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Category Archives: Alta News

April 2019 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.

Here’s your one-stop-shop for the specialty sire lists you need – in printer-friendly formats. Find Holstein and Jersey versions of A2A2, polled, robot-suited and kappa casein sires, as well as a printable proof sheet.

There is also a listing of our Holstein milking speed ratings, the 100% RHA registry status list, and a listing of all Zoetis wellness traits on all Alta Holstein sires.

BEEF x DAIRY Sire Lists

The Alta BULLSEYE program helps you develop a targeted approach to your beef-on-dairy breeding strategy. Learn more about this customized approach HERE.

Whether these criteria or other traits match your current situation and future goals, work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan. You can do that by using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.

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What you need to know about April sire proofs

1. DPR changed again

The trend in recent years shows that bulls tend to drop for DPR every April. That drop is followed by a similar increase in DPR through the following August and December proofs.

Here’s what happened this time:

As a whole, both genomic and daughter-proven Jersey bulls dropped an average of 0.3 for DPR. Holstein bulls changed more than that and had a greater variance in their drop. The youngest Holstein bulls dropped quite a bit more than older Holstein bulls. For example, Holstein bulls born in 2010 dropped about 0.2 for DPR, while those born in 2018 dropped by 1.0 DPR.

Other official industry average DPR changes are as follows:

  • HO genomic-proven bulls: ↓8 DPR = about -14 NM$
  • HO daughter-proven bulls: ↓0.6 DPR = about -8 NM$

If you’re looking for more details, find official DPR updates from CDCB HERE.

2. Our sire line-ups will match your goals

Regardless if you prefer genomic or daughter-proven, a 60-40-0 genetic plan, TPI, NM$ or another index, Holsteins or Jerseys, high fertility or the fastest genetic progress… we have some hot new sires to fit whatever your genetic plan may be!

Some of these hot highlights are as follows:

  • High-ranking Jerseys
  • Brand-new Holsteins
    • 15 new Alta ADVANTAGE sires
    • 12 new G-STAR sires
    • 8 new daughter-proven graduates

3. NEW Crossbred evaluations are here

In recent years, increased crossbreeding, paired with increased adoption of genomic testing in commercial environments, has led to the demand and accessibility to calculate genomic evaluations on crossbred animals.

This means The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) has now released the first genomic evaluations for crossbred animals.

CDCB calculated crossbred genomic predictions as a weighted average of the respective single breed evaluations. That means you’ll see improved accuracy for some crossbred animals that had already received evaluations. For example, animals that are about 85% Jersey and 15% Holstein, will have greater accuracy, because instead of being evaluated as only a Jersey, their Holstein proportion will now more accurately be accounted for. You can expect genetic value estimates for crossbred animals to be slightly less accurate than purebred evaluations.

Jerseys are most affected by this new crossbred evaluation. The Jerseys with brackets in their name (meaning they have other breed ancestry within six generations) see the biggest changes in NM$ and JPI values. And on an industry average basis, genomic-proven Jersey bulls dropped about 27 NM$, while daughter-proven Jersey bulls decreased by about 15 NM$.

→ To better understand this new crossbred evaluation, check out the full write-up from PEAK Geneticists, Doug Bjelland and Ashley Mikshowsky

4. You can target your approach to beef x dairy

Industry and market dynamics currently mean that beef x dairy may make sense as part of strategic breeding program.

When that is part of your strategy, make sure you think through your options carefully. Consider when you sell and how you market your beef x dairy cross animals. What is your current situation what are your future goals?

Just like dairy genetics, not all beef bulls are created equal. Through the Bullseye program, we will help you take a targeted approach to your beef x dairy strategy. So, as you determine which dairy genetics you’ll use over the next four months, let us help you find the right beef genetics as well. We’ll help you capitalize on the optimal premium for those cross calves you create.

Learn more about the Bullseye program approach HERE.

5. Fertility still matters

It is our goal to help you create more pregnancies on your dairy.

Whether you prefer conventional semen or sexed semen, we use the industry’s leading sire fertility evaluation to help you know which sires will be most fertile in your herd.

CONCEPT PLUS sires tell you which bulls will create the most pregnancies with conventional semen.

511 CONCEPT PLUS sires let you know which sexed bulls will help you create more female pregnancies in your herd.

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There’s proof of genetic progress

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

You might be wondering, what are the different genomic sire options? And how do they progress from their first release to daughter-proven status? Let’s break it down…

Feature image for April 2019 Proof update

Alta ADVANTAGE

Our newest sires are available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. These Alta ADVANTAGE only 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 loyal 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 ranks to fit your genetic plan.

Cows eating as the featured image for the December 2018 Takeaways on Sire Proofs article

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 that have proven results. These sires have real pregnancy check observations that prove they’re 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 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 often a good option to use on heifers.

For proof of progress, compare the genetic averages

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 – 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.

April 2019 program averagesTPIMilkProtFatPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE2759156964921.551.680.756.72.02.74
G-STAR2690156062851.751.810.975.91.22.77
FUTURE STAR2556146856701.661.710.985.01.32.83
DAUGHTER-PROVEN2436132348621.371.490.794.21.22.81

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 daughter-proven 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.

More proof of genetic progress

We can take this comparison, and example of genetic progress one step further. For the sake of simplicity, let’s use TPI as an 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, and many of these daughter-proven sires have even become household names around the world over the past few years. But despite that fact, the genomic-proven list simply outranks our daughter-proven group by a significant amount.

APRIL 2019
Top daughter-proven sires

Sire CodeNameTPI
11HO11478AltaLEAF2673
11HO11523AltaHOTSHOT2645
11HO11725AltaAMULET2598
11HO11499AltaMEGLO2580
11HO11758AltaNIXER2580
11HO11531AltaSABRE2571
11HO11437AltaSPRING2570
11HO11718AltaTURNKEY2560
11HO11493AltaHOTROD2558
11HO11566AltaFOUNDER2549
Average 2588

APRIL 2019
Top
genomic-proven sires

Sire NameCodeTPI
11HO12286AltaROBERT2845
11HO12327AltaMORRIS2842
11HO12209AltaHOTJOB2823
11HO12240AltaMILESTONE2823
11HO12323AltaKLAEBO2820
11HO12352AltaGOMEZ2815
11HO12293AltaBUNDLE2803
11HO12366AltaKISS2801
11HO12180AltaDATELINE2792
11HO12285AltaNIXIE2792
Average2816

Put your genetics into action

With that in mind, have confidence to use a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists. Alternatively, 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.

Select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation, and you will drive your progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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What is a four-event cow?

Meet cow 8968.

She lives on an 1500-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin, where she’s milked three times per day through a double-20 parallel parlor. She’s fed a well-balanced ration, and spends her time resting in sand-bedded freestalls. She is a second lactation cow, sired by 11HO11499 AltaMEGLO, and she’s what we call a 4-event cow.

A 4-event cow?

If you look at any cow card in DairyComp or your herd management program, a 4-event cow has only four major events listed throughout her lactation:

  1. Fresh
  2. Bred
  3. Confirmed pregnant
  4. Dry

In the case of 8968, this means she had a live calf with no troubles. She had no milk fever, ketosis, or retained placenta. No other metabolic issues slowed her down after calving, and by avoiding those issues, she did not incur treatment costs.

After a 60-day voluntary wait period, 8968 was bred. Since BRED is only listed once on her cow card, we know it took only one unit of semen – just one insemination for her to conceive.

She was later confirmed pregnant, noted as PREG on her cow card. This is only possible because she did not have early embryonic death loss or an abortion, and no other reproductive troubles.

The fourth, and final event of 8968’s lactation shows as DRY on her cow card. This means there were no other lingering issues throughout her lactation. She went about her business as usual, until it was time to be dried off in preparation for her next lactation.

What’s missing?

You might wonder what is missing from 8968’s cow card. Of course, maintenance events like pen moves, foot trims, vaccinations, and pregnancy rechecks also occur during a cow’s lactation.

But what’s really missing in a 4-event cow’s lactation are the setbacks – the costly, time-consuming issues that hinder overall herd profitability. A 4-event cow like 8968 does not get mastitis. She doesn’t become lame, and she does not abort her calf midway through the pregnancy. She avoids the sickness, infections and troubles that cause major headaches for every dairy producer.

Can genetics help create a herd of four-event cows?

One of the best ways to create more four-event cows is to select for Productive Life (PL) within your customized genetic plan. Genetic selection for PL doesn’t just mean more old cows. It predicts which cows are toughest, healthiest and easiest to manage.

Including Productive Life in your genetic plan will increase your odds of having a herd full of four-event cows. The actual measure of PL is not calculated until after a cow leaves the herd. However, we can use other ways to see if higher PL bulls actually create healthier and more trouble-free cows.

Table 1 breaks down the events within the herd where cow 8968 lives. It includes all animals with known Holstein sire ID’s. Based only on each animal’s parent average for Productive Life, this shows the real difference in the health events between high PL pedigreed cows and low PL pedigrees.

These are real numbers, recorded on this farm’s herd management software program. Keep in mind, management is consistent throughout the herd, and no preferential treatment is provided for any given cow.

# of cowsAvg. Sire PLAborts‘Do Not Breed’SoldDiedMastitisRPDAKetosisPneuMetritisLame
Cow 896816.30---0000000
Top 50% - High PL Cows4785.5151211363311558
Bottom 50% - Low PL Cows5022.57090241523096121537630

The table clearly shows the high PL cows had fewer issues after calving and throughout their lactation. High PL cows had fewer aborts, were coded as ‘do not breeds’ (DNB) less often, and had fewer cases of DA’s, lameness, mastitis, and RPs. This led to fewer of the high PL cows leaving the herd involuntarily.

Compare those results to 8968. Her sire, AltaMEGLO is a 6.3 for sire PL, which is a big part in her status as a 4-event cow with no issues.

Make more 4-event cows like 8968

Cow 8968 is not only a 4-event cow. She’s a profitable cow. Consider the time and money you save, and peace of mind you gain, with 4-event cows. A herd full of cows like 8968 don’t require costly treatments, and don’t drop in milk production due to those health concerns.

Keep these costs – or savings – in mind as you customize your genetic plan. If healthy, trouble-free cows are your goal, genetic selection for Productive Life will help you create more of those desirable 4-event cows – just like cow 8968.

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Jersey generation counts and breed purity

Breed purity is a hot topic for Jerseys.

Many elite Jersey sires have Holstein heritage somewhere in their pedigree. The Jersey Genetic Recovery and Jersey Expansion programs have allowed those bulls to upgrade to registered status.

These programs allow breeders to enroll animals that appear as Jerseys, or are sired by a Jersey bull, into the herd registry. While the programs are beneficial in growing the registered Jersey population, many producers are now confused as to just what qualifies an AI bull as a Jersey.

The American Jersey Cattle Association (AJCA) board of directors developed some visual cues within an animal’s registered name to eliminate confusion on Jersey breed purity.

Generation Count and a JX prefix have been added to full names to signify a hole in the pedigree or unknown dairy ancestry. Breed Base Representation (BBR) is now displayed on all animals recorded with the ACJA to represent the amount of Jersey blood within the pedigree.

Generation Count (GC)

Generation Count shows breed purity by telling how many generations an animal is removed from other breed ancestry. An animal’s name will include a suffix enclosed in brackets {  }. The number within the brackets tells us the number of AJCA-recoded ancestry, from 1-6.

A GC of 1 means the animal is one generation removed from an unknown or non-Jersey in the pedigree. A GC of 6 means the animal is six generations removed from an unknown or non-Jersey animal. The brackets telling the generation count are dropped when seven or more generations of ancestors are recorded by the AJCA.

Offspring of a mating will be one generation count higher than the lowest parent.

JX Prefix

In addition to the number within the brackets, a JX prefix is also found on the majority of the pedigrees that contain a generation count. The JX prefix indicates that there is unknown dairy (most commonly Holstein) parentage in the pedigree. The GC then tells us how far back in the pedigree the unknown dairy breed can be found.

If you see a bull with a GC but no JX prefix, that means that the missing part in the pedigree is an unidentified Jersey.

Breed Base Representation (BBR)

BBR is a genomic trait that compares the DNA of a genotyped animal to a Jersey reference group and all other breeds. The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) policy is to report BBR values of 94 or greater as 100 due to standard deviations. Bulls below BBR 94 will be noted on their pedigree. The AJCA will publish a BBR value for all recorded animals.

Males will be published on one of two reports.

Males on the main list include those who:

  • are Herd Registered
    • more than 6 generations of identified Jersey parentage
  • have a Generation Count of 4-6 and a BBR of 100

Males on the secondary list include those with a:

  • Generation Count of 3 (regardless of BBR)
  • Generation Count of 4-6, if their BBR is less than 94

The examples below show the bull pages for three bulls with different breed purity. It explains where to find generation count, the JX prefix and breed base representation.

AltaBAYNES {3}

A. The 3 in brackets shows that AltaBAYNES is 3 generations removed from non-Jersey ancestry.
B. The JX prefix in his full, registered name, means that the missing link in his pedigree, 3 generations back, is not a Jersey.
C. Shows AltaBAYNES’ BBR to be 98, meaning he has 98% of his genes in common with the reference Jersey population.

Offspring of AltaBAYNES will be Generation Count 4 and Non-HR.

AltaMONTRA {6}

A. The 6 in brackets shows that AltaMONTRA is 6 generations removed from non-Jersey ancestry.
B. The JX prefix in his full, registered name, means that the missing link in his pedigree, 6 generations back, is not a Jersey.
C. Shows AltaMONTRA’s BBR to be 100, meaning his genes are all in common with the reference Jersey population.

Offspring will be Generation Count 6 if he is mated to a GC 5 female. Offspring will be HR (herd registered) if he is mated to a GC 6 or HR female

AltaCHIVE

A. Because there is not a bracketed number with AltaCHIVE’s name, that means he is herd registered, with either with no ancestry that is non-Jersey, or any non-Jersey ancestry is further back than 6 generations.
B. Because there is no non-Jersey ancestry within the first 6 generations of AltaCHIVE’s pedigree, he also does not have a JX prefix in his full, registered name.
C. Shows AltaCHIVE’s BBR to be 100. As expected, that means his genes are all in common with the reference Jersey population.

Offspring will be HR with no generation count if he is mated to a GC 6 or HR female.

At Alta, we are committed to providing you with the most reliable genetics available. In order to fulfill this promise, we offer a diversified Jersey product lineup focusing on the traits that are most profitable to your bottom line.

We have the highest level of confidence in the genetic and genomic predictions of BBR 100 bulls. We recognize that clients have choices, so we will always market with full transparency.

To learn more about the Rules for the Registration and Transfer of Jersey Cattle, click HERE.

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A sire’s progression from new to daughter-proven

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

You might be wondering, what are the different genomic sire options? And how do they progress from their first release to daughter-proven status? Let’s break it down…

Feature image for April 2019 Proof update

Alta ADVANTAGE

Our newest sires are available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. These Alta ADVANTAGE only 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 loyal 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 ranks to fit your genetic plan.

Cows eating as the featured image for the December 2018 Takeaways on Sire Proofs article

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 and analyze the results. We then award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls that prove themselves above average for sire fertility and have real observations that say he’s 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 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.

That explains the progression a bull makes as a genomic-proven sire. So you now know the difference between each genomic sire option. With that in mind, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below.

You’ll see the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages. That’s 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.

December 2018 program averagesTPIMilkProtFatPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE2794175068911.651.710.766.52.52.71
G-STAR2708157362841.921.891.125.52.12.80
FUTURE STAR2573161360721.521.490.874.71.92.85
DAUGHTER-PROVEN2391113142561.371.560.793.91.72.82

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 daughter-proven list was once a part of the G-STAR and/or FUTURE STAR 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.

 Put your genetics into action

With that in mind, have confidence to use a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists. Alternatively, 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.

Select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation so you drive your progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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What’s a fertility leader?

Have you ever really thought about what’s involved to get highly fertile semen from the bull to your tank, and then into your cows or heifers? Fertility leadership is backed by the Alta people, processes and programs involved in every step.

PEOPLE

Fertility excellence is what drives our team! We hire and extensively train only those who share a commitment and passion to your herd’s reproductive success. From semen collection and evaluation to distribution and delivery, our barn and lab staff, veterinarians, distribution crew, technicians, and sales force are all committed to help you get cows pregnant.

PROCESSES

We deliver the highest quality semen through continual innovation. Our scientists on staff are always looking for the best ways to enhance semen quality through extender research, potency trials, and more. We implement the same, strict semen handling processes and quality control checks at each of our AI centers located in six different countries around the world.

PROGRAMS

We choose the industry’s leading sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS, as the only way to measure Alta sire fertility. CONCEPT PLUS is based on pregnancy check results from DairyComp data in our large, progressive partner dairies. We update results every other month for the most reliable sire fertility information – and we’re transparent about which bulls offer superior or inferior fertility.

You can trust CONCEPT PLUS.

Twenty years ago, we challenged traditional fertility evaluations to align with the real needs of progressive herds: creating efficient pregnancies. CONCEPT PLUS goes above and beyond today’s industry evaluations to bring you the most trusted, accurate, and proven designation in sire fertility.

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Haplotype & genomic reliability updates

Based on new findings from the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB), one new haplotype will be added, and two others removed, starting with December 2018 proofs. Alta Bull Search and Alta GPS will be programmed according to this new information.

A new Holstein haplotype, HH6, was recently identified in France, and is currently found in about 0.5% of animals in the US Holstein population. Mating two HH6 carriers is expected to yield a 7%-11% drop in conception rate.

Further research into the JH2 haplotype in Jerseys and the BH1 haplotype in Brown Swiss showed no significant fertility losses on matings between carriers. This, paired with the fact that researchers could find no causative mutation on these two haplotypes, means they will no longer be reported.

Gene test advancements

In addition to new and discontinued haplotypes, the reported haplotypes are also gaining accuracy. PEAK Geneticist, Doug Bjelland, compares the improved accuracy of haplotypes to locating a house on a map. The previous way of recognizing haplotypes essentially showed us which street a house is located on. Now, because of gene test advancements for causative mutations to determine haplotypes, we know exactly where on that street a house is located.

Upgraded genomic reliability

Improved genomic accuracy also extends beyond the gene test. Researchers are now using an 80k SNP chip. This means they are using nearly 80,000 markers on the genome, up from the previous 60,000 used since 2014.

The additional markers, combined with a new reference genome, give genomic predictions about a 1% – 2% improvement in reliability.

What does this mean for you?

We want to keep you up-to-date on the newest genetic findings. Updates on haplotypes and genomic accuracy are one part of that. Because the haplotype updates will be accounted for within the AltaGPS program, you can have confidence that potential carriers of two bulls will not be mated together. That means your clients are protected from any potential fertility losses that could result in mating two carriers of any given haplotype.

Improved genomic accuracy should give you, and your clients, even more confidence that genomics and genetics continue to advance at more rapid rate. It’s as important now as it ever has been, to ensure your clients select genetics according to their customized genetic plan so the progress they make aligns with their current situation and future goals.

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A2: genetic fad or future?

Since its 2015 US debut, A2 milk has been a hot topic among dairy producers. Now, the latest A2 buzz comes from consumers. This follows the launch of the A2 Milk Company’s national television advertising campaign, and increased local availability of A2 milk in many grocery stores.

While the curiosity around A2 milk grows, it’s important to evaluate whether this is just another fad in genetic selection, or a real future of the industry.

What is A2 milk?

A2 milk comes from cows with two copies of the A2 gene for beta casein.

Cows’ milk is about 87 percent water and 13 percent solids. Those solids include lactose, fat, protein, and minerals.

To find the A2 gene, we look to the protein in milk. Casein is what makes up the majority of milk protein, and about 30% of that casein is called beta casein. The two most common variants of the beta casein gene are A1 and A2, so any given bovine will be either A1A1, A1A2 or A2A2 for beta casein.

Milk from US cows has traditionally contained a combination of both A1 and A2 beta casein.

Isn’t A2 milk for people with lactose intolerance?

Not necessarily. A2 milk contains the same amount of lactose as non-A2 milk. So a person who has been clinically diagnosed with lactose intolerance will see no benefits from drinking A2 milk.

Some studies have shown the A2 beta casein in milk to be more easily digestible than the A1 beta casein. This means that the discomfort some people experience after drinking milk could actually be linked to an A1 aversion rather than to lactose intolerance.

Since the majority of lactose intolerance cases are self-diagnosed, for those people, A2 milk could be the answer.

How do you get cows that produce A2 milk?

The only way to have a herd that produces A2 milk is through genetic selection.

For a cow to produce true A2 milk, she must have two copies of the A2 gene in her DNA. Each animal receives one copy of the beta casein gene from its sire and one copy from its dam. So for a 100% chance at an A2A2 animal, you must breed an A2A2 bull to an A2A2 cow.

How do you know if your animals are A2?

The only way to know for sure, is a genomic test. Some companies offer A2 genetic testing as an add-on to a full genomic test. Others offer testing for A2 on its own, for as little as $15.

How long will it take to convert your herd to only A2?

This entirely depends on how aggressive your approach is. If your goal is to immediately become 100% A2A2, you can make that happen. To do that, you’d need to genomic test each of your animals, keep only those verified as A2A2, and sell the rest.

A less extreme option for large, multi-site dairies is to genomic test all females, and sort any animals verified as A2A2 all to one site.

But since those aren’t realistic options for most farms, another approach is to limit your sire selection to only bulls confirmed as A2A2. Most AI companies publish this information on their proof sheets and/or websites.

A rough approximation of active AI sires shows about 13% are A1A1, 46% are A1A2 and 41% are A2A2. If you figure that same proportion within your own herd, it would take seven generations of breeding your untested females strictly to A2A2 bulls before you’d reach 99% of A2A2 females.

Group photo of all participants at the first ever Dairy Manager School in the Netherlands

What do you have to lose by selecting A2A2 sires?

With 40%, or more, of active AI sires verified as A2A2, you have a good number of sire options to use in your breeding program. This also means that less than half of the bulls out there are A2A2, so you will miss out on some sire choices by implementing this as part of your breeding program.

Every time you add a filter to your genetic selection criteria, you limit the amount of genetic progress you can make in your herd.

Should you select for A2 in your breeding program?

If you are offered milk premiums for producing A2 milk, or see that option in your future, then selection for A2A2 sires is a wise decision. However, chasing that bonus, if it isn’t guaranteed will mean you limit your genetic options.

No one can predict the future. So it’s hard to tell yet, whether A2 is just a fad, or the future of the industry.

Regardless of your selection decision around A2 sires, make sure it aligns with your dairy’s customized genetic plan. Emphasize the production, health and conformation traits that match your farm’s current situation and future goals. This will help maximize future profitability and genetic progress in the direction of your goals.

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Recent Dairy Manager Schools focus on Leadership, Organization and Management

Dairy managers and owners from throughout Europe attended two separate Alta Dairy Manager Schools focused on Leadership, Organization and Management.

Coordinated by Alta, both of these 2.5-day Dairy Manager School (DMS) sessions welcomed Dr. Tom Fuhrmann as the industry expert presenter. He instructed the class and directed discussions on the following topics related to leadership and labor management and organization.

  • Mastering management
  • Improving communication through understanding different personalities
  • How do I get my people to do things right?
  • Developing people
  • Situational leadership
  • Using information to manage the dairy

Participants at each Dairy Manager School also made two farm visits to evaluate and discuss what they observed on these operations as it related to labor organization.

As farms grow, they experience the challenge to run their operations as a business. In the growing process the owner is, all too often, also a worker amongst the workers. It is then when they see the importance of putting a clear focus on organizing work and workers, setting goals, motivating staff and monitoring results.

The on-farm Dairy Manager School exercise to put an organizational chart on paper opened their eyes to the need for clarity on positions, responsibilities and communication lines.

By the end of both Dairy Manager Schools, graduates spoke highly about the set-up of the schools, and most took away new thoughts or ideas that they had never heard before.

 

Upcoming Alta Dairy Manager Schools include:

Graduates from the Dairy Manager School held in Broughton, UK from October 22-24, 2018.
Graduates from the Dairy Manager School held in Broughton, UK from October 22-24, 2018.
Graduates of the Dairy Manager School held in Agerbæk, Denmark October 25-27, pose for a photo after their session
Graduates of the Dairy Manager School held in Agerbæk, Denmark October 25-27, pose for a photo after their session
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