Monday, March 28, 2022

Big news in polled sires available

We can now provide polled bulls in every dairy breed: Holstein, Red & White, Jersey, Guernsey Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, Lineback, Fleckveih, Milking Shorthorn and Dutch Belted.

The polled Holstein sire lineup of Vogue Holsteins (Canada) are now available through AI Total. They also have the only remaining semen on Australia’s “Mirand PP” in North America.

International Protein Sires continues to provide much needed variety in polled Holsteins and has the current #1 GJPI Polled Jersey bull (#2 GJUI, #1 GType) as well as the #3 “Pure Polled”.

Triple Hil Sires has polled Holstein, Euro Holstein, Red & White, Jersey, Ayrshire and Guernsey. This includes the ever-popular and uniquely bred Burket Falls polled A2A2 Red & White sires.

Browndale Sires has three PP sons of the highest Protein yield polled cow in Canada.
The latest entries from
Blondin Sires happen to be polled: Limited P, Willows P Red, Believe P

and Energy P. Most of these would soon be available “sexed female”.

New Generation Genetics has two unique polled Brown Swiss Sires.
Amerifleck has a polled dairy-type Fleckveih sire in their new US-based program. Sustainable Genetics has semen on two newer Jersey PP sires from New Zealand.

Monday, March 21, 2022

Growing interest in “Heritage Breeds”


British White, British White Park, Canadian Speckled Park

These are English-origin breeds with distinctive coloring and specialized marketing opportunity. The designation “heritage breed” is bestowed by the American Minor Breeds Conservancy who document the characteristic traits, monitors the size of each breeding population across several livestock species, and helps to connect breeders wishing to be involved in any individual breed.

We get periodic requests for semen from these breeds, and have made some connections with individual breeders. At present we have a small inventory of the famous Speckled Park sire River Hill 26T Walker 60W. Born in 2009 and successfully shown 2009, 2010 and 2011 when he weighed 2075 pounds at 24 months of age, he is considered 100% pure Speckled Park.

The “Speckled Park” is a composite of the Angus, White Park, and Teeswater-type Shorthorn. They were developed in Saskatchewan (western Canada) and were first recognized in 2006 as a distinct new cattle breed. Traits noted are great foraging vigor, good rates of gain whether on grass or grain feed, and easy birth weights (75#-85#). The meat is well-marbled, tender, and has less outer-layer fat. The carcass dressing percentage is higher than most other breeds.

Drawing on the gene pool of the “British White Park”, this is a breed originating in England from the 1800s that is white with black or red points (ear tips, nose, feet) and has dark-tipped horns. More of a “dual purpose” (meat + milk) breed in its development, they are considered good at “conservation (rough land) grazing” and have a good marbling ability that does not require corn to produce a finish grade animal. Cows are from 1000 to 1500 pounds at maturity, Bulls are from 1800 to 2300 pounds maturesimilar to most other English beef breeds. Cows live to 20 years of age (hardy, good fertility, easy calving).

Of earlier origin are the “British White” (likely an ancestor of the British White Park). These are polled cattle, also considered dual purpose, coming from eastern England. They were first noted as resident of Whalley Abbey in Lancashire, described in the 1600s.

Interest in these breeds has grown with the rising market profile of “grass fed beef”. Breeds already developed to match the pastoral English climate and soils were typically selected for a moderate growth rate on grass (seasonal grazing and winter baled hay) and reach a “finished” quality from age-triggered marbling on a faster-maturing, smaller-frame carcass. “Corn fed” as a category of beef really did not exist until after World War I and the developing feedlots along the Mississippi River to which western range steers were herded seasonally. With the advent of “Continental” (European) breeds in the 1970s-80s, mainstream beef breeding in the USA was transformed from grass-based to corn-based.

“Grass Fed” in that sense is having a “renaissance” as the total costs of dry lot rearing and feed lot finishing of cattle have risen. $6.00-$7.00 corn prices today represent a severe shock to the feeding industry after decades of $2.50-$4.00 corn. The time for “heritage” breeds has come.

English Breeds -- a simple comparison --

vs Continental Breeds

Simmental/ Fleckveih/ Pie Rouge Maine Anjou

Gelbveih Chianina

Salers Braunveih Piedmontese Normande

Larger frame size Later physical maturity

Nutrient-dependent fertility bigger calves (long gestation) higher % edible

Angus/ Red Angus Shorthorn (horned/polled) Hereford (horned/polled) Red Poll
Red Devon
Speckled Park
Scotch Highlander
Murray Grey **
British White/White Park Galloway/ Belted Galloway

= =

Belgian Blue

vs vs vs

vs vs

= =

Smaller frame size
Earlier physical maturity
Higher natural fertility
easier calving (lower birth weight) lower % edible

Several of the Continental European breeds have “double muscling” which includes Charolais, Gelbveih, Limousin, Piedmontese, and Belgian Blue (a result of crossing British White Park and Maine Anjou, so a cross-channel collaboration). This adds to calving difficulty.

** Murray Grey actually originate in Australia, the result of an Angus cow being repeatedly bred to a white Shorthorn bull, resulting in their unique color.

There are subvariants within breeds, for example the Loala (“Lowline”) Angus which maintain the pre- World War II “baby beef” growth rate and easy-fleshing metabolism. The Irish Kerry cow (known here as “Dexters”) are a similarly smaller size cow for homesteaders.

Worldwide there are at least 700 local, regional, or nationally identified breeds of cattle, used for draft, meat or milk purposes. These fall into three categories: Bos Taurus (European in origin) Bos Indicus (the Indian subcontinent of Asia) and Bos Africanus (the African continent). Each of these subspecies has unique genotype characteristics that can be found in all breeds originating in their specific geography. Many of these English and Continental breeds from “Bos Taurus” have been crossed with “Bos Indicus” bulls to create heat and insect resistance.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Bull analysis procedures - What I think I may be learning

  Greg Palen 


I have been looking at bulls in bull studs for 50 years, thanks to my Dad’s work for Curtiss and for my later work with first Tri State Breeders (Accelerated) and then Semex, prior to focusing on “aAa” Breeding Guide (Weeks’ Analysis) beginning in 1994.   In my AI career, always with an interest in aAa, whenever I could stand in front of a bull pen and study a bull, knowing how he was officially analyzed by “the Masters”, I tried to see what they saw.     When I began seeing a lot of (mostly Jersey) bulls within the Ohio Northcoast Group herds, and when possible worked them with Louis Hoffmaster (who first mentioned a Bill Weeks concept “the pull of the breed”), proficiency and my confidence improved.    Occasionally this meant I did a bull who ended up in an AI stud.    Here are first ones I remember:

76 JE 123   “Rocco”      Greg aAa 354 at farm:   official 453126 at Taurus  (Charlie and Dale)
76 HO261 “Markup”    Greg 513642 at farm:    official confirmed at Interglobe   (Jim and ??)
There was a yearling at Wabash Way I saw 246, once at Hawkeye Jim saw 462 (Allstar Genetic).

It has always been a fact of aAa that bulls get changed after arriving at stud or EVEN when they have stood at stud.    Perversely it can be bulls with high visibility.    Here are examples:

Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief (born 1962)   4-6 old system at farm:  416523 once at Curtiss
Round Oak Rag Apple Elevation   (1965)   2-4 old system at Sire Power:  152643 at Select Sires
Hanoverhill Triple Threat Red       (1968)   216354 as a youngster: 261453 as a mature bull
Marshfield Elevation Tony            (1970)   612453 eventually became 612534 
Observation of the young milking offspring of these particular bulls led to these changes.

Tamlane Rockman Senator, done at farm by George Reed as 415362, changed by Bill Weeks at Curtiss into 423156 …  because we got to listen to George explain it after, it got me thinking.

However, until 2010 when Jim Sarbacker first took me on a bull committee, I had little training in analyzing bulls, neither Ted Krueger nor Byron Bryant having much opportunity to discuss bulls in the herds which I found for them and within which I received my apprentice training.   That whole process went backward when he basically turned bull committee over to Tim B, who had a bunch of “Charlie-isms” to explain individual aspects of bulls memorized-- but whose only response to questioning was anger.    It was always his way or the highway.

Thus – and this may be true for virtually all of us – when it comes to analyzing bulls, I am mostly self-taught.     Certainly, travelling with Jim, the expectation was you learned by observation or osmosis, he never broke down a single bull for my benefit  (as Bruce, Michael and I have done with Lee, Peter, Matt, and now Amy consistently in bull training opportunities).    This tended to make us cautious about changes once faced with review bulls others had done earlier.   Under Mary’s guidance our procedures are getting stronger, but this can also mean we might have to explain why bulls’ aAa can be changed.     As to why lots of bulls used to get changed, I like to remember the day Byron Bryant and I tagged along with Bill and Charlie at Western Ontario, where it appeared it was customary for them to review every bull on site.


The complexities of biology will always elude us to some extent.    Every animal we see – cow or bull – is an individual phenotype and unique genotype.    Furthermore, genes do not “dilute” (in conception, half of each parent genotype passes through to create unique gene pairings, while the other half is discarded) – there is no averaging of parental contributions as is suggested by genetic evaluation procedures.    No animal must look like any other sibling.    Some animals will dominate matings in particular qualities, others will have a random range of expression subject to what their mates offer.     The relevance of “aAa” is that we remain focused on the individual as a complex of qualities and deficiencies, and have the wisdom not to “rank” them about it.  

Today the big risk to bull accuracy is the LACK of review opportunity.    The example most visible in my experience is Semex’ aAa procedure:  (1) they want all six digits on every bull, but (2) they also want this done when a bull is only a year (or less) old…   This approach is incompatible to “aAa” customers.    Select Sires may have a better grasp of practicality: (1) young bulls get 3 digits, (2) matured bulls who are “returning to service” as “graduates” (ie, progeny data still competes with Genomic data) get reviewed and assigned all six digits.     How many of those bulls have we changed?     Perhaps Dave could tell us over a recent time period.     The longest list of bull changes may have been Jan and Marcel’s trip to New Zealand, which had the added complication that (in the opinion of some of us) the overall quality of LIC breeding stock is not very high in comparison to our collective experiences elsewhere, but could also indicate what is in store for all the world in the future, when breeding bulls are created in computers based on indexes that basically exclude physical traits, never updated based on actual on-farm results.   

More recent issues

In February 2011 I analyzed a yearling Jersey bull at a farm in Ohio four hours after he stepped of a truck from Oregon (so a 1000+ mile trip).     Immediately on arrival a semen collection was taken as well – to even have him standing up for aAa was evidence of stamina.    What I thought I saw was 1 6 2 5 3 4.      By November of 2011 this bull had been purchased by Taurus Service, and showed up on a bull committee list.    That day he was seen by Phil Hasheider, Dale Button and me, now at two years of age.     He ended up 5 1 6 4 2 3 … and I could see it as well as Dale and Phil.    I asked them “Why could I not see it back in February?”     Dale suggested the truck ride might have shook all the stuffing out of him.    Phil just smiled.    It still bothered me.

At the time of the International conference, the group of us went to Triple-Hil Sires for practice on bulls.    Among those viewed was  Burket Falls All Things PP Red  who was analyzed younger by Ed Smith as 3 1 5.     Now, again at least a year older, our group consensus with Ed included was that he should be 5 3 1 4 6 2.       

The end of May, with Amy Bickham and myself as a bull committee, we again visited Triple-Hil for a couple new youngsters and several reviews on farm bulls they are now collecting.   These three dynamic young men are more concerned over “aAa” accuracy than typical bull studs.

The Burket Falls bulls are widely used in “aAa” context and so Triple Hil gets feedback on them.   The latest to have first milking daughters is now  Burket Falls Enlight PP *RC  who was analyzed younger again by Ed Smith as 3 1 2.     Recent feedback to T-H has been that this bull needed to be reviewed, as offspring exhibited a lack of “Tall” features discernable to many aAa users.

What we found was a mature size bull with the look of an “easy keeper”.    By the time we were done, this bull became 5 3 1 4 2 6.     The biggest point of contention was “is this a sturdy front end stance?” and the point of doubt was that (even more so than 516324 “Done Right P Red”) there was not the width between front legs expected by a bull who is “5” up front.    For me the decision was that, without depth of chest to hold his legs apart at the elbow, and with smaller forelegs, he could not express width between the knees – BUT his feet were even and he stood on squarely placed front feet, ie, they were not spindled.

As you added up indicators up and down the “has Smooth” column of the P/S chart, you could find nearly all of them.    As you added up indicators down the “lacks Tall” column of the P/S chart, you could also at this stage find nearly all of them.     So why could we not see both these bulls as smoothies when viewed as yearlings?    Do we have different expectations?

A further example, coming at it from the reverse side of customer expectations, is Chili Action Colton, at Select Sires, a worldwide favorite among type-oriented Jersey breeders.    Seen as a yearling, he was analyzed 1 5 6.     Once daughters began milking, calls were coming in that he needed to be reviewed, as “these things are so narrow, and you are calling him a wide bull.”    Bruce and I got to review him as a fully matured bull, and found a huge-bellied bull who only got narrow once you were behind the hooks.     He also had shallow chest, smaller forelegs, short/down pasterns, wide/short head, tremendously deep rear rib and sprung ribcage, BUT not enough chest to hold his forelegs very wide apart.    Again, the feet had even toes and tracked straight ahead, and (typical of Jersey bulls lacking 2 and 4) needed a hoof trimming.   We finished him off as 1 5 6 3 2 4  and the only explanation for “why are they not wide?” is either (a) there is not enough chest and frame to express it, (b) you have to let them get older for it to show, (c) he just isn’t as good a bull for this generation [of Jersey mates] as he was when he was first evaluated.     (Mr Weeks said “Cattle can be good” but the corollary to that is “a nice proof today fully promoted today does not guarantee useful cattle tomorrow”.)  

Tentative conclusions

The most important training exercise we have had recently is the April exercise where Mary asked us to explain every indicator.     Fine tuning our definitions will make on-farm bull aAa consistent with bull committee.    The example above is “do we understanding spindling on front legs (NOT “width between front legs”) vs sturdy forelegs (even weight bearing on feet with equal size toes) is absence or presence of 5 Smooth.    Do we understand that “broad hips” and “out hips” really do not look the same (“broad” hips create width across the meeting of body core and pelvic bone structure; “out” hips are prominence of bone beyond the body, whether narrow or wide bodied, as we view the same area).

I would ask Ed to recall if in the case of both “All Things” and “Enlight” if one of his reasons for calling both of these 3 Open bulls (as they are—a good 531 is certainly going to add “open”  to his offspring at a detectable level) is if, FROM HIPS BACK, he felt the body core capacity was being extended into the pelvic region capacity.     (What do I mean?    In the case of “Colton” you could see the rear end closing up as soon as you got past broad hips.     In the case of bulls lacking 1 Dairy which is a frequent event in Holstein Genomic selections today, you also see a “tight” rear end from lack of broad hips, but you need to see that differently from a “closed up” rear end as in lack of 3 Open.     Two different lacks can affect the same dimension, but it is our job to see the difference in overall causality, which is why you always confirm each number by the correlated patterns – not from the first observation:  ie, thurl is “out” so must be “square” which is NOT true, a thurl is much more visibly prominent on a “sharp” (Tall) animal than on a “round” (Smooth) animal.    

“Open” is thus a “sharp” way of creating width, while “Smooth” is more a “round” way of creating width, but we have to be very cognizant of when and where it creates it (an Open bull lacking Dairy is going to have a tighter rear end, what is your expectation?) (a Dairy bull with Smooth is going to be smaller framed thus not as wide as a Strong bull, again, what is it you are expecting to see?)     

Animals lacking 2 Tall (referring to the summary definition of the traits) will not have the same development at early ages as animals expressing 2 Tall, who are faster-growing, faster in their physical maturation, thus in the common possession, also faster aging.    We tend to see more Smooth expressed in the better longevity animals, we may also see immaturity in their younger offspring  (I have a heifer and cow photo of the famous “Snowboots” and she looks long-legged in her first lactation…  but she defines Dairy/Smooth in her elegant maturity).     

In the case of bulls, we do have heads, necks, loins, shoulders, pasterns and feet, testicles, rudimentary teats (on all breeds other than modern Holsteins at least), tailsets, flanks and hocks.    We cannot skip over what they are telling us.   What is in common in all the examples I have given is that at young ages, while still growing, they did not have the weight on their back nor the spring in their rib from full development and rumen function to make it clearer how Smooth they will become visually.    Ed Hubbell advised me early on that in cases of underfed or overconditioned heifers, I should focus on what all the extremities were telling me.    It is safer to wait for lactation or maturation to  make judgements on things like muscling and condition.    When it comes to bulls today, we are analyzing most of them barely past being heifers (ie, not that far from initial puberty) so the round qualities related more to organic and soft-tissue may take more time to fully express what we will eventually see.

Does this help anyone??


Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The impact of “aAa” (Weeks Analysis) on selection for fertility


“aAa” has always recognized the heritability of Body Conditioning ability.   This helps you to counter one of the major weaknesses in linear trait selection.

“aAa” accomplishes this by seeking more “balance” in the physical structure of the cow.    When genetic selection is so focused on “faster maturity” of the physique, by accelerating growth rate (the current simplistic method for measuring “feed efficiency” now built into “Net Merit” index) aAa balances young age growth rate with a sturdier bone structure and wider body capacity to slow feed passage through the rumen and abomasum to fully capture all nutrient energy so the cow can avoid falling into that energy deficit trap.

“aAa” keeps cows in proportional size, so they can adapt to your environment.

Unlike linear trait methods that use “rolling” genetic bases and have no anchoring to the limits your free stalls, alley widths, bunk spaces and parlor stalls place on cow size and stature, each cow is guided to a mating that can keep them within the scale of your existing facilities.

We all know that as cows have gotten larger (partially from physical maturity coming quicker; partially from that PTA Milk selection favoring bigger cows) and this trend has accelerated with more generations of “one size fits all” index selection, it has influenced many dairymen to get larger in order to build newer barns with more per-cow space.    It has also influenced feeding advisors to constantly increase the use of rumen bypass feeds to increase “energy density” but that runs up against rising ingredient costs in a “flat” milk price economy.    None of this would be necessary IF the mating methods employed could “manage” these genetic selection trends that have raised our costs with each successive generation of “high index” heifers added.

The impact of “cow line” sire selection for better fertility potential

Dr Allen Williams may be better known in the beef breeding world than in dairy, but his extensive studies in both have led him to conclude a dairy cow needs four calves before she is a “net profit” cow (recovered all costs of raising, producing at a profitable level).    This is one more calving than the “PTA Productive Life” index is based.      The biggest limitation in PTA-PL is coming from its reliance on “DPR” as the sole indicator of adequate fertility.    Daughter Pregnancy Rate data does not sort between natural heat conception and Ov-Synch fertility.

You will note that International Protein Sires, Triple-Hil Sires, and AI Total ALL have cow line type and production data in their sire directories.    Compare this to the many studs who only have “sire stack” pedigrees in their bull books…   where a majority of dams have not calved!      

Select sires on their maternal cow line evidence of realized fertility.
Mate cows so as to produce a balanced, healthy, adapted physique.

Breeding a more fertile herd is not “rocket science”, it is more (1) a consistent exclusion of sires who are no better than the average of commercial cattle, and (2) a consistent avoidance of matings that are highly likely to produce a heifer with more “extreme” physical proportions than your cow.

Sires are still available who offer exceptional ancestry of proven longevity, and the “aAa” method of mating can produce a more balanced offspring from their use.     You will find the semen prices on such bulls competitive, and you will also find that using “aAa” in place of genomic testing of (and sexed semen on) heifers is a huge savings.   

The production gain from functional maturity is greater than the marginal benefit of the highest PTA Milk values, and production profitability is also much greater at any level of current production you have attained.

Are you willing to be different from “the herd”?    Give us a call… (989) 834- 2661.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Breeding selection for a more fertile herd of cows


Over the last two decades, the calculation of milk checks has clearly gone in favor of component volumes over fluid milk pounds.    This has been difficult for AI studs who had focused on fluid milk volume (PTA Milk) with so few bulls initially offering truly good components.  Their advice to dairymen was to keep selecting “pounds” (PTA Fat and PTA Protein) when for breeding, the genetic response was twice as strong when you select “percents” (PTA Fat % and PTA Protein %).     Number of Jersey and Crossbred cows increased, but Holstein cow numbers remained static.
In that time period blended milk market butterfat in FMO 40 climbed from 3.50% to 3.75%.     Protein in comparison changed very little.

Genetic selection  and feeding  helped butterfat increase, but still holds back protein

Protein % is one of the most heritable of linear trait measurements.   Why do we not gain more protein yields?    This is important again after a generation of focusing on butterfat %.    This has been related to the continuing insistence on “higher PTA Milk” in sire selection, still followed by the larger AI systems.   They sell what they have, because they breed future bulls from the past success;  but this is done in a vacuum of understanding the limitations on performance that the prior selection emphasis has placed on the current breeding population.

One of the major limiters of higher protein yields is selecting for high angularity physiques.   The AI industry has ignored “Body Condition” as a genetically selectable trait.    Linear type has favored the high angularity type cow since 1970, and it has taken a toll on herd fertility.  

“First service conception” has fallen 1% per year in the first 30 years of “linear”

This data came from a conversation at an NAAB technical conference held around 2000.   (The reports from staff inseminators in the largest AI system at that time were this data’s source. )
It is noted that type scoring in all dairy breeds switched over from descriptive to linear methods from 1968 to 1972 – a highly suggestive coincidence.      What else could contribute to this?   The first Net Merit composite index (created by Dr Cint Meadows at MSU) shifted sire ranking from pounds of butterfat to pounds of milk, and the linear preference for “angularity” defining “dairy quality” came from corn feeding trials at MSU and other colleges following USDA’s lead in crop subsidies for corn and soybeans, rather than forage crops used for ruminant animals.

In other words, to make milk from corn instead of hay, we have to change the cow’s type.

Why such a trend in fertility?     First and most importantly, early indexes ignored fertility.   If a cow set a higher peak, she might extend her lactation.    Selection for bulls began to favor cows with the highest and most extended “peak” production.    Geneticists in that era truly ignored or had no understanding of how the genotype “rations” nutrient energy between four uses:

(One)      Finish growing  (first lactation cows were only 2/3 grown at that time)
(Two)      Make a lot of milk volume  (encouraged by new milk order fluid premiums)
(Three)   Put some useful nutrient solids in the milk  (butterfat, protein, lactose)
(Four)     Breed back as required to optimize productive life  (recover rearing cost)

What did selection favor?     Geneticists assumed all lactation “curves” were identical, and that culling the lower PD Milk yield bulls would also cull the cows that did not milk for 305 days.    As we now know, the cows with the longest productive life and the most regular calving tend to be the more persistent, “flat” lactation curve cows.     “Flat”, persistent lactation curves allow for a great many benefits:   Lower ration costs…   Lower reproduction costs…   Less metabolic disease and fewer veterinary costs…   less fluctuation in Body Condition score.     Taking a lesson from the Beef breeding industry and Grass dairymen, biologists observe that body condition score is highly correlated with optimal reproduction rates.

Cows in a “negative energy” state produce less protein and are slower to breed back.

Until a cow is on a positive energy plane, protein produced in the rumen will be converted into energy in the abomasum and absorbed to help the body keep up with its total energy demands.   Thus less protein shows up in the milk… and repro is slower.    Cows with lower Body Condition scores (condition lost from setting aggressively high peaks early in lactation) usually require Ov Synch intervention to get back with calf.    

Sires with “plus” PTA Protein % values are thus more likely to sire cows with optimal fertility.     

Friday, March 4, 2022

Update on what UPS is charging for shipping semen tanks

We just sent a UPS vapor shipper to Bennett Colorado. It was standard size, 31 pounds full of nitrogen and able to hold 13 canes of semen. The outbound charge was $ 82.49 and returning tank (via Return Label) was $ 83.56. This adds up to $ 166.05 for transport; in addition there are usually charges for nitrogen and rental of the shipper. Thus the totals are generally $ 200.

As you plan your spring semen needs, consider that if your sire selections are available at Cattle Visions we are an authorized Dealer, generally have shipments every two weeks in the breeding season, and when pooled with each other’s needs we cover those shipping expenses.

We will charge you the same price for each bull as they are priced at Cattle Visions. Thus we are able to save you $$ by covering the shipping expense... and you do not have to deal with a trip to town to return the shipping container either.

Bonus: we pour nitrogen into these shippers when they arrive. Semen is cooled to liquid N2 temperature (180 degrees colder than vapor temperature in the shipper) before we take it out, thus your semen is handled safer and will arrive in better condition than if you have to take it from the shipper at your farm without nitrogen in the straw cups. Our effort is to insure your conception potential at time of insemination. What is that worth on premium price sires?

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

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


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

The remaining two samples were totally watered, having absorbed all the “rain”.  Lots of root hairs 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.

Distributors for  Byron Seeds  (featuring Kingfisher brand)

Did you know?    Besides club calves, we have these:

Limousin:   Homozygous polled.    Red hair.

Among dairymen who are transitioning their herds from “dairy” to “beef” breeds we have had a demand for various unique sire combinations.    Polled Red Limmy was one of those that was particularly difficult to locate…  until we figured out a source from Europe (Masterrind, a major AI system in NW Germany).    We now have semen on the bull “Torphy” and at a fairly reasonable price.

Belgian Blue
Pretty much a terminal cross (the females can be difficult calving due to double muscling), but producing amazing lean carcasses that have an edible muscle proportion that rivals the most efficient of pigs.

In Japan, these smaller frame but superior marbling cattle are the basis for that ultra-premium “Kobe Beef” eating experience.    For those seeking calving ease on heifers and have a “grassfed” freezer beef market, these have great potential.

Dual-purpose German Fleckveih
A significant number of grass-based dairies are utilizing this breed to produce milk without needing grain supplements.   They have strong annual calving fertility due to summer heat resistance and good body condition maintenance.   Deacon bull calves often top the local sale barns, because they look “beefy” compared to the many Angus x Holstein calves (often confused with Jersey x Holstein dairy crosses)
Fleckveih was one of the early source breeds for the American Simmental.

MSU Polled Hereford
One of the last polled Hereford sires bred in MSU’s now dispersed purebred herd was “MSU Yarborough 37H” purchased by Dallas Sutliff of Bannister MI.    He was a younger full brother to a $50,000 syndicated Colorado-bound sire MSU bred.
Dallas collected more semen than needed and is sharing it commercially with us.

Pinebank Angus
You may see ads in specialty grazing publications like Stockman for the strain of New Zealand Angus cattle that have strong feet and durable legs.   We have them.

Distributors for “Cattle Visions”  (your comprehensive sire source)

Products that may complement your management:

Conklin “Fastrack”

This may be the most well-known of probiotic feed supplements, providing an assortment of rumen microbials that help cattle get through transitions (like weaning) and get on feed efficiently (when entering feedlots for finishing).

There are handy oral paste forms useful when prepping cattle for shows and sales as well as powdered top dresses for bunk rations.     The oral paste will also help a stressed calf (eg, twins, rejected by a heifer, born in the rain, etc) get up and go.

P Tests

Is it inconvenient to get your veterinarian out to ultrasound or palpate for that time when you need to know if you have a pregnancy?    Emlabs’ “P Test” has found favor with many of us for its economical and relatively easy (noninvasive) use.     Measures hormone levels in the urine of serviced animals.

Estrotects     and    Tail chalk

These are the two most common aids to heat detection that work with visual observation.     The “estrotect” glues over the tailbone and glows in color if the cow is mounted and stands.     The concept behind Tail Chalk is you apply it to cows you are watching every two weeks (or after any rain hard enough to wash it off) and—if rubbed off—you know a heat is in progress.


The estrus synchronizing aid preferred by Embryo Transfer tech’s as providing the “tightest” window for heats with a minimum of hormone injections necessary.  
Developed in New Zealand, you insert into the vagina using the applicator they designed for it, leave it in for seven days, then remove it, give lutalyse, and you should see each animal “in heat” in 48-54 hours.

Breeding  is  mostly  in  full  swing  now  for spring  calves

That miracle of nature—depending on breed, you service your cows today and in nine months and a few days find a newly-delivered calf in your pastures.

Did you pick the right bulls to get the calf you wanted?    We like to help with that.   Clay has been observing the leading club-calf breeders for years now, and can add his insights if you want them.     Sue keeps track of your semen orders and gathers them together to minimize or eliminate shipping costs from diverse sources.

If you are not yet confident in your breeding technique and have no one nearby to help you, give Greg a call and coax him into stopping by for some pointers.

We stock new and used semen tanks, extra canisters, AI equipment and kits, thaw warming units, a range of AI supplies, and provide nitrogen for freeze branding as well as keeping your on-farm tank cold.    Complete service is our goal.


Mich Livestock Service, Inc    ph (989) 834-2661     Ovid, MI        Distributor for “Cattle Visions”