The platitudes are plentiful—“the bull is half your herd” for example—and the majority of population geneticists basically see cows as unknown ciphers, expecting all herd improvement to come from sires selected for herd mating. Thus they promote “composite ranking indexes” to identify the “best” bull to use, no matter the cows being mated. Of course, the higher the ranking, the higher the price.
Herd improvement is half “selection” and half “mating”.
In spite of the population genetics view, your cows are not ciphers—they are individual bundles of genes as well as accumulations of mitochondrial capability. If the bull is half the herd, your cows are clearly the other half, and have equal impact on the results from sire selection.
Thus the development of “mating programs”, including the aAa “breeding guide”. While evaluation data on AI sires indicates their average performance to date against contemporaries, it cannot answer the question—Will I get an average, a better, or a worse daughter of this bull? The aAa Breeding Guide is designed to address that question, knowing you can only breed a cow to one bull at a time. Average results across the population (such as the theory of group success from Genomics) do not determine our specific results from how we choose to breed old Bessie or her young daughter Bertha.
An example of the use of “aAa” concepts without analyzing your cows
The dominant sire influence in today’s commercial Holstein herd is O-Bee Manfred Justice, popularly known as O Man. If he had arrived ten years earlier, before the use of health and fertility traits for sire rankings, he would likely have been culled on his minus type data, especially for udder traits. But he arrived after the Net Merit index was recalculated to emphasize “fitness” traits and that saved him.
“O Man” under the “aAa” system is a source of Strong (4) front ends, Open (3) skeletal structure and Smooth (5) udder and body conformation. On cows who needed this, he produced long lasting cows who milked well, bred back easy, and last long enough to produce replacements. On cows who don’t need this, he produced cows with deep, meaty udders and short legs, not as milky and easily culled.
If you have a lot of “O Man” influence you start looking for bulls who can add Dairy (1) to front end and rib structure, Tall (2) for softer udder texture, higher rear udders and more stature, and Style (6) to blend the skeletal structures together and keep the hind legs squarely under the body. Checking out Holstein USA “Red Book Plus” sire data, it seems there are very few such bulls currently active in all the commercial AI systems! (O-Man is an even bigger influence on AI sires than on our cow herds.)
We offer four of the twelve active evaluated AI Holstein sires offering 1-2-6 aAa characteristics.
One has been in our lineup a long time, and many of you already milk his daughters. The other three are more recent, and I want to bring them to your attention, even though they cost a bit more Thus I have a comparison chart on the following page to explain my thinking.
Note that of the four, 6HO1159 Regancrest Mac Bence is in fact the #1 sire for TPI at 1945, while the #2 sire for TPI at 1854 is 203HO 376 Probstland Ernesto. Meanwhile, the #1 Type sire in this aAa group is the newest entry, 566HO1192 Mr Apple Jack Red. So on various rankings, these three are a pretty elite group (not as obvious when all you look at are the unsorted ranking lists).
Comparison: four sires, with same “aAa” qualities, but different trait patterns
Who is the best buy for your herd?
Overall Type Udders Feet & Legs Milk volume Holstein TPI
Apple Jack +2.97 Bence +2.74 Apple Jack +2.29 Bence +698 Bence 1945
Bence +2.31 Apple Jack +2.56 Bence +1.95 Ernesto +446 Ernesto 1854
Ernesto +2.14 Ernesto +2.19 Ernesto +1.53 Popular -215 Apple Jack 1599
Popular +1.06 Popular +0.96 Popular +0.63 Apple Jack -675 Popular 1463
Productive Life Dtr Preg Rate Somatic Cell Calving ease Mat Stillbirths $NM rank
Popular +3.3 Popular +1.6 Bence 2.79 Ernesto 5.6% Popular 7.1% Bence $386
Bence +2.4 Bence +1.1 Popular 2.85 Popular 7.0% Bence 7.4% Ernesto $314
Ernesto +0.6 Ernesto -0.3 Ernesto 2.89 Bence 8.8% Ernesto 8.5% Popular $ 78
Apple Jack -1.1 Apple Jack -2.0 Apple Jack 2.95 App Jack 10.5% App Jack 9.1% App Jack $ 12
%butterfat Bfat volume %protein Protein volume Lethal Recessives
Apple Jack 0.20% Bence +30 Ernesto 0.08% Ernesto +33 Bence (none)
Bence 0.02% App Jack +26 AppJack 0.08% Bence +15 Ernesto (none)
Ernesto 0.02% Ernesto +22 Bence -0.02% App Jack + 0 Popular HH2C*
Popular -0.04% Popular -18 Popular -0.04% Popular - 17 Apple Jack CVM*
Summary of how these four rank against each other:
Bence #1 (6) #2 (7) #3 (2) #4 (0) My overall #1 pick for breeding cows needing 1-2-6
Ernesto #1 (3) #2 (3) #3 (9) #4 (0) My overall #1 pick for heifer calving ease and 1-2-6
App Jack #1 (3) #2 (3) #3 (2) #4 (7) A specialty type bull for Red & White show herds
Popular #1 (3) #2 (2) #3 (2) #4 (8) Not as good as the other three for too many traits
Comparing them on price: I am assuming five straws gives you a live heifer calf on the average
Bence (List $28) our price $14 Investment per heifer calf: $70 add raising costs $ 1530
Ernesto (List $20) our price $12 Investment per heifer calf: $60 add raising costs $ 1520
App Jack(List $30) our price $18 Investment per heifer calf: $90 add raising costs $ 1550
Popular (List $14) our price $ 9 Investment per heifer calf: $45 add raising costs $ 1505
BREEDING IS AN INVESTMENT, NOT JUST AN EXPENSE.
The dairymen who are losing the most money on their breeding programs are those who treat semen as if it was a commodity and demand the lowest price possible. AI studs respond by selling their lowest total value sires. In our program, the difference between our best sires and our cheapest sires may only add $25 per fresh heifer to your future herd investment. However, gains in productivity will recover that investment the first week she milks—while the incremental value of that cow as a dam of future replacements (the “mitochondrial” effect) is infinitely greater.
Two of these bulls (Apple Jack Red *CV and Popular *HH2) carry lethal recessives:
CVM* more stillborn, deformed calves if you have carriers from Elton, Convincer, Durham, etc
HH2C* more repeats due to failed conception if you have carriers from the Comestar Laurie line.
By contrast, neither “Bence” nor “Ernesto” (relatively outcross bulls) carry any known lethals.
BREEDING SELECTION AS A “FUTURES” INVESTMENT
Look across your pens of heifer calves, of yearlings to breed, of springers to calve. The decision to make them better than their dams (your current milking herd) was made last year or the years before. How much thought and effort went into making them better?
As commodity producers (commercial milk, non-specialty beef) profits flow to the least cost producer. This is why, in recent years, the emphasis in dairy genetics shifted from a single-trait focus on “milk” to a multi trait focus including calving ease, fertility, cell counts, and longevity.
As dairy managers, there is also a trend toward increased interest in breeding programs that help to produce more uniform, more physically adaptable replacements. It doesn’t just matter which bulls you use, it matters when (on which cows) you use them.
Our program is in step with these two trends. Inside is a description of how to use it to gain the most in every new heifer you raise.