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About: Chrissy Meyer

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Canadian dairy producers learn reproductive improvement strategies

Nineteen dairy producers from three different provinces joined together for Canada’s second Dairy Manager School of 2018.

Through both classroom-based and on-farm learning, the training participants learned progressive strategies for improving their herd’s reproductive performance. Dr. Paul Fricke and Glaucio Lopes led talks about reproductive physiology and protocols, reproductive precision through activity monitoring, heifer reproduction, and how to effectively analyze and interpret reproductive records.

A visit to Dairi-Acres farm gave participants the opportunity to see all areas of management. They also used this stop as a case study to learn how a focus on reproduction helped take this herd from a single digit preg rate more than ten years ago to an average yearly preg rate currently well over 30%!

The final portion of Dairy Manager School concluded with Kevin Muxlow sharing strategies and prompting discussions on marginal milk during times of tight margins.

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Alta Brazil promotes dairy and beef genetics through international tour

Brazil is a country of continental dimensions. The environmental and climatic diversity of our country allows each region to have its own characteristics within livestock. The various production systems, the productive efficiency and the genetic evolution of the herds, have aroused the interest of breeders from other countries in search of increasingly lucrative and sustainable livestock.

March 19 – 23, the Alta Brazil team, along with Alta International Director, Manuel Ávila, traveled around 2,000 kilometers with producers, technicians and company representatives from Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay and Panama for a round of visits to farms that represent the reality of Brazil.

“This week that we spent here was very important to share experiences and mainly served to show all the genetic potential that Brazil has in the zebu breeds. The great strength of these breeds comes from the genetic breeding that the Brazilian breeder have done in a fantastic way. Watching this closely and visiting some of the farms that provide these genetics for us makes total difference,” says Manuel Avila.

Guests view cattle during the recent tour hosted by Alta Brazil
Guests learn more about Alta's fertility evaluation during the recent tour hosted by Alta Brazil

The tour began at one of the farms of the Mafra Group in Uberaba (MG). Here, guests learned about all the breeding work carried out by the group for the past 20 years, as well as an important talk about CONCEPT PLUS, Alta’s exclusive fertility program.

The group then traveled to Jubaí (MG), and visited Fazenda Boa Fé, to see the production and genetics of the Girolando and Holstein breeds. Visitors learned about integrating crops and livestock on the property, along with the benefits of focusing on cow comfort. They also learned more about calf raising and why it’s important to provide colostrum for the animal development.

“In technical visits to farms, it is very important to have time to talk about raising calves, because in the calf is the genetic future of the farm. During the visit to the Boa Fé farm, we had the opportunity to talk about all the initial care with the newborns and we also demonstrated the success of the use of bovine powder colostrum on the farm,” explains Rafael Azevedo, Colostro Alta Product Manager.

The second day of visits began with a parade of genetics at the Alta facility in Uberaba. Throughout the morning, the participants visited the Alta headquarters, home to about 300 bulls of many different breeds. They were able to see where sires are housed and the main office.

After lunch, visitors traveled to Fazenda Xapetuba in Uberlândia (MG), a family company known for its innovation and productivity, both in agriculture and livestock. At the stations, guests took in lectures on genetic planning and the reproductive indexes of the herd.

Jorge Quiceno is a technician in Colombia and was impressed with the quality of the farms visited, “It was an excellent opportunity to get to know the country, the new technologies and the different production systems. The farms we visited have shown surprising efficiency. We, in Colombia, have many things to evaluate and possibly copy in our country.”

Guests viewed several different management systems during the tour hosted by Alta Brazil

The third day began in the state of Goiás, more precisely in the city of Rio Verde. In the morning they visited the Reunidas Baumgart, known internationally for the intense process of quality meat production and crossbreeding.

Next, they went to the Girolando farm, Rio Verde, to see pasturing and genetics at a property that works in a very simple, yet functional way. Proof of the results show through in the important recognition the farm has received, with animals awarded in various categories.

Edson Chaves came from Bolivia and was impressed by the genetic quality of the Brazilian-bred animals. “Bolivia has a very similar climate to Brazil, and for me, it was important to understand the criteria and the methodology that breeders have used here. I took all my doubts and understood a little more about how to produce more to the field with animals of high added genetic value.”

Also in Goiás the tour went to Fazenda Mutum in Alexânia, a farm that holds several records in the Gir and Girolando breeds. The Mutum farm originates from large dairy producers, such as Phase, Endora, Fécula and Cinta. In addition, they have used important Alta bulls like Gallium, Cargo, Skill, Jet among many others.

The last day ended on a high note, with a visit to Fazenda Vila Rica in Cocalzinho, also in the state of Goiás. Their focus on productivity has yielded important recognition in various dairy competitions. Animals in the herd are from Hada Vila Rica, Dayane, Amendoa and Africana, in addition to Alta icon sires, Kalika and Koro.

The participants had the opportunity to see the sons and daughters of important dairy and beef bulls from Alta. “Alta has provided us with a great event that will add a lot to our genetic improvement work in Ecuador. We saw important farms that operate in confinement, semi-confinement and also production to pasture systems. We were able to exchange experiences with producers from other countries and get a closer look at the genetics that Alta offers for these different production systems,” says the breeder Fabian Pita of Ecuador.

Guests get to view cattle during the recent tour hosted by Alta Brazil

Submitted by Renata Paiva and Camilla Lazak Rodrigues

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April 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, in formats that are easy to print. Here you will find lists to download with any of Alta’s Holstein and Jersey specialty sires. Below, are the A2A2, polled, outcross, robot-suited and kappa casein sires. There is also a listing of our top DWP$ and WT$ sires, milking speed ratings, and registry status listings.

If you’re looking for a customized approach to the right beef bulls to use in your dairy herd, learn more about the Alta Beef ADVANTAGE.

  • HIGH FERTILITY
  • CALVING EASE
  • GROWTH PERFORMANCE
  • CARCASS QUALITY

Work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.

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Top 5 takeaways from Alta’s April proofs

1. MOST INDUSTRY BULLS DROPPED FOR PL, DPR & INDEX VALUES

  • CDCB updated the way they calculate Productive Life, which impacted industry bulls more than expected – and for more than just PL.
  • This is not a base change. The variable rollback adjusts for previous inflations, and that means an average TPI and NM$ drop for most bulls this proof round. Top-ranking bulls saw more extreme drops, but on average, according to CDCB, this calculation adjustment equated to the following:
    • Currently marketed industry HO genomic bulls: ↓ 1.5 PL  |  ↓ 1.4 DPR  |  ↓ 37$NM
    • Currently marketed industry HO daughter-proven sires: ↓ 0.8 PL  |  ↓ 1.0 DPR  |  ↓ 18 $NM
    • Currently marketed industry JE genomic bulls: ↓ 2.0 PL   | ↓ 0.8 DPR  |  ↓ 56 JPI
    • Currently marketed industry JE daughter-proven sires: ↓ 1.0 PL  |  ↓ 0.7 DPR  |  ↓ 26 $NM

What this means for you:
To account for previous inflation, be prepared to see lower PL, DPR, TPI, NM$ and customized index values for most bulls. The industry-wide decrease means you’ll want to readjust your mindset on the acceptable values for these indexes and traits.

 

2. NON-PUREBRED JERSEYS (WITH JX IN THEIR NAME) LIKELY DROPPED FOR JPI

  • CDCB extended their all-breed model to include genomic evaluations. This means that any Jerseys that have other breeds in their pedigree – denoted by the JX in their name – will be affected.
  • In addition to the average changes listed above, the non-purebred JX sires likely saw a greater change in JPI.
  • Holsteins and purebred Jerseys did not see a noticeable effect from this all-breed model change.

 

3. CDCB RELEASED SIX NEW HEALTH TRAITS

  • These traits, shown as resistance to each disease, are: Milk Fever, Displaced Abomasum, Ketosis, Mastitis, Metritis, and Retained Placenta
  • These new health traits are not currently included in any industry or Alta preset indexes. They can be found on Alta Bull Search in the Health Traits section of individual bull pages and within the Excel file export.

 

4. GREAT ALTA SIRE OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE – REGARDLESS OF GENETIC PLANS!

  • If you’re a loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner, there are 21 impressive new bulls available exclusively through this program.
  • The elite genomic G-STAR list added 40 new Holstein and Jersey sires!
  • 25 bulls with CONCEPT PLUS status gained low calving ease proof to earn FUTURE STAR status
  • To continue the trend of FUTURE STAR success, the top new sires on the daughter-proven list are all FUTURE STAR graduates!

 

5. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO REMEMBER IS THAT YOUR CUSTOMIZED GENETIC PLAN IS KING. WORK WITH YOUR TRUSTED ALTA ADVISOR TO SET AND IMPLEMENT YOUR OWN CUSTOMIZED GENETIC PLAN THAT MAXIMIZES GENETIC PROGRESS TOWARD YOUR FARM’S GOALS.

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Explore the new health traits

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) will release these six new direct health traits during April proofs. Click on each individual trait to learn more details about its benefits, reliability and heritability, directly from CDCB.

For a quick, one-page overview on all six health traits, please Click HERE.

The traits will be presented as disease resistance. A higher positive value is best – it means an animal is more resistant to the disease. A lower negative value will mean an animal is more susceptible, less resistant to the disease.

For example, let’s take a herd with an average mastitis incidence of 10%. If that herd uses a bull with a PTA of +3.0 for mastitis, we would expect the daughters of this bull to average 7% incidence rate for mastitis. That’s 3% less than the herd average.

Disease incidence rates range from 1.3% for milk fever to 10.2% for mastitis. Economic impact per case of each health event was also estimated, and ranged from $28 cost for ketosis to $197 for a displaced abomasum.

The heritability of these traits is still relatively low, but that doesn’t mean that you cannot make progress by selecting for these traits (read more about the high value of low heritability traits)

Mastitis resistance is also very favorably correlated with somatic cell score. Furthermore, the new health traits show no significant correlations to yield traits, meaning selection for fat or protein yield will not necessarily cause a decrease in health.

As the newly developed health traits are correlated to previously available traits, we have already been making progress in these traits, which you can learn about by reading the genetic guide to healthier cows. The data showed correlations up to 0.39 with productive life, correlations up to 0.47 with livability, and correlations up to 0.59 with DPR.

The data used to evaluate the health traits was collected from producer reported data in US herds, and underwent rigorous data testing to ensure accuracy.

With all this new information, it’s important to maintain focus on your customized genetic plan to make sure you keep making progress in the direction of your goals.

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Reproductive and DairyComp training available at DairyLearning.com

Dairylearning.com — a brand-new online training hub for dairy owners, managers, workers, students and consultants who value progressive thinking — is now live and scheduling new training sessions.

As the first of its kind in the industry, the new web-based training platform offers a variety of tools to develop knowledge and skills on relevant dairy herd management topics. Online courses can be completed at any time, from any location, and live trainings provide learning from dairy industry experts in a small classroom setting.

All online courses and live trainings come directly from leading minds in the dairy industry. These instructors have researched and implemented the skills they teach, and experienced the impact of these lessons on thousands of cows globally.

Among the first online trainings available is an in-depth and interactive reproductive anatomy and physiology course to offer a better understanding of the reproductive tract, hormones, and the estrous cycle.

Also available are brand new DairyComp training modules created by VAS exclusively for dairylearning.com. These courses cover DairyComp navigation, CowCards, commands, settings, and dairy economic and business planning. Users can take the courses individually or purchase as part of basic or intermediate packages.

The future of dairylearning.com includes advanced DairyComp training, and more online courses directly from dairy industry experts on leadership, management and calf care.

Visit dairylearning.com today for more information, and to explore online courses and register for live trainings.

 

Questions? Please contact:
Sadie Gunnink
info@dairylearning.com

screenshot of the dairylearning.com website
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Genetic indexes: can one size fit all?

Indexes are important genetic selection tools. They combine all significant genetic traits into one package – and get producers away from setting minimum criteria for specific traits. That allows you to focus on creating a next generation of cows that are the right fit for your environment.

A global industry standard index like TPI has certainly helped dairy producers improve their herds. The one-size-fits all TPI index places 46% of the total weight on production traits, 28% on health and fertility traits and 26% on conformation traits.

However, an index like this assumes all farms face the same challenges within their herd. It assumes everyone has the same farm goals and milk markets. It simply serves as a general overview for a one-size-fits-all genetic plan.

Consider your goals

When you set your own, customized genetic plan, you can divide the weights as you see fit. To decide which production, health or conformation traits to include, consider your farm’s situation and future goals. How are you paid for milk? In a fluid milk market, you’ll likely put more emphasis on pounds of milk as compared to those who ship milk to a cheese plant. Are you expanding or at a stable herd size? If you’re looking to grow from within to expand your herd, you’ll want to put more emphasis on Productive Life and high fertility sires than the producers who are at a static herd size and able to cull voluntarily.

Your farm’s scenario is unique. With different goals, environments and situations, it’s evident there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all index.

Make progress where it matters

Just 42 TPI points separate the 100th and 200th ranked genomic bulls on Holstein USA’s December 2017 Top 200 TPI list. Does a separation that small mean these bulls offer similar genetic benefits? Of course not!

To illustrate why, let’s compare three different genetic plan scenarios. One focuses on high production, one on high health, the other on high conformation. The tables below show the sires, traits and genetic averages for the top five Alta sires that meet each customized genetic plan. Notice the extreme amount of progress, and also the opportunity cost for using each particular index.

When high production is the goal, your genetic plan may be set with weights of 70% on production, 15% on health, and 15% on conformation. A team of bulls fitting that plan averages 2400 pounds PTAM and 171 pounds of combined fat and protein.

High Production: 70-15-15MilkProteinFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
AltaMONTOYA2089791058.02.22.792.091.840.932864
AltaAKUZAKI264078798.10.72.992.072.520.752747
AltaSPRITE253984884.2-0.83.032.332.131.532684
AltaEMBOSS260777974.5-0.53.071.311.470.812589
AltaWILLIE212375916.82.22.911.972.100.632766
240079926.30.82.961.952.010.932730

When health is the focus, a 30% production, 60% health, 10% conformation genetic plan might make sense for you. That team of bulls delivers averages of +9.5 PL, +5.0 DPR and 2.75 SCS. That’s more than four points higher for DPR than the high production group! However, you give up nearly 1100 pounds of milk and 41 pounds of components to get those high health numbers.

High Health: 30-60-10MilkProteinFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
AltaDEPOT910376311.47.02.480.680.801.002693
AltaKALISPELL1727527710.04.22.751.371.571.362734
AltaROBSON83555898.64.72.861.521.351.422802
AltaNITRO129554938.34.42.732.081.991.492871
Alta49ER181061709.04.62.931.071.441.032702
13155278.49.55.02.751.341.431.262760

Lastly, if your genetic goal is to improve conformation, the team below provides an average 2.47 for PTA Type, 2.86 Udder Composite, and nearly two points for Foot & Leg Composite. With that much emphasis on the conformation traits, you’ll sacrifice on pounds of milk, fat and protein, and give up some productive life and fertility.

High Conformation: 25-25-50MilkProteinFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
AltaSCION109848798.72.42.762.803.332.112786
AltaDRAGO162156857.22.43.052.962.792.562799
AltaPACKARD77048699.93.82.402.742.391.762839
AltaCR53137867.02.32.941.692.772.042669
AltaDPORT173558697.73.02.962.163.031.162749
115149788.12.82.822.472.861.932768

Now, compare those different genetic plan averages side-by-side. You can see that a mere 38 points separate these groups on TPI average. However, the genetic values for the production, health and conformation traits are extremely different.

MilkProFatPLDPRSCSPTATUDCFLCTPI
High Production: 70-15-15240079926.30.82.961.952.010.932730
High Health: 30-60-10131552789.552.751.341.431.262760
High type: 25-25-50115149788.12.82.822.472.861.932768

15 bulls in the Top 5

Most of the bulls above rank similarly for TPI. But not one bull appears in more than one of the customized genetic plan top-5 lists. With 15 bulls in the top five, it’s clear to see there’s no such thing as a perfect bull. There is, however a perfect genetic plan. It’s the one you customize for your farm to match your current situation and future goals.

Think back to the examples above. Think about TPI (46% production, 28% health, 26% conformation). If your main goal is to increase milk production in your herd, emphasizing too much on the health and conformation traits will mean you sacrifice pounds of milk and total components in the next generation of your herd.

Alternatively, maybe you really want to improve the longevity and fertility of your herd. In that case, an index that focuses on conformation will cost you 1.4 months of productive longevity and more than two points of pregnancy rate in the next generation!

Bringing it together

Sticking to an industry standard index like TPI could get you the best ranking bulls for that index only. But that index doesn’t necessarily match your needs. If you’re looking for a more focused approach, keep these points in mind to make the most progress toward your farm’s goals:

  1. There’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” genetic index.
  2. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to set your own, unique, customized genetic plan. Consider your farm’s goals, future plans and milk market as you decide how much emphasis to place on the production, health and conformation traits.
  3. Maximize progress toward your genetic goals by using a group of the best sires to match your unique genetic plan.
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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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Alta hosts first Canadian Dairy Manager School

We welcomed 22 progressive Canadian dairy producers from five provinces to the first ever Canadian Dairy Manager School, held January 16-18 in Abbotsford, BC.

Participants from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario enhanced their knowledge on reproductive programs and implementation during the 2.5-day school. They joined Dr. Glaucio Lopes, AltaU Manager, Kevin Muxlow VP of Sales-Americas, and Dr. Paul Fricke, UW-Madison Department of Dairy Science to learn more about what’s new, what’s been improved, and what they can do best to take their farm’s reproductive management to the next level.

The class gained insight during sessions on reproductive fertility programs, data analysis, incorporating electronic activity monitors to manage health and repro, and marginal milk profitability.

An interactive visit to a large-scale robotic farm added to the already high-level discussions that attendees enjoyed inside the classroom.

See how you can take advantage of the Alta Dairy Manager School opportunities HERE.

Article submitted by Dr. Glaucio Lopes, AltaU Manager

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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.

11HO11478 AltaLEAF | AltaOAK X TRIGGER X PLANET | CP | 2689 TPI

  • Perfect balance of production, health, fertility and type
  • Improved on pounds of milk and fat, PL, DPR and type with new daughters added
  • Moderate sized cows with wide rumps, and excellent udders
  • #8 daughter-proven TPI sire in the industry

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!

11HO11337 AltaCAIN | MAUI X INDIANA X LEVI | CP | 2560 TPI

  • Fat yield improver and low somatic cell score
  • High fertility Concept Plus status paired with excellent daughter fertility traits
  • Outcross sire with functional conformation traits on moderate sized cows

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)

11HO11419 AltaLEGAL | MOGUL X PLANET X LYNCH | CP | 511 | 2525 TPI

  • Production specialist
  • Great milk yield and outstanding components
  • Functional type traits, with excellent height and width of rear udders

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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