St Jacobs breaks into the commercial market with a leading new line of sires

Brian Behnke, Business Manager, St Jacobs ABC launched Linear Choice sires at IDW 2023. This new line of St Jacobs sires prioritises function, balance and health and delivers the right-hand linear customers are seeking.

St Jacobs is entering the commercial market with a new category of sires for farmers under the name Linear Choice. This new line of St Jacobs sires prioritizing function, balance, and health has been available in Japan and France since May and will become available to more countries over the coming months through the ABS Global channels.

Linear Choice Sires are delivering the right-hand linear customers are seeking, and every month the St Jacobs Manager Brian Behnke looks for suitable sires in the lists of newly tested genomic bulls.

Bulls in the Linear Choice lineup must meet seventeen strict criteria established by Behnke. “Meeting all seventeen criteria is extremely difficult,” he says.

Some of the strict criteria include factors such as:
• >600 lb milk, positive components
• over 40 pounds of protein
• between +0.4 and +2.0 stature
• <2.9 somatic cell count
• no haplotypes
• no major health problems
• good daughter fertility

Behnke says it can be difficult to find bulls that meet the strict criteria. “At the beginning of 2020, when we established the seventeen criteria, only 23 available bulls in the industry met them… developing bulls that meet all the criteria is a huge challenge.”

Behnke has been buying bulls that fit the criteria for 18 months. “Our goal is to create a global supply, consisting of 25 available bulls,” Behnke stated.

“The ABS business was missing a key segment – bulls that were roughly a point to a point and a half on PTAT and udder. But I didn’t just want that type, I wanted complete cows that worked hard, were healthy and functional, making cows that will work and last,” Behnke added.

Marcus Rees from ABS Australia says Behnke’s Linear Choice Sires have created great interest among his main accounts. “With their faultless type profile, positive health, and production traits. I can confidently put the Linear Choice Sires in front of any client I have.”

Demand for the new line of sires has exceeded expectations, even before the global release. When it was still being designed, projections were 100,000 conventional units and more than 30,000 SexcelÒ (sexed) units. Since then, projected demand has grown to 300,000 conventional units and 200,000 units of Sexcel.

When discussing why he believes Linear Choice is a good option for commercial farmers, Behnke said, “dairy farmers all over the world are clamoring for powerful and well-built Holsteins.”

“I believe this product line fits what dairymen are looking for, balanced cows that are not too big or too small, that mature and develop and make a dairyman’s life easier by requiring less attention. This product line fits all markets and management styles: grazing herds to tie-stall herds have been asking for Linear Choice Sires.”

Behnke believes that dairy cows must be “built sustainably year after year, have a strong and workable udder, and be able to walk smoothly.” These traits are included in the strict criteria alongside correct leg position, rump structure, and teat length.

He said another benefit of the line is it’s a good move toward more sustainable dairy farming. “Making cows that don’t take themselves from the herd leads to older cows in the herd that produce more milk per stall and fewer heifers that need raising, all leading to a more sustainable dairy.”

Though in its early days, the program is already showing success. Behnke was pleased to report that out of the first embryos specially purchased for Linear Choice, two bulls immediately met all seventeen criteria.

The genomic breeding values paired with Behnke’s extensive knowledge of cow families and bull combinations means commercial dairy farmers can be confident they will have a well-built, productive, and healthy dairy cow by using Linear Choice.

“Sales are just getting started, but the response has been phenomenal! Country managers have been asking for it, which means the salespeople want it because their clients are asking for it,” Behnke said.