Blogging about bulls!

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Welcome to my new blog!  I will be blogging about my adventures working with and marketing some of the worlds best genetics sought out world wide!  Things really do get crazy from time to time and I thought people need to see what goes on behind the scenes of a small A.I. company competing against the big dogs!  From breeding cows, buying bulls, daughter tours, family life, traveling all over the place and meeting new people in the industry – these are just a few things that I think you will find interesting and have a few good fun reads!

I really do wish I can tell everything, but due to competition watching me like a hawk I really can’t share all of our secrets!  Once we eliminate our competition I can tell all!  🙂

Welcome to my adventure….

Bulls make finalist for the distinguished Bull of the Year Poll!

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Number 1 Montbeliard Bull - Valfin

We are very happy to see two of our bulls that we market make the finalist for the distinguished “Bull of the Year” poll on a very popular independent website!  You can find (and vote) in this poll here.  This poll is very unique because it has bulls from over 10 different breeds of cattle!  Just making this poll is a great honor!

The two bulls that made it are two Montbeliard that we import from France.  One of the bulls is the number 1 Montbeliard bull in the breed Valfin and a very high milk Montbeliard bull UMO!  Go to the poll and vote for your favorite bulls!  This poll is going to end soon so make sure you go back and see the results!

Happy Breeding!

Calori-D Durham Excite Daughters Working Girl Pictures

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The first of many daughters started freshening at Diamond D Dairy and I got to see them today!  I want to share with you what I saw.  All of these pictures will be of Calori-D Durham Excite daughters.  They were milking really well and don’t see why he won’t come up on his next milk proof.  

Thanks to Jimmy Goebel and Diamond-D Dairy for taking time to separate these cows today.  And a big thank you to Jimmy’s wife Shelaine for letting me borrow her camera!  

Dairy Proof Accomplishments: Topping the Charts!

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Top Bull

I normally talk about all that is wrong with the numbers in the dairy proofs, dairy proofs in general and especially dairy genomics.  As I was looking back at the end of 2011, I was looking at all the accomplishments Sierra Desert Breeders has made throughout the years that surprised many people in the artificial insemination businesses when it came to our bulls and numbers on the dairy proof lists.  Here is a random top 10 list of accomplishments that topped the charts!

  • A genomic bull went to Genex/CRI for its high index
  • A proven bull top index list with low Calving Ease
  • A proven bull hits top 5 TPI California bred
  • A genomic bull went to Semex for its high index
  • A genomic bull was #1 for Feet and Legs
  • A proven bull hits top 20 TPI
  • A genomic bull went to Select Sires for its high index
  • A genomic bull hits #1 for Productive Life
  • Another proven bull hits top 5 TPI California bred
  • A proven bull has lowest calving ease in the breed

Doug Maddox Remembered


Doug Maddox and Eric in the corral looking at Daughters of Ruann bulls

When Eric and I started Sierra Desert Breeders in September of 2007, one of the first calls I received was from Doug Maddox. These were his exact words: “The AI industry needs some thing like this, somebody to shake things up a little, but boys, stick with cow families and you will do all right.”

Doug was supportive of our adventure right from the start, he thought it was a great idea. Doug, being the president of the Holstein Association at the time, made us feel a lot more at ease that we did the right thing.

At Ruann they are proving out a wide variety of bulls . He told us we could pick out 2 for our program. So we did! Who wouldn’t want that opportunity!

I always admired Ruann’s cows. They have more excellent cows than anybody else I know, They are strong, good udders, great feet and legs, tremendous production and above else they are housed in the same environment as most of our customers house their cows. No fancy box stalls, their best cows are part of the herd.

At Ruann they are not afraid to use some different bulls many of their own. Doug will mate a cow with a bull that “fits”, regardless where he is listed on the TPI list, it is not really a numbers game over there. Doug showed me around his dairies and I saw many beautiful daughters of several Ruann bulls. Doug said, ”The dairyman wants to see nice heifers in the barn, use bulls out of the best cow families and you will get them, the indexes might not always be there, but these heifers will milk”.

And he was right!

The first 2 bulls we got from Ruann were 506H120 Norstar, a Morty son, and 506H151 Heirloom, a BW Marshall son out of the Blackstar line. Many more followed and the last bull we picked out together with Doug is 506H242 Crescent-red, a Reality-red son out of his ex 94 point Advent daughter Ruann Constance.

Ruann Heirloom did exactly what Doug said he was going to do. He sires great looking cows, milking very well and most important very happy dairyman. Look at our video Doug describing Heirloom daughters. Semen on Heirloom is now sold world wide.

Doug Maddox introduced us to many people in the industry. They turned into very good relationships. One of them, Produgenes in Argentina, Dr. Roberto Marsiletti and his family, who are distributing SDB and Ruann bulls in South America.

Doug Maddox will be greatly missed. Eric and I will never forget his wise counsel and support for our business.

We pray that God will comfort his wife and his family.

Thanks Doug!!!!

Wout Vander Goot and Eric Danzeisen

New Dairy Genetics and The Chicago Bears: Nate Zwald on Genomics


After listening to a Proud to Dairy (BTW if you have not signed up to the “Proud To Dairy” social media website this would be a good time to do so) video with Nate Zwald talking about the accuracy of genomics and skipping generations it made me think about my Chicago Bears for some reason.  Maybe I always think about the Chicago Bears because when I was a kid they were good!  I can’t let go of the past I guess. 😉

Anyways….it made me think about why people always say the newest is always better.  Why does that have to be true?  Why are the newest genetics always considered better?  Just because people want to jump and skip generations to get better genetics doesn’t mean it actually works.  To keep this conversation simple I will bring back my Chicago Bears for a good example.  If newest was better I would put my money on the 2011 Bears team instead of the 1985 team.  Only an insane person would rather have the 2011 team!  You can say that the other teams and players have just gotten better just like with herd mates, but I will still put my money on the ’85 team!

Something else about this video that disturbs me a bit.  Why do they keep saying that the bulls proofs have come out much more on target once they have daughters milking?  Why didn’t they know this before with older tested bulls with daughters milking in 2009?  Could it be that the genomics are keeping the numbers close no matter how off the daughters are?  It comes back to knowing how much influence the genomics have once a bull is proven!

Give me back my 1985 Chicago Bears!

Texas Dairy Review: Is the dairy industry headed down right path with sexed semen?

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Sexed Semen

This sexed semen article is a copy that was published in the Texas Dairy Review in June 2010 where you can find here. I thought it would be of interest to my readers.  It might be a little out of date, but I think I can add extra post in the future about the subject of Sexed Semen.   –    Enjoy!

Sexed semen has been one of the newest technologies available to dairymen for reproduction of their herds in the past few years. The mechanically-engineered Gender Enhanced Semen (GES) has been around since the early 1980s but did not hit the commercial market until the early 2000s. Once it was released, dairy producers were anxious to use the marketing tool to increase heifer population and ultimately enable their dairies to produce more milk.

But, is the industry headed down the right path with the use of sexed semen? While the majority of dairymen, scientists, and big A.I. companies may say “yes” because of its obvious benefits, others are not so sure and feel it adds to the overwhelming problems and contradictions already present in the dairy industry.

Competing without sexed semen

Eric Danzeisen, partner with Wout Vander Goot, of Sierra Desert Breeders, based in Tulare, California, began their AI breeding service in 2007 and have found they can successfully compete in the AI market without selling sexed semen. Within three short years, they have rapidly grown their core customer base, even during the recent economic recession.

“We are doing as well or better than some other AI breeding companies. We don’t sell sexed semen because of our concerns,” Danzeisen said. “We saw what happened with BST after it was the big rage and then dwindled away. We don’t know if that will happen with sexed semen or not but it’s a concern we have considered.”

Old fashioned AI

Danzeisen and sales representative Josh Verburg said they can attribute most of their business success to long hours and hard work. “You just have to get out there and look at the genetics if you want to sell good semen to dairymen. We don’t just look at numbers on a piece of paper—we check out the genetics the old-fashioned way – through the best cow families and looking at milking daughters.”

Danzeisen and Verburg said personalized service and fashioning their business away from the popular trend of sexed semen, sets them apart from other AI companies. They are convinced that conventional AI breeding has proved its effectiveness over its many years of use but since sexed semen is relatively new, no one really knows what can happen with it in the future.

Overuse of sexed semen

The breeder specialists said problems in the dairy industry become even more apparent with the overuse of sexed semen. In the latest episode of spiraling milk prices, dairy industry experts across the nation claim the biggest part of the price problem is due to too much milk on the market.

“That fits the popular trend of growing your milk production,” Danzeisen and Verburg said. “But, when you add more and more heifers to the mix, and keep adding them, it becomes an overall production problem for dairymen that works against them, instead of for them.”

Economics show too much milk diminishes negotiating power that results in milk prices bottoming out, as seen at the end of 2008 through 2009. Cooperatives maintain they cannot get good milk prices when processors have an overabundance of the product—and claim the responsibility lies with its producers. Meanwhile, the value of the world’s most unique and nutritious commodity becomes insignificant.

No stopping point

“This popular dairy philosophy of ‘more is better’ provides no stopping point,” Danzeisen said. “My producers feel they have to grow to keep up with modern trends to compete in the market and it would be next to impossible to get a producer to limit his own production when his peers or neighbors will not.”

Danziesen sees this as the same mindset for the overuse of sexed semen and “more” can be detrimental to the overall financial health of producers and the entire industry.

Contradictions in financial reward

One dairy producer mentioned to Danziesen the incredibly high cull rate among some producers. But, to cull cows, only to go out and buy more sexed semen to increase a herd, is not a good business decision. This is especially true, the producer added, when considering it takes about $1800 to grow out a heifer yet it is only worth about $1100 on the market. Where is the financial reward in this?

Another contradiction is Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), when a few years ago it initiated an effort to curtail milk production. “Dairy producers pay .10 cents per hundredweight into the program to kill cows, yet, they turn right around and buy sexed semen to grow more heifers which means more milk—the very thing they are trying to get rid of,” Verburg said.

“Killing 280,000 cows last year and producing approximately 300,000 new heifers at the same time, does not make sense,” he added.

Control in world market

Danziesen pointed out that as the U.S. enters a world milk market, American genetics are very much in demand. “Third world nations are now constructing basic, and in some cases, huge infrastructures to compete with our milk markets. It is crucial to minimize the effects of American genetics through sexed semen worldwide.

“If we have added 300,000 new heifers, how many more heifers were produced worldwide with the best genetics in the world?” Danzeisen asked.

Public awareness/acceptance

In today’s industry, producers are aware of the importance of exhibiting a good public image. As seen with the public’s outrage of BST, it is becoming clear the public is moving toward natural and organic products and does not take well to products that are mechanically engineered.

“As AI breeders, we realize there are more benefits to sexed semen than not. But, it isn’t natural to sort semen to get exactly what you want and it hasn’t been around long enough to see if the public will accept this practice once they discover it,” Danziesen said.

Since some cooperatives in the past required producers to quit using BST, Danziesen wonders if they will ask producers to quit using sexed semen. “Not just because of the public, but also because of the overpopulated heifer industry.”

Experts have said sexed semen is not a “band aid” for poor reproductive performance and advise producers to focus on keeping their herds healthy and disease-free.

Drawbacks against rewards

Thomas R. Overton, associate professor, DVM, MPVM, Dairy Production Medicine at the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine, addresses sexed semen in his article, “Economic considerations of sexed semen on your dairy,” (2007).

He outlines the genetic improvements sexed semen provides but also points to its drawbacks and the risks that should be weighed against potential rewards.

In part, he said while the use of sexed semen may increase the proportion of live female calves born yearly, more pregnancies are needed to return cows to the next lactation than are needed to produce the necessary herd replacements. “Producing more heifers than are needed by the dairy industry is not desirable,” Overton said.

He said the downside to sexed semen technology for increased replacement heifers is: every cow should not produce a heifer calf; only the best cows should be producing daughters for maximal genetic gain; there is an extra cost for sexed semen; and, there can be problems with reduced fertility.

Too many heifers, less value

Like too much milk, Overton said too many heifers in excess of industry needs will have less value. He added the use of sexed semen is risky if the producer is only trying to capture value from high heifer prices.

Overton said a major advantage to sexed semen for herd expansion is it increases biosecurity. But, he advises producers to consider filling rates for barns and pens, meaning many expanding herds will still need to buy cows. He said producers should plan for the extra heifers and determine if there is enough room for the increase.

Extra cost considered?

“Hutches, pens, labor, capital, feed supplies, and storage facilities are some of the many areas that can become overwhelmed if heifer numbers increase by 70% (from a 50% heifer ratio to an 85% ratio),” he said.

Danzeisen and Verburg concur dairy producers should be aware of the consequences of using sexed semen. “It might make financial sense to do so on your dairy farm, but taking two steps forward yesterday might have actually depleted your bank account today.”

Genetics the Sierra Desert Breeders way: A word from our President!

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Genetics, the SDB way!!!!!

At the WDE many people asked me about how SDB select our bulls, what is our criteria and what is our program when picking out bulls.

We do things a little different at SDB!

First of all, we listen to our customer, what does he want to achieve with his cows.  Eric and myself have combined 30 years experience working in the AI field and before that we were both employed on dairies. Our experience tells us that dairyman want problem free, nice looking cows, give lots of milk with good components, breeds back well for a few lactations.  In order to achieve this you need a balanced breeding program and for that you need balanced bulls.  I believe most of our customers have a balanced herd.  We do not need any extreme bulls, like extreme high PL or DPR or production or PTAT. If you use an extreme bull you will sacrifice too much in an other field.  It is nice when you have a bull that has it all and is the hot bull of the moment. This brings me to my second point: don’t fall for the hot bull syndrome!  It is great to have the hot bull of the month, but what if you don’t have that bull, your customers expect you to have him. We want to sell our complete lineup and all our bulls should achieve what the commercial dairyman is looking for.  These bulls usually sell for way too much money and you get not enough “Bang for your buck”.  Most of the time these so called “hot bulls” after a few years are as good as any other bull on the TPI list.

So, what are we looking for:

When you sell large amounts of semen to commercial dairyman, I think it is very important the bull is proven and has lots of daughters in large herds. We are continually looking after daighters of our bulls and observe them how they are doing. This to me is extremely important. I have seen daughters of minus milk bulls, milking over 100lbs as 2nd and 3rdcalf.  I have also seen bulls with extreme high milk or $NM, their dtrs don’t last more than one lactation. I’ve seen dtrs of bulls high on UDC, PL that don’t milk enough, because their udders are too small. Again we need balanced, high reliable, proven bulls.

A bull that I think comes close to the perfect bull is Shottle. His dtrs do well in commercial herds, they always stand out, produce well, have enough strength. They are usually big and robust, ready to take on the world.

Feet and leg composite is the most important and I don’t want to compromise on. If the cow has to walk to the barn 2 or 3 times a day, and in large herds this can be a long way, they have to have good feet and legs. If they don’t, they are done!

Genomics

Genomics certainly helped us to find better young sires, but they do not replace the proven bulls. Our criteria for young bulls is: 100lbs fat and protein combined, PTAT 1.5, UDC 1.5, F+L 1.5, CE 7% or less  But the main thing is the cow family. We put a lot of value in a deep, well proven cow family. Through the years I learned that daughters from a bull out of a great cow, usually turn out all right.

To find an outcross bull is of course a challenge, but they are there. There are some foreign bulls, who are completely different, we can use.

I don’t think it is wise to use high genomic bulls as sire of sons. If you want to play the numbers game, yes you have to. But if you want to breed good cows and cows the commercial dairyman is happy with, stick with the basics; Take the best cows and mate them to the best proven bulls.

It is not that complicated, It’s that simple.

Wout VanderGoot