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Volume 19 Issue 1

January 2018

Eliminate Data Entry of Pregnancy Results

Oh Yes We Can! Mark Adam, General Manager


017 seemed a bit like a marathon… and we know the finish line is still out of sight. That said, I am grateful for the steady endurance of NorthStar’s team who strive to be a strong support system for your farm as we told 2017 ‘oh yes we can,’ and run into 2018. It comes as no surprise to you that 2017 was challenging, however still rewarding for your Cooperative. Along with being sensitive to the continued, depressed on-farm markets you are facing, NorthStar was tested with unbudgeted rising supplier costs and an unplanned, yet welcomed, partnership with Accelerated Genetics. Keeping our mission of “enhancing producer profitability through integrated services” at the forefront of our decisions this past year is the reason we believe you chose to use more of NorthStar’s products and services than in years past. As belt tightening continued, more people took advantage of the convenience and affordability of diagnostic testing through NorthStar, and as such this area reached a new record of over $1.8 million. The value of the data provided for your farm through DHI continues to be increasingly important and providing that service grew to more than 1,300 herds, representing more than 502,000 cow. No doubt the genetics NorthStar

delivers to your farm are among the best, and you thought so too as evidenced by purchases exceeding 1.2 million units of semen, a new record for the Cooperative. Even with all the unplanned factors, your growing interest in NorthStar’s value-added products and services allowed the Cooperative to reach a new record sales level. As a result, the board of directors declared a patronage dividend to Common Stockowners for the 17th consecutive year. Thirty-five percent of the patronage will be paid in cash to Common Stockowners in February. The balance, which is used for strategic investments to support future growth at NorthStar is credited to Stockowners as allocated retained patronage which is converted to Class A Preferred Stock after 8 years. While your decision to work with NorthStar is certainly a major factor in our success, so is the persistence of our 300 employees who strive to exceed your expectations. As we begin the New Year I am thankful for you, our employees and the board of directors, who collectively push NorthStar to embrace all of life’s marathons with courage and perseverance. From our team to yours, we wish you a safe and prosperous 2018.

Test results from milk or blood pregnancy samples processed through NorthStar's Laboratories can now be downloaded directly into PCDART. This new service eliminates data entry at the farm and keeps data current and accurate on all reports and devices. To get started, log onto with your herd code and remote access code (RAC). Then click on your herd code to go to your profile page. Click on Notifications, then Add Email Address to enter your email address. Check the Lab Preg Results Box and click Save. Once these steps are completed, pregnancy results will be automatically downloaded into PCDART after your next DHI test day showing Pregnant, Open or Recheck. If a cow was already marked as Pregnant and the result is also Pregnant, the cow will be marked Verified. Need help or want more information talk with your NorthStar DHI Specialist.

Eric Flory

Phil, Steve, Kevin and Matt Gross

Progressive Dairy Producer


s third-generation dairy producers, Steve and Phil Gross have played a large role in the evolution of their family’s 140-cow registered Holstein herd. Over the past five years, the Weidman, Michigan dairy built a double 10 parlor, expanded their herd by 38 cows, switched to three times-a-day milking and increased their Rolling Herd Average (RHA) by over 8,150 pounds of milk. Hard work and the support of their large family has helped make these advancements possible, but above all, Gross believes a humble demeanor is what builds a successful business. “A long time ago, a friend said something that really stuck with me and ultimately affects the management decisions we make for our dairy,” explained Gross. “Know what you don’t know.” Today, with that mentality leading the way, Gross Farms is being awarded the NorthStar Progressive Dairy Producer of the Year Award for their consistent production improvements. Established in 1975, the Progressive Dairy Producer of the Year Award recognizes the herd that has shown the greatest total increase in dollar value over the past five years. “We’re very honored to receive

this award and are excited about the advancements we’ve made throughout the past five years,” stated Gross. “One change that has positively affected our herd is switching to custom harvesting. After talking to our neighbors and nutritionist, we realized we were wasting a lot of time and efficiencies by doing all of the forage harvesting ourselves.” By hiring a custom harvesting team, the dairy is able to cut down on equipment and labor costs as well as improve their forage quality. “Since switching to custom harvesting, our feed quality has increased dramatically, which is crucial for our herd – quality feed means healthy cows and healthy cows produce well,” explained Gross. “In the past it would take us more than five days to get our crops from the field to the bunker. Our custom harvester is able to get our crops from the field to the bunks and covered in two days! Not only are we saving money on equipment maintenance and updates, but we’re able to reallocate labor, which has allowed us to switch to three-times-a-day milking.” “Now, we can also focus more labor on cow comfort,” claimed Gross. “We replace our sand beds two times a week as well as level the sand and scrape the


Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.

barns two times a day to make sure our animals are relaxed and comfortable. Ensuring that our cows are never hungry is also very important for both comfort and production. We feed fresh forage three-times-a-day and our animals eat from a double-sided bunk, which means they don’t have to stretch to reach their food and we don’t need to worry about pushing up the feed.” Following the standard of top quality, the Gross’ herd is also held to high standards when it comes to record keeping and lactation performance. Using NorthStar’s DHI Services since 1958, the dairy utilizes their monthly data to help guide herd management decisions. “We’ve been DHI testing as far back as I can remember,” laughed Gross. “The fact the we’ve been using this service so long and we still rely on it today, is a true testament to how valuable it is to our herd’s success!” “The first thing I look at when we receive our DHI data is SCC,” Gross explained. “If an animal reports a high SCC, we make sure any cases of mastitis are treated and give her time to heal. If she’s flagged as a high SCC cow the next month, then it’s time for her to leave our farm.”

“We also use our DHI data to really analyze individual animals. If we’re having trouble getting a cow bred, I’ll look at her history in PCDART to see how she’s producing, if she has been reported as a high SCC animal and how many days she spends open in a regular cycle. Once I take all of that information into account, it’s much easier to make a decision about her future. In all, our DHI information really helps us see each individual cow – something we wouldn’t be able to comprehend without our monthly data updates.” The dairy also depends on their NorthStar team for quality herd genetics. “We enlist both our NorthStar Sales Representative and Genetic Consultant when making sire decisions. Our field representatives are extremely important to our reproduction program and we really value their opinions,” Gross noted. “I typically look at bulls that I know are going to make a stylish, functional cow who have solid pedigrees, then I ask Lynnae [Dick, NorthStar Sales Representative] or Moss [McCauley,

NorthStar Genetic Consultant] if they’ve seen any daughters out of these bulls and what they look like.” “Of course, sire selection is much easier thanks to Moss and Steve [Reed, NorthStar Team Leader] who mated our herd for over 10 years,” claimed Gross. “We use the information from our SMS evaluations to help us select sires that will ultimately improve the quality of our future herd. Our evaluations also free up a lot of time in my day that I used to spend studying pedigrees – which is a big plus.” Though the Grosses have made award-winning herd improvements over the past five years, they are not ready to slow down, but rather look to the future for further opportunities. “We’re excited to install the CowManager® herd health monitoring system in November,” exclaimed Gross. “There are so many things that happen in the barn when we’re somewhere else on the farm, and this system will really give us insight on how to improve our herd even more. Installing a system like CowManager has been a long time coming!”

The fact that we’ve been using this service so long and we still rely on it today, is a true testament to how valuable it is to our herd’s success!

Knowing what they don’t know has helped Gross Farms improve almost every aspect of their dairy through a little investigation and a lot of friendly help from their neighbors and NorthStar team. “We’re thankful for the decisions my dad made when he ran the farm, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for our family dairy,” said Gross. Gross Farms was established in 1926 and is operated by brothers Steve and Phil Gross along with Steve’s son Matt and nephew Kevin Gross.

In the Cow Lots

NorthStar’s Genetic Consultants mate more than 580,000 cows a year and often come across groups of daughters of bulls they really like. DAVINICI and BAYONET are two sires that recently caught the attention of NorthStar Genetic Consultants, Krista Luedtke and Jessica Jakubik. 7HO12014 DAVINICI's daughters are really good cows. They have amazing udders, are very balanced with no real flaws and are average size with enough width and capacity to develop into really good old cows. In my opinion he is probably MOGUL’s best son. Spreadsheets and papers only tell part of the story on this bull, and don’t really show the true quality his daughters have. Initially, I think people missed this bull, but as word spreads about his consistent siring pattern and the tremendous udders they are discovering him.

Krista Luedtke Genetic Consultant

I have been very impressed by the daughters of new graduate 7HO12236 BAYONET I’ve seen fresh at several large dairies. They are open-ribbed with moderately sized, balanced dairy frames. Their udders are well attached with especially high rear udders. He also adds some set to the leg, making him a good cross on daughters of the many popular MOGUL sons available today. BAYONET is Select Sires’ highest sire for Livability at +4.9, in addition to +3.7 Daughter Pregnancy Rate and +1.4 Sire Conception Rate scores, making him an all-around fertility star!



Jessica Jakubik Genetic Consultant

Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.


Proof that Genetics are Worth the Investment Dam of 7HO14046 TOTALLY

Welcome Kingboy Tatiana-ET (VG-87)

Elite DWP$ Proven & Young Sires DWP$




Dtr of 7HO12357 PENLEY







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A healthier herd is just a breeding away with the Dairy Wellness Profit Index™ (DWP$™). Ask your NorthStar Rep for a complete list of DWP$ Specialists!

Part 2

In the last issue we explored how Productive Life (PL), Somatic Cell Score (SCS), Livability (LIV) and Daughter Still Birth (DSB) impact your herd’s bottom line. In this issue we will again combine dairy management data (PCDART, DairyComp) or genomic test results with a program developed by Select Sires to take a closer look at production and health traits, and how to measure their impact in your herd.

Bottom Line

S-S-I Penley Yoko 9786-ET (VG-85)

Dam of 14HO13738 EUREKA

NorthStar has the ability to provide insights on how genetics are working in your herd. If you would like to see this information for your herd please ask, the NorthStar team is here to help. Like the previous article, these examples show how we are now able to quantify the impact of genetics in your herd. While reducing your semen budget may seem like a good way to save a few dollars today, in the end you can see how it will cost you.

Oconnors Lucid Exactly (VG-87)

DWP$ Relative Value (%) Julie Ainsworth, Coordinator Dairy Production Analysis PAS Contact Julie at:

CDCB/HA Genomic Evaluation 12/17. Visit and for complete data including reliabilities. ®TPI is a registered trademark of Holstein Association USA. DWP$ are trademarks of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors All gender SELECTed semen is processed using SexedULTRA technology. ™SexedULTRA and SexedULTRA 4M are trademarks of Inguran LLC. gender SELECTed semen is a trademark of Select Sires Inc..


Pedigree Index Milk Production

The graph clearly shows the difference in production when PTAM is considered. In this example the difference between the top and bottom quartiles represents 1,500+ more pounds of milk per cow on a mature equivalent basis. Milk production is an important selection tool, so even when selecting “clean-up sires” don’t overlook the importance of PTAM and how it contributes to your bottom line.

Pedigree Index Milk by Quartile 305 ME Milk Production (Lac ≥1 with Sire ID & 305ME) n=241



305 ME Milk Production

Although herds can almost always measure milk production on individual cows it is more difficult to quantify by sire pedigree. Using data from PCDART the graph breaks cows into four quartiles based on different sire PTA Milk (PTAM) levels. The bottom quartile represents cows sired by bulls that were less than 120.25 PTAM, while the top quartile represents cows sired by bulls that were greater than 760.75 PTAM. The bars show actual production for cows in that quartile.




iff ilk d

op mt




to b


Bottom 25% <120.25

Q2 <418.75

Q3 >418.75

Top 25% >760.75

Pedigree Index Milk

Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) Can you breed for fertility? Even though it is generally considered a lowly heritable trait I have seen it make a difference many times in pregnancy rate. DPR indicates the pregnancy rate difference expected in lactating daughters of a bull, and a higher value is better. By using data from DairyComp (also available in PCDART), let’s take a look at the difference in Pregnancy Rate and Average Days Open when a herd is segmented into quartiles for DPR.

Average DPR


Pregnancy Rate

Average Days Open









+0.4 487 25 As you can see the more positive the DPR Average of the group, the higher the +1.4 474 28 Pregnancy Rate and the lower Days Open. There is a difference of 16 Days Open between the low DPR group and the high group. Applying information from research done by Victor Cabrera the economic difference between the top and bottom pregnancy rates in this example would be $63 per cow per year.

128 113

Cow Conception Rate (CCR) Cow Conception Rate evaluates a lactating daughter’s ability to conceive when bred. Expressed in conception rate percentage points, the higher the value, the better. I have seen CCR influence fertility on farms. The following chart uses sire pedigree information that can be obtained from DairyComp and shows the differences in Conception Rate, Services per Conception and Average Days Open for the groups defined.

Average CCR


Overall Conception Rate

Services per Conception Rate

Average Days Open
















Like DPR, this example shows that the group with the lowest CCR +1.9 486 45 2.2 108 has the least desirable performance. The highest CCR quartile has the lowest services per conception and fewer days open. Not only is the cost of extra Days Open a consideration, but consider the need for additional semen and synchronization therapy with a lower conception rate. In this herd the 394 cows with 2.7 services per conception will require 197 more units of semen to get pregnant than if they were in the top quartile at 2.2 services per conception. When you use $20/unit semen, it adds up quickly, but the cost is even greater when factoring in labor and extra days open.

Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.


Debra & Kevin Kirsch


Earning a Spot in the 30/30 Club Kailey Watson

nly a few years ago, a herd average of 30,000 pounds of milk partnered with a 30 percent pregnancy rate was merely a pipe dream. Today, more dairy producers hold a coveted spot in the once mythical “30/30 Club.” How are producers making this pipe dream a reality? According to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin producers Kevin and Debra Kirsch, there are three keys that helped them achieve these levels. “Our herd is successful because of the decisions we make in terms of breeding, culling and cow comfort,” explained Debra Kirsch. At Devin Acres, a 230-cow Holstein herd, heat detection is placed in the trustworthy hands of their CowManager® herd monitoring system. “We’ve seen a great increase in our heat detection percentage since installing CowManager in 2015,” said Kirsch. “With the system’s fertility module, we can track animals’ behavior and rumination which allows us to catch cows in heat even if they aren’t showing the tell-tale visual signs.” “We’ve always been interested in genetics and choosing high end bulls, but CowManager has really given us piece-of-mind when purchasing more expensive genetics because we are confident that we’ll catch our cows in heat and Kevin and Scott [Woepse,

NorthStar Reproductive Specialist] will get them pregnant,” Kirsch added. “This has saved us money on semen that may have been wasted on multiple breedings in the past.” The Kirsch's interest in genetics has evolved into a firm checklist which analyzes the dairy’s potential sires before a final selection is made. “When selecting sires, we first look at udder composite and feet and legs,” stated Kirsch. “As a rule, if a sire scores lower than two points on udder composite, we move to another option. If a cow doesn’t have a youthful udder and feet and legs, she won’t be a reliable or maintainable animal. We can’t have cows struggling to get in and out of the parlor. Then, we look at type and strength to make sure we’re creating an overall sound animal.” “Of course, our sire selection is made much easier with the help of Bob [Sabo, NorthStar Genetic Consultant],” noted Kirsch. “Bob knows our cows and knows the Select Sires’ bull lineup really well. The mating program he provides helps us tremendously because we don’t need to worry about inbreeding or looking through pedigrees. We just look through his selections and choose the bulls we think will make the best cows.” Devin Acres’ theme of ‘high


Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.

standards’ doesn’t end after breeding or reproductive decisions. With the dairy’s success in internally growing their herd, the Kirsches don’t hesitate to make a change when a cow is no longer contributing to the bottom line. “We get rid of any cows that are no longer living up to our expectations,” stated Kirsch. “We’re strict on our culling protocols we cull all high SCC cows and anyone who comes back with an untreatable mastitis culture. Our protocol is to treat once or twice, and if the animal shows no improvement we know it’s time for her to leave the farm. We also remove our older cows that aren’t producing as much milk as expected during later lactations.” In order for their herd to produce at a 30,000 pound level, the Kirsches know cow comfort has to be a top priority. “We replace sand bedding one or two times a week which ensures cleanliness and cow comfort,” said Kirsch. “We also make sure they aren’t struggling to reach their feed. Keeping feed pushed up is something so simple, but I think it’s often overlooked in cow comfort protocols. Bellowing is something we rarely hear on our farm and it’s largely due to keeping feed pushed up and making sure waterers are clean.” “CowManager also plays a part in our herd’s cow comfort,” claimed Kirsch.

We’ve seen a great increase in heat detection since installing CowManager!

"CowManager's health module has been a life saver for us. The accuracy has helped us increase our bottom line by picking up sick cows before milk weights begin to drop and has decreased our death rate. CowManager makes herd health checks effortless. Walking the pens twice a day to check for visual signs of illness just isn't necessary anymore." ~ Bob Schindler, North Road Farm, Colfax, Wissconsin

“Many times a cow in heat is disruptive to her herd mates. By tracking animal behavior on the activity graph, we’re able to see which animals are causing trouble or discomfort, and separate them from the herd for a short time.” With continuous advancements in genetics and reproduction and furthered knowledge about dairy herd management, snagging a coveted spot in the 30/30 club is becoming more attainable for today’s dairy producers. According to Kirsch, investing time and resources into genetics, reproduction, culling and cow comfort is what has earned Devin Acres their much-deserved spot. “You have to make some tough decisions and stick to them,” explained Kirsch. “If that’s your mindset, the outcome will be rewarding.”

Ask your NorthStar Specialist for more information or call 800.631.3510. ®CowManager is a registered trademark of Agis Automatisering.

Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.



Presorted Standard Class U.S. Postage PAID Lansing, MI Permit #505 P.O. Box 23157, Lansing, MI 48909-3157 800.631.3510 • Return Service Requested

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Talk to your DHI Specialist or call 800.631.3510 to learn more. gender SELECTed is a trademark of Select Sires Inc. SexedULTRA is a trademark of Inguran LLC. All gender SELECTed semen is processed using Sexed ULTRA technology. Limitations and Conditions of Sale: gender SELECTed semen shall be used only for the single insemination of one female bovine during natural ovulation with the intent to produce single offspring unless specifically approved on an individual customer basis by Sexing Technologies in writing. As a condition of purchasing gender SELECTed semen, the purchaser agrees that gender SELECTed semen will not be reverse sorted or re-sorted unless specifically permitted, in advance, on a case-by-case basis by Select Sires in writing. Select Sires intends to monitor the use of the gender SELECTed semen and vigorously enforce these restrictions on use. Please see designations/genderselected.html for additional details. NorthStar Cooperative, its agents or employees cannot and do not guarantee the conception rate, gender, quality or productivity to be obtained in connection with the use of its products, recommended techniques or services. WE MAKE NO WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, WHICH EXTEND BEYOND THE DESCRIPTION OF ITS PRODUCTS OR SERVICES AND HEREBY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. In the unlikely event that any of our products or services shall be proven to be defective, damages resulting from their use shall exclude consequential damages and be limited to their purchase price.

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The Point - January 2018  
The Point - January 2018