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3 Open minutes with Doug Maddox

Published on 28 December 2009

Editor Walter Cooley interviewed Doug Maddox, owner of Maddox Farms in Riverdale, California, and asked about the operation's embryo transfer strategies.

Q. Tell me about your embryo transfer program.

A. MADDOX: We export cattle semen and embryos around the world – in fact, to more than 40 countries. We have a total of about 15,000 head of registered Holsteins. We’ve done a full-time embryo transfer program five days a week for almost 25 years. Every animal in our herd traces directly or indirectly to embryo transfer. We use embryo transfer on about 400 to 500 cows. It’s about 8 to 10 percent of our elite cows.



Q. How do you market your genetics?

A. MADDOX: We do have a distributor in South America, but it is the only distributor that we have. World Wide Sires sells a lot of our embryos in Mexico, South and Central America.

Most of the time, our genetics are sold by people who have been to our farm. We have 50 years of a reputation, not only of having elite genetics, but we have a large herd. Because of the volume of cattle and embryos that we have, and the way that we produce semen and embryos, we think we sell the best quality for the price of anybody in the world. We have trained a lot of people. We have trained over 200 veterinarians. We’ve trained more than 200 people to manage herds from all over the world. And basically, these are our best salesmen, the people who have been here and seen what we’ve done. You don’t have to have large distributors.

Q. How many of your embryos do you market overseas?

A. MADDOX: I’d say 95 percent. By and large, in the U.S., people will do embryo transfer, but they normally do it on their best cow. What we sell domestically is to fill the recipients when they don’t have enough embryos.


Q. Does sexed semen have a place in the industry today?

A. MADDOX: If you want females, yes. By and large, the conception rate is low enough that normally it is used just in heifers. But in Mexico they use it in first-lactation and second-lactation cows and cows that are really in pretty good shape reproductive-wise, and they seem to be having decent results. But then they have a big problem that they need to import a lot of cattle.

Now, in the U.S., in 2009, 2010 and 2011, we will have 500,000 extra heifers born above normal. We have a depressed milk price right now. What do you think is going to happen to the price of milk when we have 500,000 heifers that freshen? It’s going to be terrible. Or it could be. Who knows what the market will be? But all indications are that we have a problem.

But I like to envision that people will use sexed semen in the future to breed the better half of their cows with the same philosophy as we use with embryo transfer. You start breeding the best of the best, and you get all your females out of your top cows – you will have a better group of cattle come in. It will be a great way to improve your herd.

Q. What characteristics should a dairy producer have to efficiently use embryo transfer?

A. MADDOX: If you have a common grade herd, it is not a good way to go. I would just use A.I. to move it up to the next step. If you really want to spend the money for embryo transfer, you should have some elite genetics. If not, you’re going to spend a lot of money and still have a lot of common cows.
We like to merchandise enough embryos and cattle as a result of embryo transfer, to pay for our cost of doing all the embryo transfer, semen costs and so forth. So merchandising of cattle and semen and embryos has to be a part of being able to afford to do embryo transfer because it is expensive. Even if you have an in-house program like we have, it’s still expensive. PD

Doug Maddox
  • Doug Maddox

  • Dairy owner
  • Riverdale, California