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Your genetic decision today IS your future herd

The future of your herd is more than just your youngstock. It’s found inside your semen tank.

Think about the semen just delivered to your dairy and added to your tank. It’s an investment. And it’s a decision that will impact your operation for years to come. Your genetic decision today becomes the calves, heifers, and milking cows of your future herd.

Timeline graphic from semen purchase to milking female

The BIG decisions

When it comes to making big decisions – the type that affect your livelihood, your future, or your financial well-being – most people work with a trusted advisor to make the best possible choice.

When you buy a house, you work with a realtor. To deal with your retirement investments, you likely work with a trusted financial advisor. Decisions about both types of investments have a major impact on your life for years down the road.

Your dairy herd is no different. The genetics you use have a lasting impact on your livelihood, your future, and your operation’s financial well-being.

Your Alta advisor can help ensure that your investment creates genetic progress aligned with your farm’s situation and future goals. That means everything from setting the right customized genetic plan to selecting the right investment level to fit your long-term strategy. Because when it comes to genetics, you get what you select for.

Find your proof

How can we be sure that genetics make a difference? We know from countless examples of what we call ‘Proof in the Numbers’ that what you breed for today is directly correlated to the results you see in your future milking herd. Want to see real example to understand more? Check them out HERE, HERE, or HERE.

Just remember, the results these herds realize for production, fertility, and health stem from the genetic decisions they made more than 3 years ago.

With that in mind, don’t make light of the BIG decisions. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to ensure your genetic investments and strategy align with your situation and future goals. Because the genetic decision inside your semen tank is your future herd.

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The proof is in your numbers

Let us show you…

We can show you the proof that genetics are one of the cheapest investments you can make to improve the profitability and efficiency of your herd. Proof sheet numbers may seem unclear or unrealistic. So we break them down to see how they translate within your own herd.

When you use a herd management software program, we can create a genetic assessment of your herd to see if genetics really work on your farm.

Do your 2-year-olds give as many pounds of milk as their sires’ proofs predict? Do these cows become pregnant as quickly as their sires’ DPR numbers suggest? And do daughter stillbirth numbers prove to be accurate indicators of DOAs?

When we do a genetic assessment for your herd, it’s important to realize that we only take into account first-lactation animals in order to minimize environmental effects. Phenotype equals genetics plus environment. So when we eliminate – or at least minimize – environmental influences, the actual performance differences we see are due to genetics.

We want to show you how those proof numbers translate to more pounds of milk, more pregnancies and fewer stillborn calves. So here, we take one of our real DairyComp 305 analyses of a real 1,500-cow herd for answers.

The proof in genetics: PTA Milk (PTAM)

We start with PTAM, which tells us how many more pounds of milk a first-lactation animal will produce compared to herdmates on a 305-day ME basis. We set out to find if higher PTAM values on this farm actually convert to more pounds of milk in the tank.

In this example, we sort all first-lactation animals with a known Holstein sire ID, solely on their sires’ PTAM values. We then compare that to their actual 305-day ME milk records.

As Table 1 shows, based on genetics, we expect the top 25 percent of first-lactation heifers to produce 1,541 more pounds of milk on a 305ME basis than their lower PTAM counterparts. In reality, we see a 2,662-pound difference between the top PTAM animals and the bottom in actual daughter performance.

Table 1: How does selection for PTAM affect actual 305ME performance?
# of cowsAvg. Sire PTAMAvg. 305ME Production
Top 25% high sire PTAM178150844080
Bottom 25% low sire PTAM171-3341418
Difference15412662
This means that for every pound of milk this herd selects for, they actually get an additional 1.69 pounds of milk. So these first-lactation animals are producing well beyond their genetic potential.

Why do they get more than expected?

When we do most on-farm genetic assessments, we find that the 305ME values closely match the predicted difference based on sire PTAM. However, in this example, the production exceeds what’s expected by more than 1,100 pounds.

We often attribute that bonus milk top-level management, where genetics are allowed to express themselves. This particular herd provides a comfortable and consistent environment for all cows. All of these 2-year-olds are fed the same ration, housed in the same barn and given the same routine. At more than a 40,000-pound average 305ME, this is certainly a well-managed herd, which allows the top genetic animals to exceed their genetic production potential.

Perhaps even more importantly, the identification in this herd is more than 95 percent accurate. Without accurate identification, this analysis simply won’t work. That’s because some cows whose real sire information puts them in the bottom quartile will actually appear in the top quartile and vice-versa.

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