In 1949, after ten years of breeding purebred cattle in five dairy and two beef breeds, the CURTiSS Candy Company Farms introduced their “Improved Stud Service”. (The late Charles Palen joined this organization in 1952.) By 1965, they represented over half the total growth of the entire AI industry, and were breeding over a million cows annually.
The CURTiSS program joined ABS as the only “private enterprise” studs, all others being regional and state cooperatives often organized by University dairy extension. ABS advertised “Every Sire Proved Great” on the basis of [mostly single herd] daughter vs dam evaluations for production, and at that time generally ignored type or pedigree. CURTiSS focused on “Cow Families” and promoted “balance” of production and type as the “Complete Cow”. Both ABS and most of the State Cooperatives ridiculed CURTiSS as selling mostly young sires (the sons of their most prominent breeding cows and herd sires).
They also ridiculed planned mating (basic “pool” service was $7, but a “select” mating was $25, where the dairyman pre-arranged to have the bull of his choice available for his best cow) claiming that every bull in their programs was equally as good as any other, just take what the inseminator had that day and be satisfied.
How CURTiSS and “the Complete Cow” concept changed the industry
CURTiSS was the first AI stud to have all its sires analyzed by the equally new Weeks’ Analysis (“aAa” Breeding Guide) and to promote it to its customers as the way to make the best use of well-bred AI sires.
Even after the CURTiSS Candy Farms’ breeding herds were sold in 1954, the program grew by sourcing bulls from prominent breeders (eg, Gray View, Skokie, Paclamar, Walkway, Arlinda) who used “aAa”.
The “Complete Cow” concept could be summarized this way:
(1) Select from bulls where deep pedigree maternal line cows are mated to complementary sires.
(2) Use those bulls in your herd according to their best application under “aAa” or self-taught mating.
(3) No matter how promising as young sires, CURTiSS only kept as “proven” sires those whose type and production evaluations indicated usefulness in some key area of selection.
(4) Breed ¾ of the herd to progeny “proven” sires, breed ¼ of the herd to the next young sires.
Sound familiar today? The only difference between CURTiSS and the most modern of AI systems today is in terminology [AI stud “MOET” herds producing bulls] [Genomic young sires for open sampling] –
But the one key difference is CURTiSS never bought into “index ranking” of sires, as the only measure of genetic “value”-- broad experience taught CURTiSS guys there is no “perfect” bull.
How CURTiSS proved that traditional breeding and science work better together
The two Holstein bulls that did more to establish momentum for CURTiSS in their early, fresh semen days (prior to 1960) were Curtiss Candy Invincible (born 1949) and Pabst Sir Roburke Rag Apple (born 1947). Invincible was a CURTiSS Farms young sire first available late in 1950, while Roburke (sold as a calf from Pabst-Knutson Farm unit to Mooseheart Farms) was sold to CURTiSS in 1953 after being proven. The “magic cross” proved to be using one of these sires on the daughters of the other, and by the late 1950s into the early 1960s, these two dominated Holstein USA’s “Honor List” and were recognized as the leading sire of 100,000 pound cows (Roburke) and 200,000 pound cows (Invincible).
The components of selection and mating that made this successful
Roburke was a leading production sire of his era, +870m +.02% +29f , and earned a Gold Medal for also siring improved type +1.05. “aAa” called him SRS – today he would be 3-1-5 (Open + Dairy + Smooth) which basically means dairy capacity and refinement of bone with width of body. Weight at maturity was 2400 pounds, scored “Excellent”, most other AI studs sought his sons for their programs.
Invincible was a successful showring yearling and ended up +89m +.05% +6f with basically breakeven type ratings +0.05. “aAa” called him RSR – today he would be 2-4-6 (Tall + Strong + Style) which basically means upstanding and growthy with full chest, good bone and easy mobility. Weight 3000 pounds at maturity, the longest bodied bull of his time, scored “Excellent” all his life.
Both bulls were the result of judicious linebreeding, but each from a different bloodline than the other.
Roburke was a double grandson of Wisconsin Admiral Burke Lad who founded the “Burke” bloodline in Holsteins that was noted for moderate size, early maturing cows with modern shapely udders. Today we have “Burke” influence through descendants of Elevation and Bell.
Invincible had three close crosses to Dunloggin Woodmaster and his dam and two grandams were the three most influential cows CURTiSS bought at the Dunloggin dispersal in 1942. “Dunloggin” cows were rarely fancy in the udder (but good udder texture) but were the lifetime champions of their era.
Thus-- when dairymen bred Roburkes to Invincible or Invincibles to Roburke, they were making an “outcross” hybrid vigor mating between two unrelated but individually linebred sires. They were also making a “balanced” mating according to “aAa” concepts of physical compensation and adaptability. On the genetic selection level, you had a competitive young age production sire crossed against a size and maturity production sire. The result: (1st) competitive production at any age, with (2nd) added ability to remain competitive into old age.
Can we do this today?
We have much confusion today over the difference between “linebreeding” and “inbreeding” and what must be done to avoid “inbreeding depression”. What the above teaches us is, first, a linebred bull can be an asset to breeding; also, it teaches us that outcross combinations of linebred bulls produce our best performing animals which the histories of Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation (inbred Burke sire x linebred Rag Apple dam) and his grandsires Wis Burke Ideal (linebred Burke x Admiral outcross) and Osborndale Ivanhoe (linebred Rag Apple x inbred Ormsby) should have informed us as well.
Use of the “aAa” Breeding Guide (following Weeks’ Analysis of your cows) prevents inbreeding effects as a result of guiding you away from matings involving similar genotypes. At the same time it focuses on the qualities of the physical cow that in combination maximize production while optimizing health.
Perhaps the best example of a modern day linebred bull is the late Picston Shottle (EX) who is a double grandson of Hanoverhill Starbuck who was linebred to Wis Burke Ideal and Osborndale Ivanhoe. The other influences in “Shottle” were breed outcrosses, for example multiple crosses to Roybrook Telstar. His ability to produce hybrid vigor in the modern population is reflected by his long life—16 years.