Polled Red & White Roundtable
From The Red Bloodlines July/August 2009 Issue No. 115
The annual Roundtable Issue features Polled Red & White genetics, both from a breeder standpoint and from an industry standpoint. Polled genetics are continuously increasing in popularity, now with more Polled Red & White Sires than ever to choose from. Participating in this year's roundtable are breeders John Burket from East Freedom, Pennsylvania, Christof Baldus from Germany, Roy MacGregor from Ontario, Canada, Bob Feldwisch from New Knoxville, Ohio and Nate Janssen from Wauconda, Illinois. Industry participants include Jeff Ziegler from Select Sires, Plain City, Ohio, Fred Hendricks from SunShower Acres, Bucyrus, Ohio and Dave Selner from Shawano, Wisconsin. We would like to thank our participants for their contributions.
John Burket, Pennsylvania
Burket-Falls is a third generation family dairy farm that milks 110 Registered Holsteins and maintain 170 head of replacements and bulls.
Christof Baldus, Germany
We have a small Red Holstein herd, Baldus Polled Holsteins: 90% Red, the others are RC. Information about our herd can be found at:
Besides that I am involved in distributing semen of our polled bulls housed at AI GĂ¶pel Genetik and finding new polled bulls for that stud.
Roy MacGregor, Canada
Arron Doon Holsteins began in 1977. The first Red & White animal was born by accident in 1982, and it was this Red calf that really got me interested in registered Holsteins. I did not purchase my first polled animal until 2001. After 30 years of milking cows, I decided it was time for a new direction in life, and in April 2008 the farm was sold, and the Arron Doon Holstein herd was dispersed, with the exception of 13 pregnant recipients carrying Red or polled genetics. Approximately 100 head were sold of which 24 were Red, and the majority of the rest were *RC and 12 animals were polled. Five of these polled animals were purchased by three different young breeders, all with the same interest and desire to take polled to the next level. These five animals, all polled calves born from my recipients, as well as some other polled purchases, are now all together in one breeding and investor group known as Venture Genetics.
Jeff Ziegler, Ohio
Currently I am the Genomics Program Manager at Select Sires following over 20 years of sire acquisition for all dairy breeds. This new leadership role was developed in an effort to focus on the genomic tools available today and future opportunities genomics offers the AI industry. As additional SNP testing protocols are developed, specific market needs like polled will have more practical application in that marketâ€™s genetic development.
Fred Hendricks, Ohio
I have been engaged in multi facets of artificial insemination for nearly 45 years. My wife and I created SunShower Acres, Ltd. 33 years ago. During a span of thirty years, SunShower syndicated and developed over 600 bulls, including black & white, Red and red carrier. Among those sampled were over 30 polled Holsteins. Many of these bulls have become successfully proven and returned to active AI service. While no longer involved in the development of young sires, SunShower continues to offer an independent mating service, Accu-Match.
Dave Selner, Wisconsin
I grew up on a Holstein dairy in Wisconsin. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, I became a sire analyst for an AI stud. I worked in the sire procurement department for 17 years and then held several other genetic positions in the AI industry for other companies. I have developed my own consulting business in dairy genetics for the last 5 years. I remain very involved in dairy industry committees, groups and associations.
Bob Feldwisch, Ohio
I grew up on a dairy farm in Auglaize County, Ohio and after high school, I received my Dairy Science degree from The Ohio State University. I gradually sold the grade cattle while purchasing moderately priced purebred open heifers. These were almost all mated to Triple Threat, which facilitated a major improvement in one generation. I milked for 33 years then leased my herd due to a back injury. I got the calves back from my cows to raise them until freshening along with the better pedigreed bulls.
Nate Janssen, Illinois
I grew up on dairy farms in upstate New York, spent some time as a nutritionist with Cargill and for the last ten years, I have been the Dairy Operations Manager at Golden Oaks Farm.
1. How did you get involved in polled genetics? (If a breeder, how many years and how many polled milking?)
Burket: The first polled animal on our farm was born in 1960. My father, Dave, purchased a group of Registered Holsteins out of Wisconsin and one of the resulting calves never developed horns. That animal turned out to be our "Princess" cow. Today the herd is 80% polled.
Baldus: We have been breeding polled cows for over 10 years. Mr. Frank Bouic from the US and Mr. GĂ¶pel from Germany informed me about the polled bulls available. We started with using some straws of the polled bull Burket-Falls Lo Nox P-Red on a few cows. We liked the results we saw from this mating. Now today in our herd, at least one side of a mating has to be polled. Currently 60% of our milking herd and over 80% of the young stock are polled.
MacGregor: About the same time as my interest in Red & Whites started (1982) Eastern Breeders in Ontario had a polled bull named Burket-Falls Dispacher that really intrigued me. Unfortunately at the time there was basically no interest here in Canada, I think mostly because there was a perception or stigma that polled genetics could not possibly be 100% pure. Although I never lost interest in polled, it wasnâ€™t until 2001 after visiting Burket-Falls and Hickorymea, that I realized my own ignorance of polled genetics had cost me twenty years.
Ziegler: As a farmer owned AI cooperative, it is Select Sires intent to fulfill all market interests. Polled genetics has a segment of the market that we feel adds value to our genetic offering portfolio. Being polled alone is not enough though to catch our attention. Weâ€™d prefer a well rounded genetic package that also offers the dominant polled gene with substantial genetic rank within the entire population.
Hendricks: While knowledgeable about polled dairy genetics, I was very passive in accepting the attributes of the polled gene. Few polled bulls had emerged that were capable of making a balanced genetic contribution to breed improvement. In 1998, I was made aware of a very promising polled red carrier bull from Hickorymea Farms, Hickorymea Tripod. Tripod was a Rudolph son from the well known â€śTâ€ť Family at Hickorymea. SunShower syndicated Tripod along with two of his full brothers; Trevy and Tom Tom. All three were leased to AI as young sires.
Selner: I have been involved with polled genetics for about 30 years. My first duties as a sire analyst were to purchase young bulls to sample for an AI stud. One of those qualifications was to find young bulls that fit certain niche markets. Polled was one of the niche markets that we concentrated on. So I purchased several polled sires over the years in the Red & White, Holstein, Jersey and Brown Swiss breeds. I have had an interest in the polled gene ever since and have continued to follow the development of the polled gene in the various dairy breeds.
Feldwisch: I first learned about the polled gene at The Ohio State University and was further enlightened and encouraged by first, Dr. J.P. Ostrander and subsequently Fred Hendricks and Gary Mayhew. Approximately, we have 20 to 25 females of milking age that are polled.
Janssen: Our experience with polled genetics began with Golden-Oaks Perk Rae-Red. From her, we have bred several polled animals and currently have three milking daughters of Perk Rae that are polled.
2. Based on your experience, what do you see as the major benefits of polled genetics?
Burket: Eliminating any unpleasant job on the farm is a plus. Dehorning, using any method, is NOT an enjoyable task. It takes time and the costs associated with dehorning continues to increase. Economics and animal welfare are two good reasons to breed polled.
Baldus: Animal welfare is an important benefit. There is no need to dehorn calves. Dehorning many times has a negative influence on the growth of a calf. Another benefit is that you can save labor and costs that are involved with the dehorning. Why should I waste my time with dehorning calves when I can use polled bulls that are at least as good as the others? So why breed for horns? Most farmers today have no time to give away.
MacGregor: I have heard this before, but like to use it when explaining the benefit of polled genetics. â€śWhat is the one job done on a dairy farm that you would not do in front of a bus load of school children?â€ť There are countries in Europe where, because of humane reasons, veterinarians are required to do the dehorning. If you think about it, eventually this will happen in North America, and likely sooner rather than later. (There is only one humane way to do it, and that is through genetics.) Also, imagine the breeder that has to dehorn hundreds of calves, and the benefit that polled has because of labor issues becomes quite clear. The advantages of polled are obvious and you can see with your eyes from the very first day a new polled calf is born, that the benefits of polled are real.
Ziegler: Polled genetics reduces one more process needing completed on todayâ€™s busy dairy enterprise. If we can genetically remove horns, this added time can be used for other profit centered needs that demand time on a dairy. Also, bio-security within herds is being scrutinized more all the time. One less occurrence of potential disease transmission (when horns are removed) is an additional benefit.
Hendricks: The major benefits of polled dairy genetics are: 1. Economic savings due to reduced labor by not dehorning, 2. Health and well being of the calf through lack of stress by not dehorning, therefore no set backs and 3. Hornless cattle answers those questions raised through animal welfare issues.
Selner: The major benefits are in reduced cost, labor and animal comfort. You donâ€™t have to schedule a time with extra labor or a veterinarian to dehorn the calves on a scheduled basis. This is one of the most disliked jobs on a dairy. You wouldnâ€™t have to invest in equipment, medications or anesthetics to remove the horns. Finally the issue of animal care being very much in the news the fact that you can remove the horns naturally without a surgical or mechanical method is certainly more appealing to the general public.
Feldwisch: Benefits of polled genetics include usually easier calving, no work with dehorning and resulting stress to calf and increased income.
Janssen: The obvious one is not having to dehorn the calves. As animal care initiatives move forward in our industry, dehorning calves will become more and more frowned upon, so developing polled genetics will be crucial.
3. Based on your experience, what challenges come with polled genetics?
Burket: Up until now, it has been a challenge for us to find polled outcross genetics. Over the years, we have attempted to locate polled animals not related to our breeding. Usually if we found something polled, they would not be the quality or caliber that we were looking for.
Baldus: A challenge is to inform people about polled. Many people still do not know that polled Holstein genetics exist. Others are thinking that the polled in those lines comes from beef breeds, or that polled cows produce less milk. That is not true! To get those prejudices out of some heads is sometimes not easy.
MacGregor: The biggest disadvantage of polled is simply the small population. The biggest challenge is to get polled genetics into the mainstream breeding programs of purebred and commercial breeders alike, and to do this, polled cattle must compete with top black & white genetics.
Ziegler: Having enough genetic selection that goes with the polled cattle available. Too many polled animals are being populated just because they are polled, at the substantial sacrifice of other profit generated indexes. Indexes are built with genetic profitability as their basis. If the polled offerings do not rank well within the population, it is too much of a sacrifice in eliminating unique profit genes just to get the polled gene.
Hendricks: Dairy farmers often fail to assess the true economic cost associated with dehorning. Often times hired labor perform the task of dehorning, especially in the larger commercial herds. When the owner is not involved with dehorning, he fails to place significant value on the cost of labor and/or set back the calf may go through when dehorned. The acceptance of polled dairy cattle on a broad scale will evolve with time. The window of time to endorse polled genetics will be directly dependant on the evolution of balanced and competitive genetics. This window of time has already narrowed during my short involvement with polled Holstein breeding. The future is unlimited; consequently the opportunities as a polled breeder have no bounds.
Selner: Certainly any time you are dealing with a genetic change it just takes a long time to see the most benefits. The transfer of the polled gene is a little better because we can see the results as a calf, but it will take you a long time to develop a polled herd of cows. Secondly you do not have as much choice genetically for other economic traits since the availability of numerous polled sire lines is not there yet. So in the short run some other traits may have to be less emphasized to achieve a polled herd.
Feldwisch: Challenges include getting enough genetic selection pressure due to an obviously smaller gene pool and one must add elite horned sires to one's breeding program for use on elite polled females.
Janssen: The biggest challenge I see is keeping the polled gene in the pedigree without sacrificing type, production or health traits.
4. Which polled sires do you have daughters out of and which polled sires are you currently using?
Burket: We have used many of our own polled bulls along with Lawn Boy and Lypoll.
Baldus: We have daughters of Burket-Falls Priority P-Red, Hickorymea Tokyo P-Red, Lawn Boy P-Red, Lypoll P-Red, Burket-Falls Fortify P-Red, Hickorymea Paul P-Red, Future Genetics Perplex P-Red and Baldus Felix P-RC. Currently we are using more Lawn Boy P and Lypoll P and promising young bulls like West Port Arron Doon Mitey P-RC, Baldus Leopolled P-Red (Lichtblick son) and Baldus Titan P-RC (RC Titanic grandson). But we do use top bulls like Apina Curtis-Red, Shottle and Stadel-Red on our polled cows as well. We always have at least a 50% chance to get a polled calf.
MacGregor: The only polled sire with a daughter at Venture Genetics today is a young milking Hickorymea Oswald. The only polled sires we have used so far are Aggravation Lawn Boy P Red, and West Port Arron Doon Mitey P *RC. We currently are more interested in getting polled offspring from our polled females by top or popular sires of the B&W population, such as Million, Alexander, Bogart, Man-O-Man, Sahara ect. All but one of our polled females are already Red, or *RC, and we will soon try for some homozygous polled animals, but in the short term this is not our focus.
Ziegler: The genetic outlier today for polled genetics WITH profitable production, type and health indexes is 7HO8223 Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red. This 97% Reliability sire proves that having more than polled genes can happen. His use on other polled lines to make Homozygous polled profitable pedigrees is where we need to head next. Several Lawn Boy P sons will be AI sampled. Some of them for their Red genes, some for their health genes, some for their polled genes. With the polled gene being dominant though, Iâ€™m confident his genetic impact to the polled population will be huge.
Feldwisch: Daughters sired by: Lawn Boy P-Red, Ducky P-Red (maternal brother to Lawn Boy by Talent), Afterglow P (+2252G milk maternal brother to Lawn Boy by BW Marshall), Idea P-RC, Wunder P-Red (Lawn Boy son). We are currently using Mitey P-RC and all of the above sires listed.
Janssen: We have several daughters by Lawn Boy and Rocco (Redman x Perk Rae). Currently we are using Mitey P-RC and Parkson-Red (Advent x Perk Rae) on our polled genetics.
5. In your opinion, which polled sires are ones to use and what has made you choose these sires?
Burket: We will continue to use our best young polled bulls along with some others from good cow families. We will use a few high genomic young polled bulls.
Baldus: Lawn Boy P-Red: good udders, exceptional PL, good calving ease and high index. Lypoll-Red P: good F&L, udders, SCC and PL, outcross bloodline. Mitey-P RC: young bull, I expect good components, SCC and type. Leopolled-Red P: young bull, I expect good production with high protein and good SCC. Titan-P RC: I expect him to be good all-around with the best udders and F&L. Others include: Aggravation Dieter-P RC: same cow line as Lawn Boy-P. I think the bull is much better than his proof shows. I heard many positive comments about his milking daughters from breeders in Germany. Outcross for Red. Burket-Falls Poll Pledge-PP RC: homozygous polled with first promising proof!
MacGregor: Besides Lawn Boy and Mitey, polled sires we are considering would be West Port Arron Doon Maltby P *RC, Arron Doon Magne P *RC Burket-Falls Significant P, Hickorymea Overpower P, Memmento Benedict P, La Presentation Bear P and La Presentation Yen P. Our decision to use these sires is based on pedigree, LPI/TPI, genomics and marketability.
Ziegler: As stated, Lawn Boy P is an obvious choice. However, high ranking genomically tested polled bulls at or above the 70th percentile of the breed (+480NM$ +1799TPI April 2009) for GTPI or GNM$ should be used on up to 40% of the herd. This will be the most effective method to propagate the right polled genes that add well rounded profitability to the breed. If the young sire happened to be Homozygous polled, one might lower that requirement to the top 50th percentile (+422NM$ +1732 TPI April 2009) to further enhance the polled gene frequency.
Hendricks: Although not a breeder, there are several proven and countless polled young sires to build a solid breeding program around. For starters, the proven bulls are; Aggravation Lawn Boy P-Red and Aggravation Afterglow P. And, a leading genome tested young sire is Burket-Falls Significant.
Selner: I have probably recommended Lawn Boy more than any other proven sire lately. He does not have any major weaknesses and can be used on a wide variety of bloodlines. He has a good balance of type, components and health traits. On one of the dairies I recommend mating sires for, they just had their first red female by Lawn Boy and she is also polled.
Feldwisch: Lawn Boy - type and management traits, Mitey P and Afterglow for their high genomics.
Janssen: I think Lawn Boy has been an excellent bull for the breed. He has a well rounded proof that has encouraged breeders to use him throughout their herds to increase the percentages of polled animals within their herds.
6. Discuss your viewpoint on the progression of polled genetics in the Red & White breed.
Burket: Red and Whites are in a unique position in that they have the highest percentage of polled animals compared to any other dairy breed. Credit the red breeders for having the foresight to start using polled bulls early on. Many red breeders weren't afraid to try something different, and therefore many used some polled genetics. Part of the popularity of the Angus breed is that they are essentially all polled. That also could be a selling point for Reds, if we maintained a high percentage of polled cattle within the breed.
Baldus: When I remember back 10 years ago when I started polled breeding, I had about 5 bulls to chose from. Today there are worldwide about 160 polled bulls available. One third of them is red, another third red carrier! And dozens of polled Lawn Boy sons will be added in the next few months. Around the world members from nearly every top holstein cow family are flushed to polled bulls like Lawn Boy-P, Lypoll-P, Mitey-P RC and Maltby-P RC. This does not only produce the next generation of interesting polled bulls for AI. There are now several promising polled females on the ground, the bull dams for the next generation. The possibilities are unlimited!
MacGregor: I like to compare the progression of polled genetics today, with R&W genetics of just 10 years ago. At that time, Rubens was only just getting his 2nd crop proof, Sept Storm and Talent were just young sires with calves still waiting to be born. Most AIâ€™s had very few Red or *RC sires, and many had none at all, and Red bulls that did exist, were rarely ever considered for breeding to the worldâ€™s top B&W cow families. Now in just 10 short years almost every AI has several great Red or *RC young sires to choose from and virtually every major B&W cow family worldwide that you can think of has at least a *RC son in A.I. Although on a smaller scale today in Polled, Lawnboy is still awaiting 2nd crop, and several very interesting young polled sires are still awaiting calves to be born. Many AIâ€™s from Europe, as well as North America have been contracting top cows, and cow families never before considered for polled breeding, to some of the highest LPI/TPI polled young sires like those mentioned earlier. The closer the polled gene gets to the top of the population, the more interest it creates, and we believe because the polled gene is dominant, the future of polled can, and will improve, and at record speed in the very near future, just like R&Wâ€™s have in the last 10 years.
Ziegler: The opportunity to propagate the polled gene into the mass of the red and white population has never been more prime than now. The use of the highest genomic females and males for NM$ or TPI that also carry the polled gene can rank with the best of the non-polled population too. It will take a concentrated effort and a agreement by several to get these high polled genes used on the high end non-polled female population.
Hendricks: In the past, the biggest challenge has been the lack of proven sires capable of balanced genetic improvement. We are on a fast track in overcoming this obstacle as proven polled sires are emerging on the AI scene. And, superior genomic tested young sires will complement this rapid progression. Red & White breeders have been pacesetters in developing hornless cattle. This trend is waning as breeders of black & white cattle are beginning to accept polled genetics.
Selner: I believe we are at the beginning of a big jump forward in polled genetics. There are many more polled females out in the population than 10 years ago. The breeders have responded by breeding good cow families to polled sires to increase the genetic quality of the future sires. Some really exciting young bulls are surfacing now that could have a big impact on the future of polled genetics. Right now the Red & White breed has a larger group of animals to select from than most of the other breeds. Hopefully R&W breeders will take advantage of the polled gene at a faster pace than their black and white counterparts.
Feldwisch: The numbers of polled cattle has steadily increased and the genetic merit of these cattle has progressed mightily.
Janssen: Polled genetics in the Red & White breed have come a long way. Visionary breeders like Burket-Falls and Hickorymea, along with others, have done a tremendous job of propagating the polled gene within the Red & White breed.
7. Any final thoughts on polled Red & White genetics?
Burket: Breeding good cattle of any breed is challenging, but rewarding. Adding the red and the polled dimension only adds to the excitement. With the demise of the wolves nearly a century ago, it is now time to genetically eliminate horns from all dairy cattle.
Baldus: The number and quality of Red and RC polled bulls is higher than ever. We have proven polled bulls like Lawn Boy P-Red and Lypoll-P in the top of the TPI list. Many promising young polled bulls are sampled, sired by top bulls like Lawn Boy, Goldwyn, Shottle, Lichtblick-Red, BW Marshall, Mr. Burns, Talent, Advent, Bolton and many more. This is a great opportunity for Red breeding to gain an advantage over other breeds. The Red Holstein breed has the opportunity to get nearly all polled very quick! The good thing is, that polled is dominant! With using a homozygous polled red bull you can get polledness AND red into every top holstein cow family in only one generation. I recommend to all those that are using polled genetics to use the suffix â€śPâ€ť when naming polled offspring and to register them as polled in herdbook (â€śPOâ€ť in US and Canada, unfortunately it is not possible to see from this if the animal is heterozygous or homozygous polled). Helpful is to write an â€śPâ€ť on the eartag, too. This makes it easier for you and for those that are interested and searching for polled cattle to identify the polled animals.
MacGregor: There is no doubt that the polled gene exists today because of R&W breeders. These breeders have always been by pure necessity more open minded about the sires they used, and a very large majority of the best polled animals available today, both male and female, come from these herds. It can be very challenging, but If you can put good pedigreed R&W or *RC and polled animals from popular sires all in one package, the sky is the limit.
Ziegler: Since a few more polled animals are now available to choose from, it might be time for the Red & White Association to showcase the polled value as a separate entity. Having a completely polled only sale, or polled only promotional piece backed by the association would carry more clout than just the traditional polled breeders that have saved these genes from becoming extinct.
Hendricks: When Red & Whites first appeared on the scene, breeders were convinced that it was a fad, a fad that would soon disappear. With the strong leadership of the Red & White Dairy Cattle Association, Red & Whites have become a mainstay in the population. Perhaps it will be the influence of the Red & White breeders that will propagate the polled influence. And as with Red cattle, leadership of the Red & White Association has another opportunity to advance a trait with measurable economic value, hornless dairy cattle.
Selner: The future looks very bright for the polled R&W breed. If we can continue to increase the genetics of the families involved and of the sire lines available, the future will be financially rewarding. The R&W breed could become the predominant breed to be used in large commercial dairies to take the horns of naturally, to be used in crossbreeding programs where they will also give that added benefit and to all of those dairymen that just do not want to put up with the hassle of dehorning in the future. Being on the cutting edge is often lonely and hard but here is an area where you can guarantee that the future of the dairy industry will move to more polled cattle.
Feldwisch: The necessity to incorporate elite horned genetics is, to me, very apparent. We will need a high number of seed stock and a decade or two of matings with heterozygously polled cattle to finally get elite homozygously polled cattle, but most of the heterozygous cattle will have to be sired by elite horned bulls first.
Janssen: Based on the growing interest we have had over the last several years in Perk Rae and her polled genetics, I would say that there is an excellent future. If breeders can continue to develop polled genetics without sacrificing other breeding goals, polled genetics will continue to flourish.