!”  I am sure you could have given a great   set of reasons too. The thing you need to remember about judging is to stay true to what you like. The judge’s job is to set a pattern for the breed. Do that and you will earn the respect of everyone that matters!  It takes guts to pick the glory!


KIDS, CALVES and COMPETITION: Safety in the Dairy Ring

dairy cattle showing youthOne of the outstanding benefits of living on a dairy farm is that it provides the opportunity to learn how to compete in the dairy ring. Working with dairy animals improves physical fitness, coordination, self-discipline and teamwork, but these beneficial activities can also put participants at risk for injury.

Show-related injuries are preventable.  It is a matter of protecting bodies, while they are still growing and just beginning to understand the skills involved in working with animals. Unlike sports such as baseball or hockey where flying objects can cause injuries to the face, the danger in the show ring  most often lies in the child’s awareness of the living, and sometimes unpredictable, animal at the end of the lead.

Training of both the child and the animal is the key to avoiding injuries to both participants.  Of course, it is up to the adults in charge to make sure that youth participating in the events are safe from foreseeable harm.

Dairy Show Injury Prevention Tips

  • Dress participants in appropriate protective equipment. Most sports teams require participants to have specific equipment that is the proper size and adjusted to each athlete. We should do the same for young cattle show persons. Footwear that can withstand tromping on and that is safe from slipping in wet, muddy or messy conditions. Steel toed work boots are the safest choice. Flip flops, clogs and bare feet are strictly unacceptable when working with cattle.  If proper protective equipment isn’t available, it is NOT alright to go ahead.  It teaches two incorrect things: a- the rules don`t count  b- rules can be broken.
  • Proper halter size. A halter that is too big is dangerous as it can be easily pulled off. The halter should not cause discomfort to the calf. As well, make sure the lead shank is neither too long nor too short. This is where experience will be the best teacher but don`t let the handling of the halter or lead become a bigger job than moving easily with the calf.
  • Maintain safe show ring conditions. Wherever, cattle are being shown, basic safety precautions should be in place. Clear the area of debris. Beware of broken glass, rusty nails, used syringes, rocks and other items that would increase injury if a child fell or slid on them. If this will be an outdoor event, watch weather forecasts; have a set of guidelines for postponing the event, if necessary.
  • Have an emergency plan for injuries during shows. If at all possible have an adult trained in first aid techniques on hand. At least have an adult with a charged mobile phone. Provide the adult supervisor with a notebook of emergency phone numbers for parents or guardians of all participants. Carry a well-stocked first aid kit.
  • Enforce basic sportsmanship rules. This is the beginning of learning how to care for animals, prepare them for showing and putting forth their best feet forward in the ring. By all means, prevent bullying of competitors by adults or children. Young show persons need to focus on showing, not on their shame, embarrassment or humiliation.
  • Ensure children drink plenty of liquids. In the excitement of participating in this highlight of dairy cattle this may be overlooked and could result in dehydration. This is especially important in high heat, high humidity or high altitudes or with children who are novices and may not have experience in maintaining control of their animal for an extended time.
  • Provide proper training and skills building for young show people. Select a calf that will be a suitable size for the child to work with and show. Begin training as soon as possible. Training is not something that can be done in a couple of days! As the child builds fundamental skills, they will gain confidence in handling the calf and in presenting it for the judge`s consideration.
  • NEVER wrap the lead rope around the hand, arm, wrist or any body part. If they are bound like this and the heifer moves away quickly, the child could be seriously hurt.


When children are properly prepared to show dairy cattle, the skills they learn and mentors they meet will last them a lifetime. Safety first.  Memories forever.

Is The Bullvine Your Guilty Pleasure?

Everyone has their guilty pleasures.  Some people like to eat lots of ice cream, some people drink a little too much (yes cattle fitters out there you know who I am talking about), but everyone has their guilty pleasure.  Recently The Bullvine has started to become many dairy breeders’ guilty pleasure.

For years, dairy breeders have had limited options when it came  to reading unique content.  I can still remember when Holstein International came on the scene.  At the time, it was so different from all the other publications that breeders had, that it was very warmly received.  Since launching the Bullvine we have enjoyed  the same reception.  Dairy breeders have been giving us such great feedback it’s really humbling, even for someone with as big an ego as mine.

In introducing the Bullvine, we are seeking to make breeders think.  Yes we do produce content that for some can be edgy, but, with every piece we produce, we are seeking to give our readers something unique to chew on.  For example: Holstein vs. Jersey: Which Breed Is More Profitable?The Top 10 Most Influential Holstein Breeders of All-Time and Show Cows: All Type and No Action? As long as we achieve that with even one breeder than we have achieved our goal.  Does that mean that everyone needs to agree with us?  Hell no.  I would be disappointed if it did.  We are not doing our job if we are not pushing the limits.

Have We Gone Too Far?

Now some might call our willingness to push the limits,  tabloid fare, or even dairy scandal mongering. To them I say, get real.  We have never slandered a single person.  Every article we write is written and backed by hard facts.

However, for those who call us controversial!   Great!   We wanted to be different.  We wanted to stand out from the crowd and be something that dairy breeders would enjoy reading.  Moreover, the stats prove it. Are we “XXX” rated?   How do YOU measure pushy and provocative?

What makes us the fastest growing dairy magazine in history?

Well part of it is the age we live in.  In launching the Bullvine, we did not seek to use the old school printed versions.  Instead we did a full press digital launch.  That means more than just our website.  It included The Bullvine’s Facebook page where we reach over 30,000 readers weekly, and our Twitter account that reaches over 300,000 readers monthly.  All that in fewer than 5 months.  We are happy to say folks, and competitors, there is no question we are the fastest growing dairy magazine in the world.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Do we use a creative spin to make things interesting?  You bet.  Are we afraid to say something just because it may not be politically correct?  Hell no.   We aim to be an influential information source for dairy breeders. For us, that will mean that no subjects, issues or people are off limits! Thanks for all the amazing support and constructive criticism.  We are excited about the many great issues we plan to cover in the future.  That is our guilty pleasure.

GLOBAL INVESTMENT: Milk is a BIG Growth Industry!

Movie fans will remember the movie “BIG” where a young boy makes a wish at a fairground machine to be big. He wakes up the following morning to find that his wish has been granted and his body has grown older over night. But he is still the same 12 year old kid on the inside with a whole lot of strange new people and experiences to deal with! Some, including Canada, are finding themselves in a grown up world trying to catch up.

The Cream Rises to the Top of the Milk Maker List?

Globally, dairy farming, along with agriculture in general, is experiencing the “BIG” phenomenon. Milk production is expected to grow an average 2% per year for the next decade. Asia will account for most of it. Now that`s a lot of milk and BIG indeed!

Today we are looking at the list of Top 10 Countries By Milk Production as per US Department of Agriculture, 2011:

Top 10 Countries By Milk Production

Everyone feels patriotic when their country does well on ranked lists. Did you look to see where your country stood in the Top 10? How did it make you feel? Where you even on the list? If you’re like me, you probably thought (because of numerous publication writers telling you so) that Canada is a major milk producer. Ooops! We better make that major milk consumer. We are higher on the milk consumer list than we are on the milk producer list. We’re approximately 12th for per capita consumption, according to the United States Department of Agriculture and we’re 19th for production. Sounds a little far back even for a die-hard Blue Jays and Maple Leafs fan.

Where’s the Wiggle Room?

There’s lots of room for everybody to take advantage of the opportunities. If you’re at the top of the list, like the U.S. you can take heart from the fact that food production will be challenged to increase 70 percent over the next 30 years. The scary part is the fluctuating nature of consumer demand. An editorial in Hoard’s Dairyman, 8/25/10 made these points, “Of the countless wildcards in the dairy business, the future role of dairy exports is, perhaps, the wildest. That is why it is vital that our industry leaders and policymakers keep export potential in perspective. What our industry must have is a system that enables us all to expand production when domestic and foreign demand calls for it and to cut back on production when the market signals tell us to.” The comments are definitely something to think about. On the other hand, there are dangers in holding back as well. The truth is there is a huge gap between growing global demand and global supply. You might rewrite the axiom to say, “Nature abhors a gap!”You can be 100% sure of one thing. Somebody will move to fill it. The earliest ones into the game with vision and dollars will be able to profit from providing the milk, even it has to be accessed outside their own borders. It has been suggested that New Zealand could accomplish this. Or perhaps one of the mega-food companies who see the opportunity and are ready to take it. There is huge potential for countries or companies who have a low cost of production to move to the forefront of milk production.

But what if you`re further down the production side of the list? You may decide that it’s time to start movin’ on up! Hang on! It could be a bumpy ride. Consumer demands, trade regulations and national food policies are just three of the variables that are going to present ongoing challenges. even though many forecasters see agriculture as the greatest growth industry of our time. Super! All we have to do is increase the production of animals and plants. But then there is the increasing squeeze from land use, sustainable agriculture and available water. It’s ironic that at the very time when markets are growing and science and technology are making great strides, land and water use from growing urbanization are providing counter pressure.

Although we are learning to accept and adapt to the speed of new technology, it is probably true, that what we are familiar with today may not be the breakthrough that will take us into the future. For example, new technologies, such as nutrigenomics, will become increasingly important. With nutrigenomics, it will be possible to influence or control genetic expression in animals. Certain feed ingredients will be able to switch on genes in the animals, leading to improved production. It will revolutionize nutrition, said Karl Dawson, chief scientific officer at Alltech, when speaking at the Alltech International Symposium held in May in Lexington, Kentucky. He added. “You’re going to see more changes in nutrition in the next 10 years than you have seen in the last century.”

Thus far we see that there is growing demand and improved methods of delivering milk and milk products. Another key factor is the initiatives throughout the world to train farmers in the business of dairy farming. Rural development and sustainable agriculture projects are seeing successes that will affect milk production worldwide, while sourcing information and mentors in the areas of animal genetics, product development and dairy cattle management.


So far, everyone agrees that it will be possible, somehow, to keep up with the food demands of a growing world population. What we may not be so sure of is the exactly how it will happen. Nevertheless, milk will be an important product in feeding world populations. If you`re already in the dairy industry, you have an advantage that not all of the companies who aspire to global trade can claim and that is that the market is far from saturated and demand is continually growing. No wonder the stock market is recognizing that you can put your money where the milk is.

Murray Hunt: Perspective from Both Sides of the Fence

It’s our pleasure to welcome Murray Hunt to the Bullvine Team. Murray brings a wealth of experience from both the dairy industry side as well as the breeder sides of the fence. Ask Murray what success is in the dairy industry and he will instantly flash a smile because he has seen it up close and from both sides of the fence. The family farm, which is approaching its 100th Anniversary, is where he first fell in love with dairying, first at the heels of his grandfather Allen Humphrey and then working with his parents Sterling and Irene Hunt.  Almost three decades with Holstein Canada and the Canadian Association of animal breeders never separated him from his hands on appreciation of cattle at Huntsdale Holsteins.

He Loves Those Cows

“There’s an advantage to spending your working career doing what is closest to your heart.” Murray reports.  As he warms to the topic he enthuses that “Look at the major advancements we have seen in milk production and conformation, especially udders in Holstein cattle.  They were known for deep udders and low butterfat. They’ve certainly come a long way.” Years of working with the Holstein Canada Classification program support his conclusions. “And there is still great potential in working on feet.”  Justifiably proud of the Master Breeder shield earned by Huntsdale, Murray continues to breed to send sires into A.I. both in Canada and one in abroad. “Developing a member of the Gypsy Grand cow family has been good for Huntsdale.”

Cow Sense Meets Cow Science

Murray earned both his B.Sc. and M.Sc. at Guelph University.  His Master’s thesis was entitled, “An A.I. Breeding Schemes” and included the “Dollar Difference Guide” which was the precursor to the Canadian LPI system.  Hunt’s Masters was implemented by A.I. organizations that went from sampling less than 50 bulls per year to over 400.

(Not) The Same Old Story

Despite his long history with farming and farmer organizations, he is not reluctant to move forward.  “Success can be directly linked to your willingness to change.” Says Murray even though he adds, “All change is not good but we have to research the possibilities and then select what appears to be the best move in a forward direction.” If he himself was stuck in the past, he might be unwilling to see genomics moving the industry away from a purely pedigree analysis of animals.  “On the contrary!” he exclaims, “It’s wonderful to move to the next stage where we don’t have the cost and delays of proving sires that don’t have a chance of coming through as plus sires!” This leads to the topic of organizations and Hunt firmly believes that the future of the cattle breeding industry will see fewer producer organizations. “This is predictable from a purely financial point of view and will evolve with the breeder priorities, provided we can move beyond the past, be objective and expand our vision for the future.”

Look to the Horizon

“We need to forge our path to the horizon and not just to the end of our own laneway!” insists Murray who notes that “The ones who move forward with change are the ones who stay with the (cattle) industry and those who don’t will exit the industry.” He is not upset about this but does add, “Every generation that survives on the farm moves ahead with technology. It could be in your fully equipped office or the method you use for milking. For some it’s new ways to grow crops and mechanized ways to feed them.”  He strongly feels that it is “up to dairy breeders and industry leaders to trust the system, improve the system and use the system to produce a continually better product.”

The Bullvine Bottom Line

For Murray Hunt there is no final one-size-fits-all answer.  “If it was that easy, there would be no challenge and no opportunity. We all want to use what we know to prove our faith in the potential of Holstein cattle.  These are exciting times for genetics, technology and the future of the dairy business. It’s no time to find yourself sitting on the fence!”

Join us in welcoming Murray to the Bullvine team and we are excited about the great insights he will bring to the Bullvine.

A.I. and Sire Selection: Is the Tail Wagging the Cow?

As I watch how the dairy industry has changed over the recent years, and more specifically the dairy breeding industry, I find myself asking the question “is the tail wagging the dog?” Specifically I want to know, “Are dairy breeders dictating to A.I. companies what bulls they want to use and what trait they are looking for, or, is it the other way around?

So much has been made of how genomics has changed the dairy breeding industry lately, and yet, it still seems as though the large A.I. companies are trying to tell dairy breeders what they should be interested in, instead of dairy breeders, who know their own needs, telling the A.I. companies what’s important to them.

In any marketplace it should always be the consumer dictating to the producer what’s important. For the dairy industry that means that “Joe public” should dictate what’s important. Do they want hormone free milk, do they want milk that is from non-genetically manipulated animals. All this should be and, ultimately, will be determined by the end consumer.

Then as the milk producer, based on your own goals or strategy to deliver a product that is of high value to the end consumer you manage your herd appropriately. That means selecting of sires and genetics that will help you satisfy “Joe public.” Too often, I find that A.I. companies are caught up in themselves. They either have a new hot sire that they want to push, or they have developed what they think is a “distinct” differentiation from the other A.I. companies and want you to buy into that.

Your breeding program should not be dictated to you by who the popular sire of the moment is or what is the cheapest semen you can get. Dairy cattle breeding is not a popularity contest. It is something you should put time into and carefully consider based on your overall farm/herd goals and where you’re genetic programs fit into that. You can then decide what traits are important to you and what sires will help you achieve the desired results. As a progressive dairy breeder you need to be in charge of your genetic programs, not the local semen salesmen who get their marching orders from someone who does not know your specific needs and goals.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The biggest thing I have learned in my years working with various large corporate entities is that it all starts with the end consumer. Look for what they want and work your way back. For dairy breeders who want to be market leaders, that means looking at milk consumption. What trends are happening there, what trends are going on in animal welfare? By looking ahead instead of behind you will not only not be caught in the latest fad, but rather you will see the rewards in your pocket book.


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


Fight the Power

For years a small few organizations have controlled the dairy industry.  No I am not talking about how A.I.  companies are seeking to control genomics, or genetic evaluation systems, sorry Ron.  What I am talking about is how a small few (mostly A.I. companies) have sought to control what breeders think.  It’s time to stand up and be heard and fight the power.

Having grown up on both sides of this fence it has been amazing to see the control that A.I. companies have over dairy breeders’ minds.  I can still remember when Champion was about to be released and the “rumors” that where swirling were insane.  Everything you could think of was being said about Albert Cormier and GenerVations.  Some of the stuff was not even possible and yet the rumor mill was fuelled with this because the other companies were threatened by a new player in the marketplace.  The great thing for the industry was that in typical Albert fashion he did not let it beat him down, but rather loved the challenge and met it head on.

More important than the marketing that any of the A.I. companies has done, is the ability to control the rumor mill.  Dairy breeders love great gossip.  Maybe it’s because as a dairy breeder you get limited contact with other breeders, or maybe it’s because most breeders are so passionate about what they do, but breeders do love good gossip.  Trust me, it does not take a day to have a rumor that starts on one farm spread all over the industry and this was even before Facebook and email.

I cannot tell you the number times I have had great conversations with many different breeders but put them in a group setting and they would be afraid to speak up.  As an industry we should not seek to ostracize those who are willing to speak up against the norm but rather encourage them to speak their mind.

Looking back on my upbringing one of the greatest things I ever learned was the ability to give reasons.  I cannot tell you how much it has helped me in my career.  Not because I am seeking to become judge the Royal or Madison (though if you would like me to, I am game), but rather it taught me how to form my own opinion and then have the confidence to present and defend that opinion in front of others.  On an average week I have to give 3-4 different presentations to groups of 100+ and it’s this the lessons I learned judging dairy cattle that make it a breeze for me.

The Bottom Line

I think it’s time more breeders speak up for what they believe in.  This is a great time to be a dairy breeder, but it’s also a time where the industry is going through great change.  It’s at this time the industry needs more breeders to speak up and be heard.  Let their voice be heard and make sure that the industry we all know and love will be just as great or even better for future generations.  We are not sheep or lemmings dam it, we are dairy breeders and it’s time to take control and speak for ourselves!

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