Dairy producers can now select for cows genetically designed to thrive in commercial dairy environments.

Coffeen peggy
Coffeen is a former editor and podcast host with Progressive Dairy. 

The Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC) Index made its debut with the August 2014 sire summary. Angie D. Coburn, associate vice president, dairy genetics, Genex Cooperative Inc./CRI, discusses how producers can use this new sire ranking tool to choose bulls with the best traits for feed efficiency, health, fertility, conformation and calving.

Q: What is the web address?
At the Genex website, find the online dairy sire catalog that includes the ICC Index on the company’s bulls. Through the site’s search function, you can also find the ICC Index for any active A.I. bull.

Also, find more details on the ICC Index by reviewing this document about its unique subindexes. (PDF, 430 KB)

Q: What is it?


COBURN: The Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC) Index is a new genetic ranking for Holstein bulls, based not only on Genex bulls, but all bulls with information publicly available in the United States. It’s a selection index that incorporates many different traits into one number.

ICC is one value, but it is the summation of five subindexes that address different management areas on the farm: production efficiency, fertility and fitness, health, milking ability and calving ability. That number is used to rank bulls comparing their genetic value against each other.

Q: Why was it developed?

COBURN: The initiative is in response to grassroots feedback from producers looking for better ways to rank sires based on the desire to select genetics that excel in commercial environments. We use real-time economic indicators, which are important in this day and age with faster business cycles, volatility in commodity pricing and the speed at which genomics has changed the rate of genetic progress.

A selection index needs to be responsive to all of these factors and constructed with sound scientific elements. Our goal is to put together a selection index for profitability and efficiency in commercial conditions.

How you construct the index will drive the genetic progress you can achieve by using that index in progressive dairy management systems.

Q: Who should use it?

COBURN: Progressive dairy producers looking to make genetic progress in their herd. As we visit with producers and look at the areas of management we can impact with genetics, that’s how the ICC is categorized. The producer can select bulls solely on ICC, or they can use subindexes to narrow the focus to areas where they want to place higher priority.

Q: Is there a cost to use it?

COBURN: There is no cost to use it. We are providing information to enable producers to make the best decisions for their operations. We also have a team of people that can provide advice, greater information about ICC and the subindexes and how to incorporate them on the farm.

Q: What are some unique features?

COBURN: ICC incorporates elements from outside of the U.S. national evaluation. Because of the way genomic information is shared with other countries, we are able to take traits used in other countries and incorporate them into the ICC.

For example, body condition score (BCS) is a trait that is evaluated in Canada. BCS is very much a part of everyday management for the health of cows, and it impacts fertility, lameness, locomotion and general overall cow health. This is an example of reaching out and including sources not routinely evaluated in the United States and incorporating them into ICC.

Further, ICC’s five subindexes are a unique feature. Other subindexes are just one number and don’t give producers the opportunity to narrow their focus into specific management areas of the farm.

Q: How does it work?

COBURN: This information is available through a multitude of sources. You can go online to our website and find quick spots to navigate to information on ICC. It can also be accessed through the dairy sire directory or our Holstein Investment Guide, which is published with every genetic evaluation. This guide provides ICC for all bulls available through our company and information on rankings for top bulls in each of the subindexes.

Q: Why is this important to understand or utilize?

COBURN: Selection indexes are very common means to select bulls and generate genetic progress in your herd for multiple traits at the same time. When designed well, you can achieve genetic progress traits simultaneously. With genomics, the genetic progress we are achieving is twice that of five years ago.

If an index is leading you down the wrong path, you will get there just as quickly as if you were going down the right path. It’s important for producers to know their options, indexes and to understand traits. We are here to help them. Producers should choose genetic indexes that fit their breeding goals and their model of profitability. PD