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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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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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December 2019 Sire Lists

We’ve got the genetics to meet your needs and create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS in your herd.

Here’s your one-stop-shop for the specialty sire lists you need – in printer-friendly formats. Find Holstein and Jersey versions of A2A2, polled, robot-suited and kappa casein sires, as well as a printable proof sheet.

There is also a listing of our Holstein milking speed ratings, the 100% RHA registry status sires, and a listing of all Zoetis wellness traits on all Alta Holstein sires.

We want to help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS in your herd. So whether these criteria or other traits match your current situation and future goals, work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan. You can do that by using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.

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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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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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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 trait from CDCB: Early First Calving

As part of April 2019 the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) is releasing a newly evaluated trait: Early First Calving (EFC).

Because genetics and management both play a role in heifer development, having the ability to select for animals that calve in earlier can help increase your herd’s profitability.

Heifer rearing accounts for 15-20% of the total cost of milk production. This includes feed, housing, labor, and health care costs. Raising a heifer can cost an estimated $2.50 a day to raise a heifer. So decreasing the age at first calving can add up to substantial savings. Another factor to consider is how the age at first calving affects the heifer’s income after she joins the milking herd.

Early First Calving will be expressed as age in days at first calving.

Animals expected to transmit genetics that decrease the age at first calving will have a positive EFC value, because calving younger is seen as more beneficial. Animals transmitting genetics that increase the age at first calving will have a negative EFC value, because calving at an older age is less beneficial.

If you’re looking to select for EFC as part of your genetic plan, here’s what you’ll see. A bull with a PTA of +2 days for EFC has genetics estimated to reduce his daughter’s age at first calving by two days compared to a bull with a PTA of 0 for EFC. The heritability of EFC is low, at 2.3%. The average reliability for young genotyped Holsteins is about 66% and for Jereys, it’s about 51%.

As with the release of any new trait, it’s important to keep your herd’s current situation and future goals in mind. Ask yourself how you’re paid for milk, why cows leave your herd, and what type of cows fit your environment in order to emphasize only the traits that will most affect your farm’s bottom line.

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Justin Jedlicka promoted to North Central Sales Team Leader

Photo of Justin Jedlicka, USA North Central Sales Team Leader

Beginning January 1, 2019, Justin Jedlicka took on the role as the new US North Central Sales Team Leader, overseeing Alta’s core business throughout the upper Midwest states.

Justin brings more than nine years of experience working with Alta. He began as a District Sales Manager in Colorado, where he grew business and developed relationships with key accounts throughout the state. There he also earned the title of Elite Account Manager by completing Alta’s highest, most rigorous consultative training series.

In 2014, Justin returned to his home state of Iowa with his family, and has been a key member of the North Central team since then. He has continued to grow professionally as a regional Premier Account Manager with responsibilities for large accounts throughout Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota.

Alta US Sales Manager, Kirk Vander Dussen says, “Justin’s straight forward personality will serve him well managing the biggest team in the USA. I look forward to his strategic input on working with new and existing clients throughout the team.”

Justin adds, “The thing I’m most excited about in my new role is supporting an experienced, passionate team to be the preferred choice among progressive, aggressive dairy farms.”

Justin, his wife Megan, and their 3 children live in McCallsburg, Iowa where they enjoy Iowa State games and wrestling!

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Jersey generation counts and breed purity

Breed purity is a hot topic for Jerseys.

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

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

The American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) board of directors developed some visual cues within an animal’s registered name to eliminate confusion on Jersey breed purity.

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

Generation Count (GC)

Generation Count shows breed purity by telling how many generations an animal is removed from other breed ancestry. An animal’s name will include a suffix enclosed in brackets {  }. The number within the brackets tells us the number of AJCA-recoded ancestry, from 1-6.

A GC of 1 means the animal is one generation removed from an unknown or non-Jersey in the pedigree. A GC of 6 means the animal is six generations removed from an unknown or non-Jersey animal. The brackets telling the generation count are dropped when seven or more generations of ancestors are recorded by the AJCA.

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

JX Prefix

In addition to the number within the brackets, a JX prefix is also found on the majority of the pedigrees that contain a generation count. The JX prefix indicates that there is unknown dairy (most commonly Holstein) parentage in the pedigree. The GC then tells us how far back in the pedigree the unknown dairy breed can be found.

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

Breed Base Representation (BBR)

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

Males will be published on one of two reports.

Males on the main list include those who:

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

Males on the secondary list include those with a:

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

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

Bull page image of AltaBAYNES

AltaBAYNES {3}

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

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

Bull page image of AltaMONTRA

AltaMONTRA {6}

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

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

Bull page image of AltaCHIVE

AltaCHIVE

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

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

At Alta, we are committed to providing you with the most reliable genetics available. In order to fulfill this promise, we offer a diversified Jersey product lineup focusing on the traits that are most profitable to your bottom line.

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

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

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What’s a fertility leader?

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

PEOPLE

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

PROCESSES

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

PROGRAMS

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

You can trust CONCEPT PLUS.

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

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Haplotype & genomic reliability updates

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

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

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

Gene test advancements

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

Upgraded genomic reliability

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

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

What does this mean for you?

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

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

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A2: genetic fad or future?

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

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

What is A2 milk?

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

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

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

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

Isn’t A2 milk for people with lactose intolerance?

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

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

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

How do you get cows that produce A2 milk?

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

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

How do you know if your animals are A2?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you have to lose by selecting A2A2 sires?

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

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

Should you select for A2 in your breeding program?

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

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

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

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Unlock your team’s potential through Dairy Manager School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Introducing the All-New Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Koepon and CRI combine to form URUS

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Create more pregnancies with precision fertility management

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

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

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

Bullseye icon to stand for precision fertility management

What’s new with CONCEPT PLUS?

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

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

Full-size version of the new 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo

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

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

Can a bull be CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS?

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

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

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

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

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

How often does Alta evaluate sire fertility?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Can you really trust dairy genomics?

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

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

What did we learn about genomics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s dig deeper into genomic proof stability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your genetic options today?

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

AUGUST 2018 Top daughter-proven sires

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

AUGUST 2018 Top genomic-proven sires

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

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

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

With your genetic choices, keep these points mind:

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

 

 Proof analysis and graphs provided by Ashley Mikshowsky, PEAK Geneticist

For a PDF of this article please Click HERE.

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Alta staff honored for their AI industry service

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

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

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

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

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

30 years

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

20 years

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

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

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Haplotypes vs. genetic mutations

With August proofs, we saw a new and unique situation with two Alta sires: newly released sexed-only 11HO12240 AltaMILESTONE and G-STAR sire, 11HO11740 AltaFACET.

AltaMILESTONE’s initial genomic test told us he was free from the HH5 haplotype. However, the more extensive gene test for the causative mutation told us he is, in fact, an HH5-carrier. Similarly, AltaFACET was initially coded as free from the HH3 haplotype, but a later gene test revealed he is an HH3-carrier.

Traditionally, haplotypes are identified when animals have the same extended sequence of about 100 SNPs. Because we know there is more to this than the currently identified haplotypes, researchers are working to identify the exact causative mutations that cause early embryonic death1,2. This causative mutation is located in between two of the 100 SNPs used in the haplotype identification, but prior to finding the true causative mutation the exact location was unknown.

Over time, crossover events that occur in the DNA during sperm and egg creation can breakup and reassemble parts of an animal’s genome. That’s why we often see so much diversity in the progeny from a single mating pair.

These crossover events can also breakup that sequence of the 100 SNPs that we traditionally use to identify the haplotypes. If this happens, an animal could still have the causative mutation, but only have 40 of the 100 SNPs that would identify them as a haplotype carrier.

As researchers continue to identify the causative mutations for negative haplotypes, the specific gene tests will eventually replace the current haplotype tests used by the CDCB.

Although crossover events frequently happen in gamete formation, this process rarely occurs within the lethal haplotypes. In fact, these are the first instances of inconsistent haplotype results for Alta marketed sires.

For full disclosure, it’s important to remember that AltaMILESTONE (HH5) and AltaFACET (HH3) both have the causative mutation for their respective haplotypes and will therefore be labeled as carriers on Alta’s proof materials and website.

 

1Shutz et al. 2016. The Holstein Friesian Lethal Haplotype 5 (HH5) Results from a Complete Deletion of TBF1M and Cholesterol Deficiency (CDH) from an ERV-(LTR) Insertion into the Coding Region of APOB. PLoS ONE 11:e0154602.

2McClure et al. 2014. Bovine Exome Sequence Analysis and Targeted SNP Genotyping of Recessive Fertility Defects BH1, HH2, and HH3 Reveal a Putative Causative Mutation in SMC2 for HH3. PLoS One 9(3):e92769.

 

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