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Category Archives: Alta News

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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Introducing the All-New Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS

If you’ve used sexed semen on your dairy, you already know that sexed semen fertility is not the same as conventional semen fertility. It’s no secret that individual bulls may perform differently as conventional semen than they do as sexed semen.

Millions of pregnancy check records in the CONCEPT PLUS database confirm these differences in sire fertility between conventional and sexed semen.

Based on research from our product development team, you now have access to the all-new 511 CONCEPT PLUS ratings! This designation tells you which sires give you the best chance at creating pregnancies with Alta511 SexedULTRA sires.

On an individual bull page, look for the purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo to know which bulls offer the best chance at creating a female pregnancy.

CONCEPT PLUS sires still tell us which bulls provide the highest conception rates using conventional semen. The new development around sexed semen fertility just gives you a more precise way to know which bulls best fit your genetic plan and strategy.

We trust the data behind CONCEPT PLUS more than any other sire fertility evaluation because:

  • IT’S COMPLETE
    • CONCEPT PLUS accounts for the effect a technician or breeding code can play on a sire’s fertility within a given herd.
    • Data is collected from US and Canadian herds, and not limited to US herds on official test.
  • IT’S CURRENT
    • We collect current pregnancy check results through DairyComp from our partner herds and include only information from the past two years to designate CONCEPT PLUS sires.
  • IT’S CONSISTENT
    • Data is only gathered from progressive, large-herd environments, where management is consistent, contemporary group sizes are large, and repro programs are aggressive.

 

For more details on the all-new 511 CONCEPT PLUS sexed sire fertility evaluation, work with your trusted Alta advisor today.

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Koepon and CRI combine to form URUS

Madison, Wisconsin — Two strong organizations – one cooperative and one privately-owned company – have combined to form a new global leader in cattle artificial insemination genetics and farm management information.

Koepon Holding BV and Cooperative Resources International (CRI) announced their intent to merge last December. Now, following due diligence and votes by each organization’s board of directors as well as the member delegates of CRI, the business combination is complete. The newly formed organization is known as URUS.

“While URUS is a new name in the global agriculture industry, its roots run deep,” states Cees Hartmans, CEO. “The companies within the URUS family – AgSource, Alta Genetics, GENEX, Jetstream Genetics, PEAK/GENESIS, SCCL and VAS – have a history of serving dairy and beef producers across the world. Now, as part of this new organization, these companies are even better positioned to meet the future needs of members and clients.”

The formation of URUS, with its size and scale, makes possible a significant increase in investment towards products and services that will benefit producers across the globe.

“The companies of URUS will be leaders in new developments for the cattle industry,” states Hartmans. “Dairy and beef cattle producers are the heart of this organization, and so we want to ensure our members and clients have access to the best products and services at a competitive price. We want to be your partner of choice for cattle genetics, reproduction and farm management information for years to come.”

Hartmans adds, “Together, we can focus on producing high-quality and healthy food while contributing to a sustainable, productive and profitable global dairy and beef industry.”

 

About URUS
Formed in 2018, URUS (www.urus.org) is a holding company with cooperative and private ownership. URUS has strong roots in the global agriculture industry. This deep history is anchored by the companies that compose Urus: AgSource, Alta Genetics, GENEX, Jetstream Genetics, PEAK/GENESIS, SCCL and VAS. It’s also fueled by a worldwide team of professionals dedicated to providing dairy and beef producers with genetic and farm management information solutions that improve herd quality and productivity.

For more information contact Cees Hartmans, CEO at cees.hartmans@urus.org or Keith Heikes, COO at keith.heikes@urus.org

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Wales farms welcome Alta ADVANTAGE Tour guests

Two hundred guests from 16 different countries, including dairy producers, veterinarians, nutritionists and Alta staff, converged in Wales for the third annual Alta ADVANTAGE European Tour August 28-30.

We offer our sincere thanks to the dairy owners who opened their farms for such a large group. These dairies, in order of the tour, include:

  • Haregrove Farm: Gwyn & Ann Anthony, Phil Anthony and John Anthony and families
  • Manor Farm: Aeron & Carys Owens and family
  • Langdon Mill Farm: David James and Hugh James and families
  • Velindre Farm: Dan Harries and family
  • Littlehook Farm: Malcolm & Jane Evans, Daniel Evans and families
  • Fforest Farm: John Curtis and Tom Curtis and families

Throughout the two-days in the Welsh countryside, guests had the opportunity to tour those six progressive dairies, while networking with other like-minded, progressive dairy enthusiasts and gaining insight in all areas of management.

Station topics on the tour focused on the following areas

  • Foot health and hoof care
  • Newborn calf nutrition
  • Youngstock management
  • Conventional and sexed semen fertility: CONCEPT PLUS & 511 CONCEPT PLUS
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Transition cow management
  • Finances and succession planning
  • Dairy education
  • DairyComp solutions
  • Herd genetic planning and strategy

 

To view farm and event photo albums from the tour, please Click HERE.

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Create more pregnancies with precision fertility management

Big data is sweeping into agribusiness with precision agriculture. Now, with more information, growing crops and livestock has become more accurate and efficient, allowing you to do more for less.

We’re taking precision agriculture one step further. With precision fertility management, we are helping you turn data into dollars by creating more pregnancies.

Backed by the CONCEPT PLUS gold standard fertility designation, we’ve raised 20 years of fertility experience to a higher standard. We’ve compiled millions of pregnancy check data and delivered it through innovate tools to accurately and efficiently create pregnant cows.

What’s new with CONCEPT PLUS?

If you’ve used sexed semen on your dairy, you already know what millions of pregnancy check results confirm. Sexed semen fertility is not the same as conventional semen fertility.

The data also shows that the same bull may perform well with conventional semen fertility, but not as sexed semen, and vice versa. With that in mind, we now give you access to two separate fertility evaluations, so you can take a precision approach to fertility management.

An illustration to compare the index weights on production, health and conformation of Net Merit $ 2017 versus Net Merit $ 2018

Know which bulls will give you highest fertility using Alta511 SexedULTRA semen by finding this 511 CONCEPT PLUS designation on a bull’s individual page on Alta Bull Search.

The industry’s most accurate sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS designates whether a bull offers elite fertility on conventional breedings.

Can a bull be CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS?

Yes. Since we know that conventional semen fertility and sexed semen fertility are two different traits with low correlations, we now identify them as such. An orange CONCEPT PLUS icon or logo designates the bulls with the best fertility on conventional semen. The purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo shows you which sires offer the best fertility on breedings to Alta511 SexedULTRA.

Why would I want to use sexed semen with average or unknown fertility?

As with any decision you make, there are trade-offs. With Alta’s sexed semen options, it comes down to what you value most in a genetic plan: the most rapid genetic progress or known high fertility.

Let’s say the main goal in your genetic plan is to make the fastest genetic progress possible. In that case you may choose to use bulls that don’t yet have fertility data, or else are proven as average for sexed semen sire fertility. If these bulls best fit your goal of rapid genetic progress, they may not have the CONCEPT PLUS or 511 CONCEPT PLUS designations.

However, if your main focus is to create a pregnancy, the purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS designation will give you confidence you’re boosting your odds at creating pregnancy with sexed semen. The orange CONCEPT PLUS designation will continue to help you recognize which bulls create the most conventional semen pregnancies.

How often does Alta evaluate sire fertility?

We want to help you create more pregnancies. To do that, accurate fertility information is key. To be accurate, the data must be timely. We run a complete evaluate for sire fertility every other month.

We know differences exist in sire fertility, even over shorter periods of time, so to take advantage of the most accurate and current information, we now release new CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS ratings six times per year.

Why should I trust the fertility of Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS sires?

Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS sexed sires will give you the confidence to create more heifers and more pregnancies. We provide the utmost care for our bulls, we follow strict lab SOPs, and ensure careful semen distribution procedures. And more importantly, we make firm culling decisions on bulls with sub-par fertility performance.

You can have confidence in the CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS evaluations because:

  • CONCEPT PLUS is COMPLETE
    • It accounts for the effect a technician or breeding code can play on a sire’s fertility within a given herd.
    • Data is collected from US and Canadian herds, and not limited to US herds on official test.
  • CONCEPT PLUS is CURRENT
    • Our team is always collecting data DairyComp in our partner herds.
  • CONCEPT PLUS is CONSISTENT
    • Data is only gathered from progressive, large-herd environments, where management is consistent, contemporary group sizes are large, and repro programs are aggressive.

 

When you want to create more pregnancies, take a precision approach to maximizing your herd’s fertility by using the right tools for the job. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to define your dairy’s customized genetic plan and create pregnancies with a precision approach to fertility management.

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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

An illustration to compare the index weights on production, health and conformation of Net Merit $ 2017 versus Net Merit $ 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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Bilingual Dairy Manager School focuses on hoof care

The first Alta Dairy Manager School ever held in the US took place June 18-20, 2018 in Garden City, Kansas. The unique learning opportunity, presented simultaneously in English and Spanish, helped attendees dive deep into hoof care, health, and management.

Ten students from six different dairies attended the course, learning from the expert instructors at Sure Step Consulting. Participants spent their time learning through a mix of classroom based sessions and hands-on practice.

Classroom sessions focused on foot and leg anatomy, identifying lameness, proper hoof treatment protocols, foot bath management, and trimming procedures. On-farm sessions allowed the participants to practice what they learned in both functional and therapeutic trimming.

The 2.5-day course gave the participants the knowledge and applicable practice to take these skills back and apply them on their dairies.

Want to know more about Dairy Manager Schools? Check it out HERE.

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Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour explores progressive Idaho dairies

The 19th edition of the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour took place June 5-8, 2018. It was the first time ever this global event was held in Idaho.

Guests toured some of Idaho’s most progressive dairy farms and learned from the forward-thinking owners and managers at the host farms. They also had the chance to share their own experiences with each other during on-farm management stations, bus rides between farms, and during evening socials.

To break it down, here is the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase overview, by the numbers:

251Guests who experienced the most progressive dairy management tour in the industry
21Countries represented at this year’s tour
5Charter buses used to transport tour guests
5Gracious host dairies, who welcomed the Alta group
- Eagle Ridge Dairy | Kuna, Idaho
- TLK Dairy | Mountain Home, Idaho
- Oak Valley Dairy | Burley, Idaho
- Swager Farms | Buhl, Idaho
- Beranna Dairy | Caldwell, Idaho
1Pre-tour farm that welcomed international guests before the main tour kicked off - thank you to Swan Falls Dairy for the warm welcome!
30On-farm stations set up to help guests discuss the areas of calf care, employee management, genetics, reproduction, parlor management, cow comfort, dairy education, herd inventory planning, manure management, and more
34,275Total cows represented on the Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase host dairies
70-30-0Most popular genetic plan of our host dairies
11Number of sires represented in the Alta ADVANTAGE Performance Pens
34Number of daughters featured between the two Alta ADVANTAGE Performance Pens
3Pails of ice cream used in the global ice cream eating contest – Chile came out victorious over all other country competitors
502Miles traveled in Idaho for one tremendous tour!
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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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