Archive for June, 2010

FDA issues draft guidance on antimicrobial use in food-producing animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) acknowledged efforts by various veterinary and animal producer organizations to institute guidelines for the judicious use of antimicrobial drugs, but the agency believes additional steps are needed. So, the agency has issued draft guidance intended to help reduce the development of resistance to medically important antimicrobial drugs used in food-producing animals.

The draft guidance outlines the FDA’s current thinking on strategies to assure that antimicrobial drugs that are important for therapeutic use in humans are used judiciously in animal agriculture. It summarizes a number of published reports on antimicrobial resistance and states that the overall weight of evidence available to date supports the conclusion that using medically important antimicrobial drugs for production or growth enhancing purposes (i.e., non-therapeutic or subtherapeutic uses) in food-producing animals is not in the interest of protecting and promoting the public health.

The document recommends phasing in measures that would limit medically important antimicrobial drugs to uses in food-producing animals that are considered necessary for assuring animal health and that include veterinary oversight or consultation. These steps would help reduce overall use of medically important antimicrobial drugs, thereby reducing the pressure that generates antimicrobial resistance.

The FDA recognizes the importance of antimicrobial drugs for addressing the health needs of animals. Antimicrobial drugs have been widely used in human and veterinary medicine for more than 50 years with benefits to both human and animal health. The development of resistance to these drugs, and the resulting loss of their effectiveness, poses a serious public health threat.

“Using medically important antimicrobial drugs as judiciously as possible is key to minimizing resistance development and preserving the effectiveness of these drugs as therapies for humans and animals,” said Bernadette Dunham, D.V.M., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine. “FDA is committed to working with animal drug sponsors, the veterinary and public health communities, the animal agriculture community, and all other interested stakeholders in developing a practical strategy to address antimicrobial resistance concerns that is protective of both human and animal health.”

The agency invites comments on the draft guidance, available online and titled The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals.

For additional information,  see:

  • Federal Register Notice (this link will expire on Tues., June 29, 2010 and will be updated)
  • Draft Guidance for Industry
  • Questions and Answers
  • Dean Foods submits comments to DOJ/USDA workshop

    Source:  http://www.deanfoods.com/media/39288/dean foods statement 06-10.pdf

    Department of Justice-United States Department of Agriculture Workshop on Competition and Regulatory Issues

    Comments Submitted by Dean Foods

    June 22, 2010

    Dean Foods welcomes the opportunity to submit comments in conjunction with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) workshop on competition and regulatory issues in the dairy industry. We believe that the workshop, scheduled for June 25 in Madison, Wis., has the potential to be an important step in achieving real dairy policy reform and, ultimately, creating a stronger and more competitive U.S. dairy industry. This is imperative if we expect dairy to compete favorably with other food and beverage segments for market share and with other international dairy producers for growth opportunities in an evolving global economy.

    Market Volatility Impacts Everyone

    As a company that depends on dairy farm businesses, we recognize many farmers are hurting because of today’s challenging economic conditions. We depend on these farmers for the raw milk we process for consumers, and we have long-standing relationships with many of them. We are concerned about the future and economic well-being of the entire U.S. dairy industry. The dairy sector must be healthy over the long term to ensure a consistent and high quality milk supply for consumers and to contribute to the health of the U.S. economy.

    We share dairy farmers’ frustration with the increasing volatility in milk prices. In recent years, both Dean Foods and the farmers who supply us milk have been dramatically affected by this volatility. The industry experienced record high raw milk prices in 2007, followed closely by record lows in 2009. The current U.S. dairy system makes it difficult for industry participants to manage volatility risk to their individual tolerance and ability. While we cannot eliminate price volatility, the industry clearly needs better tools to manage it. The system is broken, and all of us—farmers, processors, and retailers alike—are paying the price in one way or another.

    Root Cause is the Regulated Pricing System, Not Consolidation

    Some have suggested that processor concentration and consolidation are the root causes of the most recent economic downturn in dairy. We believe this is fundamentally untrue.

    Here’s why:

    First, drinking milk processors like Dean Foods don’t set the prices for raw milk. We pay a regulated price that is set by the U.S. government, plus premiums over  the regulated price. The current system bases the regulated minimum raw milk price on the survey price for non-fat dry milk, cheese, butter, and whey.

    Using a set of formulas, the survey prices for these products are then used to establish the regulated minimum price for raw milk. As a result, when commodity prices increase, milk prices increase as well. However, when commodity prices fall, as occurred last year due to the global recession and lost exports, they take milk prices down with them. In the end, Dean Foods is one of many processors, and processors are only one part of a complex system that includes independent producers, cooperatives, retailers, and government agencies—all playing a role in the price ultimately received by farmers.

    Second, milk processors, regardless of size, don’t “control” the milk supply. In fact, although we are the largest U.S. processor, Dean Foods buys less than 15 percent of the nation’s raw milk supply. We purchase milk from approximately 12,000 of the 58,000 U.S. dairy farmers.

    There is no correlation, let alone causation, between “bigness” and market price. As evidence of that, from 2007 to 2009, when raw milk prices were at their most volatile, Dean Foods remained roughly the same size. In addition, Dean Foods does not produce or trade, with the exception of some butter, in the commodities used in milk pricing formulas and thus has no influence over dairy price inputs.

    The real cause of the dairy industry’s collective challenges has been the worst global recession in 75 years combined with over-production and falling global demand. The U.S. industry participated in and grew with the global dairy market from 2000 onwards, growing from approximately 6 percent of U.S. milk being exported in 2000 to just over 11 percent being exported in 2008. As world demand reacted to high dairy prices in 2008, compounded by the recession of 2009, this demand “disappeared” overnight. At the same time, the U.S. milk supply continued to grow. This resulted in a significant milk oversupply in the U.S., which dramatically depressed prices.

    As Jerry Kozak, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation, stated, “A worldwide decline in dairy demand, owing to the worst economic downturn in 75 years, is at the heart of the price crunch on the farm.” These global economic forces were exacerbated by an antiquated U.S. pricing system built in the 1930s that was not designed to deal with the complexity of modern global markets and therefore no longer serves the needs of U.S. dairy farmers.

    We must fix this system if we expect the dairy industry to have the tools to grow profitably and manage the kind of volatility that has plagued the industry in recent years. This is key to remaining competitive with other dairy producers around the world and with other food and beverage segments vying to provide nutritious, affordable products to families.

    Dean Foods is Committed to Being Part of the Solution

    Dean Foods shares a common interest with farmers in creating a stronger dairy market that better serves the interests of farmers, processors, retailers, and consumers. Dean Foods did not create the problems that have been affecting dairy farmers. However, we do intend to be part of the solution. That means doing a lot more than putting milk in jugs. It means utilizing our resources to create new products that stimulate market demand, improve efficiency, and help achieve needed industry reforms.

    First and foremost, we are continually investing in technology and innovative new products—such as lower-calorie flavored milk, convenient packaging for moms and kids on the go, and specialty products like organic milk—to satisfy dynamic consumer demand.

    Just as dairy farmers have heard for years about the need for efficiency, we also must be efficient. We continue to transform our own company into the most efficient processing and distribution system in the industry so that we can get milk from farm to retail at the lowest possible cost. This is the only way that we will survive and thrive in an industry increasingly pressured to drive down costs.

    Both of these objectives—meeting demand and improving efficiency—are critical to ensuring that the century-old milk business can compete with ultra-modern consumer packaged goods companies. In fact, the real battle here cannot be about farmers versus processors, but rather about a united dairy industry competing effectively against other food and beverage categories. It is these competitors that are going to eat our lunch, so to speak, if we can’t figure out how to modernize a 100-year old industry and make dairy products more relevant to today’s world. We know that milk is a popular choice for parents who purchase for their young children, but as soon as kids start making their own food and beverage decisions, they often move away from milk to soda and sports drinks—and they don’t return to the fold as consumers until they are moms and dads themselves.

    We need to unite as an industry to continue finding new ways of creating consumer excitement and retailer value. That also means working together to reform the current pricing system so we can better compete as an industry with other food and beverage categories that are attracting consumers with relevant, convenient products.

    The current pricing system was developed 80 years ago in a country with half of today’s population, recovering from two world wars, and isolated from world trade. According to a March 25, 2010 Congressional Research Service report on “Previewing Dairy Policy Options for the Next Farm Bill,” the system was designed to incentivize the production of milk for a growing U.S. population and market. This is not our world today—everything about the industry has changed.

    There are fewer dairy farms, which are significantly larger and produce more milk per cow. Milk is consumed differently and now competes with a much wider range of other food and beverage options available to consumers. In addition, the U.S. actively participates in the global marketplace.

    Staying competitive in both the U.S. and world markets will be vital for the long-term growth of the U.S. dairy industry. Current dairy policies are failing on both fronts. U.S. producers and processors can be among the most productive in the world, but this is not translating into farmer profits or sustained growth. Adopting a national dairy policy that relies on the laws of supply and demand, and gives farmers the tools they need to manage risk would allow all segments of the industry to grow and prosper.

    Dean Foods supports a new and improved dairy policy that not only ensures fresh, high quality, nutritious, and affordable milk for consumers but also promotes category growth and provides opportunities for American dairy farmers to grow and prosper over the long term.

    We believe any new dairy policy should reflect the following important principles:

    • Be national in scope and regionally neutral;

    • Encourage the use of risk management and insurance tools;

    • Encourage growth and expansion into global markets;

    • Promote competition at all points along the value chain, thus encouraging efficiency and innovation; and

    • Be transparent and based on milk’s market value, not on an artificial classification system.

    The dairy industry is not the first to wrestle with these challenges. Other U.S. commodity groups, such as peanuts and tobacco, also have traveled down the path of reform in recent years.

    As government supports were eliminated in those sectors, producers adopted forward contracting as a way to reduce price volatility in their businesses. Further, countries such as Australia and New Zealand have specifically tackled dairy industry reform. All of these examples differ in significant ways from the U.S. dairy industry. Nonetheless, the experiences of others should be considered and studied as the U.S. dairy industry begins its own journey toward meaningful reform.

    We look forward to working side-by-side with farmers, retailers, regulatory agencies, and elected officials in exploring the best way forward, in pursuit of an improved dairy pricing system in the months ahead. If we are really serious about fixing a broken system, we will stop pointing fingers, and we will start talking and listening. Only through collaboration will we achieve a new system that continues to ensure nutritious, affordable dairy products for consumers and a fair profit for farmers, processors, and retailers.

    Shared Interests for the Dairy Industry

    Can reform work? We believe that the experiences of other countries and commodity groups show that the answer is, “Yes.” Around the world, there is evidence that market-based reforms can promote efficient increases in farm milk output and lower packaged milk prices for the consumer.

    A new and improved system also could help the U.S. dairy industry seize growth opportunities for dairy consumption around the world. As emerging economies develop, consumption of dairy products increases. The U.S. is positioned to capture dairy demand in those markets if we adopt the correct policies. Opening up markets and encouraging milk pricing practices that meet international standards will allow the U.S. to expand into compatible markets. Milk powder and concentrates are products capable of being exported in large amounts. With the correct policy approach, all stakeholders in the U.S. dairy industry—from farmers to processors—can have a growing and prosperous future.

    An Industry Positioned for the Future

    As the leading dairy processor in the U.S., we intend to be part of the solution in creating a stronger industry that is better able to compete with other food and beverage industries in the growing global economy. We do not control any market or set the price for raw milk. But we are driving demand for dairy products, creating efficient processing and distribution systems, and advocating for positive policy change. We understand farmers’ frustration with the current system and share a common interest in building a better safety net for farmers and providing the industry with the tools needed to thrive. Together, we can transform this storied industry into a world leader, resulting in positive benefits for farmers, processors, retailers, and consumers.

    Build market confidence, discipline

    Marketing

    by Matt Mattke

    A unique approach to evaluate ‘what if’ scenarios


    When it comes to markets, anything is possible. Market uncertainty requires a new approach that examines those possibilities, helping provide the confidence to make marketing decisions and the discipline to execute them.

    Market Scenario Planningsm is one such approach. It provides producers with actual data showing how a marketing decision will impact his or her weighted average price. The producer may decide to sell X amount of milk, or may decide to do nothing. Market Scenario Planningsm will reveal the net effect of any action or inaction on the producer’s bottom line. In order to derive what the impact will be of any potential marketing decision, “what-if” scenarios must be run.

    The “what-if” analysis is the cornerstone of this process. It examines a marketing decision, or a series of marketing decisions, from an objective viewpoint that when it comes to markets, anything is possible. There is nobody who knows for sure where prices will go, and just when a person thinks they have it all figured out, the market throws a curve ball.

    A classic example is the period from May 1998 to October 1999. The milk price went from $11/cwt. up to $17/cwt., back down to $11/cwt., back up to $18/cwt., and then back down to $11/cwt., all in less than an 18-month period.

    Who’s market outlook would have seen that coming? Who would have thought that type of price swing in such a small window of time was possible? The answers: no one’s outlook. Nobody saw it coming.

    So why try to outguess markets that cannot be outguessed? All that is certain is that prices will either go up or down. Sometimes those moves will be small, and other times those price moves will be large.

    The key is being prepared for whatever the market does. Constantly running the “what-if” scenarios will help producers to navigate through the volatility and the uncertainty, and help keep them focused on what prices are theoretically capable of – not focused on somebody else’s price outlook.

    Next month, we’ll explore Market Scenario Planningsm further.

    Market Scenario Planningsm is a service mark of Stewart-Peterson, Inc.

    FYI

    ν Matt Mattke, Market360® dairy advisor at Stewart-Peterson, can be reached via e-mail: mmattke@stewart-peterson.com, phone: 800-334-9779 or visit www.stewart-peterson.com.

    10 ways to make incentives work

    Human Resources

    by Felix Soriano

    “I don’t believe in giving a bonus or incentive pay to my employees.” “I tried it once and it didn’t work.” ”They’re getting paid to milk cows, why should I pay more for them to try harder?”

    These are comments I hear from some dairy producers when I suggest implementing incentive programs for employees. The reality is that, when designed and executed properly, and done at the right time, bonus programs do work. Incentives will increase performance and drive productivity, improving efficiency and the bottomline profitability.

    Here is my “Top 10” list of tips to help you get the most out of any incentive plan:

    1) Don’t implement any bonus program until performance is at your standard expectations. Don’t use incentives to correct problems or poor performance. Use incentives to achieve goals and improve productivity, efficiency and profitability.

    2) Keep it simple. Bonus structures must be simple and easy to understand by workers.

    3) Use few performance parameters. Develop the bonus program based on one or two parameters; three at the most. When working with milkers, focus only on SCC, parlor throughput and milk flow in the first minute.

    4) Keep track of performance daily. Post the performance numbers for employees to see. Payout can be weekly or monthly, but feedback should be daily.

    5) Give employees the tools and support they need. Don’t set up unrealistic goals and expectations. Do employees have all the tools to achieve them? Employees can get frustrated if the bonus is impossible to achieve because the milking units are not working properly, or the mixer isn’t properly maintained.

    6) The bonus plan should be flexible. As goals are accomplished, increase your expectations. Some parameters may also change based on the time of the year.

    7) Set bonus eligibility conditions. Set up rules and conditions to prevent workers from breaking rules to get the incentive pay. For example, when implementing a bonus program for calf care workers based on number of calves weaned, establish a baseline or budget for use of feed and medicine. Develop feeding and treatment SOPs to ensure things are done properly and at the right time.

    8) Workers should be properly trained. Before implementing any bonus structure, employees must understand the importance of their job, their role in achieving the goals, and why, how, when and what they are supposed to do to achieve excellent performance and productivity.

    9) Communicate and explain the bonus structure. Review the plan with your key employees or supervisors before meeting with the rest of the team. Get their feedback, then hold an employee meeting to explain the bonus structure, seeking feedback and opinions.

    10) Separate incentive pay from regular pay. Issue separate bonus checks or pay in cash, giving it out on a different day than their paycheck. Pay incentives on time.

    Also, share the incentive program with your veterinarian, nutritionist and/or consultant, and get them involved in the program.

    Remember, when done right bonus programs can be an effective way of rewarding individual employees or teams for excellence.

    FYI

    Felix Soriano is a labor management and human resource consultant with APN Consulting LLC, Warrington, Pa. Contact him via phone: 215-738-9130, e-mail: felix@apndairy.com or visit www.apndairy.com.

    Innovation: Calf feeding management turns to automation

    By Susan Harlow

    Automated calf feeders save labor, but they have other benefits as well.

    Jeanne Wormuth, manager of CY Heifer Farms in Elba, N.Y., purchased automated calf feeders two years ago after seeing how veal calves thrived on the feeders. She hoped her dairy calves would do just as well.

    Cy Heifer Farms, owned by Craig Yunker, had teamed up with a veal operation five years ago. “They brought in calves from auctions and they were doing great,” Wormuth said. “We were saying – how come heifer calves can’t do great, just like those calves from an auction?”

    She’s found her dairy calves have done well on automated feeders. And Wormuth discovered several other benefits to the feeders, including cost savings. “There are very few things you can cut out,” she said. “Everyone wants top quality but at a good price. Since the quality is there, this was a chance to be more efficient.”

    Wormuth will talk about using automated feeders to manage calves at a Dairy Profit Seminar on raising calves, Tues., Aug. 10, at Empire Farm Days in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

    CY raises 4,000 head of calves for 10 dairies in western New York. Three of the four barns have been converted to Forster Technik automatic feeders. Each machine feeds 50 calves in the 100-calf barns, and costs between $25,000 and $30,000.

    Calf health has remained steady, improving in some instances, in the barns with automated feeders. Wormuth can regulate water and milk replacer intake for scoury calves, and a calf can eat when she feels like it. “Before, if a calf wasn’t feeling good at mealtime, she didn’t eat. Now she can consume any time and a lot more.”

    In the computerized system, each calf is fitted with an RFID button in her ear. When she steps up to a feeder, the computer mixes her a precalculated amount of high-protein 26-17 milk replacer.

    Each new calf is allowed to eat 2.5 liters at a standing, which increases to 3 liters after a week. “She can eat as often as she wants but no more than three liters at a standing,” Wormuth said. That gradually increases to 8 liters daily until she’s ready to wean, then it drops back to one liter per day.

    The feeder’s computer tracks how much each calf eats and when, and can generate a daily report of a calf’s eating activity.

    Each group of new calves has 25 calves in it. Starting the second week, they have access to a trough of starter grain and begin to get used to sharing their feeding space. “They have to learn to belly up,” Wormuth said. “They’re never going to eat alone; they need to start some competition. It helps a lot in transition, because they’re used to trough feeding and using the same waterers by then.”

    Calves begin eating starter grain about the same as in individual pens, “but they seem to peak higher before they move to the weaning barn,” Wormuth said.

    They are weaned at 35 days. Weaning is much easier with automated calf feeders, Wormuth discovered. “They used to cry for days because it was an abrupt stop to milk. With the machines, it gradually takes them down the last week.

    “They also don’t associate you with milk. They’re very quiet. And they don’t have to meet and greet when they’re weaned, like they do when they come from individual pens. It’s a lot easier. I didn’t know those benefits would come with it.”

    Wormuth’s two employees have each been with her more than seven years. They easily learned how to maintain the feeders, cleaning them daily, changing hoses and fixing small computer glitches.

    “There are a lot of little time-savers,” Wormuth said. “We don’t have to wash and disinfect each pen.” There are other money-savers, too. Now she buys shavings in bulk and beds with a bucket loader instead of bedding each individual pen using bags of shavings. And there’s a lot less wasted milk replacer.

    As Wormuth had hoped, the calves are doing better in groups on feeders than in individual pens – although there’s more to it. “The home farm has a lot of influence on how that calf will perform,” she said. She requires those dairies to feed colostrum and dip navels before they come to CY.

    The automated feeder system isn’t perfect. For one thing, it’s more difficult to give calves vaccinations and work on them when they’re in pens. And although the feeders have cut CY’s labor needs almost in half – Wormuth now has two and a half employees instead of four – they don’t eliminate the need for management. The employees walk each pen twice daily to check for weak calves and other problems.

    “It’s replacing someone to feed them but you can’t take away the human management side. You still have to be a really good calf person,” Wormuth said. “The machine is just a tool. The key is really good employees.”

    The Dairy Profit Seminar: “Strategies to Maximize Calf Health and Performance, will be held Tuesday, Aug. 10. in the Dairy Profit Center on the Empire Farm Days showgrounds, Seneca Falls, N.Y. The free seminar is coordinated by Cornell’s PRO-DAIRY program.

    FYI

    Empire Farm Days  Dairy Profit Seminars will be offered daily, Aug. 10-12. The line-up was published in the June 2010 issue of Eastern DairyBusiness. For information, visit http://easterndairybusiness.cadmus.com/index.aspx

    • For more information on Empire Farms Days, at the Rodman Lott & Son Farms, Seneca Falls, N.Y., visit www.empirefarmdays.com; phone: 877-697-7837 or e-mail: mwickham@empirefarmdays.com.

    Conversations: Ask your veterinarian about pregnancy detection

    Early dairy cattle pregnancy detection is critical insight for getting cows bred back timely, keeping them productive and healthy. As producers and their advisors meet in the conference room (or kitchen) to discuss preg-check options, modern technology offers new choices.

    By Jeremy Howard

    If you know sooner which cows are open, efforts can be made to get them re-serviced earlier in lactation. Modern technologies now offer great pregnancy detection options. Make sure you know the best options, and why they are right for your operation.

    1. Why is it important to diagnose pregnancy early?

    For most dairy producers, identifying open cows is a critical part of streamlining their herd reproductive program. Once cows have been identified as open, they can be rebred or re-entered into a synchronization program.

    Ask your veterinarian to identify the biggest challenges facing your herd’s reproductive program. Ask if earlier pregnancy detection will help address some of those challenges.

    2. How will early pregnancy detection help?

    A delay in rebreeding will increase the number of days a cow is open, and university experts are beginning to determine the costs associated with higher days open. These expenses include increased breeding costs, a greater risk of culling, higher replacement costs and reduced milk production.

    Research from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine has focused on quantifying a cow’s net present value in a herd, as well as the additional revenue she would be expected to generate if she breeds back and stays in the herd. According to this research, delays in rebreeding are estimated to cost as much as $3 per extra day open.

    Dr. Albert De Vries at the University of Florida has taken a similar look at the impact of reproductive efficiency on overall farm profitability. He has determined the cost per extra day open ranges from $3.19-$5.41 per cow, per day over 90 days in milk, with a major factor being the availability of replacement heifers. For herds without replacements available, the costs can be quite high.

    Ask your veterinarian to evaluate herd records to determine average days open, benchmarking your average against other herds. Discuss ways that period can be shortened.

    3. What options are there for early pregnancy detection?

    In the last 10 years, technologies have become available allowing pregnancy detection to be conducted earlier, post breeding. Traditional rectal palpation can be conducted 35-45 days after breeding. Ultrasound and blood-based testing can be used as soon as 28 days after breeding with accurate results. Incorporating either ultrasounding or blood-based testing into an aggressive reproductive program can improve pregnancy rates and percent of herd pregnant by 150 days in milk, of a dairy herd.

    Ask your veterinarian to evaluate the average services per conception and the percentage of animals requiring rebreeding. Of those cattle requiring more than one AI service, what is the average service interval?

    4. What are the advantages of these options?

    Ultrasound is accurate and rapid, and the outcome of the test is known immediately at the time of testing. However, ultrasound equipment is expensive, and requires training and experience to accurately perform pregnancy examinations. If ultrasound equipment is not owned by the producer, it may require more coordination of both personnel and equipment.

    Blood-based testing lets breeders check females easily and more accurately, sending samples to a locally certified lab, and receiving results back in as little as 27 hours.

    Ask your veterinarian to evaluate current pregnancy detection protocols. Ask your veterinarian to evaluate if staffing, cow handling systems or facilities are better suited for other pregnancy detection options.

    5. How does a blood pregnancy test work?

    The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) evaluates the blood (more specifically, the serum or plasma) of a cow for a protein called Pregnancy Specific Protein B (PSPB). PSPB is produced by the placenta, and therefore pregnant animals will have the protein in their blood. The test can be performed as soon as 30 days post-insemination or 25 days after embryo transfer (ET), but cows must be at least 90 days in milk to ensure proteins from the previous pregnancy do not interfere with results.

    FYI

    Jeremy Howard is the sales manager with BioTracking, LLC. Contact him via phone: 208-882-9736; e-mail: jhoward@biotracking.com, or visit www.biotracking.com.


    Export surge: Oil money, heifer numbers are helping boost foreign sales of U.S. dairy, too

    U.S. dairy product export sales have been strong. Exports of dairy cows and heifers have been growing, too, bolstered by a strong U.S. supply of heifers, and demand from oil-rich countries.

    By Susan Harlow

    World demand for U.S. dairy cows and heifers is strong, say cattle exporters, with much of the strength coming from oil-rich Middle Eastern countries.

    “Last year and this year are two of the most active years I can recall,” said Oscar Kennedy of American Marketing Service Inc.-International, a livestock exporting company in Richmond, Va.

    In recent years, annual U.S. exports of female dairy cattle have nearly doubled, from 8,385 in 2007, to 15,794 in 2008 and 16,109 last year, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). In the first four months of 2010, the U.S. dairy industry is on a record pace, exporting 11,114 dairy females in the January-April period.

    FAS records show exports to Mexico, the largest market for U.S. dairy cattle over most of the past decade, have surged, from about 1,800 in 2007 to more than 12,000 last year. And, for one three-year period, (2006-08) exports to Saudi Arabia actually outpaced those to Mexico, averaging nearly 4,300 head per year during that stretch.

    U.S. has numbers, quality

    The availability of dairy cattle – especially as sexed semen increases the supply of heifers and lower milk prices hinder domestic replacement demand – are key factors driving U.S. exports.

    “Also, despite disease problems around the world, the U.S. continues to be most fortunate in having a good, clean, healthy herd,” Kennedy said. In two or three other major exporting countries, veterinary procedures are not up to U.S. standards, he said.

    Oil money is allowing some countries to dig deep to pay for high-quality U.S. cows. “International demand for heifers the last few years has fluctuated with the price of crude oil,” said Brandon Webb, managing director of LI Animal Health, York, Pa. The countries importing the most U.S. cows are also looking to move from net importers of dairy products to producing more of their own. “With oil over $70 per barrel and billions of U.S. dollars in reserves, there is strong incentive for these countries to offer direct and indirect subsidies to domestic dairy producers,” Webb said.

    In particular, Turkey and Russia have been pushing to increase dairy product consumption, and have the money to buy cattle. Turkey’s economy also benefits from a strong U.S. military presence in the region, according to Kennedy. “Other countries are trying to increase dairy cattle numbers, like Russia and, to a lesser extent, Egypt. Those are countries that, politically, have decided they want to expand and increase agriculture.”

    China, also eager to grow its dairy industry, has been buying cattle from Australia and New Zealand. But that will change, predicted Ken Raney of the Pennsylvania Holstein Association. “They come to us because of our genetics and availability,” he said.

    The United States’s dairy industry is a role model for most countries. “Most places are trying to come up to our standards of large dairies dedicated solely to producing milk,” said Gordon Thornhill of TK Exports Inc., Culpeper, Va. “Many (countries) were buying cattle, milking them, eating them and then buying more. Now they have to try to raise cows like the rest of us. But there’s a management factor that has a lot to do with how successful these animals will do.”

    Management expertise aside, other countries don’t have the climate, topography or availability of water and feed to support a strong dairy industry. Japan and Korea, for instance, buy much of their alfalfa from the United States, Thornhill said.

    He said a big boost to U.S. cattle exports has been an end to live cattle subsidies by the European Union. Middle and Near Eastern countries are now turning to other countries. “The subsidies had a big, big, big influence on the world dairy market,” Thornhill said.

    Strict environmental laws and a shrinking agricultural land base are also diminishing Europe’s export potential, according to Luis Rocha of Texas-based American Genetics International Inc.

    Transportation issues

    Besides competing with animals, Australia and New Zealand exports have another impact: Those countries have snagged many of the ships that transport cattle overseas.

    “There are tremendous orders for cattle, and we have an awful lot of cattle to sell,” said David Rama of The Cattle Exchange, Delhi, N.Y. “The biggest obstacle is that we have 13 large transport ships for livestock in the world, and we can’t get enough boats. Many are tied up by other countries like Australia and New Zealand. They got the jump on us and are moving tremendous volume,” he said.

    Planes are prohibitively expensive, and the specialized transport ships must be scheduled in advance.

    “When you put 1,900 head on a boat, you have to be prepared for feeding and caring for them,” Rama said. “This is the biggest dilemma exporters face today.”

    Other factors play into transportation. Two of the world’s largest livestock shipping lines tie their ships up for eight months of the year moving sheep from Australia and New Zealand to the Middle East, Rocha said. And, as countries like Egypt, Morocco and Russia – which is pushing to bolster its beef supply before hosting the 2014 Olympics – import more beef animals, the number of livestock transport ships available to move dairy cattle shrinks even more.

    Also U.S. ships must be contracted 4-6 months in advance, with a 35% deposit – a large capital outlay for a deal that might fall through.

    Stronger market forecast

    Exporters see the trend of more U.S. exports continuing– and even strengthening. What could threaten that trend?

    “Politics or health issues,” Raney said. A resurgence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy or other contagious disease would shut the doors to exports, much as it did for Canada and the United States a few years ago. After an outbreak of bluetongue in Europe four years ago, several countries closed their borders to E.U. cattle imports.

    Will exports be able to shrink large heifer inventories and help contain a growing U.S. milk supply? Not any time soon, said Webb. “I would like to think that some day we will have the infrastructure to export 100,000 head per year and have some small impact on the US. milk supply,” he said. “However, there are a number of barriers that make such a task almost impossible, and our competitors in Australia, New Zealand and Europe are years ahead of us.”

    U.S. producers have always had a strong consumer market for dairy products, and haven’t been forced to develop cattle exports, unlike the Australians and New Zealanders.

    “Australia and New Zealand must have strong export markets for their live cattle and dairy products and, as such, have developed infrastructure and significant support from the government and private sector,” Webb said.

    Exports of commercial-grade dairy cattle aren’t likely to grow quickly, said Ken Matthews, ag economist with USDA’s Economic Research Service. “The U.S. dairy cattle herd has been declining, and I don’t see that changing in the near future,” he said.

    FYI

    For more information on dairy cattle exports, contact:

    American Genetics International Inc., phone: 214-821-1429; e-mail: info@american-genetics.com; website: www.american-genetics.com.

    American Marketing Services Inc.-Int., phone: 804-798-6355; e-mail: amsok91@gmail.com; or website: www.agroexports.com/ams.htm

    TK Exports Inc., phone: 540-825-2067; e-mail: tkelvstk@aol.com; or website: www.livestockgeneticsbytke.com

    Livestock Exporters Association of the USA, e-mail: contact@livestockexporters-usa.com; or
    website: www.livestockexporters-usa.com/directory-livestock.html

    ν The June 2010 issue of HolsteinWorld magazine contains the 2010 International Export Directory. Website: http://holsteinworld.cadmus.com/index.aspx.

    Clinical mastitis and conception rates*

    QM2 (Quality Management • Quality Milk) is the newsletter of Dairy One and Quality Milk Production Services. It appears in Eastern DairyBusiness.

    By Julia Hertl, George Cudoc and Gary Bennet, DVM

    *Based on “Effects of clinical mastitis caused by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and other organisms on the probability of conception in New York State Holstein dairy cows”, by JA Hertl, YT Gröhn, JDG Leach, D Bar, GJ Bennett, RN González, BJ Rauch, FL Welcome, LW Tauer, and YH Schukken; Journal of Dairy Science  93: 1551-1560. USDA (CSREES) Award No. 2005-35204-15714 provided funding.

    Fertility plays a key role in successful dairy cow management. Many factors play a role in reproduction problems, including missed estrus and poor estrus expression. To avoid these problems, many farms use ovulation synchronization and planned breeding programs.

    Other contributing factors include heat stress, high milk production, and diseases, including clinical mastitis (CM) – the focus of this article. The severity of the CM effect on conception may depend on both the causative agent(s) and when CM occurs, relative to artificial insemination (AI). Causative agents of mastitis can be grouped into Gram-positive vs. Gram-negative classes. Clinical signs, severity and treatment protocols differ for Gram-positive and Gram-negative infections, making this a reasonable distinction.

    To address what effects Gram-positive and Gram-negative CM have on probability of conception, we studied data on 55,372 AIs in 23,695 lactations from 14,148 Holsteins in seven New York State herds. Four herds were in central New York; two were in northern New York; and one was in western New York. All lactating cows inseminated at least once between 40 and 90 days in milk were eligible for inclusion in our analysis. Cases of CM were generally detected by milkers or herdspersons. CM signs included a warm, swollen udder, changes in milk consistency, elevated milk electrical conductivity and milk loss. Sick cows were treated based on similar protocols in all seven study farms. Milk samples from udder quarters with CM signs were sent to the Quality Milk Production Services laboratories for microbiological diagnosis.

    We developed a model to calculate the probability of conception after AI. We included factors that might affect probability of conception: the cow’s parity, her farm, milk yield, season of AI (winter, spring, summer, fall), insemination attempt (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th) of the lactation, CM, and other diseases (milk fever, retained placenta, metritis, ketosis, displaced abomasum).

    Our main interest was the effect of CM. Only cases occurring between 42 days before until 42 days after an AI were included in the calculation of the probability of conception. (Outside this range, CM had no effect on probability of conception). We created variables for each CM type (Gram-positive, Gram-negative) in relation to when CM occurred with respect to an AI for these intervals: CM occurring: 36-42 days before an AI; 29-35 days before an AI; 22-28 days before an AI; 15-21 days before an AI; 8-14 days before an AI; 1-7 days before an AI; 0-7 days after an AI; 8-14 days after an AI; 15-21 days after an AI; 22-28 days after an AI; 29-35 days after an AI; and 36-42 days after an AI.

    Probability of conception was lower after successive AIs.

    (To view the graphs and figure associated with this article, visit http://easterndairybusiness.cadmus.com/index.aspx. For details on how to calculate such probabilities, see “Effects of clinical mastitis caused by gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria and other organisms on the probability of conception in New York State Holstein dairy cows”, by JA Hertl, YT Gröhn, JDG Leach, D Bar, GJ Bennett, RN González, BJ Rauch, FL Welcome, LW Tauer, and YH Schukken; Journal of Dairy Science 93: 1551-1560.)

    Gram-positive and Gram-negative CM both lowered the probability of conception. The lowest probability of conception was associated with Gram-negative CM occurring 0-7 d after AI. Probability of conception was lower when CM occurred close to the time of insemination, whether before or after. Gram-negative CM was generally more detrimental than Gram-positive CM, except in the period 29-35 d after AI.

    Findings summarized

    • 27% of lactations had CM

    Escherichia coli most often isolated; Streptococcus spp. and Klebsiella spp. also frequently found

    • Of the Gram-classified cases, 47% were Gram-positive and 53% were Gram-negative

    • Probability of conception (in all cows) after 1st AI = 0.29; after 2nd AI = 0.26; after 3rd AI = 0.25; after 4th AI = 0.24

    • Older cows less likely to conceive

    • Summer AIs less successful

    • Retained placenta reduced probability of conception

    • From 14 days before until 35 days after an AI, CM’s effect varied with both type and timing with respect to AI

    • Either type of CM occurring near the time of AI (particularly immediately before and after an AI) significantly reduced probability of conception.

    • Gram-negative CM generally more detrimental than Gram-positive CM

    Many researchers have found a connection between bacterial infections and poor reproductive performance; our findings appear to corroborate this. The biological mechanisms are complex, and differ between Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria.

    Our findings can help determine whether it’s worth inseminating a particular cow at a particular time, especially if she has CM (and it’s Gram-negative), or if it’s better to wait until the next cycle, when hopefully the infection will have resolved. Furthermore, by waiting, it may be possible to avoid wasting resources (e.g., semen, technician time, treatment of the CM) on a vain endeavor.

    Additional knowledge about CM (its timing with respect to AI, and whether the causative agent is Gram-positive or Gram-negative) seems beneficial in determining why some cows have trouble conceiving. Our findings imply improved mastitis control is associated with improved reproductive performance. This information may also aid management of CM cows before and after AI, thereby helping to improve a dairy’s profitability. Our current research will study management of CM knowledge and profitability in detail.

    How to reach us…

    Julia Hertl is a research aide for Cornell’s Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences. Contact her via e-mail: jah12@cornell.edu.

    George Cudoc, DHI Support, DairyOne, in Ithaca, N.Y. Contact him via e-mail: george.cudoc@dairyone.com.

    Gary Bennett, DVM, is Senior Extension Veterinarian at the Canton Quality Milk lab. Contact him via e-mail: gjb9@cornell.edu.

    QMPS is a program within the Animal Health Diagnostic Center, a partnership between the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell. The QMPS staff of veterinarians, technicians and researchers works with New York dairies to improve milk quality by addressing high somatic cell counts, milking equipment and procedures, and milker training in English and Spanish. QMPS also conducts research and teaching programs.

    Reach the four regional QMPS
    laboratories at:

    Central Lab, Ithaca.

    877-MILKLAB (877-645-5522)

    Eastern Lab, Cobleskill.

    877-645-5524

    Northern Lab, Canton.

    877-645-5523

    Western Lab, Geneseo.

    877-645-5525

    QMPS website:

    http://qmps.vet.cornell.edu

    Dairy One is an information technology cooperative, providing DHI records services and herd management software to dairies throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region. A comprehensive laboratory network provides milk quality testing as well as forage, soil, manure and water testing.

    Contact Dairy One Cooperative Inc. at 730 Warren Rd., Ithaca, N.Y. 14850. Tel: 800-344-2697. Email: dmr@dairyone.com. Website: www.dairyone.com.

    Eastern Pulse: Reproduction

    UW-Dairy Repro$ helps dairy producers evaluate reproduction programs

    Evaluating the economics of reproductive programs isn’t always easy. A new tool – UW-Dairy Repro$, developed by Victor Cabrera and Julio Giordano, University of Wisconsin-Extension dairy systems management specialist and Ph.D. student, respectively – may help.

    “Many times dairy farmers struggle when they have to select the best reproductive management program, because some of these programs may be able to maximize herd reproductive performance by improving service risk and breeding efficiency, but they do not know if the cost incurred with their application will offset the extra income generated by having better reproduction efficiency,” they said.

    UW-Dairy Repro$ calculates and compares the economic value of dairy reproductive programs, including timed artificial insemination (TAI), heat detection (HD) and combinations of TAI and HD programs. It applies probability reproduction survival curves with expected monetary values to assess the net present value (NPV) of defined reproductive programs. UW-Dairy Repro$ is customizable and flexible, allowing the user to represent any potential farm scenario and reproductive program, and calculate the economic performance.

    For more information, visit http://dairymgt.uwex.edu/tools.php#1.

    Don’t let heat stress steal reproductive dollars

    Cows under heat stress can cost producers $1.50-$3.00/cowday in milk production losses alone. Heat stress-related reproductive losses – including missed heats, low conception rates, low birth weights, difficult births and metabolic problems after calving – can double that total, according to Ron Martin, Bio-Vet, Inc. product manager. That adds up to losses ranging from $3-$4/cow/day.

    In addition to cow cooling systems, water and feeding play vital roles in helping cows deal with heat stress. High-producing cows may drink up to 50 gallons of water per day in hot temperatures.

    When heat stress conditions exist, cattle eat less often, during cooler times of the day, but consume more at each feeding, which can lead to acidosis. High-producing cows are more sensitive to heat stress because of their high feed intake. Intake starts to drop (8%-12%), and milk production losses of 20%-30% occur when temperatures exceed 90° F.

    Electrolytes, adequate ventilation, fresh water and proper feeding work together to reduce the effects of heat stress, Martin said. Supplementing cow rations with good-quality microbial and electrolyte products will assist rumen fermentation, reduce susceptibility to acidosis, and help heat-stressed cows maintain appetite and milk production.

    Feeding direct-fed microbial (DFM) products can help aid digestion, improve feed utilization and keep dry matter intake up during hot weather. Good-quality DFMs provide high levels of microorganisms, including rumen/intestinal origin bacteria and digestive enzymes. Some DFMs include yeast, which provide enzymes and B vitamins and help maintain intake during hot weather.

    When feeding DFMs, maintain the viability of the live microbials. Look for DFM products packaged in foil-lined bags or pouches that provide a moisture barrier. Keep packages closed or resealed between feedings to maintain microbial integrity.

    For more information, contact: Ron Martin, phone: 608-437-8891 or e-mail: ron.martin@bio-vet.com.

    DCRC annual meeting scheduled, Nov. 11-12

    The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) is a proactive organization with long-term interest in raising awareness of issues critical to reproductive performance. It was organized in 2005 by a group of dairy cattle reproduction experts, including academicians, veterinarians, dairy producers and allied industries – semen, pharmaceutical and nutrition companies.

    The organization will hold its annual meeting, Nov.  11-12, at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront, St. Paul, Minn. DCRC membership is available for $50, and all DCRC members receive a $100 registration fee discount for the 2010 annual meeting. For more information, visit www.dcrcouncil.org.

    Get ahead of heifer reproduction

    Summer’s heat stress is upon us, bringing challenges in maintaining reproductive performance. While cow cooling and heat abatement efforts are generally directed toward the milking herd, it’s also important for producers to not overlook young animals on the dairy. Heifers represent the best genetics within the herd, and ensuring they are bred and freshening in a timely manner is crucial to future production.

    “Young replacement heifers are an important part of a herd’s future make-up and it’s important they calve for the first time between 22 and 24 months of age,” explains John Lee, DVM, Veterinary Operations, Pfizer Animal Health. “We know gestation length is a fixed number and as long as first service conception risk is high, then age at first breeding is the biggest driver of reproductive efficiency in heifer programs.”

    Lee has extensively studied the reproductive performance of heifers and cows throughout the country, especially in Western states. He finds that heifer reproductive performance often lags behind the milking herd, despite an advantage in fertility and estrous expression in heifers. Lee points to management of the breeding pen and incorporation of synchronization tools as opportunities to make a positive impact on reproductive performance.

    “For most herds, the AI technicians do a good job once the heifers make it into the AI pen,” Lee points out. “The big problem is they don’t consistently have enough heifers to breed because management practices have delayed getting heifers into that group.”

    Lee recommends these keys for success:

    • Weekly pen movements — Heifers should be moved into the AI breeding pen on a weekly basis as they reach growth targets. Pregnancy diagnosis must be conducted just as often to identify pregnant females and move them out of the breeding pen.

    • Synchronization tools — Even with excellent heat detection, synchronization tools should be used for timed breeding on heifers not inseminated during their first 28 days in the breeding pen.  This will insure all heifers are inseminated within 36 days of arrival into the AI pen.

    • Proper nutrition — Heifers won’t be ready for breeding without adequate nutrition to support the onset of puberty and growth to 60 percent of their mature weight. Feeding a higher plane of nutrition will help heifers reach growth targets at an earlier age and be ready for movement into a breeding pen.

    • Monitoring and measurement — Monitoring performance should be ongoing using the measurements pregnancy rate, heat detection risk, conception risk and the distribution of age at first insemination. Measurement of progress should be evaluated after each pregnancy check.

    “It’s important that producers manage heifer reproduction as intensely as they do their lactating herd,” Lee said. “There are real opportunities to move replacements into the milking herd by taking simple steps to more aggressively manage heifer reproduction. The incremental costs are pretty minimal compared to the benefits calving heifers less than 24 months of age can have on a dairy’s bottom line.”

    Important Safety Information: As with all parenteral products, aseptic technique should be used to reduce the possibility of post-injection bacterial infections. Do not administer in pregnant animals unless cessation of pregnancy is desired. Not for intravenous administration. Women of childbearing age and persons with respiratory problems should exercise extreme caution when handling this product.

    For more information visit www.pfizerah.com.

    Top 10 places successful reproductive managers focus their time

    Reproductive managers have only so many hours every day to accomplish a multitude of tasks. The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) highlighted 10 areas where successful reproductive managers spend their time.

    1) The numbers. Managers know the numbers that represent their herd – pregnancy rate, heat detection rate, conception rate, age at first calving, days open and more – and have a plan in place to improve them.

    2) Heat detection. You can’t breed cows if you don’t know when they’re in heat. Get a handle on successful heat detection methods.

    3) Nutrition. The ration affects how well cows perform reproductively, and successful managers know the relationship between feed and pregnancy is an important one.

    4) Employee training. Reproductive managers can’t spend their whole day watching cows, but they train employees involved with the day-to-day activities with the herd.

    5) Cow comfort. Cows experiencing stress will suffer reproductively, and successful managers minimize these stressors to keep cows performing at their peak.

    6) Heifer raising. Reproductive success starts long before cows enter the milking string. Successful managers pay attention to heifer health and rearing.

    7) New technologies, new information. The dairy industry is always changing. Successful managers stay up-to-date with research and technology.

    8) Other success stories. Strong managers learn from others. Pay attention to other’s stories, learning where changes can be made on your own farm.

    9) What the experts are saying. Successful managers meet with professionals, attending seminars and visit other operations.

    10) The bottom line. Reproductive programs must work to be profitable. By knowing their financial situation, successful managers know where they can take risks and make improvements, and where they should focus their efforts.

    For more information, visit www.dcrcouncil.org/EDUCATIONAL_RESOURCES.


    Sexed semen: Handle with care

    The use of sexed semen has become common. It is important to remember, however, that sexed semen is a different product than conventional semen.

    By Joseph Dalton

    Herd managers, veterinarians and consultants monitor production data, health events and reproductive protocol compliance regularly. However, little time is spent evaluating semen storage and handling. Unfortunately, this is a critical oversight.

    The use of sexed semen has become common. It is important to remember, however, that sexed semen is a different product than conventional semen. To achieve 90% purity of a specific sex, sperm are treated with a fluorescent dye, and X and Y chromosome bearing sperm are sorted with a flow cytometer/cell sorter based on intensity of fluorescence following exposure to a laser.

    At North American AI studs, on-site sperm sorting services are currently provided by Sexing Technologies (Navasota, TX; www.sexingtechnologies.com).

    There is ample data in dairy heifers describing an average first-service conception rate to sexed semen of 70%-80% of the conception rate to conventional semen. The specific reasons contributing to lower fertility following AI with sexed semen, as compared to conventional semen, are currently unknown. Nevertheless, given the potential negative effect of the procedures necessary to sort sperm, it’s clear it is important to handle sexed semen with great care to optimize fertility.

    All frozen semen must be stored, thawed and handled properly to maintain sperm viability and offer the greatest opportunity to obtain optimal fertility. Commercial AI studs, through stringent collection, processing and quality control, provide a highly fertile product to their customers. When semen is purchased and transferred to a farm or professional AI technician’s liquid nitrogen tank, the maintenance of male fertility is in the hands of the producer, employees and AI technicians.

    The liquid nitrogen tank consists of a “tank within a tank,” with insulation under vacuum between the inner and outer tanks. Liquid nitrogen tanks should be stored in a clean, dry area, preferably on a wood stand to avoid possible corrosion (due to contact with wet or damp concrete). The tank should be securely fastened during transportation to avoid tipping and damaging, which usually results in the premature loss of liquid nitrogen.

    Avoid exposure

    A detailed inventory of semen should be easily accessible, so straws may be located and removed from the tank quickly to avoid exposure of semen to ambient temperature.

    When removing a straw from a liquid nitrogen tank, it’s imperative the technician keep the canister, cane and unused semen straws as low as possible in the neck of the tank. A best management practice is to keep all unused straws below the frost-line in the neck of the tank. Keep in mind that although the temperature of liquid nitrogen is -320°F, there is a temperature gradient in the neck of the tank.

    Temperature variation

    For example, a tank with a neck tube measuring 6 inches long may have a temperature of -103°F in the middle (3 inches below the top), but +5°F at 1 inch below the top.

    Sperm injury (as judged by sperm motility) occurs at temperatures as low as -110°F. Injury to sperm cannot be corrected by returning semen to the liquid nitrogen.

    As would be expected, the temperature in the neck of the tank becomes warmer as the liquid nitrogen level in the tank decreases. Therefore, another best management practice is to monitor the liquid nitrogen level in your tank regularly, and never let the tank go dry.

    More sensitive to errors

    Sexed semen for commercial use is currently packaged in 0.25-mL straws, with each straw containing 2.1 million sperm. Although 0.25-mL straws containing sexed semen may be handled similarly to 0.5-mL straws, the smaller diameter makes them more sensitive to handling errors. Recent research from ABS Global demonstrates the decline in sperm motility over time when sexed semen is not handled properly (Figure 1).

    Providing thermal protection for sexed semen at normal body temperature (98.6°F) results in the greatest maintenance (least decline) of progressive motility, as compared with sexed semen held at 108°F (heat shock) or 40°F (cold shock), both of which result in sharp declines in progressive motility over time.

    Maximize potential

    Conception rates will most likely be maximized when AI personnel:

    • accurately identify heifers in estrus.

    • follow the AI stud’s recommendations for thawing semen.

    • maintain thermal protection of straws during AI gun assembly and transport to the heifer.

    • use appropriate hygienic procedures.

    • deposit semen in the uterus of the heifer as soon as possible (within 5 to10 minutes after thawing).

    In a recent report of commercial data compiled by Select Sires, Holstein heifer herds that reported ≥ 50 services to sexed and conventional semen had an average conception rate to sexed semen (for all services) of 45% (range 27% -70%) compared to 56% (range 34%- 83%) for conventional semen.

    The range in fertility achieved following the use of sexed (and conventional) semen is quite large and may be due to many factors, including semen storage and handling errors. Handle sexed semen with care – and consider evaluating semen handling procedures regularly. Every successful AI program begins with proper semen handling.

    FYI:

    •  To contact Joseph Dalton at University of Idaho, Caldwell Research and Extension Center, phone: 254-968-4144; or e-mail: trbilby@ag.tamu.edu.

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