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.