What could be better than picture-perfect weather, a visit to one of Wisconsin””””s premier Norwegian towns (which is important to Scandinavians!!) and a day spent with the top journalists of the industry…all hosted by an extremely fun and hospitable group of A.I. people? Not much! This time last week, I was enjoying just such a day when Accelerated Genetics opened their doors for a special media tour. The group of journalists were treated to an opening reception at the Main Production Facility in Westby, WI, site, with opening remarks made by Roger Ripley, President and CEO of Accelerated Genetics.
Some brief history for you — Accelerated Genetics was formed in March 1941 as Tri-State Breeders, a cooperative offering high quality genetics and choices for dairy producers. The membership area covers Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and parts of northern Illinois, and includes a group of dynamic producers that are very involved in the evolution of product development at Accelerated Genetics. The last three years of business have been the best in history, with a 10% increase in sales last year over the previous year (37.6 million). This year is right on target to exceed those figures and Ripley credits three main reasons for their growth 1. they are at their highest genetic levels ever, giving their sales reps a great lineup to work with; 2. innovative technologies stressing fertility first are now available; 3. PEOPLE!
The Accelerated Genetics team then gave us a tour of their West Farm Production Facility, which is just west of town and is the site of where the most recent facilities have been built. The Main Facility continues to be in use for bull housing and collection. The West Farm Facility houses the largest EU qualified population of bulls in the US and is also home to the largest collection facility in the country. Roger Hanson, Vice President of Farm & Barn Operations explained that there are 750 bulls housed on three different farms on Accelerated Genetics 750 acres. They raise all their own feed and the biggest management issue they face is nutrition, ensuring proper weight management of the bulls. Young bulls are brought into the facility early (3-5 mos.), so that Accelerated Genetics personnel can properly manage nutrition from an early age. Currently they are sampling 150 Holstein and 25-30 protein breed bulls a year.
Hanson also let us see the collection area from a special viewing window, explaining that they collect five days a week, starting at 6:30 in the morning. Each bull is collected three times a week, and while we were there, Walhowdon Marshall Harry-ET, an EX-93 BW Marshall son, was in the collection ring. Bulls stand on a lime/shavings mix during collection, not rubber matting. They average 70 bulls/day in the collection arena, with 35 people working in the barns, 7 people processing semen and 5 people in the semen distribution center. A brand new 10,000-sq. foot semen distribution center and new EU semen processing laboratory are adjacent to the collection facility, the Accel Inn bull barn and the Palace bull barn, and they are spotlessly clean, right down the windows and doorways!
Probably the biggest news coming from Accelerated Genetics these days is the introduction of two new technologies — Affirm™ and Bovatel™.
AFFIRM™is an innovative new technology that enhances the fertility of semen to improve conception rates in both cows and heifers. Affirm semen uses the same breeding protocols as conventional semen and is available on virtually all Accelerated Genetics bulls. This semen lives longer than conventional semen and that means an average of 6% more conceptions (based on field trial data).
BOVATEL™ is gender-bias semen that will yield more heifer calves without compromising fertility. Research has shown that Bovatel provides an additional 10 heifer calves for every 100 pregnancies. Bovatel is the only product of its kind that uses a gender-bias processing procedure which is proprietary to and available exclusively from Accelerated Genetics. Other sexed semen technologies have lower fertility because of their processing, while Bovatel””””s processing procedure does not lower fertility. The key advantages of Bovatel is it can be used on both cows and heifers, requires no special equipment or handling and is available on virtually all proven sires in the lineup and is now also available on PACE young sires.
Accelerated Genetics sales representatives carry both conventional (014 stud code) and Bovatel (514 stud code) semen.
Plans for the future
Accelerated Genetics is continuing to build barns at their West Farm site, with a specialty bull barn in progress for both dairy and beef sires. It will will contain 24 stalls with some having outside runs for their beef bulls. And another barn is almost completed that will house 54 bulls individually and this new barn along with 2 other similarly built barns will all be qualified for EU status, adding another 150 bulls to their already large population EU qualified sires.
One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to downtown Baraboo and dinner with my good friends Joe & Kari Stanek and their daughter Sykora. Joe & Kari both work at Accelerated Genetics (Joe is in charge of the Accelerated Genetics GEMpc mating program and also covers south central Wisconsin as a Herd Analyst while Kari is the Communications & Public Relations Coordinator with numerous responsibilities that include being Young Producer Program leader). We had a great dinner while Joe shared some fun cultural experiences he””””s had while mating cows for Accelerated Genetics in Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico to name just a few places! We also went to the opening night of the Sauk County Fair and I got to attend one of my favorite summertime events — the tractor pull! They pulled conventional tractors, modified tractors and even semi trucks!
The next day I spent riding with Joe as he visited several herds on the Accelerated Genetics GEMpc Mating Program. There are some herds he visits four times a year (usually the larger 1,000+ cow dairies) and others that he goes to just once a year, depending on producer preferences. One of our stops was to a 100-cow Holstein & Jersey organic dairy. There was quite an improvement in the younger 2-year-olds in the herd that were a result of the mating program, and the producer was more than a little excited about the visual progress he was seeing. We hopped in his gator and took off for the pastures to evaluate cows. I haven””””t laughed (or bounced) that hard in a long time. This was the first time I had been to an organic farm, and was interested to hear how this producer felt about the marketing of organic versus conventional milk. It was refreshing to hear him say that he wished there wasn””””t so much competition between the two. He feels that misleading labeling has confused most consumers to believe that there””””s a huge difference between the two types of milk. His hope is that both “sides” can come together to market milk in a unified effort — making it better for all producers involved.
Joe said he enjoys working with the GEMpc mating program for the sole reason of seeing improvements in his customers”””” herds. “The program is so flexible that it can really meet every producers”””” needs and it interfaces with all farm software.” Any bull that””””s had a USDA proof and/or has been frozen/sold in the U.S. is available to use on the program, and all studs are included, even some herd bulls.
We went to a few more stops that day, listening to what producers biggest concerns were and what results they””””ve been happy with and walking through numerous cows to inspect and evaluate them. We went to large dairies, smaller dairies, farms that dock tails, farms that use pasture and farms that don””””t…you name it and we saw it…even some of the original “Big Ass” fans that truly were just that! It is impressive to see how uniform and consistent the resulting generations of cows are and it””””s always a good reminder to see how varied and diverse the industry is.
For more information on any bulls, products or services offered by Accelerated Genetics, please visit their website at www.accelgen.com. There, you””””ll find special sections on Affirm and Bovatel as well. And if you get a chance to stop by Westby, WI, be sure stop for lunch at the Westby House Bed & Breakfast in town…you””””ll eat some of the best desserts in the world!