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Category Archives: Alta News

Alta Advantage Showcase Tour 2017 – by the numbers

Guests from around the world joined together to share management strategies and insight during the 18th Alta Advantage Showcase Tour held in Michigan June 21-23, 2017.

On-farm stations were set up to provide insight on all areas of dairy herd management. Some of the topics covered included:

  • Reproduction
  • milk quality and parlor management
  • transition cow management
  • feed and nutrition
  • colostrum management and calf raising
  • heifer raising
  • labor organization
  • genetic planning
  • dairy technology
  • Performance Pens featuring some of the newest Alta sires to have milking daughters
  • and more!
Here’s a look at the 2017 Alta Advantage Showcase Tour, by the numbers:
360guests
26countries represented
18Alta Advantage Showcase Tours now complete
35on-farm stations that guests experienced throughout the tour
6charter buses required to transport guests
19,000cows milked among all pre-tour and Showcase host farms
9outstanding host dairies that graciously opened their farm for our guests to visit
Pre-tour host: Rich-Ro South Dairy | St. Johns, MI
Pre-tour host: Berlyn Acres | Fowler, MI
Walnutdale Farms | Wayland, MI
Prairie View Dairy | Delton, MI
Schaendorf Farms | Allegan, MI
Tubergen Dairy | Ionia, MI
Simon Farms | Westphalia, MI
Steenblik Dairy | Pewamo, MI
Double Eagle Dairy | Middleton, MI

These numbers sum up to ONE tremendous tour!

Guests enjoyed the friendly camaraderie and the ability to learn from both our host farm owners and others on the tour. These experiences left everyone with a lasting impression of Alta’s progressive approach to create value, build trust and deliver results to clients around the world.

 

Click HERE to view the collection of photos and videos from the tour!

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Two questions that will transform the way you breed your herd

There’s no other dairy farm in the world exactly like yours. So it’s important to ask yourself a couple questions to determine your ideal breeding goals.

You could use one of the US industry standard indexes to select the genetics for your herd. Their split weights on production, health and conformation will certainly help you make genetic gains in your herd. But will that progress actually match your farm’s current situation and future plans?

As a reminder, the following charts show the weights for the two most common US genetic indexes.

TPI:
Image to show the weights on production, health and type for the TPI Index
NM:
A bar showing the breakdown weights of Net Merit $ as 45% on Production traits, 40% on health traits and 15% on type traits

Since your farm is unique, your best option is to create your own customized genetic plan to get the right genetics to match your goals.

Ask yourself these two important questions to decide which traits to emphasize in your genetic plan.

1. How do you get paid for your milk?

The majority of dairy producers make their main profit from the sale of milk. How that milk is priced varies greatly from one part of the country to another. Most milk produced in Florida is sold for fluid consumption, while much of Wisconsin’s milk goes into making cheese. The milk from some farms goes strictly into butter. Others’ is made into ice cream. Many cooperatives also pay premiums for low somatic cell counts.

Regardless where you ship your milk, the simple way to maximize your milk check is to select the right genetics to match your situation. To explain this, we focus in on the production traits of your genetic plan, which include milk, fat and protein.

If your farm’s milk is made into cheese, you’re likely paid on components, rather than total fluid volume. In that case, selection emphasis on protein will garner your greatest return on genetic investment.

If you farm in a fluid milk market, strict selection for NM$ could actually hinder your progress since NM$ includes a negative weighting on total pounds of milk.

Management practices play the largest role in the performance you see, but the right genetic choices will aid your future profit potential. For example, it takes top-level management practices to achieve ideal somatic cell counts. Yet, if your milk company offers milk quality premiums, genetic selection for low Somatic Cell Score is a logical choice to boost the benefits of your management even further.

Don’t leave dollars on the table. Within your genetic plan, make sure you emphasize the production traits to match how you get paid for your milk.

2. Why do your cows leave the herd?

Regardless if you are in expansion mode or maintaining steady numbers, some animals will leave your herd for one reason or another.

If you’re gradually growing to prepare for a future expansion project, you’ll benefit from heavier genetic selection emphasis on traits like Productive Life. This will keep your cattle numbers on the rise by creating healthier, longer-living cows.

Selection for CONCEPT PLUS high sire fertility will help you create more pregnancies now. Selection for fertility traits like Daughter Pregnancy Rate will help you create a next generation of more fertile females. If you focus on both male and female fertility you will end up with the additional replacements you’ll need.

On the flip side, if your farm is at max capacity with more replacements than you can accommodate, different traits will make a more profitable impact. If your farm sells extra springing heifers or fresh two-year-olds for dairy purposes, you know that buyers choose the stronger, well-grown animals with ideal feet and legs and favorable udders. In that case, a heavier selection emphasis on Udder Composite and Foot & Leg Composite can provide profitable returns on your genetic investment.

However, when your herd size is steady and you don’t sell extra heifers for dairy purposes, it’s important to question your selection for conformation traits. How many cows have you culled in the past year for poor udders or feet and legs?

If the answer is none, you could be limiting your future profitability.

AI companies already provide you with a high level of selection intensity for conformation. Their sire criteria often uses those industry standard indexes with 26% or 16% emphasis on conformation.

If you emphasize conformation traits, but you don’t cull any animals for poor udders or feet and legs, you are missing out on future profits. When you put your weight on conformation, your sacrifice extra selection for production, improved health and additional pregnancies.

Consider your genetic plan

There’s no other dairy in the world identical to yours.

Keep that in mind as you choose the genetics to create your next generation. While industry standard selection indexes can improve your genetics, they don’t necessarily align with your farm’s situation and goals.

Think about how you get paid for milk and the main reasons that cows leave your herd. When you customize your genetic plan to fit your farm’s needs, you will maximize your future milk checks and minimize your involuntary culls.

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A Q&A on DWP$ and WT$ – Dairy Wellness Profit $ / Wellness Trait $

Dairy Wellness Profit $ and Wellness Trait $ indexes

The Dairy Wellness Profit $ and Wellness Trait $ indexes may have you wondering whether you should adjust your genetic plan to include this information. We want to help you decide what’s best for your dairy. So we answer a few questions about DWP$ and WT$ to help you better understand these indexes.

What is Dairy Wellness Profit $ (DWP$)?

Dairy Wellness Profit $ (DWP$) is a genetic selection index. It equates to a genetic plan of 34% production–56% health–10% conformation. This differs from TPI (46-28-26) and the overall NM$ index (43-41-16).

The breakdown of the weight on health is different as well. DWP$ puts 30% of the health trait weight on WT$. This leaves 26% for the CDCB evaluated health traits of PL, DPR, SCS, DSB, DCE, CCR, HCR.

What is Wellness Trait $ (WT$?)

WT$ is a combination of the Wellness Traits (ketosis, displaced abomasum, retained placenta, metritis, mastitis and lameness). This means it is an index analogous to a 0-100-0 index, with 100% weight on health traits. However, those weights are divided between the various Wellness traits that Zoetis calculates.

Do each of the Wellness Traits get their own evaluation?

Yes. They are then combined into a Wellness Trait $ index to combine the expected impact.

Does Alta test all bulls for DWP$ and WT$?

No, but we test the sires that we predict will do well on the respective indexes. We test our bulls that have favorable health trait values and rank well on a 34% Production-56% Health-10% Conformation index. We list the top ten DWP$ sires and top five WT$ bulls in each of three categories: G-STARS, FUTURE STARS and daughter-proven sires.

What is Alta’s testing plan going forward?

This will be dependent on the feedback from the customers and the demand for this information. In the short-term we will continue to test those sires that rank well on a traditional 34-56-10 index.

How can we predict which sires will do well on these indexes?

Because the correlation between DWP$ and a traditional 34% production – 56% health – 10% conformation index is very high, we can predict quite well which sires will rank well on the DWP$ index.

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What to do when industry standard Jersey genetic indexes change

It’s a fact. Industry standard genetic selection indexes like JPI and NM$ will change from time to time.

When these index changes happen, it’s the perfect time to reevaluate your farm’s genetic plan. Do the new weights that these indexes place on production, health and conformation traits match your goals? Will the indexes rank the genetics in a way that fits your current situation and future plans?

With April 2017 proofs, the JPI formula was updated. From a big picture aspect, the image below shows that essentially five percent of the total weight was removed from production traits and put onto conformation traits. (See full details about the new JPI 2017 here).

Image comparing the genetic index weights on production, health and type traits for JPI 2015 versus JPI 2017

Within the production category, the new formula reduces the weight on protein from 43 to 30. If your farm’s goal is higher production and total components, the new JPI may hinder your progress toward that goal. If you never cull cows for conformation related faults, the new JPI may provide genetic progress in traits that are insignificant in your herd.

In this new era of Alta Jersey, it’s the perfect time to work with your trusted Alta advisor. Set your own, customized genetic plan with emphasis only on the traits that matter to your bottom line. For a no-hassle approach to the right genetics to meet your goals, the Alta JERSEY DRIVEN program will fit your needs.
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Alta announces new US Senior Sales Manager

Kirk Vander Dussen was recently appointed as the new US Senior Sales Manager for Alta Genetics.

Kirk is no stranger to Alta, having initially joined the Alta team as a Premier Account Manager in the fall of 2013. He helped create and maintain strong bonds with many of our most valuable partner dairies throughout the USA. In his previous role, Kirk brought stability, strength and support to help source and onboard new Premier Account teammates.

All of his Alta experiences are added to a solid and extensive history of managing dairies in the Midwest and southwest regions of the USA. Prior to joining Alta, Kirk was a manager at Holsum Dairies near Green Bay, WI where he was part of the leadership team for nearly 8,000 milking cows. The far-reaching network that Kirk has in both professional and personal circles is another asset that he will bring to the role.

Dedicated and resourceful people who are passionate about the dairy partners we work with, are the key difference for Alta in the market. Kirk has committed himself to this through his own development and learning of our business. He previously completed our most intense Elite Account Manager training program, and also holds an MBA from the University of San Diego.

VP of Sales for the Americas, Kevin Muxlow is excited to work with Vander Dussen in his new role. “We know that the US market is a lighthouse market for the global dairy industry. Kirk’s experience and leadership with intimate connections to the progressive dairy owners and managers we work with is a unique strength for Alta. I am delighted that we have been able to look within our organization to find the right person for the responsibility!”

Vander Dussen adds, “I’m honored to work with some of the best sales professionals in the world and the most progressive dairy producers on an even broader scale.”

Kirk and his wife, Dana, and their 3 children reside in Aurora, Colorado, where he will remain based for this position. We appreciate their support for Kirk taking on this new role.

Please join us in welcoming Kirk to Alta’s global leadership team!
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Cow livability added to the NM$ formula

Starting in April 2017, the CDCB will include Cow livability into the Net Merit $ formula.

Cow livability (LIV) was introduced as a new trait in August 2016. It measures a cow’s ability to stay alive on the farm, and has a high (0.70) correlation with Productive Life (PL). The difference between LIV and PL is that PL measures a cow’s ability to be productive on the farm. It does not distinguish between death and culling as the reason for leaving the herd.

Cows that die on the farm are a great expense. In fact, based on cull prices, farmers could earn $1,200 less profit for each cow that dies on farm and cannot be sold for beef.

LIV is also correlated to DPR by 0.45 and to SCS by -0.25.

Net Merit changes

Net Merit (NM$) is an estimate of a cow’s lifetime profit to the farm. CDCB updated the formula for April 2017 proofs. It now includes new traits and revisions of traits using current incomes and expenses.

New changes include:

  • LIV is now part of the NM$ formula
  • Economic values are updated and current
  • Body weight composite (BWC) will replace Body size composite (BSC)

Relative values for most other traits included in the formula decreased slightly. The 2017 NM$ formula correlates by 0.989 to the previous NM$ from 2014. The table below shows the differences in the relative value of trait weights between the NM$ formula in 2014 and 2017.

TRAIT2014 NM$ TRAIT WEIGHT2017 NM$ TRAIT WEIGHT
Fat2223.7
Protein2018.3
Milk-1-0.7
Productive life1913.4
Cow livability7.4
Somatic cell score-7-6.5
Daughter pregnancy rate76.7
Calving ability $54.8
Cow conception rate11.6
Heifer conception rate21.4
Udder87.4
Feet & legs32.7
Body size composite-5
Body weight composite-5.9

The relative value of weight on PL decreases now that LIV is part of the NM$ formula. This adjustment will not hinder genetic progress for PL. Instead, it will increase the progress for LIV.

Body weight replaces body size

Since BWC is more closely related to the actual body weight of the cow than BSC, this change results in less selection against stature, body depth, and dairy form.

Finally, to account for updated milk component prices, the new NM$ formula increases emphasis on fat while decreasing emphasis on protein slightly.

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Introducing JPI 2017

With April proofs comes the introduction of JPI 2017 to replace the previous JPI 2015.

Jersey Performance Index™ (JPI™) is the American Jersey Cattle Association’s (AJCA) strategy for increasing lifetime net income.

The AJCA took into account the following three key fundamentals for Jersey sustainability while determining JPI 2017. These fundamentals were determined by a Capper and Cady 2012 study comparing the environmental impact of Jersey and Holstein milk for cheese production.

  • Increase production
  • Maintain body size
  • Maintain or improve components

What is the purpose of the new JPI 2017?

  • Increase milk production
  • Improve the density of milk
  • Moderate body weight
  • Improve herd life, fertility, udder health, and functional conformation

What new traits have been added to the formula? 

  • CFP Milk
    • Every 100 pounds of PTA milk needs 8.8 pounds combined fat and protein
    • Pounds of Milk = CFP/0.088
    • CFP Milk = PTA Milk – Pounds of Milk
    • If CFP Milk is positive, the JPI™ value is negative because there is more water than components
  • Body Weight Composite (BWC)
    • Proxy for feed efficiency, and replaces body size composite
  • PTA Cow Livability
    • Measures a cow’s ability to stay alive on the farm

What is the impact of JPI 2017? 
  • Significant drops in JPI for all industry sires.
    • The upper JPI threshold will drop from about 300 JPI to 230 JPI, and all industry bulls will drop in their JPI value.
  • Significant rescaling, similar to a base change.
    • We see genomic sires JPI™ values fall 38 points on average
  • Some re-ranking – in both directions
    • Some minor and some significant

Here is a full breakdown of the new JPI 2017. In the simplest terms, JPI 2017 has five percent less weight on production and five percent more weight on type traits as compared to JPI 2015. But there’s more to it than that. The following traits are new additions to the JPI 2017 formula.

Image comparing the genetic index weights on production, health and type traits for JPI 2015 versus JPI 2017

JPI 2015JPI 2017
Protein4330
Fat1515
CFP Milk-8
PRODUCTION TOTAL WEIGHT5853
Productive life106
Cow livability-4
Somatic cell score66
Daughter pregnancy rate77
Cow conception rate22
Heifer conception rate22
HEALTH TOTAL WEIGHT2727
Stature-0.6-0.9
Strength-0.1-3.4
Dairy form2.0
Rump angle-0.1
Rump width0.2-0.7
Rear Legs -0.1-0.1
Foot angle0.10.1
Fore udder2.62.4
Rear udder height1.91.8
Rear udder width0.10.1
Udder cleft2.11.9
Udder depth5.14.7
Teat placement1.00.9
Teat length-1.0-0.9
TYPE TOTAL WEIGHT1520
No time is better than now to sit down and review your genetic plan and strategy. When you set your own unique herd index, you will maximize genetic gains in the areas that most impact your farm’s profitability.
Focus on your goals and work with your trusted Alta advisor to create a customized index as an investment in your future.
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Alta Genetics Bull Search app now available!

Bull Search App Banner

Alta Genetics Bull Search app now available!
Genetic planning for your herd is now simpler than ever with the all new Alta Bull Search app for iPhone.

In addition to Alta’s comprehensive online Bull Search, iPhone users now have the added functionality to search for the right bulls to meet their goals using the Alta Genetics Bull Search app.
The brand new app allows you to find rankings for sires that best fit your genetic plan and to see individual sire proofs on Alta bulls and all active industry sires with a TPI greater than 1700. Once the app is downloaded, internet connectivity is not needed to browse.
At Alta, we prefer not to rate bulls only on single traits or industry standard indexes. Our goal is to create value with your end result in mind – a productive and profitable herd. Since we know that standard genetic indexes do not match everyone’s goals, we took the industry lead to work with a variety of customized breeding goals and genetic plans.
We hope you enjoy the first release of the iOS version of the Alta Genetics Bull Search app. Coming soon will be an Android version of the app, as well as new and more proof information and additional functionality to both app versions.
Please click here to download the all new Alta Genetics Bull Search app to your iPhone.

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Cow Livability calculated as new proof trait

The Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) is releasing proof information on the new Cow Livability trait for the first time this proof round.

Herd Barn

Cow Livability, abbreviated as LIV, is a subset of Productive Life and shows a high 0.70 correlation with the well-established PL. In simplest terms, Cow Livability measures a cow’s ability to stay alive on the farm. A higher livability means an increased likelihood that a cow will remain alive, and can therefore provide a return through a cull check, as opposed to dying on farm.

While this trait is lowly heritable, the economics associated with the cull value of cows is powerful and real. If you would like to include Cow Livability as part of your genetic plan, you can find this trait information for individual bulls on Alta’s proof sheets and online Bull Search.

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New additions join team of top daughter-proven sires

A new class of daughter-proven graduates joins Alta’s high-reliability TPI ranks behind #1 Pine-Tree AltaOAK and #2 No-Fla AltaEVERGLADE.

The new daughter-proven graduates are headlined by De-Su AltaGILCREST. With over 200 daughters in his production proof, he made gains for production, health, calving and conformation traits to improve his TPI more than 150 points to his current 2460 TPI.

Learn more here about AltaGILCREST and the other new additions to the daughter-proven ranks.

011HO11272 De-Su AltaGILCREST | AltaGREATEST x Goldwyn x O Man | 511 | A2A2 | 2460 TPI

  • Follows in his sire’s footsteps with lots of milk, fat and protein
  • Extremely low calving ease
  • Excellent dairyness and udders with great quality and strong attachments

011HO11348 Bush-Bros AltaBGOOD | Robust x Massey x Boliver | 511 | CP | 2432 TPI

  • Early daughters are moderate sized with tremendous udder attachments
  • High combined fat and protein and percentages
  • A former FutureStar and current high fertility ConceptPlus sire

011HO11293 Alta ECHELON | Robust x Goldwyn x Roy | CP | A2A2 | 2338 TPI

  • A balanced proof for production, health and type
  • Consistently stylish with wide rumps and very high, wide rear udders
  • Excellent sire fertility complemented by easy calvings from well-balanced cows

011HO11302 Spruce-Haven AltaALPHA | Shamrock x Deann x Outside | A2A2 | 2338 TPI

  • A health and calving trait specialist perfect for progressive environments
  • Excellent longevity and highly fertile daughters
  • Well-balanced cows with very strong udder attachments

011HO11314 Bomaz AltaENTRUST | Robust x Man-O-Man x Shottle | CP | A2A2 | 2330 TPI

  • Phenomenal components and percentages lending way to great feed efficiency
  • Long-living, fertile, healthy cows with balanced frames
  • Extremely high sire fertility

011HO11294 Champion AltaBOOKEL | Bookem x Man-O-Man x Shottle | CP | 2320 TPI

  • A production and type trait specialist
  • Early daughters are medium-sized with excellent dairy quality and openness of rib
  • Great production with over 100 CFP

011HO11316 Bomaz AltaBETTMAN | Robust x Man-O-Man x Lancelot | CP | A2A2 | 2317 TPI

  • High daughter fertility and low calving ease
  • An exciting high fertility ConceptPlus sire
  • Shorter stature with a balanced mix of dairy strength and productive udders

Also joining this group of new daughter-proven sires are three high fertility ConceptPlus options to fit a variety of genetic plans: AltaMACBOOK, AltaPRESET, and AltaTOPROCK.

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