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Monthly Archives: April 2017

Two questions that will transform the way you breed your herd

There’s no other dairy farm in the world exactly like yours. So it’s important to ask yourself a couple questions to determine your ideal breeding goals.

You could use one of the US industry standard indexes to select the genetics for your herd. Their split weights on production, health and conformation will certainly help you make genetic gains in your herd. But will that progress actually match your farm’s current situation and future plans?

As a reminder, the following charts show the weights for the two most common US genetic indexes.

Image to show the weights on production, health and type for the TPI Index
Image to show trait weights for production, health and conformation within Net Merit $.

Since your farm is unique, your best option is to create your own customized genetic plan to get the right genetics to match your goals.

Ask yourself these two important questions to decide which traits to emphasize in your genetic plan.

1. How do you get paid for your milk?

The majority of dairy producers make their main profit from the sale of milk. How that milk is priced varies greatly from one part of the country to another. Most milk produced in Florida is sold for fluid consumption, while much of Wisconsin’s milk goes into making cheese. The milk from some farms goes strictly into butter. Others’ is made into ice cream. Many cooperatives also pay premiums for low somatic cell counts.

Regardless where you ship your milk, the simple way to maximize your milk check is to select the right genetics to match your situation. To explain this, we focus in on the production traits of your genetic plan, which include milk, fat and protein.

If your farm’s milk is made into cheese, you’re likely paid on components, rather than total fluid volume. In that case, selection emphasis on protein will garner your greatest return on genetic investment.

If you farm in a fluid milk market, strict selection for NM$ could actually hinder your progress since NM$ includes a negative weighting on total pounds of milk.

Management practices play the largest role in the performance you see, but the right genetic choices will aid your future profit potential. For example, it takes top-level management practices to achieve ideal somatic cell counts. Yet, if your milk company offers milk quality premiums, genetic selection for low Somatic Cell Score is a logical choice to boost the benefits of your management even further.

Don’t leave dollars on the table. Within your genetic plan, make sure you emphasize the production traits to match how you get paid for your milk.

2. Why do your cows leave the herd?

Regardless if you are in expansion mode or maintaining steady numbers, some animals will leave your herd for one reason or another.

If you’re gradually growing to prepare for a future expansion project, you’ll benefit from heavier genetic selection emphasis on traits like Productive Life. This will keep your cattle numbers on the rise by creating healthier, longer-living cows.

Selection for CONCEPT PLUS high sire fertility will help you create more pregnancies now. Selection for fertility traits like Daughter Pregnancy Rate will help you create a next generation of more fertile females. If you focus on both male and female fertility you will end up with the additional replacements you’ll need.

On the flip side, if your farm is at max capacity with more replacements than you can accommodate, different traits will make a more profitable impact. If your farm sells extra springing heifers or fresh two-year-olds for dairy purposes, you know that buyers choose the stronger, well-grown animals with ideal feet and legs and favorable udders. In that case, a heavier selection emphasis on Udder Composite and Foot & Leg Composite can provide profitable returns on your genetic investment.

However, when your herd size is steady and you don’t sell extra heifers for dairy purposes, it’s important to question your selection for conformation traits. How many cows have you culled in the past year for poor udders or feet and legs?

If the answer is none, you could be limiting your future profitability.

AI companies already provide you with a high level of selection intensity for conformation. Their sire criteria often uses those industry standard indexes with 26% or 16% emphasis on conformation.

If you emphasize conformation traits, but you don’t cull any animals for poor udders or feet and legs, you are missing out on future profits. When you put your weight on conformation, your sacrifice extra selection for production, improved health and additional pregnancies.

Consider your genetic plan

There’s no other dairy in the world identical to yours.

Keep that in mind as you choose the genetics to create your next generation. While industry standard selection indexes can improve your genetics, they don’t necessarily align with your farm’s situation and goals.

Think about how you get paid for milk and the main reasons that cows leave your herd. When you customize your genetic plan to fit your farm’s needs, you will maximize your future milk checks and minimize your involuntary culls.

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A Q&A on DWP$ and WT$ – Dairy Wellness Profit $ / Wellness Trait $

Dairy Wellness Profit $ and Wellness Trait $ indexes

The Dairy Wellness Profit $ and Wellness Trait $ indexes may have you wondering whether you should adjust your genetic plan to include this information. We want to help you decide what’s best for your dairy. So we answer a few questions about DWP$ and WT$ to help you better understand these indexes.

What is Dairy Wellness Profit $ (DWP$)?

Dairy Wellness Profit $ (DWP$) is a genetic selection index. It equates to a genetic plan of 34% production–56% health–10% conformation. This differs from TPI (46-28-26) and the overall NM$ index (43-41-16).

The breakdown of the weight on health is different as well. DWP$ puts 30% of the health trait weight on WT$. This leaves 26% for the CDCB evaluated health traits of PL, DPR, SCS, DSB, DCE, CCR, HCR.

What is Wellness Trait $ (WT$?)

WT$ is a combination of the Wellness Traits (ketosis, displaced abomasum, retained placenta, metritis, mastitis and lameness). This means it is an index analogous to a 0-100-0 index, with 100% weight on health traits. However, those weights are divided between the various Wellness traits that Zoetis calculates.

Do each of the Wellness Traits get their own evaluation?

Yes. They are then combined into a Wellness Trait $ index to combine the expected impact.

Does Alta test all bulls for DWP$ and WT$?

No, but we test the sires that we predict will do well on the respective indexes. We test our bulls that have favorable health trait values and rank well on a 34% Production-56% Health-10% Conformation index. We list the top ten DWP$ sires and top five WT$ bulls in each of three categories: G-STARS, FUTURE STARS and daughter-proven sires.

What is Alta’s testing plan going forward?

This will be dependent on the feedback from the customers and the demand for this information. In the short-term we will continue to test those sires that rank well on a traditional 34-56-10 index.

How can we predict which sires will do well on these indexes?

Because the correlation between DWP$ and a traditional 34% production – 56% health – 10% conformation index is very high, we can predict quite well which sires will rank well on the DWP$ index.

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What to do when industry standard Jersey genetic indexes change

It’s a fact. Industry standard genetic selection indexes like JPI and NM$ will change from time to time.

When these index changes happen, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your farm’s genetic plan. Do the new weights that these indexes place on production, health and conformation traits match your goals? Will the indexes rank the genetics in a way that fits your current situation and future plans?

With April 2017 proofs, the JPI formula was updated. From a big picture aspect, the image below shows that essentially five percent of the total weight was removed from production traits and put onto conformation traits. (See full details about the new JPI 2017 here).

Image comparing the genetic index weights on production, health and type traits for JPI 2015 versus JPI 2017

Within the production category, the new formula reduces the weight on protein from 43 to 30. If your farm’s goal is higher production and total components, the new JPI may hinder your progress toward that goal. If you never cull cows for conformation related faults, the new JPI may provide genetic progress in traits that are insignificant in your herd.

In this new era of Alta Jersey, it’s the perfect time to work with your trusted Alta advisor. Set your own, customized genetic plan with emphasis only on the traits that matter to your bottom line. For a no-hassle approach to the right genetics to meet your goals, the Alta JERSEY DRIVEN program will fit your needs.
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Alta announces new US Senior Sales Manager

Kirk Vander Dussen was recently appointed as the new US Senior Sales Manager for Alta Genetics.

Kirk is no stranger to Alta, having initially joined the Alta team as a Premier Account Manager in the fall of 2013. He helped create and maintain strong bonds with many of our most valuable partner dairies throughout the USA. In his previous role, Kirk brought stability, strength and support to help source and onboard new Premier Account teammates.

All of his Alta experiences are added to a solid and extensive history of managing dairies in the Midwest and southwest regions of the USA. Prior to joining Alta, Kirk was a manager at Holsum Dairies near Green Bay, WI where he was part of the leadership team for nearly 8,000 milking cows. The far-reaching network that Kirk has in both professional and personal circles is another asset that he will bring to the role.

Dedicated and resourceful people who are passionate about the dairy partners we work with, are the key difference for Alta in the market. Kirk has committed himself to this through his own development and learning of our business. He previously completed our most intense Elite Account Manager training program, and also holds an MBA from the University of San Diego.

VP of Sales for the Americas, Kevin Muxlow is excited to work with Vander Dussen in his new role. “We know that the US market is a lighthouse market for the global dairy industry. Kirk’s experience and leadership with intimate connections to the progressive dairy owners and managers we work with is a unique strength for Alta. I am delighted that we have been able to look within our organization to find the right person for the responsibility!”

Vander Dussen adds, “I’m honored to work with some of the best sales professionals in the world and the most progressive dairy producers on an even broader scale.”

Kirk and his wife, Dana, and their 3 children reside in Aurora, Colorado, where he will remain based for this position. We appreciate their support for Kirk taking on this new role.

Please join us in welcoming Kirk to Alta’s global leadership team!
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Jersey breed purity lingo

Breed purity is a hot topic for Jerseys.

Many of the elite sires have been upgraded from Holstein heritage through the Jersey Genetic Recovery and Jersey Expansion programs. These programs allow breeders to enroll animals with a Jersey appearance, or those sired by a Jersey bull, into the herd registry. While they have proven beneficial in growing the registered Jersey population, some unforeseen impacts have left many producers confused as to just what qualifies an AI bull as a Jersey.

The American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) board of directors has worked with animal ancestry via pedigree and genomic data to come up with some visual cues to eliminate confusion on Jersey purity.

Generation Count and a JX prefix have been added to full names to signify a hole in the pedigree or unknown dairy ancestry. Breed Base Representation (BBR) is now displayed on all animals recorded with the ACJA to represent the amount of Jersey blood within the pedigree.

Generation Count (GC)

Generation Count demonstrates the depth of Jersey ancestry. An animal’s name will include a suffix enclosed in braces { } to indicate the number of generations of AJCA-recorded ancestry from 1-6. A GC of 1 means the animal is one generation removed from an unknown or non-Jersey in the pedigree. A GC of 6 means the animal is six generations removed from an unknown or non-Jersey animal.

The GC is dropped when seven or more generations of ancestors are recorded by the AJCA. The offspring of a mating with be one generation count higher than the lowest parent.

JX Prefix

A JX prefix is now found on the majority of the pedigrees that contain a generation count. The JX prefix indicates that there is unknown dairy (most commonly Holstein) parentage in the pedigree. The GC will then indicate how far back in the pedigree the unknown dairy breed can be found.

If you find a bull with a GC but no JX prefix, that means that the missing part of the pedigree is an unidentified Jersey. 

Breed Base Representation (BBR)

BBR is a genomic-measured trait that compares the DNA of a genotyped animal to a Jersey reference group and all other breeds. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) policy is to report BBR values of 94 or greater as 100 due to standard deviations. Bulls below 94 will have an expressed value. The AJCA will publish a BBR value for all recorded animals.

Males will be published on one of two reports.

Males on the main list include those who:

  • are Herd Registered
    • more than 6 generations of identified Jersey parentage
  • have a Generation Count of 4-6 and a BBR of 100

Males on the secondary list include those with a:

  • Generation Count of 3 (regardless of BBR)
  • Generation Count of 4-6, if their BBR is less than 94


Here are a few examples to show this Jersey breed purity lingo in action.

JX Ahlem Jumbo Kaa { 5 } – ET   BBR 100

  • KAA is 5 generations from an unknown dairy breed and is BBR 100
  • Offspring will be Generation Count 6 and 100 BBR IF he is mated to a GC 5, 6 or HR female

JX Oomsdale Brazo Gratitude Ghent { 2 } – ET   BBR 82

  • GHENT is 2 generation from Holstein influence and is BBR 82
  • Offspring will be Generation Count 3 and Non-HR.


At Alta, we are committed to supplying our clients around the globe with the most reliable genetics available. In order to fulfill this promise, we offer a diversified Jersey product lineup focusing on the traits that are most profitable to our clients’ dairies.

We have the highest level of confidence in the genetic and genomic predictions of BBR 100 bulls and the performance those daughters realize in the milking herd. We recognize that clients have choices, so we will always market with full transparency.

To learn more about the Rules for the Registration and Transfer of Jersey Cattle, click HERE.

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