Monday, January 31, 2022

Reading sire directory and price list genetic information today


Increasingly, I hear from dairymen that the AI industry no longer provides all the information they are seeking in order to select the sires they intend to use.    We are being asked to “trust the Genomic ranking” without any supporting pedigree or performance data  (most active AI sires too young to have milking daughters).

How “reliable” is Genomic trait data as used in the ranking indexes?

For Holstein sires assume 70% Rel on Production traits, 60% Rel on Type traits, 50% Rel on the various “fitness” (health and fertility) traits.     This is a composite of each category; in the case of individual linear trait measures, the Reliability could in fact be much lower.

Can Genomic values be compared “face value” with Progeny Evaluated Sire values?

All the sire values presented on various “ranking” lists do so – but it may not be truly accurate to be presenting them as the AI industry currently does, for the simple fact that until any bull has milking daughters evaluated, all “values” published are simply estimates.     A Genomic “value” as published is based 40% on “parent average” (pedigree) and 60% on “gene marker possession” (values imputed to their DNA from association with genes seen in the “reference population” of historical 99% Rel. progeny evaluated sires).   This has a tendency to inflate the values above the attained range of “proven” (progeny evaluated) sires,  for those youngsters who possess the most desired gene markers.

How often do “Genomic giants” live up to their expectations?

Just as we saw with the “Elite Sampler” and “Genetic Venture” sires of the pre-Genomic era, the most variation between “G Value” and “Progeny Verified” occurs at the extremes.    It is the Genomic sires in the 80th percentile (often a generation older than the elite 99th percentile, due to having dams who have actually calved and can be evaluated on actual performance) who are the most stable sires, comparing their G-DNA to the progeny data that follows.

How  we  perceive  the  sire  programs  we  offer

You will note that (a) every AI stud we represent continues to print sire directories with photos of the bull, his dam(s) and his offspring.    The maternal pedigree detail is provided—not just a “sire stack”.     In contrast to the mainstream of AI sire selection, all these programs focus on, or at least pay equal attention to, the cow lines behind their bulls—we all milk cows, NOT bulls so knowing about the quality of cows behind these bulls adds significantly to Genomic estimates.

More “aAa” variety across our total program also offers you hybrid vigor “outcross” potential!

Reading  the  typical  Sire Data Block   as  we  present  you  today
Refer to the enclosed flyer featuring 566HO1281 Melarry DARK HORSE -ET

International Protein Sires selects new sires on a combination of Genomic estimates, a sound  conformation, and well-developed maternal pedigree lines.      {see area #1 marked}.
The photos of his first milking daughters tell their own story.  
To the right of that photo you see a graph of
linear type traits according to Holstein USA official classification.      {area #4}    Bars to the right suggest above average trait expression;  bars to the left below average.

looking at  {area #2}  
below the daughter group photo:
registration number      100% RHA-NA  means his entire ancestry can be verified by HFA
*TC *TY *TV *TL *TD    he has been tested and found “free” of five major lethal recessive genes
Born:   birth date          aAa:   his mating physique          DMS:    an alternative mating guide
[A1A2]    Verified by DNA tests, his gene possession that affect production of “Beta Casein”s.

Looking at {area #3}     begins with CDCB  (Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding) = calculates the genetic evaluations as PTAs (= Predicted Transmitting Ability) as of 4/21  (date of summary)

GTPI 2499     “Genomic Total Performance Index”    as formulated by Holstein USA
+1032M   (
lactation deviation for Milk yield)  +.00% +41F  (deviations for butterfat % and yield)
+.01% +34P  (
deviations for protein % and yield)   94% Rel.  (statistical “Reliability” of data)

Type +1.98    (total type score deviation)   87% Rel.  (statistical “Reliability” of type data)
UDC  +2.50    (
“udder trait composite”)   FLC  +0.67   (“foot and leg trait composite”)    These are calculations combining the linear traits from {area #4 above} to create “ranking” indexes.

NM $341   (USDA “Lifetime Net Merit” ranking)   for conventional dairy systems
CM $347   (USDA “Cheese Yield Merit” ranking)   for markets that pay on cheese yields
GM $303   (USDA “Grazing Merit” ranking)   estimating adaptability to grazing systems
FE 128   (
relative “feed efficiency”)    FSAV 111   (relative “feed savings” )   latest research
EFI 9.3%   (
level of “expected future inbreeding” compares pedigree to bulls in greatest use)
135 Dtrs/ 47 herds    (
number of progeny in number of herds affecting the rankings given)
Wellness Traits:  As calculated by “Zoetis” Genetics division of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals: for--
MAST (mastitis)  LAME (lameness)  MET (metritis)  RP (retained placenta)  KET (ketosis) DA (displaced abomasum)   where “100” is average, higher number is better.    DWP$ 310 is an adjusted “Net Merit” value once WT -$12 (weighted Wellness Traits) is factored in.

Calf Traits:   LIV (livability)  SCOURS (diarrhea)  RES (respiratory)  CW -$36  (“calf wellness”)
Milking Speed: 100  (
=average)    Milking Temperament: 103  (=better than average)
Calving Ease / OBS
/ Dtr CE:   2.5% (direct calving ease)  410 (# observed)   2.9% (his daughters)
Actual Daughter Average score:   80.3  (
average 77.0)   AASC  83.6   (Age adjusted score)
Actual Daughter Avg. Production: 
expressed on a “mature Equivalent” basis, yields and %s

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Have you watched an NRCS “water infiltration” demonstration lately?


CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route newsletter               May-June 2021

Clay Howe                        Sue Palen                 Greg Palen                      Rich Harmon
Route Sales/Service               Store/products             Field Service                           Local AI service  
Agronomy/Seed                     Advance orders            “aAa” Breeding Guide         
John Quaderer
(519)933-8431                        (989)277-0480              (989)277-6031                       Store assistant

Mich Livestock Service, Inc.     “For the Best in Bulls”   and    “Top Forage Seeds”
110 N Main St   (PO Box 661)   Ovid, MI  48866   **   phone  (989) 834- 2661
fax: (989) 834-2914      email:      website:

Byron Seeds’ annual “Cover Crop Field Day” was April 22 in Rockville, Indiana.   As part of the program they had their county NRCS staff do a “water infiltration” test with blocks of soil and sod taken from Samuel Fisher’s working farm.
These blocks included:
A tray of fully tilled soil (as you would find in conventional row crop farming)
A tray of disked sod (as you would find in rotating from hay to row crop)
A tray of over-wintered cover crops
A tray of perennial grass-based pasture

After spraying with water to simulate 1 ½ inches of rainfall, and catching water in jars that either “ran off” the top of the soil or “infiltrated” through the layer of soil, the trays were dumped upside down to compare the effects.

Surprisingly, the fully-tilled soil had most of its “rainfall” run off: underneath, the soil remained totally dry (none of the rain infiltrated into the soil, where you will be planting your seed).
The disked sod passed roughly half the rain away as runoff, half infiltrating the seed layer.     The water clearly followed the path of roots in the soil mass.

The remaining two samples were totally watered, having absorbed all the “rain”.   Lots of root mass were clearly visible, and were acting like sponge to absorb water and storing it in the growth zone of the topsoil.

In the opinion of the NRCS people, cover crops are the superior way to build soil, and when your farm includes animals, their “residues” feed the soil biology best.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022



In both the Dairy and the Beef world, the “establishment” of corporate research and university extension continues to promote “data driven” genetic selection, now utilizing Genomic indexes developed from computer analysis of trait patterns and associated DNA markers for the cutting edge of cattle breeding.     Feed, seed and chemical companies cheerlead for these approaches, as experience tells them their sales go up alongside the adoption of linear trait selection.

What constitutes a profitable cow-herd ?

At the basis of optimized Beef production is maximized reproduction.     A cow herd that gets its reproduction maximized, is a group of cows that (a) Conceive on time for desired calving dates; (b) Birth live calves with no assistance;  (c) follow their maternal instinct to get up and lick that new calf to life, urging it to stand, coaxing it to nurse;  (d) stimulate lactation at a pace that the calf will utilize;  (e) sustain body condition from a vigorous appetite so as to repeat this cycle all over again for the next season.

How often do we confuse performance with maternal cow-calf ability?

Too often, in our Performance-driven measurement systems, we give more credit to the bulls siring the heaviest weaning calves, than the cows giving those calves their start in growth.   In earlier days, we made clear distinctions between “Performance” sires and “Maternal” sires – using both at a 2/3 to 1/3 ratio so as to maintain adequate replacement heifers in the cow herd.

What follows in data-driven systems, is that cow (sired by a name-recognition “performance” bull) that weaned an 800 pound calf one year gets a pass for not getting rebred on time for the following year, her Genomics giving her a “superior” label even though she does not have the balance in character or behavior to do the job in every year.     These are often the cows who become dedicated embryo donors: they have that “bully” performance phenotype, grew one great calf (without carrying her next calf on time) and then the “numbers” seduce us: we need to propogate this “high genetic value” cow.    Is she likely to produce heifers that will make a sound, annually calving cow, when she could not do it herself?

Sorting out the breeds by their embrace of data-driven evaluation

You rarely see this happen in the breeds closer to “heritage” status, where you also find many breeders pursuing “grassfed” beef (raising calves on cows that graze grass, and finishing steers on high-energy grass and summer annual combinations) and seek to capture price premiums that have developed for leaner, naturally marbled meat.     It is a “feedlot” disease, in which we select on larger frames, associated with higher post-weaning gains as long as corn is the focus of the bunk ration.      These in effect, have linked “feedlot adaptation” to “genetic value” and the data (expressed in pounds, in linear measurement) supports the conclusion, without really referencing the costs of reproduction, health, and feed cost per day going into this paradigm.   

Thursday, January 20, 2022

CONVENIENCE TRAITS… expensive way to insure a feed supply


Let us all agree on a simple fact:   Yields  from “Triple Stack” and “RoundUp Ready” varieties  are no heavier than from the same conventional (non-traited) equivalent.”                 

So why do we grow “Round Up” corn?    It makes a corn monoculture possible, year after year on the same fields (until the compaction forces you to a rotation crop).     And each year we do it over, it takes more fertilizer (and sometimes companion sprays) to get the same yields.    But we can do it all will only one set of equipment, so less overhead investment.

OK …   I get it, even though I also know that weeds proliferate and mutate herbicide-resistance from monocultural cropping.     The greatest yield of corn always comes from the first year after we terminated a mature alfalfa stand or pasture – each additional year of corn thereafter needs greater inputs to maintain yields, thus our profitability erodes.

You can make silage from Forage Sorghum at a fraction of the cost of corn.

Consider this:   it only costs about $25 per acre for KF Fiber-Pro 50 (BMR 6) Brachytic Dwarf 85-95 day Forage Sorghum seed, whereas RR Traited corn seed runs $85+ per acre.    This will yield the same digestible dry matter, harvested as a silage, as would corn silage.   Plus you plant and also chop this crop with the same equipment used for corn silage—but you get the advantages inherent in crop rotation, breaking some weed and pest cycles.     BMR 6 Forage Sorghum uses 33% less water and nutrients per ton of forage than you need to grow corn.

In economics they teach us that when involved in commodity production (and fed beef fits that definition) profits flow to the least-cost producer—not to the greatest yield.    In my lifetime it seems that the price of an 80,000-kernel bag of seed corn for silage has inflated by 500%, while the associated yield (dependent as it is on chemical inputs) might have increased by 100%.   In seeking maximum yields, we tend to increase our production costs.     But by rotating crops to generate the same feed volume, we can often reduce our costs.     This is a great example.

DO YOU GROW SILAGE TO FEED STEERS (or overwinter pregnant cows)?

Why not try this strategy on a few acres, and see what happens?

You will want 60 degree F soils to plant Forage Sorghum, so put your usual corn in the ground first; then on the problem fields that do not get ready until later, try the Forage Sorghum.   You can do either 15 inch or 30 inch rows – it will respond either way.    Because the leaf nodes are closer together, you will get a weed-stunting canopy to develop quickly, which also helps save more rainfall and dew from evaporation loss in hot summer.

Looking for a pasturable summer annual that feeds like corn?

BMR 6 Sorghum-Sudangrass crosses can do this job, planted the same way as Forage Sorghum

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Double cropping with cattle


CONCEPTIONS Beef Cow-calf newsletter          March April 2021

Clay Howe          route sales and services/ agronomy specialist              ph (519) 933- 8431

Sue Palen           store product manager and order desk                          ph (989) 277- 0480

Greg Palen         refresher AI training/  certified seed specialist              ph (989) 277- 6031

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


With cattle to feed, the options of what to plant and when expand our grain marketing greatly.   For example, you might plant oats and peas as early as you can get on the stubble this spring – harvest in boot stage by mid May – disk in a short-season corn crop (82 to 95 day) to capture the warming soil and sunlight, then prepare to pick corn late September—or make silage late August!    Either of these allow you to plant a fall cover crop that can grow through the winter, awaiting you in the spring with a full harvest of Triticale, either as baleage or feed grain.    Your soil organic matter content will increase, you will feed the soil biology that transports nutrients in the root zone, and you will capture most of the rain that falls into that same root zone.

The annual yield of digestible dry matter will be greater than what you harvest from that single long-day crop that also leaves your soil bare to the elements 200 days each year.


No “live” shows this spring?     We can gather up your semen orders for you

Without a physical show, many of the breeders from whom you buy semen will not travel into Michigan to meet you.     However, they make their sires available at Cattle Visions and we are shipping back and forth between here and Clark MO every two weeks.    Pooling your orders in full shippers means we can cover the shipping charges.    This might save you $100 or more.


A couple simple steps that improve conception rates by 10% or more

Have trouble entering some cows cleanly with the AI gun?     Consider sheath protectors (or the IMV flimsies coveralls) to protect from carrying manure particles into the cervix or uterus.    We stock both, and they are simple to use.     Or consider Heifer Plus or Bull Plus (ask for info).

Thursday, January 13, 2022

“Real numbers” – reminiscing over a 45 year AI career


I started a registered Holstein herd in 1978 on a shoe-string when cow prices were twice today’s sale values.    Just like today, operating bills seemed to eat up the entire milk check.   To pay off these cows, I needed them to last long enough to replace themselves, with a few extra to sell.    We selected bulls from long life cow lines: we mated them according to “aAa”.   And it worked.   The debt is gone.

Lots of people asked me, “Why registered?  You can’t eat a piece of paper.”    Isn’t it ironic that so many who thought that way, now think they have to have the high Genomic numbers to make cows that will milk?  In the end, are not those “values” just numbers on a piece of paper also?    Are these theories economically sound?   

Add a little common cow sense to your breeding program, free yourself from the tyranny of higher-cost, technology-intensive breeding – give us a chance.   What always worked before, that paid off lots of farms, can still work today. 


Mich Livestock Service, Inc  “For the Best in Bulls” since 1978   ph (989) 834- 2661

Monday, January 10, 2022

Compare the philosophy in the Triple Hil ad to these breeders:


Three different approaches:  Traditional cow line selection for longevity, to gain the ease of high production that comes from matured cows that stay “fit”.   That is exemplified by the new Radix P bull, with three tremendous cows behind him (and five milking maternal sisters from five different matings, standing in the barn alongside his momma, who continues to add to her lifetime production totals).

Compare that to what was prevalent in AI even before Genomics started—the cow who is “all done” with a single large first lactation, in which she milks 365 days without carrying calf to build up her index, and then becomes a permanent embryo donor to fill the bull stud contracts.    That is the ad above left.

OR there are still breeders trying to bridge both sides of the debate, breeding up from developed cow lines, using the highest-TPI-ranked of the Genomic sires that survive to early-age progeny evaluation, not always getting them to milk a full 2x first lactation (health traits reducing persistency), resorting to 3x to get a couple bigger records and raise type scores before turning them into embryo donors.  
That is the ad above right.

If you needed to buy a bull, which herd would you prefer to visit first?

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Keep cattle breeding in the hands of “breeders”


The USDA and the FDA are fighting over who will “control” (approve and regulate) the results of “gene editing” (making GMO animals).    This technology, which has  grown alongside the ability to “clone” animals, is being promoted as the way that “overnight” we can have ALL animals possessing some desired gene that currently has to come from careful mating and breeding selection.

Can the industry afford another technology that takes genetic control away from the farmers who depend on it, and gives that control to an industrial entity that will expect us to pay royalties for use of their “patented” technology?    Has there ever been a provable increase in yields from the technology fees you already pay for GMO corn and soybeans?     Is the market willing to pay for that cost increase?

The cattle breeding industry remains virtually the last aspect of production agriculture that still controls its genetic destiny.     Genetic selection gains still exceed the market growth rates.  

Mich Livestock Service, Inc   For the Best of Bulls”     ph (989) 834- 2661     

Monday, January 3, 2022

What if the things we believe “just ain’t so”?


CONCEPTIONS   Beef cow-calf newsletter               Jan-Feb 2021

CLAY HOWE      Route service, sire selection, agronomy                          (519) 933- 8431

SUE PALEN        Order coordinator, products program                              (989) 834- 2661

GREG PALEN     AI technique training, field service                                    (989) 277- 6031

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


The proliferation of communication technology that began with printing 400 years ago and now includes cable, fiber optics, wireless TV and radio, cell phones, email and the world-wide web – much of which is near-instantaneous in its dissemination and proliferation – has the capability of overwhelming us with the false impression that “everyone thinks this is a good idea”.

Much of the editorial content of “free circulation” farm magazines is in fact propaganda, and is written by public relations people for corporations who wish to tap into the farmers’ cash flow.    They will send the same article outline to a dozen magazines: if half of them choose to rewrite it in their editorial style, you will read the same article six times, and begin to believe it.

All communication begins with human thought.    We ponder a subject and come to conclusions that are based in two things:  (1) those who influenced us,  (2) our prior experience.     Scientists who publish papers face something called “peer review”:  you state your hypothesis, proceed with research, draw your conclusions and write them up.    Then it gets circulated to others who have credentials in your area of study, who read your paper.    If they agree with it, you get to see it published – if they do not, the establishment scientific journals will not publish it.    For the scientist seeking grant funding to actually prove their hypothesis, the “peer review” aids those with money (but without critical expertise in the subject) to agree to funding it.

What if your research data, and the conclusion you draw from it, contradict the prevailing peer view (the “orthodoxy”)?     Human error, supported by “group think” and political pressures, will allow falsehoods to persist, and as a result the direction of an industry can be changed.    Once momentum is built in a certain direction, it is like trying to steer the Titanic away from icebergs to get any alternatives equal consideration.      In animal agriculture the tendency has been for technologists to enlist government support for products and practices consumers would reject.   If the farming community sides with consumers our opportunities for profitability will improve. 

We now stand at the threshold of “Gene Editing” – the biotechnology process that industry has primed to take over “breeding” the future food supply.    Billions of dollars are involved.

The risks in dependence on GMO and Gene editing

The fundamental argument that produced GMO’s and leads to gene splicing (editing) is based in the flawed Malthusian concept that populations will grow faster than our ability to feed them, thus we must ramp up food technology to insure that millions of future people will not starve.

Those who do not farm (98% of the current population, including 100% of federal bureaucrats in the politicized FDA and USDA, and the journalists who feed them story lines) like all the links they can imagine between population growth, climate change, and starvation.     They are ready to believe that farmers are incapable of feeding the world, because do we not see the newsreel reports of starving peoples in real time today?    Do we not visit deserts that grew crops earlier?    

Fertility begins and ends in the soil and its biology 

Good old Malthus, even in the early 1800s, was not a farmer, because England already had an agricultural industry that produced a food surplus—he could eat without growing his own.    He was a philosopher connected to royal authority (at that time tied to the church authority).    His frame of reference was just prior to the farmer-driven development of gene selection from the  observation of natural mating results (in plants and animals both) and which over the next two centuries of activity provided a steadily rising level of productivity that kept up with population.

Non-farmers do not know that 95% of all crop yield comes from sunlight and rainfall.    In the case of animal agriculture, when it was pasture-based (with a forage “crop” growing 365 days of the year, either above ground or below ground as the seasons dictated), the urine, manure, crop stubble and bedding they left behind was nearly capable of maintaining the “mined” 5%.     The mass of plant roots and companion soil biology could maintain fertility which is actually stimulated by plant growth and animal residues.    No one needs to starve in the future.

The technologists of today, mimicking the lost civilizations who destroyed their agriculture by monocultural tillage farming (producing a single, seasonal crop, such as wheat) only produced food for 100 out of 365 days.    This left the soil exposed on top and dormant underneath, and as the organic matter was depleted and soil biology died, the fertility of that land died with it.

The ag communications media is lining up to “sell” you on adopting yet another technology

In the end, all consumer-driven and environmental concerns over permitting of GMO animals (currently a turf war between FDA, which has held gene editing to strict standards, and USDA, which is gung-ho to “green light” every idea some corporation dreams up) will be overrun by “expert” opinion in favor of turning seed and germ plasm generation over to those who can pay the advertising rates of the farm magazines.     Farmer-breeders are under siege, and the costs of developing the gene editing technology to compete with their breeding skills leave us out of the financial equation.     After four hundred years, farmers will again become “serfs”, and their heirs, lacking the profits sucked off by technology fees on all the patents, will sell their land to industrialists or government, as no dirt farmer will be able to afford it.

Gene editing cannot deliver on many of the benefits being promised

Here is a prime example of the flawed thinking.     Claims are being made that GMO animals can be made more healthy than animals from natural breeding selection.  This assumes that disease is gene-driven.   How does that match our current Covid-19 experiences?      Replication of GMO genotypes comes after a pre-determination to make animals that fit an ideal environment—but the “real” environment is constantly changing.     The genotype does not control performance, it merely sets up potential range of performance.    It is the environment that determines actual performance, and the gene makeup of animals in the natural world is designed to preserve the ability to adapt to the climatic, nutritional, spatial, seasonal, and human variations.    As soon as you insert genes in the location of natural genes, those are lost to future generations.