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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 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