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About: Chrissy Meyer

Recent Posts by Chrissy Meyer

Jersey generation counts and breed purity

Breed purity is a hot topic for Jerseys.

Many elite Jersey sires have Holstein heritage somewhere in their pedigree. The Jersey Genetic Recovery and Jersey Expansion programs have allowed those bulls to upgrade to registered status.

These programs allow breeders to enroll animals that appear as Jerseys, or are sired by a Jersey bull, into the herd registry. While the programs are beneficial in growing the registered Jersey population, many producers are now confused as to just what qualifies an AI bull as a Jersey.

The American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) board of directors developed some visual cues within an animal’s registered name to eliminate confusion on Jersey breed 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 shows breed purity by telling how many generations an animal is removed from other breed ancestry. An animal’s name will include a suffix enclosed in brackets {  }. The number within the brackets tells us the number of AJCA-recoded 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 brackets telling the generation count are dropped when seven or more generations of ancestors are recorded by the AJCA.

Offspring of a mating will be one generation count higher than the lowest parent.

JX Prefix

In addition to the number within the brackets, a JX prefix is also 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 then tells us how far back in the pedigree the unknown dairy breed can be found.

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

Breed Base Representation (BBR)

BBR is a genomic 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 BBR 94 will be noted on their pedigree. 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

The examples below show the bull pages for three bulls with different breed purity. It explains where to find generation count, the JX prefix and breed base representation.

Bull page image of AltaBAYNES

AltaBAYNES {3}

A. The 3 in brackets shows that AltaBAYNES is 3 generations removed from non-Jersey ancestry.
B. The JX prefix in his full, registered name, means that the missing link in his pedigree, 3 generations back, is not a Jersey.
C. Shows AltaBAYNES’ BBR to be 98, meaning he has 98% of his genes in common with the reference Jersey population.

Offspring of AltaBAYNES will be Generation Count 4 and Non-HR.

Bull page image of AltaMONTRA

AltaMONTRA {6}

A. The 6 in brackets shows that AltaMONTRA is 6 generations removed from non-Jersey ancestry.
B. The JX prefix in his full, registered name, means that the missing link in his pedigree, 6 generations back, is not a Jersey.
C. Shows AltaMONTRA’s BBR to be 100, meaning his genes are all in common with the reference Jersey population.

Offspring will be Generation Count 6 if he is mated to a GC 5 female. Offspring will be HR (herd registered) if he is mated to a GC 6 or HR female

Bull page image of AltaCHIVE

AltaCHIVE

A. Because there is not a bracketed number with AltaCHIVE’s name, that means he is herd registered, with either with no ancestry that is non-Jersey, or any non-Jersey ancestry is further back than 6 generations.
B. Because there is no non-Jersey ancestry within the first 6 generations of AltaCHIVE’s pedigree, he also does not have a JX prefix in his full, registered name.
C. Shows AltaCHIVE’s BBR to be 100. As expected, that means his genes are all in common with the reference Jersey population.

Offspring will be HR with no generation count if he is mated to a GC 6 or HR female.

At Alta, we are committed to providing you 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 your bottom line.

We have the highest level of confidence in the genetic and genomic predictions of BBR 100 bulls, and offer many s 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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A sire’s progression from new to daughter-proven

Genomic proofs give us the confidence to use exciting sires sooner! You can rest assured these bulls will deliver on their genetic promises because genomic testing provides an immediate reliability of around 70% for production, health and conformation traits.

You might be wondering, what are the different genomic sire options? And how do they progress from their first release to daughter-proven status? Let’s break it down…

Alta ADVANTAGE logo

Alta ADVANTAGE

Our newest sires are available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. These Alta ADVANTAGE only sires offer diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on many different customized genetic plans.

When a bull is first old enough to be collected, he simply won’t produce enough semen to be readily available to all farms around the globe. So while we work to build semen inventory, we give our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

Alta G-STAR logo - fast forward genetic progress

G-STARS

Once a bull starts producing enough semen, he is added to the G-STAR sire list. Many new G-STAR bulls are readily available this proof round. Among these sires are a wide array of trait outliers, and high ranks to fit your genetic plan.

Alta FUTURE STAR logo - calving ease and fertility assured

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we know results for both sire fertility and calving ease. We gather this data and analyze the results. We then award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls that prove themselves above average for sire fertility and have real observations that say he’s less than 8% for sire calving ease.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics, but prefer the added peace of mind of proven sire fertility and calving ease. You may give up some production and health as compared to the available G-STAR or ADVANTAGE only sires. But you gain peace of mind knowing that you’re upping your chances for a pregnancy and a live calf resulting from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS are ideal options to use on heifers.

That explains the progression a bull makes as a genomic-proven sire. So you now know the difference between each genomic sire option. With that in mind, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below.

You’ll see the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages. That’s followed by the G-STAR sires, and then by the more highly reliable FUTURE STARS. You’ll also see the comparison to daughter-proven sire averages, just for reference.

December 2018 program averagesTPIMilkProtFatPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE2794175068911.651.710.766.52.52.71
G-STAR2708157362841.921.891.125.52.12.80
FUTURE STAR2573161360721.521.490.874.71.92.85
DAUGHTER-PROVEN2391113142561.371.560.793.91.72.82

Despite the big difference in genetic averages between the genomic lists and daughter-proven averages, it’s important to note that every single bull atop our current daughter-proven list was once a part of the G-STAR and/or FUTURE STAR lists.

The track record is significant for our current genomic favorites. Each proof round, we see these genomic bulls deliver on their initial predictions, and eventually graduate to daughter-proven success.

 Put your genetics into action

With that in mind, have confidence to use a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists. Alternatively, if you prefer the peace of mind from higher-reliability proven sires, you’ll certainly find the right bulls to fit your needs among that list.

Select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation so you drive your progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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December sire lists

No matter what genetic plan you’ve put in place on your farm, we have daughter-proven and genomic-proven bulls to meet your goals.

We have access to information on the specialty sires you need, all in one place. In printer-friendly formats, you’ll find A2A2, polled, outcross, robot-suited and kappa casein sires. There is also a listing of our milking speed ratings, 100% registry status listings and a list of DWP$ and WT$ on all Alta sires.

Whether these criteria or other traits match your current situation and future goals, work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan. You can do that by using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.

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Top takeaways from December sire proofs

1. Sire proofs are now more accurate

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) is now using a new reference genome and additional SNPs to calculate genomic proofs. While this alone may not mean anything to you, it does affect some genetic ranks.

In addition to a different, updated reference genome they are also basing calculations off 80,000 SNPs, up from the previous 60,000.

To better explain, PEAK Geneticist, Doug Bjelland compares this to finding a house on a map. The previous reference genome and number of SNPs would help us locate on which street a house is located. The new update means we can find exactly where on that street the house is at. In short, these updates give us greater genomic proof accuracy.

Because of these updates, on average, industry sires changed as follows. However, individual bulls may have went up or down more than these averages.

  • HO daughter-proven sires: ↓8 NM$ | HO genomic-proven sires: ↓ 14 NM$
  • JE daughter-proven sires: ↓6 NM$ | JE genomic-proven sire: ↓18 NM$

 

Want more details on these changes, check out this CDCB article HERE.

2. You’ll find high ranking sires to fit your genetic plan

Because genomics gives us continual access to ever-increasing genetic levels, we have some exciting new bulls atop each of our marketing lists:

Whether you’re looking for Holsteins or Jersey sires, you’ll find the right ones to match your current situation and future goals, regardless of the customized genetic plan you’ve set for your farm.

3. Sire fertility matters

We want to help you create more pregnancies. So we keep you as informed as possible on updated sire fertility ratings on conventional and sexed semen. Look for the orange CONCEPT PLUS logo for conventional semen or the purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo to know which are the highest fertility sexed sires.

To implement a true precision approach to fertility management, work with your trusted advisor.

Logo for Alta's 511 CONCEPT PLUS sires

4. Sexed semen awareness

We know sexed semen demand continues to increase on progressive dairies around the world. And we’re working hard to accommodate that demand. With this proof round, we’re bringing greater access to more available sexed sires.

Whether you choose the newest Alta 511 SexedULTRA bulls or prefer known sexed fertility through 511 CONCEPT PLUS ratings, we have the right bulls to fit your genetic plan.

5. Beef x dairy is part of a genetic strategy

Have you kicked your genetic strategies into high gear by using beef on your lower end genetic animals? If so, we have the beef sires you need. We can help you create that pregnancy to reap the benefits of an immediate premium for the beef x dairy calves.

Visit us.altagenetics.com/beef, and work with your trusted advisor to implement this as part of your herd’s genetic strategy.

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What’s a fertility leader?

Have you ever really thought about what’s involved to get highly fertile semen from the bull to your tank, and then into your cows or heifers? Fertility leadership is backed by the Alta people, processes and programs involved in every step.

PEOPLE

Fertility excellence is what drives our team! We hire and extensively train only those who share a commitment and passion to your herd’s reproductive success. From semen collection and evaluation to distribution and delivery, our barn and lab staff, veterinarians, distribution crew, technicians, and sales force are all committed to help you get cows pregnant.

PROCESSES

We deliver the highest quality semen through continual innovation. Our scientists on staff are always looking for the best ways to enhance semen quality through extender research, potency trials, and more. We implement the same, strict semen handling processes and quality control checks at each of our AI centers located in six different countries around the world.

PROGRAMS

We choose the industry’s leading sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS, as the only way to measure Alta sire fertility. CONCEPT PLUS is based on pregnancy check results from DairyComp data in our large, progressive partner dairies. We update results every other month for the most reliable sire fertility information – and we’re transparent about which bulls offer superior or inferior fertility.

You can trust CONCEPT PLUS.

Twenty years ago, we challenged traditional fertility evaluations to align with the real needs of progressive herds: creating efficient pregnancies. CONCEPT PLUS goes above and beyond today’s industry evaluations to bring you the most trusted, accurate, and proven designation in sire fertility.

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Haplotype & genomic reliability updates

Based on new findings from the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB), one new haplotype will be added, and two others removed, starting with December 2018 proofs. Alta Bull Search and Alta GPS will be programmed according to this new information.

A new Holstein haplotype, HH6, was recently identified in France, and is currently found in about 0.5% of animals in the US Holstein population. Mating two HH6 carriers is expected to yield a 7%-11% drop in conception rate.

Further research into the JH2 haplotype in Jerseys and the BH1 haplotype in Brown Swiss showed no significant fertility losses on matings between carriers. This, paired with the fact that researchers could find no causative mutation on these two haplotypes, means they will no longer be reported.

Gene test advancements

In addition to new and discontinued haplotypes, the reported haplotypes are also gaining accuracy. PEAK Geneticist, Doug Bjelland, compares the improved accuracy of haplotypes to locating a house on a map. The previous way of recognizing haplotypes essentially showed us which street a house is located on. Now, because of gene test advancements for causative mutations to determine haplotypes, we know exactly where on that street a house is located.

Upgraded genomic reliability

Improved genomic accuracy also extends beyond the gene test. Researchers are now using an 80k SNP chip. This means they are using nearly 80,000 markers on the genome, up from the previous 60,000 used since 2014.

The additional markers, combined with a new reference genome, give genomic predictions about a 1% – 2% improvement in reliability.

What does this mean for you?

We want to keep you up-to-date on the newest genetic findings. Updates on haplotypes and genomic accuracy are one part of that. Because the haplotype updates will be accounted for within the AltaGPS program, you can have confidence that potential carriers of two bulls will not be mated together. That means your clients are protected from any potential fertility losses that could result in mating two carriers of any given haplotype.

Improved genomic accuracy should give you, and your clients, even more confidence that genomics and genetics continue to advance at more rapid rate. It’s as important now as it ever has been, to ensure your clients select genetics according to their customized genetic plan so the progress they make aligns with their current situation and future goals.

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A2: genetic fad or future?

Since its 2015 US debut, A2 milk has been a hot topic among dairy producers. Now, the latest A2 buzz comes from consumers. This follows the launch of the A2 Milk Company’s national television advertising campaign, and increased local availability of A2 milk in many grocery stores.

While the curiosity around A2 milk grows, it’s important to evaluate whether this is just another fad in genetic selection, or a real future of the industry.

What is A2 milk?

A2 milk comes from cows with two copies of the A2 gene for beta casein.

Cows’ milk is about 87 percent water and 13 percent solids. Those solids include lactose, fat, protein, and minerals.

To find the A2 gene, we look to the protein in milk. Casein is what makes up the majority of milk protein, and about 30% of that casein is called beta casein. The two most common variants of the beta casein gene are A1 and A2, so any given bovine will be either A1A1, A1A2 or A2A2 for beta casein.

Milk from US cows has traditionally contained a combination of both A1 and A2 beta casein.

Isn’t A2 milk for people with lactose intolerance?

Not necessarily. A2 milk contains the same amount of lactose as non-A2 milk. So a person who has been clinically diagnosed with lactose intolerance will see no benefits from drinking A2 milk.

Some studies have shown the A2 beta casein in milk to be more easily digestible than the A1 beta casein. This means that the discomfort some people experience after drinking milk could actually be linked to an A1 aversion rather than to lactose intolerance.

Since the majority of lactose intolerance cases are self-diagnosed, for those people, A2 milk could be the answer.

How do you get cows that produce A2 milk?

The only way to have a herd that produces A2 milk is through genetic selection.

For a cow to produce true A2 milk, she must have two copies of the A2 gene in her DNA. Each animal receives one copy of the beta casein gene from its sire and one copy from its dam. So for a 100% chance at an A2A2 animal, you must breed an A2A2 bull to an A2A2 cow.

How do you know if your animals are A2?

The only way to know for sure, is a genomic test. Some companies offer A2 genetic testing as an add-on to a full genomic test. Others offer testing for A2 on its own, for as little as $15.

How long will it take to convert your herd to only A2?

This entirely depends on how aggressive your approach is. If your goal is to immediately become 100% A2A2, you can make that happen. To do that, you’d need to genomic test each of your animals, keep only those verified as A2A2, and sell the rest.

A less extreme option for large, multi-site dairies is to genomic test all females, and sort any animals verified as A2A2 all to one site.

But since those aren’t realistic options for most farms, another approach is to limit your sire selection to only bulls confirmed as A2A2. Most AI companies publish this information on their proof sheets and/or websites.

A rough approximation of active AI sires shows about 13% are A1A1, 46% are A1A2 and 41% are A2A2. If you figure that same proportion within your own herd, it would take seven generations of breeding your untested females strictly to A2A2 bulls before you’d reach 99% of A2A2 females.

Pie graph showing that about 41% of bulls in active AI are A2A2. 46% of bulls are A1A2 and 13% of bulls are A1A1.
More than 40% of active AI sires are A2A2.

What do you have to lose by selecting A2A2 sires?

With 40%, or more, of active AI sires verified as A2A2, you have a good number of sire options to use in your breeding program. This also means that less than half of the bulls out there are A2A2, so you will miss out on some sire choices by implementing this as part of your breeding program.

Every time you add a filter to your genetic selection criteria, you limit the amount of genetic progress you can make in your herd.

Should you select for A2 in your breeding program?

If you are offered milk premiums for producing A2 milk, or see that option in your future, then selection for A2A2 sires is a wise decision. However, chasing that bonus, if it isn’t guaranteed will mean you limit your genetic options.

No one can predict the future. So it’s hard to tell yet, whether A2 is just a fad, or the future of the industry.

Regardless of your selection decision around A2 sires, make sure it aligns with your dairy’s customized genetic plan. Emphasize the production, health and conformation traits that match your farm’s current situation and future goals. This will help maximize future profitability and genetic progress in the direction of your goals.

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Unlock your team’s potential through Dairy Manager School

You have the unique opportunity to learn from dairy industry experts, so you can improve your team’s performance and communication and unlock the potential in your employees!

You’ll get to ask the real questions that apply to your own farm when you enroll in the Alta Dairy Manager School on Team Performance and Communication. It will be held December 4-6, 2018 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Dairy Manager School is a 2.5-day training that helps you, as a dairy farm owner or manager, gain tangible takeaways to improve one management area on your dairy for a measurable return on investment.

In this employee management-focused Dairy Manager School, you will get to

  • Learn the newest, research-based ideas
  • Ask the real questions that relate to your own farm’s current situation and future plans
  • Guide the discussion to learn what it takes to maximize profit potential on your dairy
  • Learn from world class experts

We limit the number of participants, so you can get the most from the class. We maintain this interactive setting to purposefully foster engagement with both the instructors and your classmates.

Image of the US Dairy Manager School flier on team management and communication

For more details on this Dairy Manager School, download the flier HERE.

Talk to your trusted Alta advisor or visit dairylearning.com to enroll today!

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Introducing the All-New Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS

If you’ve used sexed semen on your dairy, you already know that sexed semen fertility is not the same as conventional semen fertility. It’s no secret that individual bulls may perform differently as conventional semen than they do as sexed semen.

Millions of pregnancy check records in the CONCEPT PLUS database confirm these differences in sire fertility between conventional and sexed semen.

Based on research from our product development team, you now have access to the all-new 511 CONCEPT PLUS ratings! This designation tells you which sires give you the best chance at creating pregnancies with Alta511 SexedULTRA sires.

On an individual bull page, look for the purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo to know which bulls offer the best chance at creating a female pregnancy.

CONCEPT PLUS sires still tell us which bulls provide the highest conception rates using conventional semen. The new development around sexed semen fertility just gives you a more precise way to know which bulls best fit your genetic plan and strategy.

We trust the data behind CONCEPT PLUS more than any other sire fertility evaluation because:

  • IT’S COMPLETE
    • CONCEPT PLUS accounts for the effect a technician or breeding code can play on a sire’s fertility within a given herd.
    • Data is collected from US and Canadian herds, and not limited to US herds on official test.
  • IT’S CURRENT
    • We collect current pregnancy check results through DairyComp from our partner herds and include only information from the past two years to designate CONCEPT PLUS sires.
  • IT’S CONSISTENT
    • Data is only gathered from progressive, large-herd environments, where management is consistent, contemporary group sizes are large, and repro programs are aggressive.

 

For more details on the all-new 511 CONCEPT PLUS sexed sire fertility evaluation, work with your trusted Alta advisor today.

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Koepon and CRI combine to form URUS

Madison, Wisconsin — Two strong organizations – one cooperative and one privately-owned company – have combined to form a new global leader in cattle artificial insemination genetics and farm management information.

Koepon Holding BV and Cooperative Resources International (CRI) announced their intent to merge last December. Now, following due diligence and votes by each organization’s board of directors as well as the member delegates of CRI, the business combination is complete. The newly formed organization is known as URUS.

“While URUS is a new name in the global agriculture industry, its roots run deep,” states Cees Hartmans, CEO. “The companies within the URUS family – AgSource, Alta Genetics, GENEX, Jetstream Genetics, PEAK/GENESIS, SCCL and VAS – have a history of serving dairy and beef producers across the world. Now, as part of this new organization, these companies are even better positioned to meet the future needs of members and clients.”

The formation of URUS, with its size and scale, makes possible a significant increase in investment towards products and services that will benefit producers across the globe.

“The companies of URUS will be leaders in new developments for the cattle industry,” states Hartmans. “Dairy and beef cattle producers are the heart of this organization, and so we want to ensure our members and clients have access to the best products and services at a competitive price. We want to be your partner of choice for cattle genetics, reproduction and farm management information for years to come.”

Hartmans adds, “Together, we can focus on producing high-quality and healthy food while contributing to a sustainable, productive and profitable global dairy and beef industry.”

 

About URUS
Formed in 2018, URUS (www.urus.org) is a holding company with cooperative and private ownership. URUS has strong roots in the global agriculture industry. This deep history is anchored by the companies that compose Urus: AgSource, Alta Genetics, GENEX, Jetstream Genetics, PEAK/GENESIS, SCCL and VAS. It’s also fueled by a worldwide team of professionals dedicated to providing dairy and beef producers with genetic and farm management information solutions that improve herd quality and productivity.

For more information contact Cees Hartmans, CEO at cees.hartmans@urus.org or Keith Heikes, COO at keith.heikes@urus.org

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Create more pregnancies with precision fertility management

Big data is sweeping into agribusiness with precision agriculture. Now, with more information, growing crops and livestock has become more accurate and efficient, allowing you to do more for less.

We’re taking precision agriculture one step further. With precision fertility management, we are helping you turn data into dollars by creating more pregnancies.

Backed by the CONCEPT PLUS gold standard fertility designation, we’ve raised 20 years of fertility experience to a higher standard. We’ve compiled millions of pregnancy check data and delivered it through innovate tools to accurately and efficiently create pregnant cows.

Bullseye icon to stand for precision fertility management

What’s new with CONCEPT PLUS?

If you’ve used sexed semen on your dairy, you already know what millions of pregnancy check results confirm. Sexed semen fertility is not the same as conventional semen fertility.

The data also shows that the same bull may perform well with conventional semen fertility, but not as sexed semen, and vice versa. With that in mind, we now give you access to two separate fertility evaluations, so you can take a precision approach to fertility management.

Full-size version of the new 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo

Know which bulls will give you highest fertility using Alta511 SexedULTRA semen by finding this 511 CONCEPT PLUS designation on a bull’s individual page on Alta Bull Search.

The industry’s most accurate sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS designates whether a bull offers elite fertility on conventional breedings.

Can a bull be CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS?

Yes. Since we know that conventional semen fertility and sexed semen fertility are two different traits with low correlations, we now identify them as such. An orange CONCEPT PLUS icon or logo designates the bulls with the best fertility on conventional semen. The purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo shows you which sires offer the best fertility on breedings to Alta511 SexedULTRA.

Why would I want to use sexed semen with average or unknown fertility?

As with any decision you make, there are trade-offs. With Alta’s sexed semen options, it comes down to what you value most in a genetic plan: the most rapid genetic progress or known high fertility.

Let’s say the main goal in your genetic plan is to make the fastest genetic progress possible. In that case you may choose to use bulls that don’t yet have fertility data, or else are proven as average for sexed semen sire fertility. If these bulls best fit your goal of rapid genetic progress, they may not have the CONCEPT PLUS or 511 CONCEPT PLUS designations.

However, if your main focus is to create a pregnancy, the purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS designation will give you confidence you’re boosting your odds at creating pregnancy with sexed semen. The orange CONCEPT PLUS designation will continue to help you recognize which bulls create the most conventional semen pregnancies.

How often does Alta evaluate sire fertility?

We want to help you create more pregnancies. To do that, accurate fertility information is key. To be accurate, the data must be timely. We run a complete evaluate for sire fertility every other month.

We know differences exist in sire fertility, even over shorter periods of time, so to take advantage of the most accurate and current information, we now release new CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS ratings six times per year.

Why should I trust the fertility of Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS sires?

Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS sexed sires will give you the confidence to create more heifers and more pregnancies. We provide the utmost care for our bulls, we follow strict lab SOPs, and ensure careful semen distribution procedures. And more importantly, we make firm culling decisions on bulls with sub-par fertility performance.

You can have confidence in the CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS evaluations because:

  • CONCEPT PLUS is COMPLETE
    • It accounts for the effect a technician or breeding code can play on a sire’s fertility within a given herd.
    • Data is collected from US and Canadian herds, and not limited to US herds on official test.
  • CONCEPT PLUS is CURRENT
    • Our team is always collecting data DairyComp in our partner herds.
  • CONCEPT PLUS is CONSISTENT
    • Data is only gathered from progressive, large-herd environments, where management is consistent, contemporary group sizes are large, and repro programs are aggressive.

 

When you want to create more pregnancies, take a precision approach to maximizing your herd’s fertility by using the right tools for the job. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to define your dairy’s customized genetic plan and create pregnancies with a precision approach to fertility management.

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Can you really trust dairy genomics?

You’ve had the option to include dairy genomics in your genetic toolbelt for nearly ten years now. By now, fear of the unknown mystery surrounding genomics has faded. The progressive dairy industry accepts this as a new era in rapid genetic progress.

Yet, we don’t blame you if you wonder whether genomic-proven bulls are your best option, when many daughter-proven sires still offer a great genetic package. With that in mind, we look for answers in the real proof data on bulls across the entire AI industry.

What did we learn about genomics?

In graphs 1 and 2, our geneticist, Ashley Mikshowsky, analyzed proof figures on nearly 6,000 industry Holstein bulls released between January 2010 and April 2015, that currently have a daughter proof.

Graph 1 shows TPI trends. The blue line on top charts the average GTPI by initial genomic release date. The orange line shows the average August 2018 daughter proven TPI for those same bulls. The space between the two lines represents the average TPI change from initial genomic release to daughter proof.

A graph to show the average trend comparing the genomic proof versus daughter proof of industry Holstein bulls

As you can see on the left side of the graph, the bulls first released in January 2010 changed 177 TPI points from their genomic debut to their August 2018 daughter proof.

When you compare that to the newest daughter-proven bulls, including those released as genomic sires in April 2015, you see only a 105-point TPI difference from their initial genomic proof to their August 2018 daughter proof.

This means the stability in GTPI from genomic release until daughter proofs has improved by more than 70 TPI points! As a bonus, it’s clear to see that the genetic levels of bulls continue to rise!

The same goes for Net Merit $. Check out those results in Graph 2.

Industry bulls first released as genomic-proven sires in January 2010 dropped, on average, 150 NM$ from their first release until their August 2018 daughter proof. Whereas, the bulls first released as genomic sires in April 2015 only changed 89 NM$ from their initial release.

A graph to show the average trend comparing the genomic proof versus daughter proof for the Net Merit $ value of industry Holstein bulls

Looking at these results, your argument might be that dairy genomics are still inflated. Yes, and while that is true, the gap between genomic and daughter proofs has clearly improved since the start of genomics.

Let’s dig deeper into genomic proof stability

To understand from another angle, we took a look at the facts and figures in a different light.

Graph 3 and Graph 4 are based on proof data that our geneticist, Ashley, evaluated from 1,073 industry bulls released in 2014. She uses this age group because those bulls released in 2014 now have a daughter proof for production, health and conformation traits.

Graph 3 shows that the bulls released in 2014 changed an average of -110 TPI points from their initial release in 2014 to their daughter proof in August 2018.

Nearly 120 of these bulls have a daughter-proven TPI within just twenty points of their original genomic TPI. Only about 30 bulls from the entire group of 1,073 lost more than 300 TPI points – that’s less than 3%.

A histogram showing the skewed bell-shaped curve distribution of the amount of change in TPI points an average bull had from his genomic proof to daughter proof

We see the same trend for NM$. Graph 4 shows the average NM$ change and standard deviation of the same 1,073 industry bulls. The average sire released in 2014 changed -89 NM$ from their initial genomic proof in 2014 to their daughter proof in August 2018.

More than 160 of the 1073 bulls held steady within the small 20-point swing from genomic to daughter-proven NM$. Just 12 bulls changed more than 300 NM$.

A histogram showing the skewed bell-shaped curve distribution of the amount of change in Net Merit $ an average bull had from his genomics proof to daughter proof

What are your genetic options today?

Still debating whether your best bet is to use daughter-proven or genomic-proven sire groups? Take a look at the top 10 daughter-proven TPI sires available from Alta today.

AUGUST 2018 Top daughter-proven sires

Sire CodeSire NameAug. 2018 TPI
11HO11478AltaLEAF2712
11HO11437AltaSPRING2663
11HO11531AltaSABRE2624
11HO11493AltaHOTROD2616
11HO11601AltaHIFASHN2588
11HO11523AltaHOTSHOT2576
11HO11499AltaMEGLO2572
11HO11508AltaCONSUL2547
11HO11440AltaCORNELL2528
11HO11537AltaJANGO2508
Average2594

AUGUST 2018 Top genomic-proven sires

Sire CodeSire NameAug. 2018 TPI
11HO12115AltaFORCE2826
11HO12165AltaBUGGY2820
11HO12122AltaSTARJACK2818
11HO12169AltaEMIRATES2813
11HO12161AltaAROLDIS2793
11HO12124AltaGOPRO2791
11HO11778AltaROBSON2789
11HO12188AltaCUCHILLO2785
11HO12287AltaEDIFY2784
11HO12270AltaMANOR2783
Average2800

Currently, our top daughter-proven sires average a solid 2594 TPI. Yet, the top, readily-available genomic-proven group offers a much more enticing 2800 TPI average. That’s a 206-point advantage over the daughter-proven choices!

It’s inevitable that some bulls will gain points and some bulls will lose points between their genomic proof and daughter proof – the data show us that. Yet we can also see genomic proofs continue to improve. Keep in mind that your odds are essentially zero that every single bull atop the genomic-proven list would drop to rank lower than the current list of daughter-proven sires.

With your genetic choices, keep these points mind:

  1. Genomic proofs are still slightly inflated. Yet, we see less change from genomic to daughter-proven TPI and NM$ over time because of model adjustments made along the way.
  2. Despite an average drop for TPI and NM$ from a bull’s genomic to daughter proof, you will make much faster genetic progress using a group of genomic-proven sires than a group of daughter-proven sires.
  3. Make sure the genetic progress you make is in the direction of your goals. Select a group of genomic-proven sires based on your farm’s customized genetic plan. Emphasize only on the production, health or conformation traits that matter most to you to boost your farm’s future progress and profitability.

 

 Proof analysis and graphs provided by Ashley Mikshowsky, PEAK Geneticist

For a PDF of this article please Click HERE.

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Create your perfect progressive dairy internship

Do you have a passion for the dairy industry? As an intern, do you want to learn from, work with and help progressive dairy producers? If so, we want to work with you!

Choose from one, or any combination, of the following focus areas to design your customized and rewarding internship – with your skills and career goals in mind.

Genetic Consulting

Travel within a multi-state region to large, progressive partner dairies or work with source herds for Alta’s product development and PEAK programs. Implement customized genetic plans, assist with sire procurement, provide performance reports using DairyComp, assist with Holstein Association SET evaluations and select and prepare daughters for professional photography.

Reproductive Management

Develop your understanding of advanced herd reproductive strategies with thorough hands-on experience. Assist with pregnancy diagnosis, artificial insemination, tail striping, heat detection and monitoring herd reproductive performance using DairyComp in herds averaging 2,000 cows.

Sales

Work with our current network of sales managers to build your own portfolio of accounts. Provide genetic, reproductive and calf management consulting advice, and develop customized solutions for current and prospect progressive dairy farms.

Marketing & Training

Enhance your skills in all areas of marketing, communications and training by promoting the Koepon companies globally through online, print and video communication pieces.

Calf Management

Work with the SCCL team on new research projects to advance the health and productivity of neonatal calves. Or use your sales and marketing skills to promote SCCL products through trade show involvement and producer and vet meetings.

Dairy Herd Management Software

Develop your understanding on current VAS products and software including DairyComp, FeedComp, ParlorComp, and more. Increase your knowledge, awareness and efficiency with dairy herd management software and practical application in every day, on-farm use.

 

As sister companies within Koepon Holding, we join forces with PEAK Genetics, SCCL and VAS to focus on supporting modern, progressive dairy farmers worldwide and providing them the knowledge they need to improve their dairy herd management practices now, and into the future.

 

APPLY TODAY FOR INTERNSHIPS WITH ALTA, VAS, SCCL AND PEAK.
Please apply online HERE by Monday, November 12.

Image of Emma Brenengen, 2017 Alta Reproductive Management Intern
“My internship with Alta Genetics is easily one of the best experiences I have had. Not only did I get the practice and repetition breeding cows, I was able to work with synch programs, use DairyComp, and analyze reproductive performance of different farms throughout the summer. I really was able to gain experience with all aspects of a successful reproductive program on a dairy farm and I feel like this internship has more than prepared me to begin a career in this industry!”

Emma Brenengen, Penn State University
Alta Reproductive Services Intern & Current Alta Technician Team Leader

Image of Matthew Lansing, 2018 Alta ADVANTAGE Intern in the US Mountain West Team
“This summer I got to experience the dairy industry in the Northwest US. I truly enjoyed getting to work with the amazing employees within Alta as well as the large progressive dairy farmers. Getting to experience large scale progressive dairy farming was definitely my favorite part of the summer, especially seeing how reproduction protocols function at such high levels. This summer I also learned that people buy products and services from people through positive relationships. This summer was an experience of a lifetime and I am grateful for the opportunity that Alta provided me. ”

Matthew Lansing, Iowa State University
Alta ADVANTAGE Intern

Image of Jennifer Callanan, Washington State University; Previous VAS Intern and Current VAS Software Support Specialist
“My internship with VAS provided me with the unique opportunity to be a part of a team whose main focus is to move dairies forward in efficiency and consistency. From hands-on involvement with the development of new technologies and tools, to insightful training with the existing programs, this internship offers a great view into the future of dairy and progressive thinking. I am excited to continue working for such a diverse company and support the success of the dairy industry.”

Jennifer Callanan, Washington State University
Previous VAS Intern and Current VAS Software Support Specialist

Image of Kati Kindschuh, 2018 Alta US Marketing & Communications Intern
“My internship with Alta Genetics reaffirmed my passion for pursuing a career within Marketing Communications in the dairy industry. Throughout the summer, I was treated like a full-time employee, engaged in several key projects and asked to help move the organization forward. I truly enjoyed the self-starting yet relaxed culture of Alta Genetics. Each day, walking onto a farm or into the office, I felt like I was being greeted by family. It truly was the best internship I could’ve asked for going into my last year of college.”

Kati Kindschuh, University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Alta Marketing & Communications Intern

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Alta staff honored for their AI industry service

Alta’s US honorees who were able to celebrate their AI industry tenure with a celebration in Watertown!

Front row (L to R): Scott Kooiman, Mel Blasing, Bill Beckman, Darren Peterson
Second row: Cindy Scherer, Donna Ludeman, Diane Haseleu, David Hill
Back row: Lori Loma, Terry DeBlare, Shelley Hazlett-Gooch, Paul Hunt, and the late Timothy Wendorf

Within the US, the National Association of Animal Breeders (NAAB) has recognized individuals for their AI industry tenure since 1965. Previously, honorees were recognized for their years of service after a quarter century and later after a half century. An updated award process this year means NAAB now offers recognition for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years and 50 years of AI industry service.

At Alta, we have a wonderful, committed team! To celebrate the NAAB recognition of these deserving staff, a celebratory lunch was held at the Watertown office on August 10.

The entire list of US Alta staff, who we celebrate for their tremendous, committed AI industry tenure include:

30 years

  • Bruce Arnold, Premier Account Team Leader (34 years)
  • Brian Stahl, Elite Account Manager in the Mountain West Team (34 years)
  • Fred Tidemann, District Sales Manager in the North Central Team (34 years)
  • Tim Benda, Elite Account Manager in the Northeast Team (31 years)
  • Cheri Miller, Export Coordinator (30 years)
  • Cindy Scherer, Lab Technician (30 years)

20 years

  • Roger Sosa, Sr. International Sales Manager, Beef (28 years)
  • Mike Menendez, Regional Sire Analyst (27 years)
  • Jim Powers, Elite Account Manager in the North Central Team (26 years)
  • Jon Stanley, Atlantic Team Leader (26 years)
  • Bob Welper, Director of Global Product Development (26 years)
  • Donna Ludeman, Watertown Lab Manager (26 years)
  • The late Timothy Wendorf, Watertown Herdsperson (26 years)
  • Bill Beckman, Production Supervisor (25 years)
  • Dave Schroepfer, Elite Account Manager in the North Central Team (24 years)
  • Tim Shoen, District Sales Manager in the Northeast Team (23 years)
  • Diane Haseleu, Watertown Administrative Assistant (23 years)
  • Lori Loma, Distribution and Shipping (23 years)
  • Mel Blasing, Distribution and Shipping (23 years)
  • Paul Hunt, COO (23 years)
  • Steve Yurgel, District Sales Manager in the Northeast Team (22 years)
  • Terry DeBlare, Export Coordinator (22 years)
  • David Hill, US Alta Advantage Specialist (21 years)
  • Scott Kooiman, Watertown Herdsperson (21 years)
  • Darren Peterson, Former team leader (20 years)
  • Shelley Hazlett-Gooch, AltaTWO Program Manager & Global Support (20 years)

Thank you and congratulations to our Alta team for their service!

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ROI from AltaU

How often on your dairy do you find an instant return on an investment?

Return on Investment (ROI) is what you’ll get with AltaU.

During an AltaU session held this year, two participants learned first-hand how they can make changes that affect the bottom lines on their dairies. After watching the very first presentation on “health and nutrition of dairy calves and heifers” these two participants left the room at the lunch break. They called home to instruct their teams to start applying what they had just learned from Dr. Robert Corbett.

One participant implemented new cleaning and sanitizing techniques for the bottles they use to feed colostrum. The other immediately adjusted the level of protein in their milk replacer.

What do these participants expect from these changes? Less incidence of scours at the first dairy, and increased average daily gains for improved development at the second farm.

One participant commented that they thought they knew everything about dairying, but after AltaU, they’re going back home with more questions on how to further improve their operation.

Looking for your own ROI?

Check out how the intense, 5-day AltaU, led by dairy industry expert instructors, can help you make profitable changes on your dairy. You’ll dig deep into the following areas of your dairy:

  • Labor management
  • Calf care
  • Replacement heifer development
  • Housing, lameness and cow comfort
  • Transition cow management and nutrition
  • Udder health and milk quality
  • Parlor management
  • Reproduction and AI
  • Dairy records analysis and decision making
  • Genetics, genomics, and genetic planning
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Bilingual Dairy Manager School focuses on hoof care

The first Alta Dairy Manager School ever held in the US took place June 18-20, 2018 in Garden City, Kansas. The unique learning opportunity, presented simultaneously in English and Spanish, helped attendees dive deep into hoof care, health, and management.

Ten students from six different dairies attended the course, learning from the expert instructors at Sure Step Consulting. Participants spent their time learning through a mix of classroom based sessions and hands-on practice.

Classroom sessions focused on foot and leg anatomy, identifying lameness, proper hoof treatment protocols, foot bath management, and trimming procedures. On-farm sessions allowed the participants to practice what they learned in both functional and therapeutic trimming.

The 2.5-day course gave the participants the knowledge and applicable practice to take these skills back and apply them on their dairies.

Want to know more about Dairy Manager Schools? Check it out HERE.

An instructor shows two Dairy Manager School participants the functional and therapeutic procedures of hoof trimming during on-farm practice.
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Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour explores progressive Idaho dairies

The 19th edition of the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour took place June 5-8, 2018. It was the first time ever this global event was held in Idaho.

Guests toured some of Idaho’s most progressive dairy farms and learned from the forward-thinking owners and managers at the host farms. They also had the chance to share their own experiences with each other during on-farm management stations, bus rides between farms, and during evening socials.

To break it down, here is the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase overview, by the numbers:

251Guests who experienced the most progressive dairy management tour in the industry
21Countries represented at this year’s tour
5Charter buses used to transport tour guests
5Gracious host dairies, who welcomed the Alta group
- Eagle Ridge Dairy | Kuna, Idaho
- TLK Dairy | Mountain Home, Idaho
- Oak Valley Dairy | Burley, Idaho
- Swager Farms | Buhl, Idaho
- Beranna Dairy | Caldwell, Idaho
1Pre-tour farm that welcomed international guests before the main tour kicked off - thank you to Swan Falls Dairy for the warm welcome!
30On-farm stations set up to help guests discuss the areas of calf care, employee management, genetics, reproduction, parlor management, cow comfort, dairy education, herd inventory planning, manure management, and more
34,275Total cows represented on the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase host dairies
70-30-0Most popular genetic plan of our host dairies
11Number of sires represented in the Alta ADVANTAGE Performance Pens
34Number of daughters featured between the two Alta ADVANTAGE Performance Pens
3Pails of ice cream used in the global ice cream eating contest – Chile came out victorious over all other country competitors
502Miles traveled in Idaho for one tremendous tour!
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Alta welcomes 2018 summer interns

We are pleased to announce our Alta Genetics summer 2018 interns. With diverse talents and skill sets, the six US-based interns were selected from a pool of over 150 applicants.

The Alta interns will spend their summers working alongside the Alta team in the areas of reproductive management, calf care, genetic consulting, sales, marketing and communications.

These new team members kicked off their summer with Alta’s intense Orientation and Sales Process training in the Watertown, Wisconsin office. Throughout the rest of the summer, they will also be attending the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour in Idaho. In addition, they’ll work with a combination of Alta staff and dairy owners and managers in their region at some of the most progressive dairies in the US.

Meet the Interns

Picture here are (L to R), first row:

  • Olivia Burnetter | Reproductive Management Intern in Arizona | SUNY Cobleskill
  • Kaila Wussow | Alta ADVANTAGE Intern in the Upper Midwest | UW-River Falls
  • Katie Kovalaske | Calf Management Intern in the Upper Midwest | UW-River Falls
  • Kati Kindschuh | US Marketing & Communication Intern | UW-River Falls

Back row:

  • Matthew Lansing | Alta ADVANTAGE Intern in Washington and Oregon | Iowa State University
  • Jack Vander Dussen | Atlantic team Alta ADVANTAGE Intern | Cal Poly
Photo of the 6 Alta Genetics 2018 US Summer Interns
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Explore the new health traits

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) will release these six new direct health traits during April proofs. Click on each individual trait to learn more details about its benefits, reliability and heritability, directly from CDCB.

For a quick, one-page overview on all six health traits, please Click HERE.

The traits will be presented as disease resistance. A higher positive value is best – it means an animal is more resistant to the disease. A lower negative value will mean an animal is more susceptible, less resistant to the disease.

For example, let’s take a herd with an average mastitis incidence of 10%. If that herd uses a bull with a PTA of +3.0 for mastitis, we would expect the daughters of this bull to average 7% incidence rate for mastitis. That’s 3% less than the herd average.

Disease incidence rates range from 1.3% for milk fever to 10.2% for mastitis. Economic impact per case of each health event was also estimated, and ranged from $28 cost for ketosis to $197 for a displaced abomasum.

The heritability of these traits is still relatively low, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot make progress by selecting for these traits (read more about the high value of low heritability traits)

Mastitis resistance is also very favorably correlated with somatic cell score. Furthermore, the new health traits show no significant correlations to yield traits, meaning selection for fat or protein yield will not necessarily cause a decrease in health.

As the newly developed health traits are correlated to previously available traits, we have already been making progress in these traits, which you can learn about by reading the genetic guide to healthier cows. The data showed correlations up to 0.39 with productive life, correlations up to 0.47 with livability, and correlations up to 0.59 with DPR.

The data used to evaluate the health traits was collected from producer reported data in US herds, and underwent rigorous data testing to ensure accuracy.

With all this new information, it’s important to maintain focus on your customized genetic plan to make sure you keep making progress in the direction of your goals.

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Reproductive and DairyComp training available at DairyLearning.com

Dairylearning.com — a brand-new online training hub for dairy owners, managers, workers, students and consultants who value progressive thinking — is now live and scheduling new training sessions.

As the first of its kind in the industry, the new web-based training platform offers a variety of tools to develop knowledge and skills on relevant dairy herd management topics. Online courses can be completed at any time, from any location, and live trainings provide learning from dairy industry experts in a small classroom setting.

All online courses and live trainings come directly from leading minds in the dairy industry. These instructors have researched and implemented the skills they teach, and experienced the impact of these lessons on thousands of cows globally.

Among the first online trainings available is an in-depth and interactive reproductive anatomy and physiology course to offer a better understanding of the reproductive tract, hormones, and the estrous cycle.

Also available are brand new DairyComp training modules created by VAS exclusively for dairylearning.com. These courses cover DairyComp navigation, CowCards, commands, settings, and dairy economic and business planning. Users can take the courses individually or purchase as part of basic or intermediate packages.

The future of dairylearning.com includes advanced DairyComp training, and more online courses directly from dairy industry experts on leadership, management and calf care.

Visit dairylearning.com today for more information, and to explore online courses and register for live trainings.

 

Questions? Please contact:
Sadie Gunnink
info@dairylearning.com

screenshot of the dairylearning.com website
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Genetic indexes: can one size fit all?

Indexes are important genetic selection tools. They combine all significant genetic traits into one package – and get producers away from setting minimum criteria for specific traits. That allows you to focus on creating a next generation of cows that are the right fit for your environment.

A global industry standard index like TPI has certainly helped dairy producers improve their herds. The one-size-fits all TPI index places 46% of the total weight on production traits, 28% on health and fertility traits and 26% on conformation traits.

However, an index like this assumes all farms face the same challenges within their herd. It assumes everyone has the same farm goals and milk markets. It simply serves as a general overview for a one-size-fits-all genetic plan.

Consider your goals

When you set your own, customized genetic plan, you can divide the weights as you see fit. To decide which production, health or conformation traits to include, consider your farm’s situation and future goals. How are you paid for milk? In a fluid milk market, you’ll likely put more emphasis on pounds of milk as compared to those who ship milk to a cheese plant. Are you expanding or at a stable herd size? If you’re looking to grow from within to expand your herd, you’ll want to put more emphasis on Productive Life and high fertility sires than the producers who are at a static herd size and able to cull voluntarily.

Your farm’s scenario is unique. With different goals, environments and situations, it’s evident there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all index.

Make progress where it matters

Just 42 TPI points separate the 100th and 200th ranked genomic bulls on Holstein USA’s December 2017 Top 200 TPI list. Does a separation that small mean these bulls offer similar genetic benefits? Of course not!

To illustrate why, let’s compare three different genetic plan scenarios. One focuses on high production, one on high health, the other on high conformation. The tables below show the sires, traits and genetic averages for the top five Alta sires that meet each customized genetic plan. Notice the extreme amount of progress, and also the opportunity cost for using each particular index.

When high production is the goal, your genetic plan may be set with weights of 70% on production, 15% on health, and 15% on conformation. A team of bulls fitting that plan averages 2400 pounds PTAM and 171 pounds of combined fat and protein.

High Production: 70-15-15MilkProteinFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
AltaMONTOYA2089791058.02.22.792.091.840.932864
AltaAKUZAKI264078798.10.72.992.072.520.752747
AltaSPRITE253984884.2-0.83.032.332.131.532684
AltaEMBOSS260777974.5-0.53.071.311.470.812589
AltaWILLIE212375916.82.22.911.972.100.632766
240079926.30.82.961.952.010.932730

When health is the focus, a 30% production, 60% health, 10% conformation genetic plan might make sense for you. That team of bulls delivers averages of +9.5 PL, +5.0 DPR and 2.75 SCS. That’s more than four points higher for DPR than the high production group! However, you give up nearly 1100 pounds of milk and 41 pounds of components to get those high health numbers.

High Health: 30-60-10MilkProteinFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
AltaDEPOT910376311.47.02.480.680.801.002693
AltaKALISPELL1727527710.04.22.751.371.571.362734
AltaROBSON83555898.64.72.861.521.351.422802
AltaNITRO129554938.34.42.732.081.991.492871
Alta49ER181061709.04.62.931.071.441.032702
13155278.49.55.02.751.341.431.262760

Lastly, if your genetic goal is to improve conformation, the team below provides an average 2.47 for PTA Type, 2.86 Udder Composite, and nearly two points for Foot & Leg Composite. With that much emphasis on the conformation traits, you’ll sacrifice on pounds of milk, fat and protein, and give up some productive life and fertility.

High Conformation: 25-25-50MilkProteinFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
AltaSCION109848798.72.42.762.803.332.112786
AltaDRAGO162156857.22.43.052.962.792.562799
AltaPACKARD77048699.93.82.402.742.391.762839
AltaCR53137867.02.32.941.692.772.042669
AltaDPORT173558697.73.02.962.163.031.162749
115149788.12.82.822.472.861.932768

Now, compare those different genetic plan averages side-by-side. You can see that a mere 38 points separate these groups on TPI average. However, the genetic values for the production, health and conformation traits are extremely different.

MilkProFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
High Production: 70-15-15240079926.30.82.961.952.010.932730
High Health: 30-60-10131552789.552.751.341.431.262760
High type: 25-25-50115149788.12.82.822.472.861.932768

15 bulls in the Top 5

Most of the bulls above rank similarly for TPI. But not one bull appears in more than one of the customized genetic plan top-5 lists. With 15 bulls in the top five, it’s clear to see there’s no such thing as a perfect bull. There is, however a perfect genetic plan. It’s the one you customize for your farm to match your current situation and future goals.

Think back to the examples above. Think about TPI (46% production, 28% health, 26% conformation). If your main goal is to increase milk production in your herd, emphasizing too much on the health and conformation traits will mean you sacrifice pounds of milk and total components in the next generation of your herd.

Alternatively, maybe you really want to improve the longevity and fertility of your herd. In that case, an index that focuses on conformation will cost you 1.4 months of productive longevity and more than two points of pregnancy rate in the next generation!

Bringing it together

Sticking to an industry standard index like TPI could get you the best ranking bulls for that index only. But that index doesn’t necessarily match your needs. If you’re looking for a more focused approach, keep these points in mind to make the most progress toward your farm’s goals:

  1. There’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” genetic index.
  2. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to set your own, unique, customized genetic plan. Consider your farm’s goals, future plans and milk market as you decide how much emphasis to place on the production, health and conformation traits.
  3. Maximize progress toward your genetic goals by using a group of the best sires to match your unique genetic plan.
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The high value of low heritability

Most of us misunderstand heritability. In simple terms, for any given trait, heritability tells us how much of the difference in actual performance is due to genetics, as opposed to management or the environment.

To better understand, think about two cows in two different herds. How much of the difference in their milk production is due to genetics? How much is due to management or environment? It turns out about 30% of the milk production difference is due to genetics, while 70% is due to management and environment. Therefore, milk has a heritability of 0.30.

What about pregnancy rates? Management and environment account for the 96% majority of variation between daughters. So the influence of genetics is minor, at just 4%. Thus, Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) has a heritability of 0.04.

We commonly refer to the health traits like Productive Life (PL), DPR and Somatic Cell Score (SCS) as the lower heritability traits. Many producers believe that low heritability equates to less, or slower, genetic progress. However, in spite of lower heritability, it would be wrong to conclude that DPR, PL or SCS are insignificant as a result.

Perspective is important

In genetics, accuracy shows through when we evaluate results within one herd. In that herd, if we evaluate within a specific lactation group, and then within a specific time of freshening, we find a contemporary group. By evaluating within one contemporary group, we reduce the impact of management and environmental differences.

The overall heritability for health traits like DPR and PL is low. When we break our evaluations down into contemporary groups, that’s when we find the true genetic differences.

The proof is in the numbers

Take this real-life example from a 1,500-cow dairy with very good reproductive performance. We’ve separated out first lactation cows into four groups, based on their sire’s DPR. It’s clear to see that the high DPR sires create daughters that become pregnant more quickly than the daughters of low DPR sires.

Table 1# of cowsAverage Sire DPRActual preg rate
Top 25% - High DPR1742.327%
Bottom 25% - Low DPR137-1.120%
difference3.47%

The same goes for Productive Life. Despite the low heritability at less than 9%, PL can make a real, noticeable difference in your herd.

This table compares how long the daughters of the industry’s best ten PL bulls and daughters of the industry’s bottom ten PL sires will last in a given herd. You can see that a higher percentage of high PL daughters, represented by the dark blue bars, remain in a herd than their low PL counterparts.

Graph showing the real effect that Productive Life plays on how long cows last in a herd

When you select for the lowly heritable PL, you will certainly create healthier, longer-living cows in your herd.

Focus on the economics

As a progressive dairy producer, don’t let confusion about heritability prevent you from using the right genetic tools to improve your herd. Health traits are economically important, and making improvement in these areas can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

Many traits have a high heritability, but no economic importance. In other words, we can make a lot of progress for these traits very quickly, but it will not make a more profitable cow.

A couple examples of high heritability traits are coat color and polled. Both of these traits have a heritability of 100 percent because they are completely controlled by genetics. However, even if we can make cows red or polled in one generation, what is the economic value of that?

By comparison, the economic value of more fertile cows that last longer because of fewer metabolic problems, fewer cases of mastitis, and less calving difficulty is clear to see. These genetic features make a more profitable production unit for each and every farm.

Selection secrets for healthier cows

When you set or reevaluate your genetic plan, take the following tips into account to maximize progress in the direction of your goals.

1. Define your goals

To set the right goals, first identify the most common reasons for culling in your herd. Is it reproduction, milk production, mastitis? This information gives you the basis for the genetic decisions you make going forward.

2. Choose your tools

Health traits offer dairy producers some powerful tools to help correct for low reproduction, metabolic problems, etc. Identify how important each of these trouble areas are to you. Place a proportionate emphasis on these traits when choosing the group of sires to use on your dairy.

3. Customize the solution

Industry standard selection indexes put different and continually changing weights on health traits. So don’t assume they reflect your individual goals and needs. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to make sure your genetic plan is customized to match your current situation and future goals.

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New repro research presented at DCRC

More than 250 progressive dairy producers, academia, and industry personnel gathered in Reno, Nevada November 8-10, 2017 for the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) annual meeting. While there, guests discussed new and advanced practices to achieve outstanding reproductive performance.

During the annual meeting, the DCRC invites speakers from around North America to present cutting-edge research and discuss hot-topics impacting today’s dairy reproductive performance. Topics covered this year included hormone use in dairy cattle, the importance of cow health on fertility, effects of heat stress during late gestation, heifer rearing, use of in vitro embryos and genomics, decision-making with sexed semen, and many more. Here is a quick summary of some of the talks:

Transition cow health and fertility

Dr. Eduardo Ribeiro with the University of Guelph, presented the “Impact of Transition Cow Health on Fertility.” Dr. Ribeiro showed data highlighting early pregnancy loss as a major factor impairing reproductive efficiency of dairy cattle.

In addition to early pregnancy loss, Dr. Ribeiro also demonstrated how diseases such as metritis, mastitis, lameness, and digestive and respiratory problems during the early postpartum period decreased the likelihood of cows to become pregnant after artificial insemination (AI), and increased the risk of pregnancy loss after 45 days of gestation.

Recent research of Dr. Ribeiro’s laboratory in Canada has demonstrated that the timing of disease has a negative effect on fertility of dairy cows. Disease that occurs before the end of the voluntary waiting period (VWP) has a similar, negative effect as disease that happens during the time of breeding and early pregnancy.

These findings confirm that disease has a negative carryover effect on fertility, with consequences still observed three months after the disease had subsided. Dr. Ribeiro concluded that prevention of postpartum disease is the best approach to reduce these negative effects on fertility. However, complete prevention is nearly impossible.

Future research is required to investigate the effects of minimizing inflammation of clinical diseases and how that could potentially mitigate some of the negative effects on reproduction.

Voluntary waiting period and first service repro strategies

Dr. Julio Giordano, from Cornell University, presented another great talk on the “Impact of the VWP, first-service management strategies, and how these decisions can alter profitability.” Research has demonstrated that extending the VWP from 50 or 60 to 88 days in milk (DIM) may increase conception rates at first service.

When extending the VWP, the greatest increase in conception rate is observed in first lactation cows. Dr. Giordano suggested that extending the VWP may lead to greater profitability in those first lactation cows but not in cows in their second and greater lactation.

Several factors influence profitability when changing the VWP, but the two major factors are:

  • differences in replacement costs
  • income over feed costs

Furthermore, when extending the VWP from 60 to 88 DIM the increase in first-service conception rate must be 10 to 11 percentage points greater for first lactation cows and 7 to 12 percentage points greater for multiparous cows to generate the same number of pregnancies by 90 DIM.

Dr. Giordano concluded that the duration of the VWP and how that affects herd performance and profitability depends upon complex interactions between reproductive performance, culling dynamics, lactation performance, and the economic market.

Recognizing reproductive excellence

Every year DCRC recognizes dairy farms that exude excellence in reproductive efficiency, fertility, and reproductive management. Dr. Glaucio Lopes from Alta Genetics, examined the records of the 2017 DCRC award winners to show similarities and differences among the 24 award recipients in his presentation “Digging Deep into Records of DCRC Award Winners.

Pregnancy rate is one of the most common metrics to evaluate the success of reproductive programs. So it should be no surprise that the average pregnancy rate of winning herds has steadily increased throughout the years of the award program. In fact, all award winners from 2017’s contest had over 30% pregnancy rate throughout 2016. However, Dr. Lopes was emphatic on highlighting that pregnancy rate is not the only metric used by the awards committee to select the winners.

Though reproductive management strategies differed among award winners, most farms used some form of fixed timed-AI program as part of their management system, in combination with estrus detection and AI. Despite practices that were common in the beginning of this decade, no farms used 100% fixed timed-AI, nor 100% estrus detection to select cows for all services.

Of the 24 winners, 13 dairies use some form of a presynch-ovsynch program, with a combination of synchronization and estrus detection for AI on all services. Eleven of the award-winning dairies use a 100% timed AI program for first service, followed by a combination of re-synchronization and estrus detection for subsequent services.

The range in VWP among the award winners was vast, ranging from 41 to 76 DIM. First service conception rates were outstanding, even for the dairies using sexed-semen on lactating cows, ranging from 37% – 66%.

An interesting observation presented was that disease incidence of the award-winning dairies was extremely low. Though the incidence of disease could be underreported in the computer records, this observation agrees with the presentation and conclusions of Dr. Ribeiro.

In conclusion, maximizing reproductive efficiency and performance is important to a successful and profitable year ahead. The annual meeting hosted by DCRC provided valuable information to dairy professionals that will benefit the dairy industry this year, and the years ahead.

Please visit http://www.dcrcouncil.org/ to learn more about this great organization, and the benefits of becoming a member.

DCRC is a proactive organization with long-term interest in raising awareness of issues critical to reproductive performance. Through information and communication, it strives to deliver the latest in technology and resources.

Article written by Dr. Benjamin Voelz, Premier Account Manager and Dr. Glaucio Lopes, Vice-President of DCRC and Alta University Manager, Alta Genetics.

For more details on the DCRC annual meeting, or with follow-up questions on this article, please contact: Benjamin Voelz (ben.voelz@altagenetics.com) or Glaucio Lopes (glaucio.lopes@altagenetics.com).

Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council logo
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Predict future production using average daily gain

Genomic testing is a popular way to rank heifers as part of a strategic breeding plan. But it’s not the only way. If you’re looking to not only maximize genetic progress, but also future profit, there might be alternative methods to decide which heifers to cull and which to keep.

ADG as a female selection tool?

References to average daily gain (ADG) typically come from the beef industry and more recently, dairy nutritionists and researchers. Dairy-focused studies have proven that individual dairy farms can see the impact of ADG on future milk production potential. In fact, a study from Cornell University showed that for every one kilogram of pre-weaning ADG, calves produced 1,113 kilograms more milk during their first lactation1.

Weighing individual animals at set points early in life to determine their average daily gain can be an effective means to predict which animals will produce the most throughout their first and later lactations.

Take the example below. On this 2,850-cow Holstein farm in Wisconsin, weights are taken on each individual calf at birth and weaning, and calculated within their herd management software to figure out the ADG of each animal.

Table 1Number of cowsADGAvg. 1st Lactation 305-day ME milk
Group 1: Top 25% for highest ADG3322.1833105 lb
Group 2: Bottom 25% for lowest ADG3081.6731838 lb
Difference0.511267 lb

Here, we’ve broken down all first lactation animals into quartiles based on their initial average daily gain. The top animals for ADG gained nearly 2.2 pounds per day from birth to weaning, while the bottom 25% of animals for ADG gained 1.67 pounds per day during that time.

Fast forward two years to when these calves have entered the milking herd, and that difference in average daily gain equates to a real and noticeable 1267 pound per animal difference in first lactation 305-day ME milk production. This is on par with the results from 2012 Cornell University study mentioned above.

 

Genetics still matter

If we take this analysis one step further, we can see that genetics are able to express themselves to a fuller advantage in healthier calves that grow more each day.

When we split the groups from the same analysis shown above in Table 1 to do two separate genetic assessments we can see how animals in each group perform in relation to their genetic predictions. This shows us whether ADG affects whether an animal can produce to their genetic potential.

Table 2 takes only the first lactation cows that were among the top 25% of heifers for highest birth to weaning ADG. Within this high ADG group of animals, we compare 305ME milk production based on parent average for PTA Milk within that group.

Table 2: Highest ADG animalsNumber of cowsADGParent Average PTA MilkAvg. 1st Lact 305ME Milk
Top 50%: Highest Parent Avg PTAM1662.1958634503 lb
Bottom 50%: Lowest Parent Avg PTAM1662.1710531725 lb
Difference4812778

Here, it shows that among only the calves with the highest average daily gain, those animals with the higher parent average for PTA Milk calved in to produce nearly 2800 pounds more milk than the animals with a lower parent average for PTA Milk.

Table 3 looks at this the same way, but only splits out just the first lactation cows that were in the bottom 25% for lowest birth to weaning ADG. When we compare milk production within that isolated low ADG group, we see that a higher parent average for PTAM equated to just over 1800 additional pounds of milk in the first lactation compared to the animals with the lowest parent averages for PTAM.

Table 3: Lowest ADG animalsNumber of cowsADGParent Average PTA MilkAvg. 1st Lact 305ME Milk
Top 50%: Highest Parent Avg PTAM1521.6856932768 lb
Bottom 50%: Lowest Parent Avg PTAM1521.675530958 lb
Difference5141810

Within both groups of animals a higher parent average for PTAM meant even more milk than predicted by genetics. However, when you compare the difference in 1st lactation 305MEs you can see that the high ADG group outpaces the low ADG group by nearly an additional 1000 pounds of milk in the first lactation.

This means that when calves are given the best nutrition and care, and achieve higher average daily gains, their genetics are better able to express themselves beyond what’s even predicted.

Strategic management decisions

With this proof in mind, if your farm’s situation dictates culling extra heifers, it’s best to do that in a strategic way. While genomic testing certainly has its merits for this purpose, the power of monitoring and measuring ADGs can serve as an effective alternative.

If the animals that perform well early in life go on to perform better than herdmates later in life, it’s an easy decision to keep the fastest growing animals in your herd. If you cull those calves that perform at a sub-par level from the start, you can avoid the feed costs for animals that will produce less than herdmates in the future, and avoid housing for animals that you may not have room for on your farm.

Knowing that those healthy calves will put extra pounds in the tank down the road also enforces the power of proper and progressive calf nutrition and a sharp focus on overall calf health. Even when times are tight, the future of your milking herd should not be put on the back burner.

 

Points to ponder

  • When implementing a strategic plan to cull heifers, consider weighing each individual calf at various milestones in her life to determine average daily gains. A ranking based on ADG to sort which heifers to keep and which to cull can have a big impact on overall future costs of production.

  • Don’t let the genetics you select go to waste. An animal’s genetics are expressed best when she receives the best nutrition and care from day one. The amount each calf gains per day, even in those first few months, will make a major impact on future production potential.

 

References:

Soberon F, Raffrenato E, Everett RW and Van Amburgh ME. 2012. Preweaning milk replacer intake and effects on long-term productivity of dairy calves. J Dairy Sci. 2012 Feb;95(2):783-93. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4391.
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Genetics and A2 milk: what you need to know

As consumers continuously look for new ways to eat healthy, A2 milk is a trend that emerges on their radar. A2 milk has been a common brand in Australia and New Zealand for several years. It only made its entry to the US marketplace in 2015.

It’s a new concept for many people, so before you join in on the A2 hype, here are a few answers to questions you may have.

What is A2 milk?

A2 milk is produced only from cows having two copies of the A2 gene for beta casein.

To explain further, cows’ milk is about 87 percent water. The remaining 13 percent is a combination of lactose, fat, protein, and minerals that make up the solids in milk.

If we focus on the protein within milk, the major component of that protein is called casein. About 30% of the casein within milk is called beta casein. The two most common variants of the beta casein gene are A1 and A2, so any given bovine will be either A1A1, A1A2 or A2A2 for beta casein.

In the United States nearly 100% of the milk contains a combination of both A1 and A2 beta casein.

What is the benefit of A2 milk?

Researchers believe that A2 is the more natural variant of beta casein, and A1 was the result of a natural genetic mutation that occurred when cattle were first domesticated. With that in mind, studies have been done to see if people digest or react to true A2 milk differently than regular milk.

Some of those studies have found that people drinking milk exclusively from cows producing A2 milk were less susceptible to bloating and indigestion – leading some to conclude that A2 milk is a healthier option than regular milk. The exact science behind the difference in A1 versus A2 milk is complicated, but research has shown that digestive enzymes interact with A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins in different ways. Because of that, A1 and A2 milk are processed differently within the body.

Can you breed for A2 milk?

Yes, in fact the only way to have cows that produce A2 milk is to breed for it.

True A2 milk can only be produced from cattle possessing two copies of the A2 gene in their DNA. Each animal receives one copy of the gene from its sire and one copy from its dam. So for a chance to get an animal with the A2A2 makeup, you must breed a bull with at least one copy of the A2 allele to a cow with at least one copy of the A2 allele.

To ensure with 100% certainty that a female will produce A2 milk once she freshens, she must be the result of mating a cow with two copies of the A2 gene to a sire that also has two copies of the A2 gene.

Does A2 milk only come from colored breeds of dairy cattle?

Traditionally, colored breeds of dairy cattle, such as Jerseys and Guernseys have been the poster children for the A2 gene. Those two breeds still have a higher proportion of A2A2 animals. However, some of the popular Holstein sires of recent years have increased the prevalence of A2A2 sires in the black and white breed as well.

You may be surprised that about 40% of the Holstein sires in active AI lineups, including numerous household names, have two copies of the A2 gene. In addition, over 80% of Holstein sires have at least one copy of the A2 gene.

Is A2 milk the answer for people with lactose intolerance?

A2 milk contains the same amount of lactose as non-A2 milk. So in clinically-diagnosed cases of lactose intolerance, A2 milk will not provide the benefits that lactose-free milk would offer.

Since most cases of lactose intolerance are self-diagnosed, some doctors believe the cause of indigestion in those cases is actually linked to an A1 aversion rather than lactose intolerance. In those cases, drinking A2 milk may help prevent the side-effects otherwise experienced from drinking regular milk.

Should you select for A2 in your breeding program?

With this new information at hand, it may seem compelling to produce only true A2 milk. Many A2A2 sires are available, but you still have an opportunity cost by selecting only A2A2 sires.

When A2A2 is a limiting factor in your genetic selection, you’ll eliminate about half of all bulls available. That means you will likely miss out on pounds of milk, extra health and improved fertility traits.

Regardless of your selection decision around A2 sires, make sure it aligns with the customized genetic plan you put in place on your farm so you can maximize profitability and genetic progress in the direction of your goals.

 

Click HERE to view a list of Alta’s current A2A2 sires.

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