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♦ Make More Profit from Every Calf
♦ Make More Profit from Every Calf


Today, Genex offers dairy producers many semen product options. There's dairy and beef conventional semenCalfMathLogo.jpg as well as GenChoiceTM. Determining the ideal mix of these semen product options to maximize profitability on a dairy farm can seem like a daunting task.

With All These Choices, Where Do I Start?
Genex has developed a new tool, a simple, financial spreadsheet called Calf MathTM, to help producers get more profit from every calf. The Calf Math tool helps producers decide how to use the various semen product options to achieve herd goals and maximize profits within their operations. In addition, the thought process behind utilizing Calf Math can help producers improve the quality of genetics in their herd and allow them to capitalize on profits from both female and male calves.

To use Calf Math, producers first enter a small amount of farm-specific information - number of cows, number of heifers, cull rate, annual growth goal and calf values. Then, the producer can enter different semen usage scenarios (including conventional or GenChoice semen). By utilizing the farm's input information, Calf Math calculates the number of heifers yielded from each scenario and the number of heifers needed to achieve the farm's goals. This is a good way to test different semen usage options on paper before ever making a semen purchase.

Furthermore, Calf Math can provide financial data indicating the value of the calves born and the potential dollars received from merchandising or marketing excess animals. With this information - an immediate cash message - producers can make better purchase decisions. The calculator can also be used to guide producers through changing costs and fluctuating market prices.

Scenario 1. Quality, Not Quantity
Calf Math can bring into view several ways to achieve greater genetic improvement. For instance, using a sexed product on a herd's top-end cows will speed up genetic advancement. Let's assume a producer focuses on breeding his/her highest milk, best component, lowest somatic cell score and most fertile cows to create replacements. Imagine the result. With today's increasing challenges in herd expansion, using sexed semen can offer producers a chance to make more profit without expanding herd size.

Now consider this scenario using the farm-specific inputs in Table 1 below. If a farm can produce more heifers of high quality, it can be more aggressive with voluntary culling. This is something we have dreamed about for decades. Simply by using a GenChoice product that allows for five to 10 percent more heifers out of the best cows, a producer can now cull that same percent of problem breeders, those with chronic mastitis and those not suited to fit the farm's milk market.

Table 1. Herd-Specific Inputs
Number Cows1000 Annual Cull Rate 33% 
Number Breeding Age Heifers 375 Percent Annual Growth 0% 

After entering numbers into Calf Math, here's what it says. By using 10 percent of GenChoice 75 on the farm's top cows and 10 percent of GenChoice 90 on the farm's best heifers, a producer can create enough replacements to do 10 percent more voluntary culling. Now these numbers may seem too simple, but the point is, Calf Math will take into consideration a herd's individual details and goals to help determine the best mix of products.

Scenario 2. Plentiful Replacements
Using the same herd-specific inputs as the previous example, the 1,000-cow dairy sorts the top 25 percent of their cows and uses GenChoice 75 to produce heifer calves out of those top genetic females. The dairy also sorts the top 50 percent of their heifers to breed to GenChoice 90. So, on average how many heifer calves would the herd yield annually? As Table 2 shows, the herd can produce about 518 females each year (or an 18 percent annual growth rate) from using GenChoice on only 25 percent of their cows and 50 percent of their heifers! Now in this example, the producer can grow their own herd from within, selectively cull or market heifers to other dairies.

Table 2. Heifer Comparison
Annual Dairy Heifers Needed330 
Number of Dairy Heifers Yielded518 

Scenario 3. Creating New Profit Opportunities
Traditionally all heifers and cows in a herd were used to create replacement animals. Now, through the use of GenChoice, producers can be more selective by only producing replacements from top heifers and cows, and can still maintain adequate replacement animal numbers.

How are the herd's low-end heifers and cows utilized? Since these animals may be needed to calve again in a coming year, one option is to breed them to male-sorted beef GenChoice. Dairies across the country are exploring this option and are determining if they have a market for quality Holstein x Angus steers.

Let's look at the same herd discussed previously with beef GenChoice 75 male semen added to the semen usage scenario. Using beef sexed semen on the bottom 30 percent of the farm's cows and 20 percent of their heifers, the resulting calf crop would look like this:

Table 3. Calf Crop
Total Dairy Male Calves 266 Total Beef Male Calves 208 
Total Dairy Female Calves 416 Total Beef Female Calves 69 

The producer would have 208 quality crossbred calves to market and still create enough replacement heifers to maintain current herd size.

To maximize the return from every calf, dairy producers need to determine the best way to utilize the various semen products within their own breeding program. The industry's need for source-verified beef creates an opportunity to sell crossbred calves. In fact, with high demand and limited supply in today's market, a dairy producer could expect to receive a premium for well-managed, crossbred steers which are quality bred.

How would a producer determine which beef bulls to use? Genex offers several Breeding to Feeding bulls with guaranteed buy-back in several areas of the country. Genex representatives can also recommend prime profitability beef sires identified by their calving ease and carcass merit.

New Technologies
To best utilize Calf Math, it is important to know which cows are your best. Producers are already able to sort their animals by using DHI reports and on-farm software that tracks traits like somatic cell score, milk production, transition cow index and the cow's ability to calve back each year. Programs like MAP can also help rank females and track progress.

In the foreseeable future, expect a genomic test to be available that will allow producers to sort females. Cost estimates for the genomic test range from $25 to $50 per sample. The test results should increase a female's trait reliabilities 20-30 percent over parent average reliabilities. This reliability level would be similar to that of a female in her fifth lactation. Armed with this new technology, producers would know which heifers to breed for replacements and which to cull or breed to other semen options.

Look for Calf Math on the Genex website at Use the interactive online calculator to aid in your semen usage decisions. To utilize a more in-depth version of Calf Math which includes additional financial information, contact your local Genex representative.

In summary, Calf Math aids a producer in utilizing new technologies to meet herd goals - whether the goals are creating higher quality replacements, expanding or finding new avenues for increasing profits.

January 2010