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Polled Breeding

The following text is reprinted with the friendly permission of the
Red and White Dairy Cattle Association. You can see the original text
in the "Red Bloodlines" magazine, issue no. 75, page no. 12 or on the
website of the RWDCA:

Roundtable - "Polled Genetics" - What are the Opportunities?
                                                 by Ed Peck

The use of polled genetics in breeding programs has been steadily
growing throughout the years. Red & White breeders have had the opportunity to take advantage of sires
developed by several strong breeding programs which
emphasize the polled gene in their cow family development protocols.
Second only to perhaps the Jersey breed, this
polled genetic attribute is considered something special to the Red &
White industry. For this issue, we have
contacted some of the more prominent and dedicated users of polled
genetics to get their perspectives of what the
real opportunities for Red & White breeders are when it comes to
polled genetics.

John Burket - Burket-Falls
East Freedom, PA
   The Burket Family has been breeding polled cattle for 44 years and
has sold and leased numerous bulls to AI
organizations as well as exporting embryos. They currently milk 110
cows and raise approximately 150 head of young
stock, approx. 75 percent of which are estimated to be Red or RC.
Approximately 2/3 of the herd is polled. John previously
served as both a National Director and classifier for RWDCA. His
father, Dave, received the Master Breeder Award in 2000.
   Current sires used in the Burket Falls herd include Paradox,
Jordan, Rubens, Marmax, Polled Party, Polled Vision,
Oman and Stormin Norman.

Frank Bouic
Ostrander, OH
   Frank owns 47 registered Holsteins, including 20 that are
naturally polled. His 25 cows are housed with his nephew’s
100 cow herd located approximately 15 miles from his home, though he
raises his own replacement heifers. Frank is 63
years old and has been involved in registered Holsteins since
childhood. He has published a polled newsletter for many
   Frank has used several red and RC polled bulls over the years and
estimates that 20 to 25 percent of the herd carries
the red factor.
   Sires currently being used by Bouic include: Burket-Falls Portrait
P-ET, Special P-ET, Polled Preview, and Polled
Plus; as well as Hickorymea Overtime P-ET, Tripod-P-ET, and
Oblige-P-ET; and Aggravation Dieter P-ET.

Bob Feldwisch - Aggravation Plantation
New Knoxville, OH
   Bob has been breeding Red and RC polled animals for 31 years.
   Current sires used in the Aggravation herd include Lawn Boy P-Red,
Hardwood-Red-ET, Polled Vision *RC, Tyrus
P, Marmax, Talent, Jordan-Red, Oman, Dane and Sept Storm.

Fred Hendricks - SunShower Acres
Longmont, CO
   Fred Hendricks has been engaged in many facets of artificial
insemination for nearly 40 years. He and his wife
launched SunShower Acres, Ltd. 28 years ago. SunShower provides a
mating guide via Accu-Match Analysis, and
samples 25-30 bulls per year including black & white, red, and red
carrier. Many of these bulls have become
successfully proven and returned to active A.I. service. SunShower
also markets proven sire semen. Fred is
well-known in Red & White circles for both has keen interest in Red
and his dedication to corrective mating. Fred was
awarded the prestigious Albrecht Service Award in 2002.
   To date, SunShower has sampled 25 polled Holsteins. These include
black, red carrier and red young sires.

Ed Johnson - Hickorymea Farm
Airville, PA
   Ed Johnson and family milk 19 Red and 68 RC cows. The young stock
pens are home to an additional 35 Red calves
and heifers, as well as 34 RC calves and heifers. The milking herd
also consists of 94 milking polled females, with
approximately 70 calves and heifers also carrying the polled trait.
Johnson started breeding for the polled gene in 1969.
In 2003, he received the Master Breeder Award in recognition of his
success in breeding both Red and polled.
   Sires currently used include Total, Tokyo, Truvalu, Tenafly,
Tipton, Overtime, Oswald, and Ottawa,  all bred in the
Hickorymea herd. As well, horned bulls being used include Jordan,
Paradox, Talent, Titanic, Marmax, Reggie, Champion, and Freelance.

Greg Schmidtknecht
Mondovi, WI
   Schmidtknecht currently milks approximately 100 Red or RC animals
and estimates a polled herd population of 140
animals. He has been in the business of breeding for polled cattle 20
years and actively seeks any polled or Red bulls
available to use in the herd.

Explain your background and experience with polled dairy cattle.

Burket: Our first polled animal was born at our farm in 1960. She was
Princess Fayne Houtje. She then went on to
complete several consecutive records over 1100 pounds of fat. This
cow was the beginning of our polled and best cow family.

Bouic: I began using polled young sires on a few cows in the early
1980’s and gradually increased the usage of polled
bulls. I found that local distributors for the studs were often not
aware of polled bulls available, even in their own studs.
Because of this, I started a newsletter for breeders of polled
Holsteins. I purchased a data file of animals coded as
polled from the Holstein Association and produced lists and pedigree
packets to those who requested them. I still do
this, though not as often as I would like.

Feldwisch: I became interested in the polled gene as a student at
Ohio State University. I gradually began using "Larry
Moore" bulls some years after graduation, then more extensively,
bulls from the Burkets and Johnsons.

Hendricks: While knowledgeable about polled dairy genetics, I
originally 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.

Johnson: I found breeding polled Holsteins has been a way to bring
more excitement into the everyday chores. It can
be very challenging and very rewarding.

Schmidtknecht: My father started using polled bulls before me, and so
I just continued the practice.

Do you feel the role of polled genetics has evolved over the past 10
years, stayed about the same, or decreased in scope?

Burket: We do feel it has improved.

Bouic: When I started, there was about one new polled bull entering
AI every 3 to 5 years. Now there are 5 or 6
entering per year and the quality is continuously improving. There
are currently 30 or more polled bulls available through AI organizations.

Feldwisch: It has definitely evolved. Bull studs are realizing the
added "plus" of the polled gene in well-pedigreed bull calves.

Hendricks: Through our experience, we have seen a steady increase in
the acceptance of polled genetics. Almost daily,
we receive a new inquiry regarding SunShower’s polled offerings.

Johnson: Yes, it has been increasing through better genetics and a
great deal more interest, especially foreign countries.
Everyone benefits from having good polled cattle.

Schmidtknecht: I do think it is growing, but slowly.

What should breeders and producers realize about the polled
opportunities available?

Burket: Today, to breed polled Holsteins, dairy producers
don’t have to sacrifice type and production. Also, large
commercial herds appreciate the polled characteristic because of a
time and cost savings. You also need to remember
that polled is dominant.

Bouic: Interest in polled genetics is increasing. There is greater
interest in Europe than in the US. However, to sell
polled genetics, we must nearly match the production and type
genetics of the rest of the breed. Therefore, it will still
be necessary to utilize the best genetics from the horned population
to help improve polled cattle.

Feldwisch: The sky is wide open! The polled gene is dominant to the
horned gene. And, there are some very
well-pedigreed young sires that are available or soon to be born
which can be used to incorporate the polled gene.

Hendricks: The availability of promising young polled sires has
expanded greatly over the past several years. Many of
these bulls have competitive pedigrees with index potential of their
horned counterparts.

Johnson: Dehorning calves is not a fun job. It can be cruel and costs
extra time and money. It can also slow the calf’s
development or worse. Merchandising polled is like selling Red versus
black animals.

Schmidtknecht: I think breeders need to acknowledge that the
choices/genetics are getting better.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges and/or disadvantages of
using and selecting for polled genetics?

Burket: Finding good outcrosses and developing homozygous males and

Bouic: The biggest challenge is to balance the desire to completely
eliminate dehorning with the need to use the best
genetics from the horned population to improve the base. Also,
locating polled AI young sires can still sometimes be a challenge.

Feldwisch: Selection pressure, because the genetic pool is
considerably smaller than either the red gene or RC gene pools.

Hendricks: In the past, the biggest challenge has been the lack of
sires capable of balanced genetic improvement.
Higher genetic-index young sires will soon close this chasm.

Johnson: The biggest disadvantage is the lack of good, proven polled
bulls. The biggest challenge is to avoid inbreeding.

Schmidtknecht: Trying to get the larger AI studs to use polled bulls
in their young sire programs. I also think there is a
challenge with inbreeding in the polled population.

What strategies or approaches are you considering to address
challenges you have identified?

Burket: We focus on our very best polled females.

Bouic: I try to use polled sires on as many horned females as
possible. I will use polled on polled matings only when
the polled sire compares favorably to the best horned sires
available, relative to production and type traits. I also use a
file sort from the Holstein Association to locate bulls owned by AI
organizations and then make this information available to others as well.

Feldwisch: I try to incorporate the genes of the best Red, RC or even
black and white bulls available when mating a superior polled female.

Hendricks: Through our sampling efforts, SunShower has aggressively
sampled bulls capable of becoming genetic
contributors. In many cases, we have sampled polled red-carrier bulls
with the sire being a prominent black bull.

Johnson: We will be using a good variety of young polled sires. Once
we have a polled female, we use a top horned
bull on her. Our better polled cows we flush to better horned bulls.
Our horned cows always get bred to a polled bull.
That way, every mating we make, we get 50 percent polled calves.

Schmidtknecht: I focus on working with bull studs that have polled
bulls available.

Do you feel polled genetics have a stronger presence and/or greater
opportunity in Red cattle?

Burket: Because of sheer numbers, we think that polled could have the
greatest impact on the red population, at least
in the short-term. Both Red & White and Black & White could and will
eventually benefit from the use of polled genetics.

Bouic: At the time, polled Holstein genetics certainly have a
stronger presence in the red cattle than in black and
whites. On a practical basis, breeders of red animals have been more
willing to make the sacrifice necessary to get
started with a polled trait. Furthermore, there have been enough
breeders trying to combine the best genetics from the
black and horned segment of the breed with the red and polled genes
that, at times, the best production and type source
for the polled gene has been in red and RC bulls.

Feldwisch: They have a stronger presence and likely because Red
breeders have had to be more imaginative in their breeding programs.

Hendricks: Historically, the polled influence has been more prominent
in the red population. This trend seems to be
waning as breeders of black and white cattle are gravitating to polled genetics as well.

Johnson: Yes, the polled gene has had a stronger presence in Red
cattle, mainly because a lot of polled bulls have been Red or RC.

Schmidtknecht: No. I feel they did a few years ago, but not anymore.

What sire or bloodline do you feel has had the greatest impact on
polled genetics today?

Bouic: Sires from Burket and Hickorymea herds have had a major impact
on polled genetics. A substantial majority of
the better polled animals today can be traced to Princess Fayne
Houtje of the Burket herd.

Feldwisch: Polled Plus and Denmark-Red left a number of very superior
cows in my herd.

Hendricks: I am not able to identify a specific sire or bloodline
that has shown dominance in polled Holstein genetics.
Rudolph and Winchester sired the leading polled bulls of the day.
These sires are contemporary and non-traditional for
polled genetics. Although not a bloodline, Burket-Falls would be
considered the leading contributor of polled Holstein
genetics over the past thirty years.

Johnson: Burket-Falls Houdini-RC has made a large impact on our herd
in the past. He was a great type bull with
sound production. His daughters crossed well with Aerostar.

Schmidtknecht: In our herd, Burket-Falls Polled Plus *RC.

In your opinion, what is the top polled family or cows you work with?

Burket: The Sophia family developed at Burket-Falls.

Bouic: Bouic L Polled Elton 862 was an Elton daughter from a daughter
of a polled young sire. She routinely milked
150 percent of her herd mates and made the Holstein
Association™ Top 10,000 CTPI list (Locator List). Also, the
descendants of Bouic B Polled Washton 795 and her Juror and Mascot
daughters. One granddaughter of 795 by Winchester has a CTPI of 1600 and 565 NM$. Several other descendants are currently among the best animals in theherd.

Feldwisch: Aggravation Aeroapple and her daughter, Brigitte P-ET by
Manfred, have placed four sons in AI to-date.
Polled Talents by Brigitte are being born now, and we have BW
Marshalls due in August.

Hendricks: SunShower has relied on three prominent polled cow
families for our sampling efforts. These families are
located in the herds of Burket-Falls Holsteins, Hickorymea Holsteins
and Aggravation Plantation.

Johnson: The main two families at Hickorymea are the "T"s and the
"O"s. Two Houdini full sisters got the T´s started:
Tabbi, her daughter Tanya and Tany’s daughter, Tasha (by
Airliner), started one line. The other sister, Tidy, was the
mother of Tena (by Aerostar) who produced 5 VG daughters and one
Excellent. We have sold or leased a number of
polled and horned bulls from her daughters - mainly Tracey, Tessie
and To. Hickorymea Elton Ovation-P was VG-89
GMD and is the dam of Bellwood Ossie (EX-91 GMD). A number of polled
bulls from Ossie have been leased or sold.
The O family does not carry the red gene, but there are four
daughters of Ossie in the herd that are polled and we are
breeding red into the family through them.

Schmidtknecht: Families from Burket Falls and Hickorymea Farms

What bulls have you used recently to extend the polled genetics?

Burket: Black sires such as Rudolph, Convincer, Oman and others.
Numerous Red/RC sires.

Bouic: Most of the bulls I have used as a source of the polled gene
have been young sires, such as those listed earlier.
So far, Polled Plus and Tripod are the only polled bulls I have
used after they received a proof.

Feldwisch: Hardwood-Red, Lawn Boy-P and Polled Vision.

Hendricks: We continue to sample polled young sires from outstanding
cow families and which are sired bycontemporary breed leaders.

Johnson: In addition to the bulls listed earlier, we have used horned
bulls on our polled cows. These bulls currently include Best, Beaver, Dane, Luigi and Boss.

Schmidtknecht: I continue to use Polled Plus and am also currently
using a Comestar Outside young sire, Burket-Falls Polled Vision-RC.

What excites you the most about polled genetics?

Burket: We believe that, in time, the Holstein breed will be polled,
and we at Burket Falls Farm would like to play a role in this very worthy cause.

Bouic: The genetic progress of polled cattle is accelerating. It seems
to me that there has been more progress in the last
ten years than in the 100 years before. I am convinced that we are
close to producing polled AI bulls that will be used
even by breeders not specifically selecting for the polled trait.

Feldwisch: The fact that there will be (in the not too distant
future) polled bulls that will influence the black and white
populations the way some of the more notable Red and RC bulls have. I
sell polled clean-up bulls to a large commercial
dairy for use on problem breeders and they love not having to dehorn
half of the calves. As soon as a sound, highly
proven polled bull is available to them via AI, they will use him.
The polled gene will then really begin to impact the
black and white population the way for example
Marmax’s red gene will.

Hendricks: The attributes of polled dairy genetics are: A. Economic
savings due to reduced labor by not dehorning, B.
Health and well being of the calf through lack of stress by not
dehorning and C. The intangible gain in growth without
the stress and/or setback from dehorning.
   Dairy farmers often fail to assess the true economic cost
associated with dehorning. Often hired labor performs 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 setback 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 dependent 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.

Johnson: Having interest from people from foreign countries, Canada
and the United States makes it more exciting to
breed for the polled gene. After 30 some years, it is still exciting
to get a polled calf. It is challenging to breed better
polled genetics. The interest in polled and red genetics is growing
every day. Polled is an improvement to the breed
one that you can see, feel and enjoy.

Schmidtknecht: The chance to breed an all polled herd

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