Saturday, October 7, 2017

Recessive Red color can teach us a lesson in the Genomic selection era

Historical fact: for eighty years, Holstein USA denied registration to Holstein calves born Red instead of the ubiquitous Black.    Thousands of such calves were killed at birth and buried so the neighbors would not see your breeding stock was “polluted” by the Red recessive gene.    In the first thirty years of the AI industry, studs were “encouraged” to cull sires who produced Red calves.

Yet Red & White calves persisted in being born.    Eventually in the early 1960s the Red & White Dairy Cattle Association was formed among dairymen who were collecting up Red Holstein calves from better herds and forming Red herds, sometimes crossing them to add milk to Ayrshires and Shorthorns.   Soon as frozen semen allowed semen exports into Europe (where Red cattle were prized over Black) Holstein USA “saw the [green] light” and allowed registration of Reds, to facilitate profits from European exports of not only semen but live cattle and then embryos, which continues today.

How does a recessive gene receiving 80 years of discrimination survive in a cow population?

We all now understand that because it takes both parents to carry the Red gene for simple recessive gene pairing to produce a Red calf, when only one parent has the gene, he/she can pass it to offspring without detection.     Major breeding herds (Winterthur, Carnation, Maytag, among others using their bulls) early on decided that as Red was not a lethal recessive, just a hair color gene, they did not cull carriers; mostly just tried to avoid mating two carriers together.    So a few breeders with views contrary to the Holstein USA position conspired to retain better animals that were suspected or known Red carriers.

During the AI era, when Red carrier sires were routinely culled, the high profile of Canada’s Rag Apple bloodline created the misimpression that Red originated in Canada.   Actually the foundational Canadian cattle were not Red carriers: “Red” entered Canada when Mount Victoria Farms in Quebec (the original “Rag Apple” herd, linebred to Johanna Rag Apple Pabst) purchased an “outcross” sire from Wimbledon Farms in Maryland, and renamed him Emperor of Mount Victoria.    This bull was a son of Carnation Emperor, a son of Governor of Carnation that was in turn sired by Carnation’s first outcross herd sire, Sir Inka May…   a bull bred in Minnesota they purchased in 1925 after his dam had set a national milk record…  a bull who remained physically sound and virile and lived to 20 years of age (1943).

His first major son at Carnation, Governor of Carnation, was born in 1930 and lived 15 years, to 1945.   Many of his sons were in the first AI cooperatives as those systems began to form in the 1940s.   Once a few of his descendants from the “Montvic Rag Apples” also entered early AI, the red calves showed up, and of course were mostly blamed on the “Rag Apples” (rather than the Carnation “Inka-Madcaps”).

So what is my point?    (And I do have one)

Carnation Farms like most high profile Holstein breeders of the 1920-1940 era were linebreeders.
The descendants of their breeding were called the “Carnation Homestead” bloodline.     The original super cows of the Carnation Farm were sired by a bull named King Segis 10th who sired strong framed, sharp uddered, round rear-ended cows (today we would say aAa 4-2-6).    These cows milked volumes at rather low butterfat % levels.   After a few generations of this linebreeding, Carnation sought for an outcross that would raise the butterfat % and modernize the udders to make them adaptable to machines. Sir Inka May was chosen for his high butterfat% inheritance and his mother’s relatively modern udder with smaller teats.     (Typical of that era, he was not a “cold” outcross, because he had some ancestry related to old King Segis 10th.)

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