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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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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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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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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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