Or Why I Don’t Test Anymore
by Danny Collins with Permission
When I began with Dexters, I was amazed at the variety of genetic testing offered. Wow, finally a scientific approach to the ideal animal – quick and easy. Just add whatever color you want (with all probabilities for offspring), mix in horned, heterozygous or homozygous polled, add a dash of chondro if you want and bake it with A2/A2 beta casein. Whee, hey presto, instant breeder.
While I knew that this shortcut to perceived success was producing poor animals I saw every day on social media, I was firmly entrenched in the thought that much testing did much good. I knew I was making my breeding decisions based on other factors, but I faithfully spent money on lab tests. Especially A2 and other variants (even if A2 is unproven science and the money goes straight to the corporation).
Last summer I had to come to terms with the fact that, while test results can be “ideal”, the actual animal shouldn’t be breeding. A bull calf I had great hopes for didn’t mature to be ‘bull worthy’.
In the fall two heifers were born, both by A1 sires. The A1/A1 cow was bred to an A1/A2 bull. I really liked the heifer and she’s a keeper. I pulled tail hairs, sent them off for the usual testing and got my results. I laughed, she was A1/A1! I couldn’t care less. Then I got to thinking: ‘Why am I doing this? I knew I’d keep her, I knew she was an improvement on her dam. Spending money was stupid.
A couple of days later the second heifer was born. Her dam tested A1/A2, the sire A2/A2. She was tiny and her dam didn’t want her to nurse, yet that little bundle of spunk was a fighter and survived. Plus, she was curious, without fear and amazing depth. That’s something no test will tell you.
The day I decided to keep her, was the day I decided to let go of testing. Sure I’ll do the $25 genotype and parentage verification, but that’s it. I can’t tell you how liberated I felt.
Breeding isn’t a simple recipe, it’s eye and education and a vision. If someone comes to buy, I don’t want the first question to be about test results. I want them to see an animal that I’m proud to sell, an animal that fits their needs.
Enjoy your milk. It’s Dexter milk, that’s what’s special!