Newsletter – 2019 – August

President's message

From the DCRC President’s Desk
By Glaucio Lopes

We’re more than halfway through summer and plans for back to school, football season and fall events are in full swing. Speaking of fall events, I hope you’ve blocked out Nov. 13 and 14 for the DCRC Annual Meeting at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center in Pittsburgh. Registration will open later this month. Watch your e-mail inbox for notices regarding this must-attend event.

Program Chair Anibal Ballarotti and Program Vice Chair Eduardo de Souza Ribeiro have developed an outstanding program. Confirmed speakers include Katie Mrdutt, Wisconsin Veterinarian Medical Association, Ronaldo Cerri, University of British Columbia, Jennifer Van Os, University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), Luis Mendonca, Kansas State University, Robert Corbett, Dairy Health Consultation, Albert De Vries, University of Florida, Robert Hagevoort, New Mexico State University, Dan McFarland, Penn State University, Joseph Dalton, University of Idaho, Alison Van Eenennaam, University of California, Davis, Victor Cabrera, UW-Madison, Julio Giordano, Cornell University, Mark Kirkpatrick, Zoetis, Dan Rice, The a2 Milk Company, Dennis Savaiano, Purdue University, and King Smith, Select Sires.

These world-renowned speakers will address:

  • Communicating with the public about dairy’s judicious use of antibiotics
  • Incorporating activity monitoring systems into repro programs
  • Animal welfare: Dairy cattle housing best practices
  • Maximizing fertility to artificial insemination (AI) while minimizing use of timed AI
  • Preparing heifers for a better productive and reproductive life
  • Data organization: Successful producer-veterinarian interaction
  • Economic and genetic performance regarding in vitro-produced embryo transfers and AI
  • Safety training with a focus on reproduction
  • Reproduction genetic markers
  • Gene editing in cattle
  • Beef on Dairy: Is it a fad?
  • Heifer reproduction
  • Facility design to enhance cow comfort and profitability
  • Repro programs: Creating a culture of compliance
  • Dairy foods marketing strategies

Strategic plan progresses

As discussed in our last newsletter, DCRC volunteers continue to make progress in developing and implementing the organization’s strategic plan. The DCRC Strategic Plan Committee is led by DCRC Past President Ronaldo Cerri.

The committee has had a handful of conference calls and the subcommittees have been meeting by teleconference the past nine months. Those committees are:

  • Content
  • Conferences
  • Membership
  • Financial Stability (including sponsorships)
  • Governance

The subcommittees are working on a timetable that will create the direction of DCRC over the next several years. While the subcommittees have been meeting the past nine months, there is still time for you to participate. Please contact me and I will put you in touch with Ronaldo. This work is important to our future and we encourage your input.

Next webinar is August 12

As a reminder of DCRC’s webinar series, our next guest presenter will be Gustavo Schuenemann, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine professor, with a talk on training and monitoring herd managers based on attitude and performance. This webinar will be held Aug. 12, starting at 1 p.m. Central time. Click here to register.

To help us spread the “good word” of DCRC through social media, follow us on Twitter (@DCRCouncil) and Facebook. Your retweets, likes and comments help extend the reach of DCRC’s information and programs. This is an easy way for you to get involved in DCRC and requires no money and very little time. Sharing DCRC events, programs and dairy cattle reproduction information benefits the industry as a whole and helps DCRC with its mission to raise awareness of issues critical to reproductive performance.

I wish all of you a great rest of the summer and hope to see you in Pittsburgh!

Research Summaries

Effect of presynchronization with prostaglandin F2α before the 5-day timed AI protocol on ovarian responses and pregnancy in dairy heifers

Karakaya-Bilena et. al. hypothesized that starting the 5-day timed artificial insemination (TAI) protocol in proestrus by presynchronization with prostaglandin F2α (PGF2α) would improve ovulation to the initial gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and enhance pregnancy per AI (P/AI) in dairy heifers, based on results with lactating dairy cows where increasing ovulation and synchrony of follicle wave emergence in response to GnRH reduces follicle dominance and increases synchrony of ovulation at TAI, improving embryo quality and increasing P/AI. The authors’ objectives were to determine the effects of presynchronization with PGF2α 2 days before the 5-day TAI protocol on ovarian responses and P/AI in dairy heifers.


Weekly cohorts of Holstein heifers were blocked by age and, within block, randomly assigned to:

  • Control (CON; n=255) or receive PGF2α on experiment day 10 (PG; n=255).
  • All heifers were subjected to the 5-day TAI protocol (day 8, GnRH + intravaginal progesterone controlled internal drug release insert; day 3, PGF2α and insert removal; day 2, PGF2α; and day 0, GnRH and AI).
  • A subset of 22 blocks of heifers (n=43) had their ovaries scanned by ultrasonography on experiment days 8, 3, 0, and 2, and blood was sampled and analyzed for concentrations of progesterone on experiment days 8, 7, 5, and 3. Pregnancy was diagnosed on experiment days 32 and 60.


  • On the day of the first GnRH of the TAI protocol, prostaglandin (PG) heifers had smaller concentration of progesterone in plasma (CON=4.5±0.5 ng/mL vs. PG=0.5±0.5 ng/mL), but larger follicular diameter (CON=9.1±0.5 mm vs. PG=11.0±0.5 mm), and a greater proportion of them had a follicle with at least 8.0 mm in diameter (CON=61.9% vs. PG=90.9%) than CON heifers, which resulted in increased ovulation to GnRH (CON=19.0% vs. PG=86.3%).
  • Ovulation to the initial GnRH of the protocol increased as the concentration of progesterone in plasma decreased, from <20% when progesterone was >5.0 ng/mL to >65% when progesterone was <1.0 ng/mL.
  • More CON than PG heifers spontaneously ovulated before the day of TAI. Detection of estrus on the day of TAI did not differ between treatments (CON=50.9% vs. PG=46.6%), but P/AI on days 32 (CON=52.9% vs. PG=61.1%) and 60 (CON=49.0% vs. PG=57.1%) after insemination tended to be greater for PG than CON.
  • The benefit to presynchronization was observed in heifers inseminated with conventional semen (CON=54.7% vs. PG=67.4%) but not in heifers inseminated with sex-sorted semen (CON=50.9% vs. PG=52.8%).

In conclusion, administration of PGF2α 2 days before initiating the TAI protocol induced heifers to be in proestrus, which enhanced ovulation to the initial GnRH and favored P/AI, particularly in heifers inseminated with conventional semen.

Access the paper:

Influence of on-farm measurements for heat stress indicators on dairy cow productivity, female fertility, and health

Global warming is a major challenge for future dairy cattle production systems, as the number of heat stress (HS) days for dairy cows has substantially increased in the past few decades. Therefore, it becomes critical to study HS effects and determine HS thresholds for the optimization of management decisions. In this study, Gernand et al. (2019) aimed to quantify the effect of Hs from different points in time on production, female fertility, and health traits.

Study design

On-farm measurements for temperature and relative humidity were combined into temperature-humidity indexes (THI) and merged with different production, cow, health, and fertility traits from electronic recording systems. The study included 22,212 Holstein cows from 15 herds. Primarily, researchers evaluated THI from the trait-recording day and time-lagged THI effect from the previous week.


  • Protein percentage decreased with increased THI on test day and from previous week.
  • Protein yield decreased when THI was >68 on test day and from previous week.
  • Estrous activity per herd, measured as inseminated cows per herd and day, decreased when THI was >57 on test day and from previous week.
  • Pregnancy per artificial insemination was moderately affected by THI from the previous week.
  • Incidences of mastitis, retained placenta, and puerperal disorders within 10 days in milk increased as the average THI increased from this period.
  • The incidences for interdigital hyperplasia increased with increasing THI from the previous week.
  • The incidence of digital dermatitis decreased with increasing THI.

In conclusion, heat stress (measured as THI) has a detrimental effect on production, fertility, and diseases such as mastitis, retained placenta, puerperal disorders, and interdigital hyperplasia.

Access the paper:

Blood samples before and after embryonic attachment accurately determine non-pregnant lactating dairy cows at 24 days post-artificial insemination using a commercially available assay for pregnancy-specific protein B

Successful dairies, from a reproductive vantage, get cows get pregnant before 130 days in milk and cows maintain pregnancies until parturition. A critical strategy to achieve this goal is to correctly identify non-pregnant cows as soon as possible and enroll them in a resynchronization program. Pregnancy-specific protein B (PSPB) is a protein produced by the trophectoderm of the embryo and can be measured in serum to diagnose pregnancy as early as 28 to 35 days post artificial insemination (AI), with 98% accuracy. Preliminary data from Arnold et al. (2012) show that serum levels of PSPB start increasing at 22 days post-AI in pregnant cows. In this study, Middleton and Pursley (2019) aimed to determine whether percentage change in serum levels of PSPB within a cow, from days 17 to 24, can be used to identify non-pregnant cows using a commercially available assay.

Experimental design

Blood samples from lactating dairy cows (n=206) were taken at 17 and 24 days post-AI and analyzed for PSPB. Day 17 post-AI was used as the baseline and cows with a 10% increase in serum PSPB were considered pregnant. The diagnosis from PSPB was compared with the herd veterinarian diagnosis via ultrasound on day 34 post-AI.


  • The sensitivity for a non-pregnant diagnosis was 100% and the specificity was 93.6%.
  • The positive predictive value for a non-pregnant diagnosis was 93.3% and the negative predictive value was 100%.
  • Low PSPB levels at day 24 were predictive of early pregnancy loss by 60 days post-AI.

In summary, using comparative PSPB samples at 17 and 24 days post-AI provides an accurate method to detect non-pregnant cows earlier, allowing cows to be resynchronized and re-inseminated sooner, ultimately decreasing days in milk to conception.

Access the paper:

Featured Column

Connecting reproduction and industry’s carbon footprint

Not so long ago, subfertility challenged the dairy industry. Helpful tools, such as estrous synchronization protocols and activity monitoring systems, aided in improving pregnancy rates. Plus, increased use of gender-sorted semen yielded a larger pool of replacement heifers, explained Kevin McSweeney of Bovine Reproductive Specialists LLC and International Bovine Training Solutions, LLC, Loveland, Colo., who spoke at the 2018 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Annual Meeting.

“More heifers led to increased culling, especially less fertile, older cows,” said McSweeney. “Maintaining a larger percentage of younger, more fertile cows led to an increase in heat expression, heat detection and conception rates, which translated into greater overall pregnancy rates.” With a large pool of fertile replacement heifers, the need to impregnate the remaining open cows (older, less fertile) drops. Therein lies a “black eye” the dairy industry should address.

The general public is expressing concern regarding the dairy industry’s carbon footprint (despite the U.S. dairy farm industry reducing its total carbon footprint by 41 percent, from 1944 to 2007). “Having a 35 to 50 percent cull rate ensures that cows do not persist in a herd,” said McSweeney. “The industry needs to increase the longevity of these cows to have any chance at being viewed as environmentally friendly – or at least neutral – to the average person. The best way for dairies to retain these cows and reduce their culling rates is to achieve more pregnancies after the first-service breeding.”

Identify open cows with ultrasound

McSweeney offered some solutions. First, use ultrasound and strive to identify open cows as soon as possible. Then, initiate a timed artificial insemination (AI) breeding program. “This can improve pregnancy rates by increasing heat detection rates,”  said McSweeney.

With second (and subsequent) breedings yielding subpar conception rates, McSweeney encourages producers to correctly time the start of synchronization programs in relation to a cow’s estrous cycle. “Most studies find that the Ovsynch timed AI program results in the greatest conception rates when initiated between days 5 and 12 of the estrous cycle.”

McSweeney noted that ultrasound has the advantage over rectal palpation in being able to completely visualize ovarian structures and better predict when cows fall into this optimal period to initiate or continue in synchronization programs. “Most important in predicting where a cow is within her estrous cycle is identifying the presence of an active corpus luteum (CL), and more importantly her progesterone concentrations.”

By using ultrasound, technicians can assess the reproductive tract and synchronization programs can be modified for cows that fail to synchronize. “Combining this ultrasound management strategy with a synchronization program can be a powerful tool to maximize not only heat detection rates but also conception rates, which combine to improve overall pregnancy rates,” said McSweeney.

Other options

When identifying whether a cow has high progesterone or not, serum progesterone is considered the gold standard. However, testing for this is costly and takes too long to be used in managing reproduction.

McSweeney noted that technology exists to sample milk from cows through the milk line and test automatically for various substances, such as progesterone. Access to progesterone data would eliminate the need to use ultrasound in looking for an active CL.

“Applying new strategies, such as transrectal ultrasound or milk progesterone, to reproductive management can pay big dividends,” said McSweeney. “Intensively incorporating transrectal ultrasound or serum or milk progesterone into the timed AI program can improve reproductive outcomes dramatically by ensuring cows are properly synchronized. Using ultrasound routinely in reproductive management by properly trained veterinarians or technicians will result in significant reproductive improvements and increased financial returns for the dairy.”

Featured Member

(Editor’s Note: For each issue, DCRC interviews a member to learn more about his/her career, involvement with DCRC and thoughts about dairy cattle and reproduction. We encourage you to recommend someone for this feature by contacting JoDee Sattler at:

Jeannie Winkelman Bishop
Merck Animal Health-Eastern Wisconsin
Watertown, Wisconsin
DCRC member since 2008

From her family’s dairy farm near Watertown, Wis., to her many clients across eastern Wisconsin, Jeannie Winkelman Bishop’s involvement in dairy cattle reproduction is at the grassroots level. She grew up on a 150-cow Brown Swiss and Holstein dairy farm. Bishop and her sister Laurie continue to actively help their parents – John and Dee Winkelman – to relieve them from daily chores, such as milking cows, feeding calves, cleaning barn and driving tractor for crop-related activities.

As a territory manager for Merck Animal Health, Bishop meets with dairy producers, calf raisers, veterinarians and distribution partners to educate them about Merck’s product portfolio and provide solutions and options for their animal health programs. “We provide a team approach to animal health solutions, working with our technical services veterinarians, farm owners/managers/employees and other valuable consultants that customers trust,” said Bishop.

A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, in dairy science and agronomy, Bishop holds a wealth of industry experience. Following college, she worked for Holstein Association USA as a field representative in California. She returned to Wisconsin and joined Alta Genetics, where she focused on the Alta Advantage program in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. Since 2006, Bishop has worked in the pharmaceutical industry, starting with Schering-Plough Animal Health, which merged into Intervet/Schering-Plough and now, Merck Animal Health. “This industry is full of changes and the opportunity to work with great people continues,” she said.

With Merck, Bishop helps dairy producers and veterinarians improve preventative health and herd efficiency. Merck Animal Health is a worldwide, research-driven company that develops, manufactures and markets a broad range of veterinary medicines and services. “We offer one of the industry’s most innovative portfolios – spanning products for the prevention, treatment and control of disease in all major farm and companion animal species,” said Bishop. “I am particularly proud of our focus on producer and employee education via the Dairy Care 365 platform. It focuses on animal handling, best practices and employee education at the farm level. It has been awesome to see the impact of this program with my customers!”

Back to her grassroots involvement in dairy cattle reproduction, Bishop believes in teamwork. “It truly takes a team approach to yield successful reproduction and be a successful dairy producer,” she said. “I work hard to listen, and also observe, what is happening on farms to find solution options for the operation. Whether it’s the veterinarian, nutritionist, Spanish translator or equipment supplier, I know that in the end I want that customer to have healthier cattle and own a profitable, long-term business.”

That teamwork approach has helped some of Bishop’s clients gain DCRC recognition for repro success in their dairy herds. Her elite herds (past and current clients) include Seidl’s Mountain View Dairy, Luxemburg, Rosy-Lane Holsteins, Watertown, Drake Dairy, Elkhart Lake, A-OK Farms, Sheboygan Falls, Pagel’s Ponderosa, Kewaunee, Zirbel Dairy, De Pere, and Oechsner Farm, Brownsville.

Bishop’s interest in dairy cattle reproduction stems from her interest in great dairy cattle – from both a production and type (conformation) standpoint. “Involvement in 4-H, FFA and collegiate dairy cattle judging exposed me to many great breeders and great people,” she said. “It’s so impressive to work with customers who have high production, great conformation and genetics programs. It takes great ‘cow people’ to build those genetic foundations and great leaders, managers and employees on farm to help those cows reach their fullest potential.”

A lifelong learner, Bishop looks to DCRC as a source for worldwide reproductive research. “DCRC is a great gathering place for researchers to share their information and for dairy producers and veterinarians to share what reproductive tools they need to be even better,” she said.

Through DCRC conferences, Bishop enjoys learning about various technologies (radio frequency identification, rumination, activity collars, etc.) and new uses for them to make dairy herds better. “I also appreciate tying together the research with practical solutions to use on the farm,” she said.

While the dairy industry has made significant strides in improving reproductive success since DCRC started in 2006, reproductive challenges still face the dairy industry. Bishop explained that many of her customers are trying to balance high reproductive efficiency (e.g., >35 percent preg rates) and dollars generated via milk production. “It’s challenging to balance having cows calve in a timely manner and maximizing peak milk production through their lactation curve,” she said.

Bishop posed two questions. “What is the point of diminishing returns – higher preg rates compared with milk dollars sold? Is there a point of diminishing returns?”

In addition, there’s the balance of reproductive hormones, technology and consumer/processor/brand perception. “Science does not always equal acceptance or approval when it comes to purchasing products in grocery stores,” Bishop commented.

DCRC Webinar Series

Next DCRC Webinar Highlights Herd Manager Training and Monitoring

Mark your calendar for the next Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) webinar – Training and Monitoring Herd Managers Based on Attitude and Performance. Gustavo Schuenemann, from The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, will lead this webinar, scheduled for Aug. 12, at 1 p.m. Central time. He will provide insights on effective training programs for modern dairy operations.

“The dairy business is the art of controlling variation and managing risk,” says Schuenemann. “People have the ability to work together to ultimately achieve a consistent management over time; thus, reducing the risk of poor herd performance.”

Schuenemann says that fully trained workers “know what to do” and “how to do it.” However, workers with a poor attitude will likely have poor work performance – regardless of their knowledge and skills.

During the Aug. 12 webinar, Schuenemann will address “consistent management,” which helps dairy farms succeed. Key areas include:

  • Committed and well-organized herd managers
  • Management programs designed for transition cow needs
  • Record keeping designed to monitor processes
  • Training programs integrated and consistent with established protocols

Upcoming webinars

DCRC’s highly regarded webinars offer access to high-quality information and interaction with industry experts to attendees from across the United States and around the world, all from the comfort of their farm, home or office.

Save these dates and times for future DCRC webinars:

  • Ronaldo Cerri (presented in Portuguese), University of British Columbia, presents “Estrus: Use of Activity Monitors and Implications to Fertility” (“Estro: Uso de Monitores de Atividade e Efeitos na Fertilidade”)

Oct. 23 (time: to be determined)

  • Julio Giordano (presented in Spanish), Cornell University, presents “Reproductive Management Strategies to Optimize the Performance of Replacement Animals” (“Estrategias de Manejo Reproductivo para Optimizar el Desempeño de los Animales de Remplazo”)

Dec. 10, at 2 p.m. Central time

For more information about the DCRC webinars, e-mail Natalia Martinez-Patino, DCRC Education Committee chair, at: or e-mail DCRC at:

To register for a webinar, please visit and follow all prompts. As the webinar approaches, you will receive an e-mail with information on how to log in for attendance. If you are a DCRC member and cannot attend the ”live” webinar, you may access it (and all past webinars) at

Industry Calendar