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The timeline of an Alta sire

You might be wondering what the different sire designations mean, and how they fit into the life cycle of an Alta bull. So let’s break them down…

Alta ADVANTAGE

Most sires begin their journey at Alta among this group of bulls, which is available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. Alta ADVANTAGE sires offer diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on many different customized genetic plans.

When a bull is first old enough to be collected, he simply won’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 committed Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

G-STARS

Once a bull starts producing enough semen, he is added to the G-STAR sire list. Many new G-STAR bulls are readily available this proof round. Among these sires are a wide array of trait outliers, and high-ranking options to fit your genetic plan. Some of these bulls have even been released long enough to have proven information for sire fertility, so you can choose a balance of both high genetics and high fertility CONCEPT PLUS.

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we have actual, proven 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 with offspring already born, with results for proof of easy calvings, pregnancy check results that confirm they are above average for sire fertility. They also have calves born already, and their calving ease data shows them to be less than 8% for sire calving ease.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics but prefer the added peace of mind 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 can rest assured, knowing that you’re upping your chances for a both a pregnancy and a live calf from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS are often a good option to use on heifers.

PROVEN STARS

About three years after a bull is first released, his earliest daughters will enter the milking string. Once there has been adequate time to collect milk test information from those daughters and/or analyze their actual conformation, the data is compiled by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) and Holstein Association USA. That information is then calculated into a sire’s first daughter proof.

From there, as more daughters begin their first lactation, their sire’s reliability continues to increase. PROVEN STAR sires are for those people who only prefer the highest reliability genetic options.

Compare the averages to see the progress

Now that you know the difference between each sire designation, and understand 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 – especially for the money-making production and health traits. They’re followed by the G-STAR sires, and then by the more highly reliable FUTURE STARS. You’ll also see the comparison to daughter-proven sire averages, just for reference.

60-40-0TPINM$MilkProtFatCFPPrelPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE952277695217746994163761.821.980.717.20.72.70
G-STAR870268587316266486149781.681.840.776.50.82.76
FUTURE STAR822265082915386183144801.901.841.035.80.52.78
PROVEN STAR748255372916816174134951.841.690.934.70.42.81

Despite the big difference in genetic averages between the genomic lists and daughter-proven averages, it’s important to note that every single bull atop our current PROVEN STAR list was once a part of the G-STAR and/or FUTURE STAR lists. This just shows how much, and how fast, we’re making genetic progress!

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.

A side-by-side comparison

We can take this comparison of genetic averages one step further. For the sake of simplicity, let’s use the 60-40-0 index to do a side-by-side comparison of our top daughter-proven sires and our top genomic-proven bulls.

Both lists have tremendous options to use. The top daughter-proven bulls are elite among their peers. In fact, AltaTOPSHOT would even rank #2 among our genomic-proven list. The rest widely recognized as popular options around the world. Yet, if we’re talking about using groups of bulls, instead of individual bulls, the genomic-proven average simply outpaces our daughter-proven options by a significant amount.

Top 10 daughter-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO11779AltaTOPSHOT1091
11HO11781AltaUPSHOT980
11HO11487AltaBARK888
11HO11778AltaROBSON859
11HO11718AltaTURNKEY842
11HO11767AltaCONCORD818
11HO11737AltaHIDALGO810
11HO11740AltaFACET803
11HO11750AltaFLACCO802
11HO11669AltaJONAH801
Average870

Top 10 genomic-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO12345AltaSOHOT1108
11HO12346AltaTORRENT1033
11HO12293AltaBUNDLE1027
11HO12194AltaCABOT1013
11HO12219AltaZAREK1009
11HO12168AltaGILMORE1009
11HO12124AltaGOPRO1000
11HO15023AltaGLOW981
11HO14200AltaFAVIAN978
11HO15012AltaROYALTON976
Average 1013

Have confidence in the right genetics for your dairy

With that in mind, have confidence that using a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists will help you meet your goals. And if you prefer the peace of mind from higher-reliability proven sires, you’ll certainly find the right bulls to fit your needs among that list.

The most important thing is to select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation – the type of bulls that will help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS. That is the key for you to drive progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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The NM$ index has new weights

The CDCB health traits will be added to the Lifetime Net Merit (NM$) formula starting in August. They will be combined into a health trait sub-index called HTH$, which will not be published separately.

You can find the relative value (%) for the traits in HTH$ in Table 1. DA, MAST, and METR represent over 80% of the index, due mainly to the higher costs and heritabilities associated with those traits.

Table 1. HTH$ sub-index relative values

TRAITABBREVRELATIVE VALUE in HTH$
MastitisMAST32.9
MetritisMETR26.5
Displaced abomasumDA23.3
Retained placentaRETP10.3
KetosisKETO4.7
Milk feverMFEV2.3

HTH$ Correlations

The correlations between HTH$ and the other traits in the NM$ formula are in Table 2. HTH$ is moderately to highly correlated with the health traits that were already included in the formula (PL, DPR, SCS, HCR, CCR, and LIV).  The heritability of HTH$ is low (0.01) as are many of the health traits.

Table 2. Genetic correlations between HTH$ and other NM$ traits

TraitMilkFatProtPLDPRSCSHCRCCRLIVCA$UdderF&LBWC
HTH$0.030.080.040.560.42−0.440.180.360.550.33−0.010.02−0.26

The new NM$ Index

A comparison of the 2017 and 2018 NM$ formulas is in Table 3 below.  The addition of HTH$ to NM$ results in slightly less weight on some of the traits already in the formula. In addition to new health traits in the index, NM$ now puts slightly more emphasis on the yield traits. SCS emphasis decreases because indirect correlated health costs are now allocated directly to HTH$.

The Fat to Protein ratio shifts to favor fat more, as the price paid for Fat is increasing and the price paid for Protein is decreasing (see Table 4 below).

Emphasis on SCS decreases since MAST is now directly included through the HTH$ index. PL emphasis also decreases slightly because later lactations are less valuable now that replacement heifer prices are lower.

Table 3. Net Merit $ Relative Values

Trait2017 NM$2018 NM$
Milk-0.7-0.7
Fat23.726.8
Protein18.316.9
PL13.412.1
SCS-6.5-4.0
DPR6.76.7
HCR1.41.4
CCR1.61.6
CA$4.84.8
LIV7.47.3
HTH$-2.3
UDC7.47.4
FLC2.72.7
BWC-5.9-5.3

NM$ 2017 versus NM$ 2018

Table 4. Component prices used to calculate Net Merit

YearFat ($/lb)Protein ($/lb)F:P ratio
20172.611.871.4
20162.312.101.1
20152.302.241.0
20142.383.390.7

Genetic Progress

Table 5 shows the expected genetic progress per trait for the 2017 and 2018 NM$ formulas.

The new 2018 formula will result in more progress for Fat, Protein, and FLC, and less progress for PL, DPR, CA$, and HCR.

The correlation between the 2017 and 2018 NM$ indexes are very high. For current industry genomic Holstein bulls the correlation is 0.998, and for current active, proven Holstein bulls, the correlation is 0.999.

Of the current top 100 NM$ genomic bulls, 88 remain in the top 100 NM$ using the 2018 formula.

Of the current top 100 NM$ active, proven bulls, 95 remain in the top 100 with the new formula.

Table 5. Expected genetic progress from NM$

Trait2017 NM$ (PTA change per year)2018 NM$ (PTA change per year)
Milk104104
Fat5.55.9
Protein3.73.8
PL0.540.51
SCS-0.02-0.02
DPR0.180.16
CA$3.53.4
HCR0.210.20
CCR0.420.42
LIV0.380.38
HTH$0.90.9
BWC-0.08-0.08
UDC0.050.05
FLC0.020.03

Customize your genetic plan

Ever-changing industry indexes serve as a reminder that your own farm’s customized genetic plan is as important as ever. When you set your emphasis on the production, health, and conformation traits that matter to your own bottom line – and stick to the plan you set – you’ll continue to maximize the progress you make in the direction of your own farm’s goals – even when other indexes change.

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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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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.

TPI Formula

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 46%

46PRODUCTION TRAIT WEIGHTS
19Pounds of protein
19Pounds of fat
8Feed efficiency

HEALTH TRAITS = 29%

29HEALTH TRAIT WEIGHTS
13Fertility Index
5Productive Life
-4Somatic Cell Score
3Cow Livability
2CDCB Health Trait Index
1Daughter Calving Ease
1Daughter Stillbirth

CONFORMATION TRAITS = 25%

25CONFORMATION TRAIT WEIGHTS
11Udder Composite
8PTA Type
6Foot & Leg Composite

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 reference base population born in 2015. 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 August 2018. Please note that trait weights are rounded to the nearest percentage.

Net Merit$ breakdown

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 45%

45PRODUCTION TRAIT WEIGHTS
27Pounds of fat
17Pounds of protein
-1Pounds of milk

HEALTH TRAITS = 40%

40HEALTH TRAIT WEIGHTS
12Productive Life
7Cow Livability
7Daughter Pregnancy Rate
5Calving Ability
-4Somatic Cell Score
2Health Trait Index
2Cow Conception Rate
1Heifer Conception Rate

CONFORMATION TRAITS = 15%

15CONFORMATION TRAIT WEIGHTS
7Udder Composite
-6Body Weight Composite
3Foot & 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 August 2018 and the following trait weights are considered. Please take note that trait weights shown have been rounded to the nearest percentage.

Cheese Merit weights

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 52%

52PRODUCTION TRAIT WEIGHTS
21Pounds of protein
23Pounds of fat
-8Pounds of milk

HEALTH TRAITS = 35%

35HEALTH TRAIT WEIGHTS
11Productive Life
6Cow Livability
6Daughter Pregnancy Rate
4Calving Ability
-4Somatic Cell Score
2Health Trait Index
1Cow Conception Rate
1Heifer Conception Rate

CONFORMATION TRAITS = 13%

13CONFORMATION TRAIT WEIGHTS
6Udder Composite
-5Body Weight Composite
2Foot & Leg Composite

FM$ = Fluid Merit Dollars

FM$ is an index calculated by CDCB. It is best suited to dairies operating in a fluid milk market that are paid for total pounds of milk produced (as opposed to payment for components). The current FM$ index was adjusted in August 2018 and the following trait weights are considered.

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 46%

46PRODUCTION TRAIT WEIGHTS
27Pounds of fat
18Pounds of milk

HEALTH TRAITS = 38%

38HEALTH TRAIT WEIGHTS
12Productive Life
7Cow Livability
7Daughter Pregnancy Rate
5Calving Ability
-2Somatic Cell Score
2Health Trait Index
2Cow Conception Rate
1Heifer Conception Rate

CONFORMATION TRAITS = 16%

16CONFORMATION TRAIT WEIGHTS
8Udder Composite
-5Body Weight Composite
3Foot & Leg Composite

GM$ = Grazing Merit Dollars

GM$ is an index calculated by CDCB to most heavily weigh the traits that affect grazing herds preferring seasonal calving. The current GM$ index was adjusted in August 2018 and the following trait weights are considered.

PRODUCTION TRAITS = 38%

38PRODUCTION TRAIT WEIGHTS
23Pounds of fat
14Pounds of protein
1Pounds of milk

HEALTH TRAITS = 46%

46HEALTH TRAIT WEIGHTS
18Daughter Pregnancy Rate
7Productive Life
5Cow Livability
4.5Calving Ability
-3.5Somatic Cell Score
4Cow Conception Rate
2Heifer Conception Rate
2Health Trait Index

CONFORMATION TRAITS = 16%

16CONFORMATION TRAIT WEIGHTS
7Udder Composite
-6Body Weight Composite
3Foot & Leg Composite

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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The proof is in your numbers

Let us show you…

We can show you the proof that genetics are one of the cheapest investments you can make to improve the profitability and efficiency of your herd. Proof sheet numbers may seem unclear or unrealistic. So we break them down to see how they translate within your own herd.

When you use a herd management software program, we can create a genetic assessment of your herd to see if genetics really work on your farm.

Do your 2-year-olds give as many pounds of milk as their sires’ proofs predict? Do these cows become pregnant as quickly as their sires’ DPR numbers suggest? And do daughter stillbirth numbers prove to be accurate indicators of DOAs?

When we do a genetic assessment for your herd, it’s important to realize that we only take into account first-lactation animals in order to minimize environmental effects. Phenotype equals genetics plus environment. So when we eliminate – or at least minimize – environmental influences, the actual performance differences we see are due to genetics.

We want to show you how those proof numbers translate to more pounds of milk, more pregnancies and fewer stillborn calves. So here, we take one of our real DairyComp 305 analyses of a real 1,500-cow herd for answers.

The proof in genetics: PTA Milk (PTAM)

We start with PTAM, which tells us how many more pounds of milk a first-lactation animal will produce compared to herdmates on a 305-day ME basis. We set out to find if higher PTAM values on this farm actually convert to more pounds of milk in the tank.

In this example, we sort all first-lactation animals with a known Holstein sire ID, solely on their sires’ PTAM values. We then compare that to their actual 305-day ME milk records.

As Table 1 shows, based on genetics, we expect the top 25 percent of first-lactation heifers to produce 1,541 more pounds of milk on a 305ME basis than their lower PTAM counterparts. In reality, we see a 2,662-pound difference between the top PTAM animals and the bottom in actual daughter performance.

Table 1: How does selection for PTAM affect actual 305ME performance?
# of cowsAvg. Sire PTAMAvg. 305ME Production
Top 25% high sire PTAM178150844080
Bottom 25% low sire PTAM171-3341418
Difference15412662
This means that for every pound of milk this herd selects for, they actually get an additional 1.69 pounds of milk. So these first-lactation animals are producing well beyond their genetic potential.

Why do they get more than expected?

When we do most on-farm genetic assessments, we find that the 305ME values closely match the predicted difference based on sire PTAM. However, in this example, the production exceeds what’s expected by more than 1,100 pounds.

We often attribute that bonus milk top-level management, where genetics are allowed to express themselves. This particular herd provides a comfortable and consistent environment for all cows. All of these 2-year-olds are fed the same ration, housed in the same barn and given the same routine. At more than a 40,000-pound average 305ME, this is certainly a well-managed herd, which allows the top genetic animals to exceed their genetic production potential.

Perhaps even more importantly, the identification in this herd is more than 95 percent accurate. Without accurate identification, this analysis simply won’t work. That’s because some cows whose real sire information puts them in the bottom quartile will actually appear in the top quartile and vice-versa.

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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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Alta Genetics Bull Search app now available!

Alta Genetics Bull Search app now available!
Genetic planning for your herd is now simpler than ever with the all new Alta Bull Search app for iPhone.

In addition to Alta’s comprehensive online Bull Search, iPhone users now have the added functionality to search for the right bulls to meet their goals using the Alta Genetics Bull Search app.
The brand new app allows you to find rankings for sires that best fit your genetic plan and to see individual sire proofs on Alta bulls and all active industry sires with a TPI greater than 1700. Once the app is downloaded, internet connectivity is not needed to browse.
At Alta, we prefer not to rate bulls only on single traits or industry standard indexes. Our goal is to create value with your end result in mind – a productive and profitable herd. Since we know that standard genetic indexes do not match everyone’s goals, we took the industry lead to work with a variety of customized breeding goals and genetic plans.
We hope you enjoy the first release of the iOS version of the Alta Genetics Bull Search app. Coming soon will be an Android version of the app, as well as new and more proof information and additional functionality to both app versions.
Please click here to download the all new Alta Genetics Bull Search app to your iPhone.

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