Reproduction Management Tips

By Nancy Charlton, DVM

This is part 2 in a 3 part series.

Regardless of whether your goal is 30/30 (30% pregnancy rate and 30,000 lb average) or 30/15 (30% pregnancy rate and 15,000 kg), the number one area to focus on to help improve the productivity of many dairy farms is in the area of reproduction. Dr. Paul Frick recently gave a seminar entitled “Fertility Programs to Achieve High 21-day Pregnancy Rates in High Producing Dairy Herds.”** There is no doubt that high fertility is possible, the question then becomes what is holding your farm back?

Dr. Fricke tweaked the original ov-sync program to achieve great results. However, this involves many injections. As producers look for alternatives to many of these injections, we should not lose sight of achieving the excellent numbers that his team achieved. Only through pregnancy rates of greater than 20% can you relax and enter into the world of voluntary culling and using genetic tools to select heifers that you would like in your herd. You can also breed the bottom end to beef and sell a higher value dairy beef calf to supplement income, provided you do not sacrifice attention to your heifer raising program.

You have VMS and Activity Meters or VMS and Herd Navigator, how can you achieve high pregnancy rates?

VMS and Activity:

1. It is strongly recommended to have your herd veterinarian visit your farm on a regular basis. Your herd size will dictate, but on average once every 2 weeks and a maximum of once every 3 weeks. Larger herds will be weekly.
2. The vet’s role is to assess fresh cow health and help you to take action on open cows. Think of the diagnosis of open cows as being more important than the diagnosis of pregnant cows. If your vet is checking cows between 28 and 35 days since insemination, they are doing this to find open cows and advising how to re-breed. Since embryonic losses can be high, a recheck between 35 and 50 days is important to ensure that cows are still pregnant and a quick check for twins and/or fetal sex can be an added value.
3. The vet’s role should be to design a program that combines your activity system with a complimentary GnRH/Prostaglandin program to help with cows that are cycling but silent and to stimulate non-cycling cows.
a. A Pre-sync program with cherry picking off the second injection is popular, then roll non-cycling (no heat signs at all) onto ov-sync and have semen into ALL cows by a set date. Heifers by day 90 and cows by day 80 (just as an example).
b. Another popular program is to breed off activity until a certain day and then gather all cows by day 70, and all heifers by day 80, put them onto a CIDR sync. This ensures all cows have been inseminated by a certain date.
4. The dry cow program and transition cow program are crucial to have cows ready to cycle at day 50 and fertile between days 60 and 90 when you decide to follow through on 1st service breeding. Weaknesses in dry or transition cows as well as overcrowding will sacrifice the conception rate.

VMS and Herd Navigator:

1. It is strongly recommended that your veterinarian is keen to shift their approach of how they work with you. You should expect to take a more proactive approach in managing herd health.
2. The veterinarian’s role is to establish how you will assess fresh cow health. This is through fresh cow ultrasounds of all cows or only non-cycling cows at day 40 fresh (just an example). It is their role to establish SOPs for non-cycling cows and abnormal cows identified by Herd Navigator. This allows you to intervene and treat your own abnormal cows so you don’t have to wait for the bi-weekly herd health; you‘ve bought this benefit with Herd Navigator.
3. Herd Navigator will show you cows that lose their embryos early.
4. You may wish to continue with ultrasounding if your herd has a high level of embryo losses as some of these embryos will be at a high risk of dying after day 55 (Herd Navigator currently stops sampling 55 days after insemination) or if you want to fetal sex or check for twins.
5. The key with Herd Navigator is to inseminate all 1st lactation heifers by day 90 and cows by day 80 or earlier. Your goal should be to drive up conception rates; 40% is a starting goal and moving towards 50% is reasonable if all factors contributing to conception rates are a priority on the farm. If you wish to breed all cows by day 80, use your KPIs to tweak what is right for your farm.

The number one reason for failing to move the pregnancy rate in an upward fashion is usually a failure to develop a strategy and to stick with it. We have many KPIs to monitor in DelPro, so please share these with your advisors and review them once a month. It takes work to move the pregnancy rate up and it can fall quickly. Please ask your dealership herd management support for help if you do not know where to find these or need further explanation. The following are print screens to show the KPIs that you can use to monitor your farm with DelPro.

** “Fertility Programs to Achieve High 21-Day Pregnancy Rates in High-Producing Holstein Dairy Herds”, Dr. Paul Fricke, webinar through the Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council, Presented February 26, 2016


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