Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ideal Commercial Cows … at the heart of every dairy operation

Hopping in a truck and traveling the back roads of rural America … who doesn’t love this? It’s there that you see the heart of America, dairy farmers, true entrepreneurs, the original business man and woman.

So what is driving today's commercial dairy operations? What is it dairy producers need and want from their genetics and their genetic partners? This question drives what we do here at GENEX day in and day out.

Heifers at a feed bunk on a commercial dairy

Healthy. Trouble-free. Durable. Invisible. Profitable. These are just some of the words you are using to describe what you need on your operation. With meeting your needs as our priority, the concept of a new, innovative genetic index for creating commercial cows was born. After that initial grassroots spark, GENEX launched the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index in August 2014. Then and now, the ICC$ index is a Holstein sire ranking tool which uses real-time economic indicators and science-based genetic principles to address the needs of commercial dairy producers – your needs. 

Sitting down with real-world dairy producers, such as Darin Dykstra of Dykstra Dairy in Maurice, Iowa, you gain a true perspective on the realities of commercial dairy farming. Darin uses the ICC$ index because it matches his dairy breeding principles. He shares, “I want a functional, durable, long-lasting cow that produces lots of high component milk. The less events she has on her cow card the better. That is a great cow for any commercial dairy farmer."

Don Bennink, an industry-leading commercial producer from North Florida Holsteins in Bell, Florida, and a supplier of elite genetics for A.I. companies across the industry, also shared his perspective on the ICC$ index. He stated, “The Ideal Commercial Cow index is probably the largest step forward we have seen in meeting the commercial producer’s needs.”

Breeding for an Even Healthier Herd
With the December sire summaries, GENEX is helping you breed for even healthier ideal commercial cows. We have announced the addition of three proprietary health traits to the ICC$ index. Subclinical Ketosis (SCK), Metritis (MTR) and Foot Health (FH) breeding values will help you breed for lower BHBA (a cause of ketosis), fewer cases of metritis and fewer foot health issues. We bring you the SCK, MTR and FH values because ketosis, metritis and lameness conditions have both a large presence in modern dairy operations and a large impact on bottom-line farm profitability.

Remember, ICC$ is the summation of five easy-to-use sub-indexes: Health, Production Efficiency, Fertility and Fitness, Milking Ability and Calving Ability. Sub-index values are available for each bull so you can narrow your genetic emphasis to these specific areas of farm management, as needed. The new health traits - SCK, MTR and FH - have been added to the Health sub-index.


Young girl looking at a cow in a hospital pen.

The proprietary traits were established by Cooperative Resources International (CRI) scientists with the International Center for Biotechnology (ICB). In developing the breeding values, the CRI ICB staff used science, research and an extensive database including nearly 4 million cows and 26 million health events. Additionally, the SCK breeding values are the result of CRI ICB staff calculations and collaborative research by professionals at the University of Wisconsin Department of Dairy Science and School of Veterinary Medicine and CRI subsidiary AgSource Cooperative Services. 

You asked. GENEX delivered.
When asked why he uses GENEX as his genetics supplier and partner, commercial dairyman Darin Dykstra answers, “Functional, durable and invisible - that is what I’m looking for. ICC$ selection provides that.”

Monday, November 28, 2016

#RepsThatRock

Genex has a great team of Independent Contractors across the country who serve our members and customers. Each Monday morning during the month of November, we featured one of our #RepsthatRock. on the GenexBeef Facebook page. These folks are so fabulous that we wanted to share their stories on the blog as well. Here’s a glimpse at five; tune-in next spring when we feature another set of representatives. 

Independent Contractor Cassie Herrera has been part of the Genex sales force

for five years and covers the state of Washington. Cassie loves the work she does, stating the best part of her job is breeding cattle and helping ranchers build the herd that best fits them. She also enjoys working on group projects with fellow Genex sales reps and appreciates the knowledge and professionalism each person brings to the table. Outside of work, Cassie enjoys spending time with family, watching her son rodeo, and playing football and basketball. When asked about her favorite beef entrée, Cassie noted, “Nothing beats a tenderloin steak.”


Mark Fowler has been an Independent Contractor since April 2016, serving

ranches in North and South Carolina. Mark has farmed and raised cattle his entire adult life, and he thoroughly enjoys meeting new customers and viewing standout cattle from elite Genex bulls. He recently attended the Genex Progeny Tour, where he viewed firsthand some of the bulls at Genex Hawkeye West in Montana. In his spare time, Mark enjoys hunting, fishing, going to church, and spending time with his family and friends. Host a cookout with New York Strip (cooked medium well), and Mark will be there!


Dawn Letellier became an Independent Contractor in January 2015, serving

customers in western south central South Dakota. Dawn earned an associate's degree in ag technology from Mitchell Technical Institute, and she currently owns and operates a cow/calf operation. Throughout her time with Genex, she's really enjoyed helping producers select bulls for their herds and seeing the mating results. Dawn's hobbies include reading and hunting. When it comes to beef, Dawn can't pass up a good prime rib.










Tyler and Cassie Schleich are a team of Independent Contractors covering western Illinois. Tyler joined Genex in 2007, and Cassie jumped on board to help her husband in 2012. Cassie and Tyler grew up with beef cattle, and they both pursued agriculture degrees from Western Illinois University. They love having the opportunity to help cattlemen improve their operations; they’ve worked hard to gain customers’ trust and establish strong relationships, which they attribute to the success they have today. While working with Genex, they’ve appreciated the A.I. schools, which is where Cassie learned to breed cattle. When Tyler and Cassie have a chance to get out of the barn, they enjoy spending time by the pool with their daughter and traveling to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play baseball. When it comes to beef, Tyler loves brisket and Cassie enjoys a beef kabob on the grill.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Holiday That Makes Your Heart and Belly Full

By: Brooke Handy, Public Relations Coordinator, CRI

For me, and I’m sure many of you as well, Thanksgiving has always been a time to reflect. What I am thankful for changes year to year, but there are always a few constants.



As the weather gets colder, I’m thankful for Carhartt® coveralls to help block the wind-chill (I wish -30 was a number that only existed in math class), decent chore boots (without holes) and fuzzy socks to keep my feet warm and dry.


I’m thankful for good, maternal cows that raise big, healthy babies every year (also for my favorite farm dog that always has my back when those same cows are breathing down my neck while I'm checking calves).

I’m thankful chore time is always family time, even if a few of us aren’t speaking to each other by the time we get back to the house.









I’m thankful for old, reliable trucks that have a permanent layer of dirt embedded in the upholstery. No matter how worn, tattered and run-down it gets, it keeps chugging along, hauling feed, fencing supplies or a few helping hands.








I’m thankful I grew up in a farm family that instilled the importance of hard work, honesty and the ability to scale a fence in 0.3 seconds flat.

I’m thankful for a career in the agriculture industry that has allowed me to meet the most sincere, hard-working individuals from all over America.

I’m thankful for our loyal members and customers who pour their heart and souls into what they do. The producers who work sun up to sun down to provide for not only themselves, but for the rest of the world as well.



I’m thankful for all the Genex employees who work long days to help our customers and members reach their herd goals.

I’m thankful for a short workweek that will end with glorious Thanksgiving food, especially pie –  every kind of pie you can imagine.

Most of all, I am thankful for the opportunity to sit around a table with my family this Thanksgiving, enjoying the fruits of many farmers’ labor and the ability to go back for seconds (okay, maybe thirds).


I hope your holiday is full of food, laughter and family. And I hope you are just as lucky as me to have so many things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Top 10 Ag Idioms

By: Brooke Schultz, Communications Coordinator, CRI

Take a deep breath and brace yourself – I’m about to shower you with a fun play on words related to agriculture. Maybe it’s just the English nerd in me, but I have a weird fascination for idioms, what they stand for and where they originated. I figured what better way to merge my nerdy language enthusiasm with your passion for agriculture?

Before I begin spewing idioms at you, it would probably help if you understood what an idiom is. Similar to a metaphor, an idiom is a set expression or phrase that is not interpreted literally. The phrase is understood to mean something quite different from what the individual words of the phrase would imply. Examples of idioms include: raining cats and dogs, sick as a dog, jumping the gun, piece of cake, break a leg, etc.

So, what are some of the fun idioms used that relate to agriculture? I’ve listed my 10 favorites below. Take a look!

1.    Born in a barn.
One could guess this phrase was originated in reference to farmers leaving their barn doors open to allow cattle to head out to the pasture freely. This was probably my dad’s favorite saying while I was growing up. Since he paid the heat bill, he was sure to let my brother and me (and even our friends) know he was unhappy when we left the front door open by quipping this phrase. (To which I would respond in typical teenage fashion, “I don’t know, dad, was I? You were there and would know better than me.” Thankfully my dad and I had a good relationship where we could banter back and forth like that.)

 2.    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
This idiom seems pretty self-explanatory – Don’t make assumptions and rely on something you’re unsure about. It would be a bummer to think you’re going to have 10 chickens, only to find out three of them died so you only have seven. (Or, to make it a little more relatable to members and customers ... planning on having xx amount of calves born and join the herd, only to have a significant number of them die from a disease outbreak.) That could really throw a wrench in future plans and profitability.

 3.    Take the bull by the horns.
Warning: Do not try this at home. (Actually, you probably shouldn’t try this anywhere.) Rather than taking this idiom literally, one should know this implies you should confront a problem head on. Yes, when there is an issue that needs to be handled, you should put your boots on, saddle up and take the bull by the horns. (Idioms! Idioms everywhere!)

4.    Cream of the crop.
The best of the best. The bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. The crème de la crème. Need I say more? I mean, I think we all know it’s a fairly shared opinion that the cream is the best part of the milk. Speaking of milk...

5.    Milk it for all it’s worth.
No, I’m not referring to literally milking your cow for all she’s worth (although you can go ahead and do that too)! Rather, this idiom means to take full advantage of a situation. Like on those rare occasions you actually have a day off, you should milk it for all it’s worth. (Sleep in. Spend some much needed time with family. Take a road trip. Visit the beach. Do anything and everything you would want to do on your day off. Trust me, you’ve earned it!)

6.    You reap what you sow.
While literally, yes, you reap what you sow (aka you gather what you plant), this idiom means everything that happens to you is a result of your own actions. Every action has a consequence, so make sure what you sow is worth the reap. And since we’re on the topic of crops...

7.    Make hay while the sun shines.
Seize the day! Carpe diem! As a farmer or rancher, you know it’s imperative to take advantage of good weather, so what do you do? You make hay while the sun shines (literally).

8.    Hold your horses.
Put simply: wait a moment. While the origin of this idiom hasn’t been verified, most explanations historically relate to horse riding or driving a horse-drawn vehicle. (You know those chickens I referred to earlier? You should probably hold your horses on counting them before they hatch.)

9.    Bull in a china shop.
Can you imagine a bull let loose in a store filled with expensive, fragile china? I’m sure my grandmother would be cringing at the thought. This idiom describes individuals who are careless in the way they move or behave. I cannot count how many times I’ve used this phrase to describe a particular friend who just plows through delicate spaces. (See what I did there?)

10.   A needle in a haystack.

I’m sure you all know objects compared to “a needle in a haystack” refers to something that is extremely difficult or impossible to find ... like when you’re running around taking care of a million things, then misplace your car keys in the process. We all know finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack (and then you eventually find them in the fridge 20 minutes later). Or when you’re about to begin harvesting, only to realize you cannot find that hitch pin you swore you just had. Or maybe you parents have heard it when your children are looking for something but just CANNOT find it (only for you to find it within five minutes of looking).

Well, there you have it, folks. My top 10 ag idioms. I hope this blog post gave you a break from your mundane chores and responsibilities and helped you realize how colorful and fun our language can be!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Setting & Achieving Dairy Repro Goals


Learn what you need to consider when developing goals and plans for your dairy repro program


Setting goals is key in the development and advancement of a dairy’s repro program. To help ensure success, these goals need to be realistic, obtainable and relevant to the future of the operation, and they should include both short-term and long-term goals.

What is it that other herds to do have such successful repro programs?
There are a number of repro parameters that can be benchmarked to monitor reproductive efficiency. Pregnancy rate is one you may recognize as an indicator of overall repro program viability. According to the Genex Dairy Performance NavigatorSM (DPNSM) program, herds in the top 10% for reproduction average around a 30% pregnancy rate with some herds exceeding this by several percentage points. This means preg rates in excess of 30% are reality for quite a few dairies. For most, however, a 30% preg rate is far from reality. Instead, it could be considered a realistic and obtainable long-term goal.

Once you’ve determined the goals for your dairy repro program, the next step is to develop a strategy to achieve those goals. What is the strategy that sets the top 10% of herds apart from their neighbors? In other words, “What do I need to do to be like them?” Generally speaking, there is no one silver bullet that will help you achieve this goal but rather a combination of factors.

These factors could be combined under one heading:


Here are a few areas where managers of top repro herds tend to apply that attention to detail:

  • Genetic Selection. Paying attention to health traits, such as Daughter Pregnancy Rate and Productive Life, helps to breed fertility into a herd and sets the dairy up for future success. (Genex has an excellent tool for showing the effects of genetics.) Managers who have looked at health traits for multiple generations are now seeing Holstein conception rates in the high 40s and even consistently into the 50s.
  • Environment, Health and Nutrition. Cows that are overcrowded, overheated and uncomfortable will not exhibit estrous, conceive or maintain a pregnancy as well as comfortable cows. In addition, maintenance items, such as routine foot care, add to a cow’s comfort level and help the cow exhibit heat. A comprehensive transition program is vital to reproductive success too. Nutritional deficiencies or inconsistencies will play havoc on repro efficiency - watch for warning signs such as high percentages of off-cycle heats and sudden drops in service and\or conception rates. Also, observe body condition as cows that are too thin or too fat tend to have repro problems.
  • Employee Education and Buy-in. Members of the repro team need to understand their role and impact on an operation’s bottom line. For instance, shot compliance is absolutely essential for timed A.I. success. The employees responsible for administering shots need to know the role hormones play in reproduction and why it is so important they perform these tasks correctly. This will help create their buy-in.
  • Synch Programs. Timed A.I. programs are geared at getting cows inseminated in a timely manner. However, timed A.I. programs do not necessarily mean trying to breed cows as early as possible. According to DPN, the top 10% of herds for reproduction have an average voluntary wait period of 60.4 DIM. A good rule of thumb is to get cows jump-started with a Presynch program followed by Ovsynch® or a combination of heat detection and Ovsynch. Either way, a good goal is to have 100% of first services occur before 90 DIM. An open diagnosis at vet check usually means these cows will enroll in a Resynch protocol.
  • Vet Checks. Pregnancy checks should be performed ASAP, on average around 35 days since bred. Remember the purpose of a vet check is to identify open cows and get those cows back into the repro program. 
Now, achieving a goal is certainly something to be proud of, but an increase in preg rate yields more than just bragging rights. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin determined increasing a preg rate from 20% to 30% resulted in a revenue increase of $132 per cow per year. Such an increase, while attainable, should be considered a long-term goal. As I mentioned before, goals should be realistic and obtainable. Don’t aim too high too soon. Changes don’t happen overnight.
Repro goals should be specific to the operation and reflect where you want the operation to be in the future

Remember, management decisions may have an effect on your goals (like heavy use of GenChoice sexed semen), so set goals accordingly. Goals should be specific to the operation and reflect where management wants the operation to be in the future. Don’t obsess over a number. Don’t worry about what a neighbor is doing. It’s your management strategy, and theirs is likely not identical. 

What to do first? Genex Consultants are available to benchmark your herd. This provides you with an idea of where you stand now, helps in setting goals that reflect where you want to be, and can be used to monitor progress as you work toward your goals. For more information, contact your Genex representative or call 888-333-1783. 

Article by: Phillip Lunn, Dairy National Account Manager & Consultant, Genex

Friday, October 28, 2016

Cooperatives Build A Better World

I recently got the chance to screen a PBS Visionaries documentary celebrating 100 years of cooperatives. Can I just say I smiled through the whole hour? Watching the seven stories of cooperatives both in the U.S. and abroad made me swell with pride, pride for belonging to something that is committed to helping one another as a part of the very principles that make up their business model. (Click here to learn about the seven co-op principles.

I am blessed to be not only employed by a cooperative, but also a member of several through our farm. In both of these capacities, I have seen the hard work put in by members, delegates, board members and employees to make an impact, not only in the communities they live in or serve, but across the globe, from little things that multiply to become big things, like Operation Round Up at my local electric co-op, to the amazing list of community organizations my credit union supports, to the work Cooperative Resources International (CRI) conducts through its Cooperative Development and Emerging Markets Programs.


CRI has been working in global outreach for nearly 20 years. A recently completed project in Nicaragua spanned five years as part of a $5 million, USAID funded, Cooperative Development Program (CDP). The project aimed to transform household-level dairy producers and their cooperatives into small scale commercial firms. Dean Gilge, AVP of Global Development for CRI notes, "It is heartening to hear someone such as Norman Montenegro, General Manager for Nicaragua's Asogamat Cooperative, describe the tremendous value the program has made in their operation. Norman credits CRI's help in strong governance foundation, designing a strategic plan and coaching them to success."
Dean Gilge (left) and Dan Diederich, CRI Board Member (right) learn about Quesillos, a tortilla with white cheese, cream cheese and onions, from the Quesillo store manager.
Milk arrives at the central milk collection center in Nicaragua via several modes of transportation.
Recent projects have also taken us to South Africa where CRI has worked with the beef cooperative Inkephu and the dairy cooperative Seven Stars. These businesses were chosen because of their accomplishments in showing an interest and desire to grow as sustainable cooperatives. Genex Board Member, Terry Frost had this to say upon returning from his time working with the co-ops, "While improvements need to be made, the cooperatives' hope for the future is evident. I feel the cooperative members want to improve for their community. These people are very proud of their culture and heritage. They just need the guidance and training the CDP can and is providing."
Genex Board Member, Terry Frost (front) inspects a feedlot with the Chairman of Inkephu Cooperative in South Africa.
Last year, a CRI Emerging Markets Program, with funding from the USDA, brought a delegation of 29 beef industry representatives from China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Russia to the U.S. The participants were key dicision makers from large beef operations, universities, agriculture ministries and processing facilities. The tour showcased the U.S. beef industry "from semen to cellophane."
And the CRI commitment to global development is far from over. With current projects in South Africa and the Dominican Republic, we hope to continue to make a difference in agriculture and communities world-wide. 

By the way, if you get a chance to check out the documentary coming to a PBS station near you this November, watch it.  You won’t regret the hour you spend!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Cooperatives Build Leaders

A productive cooperative depends on its member-owners to lead it forward. Indeed, the cooperative model of governance requires democratic member control. Where do cooperatives find these leaders? I believe it is the cooperative system itself that fosters the leadership development by giving them the opportunity to experience unique situations and network with others in their industry.

I recently spent some time at Ruedinger Farms Inc., in Van Dyne, Wisconsin, talking with our Cooperative Resources International (CRI) Board Chairman, John Ruedinger. His first-hand experience echoes the cooperatives build leaders message.
Perhaps you are interested in getting involved with cooperative governance, but worry you don't have the experience or time to be a delegate. Two of our current delegates, Alexa Kayhart and Scott Erthum, took a few moments to share their stories. Read how they balance farm/ranch life with being a delegate and the benefits they are receiving from the process.  

Just as cooperative delegates and board members build their leadership skills, employees of cooperatives, and in particular CRI and its subsidiary employees, are given many opportunities to shape their management skills as well. A big portion of this initiative includes our own REACH Leadership Courses. In addition, employees are supported in endeavors to enrich their leadership experiences outside of our cooperative as well. Programs such as Leadership Wisconsin and Leadership Shawano County are two examples where CRI employees have honed their leadership skills. In addition, CRI employees are encouraged to join groups and volunteer in their communities as a part of our company’s value of stewardship.

Genex Production Training and Education Specialist, David Lee Schneider (second from right), received the Alva Rankin Award. This memorial award is given to a graduating Leadership Wisconsin Fellow who exemplifies Al’s strong leadership and personal skills.
Members of the CRI Information and Public Relations team spent time assembling weekend meal packs for children from area schools who are in need.
Genex employees receiving National Association of Animal Breeders awards: Jim Cumming 1 Million Unit Sales (Georgia), Jim Engle 1 Million Unit Sales (Idaho), Doug Westenbroek 3.5 Million Unit Sales (California), Bill Casey 1 Million Unit Sales (Wisconsin), Jan Longacre 1 Million Unit Sales (New York) and George Shue 100,000 First Services (Pennsylvania).
Tom Lyon, former Cooperative Resources International CEO, accepting the National Association of Animal Breeders Pioneer Award for long-term distinguished service to the A.I. industry.
Stan Lock (left) was honored with the Service to the Beef Industry award at the Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle workshop.

CRI prides itself in its people, and we know that the cooperative model of business has allowed us to become the company we are today. From our Board to our delegates and employees, we have the people who are willing to put in the time and effort, because cooperatives build leaders!