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Category Archives: Alta News

Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour explores progressive Idaho dairies

The 19th edition of the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour took place June 5-8, 2018. It was the first time ever this global event was held in Idaho.

Guests toured some of Idaho’s most progressive dairy farms and learned from the forward-thinking owners and managers at the host farms. They also had the chance to share their own experiences with each other during on-farm management stations, bus rides between farms, and during evening socials.

To break it down, here is the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase overview, by the numbers:

251Guests who experienced the most progressive dairy management tour in the industry
21Countries represented at this year’s tour
5Charter buses used to transport tour guests
5Gracious host dairies, who welcomed the Alta group
- Eagle Ridge Dairy | Kuna, Idaho
- TLK Dairy | Mountain Home, Idaho
- Oak Valley Dairy | Burley, Idaho
- Swager Farms | Buhl, Idaho
- Beranna Dairy | Caldwell, Idaho
1Pre-tour farm that welcomed international guests before the main tour kicked off - thank you to Swan Falls Dairy for the warm welcome!
30On-farm stations set up to help guests discuss the areas of calf care, employee management, genetics, reproduction, parlor management, cow comfort, dairy education, herd inventory planning, manure management, and more
34,275Total cows represented on the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase host dairies
70-30-0Most popular genetic plan of our host dairies
11Number of sires represented in the Alta ADVANTAGE Performance Pens
34Number of daughters featured between the two Alta ADVANTAGE Performance Pens
3Pails of ice cream used in the global ice cream eating contest – Chile came out victorious over all other country competitors
502Miles traveled in Idaho for one tremendous tour!
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Bull Search for Android & iOS

Android & iOS Bull Search app

The Alta Bull Search app delivers rankings for the sires that best fit your genetic plan. You can find individual proofs on Alta sires and all active industry Holstein bulls with a TPI of at least 1700. If you’re interested in a specific bull, type his bull code, full name, or short name into the search box. You can access more than 15,000 Holstein bulls without the constant need for an internet connection!

Benefits of the Bull Search App:

  • It’s available online and offline
  • Search Holstein sires by bull code, sire name or browse by preset breeding goals
  • See how index values adjust based on trait selection in search results
  • Easily find whether individual Alta bulls have high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status, or if they are FUTURE STARS, G-STARS or available as Alta511 SexedUltra based on logo designations.
  • Check out additional bull images if you’re online
  • Tap and hold feature for information pop-ups in breeding goal selection
  • Find updated information after each proof round

Download it today!

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April sire lists

No matter what genetic plan you’ve put in place on your farm, we have daughter-proven and genomic-proven bulls to meet your goals.

We have access to all you need in one place, in formats that are easy to print. Here you will find lists to download with any of Alta’s Holstein and Jersey specialty sires. Below, are the A2A2, polled, outcross, robot-suited and kappa casein sires. There is also a listing of our top DWP$ and WT$ sires, milking speed ratings, and registry status listings.

If you’re looking for a customized approach to the right beef bulls to use in your dairy herd, learn more about the Alta Beef ADVANTAGE.

  • HIGH FERTILITY
  • CALVING EASE
  • GROWTH PERFORMANCE
  • CARCASS QUALITY

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.

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What’s new with Jersey genetic evaluations?

With April proofs, CDCB implemented a few changes to the Jersey genetic model used to calculate proof figures – this includes updates to Jersey genetic calculations.

These changes adjust for previous inflation, and should result in more stable and accurate evaluations.

What does that mean for you? Here, we break it down.

UPDATE 1: PRODUCTIVE LIFE MODEL

CDCB adjusted the model for Productive Life. This causes a variable rollback of not only PL, but also DPR and NM$. And since PL is 6% of the JPI formula, the Jersey genetic values for JPI will be lower for most bulls as compared to December. In addition, Cheese Merit $ will also decrease.

This is not a base change. It is simply an adjustment to the model to account for previous PL values that were slightly inflated.

The highest ranking Jersey sires saw the most extreme changes. But overall, here are the average drops across all industry bulls:

  • Industry genomic Jersey bulls: ↓ 2.0 PL |  ↓ 0.8 DPR  |  ↓ 56NM$
  • Industry daughter-proven Jersey sires: ↓ 1.0 PL |  ↓ 0.7 DPR  |  ↓ 26 NM$

 

UPDATE 2: THE ALL-BREED SYSTEM EXTENDS TO GENOMIC EVALUATIONS

Genomic evaluations are now evaluated on an all-breed base first, and then converted to within-breed genetic bases.

This much anticipated update should have little, if any, impact on purebred (HR) Jerseys. This update meant that JX animals and those with generation counts in their pedigree dropped, on average, about 20 points more than their purebred counterparts.

This is NOT a crossbred evaluation. Animals not meeting the requirements of the AJCA will still not receive an evaluation.

 

If you have any questions on these changes or on Alta Jerseys, contact Tara Bohnert, Alta’s Jersey Marketing Manager.

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Top 5 takeaways from Alta’s April proofs

1. MOST INDUSTRY BULLS DROPPED FOR PL, DPR & INDEX VALUES

  • CDCB updated the way they calculate Productive Life, which impacted industry bulls more than expected – and for more than just PL.
  • This is not a base change. The variable rollback adjusts for previous inflations, and that means an average TPI and NM$ drop for most bulls this proof round. Top-ranking bulls saw more extreme drops, but on average, according to CDCB, this calculation adjustment equated to the following:
    • Currently marketed industry HO genomic bulls: ↓ 1.5 PL  |  ↓ 1.4 DPR  |  ↓ 37$NM
    • Currently marketed industry HO daughter-proven sires: ↓ 0.8 PL  |  ↓ 1.0 DPR  |  ↓ 18 $NM
    • Currently marketed industry JE genomic bulls: ↓ 2.0 PL   | ↓ 0.8 DPR  |  ↓ 56 JPI
    • Currently marketed industry JE daughter-proven sires: ↓ 1.0 PL  |  ↓ 0.7 DPR  |  ↓ 26 $NM

What this means for you:
To account for previous inflation, be prepared to see lower PL, DPR, TPI, NM$ and customized index values for most bulls. The industry-wide decrease means you’ll want to readjust your mindset on the acceptable values for these indexes and traits.

 

2. NON-PUREBRED JERSEYS (WITH JX IN THEIR NAME) LIKELY DROPPED FOR JPI

  • CDCB extended their all-breed model to include genomic evaluations. This means that any Jerseys that have other breeds in their pedigree – denoted by the JX in their name – will be affected.
  • In addition to the average changes listed above, the non-purebred JX sires likely saw a greater change in JPI.
  • Holsteins and purebred Jerseys did not see a noticeable effect from this all-breed model change.

 

3. CDCB RELEASED SIX NEW HEALTH TRAITS

  • These traits, shown as resistance to each disease, are: Milk Fever, Displaced Abomasum, Ketosis, Mastitis, Metritis, and Retained Placenta
  • These new health traits are not currently included in any industry or Alta preset indexes. They can be found on Alta Bull Search in the Health Traits section of individual bull pages and within the Excel file export.

 

4. GREAT ALTA SIRE OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE – REGARDLESS OF GENETIC PLANS!

  • If you’re a loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner, there are 21 impressive new bulls available exclusively through this program.
  • The elite genomic G-STAR list added 40 new Holstein and Jersey sires!
  • 25 bulls with CONCEPT PLUS status gained low calving ease proof to earn FUTURE STAR status
  • To continue the trend of FUTURE STAR success, the top new sires on the daughter-proven list are all FUTURE STAR graduates!

 

5. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT YOUR CUSTOMIZED GENETIC PLAN IS KING. WORK WITH YOUR TRUSTED ALTA ADVISOR TO SET AND IMPLEMENT YOUR OWN CUSTOMIZED GENETIC PLAN THAT MAXIMIZES GENETIC PROGRESS TOWARD YOUR FARM’S GOALS.

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Explore the new health traits

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) will release these six new direct health traits during April proofs. Click on each individual trait to learn more details about its benefits, reliability and heritability, directly from CDCB.

For a quick, one-page overview on all six health traits, please Click HERE.

The traits will be presented as disease resistance. A higher positive value is best – it means an animal is more resistant to the disease. A lower negative value will mean an animal is more susceptible, less resistant to the disease.

For example, let’s take a herd with an average mastitis incidence of 10%. If that herd uses a bull with a PTA of +3.0 for mastitis, we would expect the daughters of this bull to average 7% incidence rate for mastitis. That’s 3% less than the herd average.

Disease incidence rates range from 1.3% for milk fever to 10.2% for mastitis. Economic impact per case of each health event was also estimated, and ranged from $28 cost for ketosis to $197 for a displaced abomasum.

The heritability of these traits is still relatively low, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot make progress by selecting for these traits (read more about the high value of low heritability traits)

Mastitis resistance is also very favorably correlated with somatic cell score. Furthermore, the new health traits show no significant correlations to yield traits, meaning selection for fat or protein yield will not necessarily cause a decrease in health.

As the newly developed health traits are correlated to previously available traits, we have already been making progress in these traits, which you can learn about by reading the genetic guide to healthier cows. The data showed correlations up to 0.39 with productive life, correlations up to 0.47 with livability, and correlations up to 0.59 with DPR.

The data used to evaluate the health traits was collected from producer reported data in US herds, and underwent rigorous data testing to ensure accuracy.

With all this new information, it’s important to maintain focus on your customized genetic plan to make sure you keep making progress in the direction of your goals.

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Reproductive and DairyComp training available at DairyLearning.com

Dairylearning.com — a brand-new online training hub for dairy owners, managers, workers, students and consultants who value progressive thinking — is now live and scheduling new training sessions.

As the first of its kind in the industry, the new web-based training platform offers a variety of tools to develop knowledge and skills on relevant dairy herd management topics. Online courses can be completed at any time, from any location, and live trainings provide learning from dairy industry experts in a small classroom setting.

All online courses and live trainings come directly from leading minds in the dairy industry. These instructors have researched and implemented the skills they teach, and experienced the impact of these lessons on thousands of cows globally.

Among the first online trainings available is an in-depth and interactive reproductive anatomy and physiology course to offer a better understanding of the reproductive tract, hormones, and the estrous cycle.

Also available are brand new DairyComp training modules created by VAS exclusively for dairylearning.com. These courses cover DairyComp navigation, CowCards, commands, settings, and dairy economic and business planning. Users can take the courses individually or purchase as part of basic or intermediate packages.

The future of dairylearning.com includes advanced DairyComp training, and more online courses directly from dairy industry experts on leadership, management and calf care.

Visit dairylearning.com today for more information, and to explore online courses and register for live trainings.

 

Questions? Please contact:
Sadie Gunnink
info@dairylearning.com

screenshot of the dairylearning.com website
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The high value of low heritability

Most of us misunderstand heritability. In simple terms, for any given trait, heritability tells us how much of the difference in actual performance is due to genetics, as opposed to management or the environment.

To better understand, think about two cows in two different herds. How much of the difference in their milk production is due to genetics? How much is due to management or environment? It turns out about 30% of the milk production difference is due to genetics, while 70% is due to management and environment. Therefore, milk has a heritability of 0.30.

What about pregnancy rates? Management and environment account for the 96% majority of variation between daughters. So the influence of genetics is minor, at just 4%. Thus, Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) has a heritability of 0.04.

We commonly refer to the health traits like Productive Life (PL), DPR and Somatic Cell Score (SCS) as the lower heritability traits. Many producers believe that low heritability equates to less, or slower, genetic progress. However, in spite of lower heritability, it would be wrong to conclude that DPR, PL or SCS are insignificant as a result.

Perspective is important

In genetics, accuracy shows through when we evaluate results within one herd. In that herd, if we evaluate within a specific lactation group, and then within a specific time of freshening, we find a contemporary group. By evaluating within one contemporary group, we reduce the impact of management and environmental differences.

The overall heritability for health traits like DPR and PL is low. When we break our evaluations down into contemporary groups, that’s when we find the true genetic differences.

The proof is in the numbers

Take this real-life example from a 1,500-cow dairy with very good reproductive performance. We’ve separated out first lactation cows into four groups, based on their sire’s DPR. It’s clear to see that the high DPR sires create daughters that become pregnant more quickly than the daughters of low DPR sires.

Table 1# of cowsAverage Sire DPRActual preg rate
Top 25% - High DPR1742.327%
Bottom 25% - Low DPR137-1.120%
difference3.47%

The same goes for Productive Life. Despite the low heritability at less than 9%, PL can make a real, noticeable difference in your herd.

This table compares how long the daughters of the industry’s best ten PL bulls and daughters of the industry’s bottom ten PL sires will last in a given herd. You can see that a higher percentage of high PL daughters, represented by the dark blue bars, remain in a herd than their low PL counterparts.

When you select for the lowly heritable PL, you will certainly create healthier, longer-living cows in your herd.

Focus on the economics

As a progressive dairy producer, don’t let confusion about heritability prevent you from using the right genetic tools to improve your herd. Health traits are economically important, and making improvement in these areas can have a huge impact on your bottom line.

Many traits have a high heritability, but no economic importance. In other words, we can make a lot of progress for these traits very quickly, but it will not make a more profitable cow.

A couple examples of high heritability traits are coat color and polled. Both of these traits have a heritability of 100 percent because they are completely controlled by genetics. However, even if we can make cows red or polled in one generation, what is the economic value of that?

By comparison, the economic value of more fertile cows that last longer because of fewer metabolic problems, fewer cases of mastitis, and less calving difficulty is clear to see. These genetic features make a more profitable production unit for each and every farm.

Selection secrets for healthier cows

When you set or reevaluate your genetic plan, take the following tips into account to maximize progress in the direction of your goals.

1. Define your goals

To set the right goals, first identify the most common reasons for culling in your herd. Is it reproduction, milk production, mastitis? This information gives you the basis for the genetic decisions you make going forward.

2. Choose your tools

Health traits offer dairy producers some powerful tools to help correct for low reproduction, metabolic problems, etc. Identify how important each of these trouble areas are to you. Place a proportionate emphasis on these traits when choosing the group of sires to use on your dairy.

3. Customize the solution

Industry standard selection indexes put different and continually changing weights on health traits. So don’t assume they reflect your individual goals and needs. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to make sure your genetic plan is customized to match your current situation and future goals.

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Getting cows in calf

Getting cows in calf

…is key for a dairy farmer’s profitability. That’s why at Alta we always advise to select for high semen fertility bulls. However with Spring joining in full swing, it actually makes it even more important to select for fertility to give your return cows the best chance to get in calf. Getting your in-calf rate to 85% in the first 6 weeks should be your target because it translates to more profit in your pocket.

Concept Plus is the industry leading Sire Conception ranking. Concept Plus has a more robust and accurate semen classification system than any other North American semen fertility rating and is the “go to” ranking for many progressive farmers globally. A sire designated Concept Plus will deliver 2-5% higher conception rates than the average. So by using Concept Plus semen you will give your cows every chance to get pregnant!

Additional to getting your returns in calf, condensing their calving period is possible by selecting for short gestation length sires. This will enable you to better manage the calving period and have more cows returning to milk faster meaning more profit.

SGL is the trait for the expression of gestation length in the US. This figure is expressed in expected days shorter (-) or longer compared to the average of 277 days for Holstein sires. Short gestation length sires, or those with a negative value, will provide a shorter gestation period and can be used to reduce your overall calving period.

To maximise profit at joining for return cows use Concept Plus rated sires who also have a shorter gestation length.

Check our bull search for Concept Plus and high SGL sires.

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Predict future production using average daily gain

Genomic testing is a popular way to rank heifers as part of a strategic breeding plan. But it’s not the only way. If you’re looking to not only maximize genetic progress, but also future profit, there might be alternative methods to decide which heifers to cull and which to keep.

ADG as a female selection tool?

References to average daily gain (ADG) typically come from the beef industry and more recently, dairy nutritionists and researchers. Dairy-focused studies have proven that individual dairy farms can see the impact of ADG on future milk production potential. In fact, a study from Cornell University showed that for every one kilogram of pre-weaning ADG, calves produced 1,113 kilograms more milk during their first lactation1.

Weighing individual animals at set points early in life to determine their average daily gain can be an effective means to predict which animals will produce the most throughout their first and later lactations.

Take the example below. On this 2,850-cow Holstein farm in Wisconsin, weights are taken on each individual calf at birth and weaning, and calculated within their herd management software to figure out the ADG of each animal.

Table 1Number of cowsADGAvg. 1st Lactation 305-day ME milk
Group 1: Top 25% for highest ADG3322.1833105 lb
Group 2: Bottom 25% for lowest ADG3081.6731838 lb
Difference0.511267 lb

Here, we’ve broken down all first lactation animals into quartiles based on their initial average daily gain. The top animals for ADG gained nearly 2.2 pounds per day from birth to weaning, while the bottom 25% of animals for ADG gained 1.67 pounds per day during that time.

Fast forward two years to when these calves have entered the milking herd, and that difference in average daily gain equates to a real and noticeable 1267 pound per animal difference in first lactation 305-day ME milk production. This is on par with the results from 2012 Cornell University study mentioned above.

 

Genetics still matter

If we take this analysis one step further, we can see that genetics are able to express themselves to a fuller advantage in healthier calves that grow more each day.

When we split the groups from the same analysis shown above in Table 1 to do two separate genetic assessments we can see how animals in each group perform in relation to their genetic predictions. This shows us whether ADG affects whether an animal can produce to their genetic potential.

Table 2 takes only the first lactation cows that were among the top 25% of heifers for highest birth to weaning ADG. Within this high ADG group of animals, we compare 305ME milk production based on parent average for PTA Milk within that group.

Table 2: Highest ADG animalsNumber of cowsADGParent Average PTA MilkAvg. 1st Lact 305ME Milk
Top 50%: Highest Parent Avg PTAM1662.1958634503 lb
Bottom 50%: Lowest Parent Avg PTAM1662.1710531725 lb
Difference4812778

Here, it shows that among only the calves with the highest average daily gain, those animals with the higher parent average for PTA Milk calved in to produce nearly 2800 pounds more milk than the animals with a lower parent average for PTA Milk.

Table 3 looks at this the same way, but only splits out just the first lactation cows that were in the bottom 25% for lowest birth to weaning ADG. When we compare milk production within that isolated low ADG group, we see that a higher parent average for PTAM equated to just over 1800 additional pounds of milk in the first lactation compared to the animals with the lowest parent averages for PTAM.

Table 3: Lowest ADG animalsNumber of cowsADGParent Average PTA MilkAvg. 1st Lact 305ME Milk
Top 50%: Highest Parent Avg PTAM1521.6856932768 lb
Bottom 50%: Lowest Parent Avg PTAM1521.675530958 lb
Difference5141810

Within both groups of animals a higher parent average for PTAM meant even more milk than predicted by genetics. However, when you compare the difference in 1st lactation 305MEs you can see that the high ADG group outpaces the low ADG group by nearly an additional 1000 pounds of milk in the first lactation.

This means that when calves are given the best nutrition and care, and achieve higher average daily gains, their genetics are better able to express themselves beyond what’s even predicted.

Strategic management decisions

With this proof in mind, if your farm’s situation dictates culling extra heifers, it’s best to do that in a strategic way. While genomic testing certainly has its merits for this purpose, the power of monitoring and measuring ADGs can serve as an effective alternative.

If the animals that perform well early in life go on to perform better than herdmates later in life, it’s an easy decision to keep the fastest growing animals in your herd. If you cull those calves that perform at a sub-par level from the start, you can avoid the feed costs for animals that will produce less than herdmates in the future, and avoid housing for animals that you may not have room for on your farm.

Knowing that those healthy calves will put extra pounds in the tank down the road also enforces the power of proper and progressive calf nutrition and a sharp focus on overall calf health. Even when times are tight, the future of your milking herd should not be put on the back burner.

 

Points to ponder

  • When implementing a strategic plan to cull heifers, consider weighing each individual calf at various milestones in her life to determine average daily gains. A ranking based on ADG to sort which heifers to keep and which to cull can have a big impact on overall future costs of production.

  • Don’t let the genetics you select go to waste. An animal’s genetics are expressed best when she receives the best nutrition and care from day one. The amount each calf gains per day, even in those first few months, will make a major impact on future production potential.

 

References:

Soberon F, Raffrenato E, Everett RW and Van Amburgh ME. 2012. Preweaning milk replacer intake and effects on long-term productivity of dairy calves. J Dairy Sci. 2012 Feb;95(2):783-93. doi: 10.3168/jds.2011-4391.
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Use genomic sires with confidence

Genomic proofs provide the confidence for you to use exciting sires earlier in their careers.

All bulls we bring to Alta are genomic and health tested before joining any line-up. You can be confident these bulls will deliver on their genetic promises, since genomic testing provides an immediate reliability of nearly 70% for production, health and conformation traits.

The table below illustrates the difference in production, health and conformation values of our three different groups of genomic-proven sires.

AUG. 2017TPINM$MILKPROFATPTATUDCFLCPLDPRCCRHCRSCE
ADVANTAGE-Only2711834172663811.991.841.316.92.13.82.37.2
G-STAR2573736148055701.731.701.136.21.73.22.27.0
FUTURE STAR2466672122846641.381.380.965.91.63.01.96.5
Alta ADVANTAGE sires

Our 25 newest bulls with a diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on a variety of customized genetic plans are among the sires available only for our Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds.

Once a bull starts making semen, he typically starts his career on the Alta ADVANTAGE only list. These newest, young bulls simply don’t produce enough semen to be readily available to all farms around the globe. So while we work to build semen inventory, we give our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

G-STARS

Once a bull has made enough semen he is added to the G-STAR sire list. With 25 new G-STAR additions this proof round, these sires are readily available to everyone, and provide a wide array of outliers for various production, health and type traits. From this elite list, you can find a great selection of bulls to fit your genetic plan.

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, and after both sire fertility and calving ease information have been gathered, the chosen few that prove themselves to be above average for fertility and less than 8% for sire calving ease and sire stillbirth are added to the FUTURE STAR list.

This proof round, 22 bulls earned their FUTURE STAR stripes, gaining enough observations to prove their high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status, and with enough offspring born to prove themselves as calving ease sires.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics, but prefer the added reliability of proven sire fertility and real observations for calving ease. You may give up some production and health as compared to the available G-STAR or ADVANTAGE only sires, but you gain peace of mind knowing that you’re upping your chances for a pregnancy and a live calf resulting from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS serve as ideal options to use on heifers.

Still not convinced?

If you still don’t feel comfortable going all in with genomic-proven sires, look below to compare our top daughter-proven and top genomic sires. Selection from among the top of the daughter-proven lineup provides you with a highly reliable 2525 average TPI.

Yet, if you’re looking for faster progress, the tables below prove that your best genetic gifts come from the genomic group of sires, which averages nearly 200 TPI points higher than their daughter-proven counterparts.

AUG 2017Top daughter-proven siresTPI
11HO11434AltaCR2670
11HO11437AltaSPRING2622
11HO11380AltaROBLE2559
11HO11478AltaLEAF2512
11HO11379AltaRABO2505
11HO11337AltaCAIN2490
11HO11422AltaJAKE2479
11HO11348AltaBGOOD2476
11HO11419AltaLEGAL2472
11HO11369AltaPRIMO2465
Average2525
AUG 2017Top genomic-proven siresTPI
11HO11778AltaROBSON2740
11HO11725AltaAMULET2714
11HO11630AltaMORENO2705
11HO11883AltaMASTER2705
11HO11743AltaPURITY2698
11HO11970AltaJABBA2693
11HO11982AltaSPRITE2691
11HO12007AltaJUAREZ2691
11HO11758AltaNIXER2686
11HO11942AltaTOKEN2682
Average2701

To further build your confidence in the genomic-proven groups, it’s important to note that every single one of these top daughter-proven sires were previously used globally as Alta ADVANTAGE sires, FUTURE STARS and/or G-STARS. The track record is significant for these former genomic favorites to deliver on their initial predictions.

With that in mind, have confidence in using a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists that meets your goals for production, health and conformation to optimize future profitability.

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Understand the new TPI changes

With August 2017 proofs Holstein Association USA (HA USA) will make updates to TPI, Udder Composite (UDC) and Foot & Leg Composite (FLC). The following information will help you understand these changes and how they may affect sire ranks.

As with any index changes, sires will re-rank. We can attribute most of the re-ranking to the fact that stature is being added to the calculations for UDC and FLC.

Industry standard index changes remind us how important it is to set your own customized genetic plan. While we review the changes being made to Udder Composite and TPI for the upcoming proof round, keep your own genetic plan in mind to ensure it continues to match your farm’s current goals and future plans.

Udder Composite changes

The biggest change that will take place within UDC is that stature is now incorporated with a negative emphasis to promote a more moderate sized frame on Holstein cows of the future. While all individual trait weights within UDC will adjust slightly, stature will now have a relative weight of 17% of UDC. This change comes mostly from the reduced emphasis on udder depth.

A comparison between the previous and new versions of UDC is shown in Table 1 below, with major changes in bold.

TABLE 1Previous percent weight within UDCAugust 2017 percent weight within UDC% Change
Fore udder16%13%-3%
Rear udder height16%19%3%
Rear udder width12%16%4%
Udder cleft9%7%-2%
Udder depth35%17%-18%
Front teat placement5%3%-2%
Rear teat placement (now called Rear teat optimum)7%4%-3%
Teat length (now called Teat length optimum)-4%4%
Stature--17%17%

The other change taking place with udder traits is that both rear teat placement and teat length will now be two-way traits, and be called rear teat optimum and teat length optimum, respectively.

The rear teat length and placement of the Holstein breed has evolved to a shorter and closer average. By adjusting to an intermediate optimum, rather than a close and short ideal, is intended to help get the breed back to a more desirable norm.

The new Foot & Leg Composite

As with UDC, the main difference in the new FLC comes from the addition of stature to the index. Table 2 shows that stature is added mostly from the reduced weight now placed on foot angle and rear leg side view.

TABLE 2Previous percent weight within FLCAugust 2017 percent weight within FLC% Change
Foot angle24%7.5%-17%
Rear legs rear view19%17.5%-1%
Foot and leg score50%58%8%
Stature--17%17%
Rear leg side view8%--8%

TPI updates

In addition to the UDC and FLC updates, the TPI formula will also be revamped. While the weights within the production, health and conformation categories remain the same, the individual trait weights within the production and health buckets will change.

The biggest change to the new TPI formula is found within the production category as a new protein to fat ratio. You can see all changes in Table 3 below.

TABLE 3Previous weight within TPIAugust 2017 weight within TPI
Protein2721
Fat1617
Feed Efficiency38
PRODUCTION TOTAL46%46%
Fertility Index1313
Productive Life74
Livability-3
Somatic Cell Score-5-5
Daughter Calving Ease22
Daughter Stillbirth11
HEALTH TOTAL28%28%
Udder Composite1111
PTA Type88
Foot & Leg Composite66
Dairy Form-1-1
CONFORMATION TOTAL26%26%

HA USA reweighted protein, fat and feed efficiency, and therefore adjusted the fat to protein ratio. Starting in August, there will be 6% less emphasis directly on protein, 5% emphasis added to feed efficiency and 1% more emphasis on pounds of fat.

For your reference, feed efficiency is calculated as follows. Please note that Body Weight Composite within this formula is the new calculation to replace Body Size Composite.

Feed Efficiency = (-0.0187 x Milk) + (1.28 x Fat) + (1.95 x Protein) – (12.4 x Body Weight Composite)

In addition to the adjustment on the production bucket, HA USA will now incorporate livability as part of the TPI formula. The 3% weight on livability will come directly from that same reduction in emphasis on productive life.

What do these changes mean?

The new addition of stature to Udder Composite and Foot & Leg Composite, along with the TPI updates, are in place with an overarching goal to aid producers in creating more moderate sized, efficient and profitable cows.

Industry standard indexes can change at any point. These changes reinforce the importance of setting your own customized genetic plan. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to review the weights you place on each individual production, health and conformation trait. We want to help you ensure your plan always aligns with your farms current situation and future goals.

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Gestation length added as new trait

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) is adding gestation length as a new trait to be released with August 2017 proofs.

Gestation length can be most useful as a genetic tool for herds that implement seasonal calving. These herds will have the option of choosing service sires with shorter gestations for cows that didn’t settle to the first breeding.

Gestation length can also be a useful predictor of a cow’s calving date, which allows for more efficient management of close-up and maternity pen moves.

As of now, gestation length will not be included in TPI or the Net Merit index.

As new traits like gestation length are released, it’s important to keep your farm’s current situation and future goals front of mind. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to review your customized genetic plan. Only incorporate new traits like gestation length into your plan when they aid your farm’s goals and bottom line.

Learn more information about the research, heritability, and correlations behind gestation length, as presented by Wright, Van Raden and Hutchison at the 2017 ADSA meetings.

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How do genomic proofs hold up?

We’re well into the genomic era. If you’re like most producers, you’re now comfortable incorporating genomic-proven bulls as part of your balanced breeding program.

Yet, you might still have questions about the difference you can expect between a bull’s first genomic proof and his daughter proof. To answer your questions, we’ve done an in-depth proof analysis of all industry bulls. Our goal was to find out how genomic proofs hold up. Do they become more or less accurate with time?

What did we learn?

Graph 1 shows the average change in TPI from initial genomic proofs to April 2017 daughter proofs. The TPI change from genomic to daughter proof is the amount of space that separates the blue and orange lines.

So, even though genomic numbers are still slightly inflated, the gap between genomic and daughter proofs changes less with each passing proof round.

Want more details?

Let’s look at the facts and figures in a different light. We’ll focus in on all 1,078 industry bulls released in 2013. We use this group because all bulls released in 2013 should now have a daughter proof for production, health and conformation traits.

The bell-shaped curve of Graph 3 shows the mean and standard deviation change in TPI on the 1,078 industry bulls released as genomic-proven sires in 2013.

As you can see, on average, these bulls changed less than 100 points from their initial release in 2013 to their daughter proof in April 2017. One hundred of these bulls have a daughter-proven TPI within just twenty points of their original genomic TPI. Only about 40 bulls from the entire group of 1,078 lost more than 300 TPI points – that’s less than 4%.

We see the same trend for NM$. Graph 4 shows the average NM$ change and standard deviation of the same 1,078 industry bulls released in 2013. These sires changed about -103 NM$ from their initial genomic proof in 2013 to their daughter proof in April 2017.

Ninety-five bulls held steady within the small 20 point swing from genomic to daughter-proven NM$. Less than 20 bulls changed more than 300 NM$.

Click the thumbnails below to find the average change in individual traits from a bull’s genomic release in 2013 to his daughter proof in 2017.
April 2017 Top Dtr-proven bullTPI
11HO11434 | AltaCR2531
11HO11379 | AltaRABO2476
11HO11348 | AltaBGOOD2474
11HO11143 | AltaEMBASSY2462
11HO11380 | AltaROBLE2461
11HO11283 | AltaMERCI2450
11HO11272 | AltaGILCREST2444
11HO11446 | AltaPITA2430
11HO11202 | AltaOAK2425
11HO11405 | AltaKADO2419
AVERAGE2457
April 2017 Top Genomic-proven bullsTPI
11HO11630 | AltaMORENO2742
11HO11778 | AltaROBSON2733
11HO11725 | AltaAMULET2712
11HO11724 | AltaSTEEL2684
11HO11826 | AltaLOBELLO2681
11HO11758 | AltaNIXER2676
11HO11672 | AltaKERMIT2667
11HO11736 | AltaRECOIL2656
11HO11734 | AltaPOLISH2651
11HO11720 | AltaFLYWHEEL2643
AVERAGE2685

Currently, our top daughter-proven sires average a solid 2457 TPI. Yet, the top, available genomic-proven group provides a 228 point TPI advantage!

Some bulls gain points and some bulls lose points. But your odds are nearly zero that every single bull atop the genomic-proven list would drop to rank lower than the current list of daughter-proven sires.

As you make your genetic selection decisions, keep in mind:

  1. Genomic proofs are slightly inflated. Yet, with each proof round, we see less change from genomic to daughter-proven TPI and NM$ because of model adjustments made along the way.
  2. The average TPI and NM$ change from genomic proof to daughter proof for bulls released in 2013 is about -100. Despite that change, you still make much faster genetic progress using a group of genomic-proven sires than a group of daughter-proven sires.
  3. Make sure the genetic progress you make is in the direction of your goals. Select a group of genomic-proven sires based on your customized genetic plan. Emphasize only on the production, health or conformation traits that matter most to you to boost your farm’s future profitability.

Proof analysis and graphs done by Ashley Mikshowsky, PEAK Geneticist

Click to download a printable PDF of this article.

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Did you know Concept Plus?

Concept Plus  is the stable semen fertility measure for Dairyman globally since 2001?

Concept Plus  has improved accuracy over SCR. That data is included from large progressive dairies in 3 countries? And accounts for more factors that affect accuracy like technician and breeding code effects?

Concept Plus  served as the basis for the new SCR evaluations?

Concept Plus  sires deliver between 2% and 5% higher conception rates than average sires?

 

Stable and accurate

Concept Plus  was first introduced in 2001 because Alta recognised the need for Dairyman globally that getting cows pregnant was a key to farm profit. As a result, Concept Plus  has been the constant source for high semen fertility sires for the last 16 years.

Concept Plus  only uses current data from their Advantage Partner herds located in the US, Canada and Germany. These large progressive dairies provide large contemporary groups for greater accuracy and have always only used palpated pregnancy checks to confirm conception.

 

The extra mile…..

Breeding code and technician effect are also considered in Concept Plus , both these factors alone can account for high levels of variation for sires with limited observations and not accounting for these effects on conception would only reduce overall accuracy. This simple change in addressing fertility data can be the difference in optimising pregnancies and is how Concept Plus  goes the extra mile in providing the most accurate and complete ranking.

 

Concept Plus , the model for SCR

Such is the accuracy of the Concept Plus  program, that US officials adopted this model from their previous NRR model. However, the SCR dataset includes:

  • information from small contemporary groups

SCR uses all information collected via Dairy Software programs, regardless of the herd size so can include low contemporary comparison groups which lowers accuracy.

  • is not exclusive from only herds with high parentage verification

Concept Plus  uses information from Advantage partner herds only. These herds have increased accuracy through parentage verification and high level record keeping, providing a very accurate dataset for calculation

  • does not take into account the Breeding Code and Technician effects within those herds.

There can be vast differences in performance between technicians, Concept Plus  removes this bias by including known technician rates when calculating conception rates. There can also be large differences between breeding codes, by differentiating between them you provide a more accurate semen fertility rating

 

So what does this all mean?

It means that Concept Plus  is the most accurate and reliable semen fertility rating system in the industry and allows us to guarantee high semen fertility sires by removing any poor Concept Plus  rated bulls from our team. In fact, the SCR rating confirms this with Alta sires showing the smallest variation for semen fertility from all the major studs. Moreover, Alta also has the highest overall average amongst this group on SCR.

You can use Concept Plus  sires with confidence knowing that they will deliver between 2 and 5% higher than the average conception on your farm. Click on the link at the bottom for a complete list of Concept Plus  sires

For more information on how Concept Plus  sires from Alta can help get more cows pregnant in your herd, contact your local Alta representative below.

Regional Genetic consultants:

Tony Simpson – Northern Vic/NSW and WA

Peter Clifford – Western Victoria/SA

Jake Harkness – Western Victoria/SA

Callum Moscript – Tasmania/Gippsland

Brett Hazelman – North West Victoria

Julian Pick – National

NAAB CodeNameTPI
011HO11630AltaMORENO2742
011HO11725AltaAMULET2712
011HO11724AltaSTEEL2684
011HO11672AltaKERMIT2667
011HO11821AltaFOREVER2642
011HO11779AltaTOPSHOT2622
011HO11813AltaTOOHOT2619
011HO11652AltaLAMBEAU2552
011HO11747AltaEXEMPLAR2544
011HO11762AltaRINGER2533
NAAB CodeNameJPI
011JE01179VICEROY184
011JE01152REGAL134
011JE01118MARVEL114
011JE01234MACHO111
011JE01195MALACHI98
011JE01122LAYNE97
011JE01213RUFUS87
011JE01150VALSON76
011JE00978KARBALA70
011JE00968APPLEJACK26
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Proof terminology explained

The letters, numbers and acronyms on a proof sheet can be complicated. Here, we break down the meaning and explanation of the proof indexes, traits and terminology.
Selection indexes

Genetic selection indexes are set by national organizations or breed associations. Genetic indexes help dairy producers focus on a total approach to genetic improvement, rather than limiting progress by single trait selection.

However, each farm is unique, with different situations and future plans. With that in mind, it’s important to understand what traits are included in each industry standard index. When you know what’s included, you can more effectively evaluate if the index truly matches your farm’s goals.

TPI = Total Performance Index
TPI is calculated by the Holstein Association USA (HA-USA) and includes the following trait weightings.

Image to show the weights on production, health and type for the TPI Index

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 46%

21% Pounds of protein
17% Pounds of fat
8% Feed efficiency

HEALTH TRAITS = 28%

13% Fertility index
-5% Somatic cell score
4% Productive life
3% Cow livability
2% Daughter calving ease
1% Daughter stillbirth

TYPE TRAITS = 26%

11% Udder composite
8% PTA type
6% Foot & leg composite
-1% Dairy form

NM$ = Net Merit Dollars

NM$ is a genetic index value calculated by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB). It describes the expected lifetime profit per cow as compared to the base of the population born in 2010. Trait weightings are generally updated approximately every five years and include emphasis on the following traits. The current trait breakdown is in place as of April 2017. Please note that trait weights are rounded to the nearest percentage.

Image to show trait weights for production, health and conformation within Net Merit $.

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 43%

24% Pounds of fat
18% Pounds of protein
-1% Pounds of milk

HEALTH TRAITS = 41%

13% Productive life
7% Cow livability
7% Daughter pregnancy rate
-6% Somatic cell score
5% Calving ability
2% Cow conception rate
1% Heifer conception rate

TYPE TRAITS = 16%

7% Udder composite
6% Body weight composite
3% Foot & leg composite

CM$ = Cheese Merit Dollars

CM$ is an index calculated to account for milk sold to be made into cheese or other dairy products. The current CM$ index was adjusted in April 2017 and the following trait weights are considered. Please take note that trait weights shown have been rounded to the nearest percentage.

Image showing the trait breakdowns for production, health and type within the Cheese Merit dollars formula

PRODUCTION = 50%

22% Pounds of protein
20% Pounds of fat
-8% Pounds of milk

HEALTH = 37%

12% Productive life
-7% Somatic cell score
6% Cow livability
6% Daughter pregnancy rate
4% Calving ability
1% Cow conception rate
1% Heifer conception rate

TYPE TRAITS = 13%

6% Udder
-5% Body weight composite
2% Foot & leg

GENERAL PROOF TERMS

CDCB: Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding
Calculates production and health trait information for all breeds

MACE: Multiple-trait across country evaluation
Denotes that a bull’s proof evaluation includes daughter information from multiple countries

PTA: Predicted transmitting ability
The estimate of genetic superiority or inferiority for a given trait that an animal is predicted to transmit to its offspring. This value is based on the animal’s own records and the records of known relatives.

EFI: Effective future inbreeding
An estimate, based on pedigree, of the level of inbreeding that the progeny of a given animal will contribute in the population if mated at random

GFI: Genomic future inbreeding
Similar to EFI, an animal’s GFI als predicts the level of inbreeding he/she will contribute in the population if mated at random. Yet, GFI provides a more accurate prediction. It takes into account genomic test results and the actual genes an animal has.

aAa: an independent method for making mating decisions

DMS: a separate, independent method for making mating decisions

 

PRODUCTION TRAITS

PTAM: Predicted transmitting ability for milk

PTAP: Predicted transmitting ability for protein

PTAF: Predicted transmitting ability for fat

PRel: the percent reliability of a sire’s production proof

 

HEALTH & FERTILITY TRAITS

PL: Productive Life
Measured as the total number of additional or fewer productive months that you can expect from a bull’s daughters over their lifetime. Cows receive credit for each month of lactation, with more credit given to the first months around peak production, and less credit given for months further out in lactation. More credit is also given for older cows than for younger animals.  

LIV: Cow livability
Measure of a cow’s ability to remain alive while in the milking herd.

SCS: Somatic cell score
The log score of somatic cells per milliliter.

DPR: Daughter pregnancy rate
Daughter Pregnancy Rate is defined as the percentage of non-pregnant cows that become pregnant during each 21-day period. A DPR of ‘1.0’ implies that daughters from this bull are 1% more likely to become pregnant during that estrus cycle than a bull with an evaluation of zero. Each increase of 1% in PTA DPR equals a decrease of 4 days in PTA days open.

HCR: Heifer conception rate
A virgin heifer’s ability to conceive – defined as the percentage of inseminated heifers that become pregnant at each service. An HCR of 1.0 implies that daughters of this bull are 1% more likely to become pregnant as a heifer than daughters of a bull with an evaluation of 0.0

CCR: Cow conception rate
A lactating cow’s ability to conceive – defined as the percentage of inseminated cows that become pregnant at each service. A bull’s CCR of 1.0 implies that daughters of this bull are 1% more likely to become pregnant during that lactation than daughters of a bull with an evaluation of 0.0.

MAST: expected resistance of an animal’s offspring to clinical mastitis
Daughters of a bull with a MAST value of +1.0 are expected to have 1% fewer cases of mastitis than the average herdmate.

METR: expected resistance of an animal’s offspring to metritis
Daughters of a bull with a METR value of +1.0 are expected to have 1% fewer recorded cases of metritis than the average herdmate.

KET: expected resistance of an animal’s offspring to ketosis
Daughters of a bull with a KET value of +1.0 are expected to have 1% fewer recorded cases of ketosis than the average herdmate.

DA: expected resistance of an animal’s offspring to displaced abomasum
Daughters of a bull with a DA value of +1.0 are expected to have 1% fewer recorded cases of displaced abomasum than the average herdmate.

MFEV: expected resistance of an animal’s offspring to milk fever (hypocalcemia)
Daughters of a bull with a MFEV value of +1.0 are expected to have 1% fewer recorded cases of milk fever than the average herdmate.

RP: expected resistance of an animal’s offspring to retained placenta
Daughters of a bull with a RP value of +1.0 are expected to have 1% fewer recorded cases of retained placenta than the average herdmate.

HRel: the reliability percentage for a sire’s health traits

 

CALVING TRAITS

SCE: Sire calving ease
The percentage of bull’s calves born that are considered difficult in first lactation animals. Difficult births include those coded as a score of 3, 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5.

DCE: Daughter calving ease
The percentage of a bull’s daughters who have difficult births during their first calving. Difficult calvings are those coded as a 3, 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5.

SSB: Sire stillbirth
The percentage of a bull’s offspring that are born dead to first lactation animals.

DSB: Daughter stillbirth
The percentage of a bull’s daughters who give birth to a dead calf in their first lactation.

 

TYPE / CONFORMATION TRAITS

PTAT, UDC and FLC are all calculated by the Holstein Association USA.

PTAT: Predicted transmitting for type – referring to the total conformation of an animal

UDC: Udder composite index; comprised of the following linear trait weights:
19% Rear udder height
17% Udder depth
-17% Stature
6% Rear udder width
13% Fore udder attachment
7% Udder Cleft
4% Rear teat optimum
4% Teat length optimum
3% Front teat placement

FLC: Foot and leg composite index; comprised of the following trait weights:
58% foot and leg classification score
18% rear legs rear view
-17% stature
8% foot angle

TRel = the percent reliability for a sire’s conformation/type proof

 

GENETIC CODES

POLLED
PO: observed polled
PC: genomic tested as heterozygous polled; means 50% of offspring are expected to be observed as polled
PP: genomic tested as homozygous polled; means that 100% of offspring are expected to be observed as polled

COAT COLOR
RC: carries the recessive gene for red coat color
DR: carries a dominant gene for red coat color

RECESSIVES & HAPLOTYPES

These codes, or symbols representing the code, will only show up on a proof sheet if an animal is a carrier or test positive for one of the following. The acronyms denoting that an animal is tested free of a recessive will only show up on its pedigree.

BY: Brachyspina
TY: Tested free of brachyspina

BL: BLADS, or Bovine leukocyte adhesion deficiency
TL: Tested free of BLADS

CV: CVM or Complex vertebral malformation
TV: Tested free of CVM

DP: DUMPS, or Deficiency of the uridine monophosphate synthase
TD: Tested free of DUMPS

MF: Mulefoot
TM: Tested free of mulefoot

HH1, HH2, HH3, HH4, HH5: Holstein haplotypes that negatively affect fertility
HCD: Holstein haplotype for cholesterol deficiency

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Alta Advantage Showcase Tour 2017 – by the numbers

Guests from around the world joined together to share management strategies and insight during the 18th Alta Advantage Showcase Tour held in Michigan June 21-23, 2017.

On-farm stations were set up to provide insight on all areas of dairy herd management. Some of the topics covered included:

  • Reproduction
  • milk quality and parlor management
  • transition cow management
  • feed and nutrition
  • colostrum management and calf raising
  • heifer raising
  • labor organization
  • genetic planning
  • dairy technology
  • Performance Pens featuring some of the newest Alta sires to have milking daughters
  • and more!
Here’s a look at the 2017 Alta Advantage Showcase Tour, by the numbers:
360guests
26countries represented
18Alta Advantage Showcase Tours now complete
35on-farm stations that guests experienced throughout the tour
6charter buses required to transport guests
19,000cows milked among all pre-tour and Showcase host farms
9outstanding host dairies that graciously opened their farm for our guests to visit
Pre-tour host: Rich-Ro South Dairy | St. Johns, MI
Pre-tour host: Berlyn Acres | Fowler, MI
Walnutdale Farms | Wayland, MI
Prairie View Dairy | Delton, MI
Schaendorf Farms | Allegan, MI
Tubergen Dairy | Ionia, MI
Simon Farms | Westphalia, MI
Steenblik Dairy | Pewamo, MI
Double Eagle Dairy | Middleton, MI

These numbers sum up to ONE tremendous tour!

Guests enjoyed the friendly camaraderie and the ability to learn from both our host farm owners and others on the tour. These experiences left everyone with a lasting impression of Alta’s progressive approach to create value, build trust and deliver results to clients around the world.

 

Click HERE to view the collection of photos and videos from the tour!

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Two questions that will transform the way you breed your herd

There’s no other dairy farm in the world exactly like yours. So it’s important to ask yourself a couple questions to determine your ideal breeding goals.

You could use one of the US industry standard indexes to select the genetics for your herd. Their split weights on production, health and conformation will certainly help you make genetic gains in your herd. But will that progress actually match your farm’s current situation and future plans?

As a reminder, the following charts show the weights for the two most common US genetic indexes.

TPI:
Image to show the weights on production, health and type for the TPI Index
NM:
Image to show trait weights for production, health and conformation within Net Merit $.

Since your farm is unique, your best option is to create your own customized genetic plan to get the right genetics to match your goals.

Ask yourself these two important questions to decide which traits to emphasize in your genetic plan.

1. How do you get paid for your milk?

The majority of dairy producers make their main profit from the sale of milk. How that milk is priced varies greatly from one part of the country to another. Most milk produced in Florida is sold for fluid consumption, while much of Wisconsin’s milk goes into making cheese. The milk from some farms goes strictly into butter. Others’ is made into ice cream. Many cooperatives also pay premiums for low somatic cell counts.

Regardless where you ship your milk, the simple way to maximize your milk check is to select the right genetics to match your situation. To explain this, we focus in on the production traits of your genetic plan, which include milk, fat and protein.

If your farm’s milk is made into cheese, you’re likely paid on components, rather than total fluid volume. In that case, selection emphasis on protein will garner your greatest return on genetic investment.

If you farm in a fluid milk market, strict selection for NM$ could actually hinder your progress since NM$ includes a negative weighting on total pounds of milk.

Management practices play the largest role in the performance you see, but the right genetic choices will aid your future profit potential. For example, it takes top-level management practices to achieve ideal somatic cell counts. Yet, if your milk company offers milk quality premiums, genetic selection for low Somatic Cell Score is a logical choice to boost the benefits of your management even further.

Don’t leave dollars on the table. Within your genetic plan, make sure you emphasize the production traits to match how you get paid for your milk.

2. Why do your cows leave the herd?

Regardless if you are in expansion mode or maintaining steady numbers, some animals will leave your herd for one reason or another.

If you’re gradually growing to prepare for a future expansion project, you’ll benefit from heavier genetic selection emphasis on traits like Productive Life. This will keep your cattle numbers on the rise by creating healthier, longer-living cows.

Selection for CONCEPT PLUS high sire fertility will help you create more pregnancies now. Selection for fertility traits like Daughter Pregnancy Rate will help you create a next generation of more fertile females. If you focus on both male and female fertility you will end up with the additional replacements you’ll need.

On the flip side, if your farm is at max capacity with more replacements than you can accommodate, different traits will make a more profitable impact. If your farm sells extra springing heifers or fresh two-year-olds for dairy purposes, you know that buyers choose the stronger, well-grown animals with ideal feet and legs and favorable udders. In that case, a heavier selection emphasis on Udder Composite and Foot & Leg Composite can provide profitable returns on your genetic investment.

However, when your herd size is steady and you don’t sell extra heifers for dairy purposes, it’s important to question your selection for conformation traits. How many cows have you culled in the past year for poor udders or feet and legs?

If the answer is none, you could be limiting your future profitability.

AI companies already provide you with a high level of selection intensity for conformation. Their sire criteria often uses those industry standard indexes with 26% or 16% emphasis on conformation.

If you emphasize conformation traits, but you don’t cull any animals for poor udders or feet and legs, you are missing out on future profits. When you put your weight on conformation, your sacrifice extra selection for production, improved health and additional pregnancies.

Consider your genetic plan

There’s no other dairy in the world identical to yours.

Keep that in mind as you choose the genetics to create your next generation. While industry standard selection indexes can improve your genetics, they don’t necessarily align with your farm’s situation and goals.

Think about how you get paid for milk and the main reasons that cows leave your herd. When you customize your genetic plan to fit your farm’s needs, you will maximize your future milk checks and minimize your involuntary culls.

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What to do when industry standard Jersey genetic indexes change

It’s a fact. Industry standard genetic selection indexes like JPI and NM$ will change from time to time.

When these index changes happen, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your farm’s genetic plan. Do the new weights that these indexes place on production, health and conformation traits match your goals? Will the indexes rank the genetics in a way that fits your current situation and future plans?

With April 2017 proofs, the JPI formula was updated. From a big picture aspect, the image below shows that essentially five percent of the total weight was removed from production traits and put onto conformation traits. (See full details about the new JPI 2017 here).

Image comparing the genetic index weights on production, health and type traits for JPI 2015 versus JPI 2017

Within the production category, the new formula reduces the weight on protein from 43 to 30. If your farm’s goal is higher production and total components, the new JPI may hinder your progress toward that goal. If you never cull cows for conformation related faults, the new JPI may provide genetic progress in traits that are insignificant in your herd.

In this new era of Alta Jersey, it’s the perfect time to work with your trusted Alta advisor. Set your own, customized genetic plan with emphasis only on the traits that matter to your bottom line. For a no-hassle approach to the right genetics to meet your goals, the Alta JERSEY DRIVEN program will fit your needs.
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Fast forward your genetic progress with genomic sire options

Genomic proofs give you the confidence to achieve maximum genetic progress by using exciting sires earlier in their careers.

All bulls we bring to Alta are genomic and health tested before joining any line-up. You can be confident these bulls will deliver on their genetic promises, since genomic testing provides an immediate reliability of nearly 70% for production, health and conformation traits.

This proof round we add 21 new sires reserved exclusively for Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. We expanded our G-STAR list by 38 sires, and promoted 9 new sires to FUTURE STAR status. Each of these three genomic-proven groups offer a variety of bulls to fit all unique genetic plans.

The table below illustrates the difference in production, health and conformation values of our three different groups of genomic-proven sires.

TPINM$MilkProFatPTATUDCFLCSCSPLDPRCCRHCRSCE
ADVANTAGE-only2599750167559761.701.371.242.855.81.32.82.16.8
G-STAR2545714138852701.681.481.162.845.91.32.72.07.0
FUTURE STAR2399613129346601.291.230.872.865.01.12.21.56.6

What’s the difference?

Alta ADVANTAGE: Once a bull starts making semen, he typically starts his career on the Alta ADVANTAGE only list. The newest, youngest bulls simply don’t produce enough semen to be readily available to all farms around the globe. So while we work to build semen inventory on those new bulls, we give our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to the newest sires that fit their customized genetic plans.

G-STAR status: Once a bull has made enough semen he is added to the G-STAR sire list. The sires found among the G-STAR ranks are readily available to everyone. They provide a wide array of outliers for various production, health and type traits. From this elite list, you can find a great selection of bulls to fit your genetic plan.

FUTURE STAR favorites: About a year after a bull is first released, and after both sire fertility and calving ease information have been gathered, the chosen few that prove themselves to be above average for fertility and less than 8% for sire calving ease and sire stillbirth are added to the FUTURE STAR list.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics, but prefer the added reliability of proven sire fertility and real observations for calving ease. You may give up some production and health as compared to the available G-STAR or ADVANTAGE only sires, but you gain peace of mind knowing that you’re upping your chances for a pregnancy and a live calf resulting from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS serve as ideal options to use on heifers.

Still not convinced?

If you still don’t feel comfortable going all in with genomic-proven sires, look below. Here, we compare our top daughter-proven and top genomic sires. Selection from among the top of the daughter-proven lineup provides you with a highly reliable 2457 average TPI.

Yet, if you’re looking for faster progress, the tables below prove that your best genetic gifts come from the genomic group of sires. They average 228 TPI points higher than their daughter-proven counterparts.

Table 1 here shows the TPI and average of the current top daughter-proven sires.
April 2017 Top Dtr-proven bullsTPI
11HO11434AltaCR2531
11HO11379AltaRABO2476
11HO11348AltaBGOOD2474
11HO11143AltaEMBASSY2462
11HO11380AltaROBLE2461
11HO11283AltaMERCI2450
11HO11272AltaGILCREST2444
11HO11446AltaPITA2430
11HO11202AltaOAK2425
11HO11405AltaKADO2419
AVERAGE2457
Table 2 here shows the TPI and average of the current top genomic-proven sires.
April 2017 Top Genomic-proven bullsTPI
11HO11630AltaMORENO2742
11HO11778AltaROBSON2733
11HO11725AltaAMULET2712
11HO11724AltaSTEEL2684
11HO11826AltaLOBELLO2681
11HO11758AltaNIXER2676
11HO11672AltaKERMIT2667
11HO11736AltaRECOIL2656
11HO11734AltaPOLISH2651
11HO11720AltaFLYWHEEL2643
AVERAGE2685

To further build your confidence in the genomic-proven groups, it’s important to note that every single one of these top daughter-proven sires were previously used globally as FUTURE STARS and/or G-STARS. The track record is significant for these former genomic favorites to deliver on their initial predictions.

With that in mind, use a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists that meets your goals for production, health and conformation. These sires give you confidence that your genetic gains will lead to optimal future profitability.
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Alta announces new US Senior Sales Manager

Kirk Vander Dussen was recently appointed as the new US Senior Sales Manager for Alta Genetics.

Kirk is no stranger to Alta, having initially joined the Alta team as a Premier Account Manager in the fall of 2013. He helped create and maintain strong bonds with many of our most valuable partner dairies throughout the USA. In his previous role, Kirk brought stability, strength and support to help source and onboard new Premier Account teammates.

All of his Alta experiences are added to a solid and extensive history of managing dairies in the Midwest and southwest regions of the USA. Prior to joining Alta, Kirk was a manager at Holsum Dairies near Green Bay, WI where he was part of the leadership team for nearly 8,000 milking cows. The far-reaching network that Kirk has in both professional and personal circles is another asset that he will bring to the role.

Dedicated and resourceful people who are passionate about the dairy partners we work with, are the key difference for Alta in the market. Kirk has committed himself to this through his own development and learning of our business. He previously completed our most intense Elite Account Manager training program, and also holds an MBA from the University of San Diego.

VP of Sales for the Americas, Kevin Muxlow is excited to work with Vander Dussen in his new role. “We know that the US market is a lighthouse market for the global dairy industry. Kirk’s experience and leadership with intimate connections to the progressive dairy owners and managers we work with is a unique strength for Alta. I am delighted that we have been able to look within our organization to find the right person for the responsibility!”

Vander Dussen adds, “I’m honored to work with some of the best sales professionals in the world and the most progressive dairy producers on an even broader scale.”

Kirk and his wife, Dana, and their 3 children reside in Aurora, Colorado, where he will remain based for this position. We appreciate their support for Kirk taking on this new role.

Please join us in welcoming Kirk to Alta’s global leadership team!
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Genomic-proven favorites graduate to daughter-proven lineup

We welcome a variety of production, health and type trait specialists to our new daughter-proven lineup.

There were no official base changes, but the average DPR for all industry sires rolled back nearly -0.5 and Productive Life for all sires dropped by an average of about -0.2. This equated to nearly a 20 point average TPI drop. NM$ formula changes also led to an industry-wide average roll-back of about 20 NM$ per bull.

11HO11434 Har-Dale-Acres-JP AltaCR | Mogul x Trigger | CP | 511 | 2531 TPI
  • A breed leader for sire fertility, holding the coveted CONCEPT PLUS designation
  • Exceptional fat yield improver
  • CONSISTENCY –clear pattern of white, moderate-size cows with outstanding udders
  • A definite udder improver: among minus stature bulls, he’s a breed leader for UDC
Bomaz CR 6533
Bomaz CR 6533 | Bomaz Farms, Hammond, WI
11HO11379 Lone-Oak-Acres AltaRABO | Mogul x Observer | 511 | CP | 2476 TPI
  • Early milking daughters have impressive udders and straight-lined frames
  • FUTURE STAR graduate provides easy calvings and high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status
  • A balanced proof with exciting conformation, over 100 CFP, and sound health and fertility traits
  • Full brother to AltaROBLE, but with slightly higher production values
11HO11348 Bush-Bros AltaBGOOD | Robust x Massey | 511 | CP | 2474 TPI
  • Ideal cows for progressive environments – moderate size with more strength than dairyness
  • Daughters produce high quality, component-rich milk from tightly attached udders
  • Healthy, trouble-free cows
11HO11380 Lone-Oak-Acres AltaROBLE | Mogul x Observer | 511 | CP | 2461 TPI
  • Full brother to AltaRABO with slightly higher health, type and UDC values
  • A health and type trait specialist at 6.4 PL, 2.4 DPR, 2.60 UDC, 2.53 PTAT
  • Daughters are stylish, stretchy cows with fancy udders and strong attachments
Bomaz Roble 6540 from Bomaz Farms in Hammond, WI
Bomaz Roble 6540 | Bomaz Farms, Hammond, WI
11HO11446 Mr-Furnace-Hill AltaPITA | Supersire x Man-O-Man | 511 | CP | 2430 TPI
  • Production specialist – nearly 1300 PTAM and at 136 CFP
  • Former FUTURE STAR with extremely low calving ease and excellent CONCEPT PLUS sire fertility
  • Medium-stature cows with great height and width of rear udders
11HO11405 Lookout Pesce AltaKADO | AltaAIRNET x Man-O-Man | 511 | CP | 2419
  • 600 new milking daughters increased his proof by 500 pounds of milk and nearly 100 TPI points
  • Daughters are ideal for progressive environments – moderate stature and superb dairy strength
  • Unique combination of high production and excellent DPR
Zahbulls Kado Garbage grazing shot
Zahbulls Kado Garbage | Tim & Matt Zabel, Plainview, MN
11HO11425 Zahbulls Alta1STCLASS | Numero Uno x Dorcy | CP | 2373 TPI
  • Early milking daughters confirm him as an elite udder and type trait specialist
  • Daughters are tall, long and stylish, with exceptional feet and leg
  • Has the added bonus of easy calvings and high sire fertility CONCEPT PLUS status
Alta1STCLASS daughters at Stanton Bros Ltd | Ilderton, Ontario, Canada
Alta1STCLASS daughters at Stanton Bros Ltd | Ilderton, Ontario, Canada
Looking to find which group of new or current bulls will best meet your farm’s goals? Use Alta’s Advanced Bull Search and work with your trusted Alta advisor to set and implement your own, customized genetic plan.
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Jersey breed purity lingo

Breed purity is a hot topic for Jerseys.

Many of the elite sires have been upgraded from Holstein heritage through the Jersey Genetic Recovery and Jersey Expansion programs. These programs allow breeders to enroll animals with a Jersey appearance, or those sired by a Jersey bull, into the herd registry. While they have proven beneficial in growing the registered Jersey population, some unforeseen impacts have left many producers confused as to just what qualifies an AI bull as a Jersey.

The American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) board of directors has worked with animal ancestry via pedigree and genomic data to come up with some visual cues to eliminate confusion on Jersey purity.

Generation Count and a JX prefix have been added to full names to signify a hole in the pedigree or unknown dairy ancestry. Breed Base Representation (BBR) is now displayed on all animals recorded with the ACJA to represent the amount of Jersey blood within the pedigree.

Generation Count (GC)

Generation Count demonstrates the depth of Jersey ancestry. An animal’s name will include a suffix enclosed in braces { } to indicate the number of generations of AJCA-recorded ancestry from 1-6. A GC of 1 means the animal is one generation removed from an unknown or non-Jersey in the pedigree. A GC of 6 means the animal is six generations removed from an unknown or non-Jersey animal.

The GC is dropped when seven or more generations of ancestors are recorded by the AJCA. The offspring of a mating with be one generation count higher than the lowest parent.

JX Prefix

A JX prefix is now found on the majority of the pedigrees that contain a generation count. The JX prefix indicates that there is unknown dairy (most commonly Holstein) parentage in the pedigree. The GC will then indicate how far back in the pedigree the unknown dairy breed can be found.

If you find a bull with a GC but no JX prefix, that means that the missing part of the pedigree is an unidentified Jersey. 

Breed Base Representation (BBR)

BBR is a genomic-measured trait that compares the DNA of a genotyped animal to a Jersey reference group and all other breeds. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) policy is to report BBR values of 94 or greater as 100 due to standard deviations. Bulls below 94 will have an expressed value. The AJCA will publish a BBR value for all recorded animals.

Males will be published on one of two reports.

Males on the main list include those who:

  • are Herd Registered
    • more than 6 generations of identified Jersey parentage
  • have a Generation Count of 4-6 and a BBR of 100

Males on the secondary list include those with a:

  • Generation Count of 3 (regardless of BBR)
  • Generation Count of 4-6, if their BBR is less than 94

 

Here are a few examples to show this Jersey breed purity lingo in action.

JX Ahlem Jumbo Kaa { 5 } – ET   BBR 100

  • KAA is 5 generations from an unknown dairy breed and is BBR 100
  • Offspring will be Generation Count 6 and 100 BBR IF he is mated to a GC 5, 6 or HR female

JX Oomsdale Brazo Gratitude Ghent { 2 } – ET   BBR 82

  • GHENT is 2 generation from Holstein influence and is BBR 82
  • Offspring will be Generation Count 3 and Non-HR.

 

At Alta, we are committed to supplying our clients around the globe with the most reliable genetics available. In order to fulfill this promise, we offer a diversified Jersey product lineup focusing on the traits that are most profitable to our clients’ dairies.

We have the highest level of confidence in the genetic and genomic predictions of BBR 100 bulls and the performance those daughters realize in the milking herd. We recognize that clients have choices, so we will always market with full transparency.

To learn more about the Rules for the Registration and Transfer of Jersey Cattle, click HERE.

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Cow livability added to the NM$ formula

Starting in April 2017, the CDCB will include Cow livability into the Net Merit $ formula.

Cow livability (LIV) was introduced as a new trait in August 2016. It measures a cow’s ability to stay alive on the farm, and has a high (0.70) correlation with Productive Life (PL). The difference between LIV and PL is that PL measures a cow’s ability to be productive on the farm. It does not distinguish between death and culling as the reason for leaving the herd.

Cows that die on the farm are a great expense. In fact, based on cull prices, farmers could earn $1,200 less profit for each cow that dies on farm and cannot be sold for beef.

LIV is also correlated to DPR by 0.45 and to SCS by -0.25.

Net Merit changes

Net Merit (NM$) is an estimate of a cow’s lifetime profit to the farm. CDCB updated the formula for April 2017 proofs. It now includes new traits and revisions of traits using current incomes and expenses.

New changes include:

  • LIV is now part of the NM$ formula
  • Economic values are updated and current
  • Body weight composite (BWC) will replace Body size composite (BSC)

Relative values for most other traits included in the formula decreased slightly. The 2017 NM$ formula correlates by 0.989 to the previous NM$ from 2014. The table below shows the differences in the relative value of trait weights between the NM$ formula in 2014 and 2017.

TRAIT2014 NM$ TRAIT WEIGHT2017 NM$ TRAIT WEIGHT
Fat2223.7
Protein2018.3
Milk-1-0.7
Productive life1913.4
Cow livability7.4
Somatic cell score-7-6.5
Daughter pregnancy rate76.7
Calving ability $54.8
Cow conception rate11.6
Heifer conception rate21.4
Udder87.4
Feet & legs32.7
Body size composite-5
Body weight composite-5.9

The relative value of weight on PL decreases now that LIV is part of the NM$ formula. This adjustment will not hinder genetic progress for PL. Instead, it will increase the progress for LIV.

Body weight replaces body size

Since BWC is more closely related to the actual body weight of the cow than BSC, this change results in less selection against stature, body depth, and dairy form.

Finally, to account for updated milk component prices, the new NM$ formula increases emphasis on fat while decreasing emphasis on protein slightly.

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Introducing JPI 2017

With April proofs comes the introduction of JPI 2017 to replace the previous JPI 2015.

Jersey Performance Index™ (JPI™) is the American Jersey Cattle Association’s (AJCA) strategy for increasing lifetime net income.

The AJCA took into account the following three key fundamentals for Jersey sustainability while determining JPI 2017. These fundamentals were determined by a Capper and Cady 2012 study comparing the environmental impact of Jersey and Holstein milk for cheese production.

  • Increase production
  • Maintain body size
  • Maintain or improve components

What is the purpose of the new JPI 2017?

  • Increase milk production
  • Improve the density of milk
  • Moderate body weight
  • Improve herd life, fertility, udder health, and functional conformation

What new traits have been added to the formula? 

  • CFP Milk
    • Every 100 pounds of PTA milk needs 8.8 pounds combined fat and protein
    • Pounds of Milk = CFP/0.088
    • CFP Milk = PTA Milk – Pounds of Milk
    • If CFP Milk is positive, the JPI™ value is negative because there is more water than components
  • Body Weight Composite (BWC)
    • Proxy for feed efficiency, and replaces body size composite
  • PTA Cow Livability
    • Measures a cow’s ability to stay alive on the farm

What is the impact of JPI 2017? 
  • Significant drops in JPI for all industry sires.
    • The upper JPI threshold will drop from about 300 JPI to 230 JPI, and all industry bulls will drop in their JPI value.
  • Significant rescaling, similar to a base change.
    • We see genomic sires JPI™ values fall 38 points on average
  • Some re-ranking – in both directions
    • Some minor and some significant

Here is a full breakdown of the new JPI 2017. In the simplest terms, JPI 2017 has five percent less weight on production and five percent more weight on type traits as compared to JPI 2015. But there’s more to it than that. The following traits are new additions to the JPI 2017 formula.

Image comparing the genetic index weights on production, health and type traits for JPI 2015 versus JPI 2017

JPI 2015JPI 2017
Protein4330
Fat1515
CFP Milk-8
PRODUCTION TOTAL WEIGHT5853
Productive life106
Cow livability-4
Somatic cell score66
Daughter pregnancy rate77
Cow conception rate22
Heifer conception rate22
HEALTH TOTAL WEIGHT2727
Stature-0.6-0.9
Strength-0.1-3.4
Dairy form2.0
Rump angle-0.1
Rump width0.2-0.7
Rear Legs -0.1-0.1
Foot angle0.10.1
Fore udder2.62.4
Rear udder height1.91.8
Rear udder width0.10.1
Udder cleft2.11.9
Udder depth5.14.7
Teat placement1.00.9
Teat length-1.0-0.9
TYPE TOTAL WEIGHT1520
No time is better than now to sit down and review your genetic plan and strategy. When you set your own unique herd index, you will maximize genetic gains in the areas that most impact your farm’s profitability.
Focus on your goals and work with your trusted Alta advisor to create a customized index as an investment in your future.
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