Friday, December 31, 2021

Vaccination -- calves, cows and people


CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route newsletter              Jan-Feb 2021

CLAY HOWE          Route serviceman/ Agronomy specialist              cell ph (519) 933- 8431

SUE PALEN            Store/product manager and Order desk              cell ph (989) 277- 0480

GREG PALEN         Dairy programs/ “aAa” approved/ AI Training    cell ph (989) 277- 6031

Mich Livestock Service, Inc.    “For the Best in Bulls”     “For the Best in Forages”
110 N Main St  (PO Box 661)  Ovid, MI  48866  
ph (989) 834- 2661     fax (989) 834- 2914      email:


There is a great deal of confusion over how vaccines work within the normal function of any immune system.     Assisted by DNA “gene mapping” technology, both in humans and animals, the pharmacy industry’s current research focus is on identifying the genetics of immunity, for example, why certain antibiotics will or will not work against known diseases based upon what genes are present or absent in the genome.     Various polynomic “marker” genes are being identified that may provide immunity to infections (for example, we reported on the link with recessive red hair genes and resistance to salmonella and coliform infections last year).    It has been suggested that, for humans, “O Positive” blood type may be proving immune to Covid-19.

Babies in all mammal species are incubated within Mother’s womb and pre-programmed with her immune cells;  then they are born into an external environment which is always changing and providing stimulus to the developing immune system of the newborn and adolescent.   At a certain point, this programming seems to solidify.    After that, new challenges from viruses and bacterias and pollens, not present during adolescence, may cause “allergic reactions” or even sickness.       The more sterile the newborn and early adolescent environment is made by us, the more susceptible they may be to anything new that is introduced at later ages (too sheltered and sterile does not provide adequate stimulation to immune development).

The idea behind vaccination is to introduce into the body, a minute fraction of the organism we wish to defend, in a form that has been either killed or at least rendered infertile (thus not a large enough dose to actually cause a clinical sickness level).   The body’s immune system then produces “antibodies” (in the form of white blood cells) that circulate in the blood stream for a finite amount of time after (generally, three months to one year).   After this, the general medi practice is to “booster” this vaccine annually.    

Viruses only live as long as they find a living host.    If the virus kills the host, it dies off shortly after.    Their life span being short, they are able to mutate into new forms.


Is “immunity” the sum total of being “healthy”?      You may have been offered the “Immunity Plus” selection system which is a set of gene markers identified from DNA, licensed to Semex , originally patented by University of Guelph.     What the Guelph immunologists discovered was that certain animals seem more able than others to develop blood titres for various diseases following any vaccination.      Vaccination titres are measured by counting antibodies present in the blood stream (note: infectious diseases such as leucosis are measured in the same fashion).

Does this by itself define “health”?     How about the sort of animal that cannot seem to attain health without periodic vaccination?      Clearly, this is only part of the puzzle.

Observational knowledge of health

We generally assume we have healthy herds because, at least for heifers and unmatured cows, there is an absence of symptoms that would suggest a need for herdsman intervention or tell us that the bodily organisms are beginning to fail.     Across the dairy industry, the focus within AI breeding selection has been to seek faster maturity of production as a compensation for faster aging of the average cow.     Even though the Zoetis “wellness trait” genomic studies tell us that truly healthy cows will produce 30% more milk, on average, after reaching mature ages (five years of age)--  many dairymen still refuse to accept that a cow of that age can be a functional asset.   We accepted too many generations of cows that could not.

Carried into Genomic selection is a “reference population” of sires selected from the original “Net Merit” concept of the higher the PTA (original PD, or “Predicted Difference”) for milk volume, under nutritional advice that encouraged the basis of selection to be the highest peak milk in early lactation, the higher the ranking for “genetic value”.      As production yields gained at younger ages, metabolic diseases increased while cow fertility and longevity decreased.    For much of the dairy industry, normal reproduction did not provide enough replacements.   This in itself was a clue to “unhealthy” genetic selection that experts missed as they took credit for all the gains in herd averages among technology adapting dairymen.  

Connecting the dots:   (a)  structural soundness,  (b)  observed longevity

If you ever saw the movie “Secretariat” and watched that magnificent horse pulling away from all competitors in his final “Triple Crown” effort, you can grasp the observation that Secretariat was known as “Big Red” because he had significantly more chest than the typical race horse.   His large heart (proven by weight and size on autopsy after he died) gave him power and his wide chest (encasing his large lungs) gave him stamina.     This was the result of careful mating that involved some breeding that was outcross to leading race horse lines of that era.

You can do the same thing for your herd, as a result of healthier heart and lungs (from mating selection based on qualities of physiques possessed by cows and bulls) while favoring sires that result from cow lines of noted fertility and functional longevity—accomplish true healthiness.

Linebreeding     could be the answer to avoiding inbreeding

In 1919, a six year old sire was imported from the Island of Jersey with the highest production list of daughters ever seen in the Jersey breed.    He sold for $65,000 to a syndicate of breeders around New England, who rotated him from herd to herd for service over the remaining six years of his life.     The resulting offspring proved to be the foundation to a Jersey bloodline that succeeded for forty years, well into the 1960s. still producing competitive AI sires that were a result of linebreeding back to this prepotent ancestor.

His name?    Sybils Gamboge.     The bloodline he started was known as “Sybil” and was able to generate tremendous “hybrid vigor” in production yields when crossed into mainstream lines.

What made him so prepotent in transmitting milk (while, unlike other bloodlines, not sacrificing Jersey butterfat in the process)?      Linebreeding-- to a marvelous cow who was ahead of her time, producing up to 700 pounds butterfat per lactation over a hundred years ago, when the average “good” Jersey (and Holstein) might barely make 350 pounds butterfat at their best.

In fact, if you go to a pedigree chart, and count back to the fourth generation, where you will have sixteen grandsires and grandams, thirteen of the sixteen were sons or daughters of the cow Oxford Lass (if not the old cow herself).     She represented 34.8% of his total ancestry.

How would this work today?

As a result of AI, most cows have pretty much hybridized pedigrees, a bit of this line, a bit of that line, lots of sires rotated through their sire stacks in an effort to avoid the sort of inbred pedigree this great sire (among other progenitors in virtually every breed) demonstrates.    In spite of all this effort to steer clear of “inbreeding” we instead have herds with short herdlife and high maintenance costs, which now, under Genomic-based selection, have accelerating levels of “inbreeding” based on pedigree relationships.

Overlooked in all this is the AI industry tendency to all have sons of the same ranking bulls at the same time.     By avoiding the siblings in the next generation, we swing from one sire to another in every generation, finding them all somewhat related…     What if we chose not to avoid sibling matings, instead sticking with something you liked for an extra generation (or two)?     Simply by that decision, your cows’ pedigrees would become less related to the next generations of ranking sires.  Instead they would be meaningfully linebred to whatever sire it was you chose to stick with, in order to break the mindless hybridizing cycle that AI advisors substitute (ineffectually) for “inbreeding avoidance”.   

After two or three generations of sticking to one line, you would now have in the newest of your cows’ generations, animals where the current “newest of the bestest” sires could act as outcrosses , thereby you would regain the “hybrid vigor” expected from truly heterosis pairs.

This is in fact why the Triple Hil Sires daughters, whose pedigrees linebreed to great mature cows, with sire stacks out of sync with the generic-pedigree mainstream, are surprising people.


Sourcing something different

Now, after six accelerated generations of Genomic selected sires built on a few “health and fertility trait” indexes, that all trace back to three “high PL” bulls AI sourced from Europe—has anyone figured out that to find an “outcross” we just search for that odd pedigree current bull who is still “100% HA” ??

Did you know the Dutch Lineback is actually a rare color variation from the early ancestry of the Holstein-Friesian combination that produced American Holsteins?    Many still have black hoof pigment—noted by hoof trimmers as more durable.

Did you know that the key to success in sustained crossbreeding is to always use “purebred” bulls in each generation?     (thus JX “Jersey” bulls and composite Viking Red or Norwegian Red bulls dilute the expected hybrid vigor)

Mich Livestock Service, Inc ***    your independent AI sire source ***   ph (989) 834- 2661

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