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♦ What is the Ideal Commercial Cow Index?
♦ What is the Ideal Commercial Cow Index?

What is the Ideal Commercial Cow Index?

Nothing is constant. Neither is the Holstein cow. With advances in genetics and management, the dairy producer has developed her into the amazing animal we know today. Her potential to produce milk and milk proteins is more than twice that of her ability just 20 years ago. There are many reading this having milked cows for much longer and are reflecting on just how far the Holstein cow has come.

Throughout this span of years, we've held the model of the ideal Holstein cow virtually unchanged. The historical textbook characterization of the ideal cow is in reference to her conformation, where our expectation is for snuggly attached udders, free-moving, flexible hocks and a strong shallow heel. We also described her in very classic terms of long and tall with a silky dairy quality. Our use of the ideal cow model to breed for traits indicating a greater ability to produce milk and live longer was, for the most part, useful in the absence of farm computers and big data.

Now with the ability to evaluate many traits in addition to yield and type, many producers are breeding for continued genetic progress in health, longevity and production potential. In other words - if we take care of the cow, she'll take care of you. No one should deny the fact that tall, long and dairy brings with it significant challenges to health, efficiency and productivity of the Holstein cow. Producers can simply no longer afford to utilize selection indexes that continue to steer genetic progress in that direction. Fertility, body condition, locomotion and the quantity and quality of milk proteins should be utilized as we breed for the cow of our future.

Selection indexes are very powerful tools. When they're designed well, genetic progress for many traits can be achieved simultaneously. With the faster generation intervals achieved through genomics, real impact on farm profitability from bull selection is twice that of five years ago. If the index is leading down the wrong path, you'll get here just as quickly. There is considerable difference when you compare rankings of Holstein bulls on the various selection indexes. Know your options, understand what traits are emphasized in a selection index, and ask questions to help you achieve the genetic progress you desire. Producers should choose the index that best fits their management priorities and breeding goals.

Farm technology provides greater means to capitalize on the genetic potential of our cows. As the landscape of the dairy industry and our expectations for the quality of farm management evolve, so should our definition of the ideal cow. In response to progressive producers' requests for a better way to rank Holstein bulls to achieve profitability and efficiency, we introduce the Ideal Commercial Cow Index.

The ideal Commercial Cow Index (ICC$) is a profit-indicating measure and a tool to rank Holstein bulls, published exclusively by Genex. ICC$ uses real-time economic indicators and science-based genetic principles to address the needs of progressive dairy producers.

The index incorporates elements from the U.S. national evaluation, as well as other data sources. Use of ICC$ will change the trend for increased stature and indirectly select for improved feed efficiency.

ICC$ is the total dollars summation of five easy-to-use sub-indexes. The sub-indexes, focused on specific areas of farm management, are available for producers wanting to narrow their genetic emphasis. Without compromising a dairy producer's expectation for high yield and great udders, these sub-indexes allow for greater improvement in fertility traits, body condition, locomotion and milking efficiency. The five sub-indexes include: Production Efficiency (PREF$), Health (HLTH$), Fertility and Fitness (FYFT$), Milking Ability (MABL$) and Calving Ability (CABL$).

Why was ICC$ Created?
Producers asked for a way to rank bulls that are designed to breed for farm profitability and efficiency. ICC$ is made to be real-time and flexible; it can be modified over time as the economic climate changes. ICC$ provides opportunity to quickly address emerging trends, and new traits of economic impact can be added as they become available.

What is the Validity of ICC$ as a Sire Selection Tool?
ICC$ has been thoroughly reviewed and validated by dairy geneticists with doctorates in animal breeding and previewed by commercial dairy producers for their grassroots input.

Where Can I Find ICC$ Sire Rankings?
ICC$ rankings will be published and updated with each industry-wide sire summary. The ICC$ rankings are available in the Holstein investment guide on the Lifetime Net Merit sort page. The investment guide also includes lists of the top 25% of the lineup fore ach of the five sub-indexes. The Holstein sire catalog, MPG and Genex website include both the ICC$ and five sub-index values. MPG also includes ICC$ values on all bulls industry-wide that have a published genetic evaluation.

How is Genetic Progress Achievable with ICC$?
The desired genetic progress of individual traits from the perspective of members and customers, along with industry trend research, aids in determining which traits are part of the ICC$ index and assigning the weighting of each trait. The combination of trait weightings, each individual trait's heritability, and correlations and trait relationships enables ICC$ to accomplish the goals established by members and customers.

What is the Means of Expression of ICC$?
ICC$, like Lifetime Net Merit $, represents the value of one bull's daughters compared to the value of another bull's daughters in the same herd. Both indexes use dollars to measure the net profit over the lifetime of the bull's average daughter.

Why Does the ICC$ Take into Consideration Body Condition Score?
Choosing bulls that produce daughters with proper body condition score leads to more milk production and less health and reproductive problems. Research also indicates cows with optimum body condition have improved foot health and lower frequency of lameness.

Why is the Polled Gene Given Consideration?
Dehorning of cattle presents financial costs to the producer in terms of labor and is a setback to cattle in terms of growth. ICC$ considers these costs and gives bulls with the polled gene a slight advantage over bulls without the polled gene.


August 2014