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What you need to know about the April 2020 US Genetic Base Change

A genetic base change is an adjustment of predicted transmitting abilities (PTAs) for all animals in a given breed. This change resets the average PTAs for each trait within a new reference population back to zero.

With the April 2020 US genetic base change in mind, here are five key points to remember.

1. THE BASE CHANGE HAPPENS EVERY 5 YEARS.

It happens this frequently to ensure that the values for traits and indexes don’t grow to unrealistically high levels. The last base change took place in December 2014, and the next one will be in 2025.

2. THIS BASE CHANGE ACCOUNTS FOR THE AMOUNT OF GENETIC PROGRESS WE’VE MADE SINCE THE LAST BASE CHANGE.

Dairy cattle genetics are continually improving, and the base change is the way to quantify the actual amount of progress that we’ve made for each trait within each breed.

For example, the base change for PTA Milk in the Holstein breed is 492. That means that the average genetic level for pounds of milk in the Holstein breed has increased by 492 pounds over the past five years. To account for this progress, the PTA Milk value for all Holsteins will automatically decrease by 492 pounds with April 2020 proofs.

3. THE NEW REFERENCE POPULATION WAS BORN IN 2015.

The base change means resetting the average PTAs for the reference population to zero. The previous reference population was made up of the sire-identified animals born in 2010. Since the new reference population is animals born in 2015, that means this current base change will now set the average PTA of cows born in 2015 back to zero.

4. DOWNWARD ADJUSTMENTS ARE ACTUALLY A GOOD THING!

In general, a downward adjustment for a trait is the amount of genetic progress we’ve made for that trait. So a larger downward adjustment is actually a good thing – it just means we’ve made that much more genetic progress for that given trait!

Because of the downward adjustments, we’ll need to get used to new, generally lower reference levels for the traits and indexes that we affect our genetic selection decisions.

5. THE BASE CHANGE DOES NOT AFFECT THE RELATIVE RANK OF ANIMALS.

Even though the base change will cause PTA values for bulls and cows to appear lower for most traits, it is the same adjustment for all animals. That means individual rankings will not be impacted.

WHAT ARE THE ACTUAL CHANGES?

Wondering what the actual changes will be? Table 1 below lays it all out.

Because a positive value is the amount of progress we’ve made, it also means the PTA for that trait will decrease by this amount. Conversely, negative values mean the PTA for that trait will actually increase by that amount.

To clearly assess the overall picture of genetic progress, trait changes shown in black show positive progress. Traits shown in red have made negative progress over the past five years.

*Please note that the CDCB will recalculate these values with April 2020 proofs using more complete and current data. So there may be slight changes between now and then.*

Table 1. PTA difference of cows born in 2015 compared to those born in 2010. PTAs will decrease by these amounts in April 2020.

TRAITUNITSHOLSTEINJERSEYBROWN SWISS
MilkPounds492524214
FatPounds24258
ProteinPounds18208
Productive life | PLMonths1.861.540.24
Daughter pregnancy rate | DPR%0.24-0.99-0.62
Somatic cell score | SCSLog base 2 units-0.0800
Heifer conception rate | HCR%0.50.44-0.24
Cow conception rate |CCR%0.38-0.9-0.74
Cow livability | LIV%0.740.08-0.28
Displaced abomasum | DA%0.21--
Ketosis | KET%0.2--
Mastitis | MAST%0.6--
Metritis | MET%0.34--
Milk fever | MFEV%-0.06--
Retained Placenta | RP%0.05--
Early first calving | EFCDays1.51.40.5
Gestation length | GLDays-0.350.3-0.03
Sire Calving Ease | SCE%-0.4--0.3
Daughter Calving Ease | DCE%-1.9--0.6
Sire Stillbirth | SSB%-0.3--
Daughter Stillbirth | DSB%-1.6--
Final Score (PTAT)Points0.760.70.4
Udder composite | UDC / JUI0.85--
Feet and leg composite | FLC0.49--
Lifetime Net Merit | NM$Dollars23119160
Lifetime Cheese Merit | CM$Dollars23919663
Lifetime Fluid Merit | FM$Dollars21917956
Lifetime Grazing Merit | GM$Dollars20714238
StaturePoints0.470.50.6
StrengthPoints0.200.2
Dairy formPoints0.380.40.3
Foot anglePoints0.50.10.1
Feet and leg score0.54
Rear legs - side viewPoints-0.0200.1
Rear legs - rear view0.49
Body depth0.14
Rump anglePoints-0.020.40
Rump widthPoints0.360.10.1
Fore udder attachmentPoints1.010.70.3
Rear udder heightPoints1.20.60.3
Rear udder widthPoints1.160.20.3
Udder depthPoints0.840.90.2
Udder cleftPoints0.540.10.1
Front teat placementPoints0.520.30.3
Rear teat placement0.49
Teat lengthPoints-0.270-0.2
Body weight composite0.15

HOW DOES THIS COMPARE?

Are you curious how the amount of progress over the past five years compares to the progress we made before that? The tables below lay it all out for the Holstein and Jersey breeds.

HOLSTEIN BASE CHANGE COMPARISONMilkFatProtPLDPRNM$
2020 CHANGES (progress made from 2015-2020)49224181.9 0.24231
2015 CHANGES (progress made from 2010-2015)38217121.00.2184
JERSEY BASE CHANGE COMPARISONMilkFatProtPLDPRSCSNM$
2020 Changes (progress made from 2015-2020)52425201.54-0.990.00191
2015 Changes (progress made from 2010-2015)38219120.80.00.04124

You’ll see that for the production traits, both Holsteins and Jerseys made significantly more progress in the past five years, than in the five years preceding. That means, as an industry, we’re making huge strides. Have confidence that the bulls you use now will deliver profitable results through their offspring.

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Our commitment to you amid COVID-19

Create Value.  Build Trust.  Deliver Results.  It is times like the current COVID-19 situation where we are recommitting ourselves to our purpose so we can continue to meet your genetic, reproductive, and animal performance product needs.

Customer and Employee Safety

We intend to continue farm visits to deliver semen and products and breed cows, while taking precautions to keep you, your family, and your farm team members safe. To do that, we’ll be proactive about proper hygiene practices. This means eliminating high-touch interactions like handshakes and maintaining safe distances during conversation.

We have mandated that if an Alta employee becomes ill, they will self-isolate until fully recovered. We will do our best to limit any service interruption to your farm in such circumstances.

Semen Ordering & Shipping

We are committed to maintaining our production and distribution schedules to the fullest extent possible. We are readying our domestic teams to maintain semen distribution, even in the event of any restrictions imposed by freight service providers. You can help by planning and communicating early about any service or supply needs that you anticipate for your farm.

Drop-off Delivery Instructions

Please communicate with your Alta representative any special delivery instructions that you would like to implement as part of your receiving protocol on farm. We understand the need to limit close contact during this time, and we’re willing to take practical steps to make that happen.

Staying Connected

We remain dedicated to getting cows pregnant on your farm, and we have many convenient options to connect live remotely with your managers, so we can continue to monitor performance and share advice. Contact your Alta representative to make this option work.

Let’s Talk

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact your Alta representative or your local Alta offices. In North America, please contact us at clientservices@altagenetics.com.

We are passionately committed to the health and safety of our team, our animals, our clients, and our industry. We are working on all fronts to support, and we will do our part to help contain the spread of the virus, including organizing our procedures in such a way to limit contact and maintain operations.

Create Value. Build Trust. Deliver Results.

 

Sincerely,

Kevin Muxlow
CEO, Alta Genetics

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Help your calves become future Alta 4-EVENT COWS

The journey to 4-EVENT COW status starts long before an animal enters the fresh pen. In fact, that journey starts in the hours immediately after she is born.

The most important meal a calf will consume is her first one – colostrum. That’s partly because a calf is most vulnerable in those moments right after birth. A newborn calf needs the immunity and energy that only high-quality colostrum can give her.

To make sure the first meal for each of your calves is as effective as possible, keep these 3 Qs of colostrum in mind.

THE 3 Q’S OF COLOSTRUM

1. QUICKLY

A calf’s ability to absorb the immunity from colostrum declines at a rapid rate after birth. You can see from the graph, that the ideal time to feed colostrum to a newborn calf is within the first 1-2 hours after birth. After six hours, the percent IgGs she can absorb and utilize is already significantly lower.

Recommendations say you should also offer a second feeding of colostrum within the next eight hours to ensure that each calf receives the energy she needs to get the best start in life.

2. QUALITY

In an ideal world, every dam will produce the amount and quality of colostrum that her calf needs. Unfortunately, ideal isn’t the norm. When colostrum quality is too low, a calf will not receive enough IgGs. That means she’s likely to experience Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT). FPT has a life-long impact on the growth and future production of affected calves.

Since we know that maternal colostrum can vary greatly from one cow to the next, that’s why it’s important to test maternal colostrum from every fresh cow. Use an optical or digital % brix refractometer to estimate the colostrum quality.

To interpret the % brix results and know what to do with the colostrum that mother nature has provided, follow these colostrum feeding recommendations:

% Brix readingQuality levelAction
> 25%EXCELLENTNo need to supplement maternal colostrum
22%-25%GOODSupplement maternal colostrum if excellent results are desired
18%-22%ADEQUATESupplement maternal colostrum with Calf’s Choice Total colostrum
<18%POORReplace maternal colostrum with Calf’s Choice Total colostrum

3. QUANTITY

In order for a calf to receive the total immunity and energy she needs, it’s critical to feed her enough colostrum. That generally means feeding 10% of the calf’s body weight in the first feeding. When you know the quality is good, you can also follow these guidelines:

  • OPTIMAL: 3L – 4L colostrum, which equals 150-200 grams IgG
  • SUFFICIENT: 2L – 3L colostrum, which equals 100-150 grams IgG

A healthy, newborn calf is the future of your herd. Help her become a healthy, profitable Alta 4-EVENT COW by following the 3 Q’s of colostrum management. When maternal colostrum does not pass the test for quality or quantity, be sure to have Calf’s Choice Total colostrum ready to fill the void.

 

Adapted, in part, from the May 2015 Colostrum Counsel Newsletter from SCCL, titled “Contribution of good colostrum feeding practices to the welfare of the newborn calf.”

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The timeline of an Alta sire

Genomic proofs give us the confidence to use exciting sires sooner! You can rest assured these bulls will deliver on their genetic promises because genomic testing provides an immediate reliability of around 70% for production, health and conformation traits.

You might be wondering, what are the different genomic sire options? Let’s break them down…

Alta EDGE

There are a few really special bulls – the type we easily recognize as outliers in the breed for a specific index or specific traits. Those are the type of bulls that a product development team will use as sires of sons.

Normally, those bulls would not be available until after their use for product development purposes. These bulls are very young, and don’t produce much semen. However, once we have a small amount of inventory on this sort of bull, they will be available as an Alta EDGE sire in North America. Only under signed and approved contract will herds be able to get the option of including these most elite of the elite sires in their breeding program.

Alta ADVANTAGE

Most sires begin their journey at Alta among this group of bulls, which is available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. Alta ADVANTAGE sires offer diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on many different customized genetic plans.

When a bull is first old enough to be collected, he simply won’t produce enough semen to be readily available to all farms around the globe. So while we work to build semen inventory, we give our committed Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

G-STARS

Once a bull starts producing enough semen, he is added to the G-STAR sire list. Many new G-STAR bulls are readily available this proof round. Among these sires are a wide array of trait outliers, and high-ranking options to fit your genetic plan. Some of these bulls have even been released long enough to have proven information for sire fertility, so you can choose a balance of both high genetics and high fertility CONCEPT PLUS.

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we have actual, proven results for both sire fertility and calving ease. We gather this data, analyze the results, and award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls with offspring already born, with results for proof of easy calvings, pregnancy check results that confirm they are above average for sire fertility. They also have calves born already, and their calving ease data shows them to be less than 8% for sire calving ease.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics but prefer the added peace of mind of proven sire fertility and calving ease. You may give up some production and health as compared to the available G-STAR or ADVANTAGE only sires. But you can rest assured, knowing that you’re upping your chances for a both a pregnancy and a live calf from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS are often a good option to use on heifers.

PROVEN STARS

About three years after a bull is first released, his earliest daughters will enter the milking string. Once there has been adequate time to collect milk test information from those daughters and/or analyze their actual conformation, the data is compiled by CDN in Canada and the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) and Holstein Association USA. That information is then calculated into a sire’s first daughter proof.

From there, as more daughters begin their first lactation, their sire’s reliability continues to increase. PROVEN STAR sires are for those people who only prefer the highest reliability genetic options.

Compare the averages to see the progress

Now that you know the difference between each genomic sire option, and the progression a bull could make as he matures, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below. You’ll see that the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages – especially for the money-making production and health traits. They’re followed by the G-STAR sires, and then by the more highly reliable FUTURE STARS. You’ll also see the comparison to daughter-proven sire averages, just for reference.

60-40-0TPINM$MilkProtFatCFPPrelPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE952277695217746994163761.821.980.717.20.72.70
G-STAR870268587316266486149781.681.840.776.50.82.76
FUTURE STAR822265082915386183144801.901.841.035.80.52.78
Daughter-Proven748255372916816174134951.841.690.934.70.42.81

Despite the big difference in genetic averages between the genomic lists and daughter-proven averages, it’s important to note that every single bull atop our current daughter-proven list was once a part of the G-STAR and/or FUTURE STAR lists. This just shows how much, and how fast, we’re making genetic progress!

The track record is significant for our current genomic favorites. Each proof round, we see these genomic bulls deliver on their initial predictions, and eventually graduate to daughter-proven success.

A side-by-side comparison

We can take this comparison of genetic averages one step further. For the sake of simplicity, let’s use the 60-40-0 index to do a side-by-side comparison of our top daughter-proven sires and our top genomic-proven bulls.

Both lists have tremendous options to use. The top daughter-proven bulls are elite among their peers. In fact, AltaTOPSHOT would even rank #2 among our genomic-proven list. The rest widely recognized as popular options around the world. Yet, if we’re talking about using groups of bulls, instead of individual bulls, the genomic-proven average simply outpaces our daughter-proven options by a significant amount.

Top 10 daughter-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name6040-0 Index Value
11HO11779AltaTOPSHOT1091
11HO11781AltaUPSHOT980
11HO11487AltaBARK888
11HO11778AltaROBSON859
11HO11718AltaTURNKEY842
11HO11767AltaCONCORD818
11HO11737AltaHIDALGO810
11HO11740AltaFACET803
11HO11750AltaFLACCO802
11HO11669AltaJONAH801
Average870

Top 10 genomic-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO12345AltaSOHOT1108
11HO12346AltaTORRENT1033
11HO12293AltaBUNDLE1027
11HO12194AltaCABOT1013
11HO12219AltaZAREK1009
11HO12168AltaGILMORE1009
11HO12124AltaGOPRO1000
11HO15023AltaGLOW981
11HO14200AltaFAVIAN978
11HO15012AltaROYALTON976
Average 1013

Have confidence in the right genetics for your dairy

With that in mind, have confidence that using a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists will help you meet your goals. And if you prefer the peace of mind from higher-reliability proven sires, you’ll certainly find the right bulls to fit your needs among that list.

The most important thing is to select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation – the type of bulls that will help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS. That is the key for you to drive progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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December 2019 Sire Lists

We’ve got the genetics to meet your needs and create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS in your herd.

Here’s your one-stop-shop for the specialty sire lists you need – in printer-friendly formats. Find Holstein and Jersey versions of A2A2, polled, robot-suited and kappa casein sires, as well as a printable proof sheet.

There is also a listing of our Holstein milking speed ratings, the 100% RHA registry status sires, and a listing of all Zoetis wellness traits on all Alta Holstein sires.

We want to help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS in your herd. So whether these criteria or other traits match your current situation and future goals, work with your trusted Alta advisor to customize your genetic plan. You can do that by using our Advanced Bull Search or Alta GPS.

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Top 3 August proof takeaways…

…to help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS

1. There’s a variety of new Alta bulls that will sire Alta 4-EVENT COWS

No matter your comfort level on sire reliability, we have some impressive new sires atop our marketing lists.

  • Alta G-STARS
    You currently have access to nearly 100 G-STAR sires! Among that list are sires that will fit whichever genetic plan is the right one for your operation.

 

  • Alta FUTURE STARS
    6 of the top 8 FUTURE STARS are new to the list. They join this the FUTURE STAR ranks after gaining calving ease observations to pair with their high fertility CONCEPT PLUS ratings. The familiar names in this elite group include AltaRONDON, AltaBUGGY, AltaALTUVE, AltaNITRO, AltaWILLIE, AltaGILMORE.

 

  • Daughter-proven new releases
    11HO11779 AltaTOPSHOT tops the line-up of bulls with milking daughters. With 164 milking daughters, he increased 125 points on the 6040 index and 111 for both TPI and NM$. What makes this even more exciting is that we have numerous AltaTOPSHOT sons at Alta, who gained traction on various rankings to fit your strategic genetic objectives.Other new release sires include popular sire of sons 11HO11778 AltaROBSON, as well as AltaTURNKEY, and AltaAMULET.
4 event cow

2. Stability will improve for fertility traits

You can have confidence in the future stability of a bull’s DPR, CCR and HCR values. A new calculation update from CDCB means that previous fluctuations for these female fertility traits should now be a thing of the past. So, with August proofs, keep in mind that industry averages for DPR did change as follows:

  • HO genomic young bulls: ↓0.6
  • HO dtr-proven bulls: ↓0.3
  • JE genomic young bulls: ↓0.3
  • JE dtr-prven bulls: no average change

Looking for more info? Read more about these changes HERE.

3. Focus on sire fertility to create more 4-EVENT COWS

We share your goal – to create more pregnancies on your dairy. Getting cows pregnant on the first service is a key piece to the puzzle of creating more Alta 4-EVENT COWS.

Regardless if you use conventional semen or sexed semen in your strategic breeding plan, we’ve got you covered. You have access to a LOT of sires that have proven themselves with higher conception rates than the norm – on large progressive dairies, just like yours.

ConceptPlus_subtext_color_RGB

CONCEPT PLUS high fertility sires will help you create more pregnancies with conventional semen.

High Fertility Sexed Sires

511 CONCEPT PLUS high fertility sexed sires will help you create more sexed pregnancies.

So if creating more pregnancies is a main goal of yours, be sure to focus on fertility as part of your customized genetic plan.

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New bulls top the Alta daughter-proven ranks

Familiar Alta sire names, now on top of the daughter-proven sire lists, were all previous staples on the G-STAR, FUTURE STAR, and/or Alta ADVANTAGE lists.

As the daughters of these bulls join the milking herd, you gain confirmation that they’re the type of bulls to help you create more productive, healthy, trouble-free cows. With real daughter information on health traits, production values, and sire fertility, our leading sires provide your dairy with traits that create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS.

Bomaz Topshot 277
Bomaz Topshot 277 from Bomaz Dairy, Hammond, WI

Bomaz AltaTOPSHOT
Supershot x AltaEMBASSY
GA6040: 1043 | 2754 TPI | Alta511

  • Impressive 178 pounds combined fat and protein
  • Long-lasting, healthy, trouble-free cows at 7.4 PL
  • Helps you create Alta 4-EVENT COWS with +1043 value on the 6040 index and +2128 PTA Milk
  • Available as Alta 511
Bomaz Robson 7804
Bomaz Robson 7804 at Bomaz Dairy, Hammond, WI

Bomaz AltaROBSON
Rubicon x Bob
GA6040: 891 | 2713 TPI | Alta511

  • Feed efficient cattle with superior component percentages
  • Very fertile, trouble-free daughters at 2.2 DPR and 7.0 PL
  • Sire of sons, his progeny are favorites on the current Alta G-STAR list
3 Daughters of AltaTURNKEY
3 Daughters of AltaTURNKEY at Boadwine Dairy, Baltic, SD

PEAK AltaTURNKEY
Wickham x Ransom
GA6040: 832 | 2609 TPI | CP, 511CP & Alta511

  • Outstanding sire fertility, with both CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS designations
  • Easy calvings at a 4.8 CE
  • Newly added type daughters prove that he sires deep and open dairy cows with high, wide rear udders
  • Currently available as Alta 511
Pine Breeze Amulet
Pine Breeze Amulet 9639 from Pine Breeze Dairy in Pine River, WI

PEAK AltaAMULET
Josuper x Mogul
2549 TPI | CP, 511CP & Alta511

  • Elite sire fertility, as a CONCEPT PLUS AND 511 CONCEPT PLUS sire
  • A type and udder specialist at +2.06 PTAT and +2.54 UDC
  • More than 100 production daughters prove his strong focus on production with +2069 PTAM
  • Currently available as Alta 511
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20 times in the making

The 2019 Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tour marked a milestone as the 20th edition of the most progressive dairy management tour in the industry.

More than 250 guests from 21 different countries gathered together in Sioux Falls, South Dakota June 25-28, 2019. This was the first time ever that the Showcase Tour took place in the US Central Plains region, as guests toured Alta partner dairies in southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa, and eastern South Dakota.

Thank you to our host farms

We thank the following farms that opened their operations to share their progressive approaches to herd management throughout the three-day tour:

  • Ocheda Dairy | Worthington, MN
  • Boadwine Dairy | Baltic, SD
  • Van Ess Dairy and VanEss Heifer Farm | Sanborn, IA
  • City View Farms | Sutherland, IA
  • Drumgoon Dairy | Lake Norden, SD
  • Sunrise Dairy | Castlewood, SD

So much to learn!

From the owners and managers of these forward-thinking dairies, guests had the chance to discuss everything from converting to robotic milking systems and eliminating antibiotics, to manure management, nutrition, and parlors, to heifer management, breeding strategies, and Alta’s alignment with progressive dairies. Evenings included great conversation and friendly competitions for guests to meet and mingle with fellow dairy producers from around the world.

20 times in the making…

With the 20th tour now complete, here’s a peek back at a few impressive stats from those tours:

  • 20 Alta ADVANTAGE Showcase Tours
  • 13 years
  • More than 5000 total guests
  • 150 farms visited
  • ~400,000 cows represented at these host farms
  • 765 total Showcase Tour stations discussing a diverse array of management topics

Thank you for being a part of the 20th Showcase Tour experience!

Check out tour photos and videos below.

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Top 5 reasons to include CAL24 in your fresh cow protocol

Are you giving your cows the best possible chance to become an Alta 4-EVENT COW? A proper fresh cow protocol is part of that equation.

Giving cows RumiLife CAL24 calcium supplement after calving to promote proper calcium levels is one way to get your cows off to the best possible start in their lactation. Even when anionic salts are part of your program, subclinical milk fever is likely still an issue that you’re dealing with – even when you don’t see any symptoms.

So here are the top five reasons to include a calcium supplement like RumiLife CAL24 as part of your fresh cow SOP.

50%
Subclinical milk fever is a real problem on dairy farms. Studies show that half of your mature cows are likely to have subclinical hypocalcemia, even if anionic salts are part of your nutrition program. ¹

That means that half, or more, of your cows will show no outward signs of milk fever, but will still experience the impaired muscle function and GI problems that result from improper calcium levels at calving.

$125
A conservative cost of $125 per case of subclinical milk fever is calculated from lost production and a wide array of other health challenges the cow may experience because of the calcium imbalance.

4x
Subclinical hypocalcemia can cost you four times more than clinical cases in your herd.¹

That may seem like a crazy statistic. But it makes sense when you consider the much higher prevalence of subclinical hypocalcemia, and the fact that these cows will experience the challenges related to low calcium levels, but are not treated since they show no outward signs.

ROI
It’s not hard to reap the benefits of including a nutritional calcium supplement like RumiLife CAL24 in your fresh cow protocols. And it’s even more important to pay close attention to specific groups of higher-risk cows.

A University of Minnesota Extension article tells us that you can yield a 180% return on investment by giving calcium boluses after calving to high producers or lame cows.²

Other issues
Studies prove that cows with subclinical hypocalcemia around freshening are much more likely to have other fresh cow problems and resulting reproductive challenges throughout their lactation. In fact, cows with hypocalcemia are 3.2 times more likely to have a retained placenta than cows with normal calcium levels at calving. Hypocalcemic cows also have more average days open, due to the uterine health challenges they go through after calving.¹

A calcium bolus does not replace an IV in clinical milk fever cases where the cow is down. But you’ll reap big benefits, and create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS, by using a nutritional calcium supplement like RumiLife CAL24 to address the cases of subclinical hypocalcemia that likely exists in your herd.

Infographic with 5 reasons on why to include CAL24 in a dairy farm's fresh cow protocol
Image of an Alta 4-EVENT COW cow lying comfortably in straw
  1. Oetzel, G. R. (2014) Treatment and Prevention of Subclinical Hypocalcemia [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/DAIReXNET/treatment-and-prevention-of-subclinical-hypocalcemia.
  2. Caixeta, L. (2019). Prevention and treatment of milk fever. Retrieved from University of Minnesota Extension website: https://extension.umn.edu/dairy-animal-health-and-comfort/hypocalcemia
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What’s in a healthy cow?

Think about the healthiest cows in your herd. What defines them as your healthiest?

Is it their older age? Is it the fact they’ve never had mastitis? Or are they the ones that leave the fresh pen quickly after calving because they don’t have the lingering effects that come with milk fever, metritis, a retained placenta, ketosis or a DA?

We’re willing to bet that your healthiest cows are the ones you don’t even notice. They’re not on your radar because they simply go about their business, producing high-quality milk with no troubles to you or your team of employees.

We call those unnoticed cows, the four-event cows. If you look at a cow card on your herd management software program, you’ll recognize a four-event cow by the lack of items on her list. Throughout her lactation, she experiences only four events: 1-fresh; 2-bred; 3-confirmed pregnant; and 4-dry.

When those are the only four events in a cow’s lactation, chances are she’s profitable and healthy.

A healthy cow is the resulting sum of many parts: a solid nutrition program, exceptional transition and fresh cow care, proper milking procedures, comfortable housing – and the right genetics!

While genetics makes up only a small part of the full equation, it’s a real and measurable aspect of what’s in a healthy cow.

Healthy genetics?

In April of 2018, the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) released a new set of health traits. These traits are based on the database of recorded cases of common, costly health problems in dairy cattle. These six new traits measure the resistance that animals will have to each respective health and metabolic issue and are in place to help dairy producers breed a next generation of healthier cows.

They include mastitis, labeled as MAST, ketosis (KETO), retained placenta (RETP), metritis (METR), displaced abomasum (DA), and milk fever (MFEV).

Taking advantage of the new health traits in your genetic plan offers a great opportunity to create healthier cows. Most of these new traits are also correlated with Productive Life, so if you want the simplest approach to healthier genetics, Productive Life has you covered.

 Healthier genetics, plain and simple

For more than two decades, PL has told us how many more, or fewer, months a cow is expected to produce within any given herd. While cows are most often culled because of low production or poor fertility, those reasons typically trace back to more specific health issues in the cow’s life.

Selecting for PL or the new health traits within your genetic plan will help you address any specific health issues in your herd.

We know this from the DairyComp analyses we’ve done on many large, progressive herds. In the following example, we analyzed the a well-managed, 2400-cow dairy that does a great job at accurately recording health events. We compared the animals whose sires had the highest average PL against the animals whose sires had the lowest PL values.

No animals are given preferential treatment – they are all cared for with the same, high level management practices. With no other differences separating these animals except their sires’ PL values, we compared how many health events each group had. We looked specifically at cases of mastitis, ketosis, retained placentas, metritis, displaced abomasum, and milk fever.

As expected, Table 1 shows that the cows in the High PL group had far fewer cases for each health event.

Table 1# of cowsAvg. Sire PLMastitisKetosisRetained PlacentaMetritisDisplaced Abomasum
Low PL cows6071.325822323329
High PL cows6006.279316167
Difference4.917919161722

The economics of healthy genetics

We know these health events have a cost attached to each case, and CDCB has calculated those figures. The dollar value put on each case is modest – not accounting for lost production or decreased fertility. Their calculated values only measure the direct costs associated with each trait.

Let’s take those costs and apply them to our example herd. To do this, we multiplied the dollar value per health event by the difference in number of events between the low PL group and the high PL group. Table 2 shows the economic impact of Productive Life within a 2100-cow dairy.

Table 2MastitisKetosisRetained PlacentaMetritisDisplaced AbomasumMilk Fever
CDCB-calculated cost per health event$75 $28 $68 $112 $197 $34
Difference in health events based on sire PL1791916172212
Total cost in this herd$13,425 $532 $1,088 $1,904 $4,334 $408
=$21,691

This farm saves a total of $21,691 just because of the genetics in its healthy cows!

Want healthier cows? Genetics will help.

If you include Productive Life, or any of the six new health traits, within your customized genetic plan, you will create a next generation of unnoticed cows – the type that produce well and go about their business with few health troubles.

Environment, cow comfort and management practices all play a leading role in the health of your herd. Now you also see how genetics can positively impact both cow health and the economic health of your dairy.

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