The author is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and the 2015 Hoard's Dairyman editorial intern.

GenElite and Holstein Plaza are just two companies leading the charge in one of the dairy industry's most rapidly advancing areas - embryo marketing. At the 124th Wisconsin Holstein Association Convention, GenElite's Steve Berland and Holstein Plaza's Hendrik Albada shared their insights on what domestic and international buyers are looking for when making a purchase.

Berland, who co-founded GenElite in 2000, shared that his group focuses on marketing embryos almost exclusively in the international arena. Most of GenElite's buyers are A.I. companies. When asked what customers look at when making a purchase, Berland said most of his international-based A.I. clients secure the genetics to meet their industry's dairy sector. Those needs are not always the same as in the U.S.

While Holstein Plaza sells and exports embryos to 26 countries through a partnership with AMS Genetics, 60 percent of the current sales are domestic. Due to factors like currency strength, economics and regulators, this is ever-changing, explained Albada, sales specialist for Holstein Plaza. He stressed the importance of having a strong domestic market for its embryos and genetics.

Albada said Holstein Plaza strives on variety and shapes its business around what its customers consider to be high-end females, based on genomic profile, show record pedigree, cow family, and additional factors.

Both agreed that genomics have come a long way, and while the North American genetic evaluation system is considered the gold standard worldwide, the German system has come a long way in terms of accuracy and consistency across borders. Plus, it is perhaps the most transparent system in Europe. As a result, many European groups also run genomic profiles on the German system before making a purchase.

Another polled trend?

A member of the audience sparked a great deal of dialogue after asking, "Do you feel that there's another trait like polled with swelling demand?"

Albada reiterated the popularity of selecting bulls and embryos with the polled trait, especially since many animal rights groups are in staunch opposition to dehorning. Berland agreed, but added that his buyers gravitate toward economic-based traits such as feed efficiency. "We're trying to make more food and feed more people with less resources," stated Berland.

The conversation then shifted to topics such as sexed embryos, IVF (in vitro fertilization) embryos, and the European milk quota system. Albada said that many high-type buyers tend to buy sexed embryos, and that IVF embryos are now welcome in China. He also added that the quota has affected his home country, stating that the fat quota in the Netherlands has caused breeders to select more for percentage and poundage in the past. However, that has changed in recent years with the sunset of EU quotas in April 2015. Berland agreed, noting that buyers in Germany have been anticipating the end of the quota for some time.

As for sourcing new customers, Berland stated, "These days, we'll find you." He explained that in the past it was important to be part of a network to find great young cows before others did. These days, everyone is working off the same high-ranking genomic lists. Albada replied that he wants to work with people to grow their businesses with high-end genomics and genetics from high-type cow families equally.

Building those relationships

The discussion migrated to the growing use of social media for relationship building. Berland told the audience that he was still pretty hands-on and old-fashioned, and that relationships truly make a difference in the success of a business. He smiled and added that farmers are some of the best people in the world. Albada spoke about how the bulk of Holstein Plaza's business is done via their website, yet in the end, personal relationships are the most profitable.

When asked how genomics have changed their business, Albada responded, "Quite a bit." Due to the popularity of genomic-tested bulls, Holstein Plaza now has online embryo auctions twice a month and opened, a 24/7 online embryo web shop.

Berland said that because of genomics, GenElite went from contracting cows as donors to primarily contracting heifers. He disclosed that genomics has made a huge difference in how his company works with mating sires. Both agreed that because of genomics, the industry is constantly changing.

This article appears on page 354 of the May 10, 2015 issue of Hoard's Dairyman.

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