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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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December 2017 specialty 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. You can find lists to download and print with any of Alta’s Holstein and Jersey specialty sires. Below, you’ll find A2A2, polled, outcross, robot-suited and kappa casein sires. There is also with DWP$ and WT$, milking speed, and registry status listings and info on our highest fertility beef bulls to be used for terminal dairy crosses.

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.
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Not all genomic sires are created equal

Genomic proofs give us the confidence to use exciting sires sooner! Be assured that these bulls will deliver on their genetic promises, since genomic testing provides an immediate reliability of nearly 70% for production, health and conformation traits.

You might be wondering, what are the different genomic sire options? Let’s break them down…

Alta Advantage Logo

Alta ADVANTAGE

Our 23 newest bulls are available only to our Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. These Alta ADVANTAGE only sires offer diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on many customized genetic plans.

New, 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, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

G-STAR Logo

G-STARS

Once a bull has made enough semen he is added to the G-STAR sire list. With 30 new G-STAR bulls this proof round, these sires are readily available to everyone. This groups includes 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 Logo

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we know results for both sire fertility and calving ease. We gather this data, analyze the results, and award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls that prove themselves above average for sire fertility and less than 8% for sire calving ease and sire stillbirth.

This proof round, 13 bulls earned their FUTURE STAR status. This means they gained enough pregnancy check observations to prove their high fertility CONCEPT PLUS status. Plus, they have enough offspring born to prove their easy calvings.

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 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 are ideal options to use on heifers.

Now that you know the difference between each genomic sire option, and the progression a bull could make as he matures, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below. You’ll see that the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages, followed by the G-STAR sires, and then by the more highly reliable FUTURE STARS.

TPIMilkFatProPTATUDCFLCSCEPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE Only2743156777582.062.121.307.18.13.02.80
G-STAR2633161172581.761.721.096.96.82.32.86
FUTURE STAR2547136265501.481.591.006.46.82.12.78

It’s also important to note that every single bull atop our current daughter-proven list was once a part of the genomic-proven lists. The track record is significant for our current genomic favorites. Each proof round, we see these genomic bulls deliver on their initial predictions, and eventually graduate to daughter-proven success.

With that in mind, have confidence to use a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists. You’ll optimize future profitability by selecting a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation.

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Daughter-proven options to fit your genetic plan

When it comes to sire proofs, is high reliability part of your genetic plan? If so, select from several different sire options atop our daughter-proven lineup that are either new to the proven ranks or have just added new daughter information.

These bulls offer a wide range of trait specialties to fit many different customized genetic plans.

11HO11437 AltaSPRING | MOGUL X GERARD X MASCOL | 2563 TPI

  • Now over 3.00 for UDC – outstanding, high, wide rear udders and strong fore udder attachments
  • Moderate-sized cows with great balance of dairyness and strength
  • International producer favorite!

 

11HO11380 AltaROBLE | MOGUL X OBSERVER X SHOTTLE | CP| 511 | 2557 TPI

  • Health and type trait specialist
  • A high fertility Concept Plus sire that’s also at an elite 4.1 DPR!
  • Stylish, high type daughters with outstanding udders (+3.11 UDC)

 

11HO11379 AltaRABO | MOGUL X OBSERER X SHOTTLE | CP | 2520 TPI

  • Medium-sized cows with great dairyness
  • Type, udder and foot & leg improver
  • A high fertility sire with low calving ease

 

11HO1422 AltaJAKE | PETRONE X OBSERVER X GOLDWYN | CP | 511 | 2520 TPI

  • Health trait specialist at 8.2 PL
  • Fertility leader at 5.2 DPR and with the coveted Concept Plus high fertility sire status
  • Moderate stature, youthful cows with great dairyness

 

11HO11493 AltaHOTROD | JEROD X AltaIOTA X GOLDWYN | CP | 2483 TPI

  • New graduate from Future Star status – with high sire fertility and low calving ease
  • Tall, long, stylish cows
  • Youthful, well-attached udders – protect for short teats
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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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August 2017 daughter-proven chart-toppers

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

11HO11434 Har-Dale-Acres-JP AltaCR | Mogul x Trigger | CP | 511 | 2670 TPI

  • A breed leader for sire fertility, holding the coveted CONCEPT PLUS designation
  • Exceptional 2670 TPI, jumping 139 points since the last proof round
  • CONSISTENCY –clear pattern of white, modern moderate-size cows with outstanding udders
  • A definite udder improver: among minus stature bulls, he’s a breed leader for UDC

11HO11437 Westenrade AltaSPRING | Mogul x Gerard | 511 | 2622 TPI

  • International favorite – daughters create impressive milk records right out of the gate
  • Definite fat and protein yield improver
  • Stylish daughters with high, wide rear udder attachments

11HO11380 Lone-Oak-Acres AltaROBLE | Mogul x Observer | 511 | CP | 2559 TPI

  • A health and type trait specialist at 6.5 PL, 3.13 UDC, 2.77 PTAT
  • Excellent sire fertility with CONCEPT PLUS status, and great daughter fertility at 3.8 DPR
  • Daughters are stylish, stretchy cows with fancy udders and strong attachments

11HO11379 Lone-Oak-Acres AltaLEAF | AltaOAK x Trigger | 511 |CP | 2512 TPI

  • Daughters with outstanding udders and white, stylish frames are easy to pick out
  • A well-balanced proof with a high 7.5 PL and exceptional health traits
  • High milking daughters with impressive protein yields

11HO11379 Lone-Oak-Acres AltaRABO | Mogul x Observer | 511 | CP | 2505 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 new release, AltaROBLE, but with slightly higher production values

11HO11422 T-Spruce AltaJAKE | Petrone x Observer | 511 | CP | 2479 TPI

  • Exciting type and health trait specialist with the high fertility CONCEPT PLUS designation
  • Fancy daughters with outstanding, high, wide rear udders
  • Healthy, fertile cows that produce high quality milk
With August proofs also came adjustments to the TPI formula. Find more information about these industry updates HERE.

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 adviser to set and implement your own, customized genetic plan.

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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%8%-17%
Rear legs rear view19%18%-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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