Friday, January 19, 2018

Helping Make the Ideal Commercial Jersey Cow a Reality

Scott Carson, GENEX Director of Dairy Procurement, is a longtime Jersey enthusiast and former Jersey producer and breeder. He led the team that formulated the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index for Jerseys. His background provides unique insight into this new index which was released following the December 2017 sire summaries.

Our goal was to create an index that would enable producers to select bulls that will positively impact their bottom line. The idea was to emphasize traits that are really important to our customers and weed out extra information that doesn’t really impact farm profitability.

Over the past couple decades, the Jersey breed has changed significantly. The population has grown remarkably. With that, the Jersey cow grew taller, stronger and added a lot more width. Udder confirmation improved dramatically in the 1990s and then deteriorated a bit before improving again over the last 5-6 years.

While Jersey producers have selected for these traits as well as enormous gains in yield traits, there has been a significant decline in fertility traits. That’s a natural tradeoff of selecting aggressively for yield traits. Today, that decrease in fertility is a real cause for concern among Jersey producers. It’s one of the concerns the ICC$ index for Jerseys addresses.

From my perspective, one of the things the index does best is provide producers with a way to rank bulls on fertility traits and on health traits. Through its sub-index structure, the ICC$ index is setting a framework for the industry. The sub-indexes provide producers with tools to focus on their traits of interest. The ICC$ index gives anyone interested in brown cows – the smaller cows that are more feed efficient – the tools to breed cows that are ideal for a commercial setting.

Cheese Maximizer (ChMAX$) focuses on component yields and provides equal weightings on both Fat and Protein pounds. Unique among Jersey indexes, the ICC$ index is neutral
on milk – instead focusing on total Combined Fat and Protein.

50% Protein
50% Fat

Sustainability (SUST$) consists of traits that are critical to keeping animals healthy and in production. One is a new GENEX proprietary trait, Calf Survivability (CSRV). Also included are udder traits that impact culling rate (35% Udder Cleft, 30% Udder Depth, 25% Fore Udder and 10% Teat Length). Selection for the SUST$ sub-index emphasizes udder
health, longevity, functional udder traits and calf survivability.

35% Productive Life
15% Udder Traits
14% Livability
12% Calf Survivability
12% Mastitis Resistance
12% Somatic Cell Score

Fertility (FERT$) contains five measures of cow and heifer fertility. This sub‑index includes the GENEX proprietary trait Age at First Calving (AAFC) to meet the needs of producers looking to emphasize reproductive efficiency. Selection of bulls with high FERT$ rankings results in optimal age at first calving, reduced days open and shorter calving intervals.
50% Daughter Pregnancy Rate
25% Heifer Conception Rate
15% Cow Conception Rate
5% Age at First Calving
5% Fertility Haplotypes

Friday, January 12, 2018

Quality Matters to Us, Because Performance Matters to You

By: Kari Beth Krieger, Processing Lab Manager, GENEX

Breeding cows with cryopreserved semen is really an act of faith. You can’t see the sperm cells or know they are fertile unless you thaw the straw for evaluation, thus destroying the possibility of using it for insemination. You must have faith in the company that produced the straw and in the semen handling protocols that kept the straw in good condition – from the time it was frozen all the way through shipping, storage and placed in tank inventories – until the straw is selected for breeding.

GENEX has a solid history of fertility and quality, allowing you to place your faith in our product. Let’s take a tour through the GENEX semen processing lab to understand all the ways GENEX ensures we deserve that faith.

We only keep the good stuff
After semen is collected, it arrives in the lab for a thorough evaluation of concentration, motility and percent of abnormal cells. Semen that doesn’t meet our rigorous standards is discarded and does not go any further in the process. We toss up to 25% of raw ejaculates!

A unique product
GENEX uses a milk-based extender made in-house. It takes extra time to make and process semen in milk, in comparison to using a purchased extender, but it gives our
customers several advantages. When combined with our processing methods, semen extended with milk can tolerate a wide range of thawing temperatures with no negative impact on fertility. More importantly, large field trials have indicated that GENEX milk-extended semen has a significant fertility advantage over extenders with an egg yolk base. Furthermore, the milk seems to provide the antioxidants and nutrients sperm cells
need for maximum viability. This 1.5% fertility advantage translates to a major advantage for your bottom line.

We check our work
Every step of our process is connected to the demand for high quality. From the time a sire walks into the collection room to the time his semen straws are packed on a cane for
shipment, we track sire identification and ensure accurate labeling. We test each filler/sealer machine daily to ensure the straws have functional seals, and we confirm correct function of measurement instruments like scales and spectrophotometers. Our staff members are trained to notice deviations or abnormalities and address them immediately. GENEX staff has an extraordinary commitment to producing a top-quality product.

Someone else checks our work
To ensure our protocols are working correctly, approximately 10% of all semen batches produced are sent to an independent reference laboratory for evaluation. At the reference laboratory, advanced technology is used to evaluate semen quality and count the number of cells per straw. Feedback from this analysis allows us to verify our routine quality control evaluations are accurate.

GENEX is dedicated to being your partner by offering top genetics and the most fertile semen in the industry. We follow rigorous semen collection and laboratory protocols so you can rest assured that what you are unable to see is as good as you could expect.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Five Tips for Dealing With Trying Times

I am sure I don't have to tell you things are a little trying right now. Prices are less than favorable, temperatures are downright cruel, and a lack of daylight doesn't help either. It is at times like these I need to spend more time than usual to keep myself positive. Hopefully these five tips will give you the spark you need to put a little pep back in your step.
  1. Take time to recognize positives that are occurring in your life. New calves; the cat that actually caught a mouse for once; your neighbor who stopped by with a cup of coffee because he/she knew how cold you must be; the amazing sound of, well nothing, when you wake up and walk to the barn in the morning (my personal favorite!); the beautiful sunrise allowing you to start again fresh. All of the above and more make my daily reflection time. Some people find it beneficial to write these types of things in a journal. I just spend a few moments whenever the time is right to give praise for all of the wonderful things that are happening around me.
  2. Help someone else. This doesn't have to burn through your already-stretched-thin time and
    money. It can be as simple as a quick call to a farm friend to see how they are doing or running
    after someone who dropped their glove in the farm store parking lot. The intrinsic value of helping others far outweighs the moments needed to complete it.
  3. Focus on your physical health. Since exercise isn't usually needed by most who farm or ranch (Although, many people find that a good workout, run or walk will help to alleviate stress as well.), this point is more about eating and sleeping. With the extra work this extended cold has meant, many people find mealtime to be a place they can steal from to get extra time in their workday. Don't make this a habit. Your body, and maybe even more importantly in these difficult times, mind, need proper nourishment. There are all kinds of gadgets out there that have made cooking for a busy family a lot easier. Check out all of the recipes online for slow cookers or electric pressure cookers. Great meals don't have to mean hours in the kitchen.

    So how are you sleeping? Do you even know what that word is? Find a way to unwind at night so you can get the sleep your body so desperately needs. Everything seems better when you are well rested!
     
  4. Take time away from the farm or ranch. Go for a drive or catch a local high school basketball game. You need some time to be away from the farm or ranch. Your mental health is important. Find the time. You will be more efficient on the farm when you feel better.
  5. Connect with another human being. I know cows can be really good listeners, but sometimes having another human to empathize with you is important. My Dad recently crushed his pelvis in an accident. He has to use a wheelchair until his bones have healed enough to start to use a
    walker and then a cane. While he has been surprisingly upbeat about the situation, a recent call from an old friend put things into perspective for him. That friend has been wheelchair bound for 12 years, and remains an incredibly positive person. He gave Dad some great tips on getting around and staying comfortable.

    Seek out someone to talk to about your situation. They may have new ideas to help. My personal recommendation would be to do this point in conjunction with numbers 3 and 4 above. Who doesn't love some great food and conversation in a nice, local restaurant?