Using genomics in your dairy herd

2/15/2014 7:00 AM

More than 800 attend Select Sire Power meeting

Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade

Special Sections Editor

EAST EARL, Pa. — Genomics is a part of the dairy breeding landscape for the Holstein and Jersey breeds. Other breed associations are working to develop their genomic database as well. There has been a shift in how dairy producers select their bulls and the speed of how fast a bull could enter into the latest sire lineup.

Genomics and genetics were key topics at the customer meeting. More than 800 dairy producers traveled to Shady Maple Restaurant to participate in the event, a record for the cooperative.

Genomics changed the genetic game according to Rick VerBeek, dairy sire analyst for Select Sires. Suddenly additional information was available on young bulls. It changed how quickly young bulls could join an AI company or cooperative’s sire lineup.

VerBeek tackled the question on how should producers utilize genomic information in their farm’s breeding program.

The benefit of proven bulls with a high number of progeny, the farmer has a more complete picture on the bull’s genetic performance. With young genomic-tested bulls, farmers have the chance to utilize newer genetics in their programs but do not have the offspring data to complement the genomics.

He showed the progress of several bulls over several sire summary reports, comparing the genetic evaluations of both proven and young sires. Producers have to make a calculated risk assessment. Using the example of the stock market, sire selections are the individual stocks farmers invest into their herds. The amount of risk a farmer wants to take, is up to them, he says.

“You have to decide your own risk, and what are your objectives,” he said. “You can win big with genomic bulls, but you can lose big.” Over the course of several summaries, he can show how some bulls with high expectations will not pan out. And others with average expectations can turn out as a very successful option.

Another challenge with genomics, a select set of bulls will become popular, and many of their sons will enter the marketplace. “Diversification is key, don’t get hung up on a bull or the bull of the month,” he said regarding your breeding program.

Central Marketing Manager Murry Sinclair reminded the audience on the importance of finding the right bulls to develop successful, productive progeny. He showed several photos of unusual Holstein/native breed cows in South America and Africa. The animals may look unusual, but many of these cows have turned in productive lactations.

Marketing director Kirk Sattazahn spoke about a study completed by Cornell evaluated Northeastern dairy farms, and then they looked at the top 10 percent and what made these farms profitable. The study said the farms managed their costs better than the average. But, they spent more money in genetics and reproduction costs.

Sattazhan also shared an update on the state of the cooperative, saying 2013 recorded a record breaking year for semen unit sales, the fifth year in the row, resulting in a $1.5 million net profit.

The Bishop family of Doylestown, Pa., was recognized with a framed bull print featuring their bull Ensenada Taboo Planet-ET, who topped 1 million units of semen sold.

Does milk have a lot of untapped potential in today’s competitive beverage market?

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