By Dan Bauer, Genetic Management Programs Manager
Last fall I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to South Africa and work with ABS South Africa staff. This team is a talented, experienced, and diverse group. Like our staff there, South African dairymen are passionate and demand the most advanced genetic improvement strategies the industry has to offer. The goal of this training was to review GMS and ensure it was being utilized to maximum potential. We also took this opportunity to discuss advancements in genomic technology in genetic evaluations and how it may influence the breeding plans of customers.
Our first day included a trip to the J.H. Blanckenberg herd which is a well-managed and extremely progressive 800-cow GMS, and RMS customer. Through the use of RMS, the Blanckenberg’s have significantly improved pregnancy rates and overall reproductive performance of their operation. The GMS program has been vital in improving udders in the herd. HPR has also been a useful management tool for them to use for culling decisions. In addition, HPR is used as a breeding tool on the farm for when and where to use sexed semen, high genetic merit bulls, and genomic sires. While at this beautiful farm, we held a cow-coding workshop to help standardize the team and make sure trait definitions were clearly understood and correctly applied.
Next, we spent two and a half intensive days in the classroom reviewing the GMS program; what it is, how to use it, and how to ensure its properly implemented to help increase customer-profitability. Topics discussed in detail were: sire-selection, inbreeding management, on-farm data collection, and how to interpret GMS reports. We were able to spend time reviewing genetic improvement fundamentals, the excellent ABS Jersey lineup, as well as early industry results using genomic selection in sire procurement.
Mid-week we attended the South Africa Holstein Society Annual General Meeting. The meeting featured two keynote speakers who discussed research on a new South African multiple-trait index, and how genomic selection was changing the industry. The evening featured a beautiful banquet and the society celebrated the debut of new a book detailing the history of the Holstein cow in South Africa.
The week concluded with the team attending the Cape Dairy Expo in Capetown. This was a dairy show, as well as a trade show. The event featured gorgeous weather, excellent attendance, and spirited competition amongst the Holstein, Jersey, and Ayrshire breeds! ABS South Africa hosted a booth which garnered an abundance of traffic and high interest in the ABS product lineup from many of the Expo’s attendees. In the show ring, ABS progeny did not disappoint! The winning 5-year-old Jersey was a beautiful rear-uddered daughter of type-standout, 29JE3301 IATOLA. This awesome Jersey cow was able to combine silkiness, clean-cutness, and angularity with extreme width and power to top the 5-year old class.
The highlight of the day for ABS was unanimous. A daughter of none other than Holstein legend 29HO12209 PICTSON SHOTTLE topped the 3-year-old cow class and went on to be named Intermediate Champion. This wonderful young cow combined a stylish frame with an absolutely beautiful udder, while walking on a great set of feet and legs. The best thing about this cow is many around ringside agreed her best days are still ahead! Her awesome udder and youthful frame will likely only improve as she calves in again and gracefully matures. The satisfied owners would definitely confirm ABS’s industry-leadership as “The World Leader in Bovine Genetics.”
Again, this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and a tremendous opportunity for GMS to expand its footprint in South Africa. I admire the enthusiasm and passion of the ABS South Africa staff; they are a talented team, totally committed to finding the best available genetic solutions for their customers. I am confident that combining the great people of ABA South Africa with the product leadership of ABS will lead to increased sales, greater market share, and more and more satisfied ABS customers in South Africa!
“I would like to take an opportunity to once again thank the ABS South Africa team for their friendship, hospitality, and willingness to collaborate and identify ways to improve GMS, as well as the way we deliver genetic improvement to our customers. This trip will most-definitely be a career highlight for me. Please accept my sincere thanks.” Dan Bauer, Genetic Management Programs Manager