Friday, October 19, 2018

Don’t Leave it to Chance - Use a Planned Approach

Strategic breeding plans are becoming more common among commercial herds. Producers are considering their future goals and breeding different groups of animals to certain types of semen to create the most profitable breeding plan. Beef semen and conventional and sexed dairy semen are among the options. Before leaping into a strategic breeding plan, however, it’s important to strategize so the results better meet the goals.

Think and Act Strategically
Developing a strategic breeding program involves critical thinking. It’s about examining the options, conducting the research and gaining insight before making decisions. For this purpose, GENEX developed the Calf Math℠ program. This program has been available for a decade but is perhaps even more applicable today than it was during its 2008 debut.

The Calf Math℠ program, available through consultation with a GENEX representative, enables producers to see the impact breeding strategies (or strategy changes) can have on future animal inventories, herd genetic improvement and farm financials. This information helps producers decide which semen products to use and how much of each are needed to achieve herd goals and maximize farm profits.

What more is in it for producers? The Calf Math℠ program provides many benefits:

1. An evaluation of the dairy’s current breeding program success, replacement numbers and opportunities.

2. Analysis of where changes can improve profitability in an efficient and cost-effective program as well as customization based on future expansion or growth plans.

3. Return on reproductive investment through genetic-based improvement of herd performance.

4. Real-time savings through “right-sizing” the replacement heifer inventory.

A simple version of the program is available online. Herd-specific inventory, conception and event data can be entered to test breeding strategy ideas and to get updated projections. This online version does not include the genetic value or financial impact projections. Contact a local GENEX representative or call 888.333.1783 for the more in-depth analysis.

Working in Concert
The Calf Math℠ and Sort-Gate℠ programs complement each other. While the Calf Math℠ program helps producers determine how many replacements are needed, the Sort-Gate℠ program helps identify which animals to get replacements from and which animals to breed for other purposes (or not at all).

Through the Sort-Gate℠ program, GENEX consultants rank each cow, heifer or calf based on genomic data, pedigree information and/or on-farm performance data. Once ranked on an index that best meets the herd’s needs – i.e., a customized index or an industry index – the females can be sorted for different breeding purposes. For instance, the female may be bred with beef semen to produce a beef x dairy cross calf or to high genetic merit GenChoice™ sexed semen to produce a valuable replacement.

While the Calf Math℠ program helps define the destination, the Sort-Gate℠ program helps determine the roadmap to get there.

The Next Step
Dairy producers have experience in choosing high genetic merit dairy bulls to sire the next generation of replacements, but what about experience in choosing beef sires to create ideal cross calves that are of value to beef processors? That’s where the new GENEX Beef x Dairy (BxD) program and sire catalog can be of benefit.

The BxD program pinpoints the most relevant beef breeds and sire options to use on dairy animals. The program features Limousin, Angus and Simmental/SimAngus™ sires, as these breeds meet the needs of dairy producers looking to make a profit through beef x dairy breeding. Each of these breeds has the ability to produce feeder calves that are homozygous polled and homozygous black for coat color. The designated sires also have the elite EPD rankings end-processors require, as well as calving ease and fertility which are a must for commercial dairy producers. Based on current market conditions, end-processor needs and commercial dairy producer desires, the BxD sires check all the boxes.

Keep in mind beef x dairy animals are terminal crosses, so no emphasis is placed on maternal beef traits.

Turning Vision into Reality
After the goals are developed, the destination defined, the roadmap developed and the sires chosen, it’s time to make sure the breeding protocols are clear and, for best results, meticulously followed. This is the way to formulate a planned approach instead of leaving the future to chance. This is the way to use the Calf Math℠, Sort-Gate℠ and Beef x Dairy programs in concert to bring even greater precision to a strategic breeding program.

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