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About: Chrissy Meyer

Recent Posts by Chrissy Meyer

The New, Brighter FUTURE STARS

Alta FUTURE STARS are new, improved, and brighter than ever before.

They put focus on the first two things that matter in creating your best future herd:
1 – creating more pregnancies, and 2 – delivering more live, healthy, newborn calves.

FUTURE STAR logo

When exploring these new, brighter FUTURE STARS, high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status remains a key benefit. However, there’s three main reasons we’re shifting our focus away from calving ease, toward creating more live, healthy calves:

  1. The official calving ease traits are updated to more accurately reflect actual incidence of calving difficulty in the USA population. This has made thresholds for SCE no longer relevant
  2. Progressive dairies focus on efficiency. And a simple way to improve efficiency is to first, create more pregnancies, and second deliver more live, healthy calves.
  3. We wanted to update our brighter FUTURE STAR to improve the relevance and efficiency for the progressive producer!

 

Let’s put the new SCE into perspective

Sire Calving Ease has been a traditional ‘threshold trait’ for many, many years. Dairies have set limits at <8% to make sure they’re doing everything they can from a genetic standpoint to have fewer difficult calvings.  The current data on actual calving difficulty proves that modern genetics like Alta FUTURE STARS have done their job to decrease the incidence of difficult calvings down to a rare occurrence.

So now it’s time to shift our mindset – because SCE thresholds are a thing of the past. Think about this – looking at the new proof values today, to be better than “average” a bull needs to be lower than 2.2 for SCE! If you maintain ‘average’ as a threshold for SCE, what does that mean for a bull with an excellent profile, high ranking on your customized genetic plan… but at 2.3 SCE…?

Up until August 2020 proof day, you would welcome a bull at 5% for SCE as no cause for concern. But – that’s now more than 2x higher than the new average!

Sire Stillbirth does NOT equal DOAs

Stillbirth traits measure death in the first 48 hours, not just the number of calves born dead. And 48 hours is actually the critical first days of life and investment we make in our calves. It equates to more than 3 colostrum feedings, ear tags, labor, and handling to move to the hutches.  We want to see as many calves as possible successfully grow beyond these early days.

And the new calving trait updates tell us that stillbirth rates are still higher than desired – certainly higher than calving ease. Any number of failed calves is too many – they are a real opportunity cost and an important variable in our clients’ heifer inventory management plans. So that’s why stillbirth traits now contribute to our brighter FUTURE STAR criteria!

FUTURE STARS – driving value, then and now

To recap, keep these two points in mind as you explore the value that FUTURE STARS have delivered to this point, and the new value they will deliver going forward.

1. FUTURE STARS helped solve the issue of calving difficulties
They did this through a clear and intentional focus first on real observations for calving ease and remained a reliable option for easy calvings once genomic data was included.

2. FUTURE STARS now address the first two things that matter in building the best future herd
We always say that genetics don’t matter if you don’t first create a pregnancy. And that rings true as loud as ever. What we often forget is that genetics also don’t matter if the calf is not still alive after the first 48 hours.

Only high fertility CONCEPT PLUS sires are eligible to earn FUTURE STAR status. And FUTURE STAR sires are carefully selected to deliver more live, healthy calves, by focusing on the stillbirth traits.

 

FUTURE STARS have the genetics to create value and improve efficiency in your herd. Benefit from a dual focus on the first two steps to creating your best future herd: 1 – creating more pregnancies and 2 – delivering more healthy newborn calves that successfully make the move from colostrum to milk.

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Zero events lead to repro success

Creating a pregnancy requires your keen attention to animal health and welfare through a cow’s entire lactation.

The road to creating a pregnancy begins long before you actually inseminate the cow. It begins before you enroll a cow on a synchronization program or start monitoring heats using an activity system. In fact, successfully creating a pregnancy starts before a cow even enters the maternity pen.

4-EVENT COW Circle Logo

IT STARTS BEFORE CALVING

It’s no secret that transition, fresh cow, and overall herd health all play key roles in a cow’s capacity to be a profitable member of your herd. Only the cows that receive proper care and nutrition throughout their transition period and at calving have the chance to become the next 4-EVENT COWS of your herd. A 4-EVENT COW is one that records just four major events in her lactation: 1-FRESH, 2-BRED, 3-CONFIRMED PREGNANT, and 4-DRY.

Of course, maintenance events like pen moves, foot trims, vaccinations, and pregnancy re-checks also occur during a cow’s lactation. But when FRESH, BRED, PREG, & DRY are the only four major events in a cow’s lactation, chances are, she’s a profitable part of your herd.

In this case, we’ll look closer at the first three events, FRESH, BRED & PREG. You’ll see that getting a cow off to the right start after she freshens truly affects her ability to cruise on through those first three major events with no issues.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

We know that a cow’s reproductive efficiency is impacted by her health and welfare in the transition and fresh cow periods. We wanted to know to what extent. So, we did our research.

We dug into the herd health and reproduction records on 10,000 cows from three different dairies throughout the US. These herds operate at a very high level of management and keep accurately detailed records on all health events in their herds.

We sorted the cows from the three dairies into three different groups. We assigned each cow to a group based on the number of detrimental health event setbacks she had – zero, one, or more than one. By detrimental health events, we mean the ones that cost time, labor and money – including fresh cow events like milk fever, retained placenta, metritis, DA, ketosis, and also mastitis.

We then analyzed first service conception rate, overall conception rate and 21-day pregnancy risk per group. This chart illustrates what we found.

graph comparing conception rates and 21-day preg risk between cows with zero, one, or 1+ health events in the first 60 DIM

FEWER EVENTS EQUALS SUPERIOR REPRO

It’s easy to see the trend. Cows with zero health events, at and after freshening, have higher repro performance than cows with one and two or more health events.

It’s also important to note that more than 76% of these events happened in the first 30 days in milk. That emphasizes the importance that an animal’s health and welfare throughout her transition and fresh cow periods plays on her ability to become a profitable 4-EVENT COW. Cows that get the best start to their lactation, before and after calving are much more likely to be BRED on time and CONFIRMED PREGNANT after just one service.

The cows that had healthy, trouble-free transition and fresh cow periods went on to have 6% higher first service conception rates than cows with just one health event, and 10% higher first service conception rates than cows with two or more health events. That proves the obvious – that cows not experiencing detrimental health events, especially in the first 30 days of their lactation, are more likely to get bred back sooner.

What changes are you willing to make to get a 10%, jump in first service conception rate?

FOR THE SKEPTICS

You might be thinking that even a 41% first service conception rate and a 21-day pregnancy risk of 27% in the group of cows with multiple health events is still quite impressive. Those numbers come from the high management level at which all these herd operate.

t’s more important to recognize the difference in repro performance between the multi-event cows, and the healthy, trouble-free cows with zero events. A 10% conception rate difference and a 9% pregnancy risk difference is huge!

To take it one step further, we calculate the average annual 21-day preg risk across all three herds at 32%. That means the group of cows with multiple detrimental health events falls 5% short on repro performance as compared to just the average.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH THIS INFO?

Creating a pregnancy starts long before you inseminate the cow. If your repro performance is not hitting your goal, then work with a trusted advisor to analyze your herd’s transition and fresh cow health.

If you have too many cases of those fresh cow illnesses, they cost more than the time, labor and money you’re putting in to treat them. They’re impacting your herd’s overall reproductive efficiency.

Put a plan in place to address areas of opportunity in the transition and fresh cow pens to see benefits that extend to your reproductive success. When fresh cow health and welfare are front of mind, you’ll create more of those 4-event cows that 1-freshen with no troubles, 2-are bred just once, 3-are confirmed pregnant after just one service, and 4-go dry with no other health issues.

 

Article and analysis by Ben Voelz, Alta Premier Account Manager

*A version of this article was previously published in Progressive Dairy Magazine. Find it HERE.*

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How to make your next preg check your best one yet

There are so many factors that affect how efficiently you can get cows pregnant. Cow comfort. Cow cooling. Nutrition. Herd health. Genetics. Dry cow, transition and fresh cow management. And the list goes on.

The whole picture can be overwhelming. So to help break it down, we turn to the simple lactation cycle of an Alta 4-EVENT COW. You can make your next preg check the best one yet by focusing on the management practices around the BRED and PREG events of a cow’s lactation.

Here, we share three things you can do today to improve the current reproductive efficiency in your herd – and create more of those profitable Alta 4-EVENT COWS.

4-Event Cow logo-focused on BRED & PREG

1. USE HIGH FERTILITY CONCEPT PLUS SIRES

With countless sire options available, it’s often hard to choose the right bulls for your herd. If part of your goal is to make your next preg check your best one yet, one of the fastest, simplest ways to do that in this moment, is to emphasize sire fertility within your customized genetic plan.

When you use a high fertility sire, you’re upping your odds of creating a pregnancy on the very inseminations where you use that sire. That means more cows that require just one time BRED before they’re confirmed PREGnant.

The trio of high fertility Alta CONCEPT PLUS semen options will improve the fertility in your herd, regardless of which semen type you use.

  • CONCEPT PLUS DxD – High fertility sires will give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a pregnancy with conventional semen.
  • 511 CONCEPT PLUS – High fertility SexedULTRA sires offer a 4%-9% conception rate advantage over the average sexed bull.
  • CONCEPT PLUS BxD – High fertility beef x dairy sires give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a conventional pregnancy with the beef semen you use in your dairy herd.
Alta CONCEPT PLUS logo

2. PRACTICE STRICT COMPLIANCE AND ACCURACY

Regardless of your repro strategy, your cows will not get pregnant if you don’t comply with the timed AI protocols and/or maintain an exceptional level of accuracy with heat detection.

When you use timed AI…

With synchronization programs, we can never emphasize enough that compliance is king. To put that in simple, relatable terms, that means combining four things:

  • The right injection
  • The right dose
  • The right cow
  • The right time

If you miss just one of these four critical factors, any chance at creating a pregnancy based off a synchronization schedule is severely diminished, or even gone.

When you heat detect…

The fastest diagnosis that you have on your farm for an open diagnosis is timely, accurate heat detection. What we mean by this, is that if you wait until your actual preg check day to determine the pregnancy status of every cow bred 28-35 days prior, you’ll be checking some cows that may already have showed heat since they were bred.

Regardless if you use an activity monitor system or tail painting, if you’re able to detect heats with accuracy, you’ll give yourself a chance to catch those cows that come into heat. That means fewer open cows on preg check day.

3. MAINTAIN ACCURATE RECORDS

Using a software program to maintain your records gives you the best chance of sticking to point number two above. When using a timed AI program, you can set up your synchronization schedule in your her management software program so you can follow it to a T.

When it comes to heat detection, having accurate data on freshenings, last service date, and more, will ensure you present the right cows on preg check day and keep your repro program on track.

Of course, other management factors will affect how many cows are confirmed pregnant on your next herd check. But if you do your own, personal check on the three points above, you may find that your next preg check is your best one yet.

 

Article by Glaucio Lopes & Chrissy Meyer

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A genetic approach to improved fertility

Alta 4-EVENT COWS don’t happen by accident. It takes a clear focus on the best day-to-day management, and a long-term plan toward breeding and developing a healthy, fertile, and productive herd.

Here, we focus in on how the decisions you make on breeding and genetics can help you create more 4-EVENT COWS in your herd. We share two ways – plus some proof – that genetics are a key piece of the puzzle in main­taining a trouble-free, profitable herd – now and down the road.

1. CREATE MORE PREGNANCIES NOW

If you’re looking for a fertility advantage on inseminations today, sire fertility rankings are where you’ll want to focus. The Alta CONCEPT PLUS sire fertility evaluation ranks each sire on his ability to get cows pregnant. In fact, regardless which semen type you use in your breeding strategy, you’ll find high fertility CONCEPT PLUS options to fit.

Why should you trust Alta’s CONCEPT PLUS ratings? They are based on real pregnancy check results from progressive dairy herds throughout North America. The evaluation also maintains accuracy by accounting for factors like number of times bred, month/season, technician and breeding code effects.

 

  • CONCEPT PLUS DxD – high fertility sires will give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a pregnancy with conventional semen.
  • 511 CONCEPT PLUS – high fertility SexedULTRA sires offer a 4%-9% conception rate advantage over the average sexed bull
  • CONCEPT PLUS BxD – high fertility beef x dairy sires give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a conventional pregnancy than the average beef bull used on dairy cows.

If you’re more familiar with sire conception rate (SCR), keep in mind that Alta’s CONCEPT PLUS evaluation is more complete, current, and consistent – and actually served as a basis for SCR. The table below compares what’s included and accounted for in each evaluation.

4-EVENT COW Circle Logo
Comparing sire fertility evaluationsSCRCONCEPT PLUS
Based on real pregnancy check dataXX
Accounts for various factors affecting fertility, including age, month, herd, service number and lactationXX
COMPLETE
Separate ratings available per semen type: conventional, sexed, and beef x dairy breedingsX
Accounts for additional factors affecting fertility, like technician and breeding code effectsX
Data is collected from progressive dairies in North America, and not restricted to US farms on official testX
CURRENT
Ongoing data is collected and evaluated directly from DairyComp and other herd management programsX
Updates are available every other monthX
CONSISTENT
Data is gathered only from large-herd environments with progressive management and reproduction programsX

2. CREATE MORE FERTILE COWS FOR THE FUTURE

While sire fertility selection can get you more pregnancies, and more Alta 4-EVENT COWS now, it takes a long-term plan and genetic selection for female fertility to ensure your herd’s reproduction continues to improve.

Daughter pregnancy rate (DPR), heifer conception rate (HCR) and cow conception rate (CCR) all provide a genetic basis for creating more fertile females. Emphasizing one, or any combination, of these traits in your customized genetic plan means you are breeding a next generation of cows with a greater ability to conceive.

Daughter pregnancy rate is defined as the number of non-pregnant cows that become pregnant within each 21-day period. When a sire has a DPR of 1.0, it means that his daughters are 1% more likely than the average herdmate to become pregnant in a given 21-day window. And each added point of DPR equates to 4 fewer days open.

When referring to HCR and CCR, these traits are defined respectively as a virgin heifer or lactating cow’s ability to conceive. For each of these traits, when a sire has a value of 1.0, it means that his daughters are 1% more likely to conceive than daughters of a sire with an HCR or CCR of 0.0. While DPR is a slightly different calculation than HCR or CCR, all three are a way to measure the fertility of the female herself.

It’s clear to see that the high DPR sires, do indeed, create daughters that become pregnant more quickly than the daughters of low DPR sires.

Lactation 1 cows# of cowsAverage Sire DPRActual Preg rate
Top 25% for highest Sire DPR1742.327%
Bottom 25% for lowest Sire DPR137-1.120%
Difference3.47%

IMPROVE FERTILITY RESULTS – NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE

If your goal is to create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS through improved fertility and reproduction, don’t miss out on the impact that genetics can make in taking you to that next level. Despite the low heritability of fertility traits like DPR, these two tips will help improve your herd’s reproductive results now and into the future:

  1. Improve conception rates now by using sires with the high fertility CONCEPT PLUS rating to boost your herd’s current conception rates.
  2. Improve fertility for the future of your herd by including DPR and/or HCR and CCR in your customized genetic plan to create a next generation of more fertile females.
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The 4-EVENT COW live event series

A 4-EVENT COW is one you hardly notice. In the span of her lactation, her cow card confirms just four major events:

  1. FRESH
  2. BRED
  3. Confirmed PREGnant
  4. DRY

Of course, maintenance events like pen moves, foot trims, vaccinations, and pregnancy re-checks also occur during a cow’s lactation. But what’s really missing in a 4-EVENT COW’S lactation are the setbacks – the costly, time-consuming issues that hinder overall herd profitability.

She goes about her business of producing high-quality milk without causing any troubles.

Want to create more 4-EVENT COWS in your herd?

Here, you’ll find access to webinar recordings and Facebook Live events related specifically to the 4-EVENT COW. Please note, you don’t even need your own Facebook account to access the Facebook Live events. Simply click the image for whichever webinar or FB Live that you’d like to view, and it will appear on your screen.

4-EVENT COW Circle Logo

The FRESH Event

Check out the webinar hosted by Dr. Alex Scanavez focused on best practices for managing FRESH cows.

FRESH event - webinar recording
Facebook LIve event image

The BRED Event

Watch the webinar hosted by Dr. Glaucio Lopes on getting cows BRED – effective strategies for successful insemination.

Webinar Recording Image
Link to Facebook Live recording

The PREG Event

Here, Dr. Glaucio Lopes shares the key management tips to have a successful PREG check on your dairy.

Image link for webinar recording about having a successful PREG check
Facebook Live Link for the PREG Event discussion

The DRY Event

Click the image below to learn from Dr. Alex Scanavez on the key things to keep in mind through the DRY period

First slide of webinar recording
Facebook Live Video screenshot
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How stable are genomic proofs?

Most progressive dairy producers have now adopted and embraced genomics as the best way to make rapid genetic progress.

Yet, we don’t blame you if the recent base change has left you wondering. Are genomic proofs as stable as they once were? Are genomic-proven bulls your best option, even when many daughter-proven sires still offer a great genetic package.

With these questions in mind, we look for answers in the real proof data on bulls across the entire AI industry.

WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED ABOUT GENOMICS?

To illustrate the stability of genomic proofs, PEAK geneticist, Ashley Mikshowsky, analyzed proof figures on nearly 7,800 industry Holstein bulls. These bulls were initially released as genomic-proven sires between January 2010 and December 2016 – and they all have a current daughter proof.

You can find the results in Graphs 1 and 2 below. The darker-colored line on each graph charts the average GTPI or NM$ by initial genomic release date. The lighter-colored line shows the average April 2020 daughter proven TPI or NM$ for those same bulls. The space between the two lines represents the average change for TPI or NM$ from initial genomic release to daughter proof.

Graph 1 illustrates TPI while Graph 2 illustrates NM$

Click image to view larger

As you can see on the left side of the graph, the bulls first released in January 2010 changed 200 TPI points from their genomic debut to their April 2020 daughter proof.

Let’s compare that to the newer daughter-proven bulls, including those released as genomic sires in December 2016. For these bulls, you see only a 91-point TPI difference from their first genomic proof to their April 2020 daughter proof.

This means the stability in GTPI from genomic release until daughter proofs has more than doubled – or the change is less than half! You also see the added bonus of genetic levels on a continual rise!

Click image to view larger

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

Industry bulls first released as genomic-proven sires in January 2010 dropped, on average, 112 NM$ from their first release until their April 2020 daughter proof. Whereas, the most recent bulls to get a daughter proof – those first released as genomic sires in December 2016 – only changed a mere 37 NM$ from their initial release.

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

LET’S DIG DEEPER INTO GENOMIC PROOF STABILITY

Because two graphs may not have you convinced on the stability of genomics, let’s check it out from another perspective.

Graph 3 and Graph 4 are based on additional proof data analyzed by PEAK geneticist, Ashley Mikshowsky. She evaluated 971 industry bulls released as genomic-proven sires in 2016. This is to see the distribution of change from genomic proof to daughter proof – for both TPI and NM$. She uses this age group specifically because those bulls released in 2016 now have daughter proofs for production, health, and conformation traits.

Graph 3 shows the distribution of change for TPI and Graph 4 shows the distribution of change for NM$. The orange bar is in place to show the reference to a change of 0.

Click to view larger

The bulls released in 2016 changed an average of -115 TPI points from their first release in 2016 to their daughter proof in April 2020.

More than 140 of these bulls have a daughter proven TPI within just thirty points of their original genomic TPI. And only thirty bulls from the entire group of 971 changed more than 300 TPI points.

Click to view larger

We see the same trend for NM$ in Graph 4, based on analysis of the same 971 industry bulls. The average sire released in 2016 changed just -70 NM$ from their first genomic proof in 2016 to their daughter proof in April 2020.

Nearly 160 of the 971 bulls held steady within the small 20-point swing from genomic to daughter-proven NM$. Just 13 bulls changed more than 300 NM$.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR GENETIC OPTIONS TODAY?

Still debating whether your best bet is to go with the higher reliability daughter-proven sires? Or do you prefer to accelerate your genetic progress with genomic-proven sire groups? Take a look at the tables below, using NM$ for a neutral comparison between daughter proven and genomic proven sires.

The top daughter-proven sires currently average a highly reliable 621 NM$. Whereas, the top, readily-available genomic-proven group offers a much more enticing 776 NM$ average. That’s a $155 advantage over the daughter-proven choices!

Even the top-ranking daughter-proven sire, AltaTOPSHOT, who is among the top daughter-proven sires in the entire breed, still doesn’t match up to the average of the genomic-proven group.

Some bulls will gain points and some bulls will lose points between their genomic proof and daughter proof. That is inevitable, and the data proves it. Yet we can also see that the stability of genomics continues 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 IN MIND:

  1. Genomic proofs are still slightly inflated. Yet, even with a recent base change update, we see less change from genomics to daughter proven TPI and NM$ over time because of model improvements made along the way.
  2. Despite an average drop for TPI and NM$ from a bull’s genomic to daughter proof, you will still make 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

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What you need to know about the April 2020 US Genetic Base Change

A genetic base change is an adjustment of predicted transmitting abilities (PTAs) for all animals in a given breed. This change resets the average PTAs for each trait within a new reference population back to zero.

With the April 2020 US genetic base change in mind, here are five key points to remember.

1. THE BASE CHANGE HAPPENS EVERY 5 YEARS.

It happens this frequently to ensure that the values for traits and indexes don’t grow to unrealistically high levels. The last base change took place in December 2014, and the next one will be in 2025.

2. THIS BASE CHANGE ACCOUNTS FOR THE AMOUNT OF GENETIC PROGRESS WE’VE MADE SINCE THE LAST BASE CHANGE.

Dairy cattle genetics are continually improving, and the base change is the way to quantify the actual amount of progress that we’ve made for each trait within each breed.

For example, the base change for PTA Milk in the Holstein breed is 492. That means that the average genetic level for pounds of milk in the Holstein breed has increased by 492 pounds over the past five years. To account for this progress, the PTA Milk value for all Holsteins will automatically decrease by 492 pounds with April 2020 proofs.

3. THE NEW REFERENCE POPULATION WAS BORN IN 2015.

The base change means resetting the average PTAs for the reference population to zero. The previous reference population was made up of the sire-identified animals born in 2010. Since the new reference population is animals born in 2015, that means this current base change will now set the average PTA of cows born in 2015 back to zero.

4. DOWNWARD ADJUSTMENTS ARE ACTUALLY A GOOD THING!

In general, a downward adjustment for a trait is the amount of genetic progress we’ve made for that trait. So a larger downward adjustment is actually a good thing – it just means we’ve made that much more genetic progress for that given trait!

Because of the downward adjustments, we’ll need to get used to new, generally lower reference levels for the traits and indexes that we affect our genetic selection decisions.

5. THE BASE CHANGE DOES NOT AFFECT THE RELATIVE RANK OF ANIMALS.

Even though the base change will cause PTA values for bulls and cows to appear lower for most traits, it is the same adjustment for all animals. That means individual rankings will not be impacted.

WHAT ARE THE ACTUAL CHANGES?

Wondering what the actual changes will be? Table 1 below lays it all out.

Because a positive value is the amount of progress we’ve made, it also means the PTA for that trait will decrease by this amount. Conversely, negative values mean the PTA for that trait will actually increase by that amount.

To clearly assess the overall picture of genetic progress, trait changes shown in black show positive progress. Traits shown in red have made negative progress over the past five years.

*Please note that the CDCB will recalculate these values with April 2020 proofs using more complete and current data. So there may be slight changes between now and then.*

Table 1. PTA difference of cows born in 2015 compared to those born in 2010. PTAs will decrease by these amounts in April 2020.

TRAITUNITSHOLSTEINJERSEYBROWN SWISS
MilkPounds492524214
FatPounds24258
ProteinPounds18208
Productive life | PLMonths1.861.540.24
Daughter pregnancy rate | DPR%0.24-0.99-0.62
Somatic cell score | SCSLog base 2 units-0.0800
Heifer conception rate | HCR%0.50.44-0.24
Cow conception rate |CCR%0.38-0.9-0.74
Cow livability | LIV%0.740.08-0.28
Displaced abomasum | DA%0.21--
Ketosis | KET%0.2--
Mastitis | MAST%0.6--
Metritis | MET%0.34--
Milk fever | MFEV%-0.06--
Retained Placenta | RP%0.05--
Early first calving | EFCDays1.51.40.5
Gestation length | GLDays-0.350.3-0.03
Sire Calving Ease | SCE%-0.4--0.3
Daughter Calving Ease | DCE%-1.9--0.6
Sire Stillbirth | SSB%-0.3--
Daughter Stillbirth | DSB%-1.6--
Final Score (PTAT)Points0.760.70.4
Udder composite | UDC / JUI0.85--
Feet and leg composite | FLC0.49--
Lifetime Net Merit | NM$Dollars23119160
Lifetime Cheese Merit | CM$Dollars23919663
Lifetime Fluid Merit | FM$Dollars21917956
Lifetime Grazing Merit | GM$Dollars20714238
StaturePoints0.470.50.6
StrengthPoints0.200.2
Dairy formPoints0.380.40.3
Foot anglePoints0.50.10.1
Feet and leg score0.54
Rear legs - side viewPoints-0.0200.1
Rear legs - rear view0.49
Body depth0.14
Rump anglePoints-0.020.40
Rump widthPoints0.360.10.1
Fore udder attachmentPoints1.010.70.3
Rear udder heightPoints1.20.60.3
Rear udder widthPoints1.160.20.3
Udder depthPoints0.840.90.2
Udder cleftPoints0.540.10.1
Front teat placementPoints0.520.30.3
Rear teat placement0.49
Teat lengthPoints-0.270-0.2
Body weight composite0.15

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE?

Are you curious how the amount of progress over the past five years compares to the progress we made before that? The tables below lay it all out for the Holstein and Jersey breeds.

HOLSTEIN BASE CHANGE COMPARISONMilkFatProtPLDPRNM$
2020 CHANGES (progress made from 2015-2020)49224181.9 0.24231
2015 CHANGES (progress made from 2010-2015)38217121.00.2184
JERSEY BASE CHANGE COMPARISONMilkFatProtPLDPRSCSNM$
2020 Changes (progress made from 2015-2020)52425201.54-0.990.00191
2015 Changes (progress made from 2010-2015)38219120.80.00.04124

You’ll see that for the production traits, both Holsteins and Jerseys made significantly more progress in the past five years, than in the five years preceding. That means, as an industry, we’re making huge strides. Have confidence that the bulls you use now will deliver profitable results through their offspring.

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4 things to know about the new TPI formula update

With April 2020 genetic evaluations comes a newly updated TPI formula. While the changes are not major, it is important for you to stay aware of these updates, especially if TPI is your genetic plan of choice.

WHAT ARE THE KEY TPI UPDATES?

1. The fat to protein ratio is now equal

Previously, pounds of protein was weighted at 21% of the total index, while pounds of fat was weighted at 17%. Due to market conditions, these weights are now equal, at 19% each.

2. The CDCB health traits are now included in TPI

Within the health trait category of TPI, you’ll now see that the six CDCB health traits (resistance to mastitis, ketosis, retained placenta, metritis, displaced abomasum, and milk fever) are included. The Holstein Association has combined the six traits together into one economic index, which carries 2% of the total weight of the TPI formula.

This 2% weight essentially comes by removing 1% weight from Somatic Cell Score and 1% weight from Daughter Calving Ease. This makes sense, since the six health traits account both for resistance to mastitis, and other metabolic diseases that typically occur around calving.

3. Foot & Leg Composite (FLC) now includes emphasis on Rear Legs Side View

The Holstein breed has been trending toward a more posty, or straight, set to the rear legs. To help correct this two-way trait, Rear Legs Side View will now be included as part of the foot & leg composite index.

4. There will be 1% less weight on conformation, and 1% more weight on health

Because creating healthy, trouble-free cows is a goal that all producers share, Holstein USA has decided to move 1% weight away from Dairy Form in the conformation category of TPI, and shift that weight to Productive Life, within the Health category. With that shift, the new category weights of TPI are shown here.

Category weights of TPI 2020 versus TPI 2017

Additional updates that the Holstein Association USA is making to the TPI formula are as follows:

  • The fertility index now includes the trait Early First Calving
  • The standard deviations for traits are updated

 

So if TPI is your genetic plan of choice, be sure you know what’s included so you ensure you continue making genetic progress in the direction of your unique goals.

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Our commitment to you amid COVID-19

Create Value.  Build Trust.  Deliver Results.  It is times like the current COVID-19 situation where we are recommitting ourselves to our purpose so we can continue to meet your genetic, reproductive, and animal performance product needs.

Customer and Employee Safety

We intend to continue farm visits to deliver semen and products and breed cows, while taking precautions to keep you, your family, and your farm team members safe. To do that, we’ll be proactive about proper hygiene practices. This means eliminating high-touch interactions like handshakes and maintaining safe distances during conversation.

We have mandated that if an Alta employee becomes ill, they will self-isolate until fully recovered. We will do our best to limit any service interruption to your farm in such circumstances.

Semen Ordering & Shipping

We are committed to maintaining our production and distribution schedules to the fullest extent possible. We are readying our domestic teams to maintain semen distribution, even in the event of any restrictions imposed by freight service providers. You can help by planning and communicating early about any service or supply needs that you anticipate for your farm.

Drop-off Delivery Instructions

Please communicate with your Alta representative any special delivery instructions that you would like to implement as part of your receiving protocol on farm. We understand the need to limit close contact during this time, and we’re willing to take practical steps to make that happen.

Staying Connected

We remain dedicated to getting cows pregnant on your farm, and we have many convenient options to connect live remotely with your managers, so we can continue to monitor performance and share advice. Contact your Alta representative to make this option work.

Let’s Talk

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your Alta representative or your local Alta offices. In North America, please contact us at clientservices@altagenetics.com.

We are passionately committed to the health and safety of our team, our animals, our clients, and our industry. We are working on all fronts to support, and we will do our part to help contain the spread of the virus, including organizing our procedures in such a way to limit contact and maintain operations.

Create Value. Build Trust. Deliver Results.

 

Sincerely,

Kevin Muxlow
CEO, Alta Genetics

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Beef x Dairy: Which breed should you choose?

When it comes to your targeted approach to beef x dairy, the beef breed you use matters.

To optimize your beef x dairy premiums, it’s important to weigh your options. While actual beef x dairy carcass trait research is still very limited, there are several general breed trends that can help you decide what might fit your program best.

While these pros and cons can help guide your decision, it’s still important to select the right sires to address your current situation and when you plan to capitalize on your beef x dairy premium.

Different breeds of beef animals standing in a line

ANGUS

Far and away the most common beef breed in the US, you have countless Angus options to use in your beef x dairy program. In fact, many other breeds have previously crossed with Angus to increase the prevalence of black coat color, add the polled trait, and to improve carcass quality. With that in mind, here are the pros and cons of the Angus breed.

+ Easy calvings
Good for dairy producers who want to make sure their cows freshen in with no troubles

+ Marbling
One of the breed’s features, which results in higher quality beef

+ Small frame
Helps bring the larger frames of dairy cattle more in line with beef breed size. This benefits the packing plants that may have restrictions on the size of carcass they can handle.

+ Strong Performance
Angus is now documented to be one of the top breeds for both yearling growth and carcass weight.

– Lower birth weight
A pro, in terms of easy calvings for dairy producers, but may lead to a docked price from a calf buyer on day-old beef x dairy cross calves.

– Smaller ribeye area than other breeds
One of the downfalls of Holstein and Jersey carcasses is the ribeye size and shape. However, the Angus sires selected as part of the Alta BULLSEYE program all rank in the upper echelon of the breed for this trait.

LIMOUSIN | LIMFLEX

Limousin are traditionally a red, horned breed, and have become a popular choice for Jersey breeders because the breed’s characteristics offer the right complement for Jerseys. However, the breed has also gained recent popularity in use on Holsteins. Most of the Limousin sires offered are actually LimFlex (Limousin x Angus). Here are the pros and cons of the Limousin breed as a whole:

+ Ribeye area
One of the top breeds for this trait, based on across-breed adjusted EPDs. The favorable Limousin ribeye area addresses the smaller size and elongated ribeye shape in dairy cattle, which improves overall uniformity from one beef x dairy cross carcass to the next

+ Growth and feed efficiency
Calf buyers are more likely to purchase again when calves achieve excellent growth rates

+ Breeding to Feeding Program offers additional marketing opportunities for calves

-Calving ease
Limousin and LimFlex will sire higher birth weights and more calving difficulty than Angus

– Marbling
Beef quality may not be as tender as some other breeds. However, the breed can work for beef x dairy because Jerseys are especially known for their excellent marbling. Also, the LimFlex sires (with Angus blood in the pedigree), may offer the marbling gained from the Angus breed.

– Fewer available sire options than in the Angus breed

SIMMENTAL | SIM ANGUS

Traditionally red or yellow and also horned, the Simmental breed has also incorporated Angus genetics. Currently available are a variety of Simmental and SimAngus sires that offer the following trait qualities.

+ Ribeye area
A positive trait for dairy producers, since ribeye size and shape is one area of weakness on purebred Holstein and Jersey cattle

+ Carcass weight
Crosses well with Holsteins for an appropriately sized hanging carcass

+ Efficient growth
Growers prefer the beef x dairy cross animals that can efficiently build muscle

-Calving ease
Simmental and SimAngus will sire higher birth weights and more calving difficulty than Angus.

– Fewer available sire options than Angus
However, several SimAngus sires offer the benefits of both the Simmental and Angus breeds

– Several options are not homozygous black
If black coat color is necessary for your premium, be sure to check whether the sires you use are more likely to throw calves that are not fully black.

CHAROLAIS

More popular in western US breeding programs, Charolais cattle are among the higher performing, heaviest muscled animals of the US beef breed. Here are a few things to consider when choosing Charolais for your targeted approach to beef x dairy.

+/- Higher birth weight
A higher birth weight often leads to a more favorable premium when selling day-old calves.
However, that extra birth weight can come at the cost of calving difficulties. That means the Charolais breed is best suited to the milking herd

+ Size and growth
Charolais cattle are among the largest beef breeds, which delivers more pounds at yearling weight and carcass weight on the rail

– The calves probably won’t be black
Remember that Charolais are not black, so if black coat color is a key part of obtaining your premium, this is not your best choice. Most Charolais-sired calves born from black cows will have a “buckskin” or “smoky” colored hide.

Regardless of the breed you choose for your targeted approach to beef x dairy, keep these points in mind:

  1. Visit with your calf buyer to determine the best breed to meet their needs. If you can get a premium for using a specific beef breed, put a contract in place to go ahead and use the best genetics from that breed.
  2. Sire fertility matters in beef bulls too. When you’re a working dairy operation, your milk check is probably your biggest income. To get more milk, you need to get cows pregnant. And since we know that sire fertility varies from one bull to the next, check with your trusted Alta advisor to see which sires offer the optimal chance at creating a beef x dairy pregnancy.
  3. Use the right sires to fit your goals. The Alta BULLSEYE selection indexes are set up to address your current situation and future goals with beef x dairy – and there are various breeds that fit each index. These sires are elite among their respective breeds for the traits represented in each index. So use them with confidence to maximize your future profit potential.

Want more beef x dairy resources?

Download the PDF of this article, or visit articles that discuss two other topics to consider when adding beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy.

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Beef x Dairy: 3 questions to help map your strategy

You’ve chosen to put your breeding strategy in high gear. That means you’re probably using some amount of beef semen as part of that plan.

Creating those black, beef-looking calves can generate a premium on the day-old animals you sell. However, in this process, don’t forget to map out your plan before you start. Have you asked yourself the important questions? The questions that address your farm’s current situation and future goals. The questions about herd inventories and genetics that drive the profitability from your decision to implement beef x dairy.
Don’t let anyone pretend they have all the answers for you on this approach. It’s important not to get swept up in this newest strategy before you’ve set your plan. Start mapping your strategy by considering these three questions and all possible scenarios.
Beef calves

1. Which animals will I breed to beef?

You have a few different methods to separate out which animals will be the mothers of the next generation of your herd versus which animals will be mothers to those beef x dairy crossbred calves.

First, one of the simplest approaches to segmenting your herd is to sort by lactation group. In this case, you’ll generally designate your second or third lactation animals to receive beef semen, simply because of their older genetics. The remainder of your milking herd and your heifers – because of their newer, and higher genetic levels – would balance out with a combination of sexed and conventional dairy semen.

Next, a cost-effective option for segmenting your herd is to work with your trusted Alta advisor to rank the females in your herd based on your customized genetic plan using 2-generation or 3-generation parent averages. You will breed the top-ranking females on your own index to sexed or conventional semen to create herd replacements. You’ll utilize the lower ranking females as parents of the beef x dairy crossbred animals.

Lastly, you can also use genomic test results to help you segment which animals you should breed to each semen type, but only if the cost of testing falls within your dairy’s operating budget.

2. How much beef semen should I use?

That’s a loaded question – so we encourage you to follow it up with a couple more:

2a. How many cows do I want to milk in three years?

If you see expansion plans in your crystal ball over the next few years, you don’t want to fall short on replacements. Conversely, current market conditions also dictate that it’s not effective to raise more replacements than you need. So if expansion is not in your game plan, improve efficiency by feeding only the animals that will contribute to your future milking herd.

By accounting for dynamics on your farm now, you can develop a fairly accurate plan to manage future inventories – whether your goal is to maintain or grow your herd size in the next three years. Just be sure to consider the factors that affect your inventory, like conception rates by semen type, DOA rates and death loss, cull rates, and more.

2b. What are my options to sell beef x dairy cross calves?

Because the markets can be a roller coaster, we know that prices and premiums on beef x dairy calves can fluctuate. If you don’t have an outlet that offers you an attractive premium for those black beef x dairy crossbred calves, then you’ll want to evaluate fertility by semen type to see if beef semen is indeed a better strategy than conventional semen.

Whether you segment your herd by genetic rankings or lactation groups, it’s important to monitor and continually adjust the percentage of beef semen you use. Account for any seasonal or management changes so you’re always factoring in the current conception rates, cull rates, and changes in DOA rates or death loss.

3. Which beef bulls should I use?

Our parents or grandparents may have used beef semen as a last resort to get a favorite cow pregnant. We’re willing to bet the straw they used was cheap, clean-up beef semen for that cow’s one last chance.

Today, we can take a more targeted approach to beef x dairy semen selection. Not all beef bulls are created equal… And not all beef breeds are the same. Individual bulls vary greatly, so you’ll get what you pay for in terms of your genetic investment.

As with dairy sire selection, it’s imperative to consider your current situation and future goals. If your lone goal in using beef is simply to create a pregnancy that results in an easy calving, then a high fertility beef bull with good calving ease will probably do the trick. Yet, if your calf buyer only offers a premium for the black calves with an actual beef appearance, you will benefit most from considering additional traits like birth weight or ribeye area.

Or are you in a situation where you’re able to raise your beef x dairy cross calves past weaning, or even to harvest? If so, carcass and growth traits should be a key part of your plan, so you can capture the optimal premiums for those animals when you sell.

Regardless of your herd’s breeding strategy, it’s important to map out your own game plan first. Progress and profitability should be a goal now, and in the future. So work with your trusted Alta advisor to determine how best to use beef x dairy in your breeding program. Ask yourself these questions and weigh your options to align your game plan with your current situation and future goals.

Want more beef x dairy resources?

Download the PDF of this article, or visit articles that discuss two other topics to consider when adding beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy.

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Beef x Dairy: Not all bulls are created equal

What are your goals with using beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy? If you haven’t determined your direction, you might be missing out on what matters most to your farm’s bottom line.

In the same way you choose dairy cattle genetics, it’s important to select the right beef genetics to align with your farm’s current situation and future goals. We’ve created four different beef x dairy sire indexes so you can take the simplest approach to finding the right beef bulls to fit your needs.

FERTILITY FOCUS SIRES

Dairy farming is your primary business, and the majority of your income comes from your milk check. You know that your beef x dairy cross calves are simply a by-product of your strategic breeding plan to right-size your herd inventories.

You enjoy the premium that a black beef cross calf can bring over a Holstein or Jersey bull calf. But your primary goal with the beef bulls you use is simple and straightforward: get cows pregnant and avoid calving difficulties.

If this sounds like you, then Alta BULLSEYE Fertility Focus Sires are what you need.

BLACK CALF SIRES

Maintaining a herd of healthy, productive cows is your main focus. In addition, because of dairy market conditions in your region, you’re using beef semen on your lower end genetics, and you’re looking to get as high of a premium on those resulting beef x dairy crossbred calves as possible.

To get those top premiums, you know you need to create black calves with a beef look to them. And since the dairy animals in your herd are your top concern, you still want calving ease and high fertility sires.

In your case, Alta BULLSEYE Black Calf Sires will fit your goals.

FEEDER CALF SIRES

Your dairy farm is your focus, but maybe you also have a side operation raising feeder calves. This includes the beef x dairy cross calves that you’ve decided to create to manage your dairy herd inventory levels.

You’re looking to create calves that grow well to 300 or 500 pounds, so your own feeder calf operation maintains maximum efficiency. You also want to offer assurance to your buyer that the calves you sell to them will continue to perform well under their care.

If this is your situation, then the Alta BULLSEYE Feeder Calf Sires will keep your operational efficiencies high.

TERMINAL INDEX SIRES

You’ve got more than one cattle business venture. You produce milk and you also raise beef cattle through finishing. Among those beef animals are your beef x dairy crosses that result from your genetic plan and herd inventory management strategies.

Because part of your business is raising beef, you want to maintain efficient growth rates on every one of your beef x dairy cross animals. And you want to make sure your animals have the best combination of carcass yield and quality grade to earn top premiums at harvest.

When this is your business plan, Alta BULLSEYE Terminal Index Sires fit what you need.

Don’t miss out…

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to discuss where you’re at, and where you’re going. Use your own goals to determine your targeted approach to a beef x dairy strategic plan.

Want more beef x dairy resources?

Download the PDF of this article, or visit articles that discuss two other topics to consider when adding beef x dairy as part of your genetic strategy.

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Help your calves become future Alta 4-EVENT COWS

The journey to 4-EVENT COW status starts long before an animal enters the fresh pen. In fact, that journey starts in the hours immediately after she is born.

The most important meal a calf will consume is her first one – colostrum. That’s partly because a calf is most vulnerable in those moments right after birth. A newborn calf needs the immunity and energy that only high-quality colostrum can give her.

To make sure the first meal for each of your calves is as effective as possible, keep these 3 Qs of colostrum in mind.

THE 3 Q’S OF COLOSTRUM

1. QUICKLY

A calf’s ability to absorb the immunity from colostrum declines at a rapid rate after birth. You can see from the graph, that the ideal time to feed colostrum to a newborn calf is within the first 1-2 hours after birth. After six hours, the percent IgGs she can absorb and utilize is already significantly lower.

Recommendations say you should also offer a second feeding of colostrum within the next eight hours to ensure that each calf receives the energy she needs to get the best start in life.

White DG. Colostral supplementation in ruminants. The Compendium on continuing education for the practicing veterinarian 1993; 15:335-345.

2. QUALITY

In an ideal world, every dam will produce the amount and quality of colostrum that her calf needs. Unfortunately, ideal isn’t the norm. When colostrum quality is too low, a calf will not receive enough IgGs. That means she’s likely to experience Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT). FPT has a life-long impact on the growth and future production of affected calves.

Since we know that maternal colostrum can vary greatly from one cow to the next, that’s why it’s important to test maternal colostrum from every fresh cow. Use an optical or digital % brix refractometer to estimate the colostrum quality.

To interpret the % brix results and know what to do with the colostrum that mother nature has provided, follow these colostrum feeding recommendations:

% Brix readingQuality levelAction
> 25%EXCELLENTNo need to supplement maternal colostrum
22%-25%GOODSupplement maternal colostrum if excellent results are desired
18%-22%ADEQUATESupplement maternal colostrum with Calf’s Choice Total colostrum
<18%POORReplace maternal colostrum with Calf’s Choice Total colostrum

3. QUANTITY

In order for a calf to receive the total immunity and energy she needs, it’s critical to feed her enough colostrum. That generally means feeding 10% of the calf’s body weight in the first feeding. When you know the quality is good, you can also follow these guidelines:

  • OPTIMAL: 3L – 4L colostrum, which equals 150-200 grams IgG
  • SUFFICIENT: 2L – 3L colostrum, which equals 100-150 grams IgG

A healthy, newborn calf is the future of your herd. Help her become a healthy, profitable Alta 4-EVENT COW by following the 3 Q’s of colostrum management. When maternal colostrum does not pass the test for quality or quantity, be sure to have Calf’s Choice Total colostrum ready to fill the void.

 

Adapted, in part, from the May 2015 Colostrum Counsel Newsletter from SCCL, titled “Contribution of good colostrum feeding practices to the welfare of the newborn calf.”

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The timeline of an Alta sire

You might be wondering what the different sire designations mean, and how they fit into the life cycle of an Alta bull. So let’s break them down…

Alta ADVANTAGE Logo

Alta ADVANTAGE

Most sires begin their journey at Alta among this group of bulls, which is available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. Alta ADVANTAGE 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 committed Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

Alta G-STAR Logo

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-ranking options to fit your genetic plan. Some of these bulls have even been released long enough to have proven information for sire fertility, so you can choose a balance of both high genetics and high fertility CONCEPT PLUS.

Alta FUTURE STAR logo

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we have actual, proven results for both sire fertility and calving ease. We gather this data, analyze the results, and award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls with offspring already born, with results for proof of easy calvings, pregnancy check results that confirm they are above average for sire fertility. They also have calves born already, and their calving ease data shows them to be 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 can rest assured, knowing that you’re upping your chances for a both a pregnancy and a live calf from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS are often a good option to use on heifers.

Alta PROVEN STAR logo

PROVEN STARS

About three years after a bull is first released, his earliest daughters will enter the milking string. Once there has been adequate time to collect milk test information from those daughters and/or analyze their actual conformation, the data is compiled by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) and Holstein Association USA. That information is then calculated into a sire’s first daughter proof.

From there, as more daughters begin their first lactation, their sire’s reliability continues to increase. PROVEN STAR sires are for those people who only prefer the highest reliability genetic options.

Compare the averages to see the progress

Now that you know the difference between each sire designation, and understand the progression a bull could make as he matures, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below. You’ll see that the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages – especially for the money-making production and health traits. They’re 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.

60-40-0TPINM$MilkProtFatCFPPrelPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE952277695217746994163761.821.980.717.20.72.70
G-STAR870268587316266486149781.681.840.776.50.82.76
FUTURE STAR822265082915386183144801.901.841.035.80.52.78
PROVEN STAR748255372916816174134951.841.690.934.70.42.81

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 PROVEN STAR list was once a part of the G-STAR and/or FUTURE STAR lists. This just shows how much, and how fast, we’re making genetic progress!

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.

A side-by-side comparison

We can take this comparison of genetic averages one step further. For the sake of simplicity, let’s use the 60-40-0 index to do a side-by-side comparison of our top daughter-proven sires and our top genomic-proven bulls.

Both lists have tremendous options to use. The top daughter-proven bulls are elite among their peers. In fact, AltaTOPSHOT would even rank #2 among our genomic-proven list. The rest widely recognized as popular options around the world. Yet, if we’re talking about using groups of bulls, instead of individual bulls, the genomic-proven average simply outpaces our daughter-proven options by a significant amount.

Top 10 daughter-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO11779AltaTOPSHOT1091
11HO11781AltaUPSHOT980
11HO11487AltaBARK888
11HO11778AltaROBSON859
11HO11718AltaTURNKEY842
11HO11767AltaCONCORD818
11HO11737AltaHIDALGO810
11HO11740AltaFACET803
11HO11750AltaFLACCO802
11HO11669AltaJONAH801
Average870

Top 10 genomic-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO12345AltaSOHOT1108
11HO12346AltaTORRENT1033
11HO12293AltaBUNDLE1027
11HO12194AltaCABOT1013
11HO12219AltaZAREK1009
11HO12168AltaGILMORE1009
11HO12124AltaGOPRO1000
11HO15023AltaGLOW981
11HO14200AltaFAVIAN978
11HO15012AltaROYALTON976
Average 1013

Have confidence in the right genetics for your dairy

With that in mind, have confidence that using a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists will help you meet your goals. And 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.

The most important thing is to select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation – the type of bulls that will help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS. That is the key for you to drive progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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Two Alta 4-EVENT COWS in your maternity pen

Everyone knows that the journey to 4-EVENT COW status starts at freshening.

Or does it?

Think about your maternity pen. In there, you have the new dam and her female calf. The cow just started her journey to 4-EVENT COW status by recording FRESH as her first mark in the 4-EVENT COW circle.

The one we often forget about when thinking of Alta 4-EVENT COWS is her female calf. If this newborn is not given the best possible start, right from birth, she may not even get the chance to record that first mark in the 4-EVENT COW cycle.

So how do we help both of them become future Alta 4-EVENT COWS?

Getting THE COW off to the right start after calving

When your farm’s transition, maternity, fresh cow and nutrition programs are in good order, you up your chances of creating more of those healthy, trouble-free Alta 4-EVENT COWS – both from the calves born and cows that freshen.

Future reproductive troubles and health challenges often stem back to the transition period. So to help you get more of your cows on track to 4-EVENT status, we’ve got two things you can implement in your management strategy.

1. Activity and rumination monitoring systems like Alta COW WATCH will keep you ahead of any illness – usually before a major problem even occurs. With the repro, health and welfare of the cow in mind, Alta COW WATCH alerts you of potential health troubles throughout a cow’s lactation. This is especially critical in the fresh pen, because it allows you to use preventive measures instead of reactionary treatment. That will save you time and labor, and treatment costs, and give you peace of mind.

Alta COW WATCH logo for Facebook

2. A nutritional calcium supplement, like RumiLife® CAL24™ given at calving, will get your cows off to the right start. CAL24 is the simplest way to promote proper calcium levels so you can also avoid the fresh cow problems that often accompany subclinical milk fever. Plus, you can give a full dose of two CAL24 boluses at once, right after calving, so you don’t need to catch each cow again 12 hours later. That saves time, labor, and stress on you and the cow.

Image of RumiLife CAL24 boluses and boxes

Getting THE CALF off to the right start at birth

She’s still a couple years away, but this newborn calf can be a future Alta 4-EVENT COW if you give her the best care, right from the start. That includes keeping a clean environment, offering a low-stress entrance into the world, and remembering the 3 Q’s of colostrum after she’s born.

  1. Quickly – feed colostrum as soon as possible, and ideally within two hours after birth for optimal transfer of immunity
  2. Quantity – ensure that you feed colostrum with enough fat and enough IgGs
    • 100 grams of IgG is the minimum amount a calf needs
    • 150-200 grams of IgG is the gold standard to give that calf the best possible start
  1. Quality – if you use maternal colostrum, test it first with the Brix refractometer. Use the following guidelines to know whether a colostrum replacement or supplement, like Calf’s Choice Total® (CCT) Colostrum is needed.
    • Brix < 18%: Replace maternal colostrum with CCT.
    • Brix = 18%-22%: Supplement maternal colostrum with CCT.
    • Brix = 22%-25%: Supplementation is optional for excellent passive transfer of immunity.
    • Brix > 25%: No supplement is required.

The first meal is the most important one that a calf will ever have. It’s a known fact that calves have fewer health problems when they’re given the best immunity and energy in their first meal – colostrum. Studies show that proper colostrum management lends way to higher average daily gains (ADG), which in turn yields higher production levels once that calf freshens in for the first time.

So in that calf’s first hours, keep these 3 Q’s of colostrum in mind, to help set her up for a successful future as an Alta 4-EVENT COW.

Image of CCT Colostrum bags and pail options

Help them both become Alta 4-EVENT COWS

The calf and cow in your maternity pen can both be future 4-EVENT COWS in your herd. Start them on their way by getting them off to the right start after calving and the right start at birth.

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to see how you can incorporate Alta COW WATCH, RumiLife CAL24, and CCT Colostrum in your herd, or learn more about each, at the links below:

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Top 5 reasons to include CAL24 in your fresh cow protocol

Are you giving your cows the best possible chance to become an Alta 4-EVENT COW? A proper fresh cow protocol is part of that equation.

Giving cows RumiLife CAL24 calcium supplement after calving to promote proper calcium levels is one way to get your cows off to the best possible start in their lactation. Even when anionic salts are part of your program, subclinical milk fever is likely still an issue that you’re dealing with – even when you don’t see any symptoms.

So here are the top five reasons to include a calcium supplement like RumiLife CAL24 as part of your fresh cow SOP.

50%
Subclinical milk fever is a real problem on dairy farms. Studies show that half of your mature cows are likely to have subclinical hypocalcemia, even if anionic salts are part of your nutrition program. ¹

That means that half, or more, of your cows will show no outward signs of milk fever, but will still experience the impaired muscle function and GI problems that result from improper calcium levels at calving.

$125
A conservative cost of $125 per case of subclinical milk fever is calculated from lost production and a wide array of other health challenges the cow may experience because of the calcium imbalance.

4x
Subclinical hypocalcemia can cost you four times more than clinical cases in your herd.¹

That may seem like a crazy statistic. But it makes sense when you consider the much higher prevalence of subclinical hypocalcemia, and the fact that these cows will experience the challenges related to low calcium levels, but are not treated since they show no outward signs.

ROI
It’s not hard to reap the benefits of including a nutritional calcium supplement like RumiLife CAL24 in your fresh cow protocols. And it’s even more important to pay close attention to specific groups of higher-risk cows.

A University of Minnesota Extension article tells us that you can yield a 180% return on investment by giving calcium boluses after calving to high producers or lame cows.²

Other issues
Studies prove that cows with subclinical hypocalcemia around freshening are much more likely to have other fresh cow problems and resulting reproductive challenges throughout their lactation. In fact, cows with hypocalcemia are 3.2 times more likely to have a retained placenta than cows with normal calcium levels at calving. Hypocalcemic cows also have more average days open, due to the uterine health challenges they go through after calving.¹

A calcium bolus does not replace an IV in clinical milk fever cases where the cow is down. But you’ll reap big benefits, and create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS, by using a nutritional calcium supplement like RumiLife CAL24 to address the cases of subclinical hypocalcemia that likely exists in your herd.

Healthy cow resting with text: Help her become an Alta 4-EVENT COW. It starts at calving
  1. Oetzel, G. R. (2014) Treatment and Prevention of Subclinical Hypocalcemia [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/DAIReXNET/treatment-and-prevention-of-subclinical-hypocalcemia.
  2. Caixeta, L. (2019). Prevention and treatment of milk fever. Retrieved from University of Minnesota Extension website: https://extension.umn.edu/dairy-animal-health-and-comfort/hypocalcemia
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Get your cows off to the right start after calving

with RumiLife CAL24 nutritional supplement.

You can only create those healthy, trouble-free Alta 4-EVENT COWS when you get them off to the right start after calving. Part of that means promoting proper calcium levels.

3 things you need to know about RumiLife® CAL24 nutritional supplement

1. IT’S SIMPLE

And by that, we mean that you’ll save time and labor. How? Because you can give one dose of two CAL24 boluses right after calving. That means you don’t need to spend the extra time and labor to catch each fresh cow again to give a second bolus 12 hours later.

Plus, each bolus is a tapered shape, coated in vegetable fat and propylene glycol, which means it’s simple to administer.

2. IT’S UNIQUE

One  two-bolus dose of RumiLife CAL24 contains 100 grams of highly absorbable calcium- more than any other supplement. Pair that with a combination of magnesium and vitamin D, and you promote optimal calcium absorption throughout the first 24 hours after calving.

Plus, each bolus is a tapered shape, coated in vegetable fat and propylene glycol, so it’s simple for any breed of cattle to swallow.

3. IT’S COMPLETE

Because of the unique formulation, RumiLife CAL24 offers immediate and sustained release calcium. That means that one dose allows you to promote proper calcium levels in your fresh cows for the critical first 24 hours after calving.

What makes RumiLife CAL24 complete?

  • Calcium chloride provides immediately available calcium in the rumen
  • Calmin regulates calcium absorption over time.
    What is Calmin? It’s a highly-absorbable form of seaweed-derived calcium combined with magnesium, which allows for optimal calcium absorption in the rumen and beyond.
  • Vitamin D promotes improved calcium absorption, and helps facilitate active, sustained calcium transfer beyond the rumen.

Want to learn more about RumiLife CAL24? Find more details about the product HERE.

Healthy cow resting with text: Help her become an Alta 4-EVENT COW. It starts at calving
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Customize your 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, learn more about sire procurement, create and provide performance reports using DairyComp, 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, Communications & Training

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

Calf Management

Work with the team at our sister company, SCCL, 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 or vet meetings.

Dairy Herd Management Software

Develop your understanding on the VAS Platform, 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.

Laboratories & Production

Work with laboratory support groups on product quality. Production interns focus on veterinary or bovine management related to bull housing, feeding and health.

 

As part of the URUS family of companies, we join forces with PEAK Genetics, SCCL, and VAS to support modern, progressive dairy farmers worldwide and provide them the knowledge they need to improve their dairy herd management practices now, and into the future.

 

Our application deadline for 2020 summer internships has now passed. Please check back for future internship opportunities!

Photo of 2019 Alta Premier Account Intern, Lars Schilderink
“My time with Alta Genetics has provided me with greater experiences than I could have asked for. I feel very fortunate to have worked with the passionate and results-focused people of Alta, and I enjoyed witnessing the valuable relationships that they have with the dairies that they work with. The unique thing I found about this internship program is that it is designed to help the intern grow; it is not designed to simply hire an extra hand for the summer. The program’s flexibility caters to any level of intensity and responsibility that interns may wish to pursue!”

Lars Schilderink, California Polytechnic State University
2019 Alta Premier Account  Intern

Photo of Eva Doornink
“I love that Alta clearly follows their mission statement and I can see it being executed by each employee. Every Alta employee is valued and has access to numerous opportunities that allows them to grow individually. There is such high energy and success at Alta. I am very thankful and excited to be a part of it”

Eva Doornink, University of Minnesota
2019 Alta Global Marketing & Communications Intern

Image of Matthew Lansing, 2018 Alta ADVANTAGE Intern in the US Mountain West Team
“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. I also learned that people buy products and services from people through positive relationships. This was an experience of a lifetime.”

Matthew Lansing, Iowa State University
2018 Alta ADVANTAGE Intern and current Alta District Sales Manager

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The making of an Alta 4-EVENT COW

Meet cow 5677.

She lives on a 1500-cow dairy farm that partners with Alta Genetics and uses an Alta AI technician to handle all of the herd’s reproduction. On the dairy, she’s milked three times per day through a double-20 parallel parlor.

She’s fed a well-balanced ration, and when she’s not eating, spends her time comfortably resting in sand-bedded freestalls. 5677 is currently in her second lactation. And at Alta, she’s what we call a 4-event cow.

What is an Alta 4-EVENT COW?

If you look at any cow card in DairyComp or your herd management program, a 4-event cow has only four major events listed throughout her lactation:

  1. FRESH
  2. BRED
  3. CONFIRMED PREGNANT
  4. DRY
4-EVENT COW Circle Logo

In the case of 5677, this means she had a live calf with no troubles. She had no milk fever, ketosis, or retained placenta. No other metabolic issues slowed her down after calving, and by avoiding those issues, she did not incur treatment costs.

After the dairy’s 60-day voluntary wait period, 5677 was bred. Since BRED is only listed once on her cow card, we know it took only one unit of semen – meaning just one insemination for her to conceive.

She was later confirmed pregnant, noted as PREG on her cow card. This is only possible because she did not have early embryonic death loss or an abortion, and no other reproductive troubles.

The fourth, and final event of 5677’s lactation shows as DRY on her cow card. This means there were no other lingering issues throughout her lactation. She went about her business as usual, until time to be dried off in preparation for her next lactation.

What’s missing?

You might wonder what is missing from 5677’s cow card. Of course, maintenance events like pen moves, foot trims, vaccinations, and pregnancy re-checks also occur during a cow’s lactation.

But what’s really missing in a 4-event cow’s lactation are the setbacks – the costly, time-consuming issues that hinder overall herd profitability. A 4-event cow like 5677 does not get mastitis. She doesn’t become lame, and she does not abort her calf midway through the pregnancy. She avoids the sickness, infections and troubles that can cause major headaches for even the best dairy producers.

Make more like 5677

Cow 5677 is not only a 4-event cow. She’s a profitable cow. Consider the time and money you save, and peace of mind you gain, with 4-event cows. A herd full of cows like 5677 don’t require costly treatments, and don’t drop in milk production due to those health concerns.

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CONCEPT PLUS in the making of an Alta 4-EVENT COW

Remember cow 5677? At Alta, she’s what we call a 4-event cow. That means the management records on her individual cow card tell us she only experienced four events in her most recent lactation:

  1. FRESH – with a healthy calf and no metabolic issues
  2. BRED – serviced just one time, which means she got off to a health start after calving
  3. PREG – confirmed pregnant from a single service, and with no subsequent abortions
  4. DRY – dried off while healthy, and with no health problems throughout her lactation
Polaroid style image of Alta 4-EVENT COW #5677

How does Alta CONCEPT PLUS help make more 4-EVENT COWS?

Events 2 and 3, as listed above, both rely on several factors related to genetics and reproduction. One sure way to create more cows that will be confirmed pregnant after just one insemination is to use sires with the highly coveted, high fertility Alta CONCEPT PLUS rating.

Alta CONCEPT PLUS is the industry’s most accurate sire fertility evaluation, and it’s exclusive to Alta.

That means it’s the most reliable way for you to know the individual sire fertility for every Alta bull. It’s based on real pregnancy check results and accounts for all factors that can affect how well a bull creates pregnancies. And since the data only comes from the most progressive, large dairies like yours, you can have full confidence that Alta’s CONCEPT PLUS rated sires will help you create more pregnancies on your dairy.

Fewer services for more pregnancies!

If you’re using conventional semen in your breeding program, then the Alta bulls rated as CONCEPT PLUS high fertility sires will give you a 2%-5% conception rate advantage over an average conventional sire.

Concept Plus Logo

When sexed semen is part of your breeding strategy, then Alta’s 511 CONCEPT PLUS high fertility sexed bulls are the ones you’ll want to use, because they will help you achieve a 4%-9% conception rate advantage over any average sexed bull.

High Fertility SexedULTRA sires

Sire fertility = profit

Cow 5677 is not only an Alta 4-event cow. She’s a profitable cow. Whenever it takes just one service to create a pregnancy, you know your reproductive program is saving time and money and giving you peace of mind.

Using Alta’s high fertility CONCEPT PLUS sires improves your odds at creating a pregnancy on every service, on every cow. Regardless if you choose conventional and/or sexed semen as part of your breeding strategy, you can make the most of your genetic investment and create pregnancies with confidence.

When you use a group of Alta’s highest fertility CONCEPT PLUS conventional high fertility sires, or the highest fertility sexed Alta bulls, designated as 511 CONCEPT PLUS, you will create more Alta 4-event cows in your herd – just like 5677.

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Genetics in the making of an Alta 4-EVENT COW

One of the best ways to create more four-event cows for your future herd is to focus your genetic selection on health traits like Productive Life (PL).

When you work with your trusted Alta advisor to put enough emphasis on PL in your customized genetic plan and strategy, it doesn’t only mean that you’ll create more old cows. PL predicts which cows will be toughest, healthiest and easiest to manage.

How does a genetic plan relate to our Alta 4-event cow, 5677?

If you remember cow 5677, she is a second lactation cow living on a 1500-cow dairy – and she’s an Alta 4-event cow.

We also know that her sire is 11HO11499 AltaMEGLO. As of April 2019, AltaMEGLO’s PL value was +5.6. That means cow 5677 is expected to be productive in the herd for 5.6 months longer than her herdmates sired by a bull with a 0.0 PL value.

Polaroid style image of Alta 4-EVENT 5677 along with the 4-EVENT COW and Alta Genetic Plan and strategy logos

This actual measure of PL is not calculated until after a cow leaves the herd. However, we can look at other events in a herd’s management records to see if higher PL bulls like AltaMEGLO actually create healthier and more trouble-free cows.

Table 1 below breaks down the events within the herd where cow 5677 lives. It includes all animals with known Holstein sire ID’s. Based only on each animal’s parent average for Productive Life, this shows the real difference in the health events between cows with a pedigree for high PL, and cows with a pedigree for low PL.

This graph illustrates the real number of events, recorded on this farm’s herd management software program. Keep in mind, management is consistent throughout the herd, and no preferential treatment is provided for any given cow.

Graph comparing health events of high productive life cows versus low productive life cows

The table clearly shows the high PL cows had fewer issues after calving and throughout their entire lactation. High PL cows had fewer abortions, and fewer of them were coded as ‘do not breeds’ (DNB). The high PL cows also had fewer cases of mastitis, metritis, and other illness – all of the costly issues that cause headaches for dairy owners and managers. Because the high PL cows had fewer health problems, that also meant fewer of those cows were culled involuntarily.

Compare those results to cow 5677. We know that, because she’s an Alta 4-EVENT COW, she had none of those events. Her sire, AltaMEGLO is at +5.6 for sire PL – even higher than the average of the high PL group. It’s evident that aspect of her genetic makeup contributes to her status as an Alta 4-event cow with no health issues.

Customize your genetic plan & strategy to create more Alta 4-event cows

Consider how much smoother your days would go if you didn’t have any mastitis or metritis to deal with, and no IVs to give. A herd full of Alta 4-event cows like 5677 don’t require costly treatments, and they don’t drop in milk production due to those health concerns.

Any cow that has only the following four events in a lactation, is saving you time, money and headaches.

  1. FRESH – with a healthy calf and no metabolic issues
  2. BRED – serviced just one time, which means one unit of semen
  3. PREG – confirmed pregnant from a single service, and with no subsequent abortions
  4. DRY – dried off while healthy, and with no residual issues from throughout her lactation

 

Work with your trusted Alta advisor and select for Productive Life within your customized genetic plan. That way, you’ll be sure to create more 4-EVENT COWS like 5677 as future replacements for your herd.

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Stability will improve for fertility traits

With the August 2019 proof round comes a complete revision of the fertility evaluations. This means previous seasonal fluctuations in a bull’s value for Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) should now be a thing of the past.

This adjustment will also improve the stability of a bull’s values for Cow Conception Rate (CCR) and Heifer Conception Rate (HCR).

The simple, primary reason that DPR fluctuated from one proof to the next was that seasonal groupings used for the calculations were previously based on heifer breeding dates instead of cow breeding dates.

After correcting the seasonal groupings, CDCB reran the past four proof evaluations and saw a much more stable trend for all fertility traits. This means you can have confidence that the lingering instability should now be resolved.

This means you can trust that selection for DPR, CCR or HCR within your customized genetic plan will help you create more fertile, Alta 4-EVENT COWS.

What does that mean for this proof round?

With this August proof adjustment, the average industry values for DPR, CCR, and HCR did drop slightly. The table below outlines the overall average drop for these fertility traits in the Holstein and Jersey breeds.

Young genomic Holstein bullsDtr-proven Holstein bullsYoung genomic Jersey bullsDtr-proven Jersey bulls
Average DPR change from April to August 2019-0.6-0.3-0.30.0
Image of cows eating as feature image about trait stability for Daughter Pregnancy Rate and other fertility traits

For more information, and to see comparisons between previous and current fertility trait evaluations, find the full article on the CDCB website HERE.

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20 times in the making

The 2019 Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour marked a milestone as the 20th edition of the most progressive dairy management tour in the industry.

More than 250 guests from 21 different countries gathered together in Sioux Falls, South Dakota June 25-28, 2019. This was the first time ever that the Showcase Tour took place in the US Central Plains region, as guests toured Alta partner dairies in southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa, and eastern South Dakota.

Thank you to our host farms

We thank the following farms that opened their operations to share their progressive approaches to herd management throughout the three-day tour:

  • Ocheda Dairy | Worthington, MN
  • Boadwine Dairy | Baltic, SD
  • Van Ess Dairy and VanEss Heifer Farm | Sanborn, IA
  • City View Farms | Sutherland, IA
  • Drumgoon Dairy | Lake Norden, SD
  • Sunrise Dairy | Castlewood, SD

So much to learn!

From the owners and managers of these forward-thinking dairies, guests had the chance to discuss everything from converting to robotic milking systems and eliminating antibiotics, to manure management, nutrition, and parlors, to heifer management, breeding strategies, and Alta’s alignment with progressive dairies. Evenings included great conversation and friendly competitions for guests to meet and mingle with fellow dairy producers from around the world.

20 times in the making…

With the 20th tour now complete, here’s a peek back at a few impressive stats from those tours:

  • 20 Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tours
  • 13 years
  • More than 5000 total guests
  • 150 farms visited
  • ~400,000 cows represented at these host farms
  • 765 total Showcase Tour stations discussing a diverse array of management topics

Thank you for being a part of the 20th Showcase Tour experience!

Check out tour photos and videos below.

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What’s in a healthy cow?

Think about the healthiest cows in your herd. What defines them as your healthiest?

Is it their older age? Is it the fact they’ve never had mastitis? Or are they the ones that leave the fresh pen quickly after calving because they don’t have the lingering effects that come with milk fever, metritis, a retained placenta, ketosis or a DA?

We’re willing to bet that your healthiest cows are the ones you don’t even notice. They’re not on your radar because they simply go about their business, producing high-quality milk with no troubles to you or your team of employees.

We call those unnoticed cows, the four-event cows. If you look at a cow card on your herd management software program, you’ll recognize a four-event cow by the lack of items on her list. Throughout her lactation, she experiences only four events: 1-fresh; 2-bred; 3-confirmed pregnant; and 4-dry.

When those are the only four events in a cow’s lactation, chances are she’s profitable and healthy.

A healthy cow is the resulting sum of many parts: a solid nutrition program, exceptional transition and fresh cow care, proper milking procedures, comfortable housing – and the right genetics!

While genetics makes up only a small part of the full equation, it’s a real and measurable aspect of what’s in a healthy cow.

Healthy genetics?

In April of 2018, the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) released a new set of health traits. These traits are based on the database of recorded cases of common, costly health problems in dairy cattle. These six new traits measure the resistance that animals will have to each respective health and metabolic issue and are in place to help dairy producers breed a next generation of healthier cows.

They include mastitis, labeled as MAST, ketosis (KETO), retained placenta (RETP), metritis (METR), displaced abomasum (DA), and milk fever (MFEV).

Taking advantage of the new health traits in your genetic plan offers a great opportunity to create healthier cows. Most of these new traits are also correlated with Productive Life, so if you want the simplest approach to healthier genetics, Productive Life has you covered.

 Healthier genetics, plain and simple

For more than two decades, PL has told us how many more, or fewer, months a cow is expected to produce within any given herd. While cows are most often culled because of low production or poor fertility, those reasons typically trace back to more specific health issues in the cow’s life.

Selecting for PL or the new health traits within your genetic plan will help you address any specific health issues in your herd.

We know this from the DairyComp analyses we’ve done on many large, progressive herds. In the following example, we analyzed the a well-managed, 2400-cow dairy that does a great job at accurately recording health events. We compared the animals whose sires had the highest average PL against the animals whose sires had the lowest PL values.

No animals are given preferential treatment – they are all cared for with the same, high level management practices. With no other differences separating these animals except their sires’ PL values, we compared how many health events each group had. We looked specifically at cases of mastitis, ketosis, retained placentas, metritis, displaced abomasum, and milk fever.

As expected, Table 1 shows that the cows in the High PL group had far fewer cases for each health event.

Table 1# of cowsAvg. Sire PLMastitisKetosisRetained PlacentaMetritisDisplaced Abomasum
Low PL cows6071.325822323329
High PL cows6006.279316167
Difference4.917919161722

The economics of healthy genetics

We know these health events have a cost attached to each case, and CDCB has calculated those figures. The dollar value put on each case is modest – not accounting for lost production or decreased fertility. Their calculated values only measure the direct costs associated with each trait.

Let’s take those costs and apply them to our example herd. To do this, we multiplied the dollar value per health event by the difference in number of events between the low PL group and the high PL group. Table 2 shows the economic impact of Productive Life within a 2100-cow dairy.

Table 2MastitisKetosisRetained PlacentaMetritisDisplaced AbomasumMilk Fever
CDCB-calculated cost per health event$75 $28 $68 $112 $197 $34
Difference in health events based on sire PL1791916172212
Total cost in this herd$13,425 $532 $1,088 $1,904 $4,334 $408
=$21,691

This farm saves a total of $21,691 just because of the genetics in its healthy cows!

Want healthier cows? Genetics will help.

If you include Productive Life, or any of the six new health traits, within your customized genetic plan, you will create a next generation of unnoticed cows – the type that produce well and go about their business with few health troubles.

Environment, cow comfort and management practices all play a leading role in the health of your herd. Now you also see how genetics can positively impact both cow health and the economic health of your dairy.

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New in April 2019: Crossbred evaluations

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) will now release genomic evaluations for crossbred animals. In recent years, increased crossbreeding, paired with increased adoption of genomic testing in commercial environments, has led to the demand – and accessibility – to calculate genomic evaluations on crossbred animals.

What does this mean for you?

You can expect genetic value estimates for crossbred animals to be slightly less accurate than purebred estimates. CDCB will calculate crossbred genomic predictions as a weighted average of the respective single breed evaluations. This means that you’ll see improved accuracy for some crossbred animals already receiving evaluations. For example, animals that are about 85% Jersey and 15% Holstein, will have greater accuracy, because instead of being evaluated as only a Jersey, their Holstein proportion will now more accurately be accounted for within that animal’s evaluation.

Another result of this update is a slightly increased accuracy of purebred evaluations. This is because crossbred animals with a BBR of <=94% will not be included in individual breed evaluations.

The details

There are five main breeds of dairy cattle with genomic evaluations in the US: Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, and Guernsey.

Currently, BBR, which stands for Breed Base Representation, is an estimate of the percent of DNA contributed to that animal by each of these five breeds. Going forward, animals will be divided as follows:

  • BBR >= 94% will be defined as a purebred.
  • BBR >= 90% will still be evaluated with the breed of its highest BBR.
  • BBR < 90% will be evaluated in a blended group, and their predictions will be based on a weighted combination of marker effects from the different comprising breeds.

If an animal has a BBR < 90%, CDCB will most often label that animal as the breed of its highest BBR. The exception to this is first generation crossbreds with a BBR of the highest breed less than 55%.

Some traits are only evaluated within certain breeds or are difficult to compare across breeds. Because of that, crossbred animals will have type traits, calving traits (Holstein and Brown Swiss only), and health traits (Holstein only) from one breed only – they will not be blended.

There will also be no haplotypes released for the crossbred animals at the April 2019 release.

Keep this in mind…

If you implement crossbreeding as part of your genetic strategy, these new crossbred evaluations are big news. This update will provide you with more accurate information to make better decisions, regardless of your herd’s breed composition.

Want to learn more?

Check out the webinar addressing the new crossbred evaluations from CDCB.

 

Published in partnership with Ashley Mikshowsky and Doug Bjelland, PEAK Geneticists

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