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Zero events lead to repro success

Creating a pregnancy requires your keen attention to animal health and welfare through a cow’s entire lactation.

The road to creating a pregnancy begins long before you actually inseminate the cow. It begins before you enroll a cow on a synchronization program or start monitoring heats using an activity system. In fact, successfully creating a pregnancy starts before a cow even enters the maternity pen.

4-EVENT COW Circle Logo

IT STARTS BEFORE CALVING

It’s no secret that transition, fresh cow, and overall herd health all play key roles in a cow’s capacity to be a profitable member of your herd. Only the cows that receive proper care and nutrition throughout their transition period and at calving have the chance to become the next 4-EVENT COWS of your herd. A 4-EVENT COW is one that records just four major events in her lactation: 1-FRESH, 2-BRED, 3-CONFIRMED PREGNANT, and 4-DRY.

Of course, maintenance events like pen moves, foot trims, vaccinations, and pregnancy re-checks also occur during a cow’s lactation. But when FRESH, BRED, PREG, & DRY are the only four major events in a cow’s lactation, chances are, she’s a profitable part of your herd.

In this case, we’ll look closer at the first three events, FRESH, BRED & PREG. You’ll see that getting a cow off to the right start after she freshens truly affects her ability to cruise on through those first three major events with no issues.

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

We know that a cow’s reproductive efficiency is impacted by her health and welfare in the transition and fresh cow periods. We wanted to know to what extent. So, we did our research.

We dug into the herd health and reproduction records on 10,000 cows from three different dairies throughout the US. These herds operate at a very high level of management and keep accurately detailed records on all health events in their herds.

We sorted the cows from the three dairies into three different groups. We assigned each cow to a group based on the number of detrimental health event setbacks she had – zero, one, or more than one. By detrimental health events, we mean the ones that cost time, labor and money – including fresh cow events like milk fever, retained placenta, metritis, DA, ketosis, and also mastitis.

We then analyzed first service conception rate, overall conception rate and 21-day pregnancy risk per group. This chart illustrates what we found.

graph comparing conception rates and 21-day preg risk between cows with zero, one, or 1+ health events in the first 60 DIM

FEWER EVENTS EQUALS SUPERIOR REPRO

It’s easy to see the trend. Cows with zero health events, at and after freshening, have higher repro performance than cows with one and two or more health events.

It’s also important to note that more than 76% of these events happened in the first 30 days in milk. That emphasizes the importance that an animal’s health and welfare throughout her transition and fresh cow periods plays on her ability to become a profitable 4-EVENT COW. Cows that get the best start to their lactation, before and after calving are much more likely to be BRED on time and CONFIRMED PREGNANT after just one service.

The cows that had healthy, trouble-free transition and fresh cow periods went on to have 6% higher first service conception rates than cows with just one health event, and 10% higher first service conception rates than cows with two or more health events. That proves the obvious – that cows not experiencing detrimental health events, especially in the first 30 days of their lactation, are more likely to get bred back sooner.

What changes are you willing to make to get a 10%, jump in first service conception rate?

FOR THE SKEPTICS

You might be thinking that even a 41% first service conception rate and a 21-day pregnancy risk of 27% in the group of cows with multiple health events is still quite impressive. Those numbers come from the high management level at which all these herd operate.

t’s more important to recognize the difference in repro performance between the multi-event cows, and the healthy, trouble-free cows with zero events. A 10% conception rate difference and a 9% pregnancy risk difference is huge!

To take it one step further, we calculate the average annual 21-day preg risk across all three herds at 32%. That means the group of cows with multiple detrimental health events falls 5% short on repro performance as compared to just the average.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH THIS INFO?

Creating a pregnancy starts long before you inseminate the cow. If your repro performance is not hitting your goal, then work with a trusted advisor to analyze your herd’s transition and fresh cow health.

If you have too many cases of those fresh cow illnesses, they cost more than the time, labor and money you’re putting in to treat them. They’re impacting your herd’s overall reproductive efficiency.

Put a plan in place to address areas of opportunity in the transition and fresh cow pens to see benefits that extend to your reproductive success. When fresh cow health and welfare are front of mind, you’ll create more of those 4-event cows that 1-freshen with no troubles, 2-are bred just once, 3-are confirmed pregnant after just one service, and 4-go dry with no other health issues.

 

Article and analysis by Ben Voelz, Alta Premier Account Manager

*A version of this article was previously published in Progressive Dairy Magazine. Find it HERE.*

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How to make your next preg check your best one yet

There are so many factors that affect how efficiently you can get cows pregnant. Cow comfort. Cow cooling. Nutrition. Herd health. Genetics. Dry cow, transition and fresh cow management. And the list goes on.

The whole picture can be overwhelming. So to help break it down, we turn to the simple lactation cycle of an Alta 4-EVENT COW. You can make your next preg check the best one yet by focusing on the management practices around the BRED and PREG events of a cow’s lactation.

Here, we share three things you can do today to improve the current reproductive efficiency in your herd – and create more of those profitable Alta 4-EVENT COWS.

4-Event Cow logo-focused on BRED & PREG

1. USE HIGH FERTILITY CONCEPT PLUS SIRES

With countless sire options available, it’s often hard to choose the right bulls for your herd. If part of your goal is to make your next preg check your best one yet, one of the fastest, simplest ways to do that in this moment, is to emphasize sire fertility within your customized genetic plan.

When you use a high fertility sire, you’re upping your odds of creating a pregnancy on the very inseminations where you use that sire. That means more cows that require just one time BRED before they’re confirmed PREGnant.

The trio of high fertility Alta CONCEPT PLUS semen options will improve the fertility in your herd, regardless of which semen type you use.

  • CONCEPT PLUS DxD – High fertility sires will give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a pregnancy with conventional semen.
  • 511 CONCEPT PLUS – High fertility SexedULTRA sires offer a 4%-9% conception rate advantage over the average sexed bull.
  • CONCEPT PLUS BxD – High fertility beef x dairy sires give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a conventional pregnancy with the beef semen you use in your dairy herd.
Alta CONCEPT PLUS logo

2. PRACTICE STRICT COMPLIANCE AND ACCURACY

Regardless of your repro strategy, your cows will not get pregnant if you don’t comply with the timed AI protocols and/or maintain an exceptional level of accuracy with heat detection.

When you use timed AI…

With synchronization programs, we can never emphasize enough that compliance is king. To put that in simple, relatable terms, that means combining four things:

  • The right injection
  • The right dose
  • The right cow
  • The right time

If you miss just one of these four critical factors, any chance at creating a pregnancy based off a synchronization schedule is severely diminished, or even gone.

When you heat detect…

The fastest diagnosis that you have on your farm for an open diagnosis is timely, accurate heat detection. What we mean by this, is that if you wait until your actual preg check day to determine the pregnancy status of every cow bred 28-35 days prior, you’ll be checking some cows that may already have showed heat since they were bred.

Regardless if you use an activity monitor system or tail painting, if you’re able to detect heats with accuracy, you’ll give yourself a chance to catch those cows that come into heat. That means fewer open cows on preg check day.

3. MAINTAIN ACCURATE RECORDS

Using a software program to maintain your records gives you the best chance of sticking to point number two above. When using a timed AI program, you can set up your synchronization schedule in your her management software program so you can follow it to a T.

When it comes to heat detection, having accurate data on freshenings, last service date, and more, will ensure you present the right cows on preg check day and keep your repro program on track.

Of course, other management factors will affect how many cows are confirmed pregnant on your next herd check. But if you do your own, personal check on the three points above, you may find that your next preg check is your best one yet.

 

Article by Glaucio Lopes & Chrissy Meyer

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What’s a fertility leader?

Have you ever really thought about what’s involved to get highly fertile semen from the bull to your tank, and then into your cows or heifers? Fertility leadership is backed by the Alta people, processes and programs involved in every step.

PEOPLE

Fertility excellence is what drives our team! We hire and extensively train only those who share a commitment and passion to your herd’s reproductive success. From semen collection and evaluation to distribution and delivery, our barn and lab staff, veterinarians, distribution crew, technicians, and sales force are all committed to help you get cows pregnant.

PROCESSES

We deliver the highest quality semen through continual innovation. Our scientists on staff are always looking for the best ways to enhance semen quality through extender research, potency trials, and more. We implement the same, strict semen handling processes and quality control checks at each of our AI centers located in six different countries around the world.

PROGRAMS

We choose the industry’s leading sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS, as the only way to measure Alta sire fertility. CONCEPT PLUS is based on pregnancy check results from DairyComp data in our large, progressive partner dairies. We update results every other month for the most reliable sire fertility information – and we’re transparent about which bulls offer superior or inferior fertility.

You can trust CONCEPT PLUS.

Twenty years ago, we challenged traditional fertility evaluations to align with the real needs of progressive herds: creating efficient pregnancies. CONCEPT PLUS goes above and beyond today’s industry evaluations to bring you the most trusted, accurate, and proven designation in sire fertility.

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New repro research presented at DCRC

More than 250 progressive dairy producers, academia, and industry personnel gathered in Reno, Nevada November 8-10, 2017 for the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) annual meeting. While there, guests discussed new and advanced practices to achieve outstanding reproductive performance.

During the annual meeting, the DCRC invites speakers from around North America to present cutting-edge research and discuss hot-topics impacting today’s dairy reproductive performance. Topics covered this year included hormone use in dairy cattle, the importance of cow health on fertility, effects of heat stress during late gestation, heifer rearing, use of in vitro embryos and genomics, decision-making with sexed semen, and many more. Here is a quick summary of some of the talks:

Transition cow health and fertility

Dr. Eduardo Ribeiro with the University of Guelph, presented the “Impact of Transition Cow Health on Fertility.” Dr. Ribeiro showed data highlighting early pregnancy loss as a major factor impairing reproductive efficiency of dairy cattle.

In addition to early pregnancy loss, Dr. Ribeiro also demonstrated how diseases such as metritis, mastitis, lameness, and digestive and respiratory problems during the early postpartum period decreased the likelihood of cows to become pregnant after artificial insemination (AI), and increased the risk of pregnancy loss after 45 days of gestation.

Recent research of Dr. Ribeiro’s laboratory in Canada has demonstrated that the timing of disease has a negative effect on fertility of dairy cows. Disease that occurs before the end of the voluntary waiting period (VWP) has a similar, negative effect as disease that happens during the time of breeding and early pregnancy.

These findings confirm that disease has a negative carryover effect on fertility, with consequences still observed three months after the disease had subsided. Dr. Ribeiro concluded that prevention of postpartum disease is the best approach to reduce these negative effects on fertility. However, complete prevention is nearly impossible.

Future research is required to investigate the effects of minimizing inflammation of clinical diseases and how that could potentially mitigate some of the negative effects on reproduction.

Voluntary waiting period and first service repro strategies

Dr. Julio Giordano, from Cornell University, presented another great talk on the “Impact of the VWP, first-service management strategies, and how these decisions can alter profitability.” Research has demonstrated that extending the VWP from 50 or 60 to 88 days in milk (DIM) may increase conception rates at first service.

When extending the VWP, the greatest increase in conception rate is observed in first lactation cows. Dr. Giordano suggested that extending the VWP may lead to greater profitability in those first lactation cows but not in cows in their second and greater lactation.

Several factors influence profitability when changing the VWP, but the two major factors are:

  • differences in replacement costs
  • income over feed costs

Furthermore, when extending the VWP from 60 to 88 DIM the increase in first-service conception rate must be 10 to 11 percentage points greater for first lactation cows and 7 to 12 percentage points greater for multiparous cows to generate the same number of pregnancies by 90 DIM.

Dr. Giordano concluded that the duration of the VWP and how that affects herd performance and profitability depends upon complex interactions between reproductive performance, culling dynamics, lactation performance, and the economic market.

Recognizing reproductive excellence

Every year DCRC recognizes dairy farms that exude excellence in reproductive efficiency, fertility, and reproductive management. Dr. Glaucio Lopes from Alta Genetics, examined the records of the 2017 DCRC award winners to show similarities and differences among the 24 award recipients in his presentation “Digging Deep into Records of DCRC Award Winners.

Pregnancy rate is one of the most common metrics to evaluate the success of reproductive programs. So it should be no surprise that the average pregnancy rate of winning herds has steadily increased throughout the years of the award program. In fact, all award winners from 2017’s contest had over 30% pregnancy rate throughout 2016. However, Dr. Lopes was emphatic on highlighting that pregnancy rate is not the only metric used by the awards committee to select the winners.

Though reproductive management strategies differed among award winners, most farms used some form of fixed timed-AI program as part of their management system, in combination with estrus detection and AI. Despite practices that were common in the beginning of this decade, no farms used 100% fixed timed-AI, nor 100% estrus detection to select cows for all services.

Of the 24 winners, 13 dairies use some form of a presynch-ovsynch program, with a combination of synchronization and estrus detection for AI on all services. Eleven of the award-winning dairies use a 100% timed AI program for first service, followed by a combination of re-synchronization and estrus detection for subsequent services.

The range in VWP among the award winners was vast, ranging from 41 to 76 DIM. First service conception rates were outstanding, even for the dairies using sexed-semen on lactating cows, ranging from 37% – 66%.

An interesting observation presented was that disease incidence of the award-winning dairies was extremely low. Though the incidence of disease could be underreported in the computer records, this observation agrees with the presentation and conclusions of Dr. Ribeiro.

In conclusion, maximizing reproductive efficiency and performance is important to a successful and profitable year ahead. The annual meeting hosted by DCRC provided valuable information to dairy professionals that will benefit the dairy industry this year, and the years ahead.

Please visit http://www.dcrcouncil.org/ to learn more about this great organization, and the benefits of becoming a member.

DCRC is a proactive organization with long-term interest in raising awareness of issues critical to reproductive performance. Through information and communication, it strives to deliver the latest in technology and resources.

Article written by Dr. Benjamin Voelz, Premier Account Manager and Dr. Glaucio Lopes, Vice-President of DCRC and Alta University Manager, Alta Genetics.

For more details on the DCRC annual meeting, or with follow-up questions on this article, please contact: Benjamin Voelz (ben.voelz@altagenetics.com) or Glaucio Lopes (glaucio.lopes@altagenetics.com).

Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council logo
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