Wednesday, June 21, 2017

After a couple generations of Genomic selection, 55% of the market continues to value “progeny evaluated” high reliability% sires.

This is worth thinking about when you are being pressured to turn 100% of your breeding over to one AI stud and its computer mating specialists.    There are some competitive alternatives that keep you in control of your breeding program.

Genetic selection is a powerful tool IF you focus selection on real needs in your herd, not the various “one size fits all” assumptions that have turned genetics into another commodity you buy at the lowest bid price.    Why are so many dairymen unwilling to pay more than a token price for AI breeding?    Because they are not seeing results they can measure in anything beyond the mediocre lifetime production, high health costs and   expensive reproduction of the average commercial dairy cow.

In earlier days, expansion dairymen used to say “you can’t milk a registration paper”.   Today, many dairymen are starting to also say “you can’t milk an index rank on paper”.
If your goal is to breed “real cows” from the cows you have, CALL US.

Mich Livestock Service, Inc    ph (800) 359-1693    “the Complete Cow program”

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Are you getting what you want when you mate cows on “index rank”?

From the November December 2015 Dairy Route Letter

Since the introduction of Genomic testing, most AI systems have geared up their selling of linear mating to capture all your business, utilizing Genomic sires whenever possible so that their averages can appear better against competing sales efforts.

Only one new (of many old) problems with this—not only has University research continually proven that linear-based mating adds no value, the data on how Genomic ranked sires perform once daughters are milking in your herd indicates that while the “index” rank averages out, the performance on many desirable traits does not.    Thus, if you are buying into an “index ranking” mating service, you could easily go backwards from the resulting heifers it produces.     Here is why this can happen:

Example:   Lifetime Net Merit
The formula for this index has changed dramatically through its time, given its first format was simply 70% Milk (lbs) + 30% Fat (lbs)—a “single trait selection” approach that set commercial dairymen up for decades of “inbreeding depression” (loss of fertility and longevity).    The latest version of $NM is still heavy of “health and fertility” and is calculated this way:
Butterfat (lbs) 22% + Protein (lbs) 20% + Productive Life (mo’s) 19% + Udder Composite 8% + SCS* 7%  + DPR 7% + Body Size* 5% + Calving Ease 5% + Foot & Leg Composite 3% + Milk (lbs)* 1% + HCR 2% + CCR 1%.    [Traits marked * are preferred negatively]

In other words, it is possible to go multiple generations in Net Merit rankings and never use a sire who improves milk volume (this relates to how multiple component pricing determines our pay prices).    It is also possible, and perhaps more long-term detrimental, to never use a sire with normal cow size.

Dr David Kendall, Geneticist for ST Genetics, is suggesting (and we agree) that dairymen should use their own personal “index” based upon their current weak points in genetic traits, rather than pay extra for any sire just because he ranks highly (today) on any “one size fits all” index.     Simple is better.

Examples of the “Kendall approach” that fit real-world herd situations

Your herd averages 90 pounds per day (on 3x milking which is supposed to improve udder health).   In spite of that, your SCC is costing you quality premiums.   It takes 4 straws per cow to get pregnancies so calving intervals are stretched out past 400 days.    Milk price is low due to low bf% and lower pr%.

The selection traits to focus on are:

SCS – 3.00 is average, so seek out bulls well below 3.00 and you will see lower SCS in new heifers.
DPR-- +0.0 is average, but DPR runs counter to PTA Milk yield, so seek out bulls better than average
(-1.00 above +1500m) (-0.25 above 1000m) (0.50 above 500m) (1.25 below 500m) to gain fertility.
bf% and pr% -- cows in a negative energy state will convert protein to energy in the rumen trying to meet body demands.    PTA pr% should be emphasized whenever you see cows below 3.0% (HO) to 3.3% (JE) in early months of lactation.    PTA bf% should be emphasized on any cows below 3.6% (HO) to 4.4% (JE) as these levels are below the averages of the Federal Milk Order for components.

You will find that cows with higher test% (pr and bf) have less trouble with negative energy and thus will also have shorter calving intervals than higher yield, lower test% cows.              
Looking beyond index rank to the “numbers” undertneath

To keep this fair, I am only going to use Genomic sires we offer (from International Protein Sires and ST Genetics) to do these comparisons.

EXAMPLE:                         2371 GTPI  vs  2370 GTPI            (both $ 18.00)

566HO1217 Synergy PULASKI                            54HO 754 Mr Sunview Coin SUNFISH *RC

                    2371 G-TPI     (aAa 351426)                                 2370 G-TPI       (aAa 231456)
PTA Milk:  + 523                                                     PTA Milk:  +1834                 (1311 pounds more)
PTA Fat + Protein:  +105                                         PTA Fat + Protein:   +109     (essentially equal)
SCS   2.81                                                                SCS  2.75                               (both look good)
Udder Composite  + 1.43                                         Udder Composite  + 1.72      (statistically better)
Foot & leg Comp   - 0.07                                         Foot & Leg Comp + 0.84      (clearly better)

While both of these are from deep pedigreed cow lines, there have been more successful AI sires from cows behind “Sunfish *RC” than so far behind “Pulaski”.    Our choice to stock for your use remains “Sunfish *RC” given more people want high milk gains with equal high dollar value protein gains and understand that heifers who milk like that take one more cycle to breed back (- 1.1 DPR) but cow family longevity (at lower SCS) suggests these will be fertile cows over the long haul.

EXAMPLE:                    $798 G-Net Merit  vs  $723 PE-Net Merit 

151HO 696 Mr Shot DOZER 1491                      552HO2451 De-Su RANSOM

                 $798 G-NM      (aAa 423156)                                   $723 PE-NM        (aAa 342165)
PTA Milk:  +1452                                                   PTA Milk:  + 365                  (1087 pounds less)
PTA Fat:       -.02%  + 49                                        PTA Fat:       +.14%  + 50    (higher bf test %)
PTA Protein:+.01%  + 48                                       PTA Protein: +.08%  + 34     (higher pr test %)
DPR:          + 2.9                                                     DPR:           + 2.9                   (possibly equal?)
PL:             + 9.3      (breed elite)                           PL:              + 8.6                   (insignificant diff)
SCS             2.59                                                    SCS              2.80                   (both promising)
+1.52 Type  +1.65 UDC  +1.01 FLC                     +1.32 Type  +1.05 UDC  +2.20 FLC
calving ease  6.7%                                                  calving ease  5.5%                 (better or real calves)

What is the key difference between these two?    Progeny data on “Ransom”.   Two areas in which Genomics has not been too successful: (1) predicting calving ease, (2) assuming high milk bulls can still be really good on DPR (daughter pregnancy rate).     Exceptional FLC on “Ransom”.    Genomic type is based on a more limited set of markers; the trend is for type data to be lower in reality than in the theoretical G-based world.      The promising Genomic sire is higher for $NM, but the progeny data coming in on “Ransom” indicates he is a well-rounded improver, his $NM not as biased by assumptions in the index model for specific traits.



The calculation systems favor the newest “Genomic” bulls over the older “High Reliability %” bulls with extensive progeny data.     Have reasons beyond just “index” for any Genomic sires you use.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Linebreeding -- when it works: Inbreeding -- when it fails

What determines success or failure?     Since Genomics were introduced, we should have reset our thinking on “inbreeding effects” away from pedigree and point it where it comes from – gene possession.

Animals can appear unrelated and possess many genes in common: animals can appear closely related and yet not possess as many genes in common.    Thus predicting physical characteristics and functionality of the physique from pedigree alone has always been an inexact exercise, that has proven elusive as well under linear trait mating.

Identifying the physical genotype (which is not the same as linking a few gene markers to linear traits) to date has not been a focus of much scientific exploration.   But it has been the 65 year focus of “aAa” breeding guide and has contributed to the success of linebreeding as well as the avoidance of inbreeding effects as sire pedigree relationships continue to increase.

Mich Livestock Service, Inc  “For the Best in Bulls”   ph (800) 359-1693  Ovid, MI

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

When does “linebreeding” turn into “inbreeding” ?

From the September October 2015 Dairy Route Letter

Linebreeding  has provided us some of the most consistent milk genetics in every dairy breed. 

Historical examples would include Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief (Holstein), Observer Chocolate Soldier (Jersey) and Selwood Bettys Commander (Ayrshire), all of whom advanced their breed production with help from the technology of frozen semen and distributive power of AI, creating new sire lines.    The greatest example before AI could be Sybils Gamboge (Jersey), whose four years of natural service, in only six herds after he was imported in 1919 set a new production benchmark and produced a bloodline that lasted 60 years.   This bull had 14 of 16 ancestors in his fourth generation either sons or daughters of one cow, Oxford Lass.     (This differs from the linebreeding that produced the “Rag Apple” bloodline, also successful for 60 years in Holsteins, but the original source bull Johanna Rag Apple Pabst was not himself linebred.    He was an outcross to the cows originally served by him.   Likewise, most of the best Brown Swiss are linebred to Jane of Vernon, also an outcross to the sires with whom she was mated.)

The mark of a successfully linebred bull (or cow) is a predictable pattern in his progeny for the physical traits.   Improved production is a by-product of improved physiques; consistency in this improvement is the goal in animals selected for linebreeding propogation.    When consistency is overlooked (as it could be when genetic evaluations only consider the comparative averages of progeny results) the linebreeding effect can quickly turn into inbreeding depression instead of the desired homozygous gene possession.

Linebred sires are desirable for outcrossing because we assume them to have fewer genes in common with our cows.    In the earlier days of AI, most sires were linebred; a dairyman using AI could combine these bloodlines and get a heterosis response (hybrid vigor).     The same concept drives crossbreeding, except we have to remember that the hybrid vigor runs out in three generations.    

Back to inbreeding:  all inbred animals do not express inbreeding depression.    An example might be Tidy Burke Elevation, result of breeding a cow to her own sire, who was already closely linebred.    He survived a crippling injury for eight years, including a truck ride as a mature bull from Kansas to Ohio when he entered AI service at NOBA, producing semen that bred Round Oak Ivanhoe Eve in Virginia, producing Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation who today has the highest frequency in Holstein pedigrees.
“Elevation” reflected the heterosis of inbred “Burke” sire mated to linebred “Rag Apple” dam.

“Elevation” also represented the “aAa effect” on the physique of using a “round” weight sire on a “sharp” weight cow.    “Elevation” weighed 2600 pounds at maturity, scored 96 points, and lived 15 years.    In his generation this translated to +3.00 Type and +1500 Milk maintaining both bf% and pr%
while in descendent generations we know him to transmit good DPR and Productive Life genes.

Linebreeding can accentuate the bad as well as the good..

Braedale Goldwyn (Semex) was a high profile sire of his generation, used extensively for AI sons and in the cow lines for many high Genomic value youngsters today, with a parallel reputation for siring “show type” heifers that develop into “Excellent” cows (he has the most EX daughters of any Canadian bull).
 He was described by “aAa” as 2-4-3-1-6-5 (Tall + Strong + Open).     His daughters are highly angular (called “dairy” in linear trait terminology) and his better daughters came from cows with some width of body, spring of rib and substance of bone.   You see these “Goldwyn” tendencies in his son “Atwood”.
“Goldwyn” lived eight years (2000-2008) and was unable to mount the last year of that life, semen was always limited supply.   He had a high-strung temperament and was difficult to handle.   He also has the  reputation for siring nervous cows that die easily and suddenly (not alone among bulls from the “Gypsy Grand” cow line).    Physically tall in front end, narrow chest, slabby rib, shallow flank, curved rear legs, bad thurl position:  (in that sense, an exaggeration of his sire’s tall but stiff physique)

                                                                                                                        Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief
                                                                              Walkway Chief Mark        
                                                                                                                        Walkway Matt Mamie
                           Mark CJ Gillbrook Grand                                                    (No Na Me Fond Matt)                                             
                                                                                           S W D Valiant
                                                           Welcome Valiant Gingersnap
Sire:                                                                                                                 Welcome Jupiter Gala
Shoremar James                                                                                              (Bis May Astro Jupiter) 

                                                                                                                        Hanoverhill Starbuck
                                                                               Madawaska Aerostar
                                                                                                                        Madawaska Shady
                                                                                                                        (Clinton Camp Majesty)
                            Stelbro Jennie Aerostar                                                         
                                                                                                                        Hanoverhill Inspiration
8 crosses to “Ivanhoe”                                           Stelbro Joanne Inspiration
7 crosses to “Arlinda Chief”                                                                           Stelbro Ester Jeanne
   *(3 thru “Chief Mark”)                                                                               (Puget Sound Sheik ??)
   *(4 thru “Valiant”, sire of “Inspiration”)
7 crosses to “Elevation”
4 crosses to “Fond Matt”                                                                               Hanoverhill Starbuck
4 crosses to “Astronaut”                                       Madawaska Aerostar
                                                                                                                        Madawaska Shady
                                                                                                                        (Clinton Camp Majesty) 
                             Maughlin Storm *BRF
                                                                                                                        Hanoverhill Inspiration
                                                                               Wykholme Dewdrop Tacy
                                                                                                                        Wykholme Dewdrop Gail
Dam:                                                                                                                (Fairlea Royal Mark)
Braedale Baler Twine       
 VG 86 – 2yrs                                                                                                  Walkway Chief Mark
                                                                              Mark CJ Gillbrook Grand
                                                                                                                Welcome Valiant Gingersnap
                                                                                                                         (SWD Valiant)
                             Braedale Gypsy Grand                             
                              VG 88 – 5 yrs                                                                    Madawaska Aerostar
                                                                              Braedale Moonriver ET                                                   
                                                                               GP 83 – 2 yrs                    Sunnylodge Chief Vick
                                                                                                                         (Walkway Chief Mark)
5th dam by “Elevation”, 6th dam by “Sheik”, 7th dam by “Fond Matt”

Saturday, June 3, 2017

FEED OURS FIRST (A strategy for getting more milk from corn silage)

From the September October Dairy Route Letter 2015

We entered the seed business eight years ago to sell forage grasses and clovers that were overlooked as high production animal forages in a state where animal feeding was defined as corn + alfalfa + soybeans crop rotations, plus wheat for straw.      Higher costs for nitrogen and regulatory issues on water use has spurred a cover crop and green manure revolution, bringing many of these forages onto high production dairies.    Dairymen seeking more milk in hay have rediscovered mixed hay seedings (alfalfa + clover + high energy later-heading grasses).    What we learned is digestible fiber forages are the highest quality crop you can feed a ruminant animal—feed digested in the rumen makes milk and drives cow health.

A key issue with corn for silage is the increasing time it takes to complete fermentation.    Modern corn varieties (bred from parent stock that was focused on the foreign export trade) take up to 100 days to complete the fermentation process.   Until that process is complete, the milk yield and cow health has been suffering (working against the nutritionist’s goal of having “the same feed quality every day” in a high yield target confinement dairy’s TMR).     Commodity corn companies focused on trait stacks and  field yield market competition have left feeding quality in third place in genetic selection.

Several recent feed quality trials (especially in Wisconsin and Iowa) have identified the Masters Choice silage corns as completing the fermentation process in the first month after harvesting— 30 to 60 days faster than any of its competition.     The reasons are all based in MC’s genetic selection in favor of feed quality traits first – floury (rumen digested) grain, high fiber energy leaf, high sugar density low lignin stalk.    Once chopped, this plant has the ideal levels of sugars and digestibility to ferment easily without expensive inoculants and completes the process quickly.    The corn kernels are also soft enough that no kernel processing is needed, either.

Thus the selection concept, Feed Ours First, was born for those who have not yet tried Masters Choice corn.     Plant 20% of your silage acres to MC varieties, and store it where you can feed it the first couple months, while the other corn you have been selecting can complete its fermentation.    More milk as fed, from healthier cows, thus better conception rates, will show the advantages in Masters Choice  corns.