AGA and HAUSA conduct first training workshop
The American Guernsey Association (AGA) and Holstein Association USA (HAUSA) held their first training workshop on December 21, 2017 at the Hoard’s Dairyman Farm in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Attendees enjoyed a brisk day on the farm with incredibly productive and collaborative discussion, not only in the classroom but cow-side.
Representatives from AGA and HAUSA attended the session at Hoard's Dairyman Farm.
Both associations were well represented with staff and volunteers. The AGA was represented by Program Manger Robin Alden and Field Manager Cara Trotter, as well as volunteers Brandon Grewe (AGA Type Committee), Neil Jensen (AGA Genetic Improvement Committee) and Jason Yurs (manager, Hoard’s Dairyman Farm and AGA Genetic Improvement Committee chair). Jim Meyer served double duty as both a HAUSA classifier and Guernsey breeder. Other HAUSA classifiers present included head classifier Cy Letter, Brad Heinzmann, Dan Cnossen, Maureen Debruin and Willis Gunst. HAUSA staff included John Meyer, CEO, Lindsey Worden, Executive Director of Holstein Genetic Services and Amy Fletcher, Classification Manager.
The morning began with a special welcome from the Managing Editor of Hoard’s Dairyman Magazine, and Vice President of HAUSA, Cory Geiger. Following this welcome, Cy Letter, head classifier of HAUSA, led a thorough two-hour discussion of the AGA classification rules, including the linear evaluation standards, rules pertaining to required cows, permanent scores and maximum scores. The goals of the AGA were also discussed, including moderating our final score average, and spreading out our linear traits to ensure that Guernsey genetic information is accurate and linears are a true representation of each cow.
The lovely ladies of Hoard's Dairyman Farm served as models for the workshop.
During the discussion of linear traits, Letter pointed out that the majority of the linear definitions are the same for what HAUSA classifiers are used to. However, there are slight adjustments, and the group took the time to give more precise definitions to these traits to ensure that the HAUSA classifiers appraise Guernseys according to the breed’s goal for a more modern, moderate-sized cow. The main differences in linears include accounting for shorter stature, slightly smaller rump width, and a slightly longer teat.
Another topic brought up in the morning classroom discussion was the introduction of new traits for the Guernsey breed. The new primary trait Rear Teat Placement is being added alongside to the preexisting Front Teat Placement. Thurl Width will also be adjusted to the more general Rump Width. New breakdowns will be added, giving a more thorough description to each cow. New research and secondary traits are also added. For more information on new traits, see the February 2018 issue of the Guernsey Breeders' Journal.
After much discussion, Letter and CEO John Meyer emphasized that the HAUSA classifiers will be trained to score the Guernsey cow with the breed’s goals in mind. HAUSA classifiers are trained to be objective, and the ideal cow put forth by the AGA will be the guiding standard.
HAUSA Head Classifier Cy Letter makes his assessment of a first-lactation Lakoda daughter.
The workshop then moved to the freestalls, where Hoard’s Dairyman manager Jason Yurs and his excellent crew had a diverse group of cattle ready to be assessed and discussed. The cattle were pre-loaded into the classifiers’ handhelds, along with their freshening and lactation information, and any previous score. Prior to any discussion, each classifier broke the cow down into their own handheld, assigning linear scores as well as breakdowns, and generating a Final Score. The classifiers then took turns reading their assessments and discussing any discrepancies amongst themselves. AGA volunteers and staff were frequently consulted for their opinions on linears as well as breakdowns and final scores. A tape measure was often used for quality control, and linears discussed down to a one-point spread. “The thing that impressed me the most about the day was the consistency amongst the six after a couple hours of classroom time,” commented Yurs.
AGA Type Committee representative Brandon Grewe and HAUSA classifier Brad Heinzmann discuss Rear Udder Width while classifiers Dan Cnossen, Jim Meyer and Cy Letter observe.
Eleven cows that were mainly in their first lactation were assessed, but a handful of older cows were also brought in to make a well-rounded discussion. Letter, along with Yurs, Brandon Grewe and Neil Jensen put together a great variety of animals that provided a spread of linears from top to bottom.
After several hours of cow-side discussion, the group moved back into the classroom to answer any further questions and discuss the next steps in training. The next planned training session will be held during the annual HAUSA Classifier Conference in Spring 2018. HAUSA will add an extra day to the conference to ensure that their 17 classifiers are all well trained in assessing Guernsey cattle. Prior to this conference, the six classifiers that attended the Hoard’s Dairyman session will be the only ones appraising Guernsey cattle.
The AGA and HAUSA are both very excited to begin this new journey in breed cooperation. In February 2018, a handful of herds will be run as a pilot group, and in March, the full program will roll out. To see when your herd will be scoring next, visit the calendar at usguernsey.com or contact the AGA.
The group discusses a Copper daughter that garnered admiration from Holstein and Guernsey representatives alike.
Photos by Cara Trotter for Purebred Publishing