Thursday, July 30, 2015

Genesis Colostrum Products. Because Getting Your Calves Off to a Healthy Start Matters

If you haven’t already heard (which we sure hope you have!), Genex began marketing Genesis colostrum products earlier this year. When we first received the product, we asked our lovely friend and blog-writing queen, Darcy Sexson, to help us capture some pictures of Genesis colostrum being fed to a few of her and her husband’s calves. And of course, she pulled through! (Like we had any doubt she wouldn’t.) Not only did she snap some great pictures, she went one step further and provided an awesome story of their success with Genesis colostrum! We knew we liked her for a reason ;) So, without further ado...

“At the beginning of May, my husband, Clint, and I synched and A.I. bred about 1,000 heifers at the feedlot that a customer had purchased and intended to sell as bred heifers. After we gave the lute shot, we realized a group of them hadn't been pregged prior to purchase, and we had two heifers calve with near-term calves. We weren't expecting that, so the heifers calved in a feedlot pen, and I think they were just as surprised to see the calves as we were. :) 

When we found them, we moved the new pairs to a separate pen. While the heifers were mothering the calves, we realized the calves probably would benefit from a little help from us. (The heifers had a bit of milk but not a ton, and one of the calves barely had its teeth broken through the skin ... they were early!) Enter – the Genesis colostrum bags marketed by Genex. 

We found the calves while we were in the midst of breeding the other heifers, and once we found them we gave each of the new calves two bags of Genesis 50 Colostrum Supplement and then again about 6-8 hours later. The colostrum was super easy to mix, and the small esophageal tube was gentle on the premie calves’ mouths and throats.

But the proof is in the pudding ... would the calves actually live? Since the heifers were scheduled to remain in the feedlot for a few months after being artificially inseminated, we knew we couldn't leave the calves there. Friends of ours, Clete and Jennifer Mitchell, were there helping us A.I. that week, and they ended up taking the two premie calves home with them – one in a borrowed dog crate, the other wrapped in a plastic feed sack on Jennifer's lap! (They live about five hours from us.) Three weeks later we were at a jackpot show in Madras, Oregon, where Jennifer's older kids were showing. It turns out they also brought the two bottle calves with them, and Jennifer's youngest daughter, Caylee, even showed one of them in the PeeWee showmanship class! It was as halter broke as you could make a three-week-old premie calf, and it was a great partner for Caylee. :)

Anyway, we're confident those two calves wouldn't have made it without the colostrum supplement, and the ease of the bags made it super convenient for us as well. We're hooked! :)”

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dairy Synchronization: A Learning Experience - Part 1

Dairy cattle synchronization begins with understanding the estrous cycle | GenexBy Brooke Schultz, Communications Coordinator, CRI

Synchronization. It can be daunting and stressful, especially if you’re new to the concept or haven’t had much experience doing it. Heck, it was even a learning experience for our veteran employees when they first began doing it!

Although it seems intimidating, it is a very important reproductive management tool that can improve your dairy's pregnancy rates by leaps and bounds. We understand the synchronization process may be foreign to some, which is why we decided to lay out the basics for you the best we can. This blog post may seem a little technical, but I promise it will be worth the read! Your increased pregnancy rates can thank us later ;)

First, we must cover the basics of the estrous cycle. Synchronization cannot be performed correctly without adequate knowledge of the estrous cycle.

The estrous cycle is a series of changes that take place in the animal from one heat period to the next. It is 21 days long on average. Actual range is 18 to 24 days. It is made up of two phases. The follicular phase is when there is a drop in progesterone levels due to the destruction of the corpus luteum, which leads to an increase in gonadotropin-releasing hormones (GnRH). This allows the animal to come into heat and ovulate. This results in the formation of a new corpus luteum, and the animal returns to the luteal phase.

The luteal phase is when there is an increase in progesterone levels due to the formation of a new corpus luteum resulting from ovulation. This prevents the animal from coming into heat and ovulating. If the egg is not fertilized and pregnancy does not occur, prostaglandin is released leading to the destruction of the corpus luteum, and the animal returns to the follicular phase.

The estrous cycle for dairy cattle includes the Follicular and Luteal phases | Genex

The dairy cattle estrous cycle includes waves but the type you need a surboard for! | Genex
The estrous cycle includes
waves but, nope, not the type
you'd grab a surfboard for!
Are you with me so far? If you paid attention in health class, this concept shouldn’t be completely foreign. I mean, we’re animals too after all.

Within the estrous cycle there are waves. No, not the type of waves you’d grab a surfboard for or the one where you motion your hand to say hello or goodbye. And it’s definitely not the one performed by rowdy, pumped-up sports fans at an arena. This is a completely different type of wave, and one you’ll definitely want to know.

The waves I’m referring to are follicular waves. Understanding these types of waves will help us make more sense of synchronization and why protocols differ between heifers and cows.

Let’s break it down. A follicle is the structure within the ovary which houses the egg. Follicular waves is a phenomena occurring in the ovary throughout the estrous cycle that produces growing follicles capable of ovulating an egg.

Follicular waves begin with the growth of multiple follicles. Soon one follicle becomes dominant and continues to grow while the others die off (yes, survival of the fittest occurs even inside the body). If the follicular wave approaches maturation in the luteal phase, ovulation will not occur due to elevated progesterone levels produced by the corpus luteum. However, if the follicular wave reaches maturation in the follicular stage, ovulation occurs due to increased levels of GnRH which occur in the absence of the corpus luteum.

The number of follicular waves varies with the type of animal. Dairy cows tend to display two wave follicular patterns (Figure 1). Dairy heifers tend to display three wave follicular patterns (Figure 2). Synchronization protocols are designed around the follicular wave pattern displayed by the animal. 

Dairy cows tend to display a two-wave follicular pattern | Genex

Dairy heifers tend to have a 3-wave follicular pattern | Genex
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series as we further explore the nitty gritty of Ovsynch and Presynch!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The History of A.I. – Stone Age to Present

By Michael Sleeper, Associate Vice President of International Marketing, CRI 

Being one of the longer tenured (i.e. older) members of CRI’s International Marketing team, it is interesting to reflect on all that has transpired in the time I have served the artificial insemination (A.I.) industry. It is fitting I am writing this now, because my 36th anniversary of employment with CRI and its predecessors was earlier this summer. When I started in the industry, I couldn’t imagine five years in the job, let alone nearly four decades!

It is fascinating to reflect on the many changes and advancements I have been privileged to be part of: 

Marketing concepts. When I began my career, there were more than 20 independent A.I. companies in the U.S.; today there are five major U.S. suppliers. Early on, most sales occurred within a regional membership area of each cooperative. Today, with the consolidation of A.I. companies, many of those membership regions have expanded.
Michael Sleeper, at right, looks over the cows at
Schmidt's Ponderosa, a GENESIS Cooperative Herd,
with herd owner Paul Schmidt and an international visitor.

International sales. International sales from U.S. studs hardly existed 35 years ago. A few aggressive breeders in a few countries came to the U.S. and asked if they could buy semen; we willingly complied. In those first years, we were warned to not become too dependent on those sales as they would surely never last. Today, more than 50% of the total U.S. semen doses are exported.

Genetic evaluations. In the earliest years, there was much debate regarding the merits of “breeder proven” versus “random sampled A.I.” bulls. As with most changes, there were some hard earned lessons; in this instance, it was as "elite" bulls crashed and burned when their A.I. daughters entered the proofs.

The A.I. sampled bulls weren’t perfect either. At Atlantic Breeders, my second stop in the industry, we earned industry-leading recognition for “40 in 40,” the idea that having 40 daughters in 40 herds was a measure of confidence and stability. The idea that we could look inside chromosomes and genes to get an accurate evaluation of an individual animal seemed to be science fiction.

The late 1970s brought dramatic advancement in genetic evaluations. Research at leading land grant universities coupled with advancing computer technology allowed for significant advancements in database management, statistical calculations, and the identification and evaluation of many innovative genetic traits. That trend continues today. 

Gender-sorted semen. In 1968 or 1969, there was a one page advert in the Holstein World, saying to watch for breaking news on sexed semen. I personally knew a couple of people who marketed products that were supposedly able to alter the gender ratio; the shelf life was about nine months! It took more than three decades to finally have a product in the marketplace. Today, it is a growing mainstay within the dairy cattle industry.
Michael Sleeper points out Genex sires' daughters
during an international tour of U.S. beef ranches.

Beef. I have to conclude with my newfound passion! Who would have thought a dairy boy from southern Minnesota would be fully engrossed in global beef marketing by the end of his career? In the earliest days of my A.I. industry involvement, we witnessed the boom of “exotic breeds.” Simmental, Fleckvieh, Limousin, Charolais, Chianina, Maine Anjou, Pinzgauer, etc. made a grand entry from Europe. A lot of money was made on these breeds for a few years. Then much of the industry turned to other breeds. The industry is embracing EPDs, A.I., adaptable breed composition, efficiency and profit-directed productivity. Sound science, logic and common sense are prevailing.

These are a few of the things that readily come to mind when I reflect on my 36+ years in the industry. I anticipate, and eagerly look forward to, additional innovations in the coming years. One cannot help but wonder where our industry will be in another 10, 20, 30 or even 36 more years. One thing is certain – the cattle industry is constantly growing and evolving. Get aboard and enjoy the ride!

Through Michael's travels with CRI, he has visited many different countries and experienced many
different cultures. He is pictured at left examining a herd of beef cattle in Colombia.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Look Back at Influential Genex Jerseys

By Leah James, U.S. Jersey Marketing Advisor, Genex 

Throughout history, the Genex and predecessor organizations’ sire lineups have included several of the most influential bulls of the Jersey breed. These historical headliners demonstrate the cooperative’s long-time ties with and commitment to Jersey cattle producers.

Hailed as one of the most elite sires of his time was 3JE00034 Observer Chocolate Soldier. Bred by the Wildes, AJCA Master Breeders at High Lawn Farm in Massachusetts, Chocolate Soldier was born in 1962. He had pneumonia as a calf and almost didn’t make it into the A.I. industry. Luckily he did and was marketed by Genex predecessor Eastern A.I. Cooperative. By 1968 Observer Chocolate Soldier had more than begun to leave his mark on the breed. He ranked among the top 10 active Jersey sires from 1968 to 1970 and again in 1973. In the years between (1971 and 1972), he ranked No. 11.
Joe Lyon, 2015 AJCA Master Breeder, reflected on the impact of this sire sharing, “Chocolate Soldier was legendary in the breed and all good milk pedigrees trace back to him.”
1JE00194 Briarcliffs Soldier Boy

While producing great milking daughters, Observer Chocolate Soldier’s sons were also influential. They were heavily sampled throughout A.I. in the 1970s and maintained a presence in active lineups well into the mid-1980s. Among his most notable sons was Briarcliffs Soldier Boy. 

1JE00194 Briarcliffs Soldier Boy was a 1972 model, available through Genex predecessor Noba, Inc. He followed in this father’s footsteps carrying on the tradition of high milk with a July 1981 proof of +2105 PTA Milk with +71 Fat and +57 Protein. At that time he ranked No. 1 in the breed for Milk-Fat $. 

8JE00210 Shadewell Fascinator
Along the same time, 8JE00210 Shadewell Fascinator debuted as an elite bull with a great production proof too. This sire also had roots from the Northeast and was marketed by Louisiana Animal Breeders Cooperative.

Back to the Observer Chocolate Soldier bloodline, grandson 21JE00337 Yankee FW Chief was bred by the Chittenden family in New York and marketed by Genex predecessor Midwest Breeders Cooperative. His entry in the cooperative’s 1985 catalog demonstrates the family’s continued ability to add production profitability: “If your herd needs production improvement, you don’t need to look beyond Yankee. He’s one of the finest production-improving sires the Jersey breed has seen for some time.” 

A comment from Lyon confirms that production specialty. He shares that Yankee FW Chief’s daughters were “tough old cows that posted tremendous high lifetime records.”
Eric Lyon identified 1JE00382 Comfort Royal Alf-ET as another impactful Genex sire. Alf graduated to the active lineup at 21st Century Genetics in January 1994. He was a Royal son out of an Excellent Yankee FW Chief daughter, more specifically, Greenridge FW Chief Althea-ET, EX-92%. Alf was known for his tremendous butterfat.

Activated in 1996, 1JE01325 MVF Bold Venture Daniel produced daughters that had extreme milk records. He was sired by another historic Genex sire, 1JE00221 Bold Venture, and bred in the Rhein herd in Pennsylvania. Reflecting on MVF Bold Venture Daniel’s impact on the breed, Eric Lyon shares, “Our cows with the highest milk records today are direct descendants of MVF Bold Venture Daniel. He spelled pure milk.” 

Moving into the twentieth century, 1JE00604 Oomsdale Jace Gratitude Gannon {2}-ET continued the cooperative’s legacy of offering Jersey producers profitable high milk sires. Connecting the family ties, Gannon’s granddam was sired by the aforementioned Comfort Royal Alf-ET and both originated in the Oomsdale herd in New York. Daughters of Gannon were big framed cows that put a lot of milk into the tank.

Sunset Canyon Allstars J Maid-45-ET,
Daughter of 1JE00654 ALLSTAR
A recent influential sires has been 1JE00654 Sunset Canyon Anthems Allstar-ET. Allstar is a combination of type and production. Directly out of the 2000 National Jersey Jug Futurity Champion Sunset Canyon MBSB Anthem, EX-95%, Allstar sired profitable daughters that also excelled in type. Bred by the Sunset Canyon herd in Oregon, Allstar remains the number one sire in the breed for Fat percentage 10 years after he was born. To date, Allstar has moved the highest volume of semen through the cooperative aided by his extreme fertility on both conventional and GenChoice™ sexed semen.

Grazeland Plus Krystaleen, VG-87%,
Daughter of 1JE00711 PLUS

Finally, a sire with fresh ink in the history books is 1JE00711 Sweetie Plus Iatolas Bold. This bull came from the Sweetie Plus syndicate and Dan Bansen in Oregon. Demonstrating his impact, Plus ranked among the industry’s top five for JPI™ for six sire summaries. He was within the top 10 for proven JPI™ for each summary from April 2012 through August 2014, and then removed from the active lineup in December 2014 due to semen production issues.

Just like the historic Genex bulls before him, Plus was the perfect combination of profitability and added production. As a sire of sons, Plus, his offspring and Genex will continue to leave a mark on The Jersey Generation.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Meet the Voices of Genex Customer Service

"Thank you for calling Genex and CRI. This is 'Sarah/Bobbi/Tanya/Barb' how may I help you?"

From 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday and from 6 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on the weekends that is the voice that will greet you when you call the Genex Cooperative customer service line. I recently spent some time in the department and quickly realized, if you want to know something, ask customer service!

The department averages about 25,000 calls per year ranging from individuals wanting to purchase beef certificates, to taking publication requests, to helping Genex field employees get the products their customers need. Occasionally something odd gets thrown in, such as if our EAZI-BREED™ CIDR® works in water buffalo (which it does not).

The number one driving force behind the Genex Customer Service team is helping people get the information and products they need. They also thoroughly enjoy getting to talk with members, customers and their co-workers in the field. While it is likely they may never get to meet many of their co-workers in person, they say it is always fun when one of the field staff is in the office for a training seminar, and they can identify the individual by the sound of their voice.

Bobbi Chapin says the best parts of her job are talking with individuals from all over the country and being so busy with requests that the days fly by. On her free time, she enjoys riding motorcycle with her husband on the couple's Harley Davidson and spending time with her grandchildren.

Tanya Schaffer says, "I thrive on multi-tasking, learning new things, interacting with people and finding ways to bring smiles to others.  So I genuinely feel like this position was tailor-made for me.  I never know from one call to the next what I’m going to being asked to do.  The longer I’m here, the more I learn, the faster I get and that means I’m able to help more people each day." As a hobby, Tanya took up target shooting about two years ago and discovered a hidden talent. She plans to take a hunter safety course soon, in hopes of bagging her first buck this fall.

Sarah Riemer tells me the products she gets the most requests for are DG29™ Blood Pregnancy Tests and Beef Certificates. The strangest call she has fielded came just the other day when an individual who lives near our Ithaca location asked how she could get some manure. Sarah, a former bowling alley owner, loves to bowl in her free time, as well as take care of the flowers in her yard.

The best part of the job for Barb Hoppe is helping callers. She especially likes resolving problems or finding solutions to requests. Barb enjoys gardening when not at work, mostly flowers and herbaceous ornamentals. She gave up on vegetables when the chipmunks were eating more than her family was!

Now you know a little more about the people behind the voice the next time you have a question or need a product and call 1-888-333-1783.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Week in the Rockies Sale

Superior Livestock's Week in the Rockies sale started on Monday in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Over five days, 260,000 head of cattle will be sold.

In Superior tradition, the singing of the National Anthem opens the auction each morning. It is great to see cattlemen with hats in hand and hands over their hearts singing. 

Some of the Genex featured lots are:

Lots 4615 A and B - Broken C Ranch, Grapeland, TX
141 steers (660 pounds) and heifer calves (610 pounds) out of Brangus, Brangus baldy and Braford cows with 35% sired by 1AN01278 Jindra DOUBLE VISION.

Lot 4780, 4781 - Rich Nelson, Yuma, CO
100 Angus and Angus cross heifers A.I.ed for two days starting on May 18, 2015 to 1AN01240 Schiefelbein EFFECTIVE.  Delivery Dec. 1-10, 2015.

Lot 5560 A, B, C, D - Mike & Julie Livingston, Stratton, CO
360 Angus steer calves weighing 560 pounds, sired by 1AN01117 Connealy THUNDER and 1AN01237 S A V ANGUS VALLEY.  Delivery Dec. 20 - Jan. 10, 2016. UPDATE: Sold for $3.24 per pound.

Lot 5563 A, B, C - Odle Livestock, Brush, CO
239 Red Angus and Red Angus cross steers (650 pounds) and heifer calves (625 pounds) by 1AR00950 Andras NEW DIRECTION R240. UPDATE: The heifer lot sold for $3.20 per pound. 

For more details on these lots and more, visit the Superior Livestock website at

Don't forget to mark your calendars for the Genex Superior Influence sales on Oct. 22, Nov. 19 and Dec. 17, 2015, and stop by the booth this week and talk to our folks like Andy Anderson, Genex, Tom Odle, Superior Livestock / Superior Productions or Justin Hergenreder, Genex about your fall consignments. You will want to consign your Genex bred heifers early.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Improving Genetics Impacts Dairy Cow Culling & Lameness

By Kim Egan, DVM, National Account Senior Consultant, Genex

Genetically superior females are more
profitable for the herd. They are less
likely to be culled or become lame.
Factors affecting how well our cows transition through the dry period, freshening and early lactation could arguably have the biggest impact on the profitability of our farms. Nutrient intake and mobilization, calving-related issues, stocking density and other factors, including genetics, all play a role in how well cows transition from dry to lactating.

Cows that do not transition well may become thin, experience anestrus and have an increased incidence of lameness. Thinner cows have a thinner digital cushion, as the thickness of this cushion in the hoof is highly associated with body condition (body condition is also included in the Ideal Commercial Cow index).

The two genetic indices we now focus on, Lifetime Net Merit (LNM$) and Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$), incorporate traits that improve the ability of our cows to transition and stay in the herd. ICC$ includes Locomotion, Productive Life and Calving Ability. LNM$ includes Foot & Leg Composite, Productive Life and Calving Ability. So, let’s take a look at lactating cows to see how genetically superior females are more profitable for the herd.

We looked at event data from 12,269 cow records. All cows freshened within one calendar year from November 2013 through October 2014. The percentage of those culled within 60 days in milk (DIM) declines as LNM$ parent average (LNMPA) increases. See the graph below:


On these same cows, we can also see the percentage of cows recorded as lame decreasing steadily with increasing LNMPA as illustrated in the graph below:


The financial impact of lameness has been reported to be $300 per event as published by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners in the 1995-1996 proceedings, and the cost of early culling has been reported to average $750 per cow culled prior to 60 days in milk according to Dr. Albert DeVries, University of Florida, in 2010. Therefore, we can see how the cows with better genetics are more profitable for the farm.