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1308 PD: The big switch?

Published on 29 August 2008

The USDA decided in 2007 to make the switch from producing four sire summaries a year to three. Research Geneticist George Wiggans says there were two main reasons for the change. The first was to cut down marketing expenses for the nation’s A.I. companies. The second was to coincide with the International Bull Evaluation Service (Interbull), whose operational center is based in Uppsala, Sweden.

A year later, semen companies seem to have mixed feelings about the switch. Some believe four summaries was an information overload for dairy producers. Other company representatives feel that three summaries are not enough and say that more information available equals better-informed customers. However, all of the companies have enjoyed the cut in marketing and promotional costs that accompanied the switch. While many A.I. representatives recognize the USDA will not be switching back to four summaries, companies would like to see the current system altered.

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The most talked-about suggestion is making the intervals between evaluations more evenly spaced. The evaluations are currently calculated in January, April and August. A.I. companies would like to see a longer interval between the first and the second evaluation; and a shorter interval between the third, end-of- the-year evaluation and the first evaluation of the new year. Although Wiggans can certainly understand the viewpoint of the A.I. companies, he says the evaluations are spaced as they are for a reason.

“Because the A.I. industry is a global business, deviating from Interbull would be a disadvantage to the U.S.,” Wiggans says. “The foreign information affects the U.S., and we want to provide the latest, updated information for everyone.”

In order to help with the uneven distribution, Wiggans says the USDA provides three interim evaluations to help companies make decisions and prepare for the released summary.

“Companies are able to get the bull ready and bank semen so that they have enough to meet the demand,” Wiggans says.

Another suggestion for improvement is to change the release day, which is now Tuesday, back to Monday. Many representatives from semen companies say the extra day would help them to put in a few less hours during hectic proof weeks. Wiggans believes that while these issues need to be addressed, a new developing technology is overshadowing the discussion about release dates and is becoming the main focus in the A.I. industry. That technology is genomic prediction summaries, which were first released in April.

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Although the animal improvement lab (AIPL) website states that these evaluations are in the early stages of acceptance and should not replace predicted transmitting abilities (PTAs), Wiggans believes genotype evaluations soon will be the main source of information.

“The main benefit of genotype evaluations is they can be calculated for calves so semen can be marketed as soon as it can be produced,” he says. “Also, the evaluations will change little until a substantial number of daughters are milking.” PD

One year after the USDA-AIPL’s decision to switch from four sire summary releases per year to three, what are your thoughts about how the change has impacted the industry?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Send your comments to:

“I think less frequent sire summaries slows down genetic progress. From a pure marketing standpoint, it’s easier if you don’t make a lot of changes in your data. But from a genetic progress standpoint, the more frequent you do these [evaluations], the better off the customers will be.”
– Roger Ripley, former president and CEO of Accelerated Genetics

“We think that some of the excitement of genetic indexes was lost when we went from two summaries to four. Now, going from four to three, hopefully there will be more interest in the genetic evaluations. Also, there are less costs associated with new publications because there is one less index.”
– John Schouten, CEO of World Wide Sires, Ltd.

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“Let’s look back in history. When we had proofs two times a year, farmers looked forward to the proofs. When we had them every three months, it became not as exciting to those dairymen to see what the information was. From a genetic standpoint with four-time-a-year proofs, there’s not as much volatility in a bull’s proof because he’s adding daughters more gradually each run. There are pros and cons of both but our preference is for the three-time-per-year schedule.”
– Ron Sersland, founder of International Protein Sires

“There’s less than 90 days between two of the proofs. Things just don’t change that fast. From the standpoint of farmers, they’re getting bombarded with information. From the standpoint of A.I. companies, it costs a huge amount of money to process all this data and print up all new marketing materials.”
– David Winkels, founder of Excalibur Sires

“We feel it’s more effective to have three proofs a year. Every three months was coming pretty quick, so people didn’t have time to get used to new bulls. Three times a year gives us more time to promote the bulls and distribute the semen to the clients.”
– Pierre Laliberte, senior vice president of global genetic programs and operations at Semex

“Every time you decrease the frequency of an evaluation, you decrease genetic progress. It’s a compromise. The ideal situation would have to be updated proofs every week like they do in New Zealand, but with marketing and advertising, that would be very tough to do. It would be difficult for the industry to digest this intense flow of information.”
– Pablo Echevarria, president of Ag-Link International, Inc.

“I think a disadvantage is on the cow side. If there are situations where corrections are needed, oftentimes that’s not detected until you notice that an animal is missing a genetic evaluation. With a four-time-a-year schedule, the information would be corrected and that animal would receive an evaluation quicker. With the three-time-a-year schedule, it takes a little longer for the corrections to flow through and that animal to get an evaluation.”
– Chuck Sattler, vice president, genetics programs for Select Sires

“We don’t feel that releasing new bulls in international foreign markets is nearly as time- sensitive as Interbull tried to make it seem. In other words, if we had a release in the end of November instead of January, yes, it wouldn’t be quite as timely for some of the markets that graze over that time. But at the same time, you’re never really marketing outdated information. Whether it was updated a month ago or two and a half months ago doesn’t make a huge amount of difference. That’s why we would strongly prefer the equally spaced proofs.”
– Ron Sersland, founder of International Protein Sires

“We felt that the four-time-per-year release to customers was better than three… I don’t think there’s any trend or movement or interest in going back to four by the industry in total. I’m rather certain of that.”
– Dick Smith, Jersey Sire Analyst, ABS Global, Inc.

“We’d like the evaluations more evenly spaced. That’d be the one thing we would change. We think the advantage of four versus three to the producer is not very big – you’re talking about one more month. With the cost of getting the information out, we don’t think the producer gains enough to justify the fourth time in a year versus three.”
– Steve Schnell, vice president of dairy genetics at Genex

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