The beauty of the Holstein breed is that it offers so much diversity. Here we investigate the breeding tactics of four breeders with differing goals.
Anyone who interprets breeding in a traditional manner thinks of the selection of one sire for one cow. Of course, this approach is not outdated. But it is competing with a breeding strategy that does not revolve around single cow but keeps the whole herd in mind. And with that the tools change which farms use to improve their genetics and profitability. At the same time, such breeding strategies are based primarily on the professional use of IVF programs. Tom Mercuro, breeder and veterinarian in the USA, is intimately involved with the process as an employee of Trans Ova Genetics. His perspective and views of the future are more than fascinating.
Of the current top-15 progeny proven bulls in Spain, ten are owned by Xenética Fontao. In the DNA list, they even have a share of 12 of the 15 highest sires, with the Gymnast son Guay as the first bull ever to surpass 5000 gICO. HI travelled to Galicia, spoke with those responsible for this success, and came eye-to-eye with the popular Spanish DNA topper.
Vander Woude Dairy is based at Merced, California, and for the last seven years they have been using beef semen on part of their Holstein herd. Owner Simon Vander Woude shares details of their experience.
We all know colostrum and pre-weaning nutrition is important for calf vitality, but how much does it impact a cow’s long-term milking career? Here we explore recent research to find out just how important it is.
It’s time to dry cow #374, a Supershot daughter that’s still milking 88lb (40kg). But, it feels wrong. Why? For generations, we have carefully coordinated the breeding program to enhance her ability to give loads of milk. She has been carefully raised to be healthy, from calfhood to freshening. Her ration during this lactation is designed to push her to maximum genetic potential expression of milk. She’s been bred and fed to milk... then we try to tell her STOP. This is tough. Tough on #374’s routines. Tough on the herdsman. Tough on her in-utero calf. Is there a way around this?
The idea of writing about micronutrients in our management series is not something that came on a whim. The current discussion about climate change and increasing the efficiency of feed conversion in order to decrease the emission of greenhouse gases by the livestock sector, and the political and societal pressure to forego the use of antibiotics in animal feeds, have brought increased attention to micronutrients. But regardless whether talking about an increase in production or improved immunity, micronutrients are not simply micronutrients. The correct selection and combination are decisive.
It started as a boyhood dream. Cousins Lowell and Jared Martin went to school and church together, and regularly shared ideas about their passion of cows and breeding. They often threw the idea around of making a bull stud, but it wasn’t until 2010 when genomics started to gain momentum that they started to think about it more closely. Jared explains: ‘When genomics began to impact the industry, we felt the market was moving away from what we thought was important – long-living cows made from balanced matings.’ Deciding to act, their dream slowly became a reality when Lowell’s brother bred Wyn-Lys Norman Jesh EX-94, a Stormin Norman-son from a VG-86-2yr Durham with the unique aAa code 642. Jesh was their ticket into the AI business and two enthusiastic teenagers began putting their ambitions into action. ‘Things went surprising well for us at the start and we began travelling around selling semen to breeders in our area,’ describes Jared. And so Triple-Hil Sires begun…
Beef-on-Dairy, the use of beef sires on (part) of the dairy herd, is a global phenomenon. In North America, Beef-on-Dairy has been the most significant development during the past five years. After earlier publications in February and April, HI is again focussing attention on this important topic. Besides management considerations, like sire selection and semen quality, successful use of Beef-on-Dairy also requires a look beyond. Meeting the high quality requirements of growers is crucial to success over the long term.
This month our management series looks at different equipment now available for the on-farm handling of milk. Under many circumstances, the chilling of milk before it enters the milk tank is now the most efficient option. And as with other aspects of farming, the technology of using sensors to electronically monitor the cleaning and operation of your milking system is now widely available too.
The industry is on the cusp of a new revolution in dairy cattle breeding – the selection for feed conversion efficiency. While this trait has been prominent in poultry and pig breeding for many years, and has become a significant element in beef cattle selection, it is now set to become main-stream in dairy cattle breeding too.
One judge, one vet, one classifier and one breeder help us understand what their ideal cow looks like, and the problems the breed needs to overcome to achieve the ideal cow.
Clinical and subclinical milk fever are very costly. They incur not only direct economic losses, but also open the “door” to other illnesses. Health and fertility problems increase and longevity decreases. Especially the number of cases of subclinical (invisible) milk fever is strongly underestimated. Statistics from the field indicate that more than 70% of cows contend with it. Nutrition experts are looking for solutions to prevent calcium shortages around calving by modifying the ration during the dry period and adding anionic salts.
A keen eye for development in the dairy industry: That is one of the most prominent core qualities of the Dutch company Bles Dairies. With lots of passion and driven by a rich family tradition, founder Henk Bles, together with his employees, contributes internationally in a variety of ways to the dairy industry. ‘Wherever in the world cows are being milked, I feel at home.’
Progressively, more and more breeders are paying attention to management traits. The reason is the impact they have on farm profitability. Chief among these traits is longevity: If an animal does well for all the other traits then it should add up to a long expected lifetime. Here we examine the sources of data and the evaluation methods used worldwide in coming up with these expected lifetime predictions.
At the Genetics Conference 2019, Dr. Mike Lohuis, Vice President of Research and Innovation at Semex, based in Guelph, Canada, presented a 10-Year report card on genomics. Lohuis started his career in the mid 80s as a sire analyst with the bull stud Eastern Breeders before returning to University of Guelph to earn a PhD. After 5 years of research and teaching he left to join Monsanto, where his work involved using genomics in their dairy and pig breeding programs, then later in plant breeding. In 2017 he returned to Guelph to take up his current position at Semex. Here is his “Report Card” on the use of genomics in the first 10 years.
For generations the breed has been working to reduce calving interval length. The quicker a cow becomes pregnant again, the better the economics. There is a global consensus on this point. But is this breeding goal still practical? In times of ever increasing production? In times where the high-risk time around calving is viewed as the main determinant on a cows economic viability? In times where calves are decreasing in value and replacements are being procured with sexed semen? We found a breeder who has a different definition for what the ideal calving interval should be. His theses, which are now also supported by science, seem to be convincing. A meeting with Gerd Karch in Germany.
In the article “The Background and Future of the Most Significant Red Holstein Populations” in HI’s Red Review issue 08/2018, the decreasing number of Red Holstein inseminations in the Netherlands was noted. The cause? Further analysis by the Dutch HI publication HI Plus! pointed to the supply of daughter proven Red Holstein sires. Dutch Red Holstein farmers attach a relatively high value to daughter proven bulls, but: the supply of high bulls with the good components and robust frames that are desired by farmers is currently limited. What is the states of affairs with the demand and supply of good, daughter proven Red Holstein bulls? HI provides answers.
The topic of “intelligent barns” flags up many questions. With milk price struggling, is the investment worth it? How will automated technology affect my workforce? Where is the “intelligent” market heading? In this article we address some challenging questions.
Since the recent April release, Natural is the proud owner of the two highest Czech Holstein bulls: Zetor and Zologram-P, while their colleague Attila also shines in the top-5. On the progeny proven list, Natural is represented by Sunnyday in first place and Polledstar-P in third. High time then to become better acquainted with this privately owned AI located just south of Prague, where independence is high in the banner, as is a close working relationship with Czech breeders.
Several years have passed since the last calculation of the worldwide breeding index (2013), which Holstein International did regularly since 1996. Enough time, which national breeding associations and other organizations used to develop new statistical models based on changing economic realities and the discovery of new relevant breeding traits. The results can be seen in the worldwide breeding index 2019, in which the ratio for fat to protein is a lot closer and which includes various new traits. And more changes will be coming in the next few years, as a lot of research is going on for traits like feed efficiency.
As herds get larger and livestock handling systems become more mechanized, time spent on heat detection for each individual cow continues to dwindle. However, next to top nutrition and elite genetics, getting cows to reproduce regularly is the next most important link in the chain of effective farm management. Activity monitoring is becoming increasingly popular as an aid to successful reproduction programs. We sought some practical farm experiences.
Problems with hoof health (lameness in cows) is among the biggest irritations of dairy farmers – the costs of lost milk production, additional labour, veterinarian visits, involuntary culling, and lower fertility quickly add up. Via management and nutrition, many hoof issues can be prevented, or at least minimized. But… breeding is also offering more and more possibilities. After Scandinavia and the Netherlands, Canada and Germany also recently introduced official indexes for hoof health.
Soon the stifling heat of summer will be with us and that can adversely affect the production levels of high yielding dairy cows. Here we look at some of the management steps you can take to help alleviate the impact and stress to your cows of extreme weather this summer.
With a unique selection criteria, that includes the requirement of all bulls to be A2A2 and have no haplotypes, a look into Jetstream Genetics’ ethos makes interesting reading. Still a relatively new company in global AI industry terms, here we find out more about Jetstream and the brains behind the operation – Roger Turner.
Over the forecast period of 2017-2023, the robotic milking market is projected to grow at an annual growth rate of 9.78%. Yes: We can expect a lot more robot dairy farms in the future! From changing the barn to accommodate robots, to learning how to decipher copious amounts of information, changing to an automated milking system brings a whole lot of change. One of these changes is a breeder’s approach to sire selection – here we discuss breeding in the robot world.
Canada has two main total merit indexes. The Lifetime Performance Index (LPI) has been the recognized measure of Canadian genetics for decades, while the Pro$ was added as an alternative ranking commencing in August 2015. The Pro$ is targeted to meet the needs of producers who generate essentially all their revenue from milk sales, while the LPI is more suited for those who desire to market genetics, where the conformation and appearance of the animal provide added value.
In HI’s February issue (pgs. 10-11) you became acquainted with the phenomenon Beef-on-Dairy: the breeding of dairy cows to beef bulls. As the result of extensive use of sexed semen in many prominent Holstein countries, this is a growing practice. In this article, we will consider a number of breeding programs which have been developed to select the best possible beef bulls to meet this end goal. And you receive an overview of the bulls from various beef breeds that are recommended by AIs for use on dairy cows. Also with Beef-on-Dairy, it is the case: do not use “just any bull”; also here, better bulls clearly lead to better results.
Antibiotic resistance and reducing the amount of antibiotics used in livestock production – it’s a topic all livestock producers have heard over and over during the past decade. Of course from a genetic perspective, selection for health traits has arrested the downward trend in health trait performance of the dairy cow and we are now seeing general improvements in disease resistance... but what management options exist as an alternative to antibiotic use?
Theoretically, a breeding value for somatic cell score (SCS), as is routinely calculated in most countries around the world, could continue to serve as a genetic indicator for udder health well into the future. In countries where a breeding value for mastitis is calculated, the correlation between it and SCS can go from 0.6 to 0.9. that is very high. Nonetheless, more and more breeding indexes are directly incorporating breeding values for mastitis. Here we will explain why that is and how mastitis breeding values are obtained.
In HI, we seldom or never write an article about the beef breeds. Nevertheless, there is a good reason to do that now, because the use of beef bulls on Holstein cows is becoming commonplace. In most Holstein countries, the number of inseminations with so-called “beef on dairy” sires has increased tremendously in recent years, in some cases even to nearly 50%. HI spoke with specialists about the phenomenon “Beef on Dairy”. Which breeds are being used for this? And: what is the emphasis in sire selection?
Use of genomics in official genetic evaluations has transformed the dairy cattle breeding industry over the past decade. Now genomics is being used to offer breeders new options when it comes to selecting healthier animals: the wellness traits.
The breeding of tall, impressive looking cows has been the goal for many a breeder down through the years. Now, slowly the tide of opinion is changing and many believe the stature of Holsteins is already tall enough. However, the selection for increased stature appears to be built into our breeding systems at various levels. How do we slow the rate of increase in stature of our cows?
With US Holstein genetics playing a major role on the international scene, the TPI is widely recognized and has become a common language understood in many different countries around the world. However, do you know exactly what traits are included in the TPI? Here you can learn in 2 pages about the many valuable traits included!
France has two large breeding companies: Evolution and Gènes Diffusion. At the latter, Frédéric Lepoint has already been employed for 28 years and thus is both a genetic manager and an ambassador. HI spoke with Lepoint about developments at Gènes Diffusion, cooperative efforts and the potential of genomics. Lepoint calls himself “pro-genomics” but places significant conditions on that. Something needs to change, according to this expert.
Improved cow comfort is often listed as a major contributor to increased milk production. Improved barn design, increased air flow and ventilation, better access to the feed bunk, and more spacious stalls all help to make for a more efficient operation. This month we discuss the various choices when it comes to another significant contributor to cow comfort, bedding material.
Timely pregnancy of heifers and cows is critical to the economics of dairy farms. That is the reason why during the past number of years, fertility has received increased attention within breeding programs. It is no longer possible to imagine indexes for daughter fertility being omitted in the sire selection process. But also bull fertility – no matter how small the contribution may be in the total spectrum – is also carefully considered by many farmers. The figure can even be crucial for the career of a bull.
‘Stress reduces the resistance of cows, causing the likelihood of infections to increase. And the number of stress moments is quite high actually; cows are like people with autism, they do not handle changes well.’ Speaking is Arnout Dekker, a practicing veterinarian with years of experience who now works at Phibro, the supplier of OmniGen, the product that offers proven support to the immune system of, among others, dairy cows, and thus maintains a high resistance level. In turn this results in fewer cases of disease and reduced use of antibiotics.
It is now almost 10 years since the arrival of the genomics. In that time it has evolved into the biggest revolution the cattle breeding industry has seen. To look at some of the developments as genomics has been implemented over those 10 years we spoke to Dr Paul VanRaden, a research geneticist with the USDA Agriculture Research Service Animal Genomics and Improvement Laboratory in Maryland.
A common sight on many farms around the world is the arrivial of the AI technician to breed cows. Now the number of farmers with their own tanks and doing their own inseminations is steadily climbing.
A daily production of 40 kg/cow; Pieter Karst Bouma wants to reach this goal within two years. ‘After raising the roof on the old barn, that is certainly realistic,’ says the farmer from the Dutch province of Friesland. Bouma is in tune with all aspects of his farm and is trying to get the most out of his herd: With the assistance of information from the milking robots and surrounded by the right specialists.
Elevated somatic cell counts not only cause production losses, but also increase the likelihood of mastitis, with all the associated problems and costs. To prevent financial damage and animal losses, it is important to decrease, or maintain the somatic cell count on the farm at a low level. Easily said, but what does this look like in practice? Which factors play a big role in this? HI spoke with an independent milking expert and two dairy farmers that have an average somatic cell count of 100,000 or lower.
“The Program for Healthy Cows”: That is how the ProFitPlus program is described on the websites of the German AIs RinderAllianz (RA) and Rinderzucht Berlin Brandenburg (RBB). For more specific background, experiences and results on this unique project, HI spoke with Jan Körte, Head of Breeding at RA. In his working region, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in the far northeastern part of Germany, already since 2005, standardized field data from thousands of cows has been compiled in the areas of mastitis, hoof health and calving, among others. This resulted three years ago in indexes that are much appreciated in the field.
Average daily milk production per robot for all Lely milking robots world-wide reaches 1628 kg, while the top farm is now above 3000 kg! ‘The robots are the same everywhere, the difference lies in management,’ state Lely representatives Frank van der Staak and Rutger van de Streek, who present lots of remarkable data and share engaging stories about the developments of the automatic milking systems, and especially about the growing stream of information from numerous sensors that offer farmers management support. They provide insight about goals, and how to realize those goals with the proper application of modern technology.
In August 2011, the Nordic Total Merit (NTM) index – used in Denmark, Sweden and Finland – became the first total index worldwide to include the trait Hoof Health as one its components. ‘Now farmers can see the result for themselves through better longevity and fewer cases of lameness,’ comments Lars Nielsen from Viking Genetics. ‘Hoof health has a correlation of .40 with longevity, while feet & legs have a correlation of just .15/.20 with longevity. Our best bull for Hoof Health reduces the cases of lameness by 50%.’
Whether or not to use dry cow treatment, housing in one or two groups, a dry period of six weeks or is eight weeks better? Experts think differently about the ideal dry period. What all experts do agree on, though, is that without a good dry period, milking cows will not get old. HI spoke with Boclair Holsteins in Scotland, the Dijk-de Bruin partnership in the Netherlands and Hendel Farms in the US; three enterprises with high-producing and long-lasting herds that have proven to have good dry cow management.
Whether you are thinking about enhancing your existing barn or building a new one –integrating milk-boosting tools will most likely be an advantageous goal. Here we investigate some possibilities.
The name Pine-Tree is synonymous with the Rudolph Missy family. Bulls such as Supersire, Mogul, Balisto – the most dominant bulls of the genomic era – all stem from the Missy family that was developed at Pine-Tree. However, this month we are not focusing on the Rudy Missy family but instead on the management practices of this world-renowned Ohio dairy operation.
One of these busy mornings when you are lamenting the fact that you have so many calves to feed, spare a thought for Ty Fullmer and his team at Fullmer Cattle Company in Kansas – they raise 35,000 calves per year! We talked with Ty to discover what it takes to have success in calf raising.
Selection emphasis on fitness traits over the last 15 years has arrested the declining genetic merit for health in the dairy cow that had developed as an unwanted side-effect of many years of intensive selection for production. While progress in breeding a healthier cow has been slow, we now have some proprietary indexes to help select for improved health. Here we highlight the TransitionRight program from ABS.
Recently, Holstein International reported about the top management of three herds that reached record numbers of 100,000kg-220,000lb cows (HI 06/2017: Sandisfarne, Kellercrest & Iden). But: there are more striking herds with remarkable records! Here we present 3 new herds that reached record numbers of high lifetime producers: Rosy-Lane in Wisconsin, Big in The Netherlands and Summitholm in Canada. Read on to see how they achieved these impressive performances!
It is amazing how breeding and trait selection can transform and alter a breed.In Holsteins, over the decades we have seen alterations in size, fertility, milk output – to name just a few. A trait that was starting to raise concerns for producers a few years ago was teat length: Teats were becoming too small. Here we investigate the current situation regarding the trait.
The combination of good genetics and good feed should lead to a high producing herd. However, seeing to all the smaller details that create an environment for healthy, contented cows is just as important. This month in our management series we take a look at udder health.
Can fertility be improved through breeding? Or is it simply down to management? Here we investigate the impact you can make by selecting for fertility.
Did you know that 20% of semen sold in Norway is in the form of SpermVital? It’s a technology that prolongs the life of sperm after insemination into the uterus from the usual 24 hours to 48 hours. This makes the exact timing of insemination less critical, allowing farmers to take a day off for Sundays or holidays, or to use the product on problem cows that have uncertain signs of heat. Here is the background.
Heat detection is an important aspect of fertility management. In the past, it primarily involved visual observations, whether or not supported by tail chalking. In recent decades, more and more smart technology has developed. A sampling of well-known developers: Afikim, Dairymaster, Nedap, SCR and Agis. Their technology is also used by a number of dairy equipment companies. Interesting is the development that some AIs offer heat detection systems to customers to support fertility results.