Friday, February 17, 2017

It’s Calving Season

All the hard work and dedication you have put in throughout the last nine months is about to pay off – it’s calving season!

Let’s turn back the calendar to late spring 2016 when you started going through calving records and bloodlines to find the perfect mating for your heifers and cows. You started virgin heifers on a nutritional program to prepare them to conceive, calve and catch up with the rest of the group. Next, you focused on the second calvers so they were prepared to breed back and get established into the program (which we all know is a challenge in itself). All this preparation eventually led to A.I. day, and since then you have patiently waited for calving season.

The moments leading up to calving season mean you must brave the cold, windy and possibly damp conditions. More importantly, the cattle need to be properly cared for in these conditions to ensure a successful survival rate throughout winter. The nights get long and sleep becomes few and far between. Checking the cattle every second or third hour on the clock can take a toll on your body. Although your mind and body grows weary during this time of year, seeing the results of hard work and dedication hit the ground is more rewarding than one can explain.

Seeing first calf heifers become mothers for the first time, and watching second calvers begin to establish themselves within the herd, is remarkable. Seeing that calf hit the ground wet, full of life and vigor, makes you appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature. It is that moment you remember why you love what you do and wouldn't change it for the world.

Do you have any #calvingseason17 stories? What are you seeing in GENEX progeny? We would love to hear about it.

Author Colten Muir is an Independent Contractor for GENEX. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

This Farm Has No Love for Valentine's Day

It was a typical cold winter day in Wisconsin, but the events that took place on our farm the afternoon of February 14, 2002, were anything but ordinary. Our farm’s main operator, my Mother-in-law, Juli, was in the process of letting cows in for the night milking. A first-calf heifer wasn’t as eager as the rest to come in, so Juli was going out to fetch her. When Juli was several steps out of the barn, she caught a glimpse of the herd bull coming at her. In that split second, Juli was able to make it to the gate, but not before the bull had hit her several times. Adrenaline and sheer muscle allowed Juli to pull herself over the gate, but her broken body now lie on the snow and ice. Thankfully, my Father-in-law came home from work about 15 to 30 minutes after the attack and found her. Juli was rushed to the hospital where she underwent several surgeries. She still has scars and aches and pains as a result of the incident, but we can rejoice that she is still with us as we approach the 15-year anniversary of that day. We now look at Valentine’s Day a whole new way. It is a day we remember how precious life is, and how quickly everything can change.  

I grew up on a farm that exclusively bred artificially, so when I met my husband, and heard this story, I tried to understand the reasons behind a herd bull. Now, working for GENEX, I understand it even less. I am thrilled to be working in the agriculture industry and passionate about A.I. and how it allows farmers:

› Safety. (Refer to the above story, enough said.)

› Maximized Reproductive Performance. By utilizing bulls with known high fertility levels, you can improve conception rates and those of future generations as well

› Improved Herd Genetics. Lifetime Net Merit $, calculated by the USDA, measures the net profit over the lifetime of a bull’s average daughter. USDA comparisons show daughter-proven active A.I. bulls average a $254 LNM advantage over non-A.I. bulls averaging -51. Genomic-tested active A.I. bulls average a $496 LNM advantage over non-A.I. bulls.*

› Improved Production. The USDA calculates milk production in pounds, reflecting the expected milk production of each bull’s future mature daughters. USDA comparisons show daughter-proven active A.I. bulls average a 709 lb advantage over non-A.I. bulls. Genomic-proven active A.I. bulls average a 1,049 lb advantage over non- A.I. bulls.*

I know, I know, you are saying, but it is more work without a bull; they can detect heat better. With today’s synchronization protocols and/or cow monitoring systems, heat detection is relatively easy.
There is a cost advantage to having a bull, you say. Is there really? Plug your numbers into this worksheet to determine some of the hidden costs of bull breeding.

So this Valentine’s Day, do your herd, your checkbook and your family a huge favor and switch to artificial insemination.

 *According to the USDA AIPL Summary of April 2015 Evaluations (

Monday, February 6, 2017

Top 10 Reasons to be a GENEX delegate

The third week of January is often characterized by blowing snow and frigid temps, but in most cases, that doesn’t stop GENEX delegates from convening in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for the cooperative’s annual meeting. This year, delegates from 26 states made the trek. For repeat visitors, the annual meeting is a time to catch up with fellow producers and GENEX management. For new delegates, it’s an opportunity to really learn more about the inner workings of the co-op.

Much more than a meeting. While “annual meeting” may sound like a bore, the GENEX meeting is so much more! In addition to the business meeting and evening entertainment, the event includes educational opportunities. This year the co-op held five breakout sessions featuring 11 topics for delegates to gain cooperative or farm management insight. Topics ranged from cybersecurity to beef in Brazil and from research updates to the beef lineup and the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index. Time and time again, these breakout sessions are a fan favorite. This year was no different. Here’s what a few delegates had to say:

Delegates attend breakout sessions at the annual meeting
Your reasons. How does a GENEX member get the opportunity to attend the annual meeting? First, you must self-nominate to be a delegate. Then the members in your local membership district cast their vote on who should be a delegate. If you are elected, you are invited (and expected) to attend the annual meeting in January and an input meeting in the fall.

Why would you want to become a delegate and attend the annual meeting? Here’s the Top 10 reasons, as shared by delegates at this year’s GENEX annual meeting

   10. Gets you away from the farm or ranch and that daily routine!
    9. A chance to meet producers from across the country.
    8. It’s a matter of give and take (contribute to the co-op and learn).
    7. It’s a family affair – My family’s been members of co-ops since the 1920s.
    6. GENEX is the best show in town, and we want to keep it that way!
    5. Delegate input keeps the organization healthy.
    4. Reuniting with fellow delegates that I only see once a year.
    3. Cooperatives educate their delegates and members. 
    2. Find out the inside-scoop on the new happenings at GENEX.
    1. We got voted in!

If becoming a delegate and attending the annual meeting interests you, watch for your next opportunity to self-nominate. In the meantime, here's some additional highlights from this year's annual meeting:


Friday, January 27, 2017

It's Quite a Production

Follow along on a recent trip our Audio Visual Coordinator, Todd Moede, took to our GENEX facility in Tiffin, Ohio. I think you will agree, collecting quality bull semen is quite a production.

I recently had the pleasure of traveling to the GENEX location at Tiffin, Ohio, to video their semen collection process with Dr. David Brown, GENEX AVP Veterinary Services and Education. I was curious and excited to see the old bull stud where much of our industry has its roots. I have been working for Cooperative Resources International for 28 years, had met Ken Wallin from the old Badger Breeders and I knew this was the spot where the National Association of Animal Breeders had met for the first time, long ago. I knew of Max Drake, the first Manager at Tiffin. Keith Heikes the current COO of GENEX was the Manager of NOBA (GENEX predecessor) in Tiffin, before he came to Shawano. I figured this was pretty hallowed ground here in Ohio, as far as our industry and our cooperative was concerned, if you know what I mean.

At the start, bulls were tied up around the arena and were allowed to interact with each other. Production Manager, Mike Landers, then had a group meeting where his entire crew got their assignments for the day, addressed any questions or problems that might have come up and made sure everyone got their morning cup of coffee and peanut butter granola bar. The way I look at it happy workers are good workers and Mike certainly did a great job with that.

My first day in the collection room did not start too well. It only took me about 10 minutes to be talked to by one of the guys. I had slipped into the collection area with my camera between two young sires that were tied close to the opening I went through. Al Wagner, Livestock and Grounds Superintendent, quickly got my attention and informed me of the difference between a safe tie off distance and an unsafe distance. I had apparently gone through the unsafe zone. I have videoed many bulls before, and I figure I'm still pretty quick for a 60 year old, but Al was right. A person might get away with that 1,000 times but the time you don't, might be quite painful. Point taken and received. 

As I videoed, things seemed to fall into a definite pattern. Mike kept track of sires and steers tied off around the arena. Al stayed close to the lab area and made up artificial vaginas (AVs) so they were ready when the guys needed them, and Ron Wise, Head Herdsman, and Kraig Lease, GENESIS Operations Transportation and Maintenance Assistant, were doing the collecting.

When bulls had a sufficient time in the arena they were worked with a steer. The bull would false mount and he would be diverted by the handler. Sometimes it would take one false mount and with others it might have taken three or four, every bull was different. When Mike nodded that the bull was ready, the handler would walk to the AV area, get the warm AV and the bulls tag off of the door, put on a new glove and go out and collect the bull. After the collection, Mike and the collector communicated the name and sire code of the bull and the collector checked the AV to be sure semen was in the collection vial. He then went to the AV area, removed and capped the collection vial while making sure things were clean, filled out the paper work and gave the collection to the lab. 

After working behind the camera for a while it began to dawn on me that I wasn't really watching four guys collecting semen, but instead, I was watching four guys working as one. It seemed to me that no one really ever needed to be told what to do, they just knew and did it. If a steer was relieving himself and missing the five-gallon pail meant to catch it, the closest guy would move the pail. When manure hit the ground, the closest guy to the shovel would pick it up and put it in the wheel barrow. When a steer needed to be cleaned, it was quickly noticed and got done. If Al was busy and an AV needed to be made Ron or Kraig would be right on it. No one was ever asked or told what to do, they just knew and out of mutual respect for each other, the jobs got done, and done well. Heck, by the second day even Doc Brown was shoveling in the arena without being asked!  I guess good stuff like that seems to rub off.

All the while they worked, the radio would be playing old classic tunes. The older guys liked the fact that the youngster, Kraig, never heard of a lot of the groups playing. At my age I was not bad at knowing who the groups were until the tune "A World Without Love" came on. Obviously British, I said it was Herman's Hermits, good guess I thought. I was later corrected ... that's Peter and Gordon. One of the guys looked it up on their phone, no fair.

All in all, the trip was great. I got to see the old barn where sire code 1H started. I got to admire the work of the collection, lab and barn crew and got a real sense that everyone involved in the process owned their small piece of it. I also got to see how four people can actually work as one. Oh yes, and I managed not to get hurt.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

GENEX Beef Goes to Denver

It’s one-mile-high, there’s a hill and a yard.

Any guesses?

Some refer to it as the Super Bowl of livestock shows. 

Now do you know?

You guessed it – the National Western Stock Show and GENEX was there!
For over 100 years, the National Western Stock Show (NWSS) in Denver, Colorado, has been the premier livestock, rodeo and horse show in the nation. While you’re at the NWSS you can see everything from a cattle show to a rodeo to stock dog trials, purchase ANY kind of livestock equipment and attend a livestock auction every day of the event! 
This, my friends, is where we introduce our Beef Genetic Management Guide at the GENEX tent in the yards. I know, you may have viewed it online in early January, but here is where you can pick up the first printed copy. As you flip through it you can smell the newness of the pages. Or is that the smell of the soggy shavings you're standing on? Not sure. You can study each page and make hand-written notes along the way, noting which sires you’ll need to consider this year. You’ll take note of the new, exciting young sire additions as well as the proven, maternally-oriented, balanced-EPD sires GENEX is known for.  
Whether as spectators or exhibitors, many families have been attending the NWSS event for generations. It’s a tradition. And it’s a tradition for the GENEX family.

If you stopped by the GENEX tent this year, I sure hope you had your picture taken with 1AN01238 RESOURCE. This life-sized bull was the talk of the tent! Congratulations to Dave & Darcy Johnson, Cambridge, Nebraska, and Will Wrich, Crawford, Colorado, who each won 25 units of RESOURCE semen for participating in our RESOURCE selfie contest by posting their photo and tagging #GENEXBeef.

Another exciting contest was the GENEX sires hidden in the yards each day. Our Facebook followers anxiously awaited each morning for the picture clues, and then were on the hunt! Who would be the first one to return the cut-out to the tent? It was a race each day. By the way, have you liked our GENEX Beef Facebook page yet? Head on over there to stay up-to-date on the latest GENEX Beef information.

NWSS GENEX Highlights

  •    The high selling heifer in the Angus Foundation sale was sired by       1AN01337 INNOVATION
  •   Check out the recap of our contests

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our tent. If you’ve never been to the NWSS, it’s definitely something to put on your bucket list! 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Top 10 A.I. Technique Mistakes

I was recently reading an article in Progressive Dairyman which reported the cost for days open in a dairy animal to be between $3 and $5. Many factors come into play with determining if an animal becomes pregnant or not, and several of them are beyond our control as dairy producers. However, one of the variables we can control is our A.I. technique. I asked Eric Maynard, GENEX Dairy Education Instructor, to give me the top ten A.I. technique and semen handling mistakes people make.

1)  Incorrect or Poor Semen Placement. Several years ago, researchers at the Pennsylvania State University developed radiography techniques to clearly evaluate insemination accuracy. These techniques overcome some of the limitations of the earlier dye techniques used to evaluate placement. The study was reported in which 20 professional technicians and 20 owner-inseminators were evaluated using the radiography technique. Each person inseminated a total of 20 reproductive tracts. Radiographs were taken to access inseminating gun placement. The data showed that only 39 percent of the gun tip placements were in the uterine body. A total of 25 percent of the gun tip placements were in the cervix. Twenty-three percent were in the right uterine horn, and 13 percent were in the left uterine horn. Sixty percent of the semen was distributed either in the cervix or disproportionately in one uterine horn. Only 40 percent of the semen was located in the uterine body or equally distributed in both uterine horns.

2) Lack of reproductive knowledge. Failure to understand the anatomical and functional relationships among the various tissues and organs of the reproductive system may lead to consistent insemination errors.

3)  Animals are not in heat. Ensure that the cow to be bred is truly in heat. Research studies indicate between 7 and 20 percent of the cattle inseminated are not in heat.

4)  Careless handling of A.I. gun. Once the insemination device is assembled, it must be protected from contamination and cold shock temperatures.

5)  Improper straw handling. Shake the straw after removing it from the tank to eliminate any drops of nitrogen at the end of the cotton plug. This will prevent the plug bursting off when it is put in the water bath. If you have a large group of animals to inseminate, use semen more promptly by having one person thawing and loading while another breeds the animals.                                                        

6)  Contamination. The vulva region must be thoroughly wiped clean with a paper towel. This is important in helping prevent the interior of the reproductive tract from becoming contaminated and possibly infected. A folded paper towel can be inserted into the lower portion of the vulva. The insemination rod can then be placed between the folds of the towel and inserted into the vagina without contacting the lips of the vulva.

7)  Poor A.I. gun angle. To avoid the possibility of entering the urethral opening on the floor of the vagina, the insemination rod should be inserted into the vulva upward at a 30 ̊ to 40 ̊ angle.

8)  Incorrect hand placement. During the process of semen deposition, take care that the fingers of the palpating hand are not inadvertently blocking a uterine horn or misdirecting the flow of semen in some manner.

9)  Incomplete semen deposition. Be careful not to pull the insemination rod back through the cervix while the semen is being expelled.

10) Animal movement during insemination. If the cow has moved during semen deposition or you think the rod has moved, stop the semen deposition and correctly reposition the rod tip before continuing semen deposition.

If you would prefer a more comprehensive evaluation of your A.I. technique, talk to your GENEX representative about the A.I. AccuCheck℠ program

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Year of Reflection, Learning and Breakthroughs

The end of December. It’s the time of year people reflect back on the past 365 days filled with laughter, success, hard times and hope. At GENEX we also like to take the time to look at our journey in 2016. Not only do we adapt to difficult times (like those darn low milk and beef prices) and use them to learn and create something positive, but we also appreciate the successes and breakthroughs we’ve accomplished. Yes, even with the unavoidable bumps along the way, 2016 was another year GENEX could be proud of. Take a look at the synopsis below of our 2016 blog posts (and be sure to read them in their entirety if you haven’t already)!

GENEX kicked off the year by giving members and customers a taste of a standout GENESIS family: The Prudence Family. From the formidable 1HO11881 Co-op PRINCETON-ET son to Prudence’s first milking daughters, this family is sure to add profitability to any herd.
Co-op SPS Prudence 7079-ET, Co-op GRFT Prudence 7162-ET, 
and Co-op Val Prudence 7207

On January 17, while some people were celebrating Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day, our GENEX Ideal Commercial Cow was celebrating her resolutions, from maintaining a desirable Body Condition Score (BCS) to being more efficient through the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index. Be sure to check out the full blog post to read the other two resolutions our cow stuck with.

As January progressed, GENEX Beef gave readers a taste of the self-proclaimed Super Bowl of Livestock Shows - the National Western Stock Show. Read more to see who scored big.
McCurry Brothers of Sedgwick, Kansas, won the Grand Champion Pen with a pen of S A V BISMARCK 5682 daughters and Reserve Champion Pen was a group of PVF INSIGHT 0129 heifers from Bear Mountain Angus, Palisade, Nebraska.

We closed out January by highlighting one of GENEX’s driving forces behind its success - its delegates. GENEX delegate Scott Erthum took the time to explain the roles of delegates and why he chose to become one.

Check out our throwback post in February to see what was hidden in one particular semen tank. You’d be surprised at what was found (or maybe you’ve found some of those same items hidden in your semen tanks at some point).

Once you’re done reading that post (or perhaps done digging through your own semen tank to see what hidden treasures it holds), be sure to take a look at this article by Kim Egan, DVM, GENEX Dairy Consultant Manager, to understand the importance of BCS and what you can do to help your cattle maintain proper BCS.

While you’re at it, take a look at what it’s like to be a GENEX delegate through the eyes of someone who’s quite demographically different from the first GENEX delegate we covered. Alexa Kayhart is a prime example of how all members and customers can benefit as a delegate.

Members and customers not only benefit by serving as a delegate, but they also benefit by using artificial insemination (A.I.) service to breed their cattle. This blog post shows how cost effective A.I. can be!

Once you’re done reading how beneficial A.I. can be, read about PregCheck™ fertility rankings, so you can make better mating decisions.

Our March 15th blog post was uploaded in celebration and advocacy of a day near and dear to our hearts - National Agriculture Day. Revisit this post to learn how YOU can agvocate. And check out this blog post as well for a little #WisdomWednesday.

Read our post from April 19th to learn when to pregnancy check and why. Your increased pregnancy rates can thank us later ;)

To celebrate National Beef Month, it only made sense that our May 17th blog post feature one of GENEX’s elite (and no, we’re not referring to our bulls, although those are pretty stellar too, if we do say so ourselves). This post featured one of our many standout Independent Contractors, Duane Frehse.

In June, GENEX Communications Specialist Brenda Brady spent an important (and fun!) day at a local daycare to educate young and eager minds about agriculture.

Since the past six months have been a little more recent, I won’t continue to ramble on with each and every blog post we’ve written since then. However, I will list them here for you to check out for yourself (and I highly encourage you to do so! From educational to light-hearted to personable to GENEX-specific information, we’ve got it all)! We hope to see you back at the GENEX blog next year!