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Specht Report continues to Identify Top Bulls, Herds and Cows in the AI Industry

Posted: December 15, 2009

See the Specht Report at http://dasweb.psu.edu/bullrank.

Ranking the top sires of AI sons and the top herds contributing sons to the AI industry was begun by Dr. Larry Specht in the mid-1970s. His rankings were published in Holstein World after each USDA genetic evaluation and received a lot of recognition. In fact, Dr. Specht was named a Pioneer Award Winner in 2008 by the National Dairy Shrine partly because of the report’s popularity.

The Sire-Son report ranks a bull based on the average of his son’s predicted transmitting ability (PTA) for certain traits. The report has long been a valuable educational tool to demonstrate that the bulls with the best daughters are generally those with the best sons. Thought of another way, bulls with the best daughters are also those that are likely to have the best granddaughters. This seems quite logical to us now, thanks in large part to Dr. Specht’s work, but hasn’t always been thought to be the case. There are occasionally those bulls that do not fit the mold and his lists help to identify them.

The Prefix reports are based on a similar concept. A bull’s registration name most often begins with the prefix of the farm that bred him. This allows us to summarize the performance of a herd’s bulls that have gone to stud. The report has been a valuable tool for buyers of elite genetic stock. It helps them determine those herds that provide them with the best odds of purchasing a bull or cow that will go on to have outstanding genetic merit.

While no longer published in the Holstein World, Dr. Specht’s reports live on at the Department of Dairy and Animal Science website (dasweb.psu.edu/bullrank/). A recent addition is the Bull-Mother report. The report is identical to the Sire-Son report, except that it tracks how well a cow’s sons perform once they enter stud.

All three reports (Sire-Son, Prefix, Bull-Mother) allow you to rank bulls for a variety of traits. You can see how many sons have entered AI during the past 25 years, the age of those sons, the Lifetime Net Merit $ (LNM$) of the bull and his sons, average son PTA for yield (milk, fat, and protein), average son PTA for type, and average son PTA for health traits (productive life, daughter pregnancy rate, and somatic cell score). Only sires and herds with at least 20 sons in AI during the past 25 years are considered. Cows are required to have 10 sons to be listed.

The influence of Pennsylvania herds in our national genetic improvement programs is obvious. Two of the top five herds for the number of sons in AI come from PA, with RICECREST at 204, and WA-DEL at 147. Pennsylvania’s influence is strong on the Bull-Mother report with three of the top five cows for LNM$ originating here. The top cow is PEN-COL MTOTO DIMA-ET, who was bred by the family of our former Secretary of Agriculture, Dennis Wolff. Third on the list is RICECREST DUSTER DEANNE-ET, and HIDDEN-VIEW FABERGE-ET ranks fifth. RICECREST is second-to-none when it comes to PTA for protein, with 3 of the top 4 bulls. Over the border in Maryland, WINDSOR-MANOR leads the way for health traits like productive life and daughter pregnancy rate.

Genomic selection has added a new wrinkle to genetic selection programs. Currently, only bulls with a progeny test are considered for the lists. However, plans are underway to expand the list to include bulls with genomic information only.

The success of genetic selection programs in the US has been exceptional. Mature milk yield of the average Holstein cow has increased nearly 12,000 pounds in the last 40 years, and 60% of that change is due to genetic selection! The type of traits we select for have shifted in emphasis and expanded over the last few years, and the need to identify and rank those bulls and families that excel has not changed. The Specht Report will continue to be a valuable tool in identifying elite cows, bulls, and breeders.

Chad Dechow, Associate Professor of Dairy Cattle Genetics, Department of Dairy and Animal Science