Newsletter – 2019 – June

President's message

From the DCRC President’s Desk
By Glaucio Lopes

One year ago, DCRC embarked on a strategic plan. Now that I’m halfway through my term as the DCRC president, I’d like to share some of the progress that the strategic planning committee has made. Here are some highlights:

Content Subcommittee

  • Establishing a social media content calendar.
  • Working to develop video content for the website.
  • Improving search engine optimization on the website.
  • Exploring ways to improve searchability of online proceedings library.

Conferences Subcommittee

  • Discussing ideal location for DCRC’s first international meeting collaboration. United Kingdom is a strong prospect.
  • Looking at domestic locations to increase attendance.

Membership Subcommittee

  • Organizing outside-the-box initiatives to promote DCRC membership.

Financial Stability Subcommittee

  • Making recommendation for board approval on continuing to keep DCRC in a positive and growing financial position.

Governance Subcommittee

  • Looking at current committee structure and discussing best approach in terms of number of committees, protocols, etc.
  • A major goal is to diversify the board of directors and attract leadership from women who are dairy cattle reproduction leaders in the industry.

Committee selects DCRC Scholar

To help support the development of future dairy cattle reproduction specialists, DCRC launched the DCRC Scholar program this year. I am pleased to announce that Megan Lauber, a master’s degree student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Alexandre Scanavez, a doctorate student at Kansas State University (KSU), were selected as our first DCRC Scholars. Through this honor, they earned an expense-paid trip to attend the 2019 DCRC Annual Meeting, Nov. 13-14, in Pittsburgh.

Megan, who grew up on a dairy farm in southeast Wisconsin, worked in Laura Hernandez’s Lactation Biology Lab while pursuing her bachelor’s degree at UW-Madison. Last summer, Megan interned with ABS Global, where she conducted conventional semen processing and analyzed ejaculate quality, motility and morphology. Previously, she held internships with Animart and Golden Oaks Farm. Currently, Megan is a graduate research assistant with Paul Fricke. Her research includes optimizing reproductive protocols for lactating dairy cows and heifers for sexed semen inseminations; investigate the capacitation rate differences between conventional and sexed spermatozoa; and helping with ultrasound and blood sample collection.

Alexandre earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Universidade Federal de Uberlandia in Brazil nine years ago. He spent time as a postgraduate researcher at the University of Minnesota, where he studied transition cow management, reproductive efficiency of dairy cows, mastitis and young stock health. For four years, he worked for Dannon Brazil/Agroplan Dairy Consulting. Alexandre provided services in dairy cattle reproduction, nutrition, herd management and economics. At KSU, he focuses on identifying cows, during the dry period, that are more likely to have impaired health in the subsequent lactation. The research group developed a method that is based on body temperature and is highly applicable in commercial dairy herds.

Judges choose 44 Herd Repro Award finalists

Many thanks to those of you who submitted nominations for the 2019 DCRC Herd Reproduction Awards program. We received 102 entries – the second most during the program’s decade-plus history. Forty-four dairies were selected to advance to the finalist round. From these elite dairies, the judges will name the Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze recipients. The 2019 DCRC Annual Meeting will feature a discussion with the top award winners.

Sneak peek at annual meeting agenda

Speaking of the DCRC Annual Meeting, do you have Nov. 13 and 14 blocked off to attend the meeting? If not, do so today. Program Chair Anibal Ballarotti and his committee have lined up an amazing list of speakers who will address thought-provoking topics. Presenters will discuss:

  • Judicious use of antibiotics
  • Integration of automated activity monitoring with AI programs
  • Animal welfare BMPs in dairy cattle housing and management
  • Maximizing fertility with timed AI
  • Preparing heifers for better production and reproduction
  • Safety training from a repro perspective
  • Dairy cattle genetic markers for reproduction
  • Gene editing in cattle
  • Beef X Dairy
  • Creating a culture for repro program compliance

DCRC board members strongly encourage dairy producers and veterinarians to attend the DCRC Annual Meeting. Consequently, DCRC is offering ten $200 stipends for dairy producers and veterinarians who work for veterinary clinics. Program details will be announced in August. The 2019 DCRC Annual Meeting will offer approximately 14 Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE) credits for veterinarians.

To keep DCRC Annual Meeting attendance affordable, we rely significantly on sponsors. Is your company a DCRC sponsor? If not, please contact me ( or 608-477-5352) to learn more about sponsorship opportunities and benefits. We’d love to gain your support and recognize your company as a DCRC sponsor. Sponsorship recognition occurs throughout the year – not just during the DCRC Annual Meeting. This is a great opportunity to share how your company supports DCRC’s goals of enhancing reproductive performance and fertility on today’s dairy farms.

Research Summaries

The high-fertility cycle: How timely pregnancies in one lactation may lead to less body condition loss, fewer health issues, greater fertility, and reduced early pregnancy losses in the next lactation

Body condition scoring (BCS) is a key indicator of cow health and a useful tool in monitoring the nutritional state of dairy cattle. Changes in BCS during early postpartum are associated with health events, including metabolic conditions. Excessive BCS loss during early postpartum or cows with low body condition are associated with reduced pregnancy per artificial insemination (AI). In this study, Middleton et al. (2019) attempted to better understand the association between previous calving interval and body condition change in the first 30 days in milk (DIM), and their relationship to subsequent fertility and health variables. The hypothesis was that time to pregnancy in the previous lactation is associated with BCS change, health, and fertility in the next lactation.


Cows and heifers (n=851) were enrolled 25 d relative to expected day of calving and were evaluated for BCS on a 1 to 5 scale within one week of parturition and again at 30 ± 3 DIM postpartum. Records form previous calving to pregnancy interval, previous calving interval, gestation length, postpartum health, and production data were recorded.


  • Longer previous calving intervals were associated with greater BCS at parturition and BCS loss during the first 30 DIM.
  • Cows with a previous calving to pregnancy interval shorter than 130 d had a 75% greater chance of maintaining or gaining BCS during the next lactation, compared with cows with a previous calving to pregnancy interval longer than 130 d.
  • Multiparous cows that maintained or gained BCS had greater pregnancies per AI following first service, compared with lost body condition during the first 30 DIM, regardless of health events.
  • Multiparous cows that maintained or gained BCS during the first 30 DIM had fewer (0.0%) pregnancy losses between 35 and 60 d after first AI, compared with cows that lost body condition (8.2%).


Cows that become pregnant before 130 DIM have a greater chance of maintaining BCS or gaining body condition during the first 30 d of the subsequent lactation, leading to a greater chance of pregnancy and a reduced chance of pregnancy loss from 35 to 60 d post-AI. This leads to greater chances of maintaining a cycle of pregnancy before 130 DIM.

Access the paper at:


Profitability of dairy cows submitted to the first service with the Presynch-Ovsynch or Double-Ovsynch protocol and different duration of the voluntary waiting period

Timed artificial insemination programs (TAI) synchronize ovulation and can be beneficial, compared with insemination to detected estrus (EDAI), because they submit all cows to timed AI and reduce the variability in number of days to first service. The Presynch-Ovsynch (PSOv), which combines EDAI and TAI, is more dependent on the ability of cows to display estrus and the farm’s estrous detection efficiency, resulting in a greater range of days in milk (DIM) to the first service. On the other hand, the use of fertility programs, such as Double Ovsynch (DO), increases pregnancy per AI compared with the regular Ovsynch, and reduces the variability in number of days to first service.

In a previous experiment, Stangaferro et al. (2018) reported the reproductive performance and replacement dynamics of lactating dairy cows submitted to first service using the PSOv protocol and a voluntary waiting period (VWP) of 50 DIM versus all TAI after the DO protocol and VWP of 60 or 88 DIM. The effects of these reproductive management strategies on herd performance were characterized by complex interactions between the pattern of insemination and pregnancy per AI (P/AI) with the herd replacement dynamics, milk production performance, and parity. Because the program choice should be based on expected herd profitability, the objective if this study was to compare cash flow and parameters of economic performance for dairy cows submitted to first service using a combination of TAI in cows synchronized with the PSOv protocol versus all TAI after synchronization of ovulation with the DO protocol with different durations of the voluntary waiting period.


  • PSOv treatment (n = 450) received first service through a combination of insemination at detected estrus after a VWP of 50 DIM (i.e., after second PGF treatment of the protocol) and TAI at 72 ± 3 DIM.
  • DO60 treatment (n = 458) and DO88 (n = 462) treatments received first service by TAI at 60 ± 3 and 88 ± 3 DIM, respectively.

Individual cow cash flow was calculated for the calving interval after enrollment and for an 18-mo period after calving. Cash flow was the aggregation of daily income over feed cost, replacement cost, calf value, reproductive cost, and other operating expenses.


  • For primiparous cows, maximum cash flow differences per slot for the 18-mo period were in the range of $26 (PSOv > DO60) to $29 (DO88 > DO60) but did not differ statistically.
  • For multiparous cows, maximum cash flow differences per slot for the 18-mo period were in the range of $122 (PSOv > DO88) to $155 (DO60 > DO88) but did not differ statistically.
  • Large variability in overall cash flow among individual cows and compensation among multiple outcomes resulted in lack of statistical differences in cash flow.


Although the authors did not find statistical differences in cash flow between PSOv, DO60, and DO88 treatments, numerical trends and stochastic simulation favored the DO88 and PSOv treatments, compared with the DO60 treatment in primiparous cows. For multiparous cows, the DO60 and PSOv treatments were more economically favorable than the DO88 treatment.

Access the paper at:


Estrous characteristics and reproductive outcomes of Holstein heifers treated with 2 prostaglandin formulations and detected in estrus by an automated estrous detection or mounting device

Current published research comparing the effects of Cloprostenol sodium (CLO), a synthetic analog of PGF2α with a half-life of approximately 3 h, and Dinoprost tromethamine (DIN), a molecule similar to endogenous PGF2α with a half-life of approximately 9 min, on luteolysis and hazard of estrus and pregnancy of lactating dairy cows are not consistent. The use of heifers to determine the differences in hazard of estrus and estrous characteristics in response to CLO and DIN would eliminate the possible confounding effects of differences in milk yield, feed intake, and steroidal hormone concentrations. Therefore, Veronese et al. (2019) evaluated the effects of CLO and DIN treatments of Holstein heifers on estrous characteristics and overall reproductive performance. Heifers are commonly inseminated based on signs of estrus detected by visual observation or with the aid of mounting detection devices (MD), but recently, automated estrous detection devices (AED) are becoming more accessible, although it is not clear whether AED present advantages in the reproductive management of heifers. The authors hypothesized in this study that the use of an AED would improve service and pregnancy rates compared with detection of estrus with the aid of an MD (Veronese et al., 2019).


Holstein heifers (n = 1,019) were fitted with a Heatime HR LD System (SCR Ltd., Netanya, Israel) at 10 to 11 mo of age. At 12 mo of age, heifers were paired according to estrous cycle phase and randomly assigned to treatments in a 2 × 2 design: PGF2α formulation (CLO versus DIN) and estrous detection treatment (AED versus MD). Heifers in the AED treatment were detected in estrus only by the Heatime HR LD System, whereas heifers in the MD treatment were detected in estrus only by the Kamar Heatmount Detector (Kamar Products Inc., Zionsville, IN). Treatments with the same PGF2α formulations were repeated 14 d after the first treatment if heifers had not been detected in estrus.


  • Estrous characteristics did not differ between heifers treated with DIN or CLO; but among heifers in mid diestrus on the day of PGF2α treatment, CLO reduced the interval to estrus compared with DIN (72.0 versus 82.4).
  • In a subgroup of heifers, treatment with CLO reduced the progesterone concentration within 24 h of onset of estrus compared with DIN (0.04 versus 0.11 ng/mL).
  • Prostaglandin F2α formulation did not affect pregnancy to the first artificial insemination or first embryo transfer.
  • Estrous detection treatment did not affect the hazard of pregnancy. However, the interval between the first and second services tended to be reduced for the AED treatment compared with the MD treatment (24.4 versus 25.7 d).


Although CLO treatment may shorten the interval to estrus in heifers at mid diestrus compared with DIN, PGF2α formulation did not affect reproductive performance. In the current experiment, no advantages in reproductive performance were observed when estrous detection was based on an AED compared with a MD, although the use of an AED shortened the interval between first and second services.

Access the paper at:

Featured Column

Lameness: An animal health AND welfare issue

DCRC Dairy Cattle“Lameness is the dairy industry’s leading and most visible animal welfare concern,” said Laura Solano of Farm Animal Care Associates, Calgary, Alberta, at last year’s Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Annual Meeting. Its economic losses – estimated at $185 to $470 (U.S. dollars) per case – rank close to mastitis and reproductive problems.

Beyond herd economic losses, dairy cattle lameness concerns industry stakeholders. It’s been identified as the top management issue; food marketers and consumers are watching.

With 15 to 30 percent of dairy cows housed in freestall barns assessed as mildly to severely lame, animal welfare monitoring groups developed lameness regulations. In Canada, proAction Animal Care, a mandatory on-farm animal care assessment, evaluates animal care and health, including lameness.

In the United States, the Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program set a target of less than 10 percent lameness at the herd level. Solano said a herd-level prevalence of more than 15 percent can indicate a lameness problem.

Locomotion scoring: Effective, yet subjective

Laura SolanoDetecting mildly lame cows can be a challenge. “Locomotion scoring is the industry standard for identifying and monitoring lame cows,” said Solano. “However, the relationship between having a hoof lesion and a cow being lame is not perfect.” Some studies reported that of all lame cows, only up to 71 percent had a hoof lesion present. Although locomotion scoring is not a perfect tool to detect all foot lesions, it is the best tool we have, so far, to find lame cows. Therefore, Solano recommends selecting a dedicated person (employee, consultant or third-party adviser) to score cows’ locomotion. “Locomotion scoring is a key to a successful foot health program. If done and used routinely (biweekly or monthly), it can have a large impact on reducing lameness.”

While locomotion scoring is an important hoof health strategy, it’s also important to know why cows are lame. Solano suggests analyzing foot lesion data from hoof trimming records to understand lameness causes. The most common foot lesion in North American dairy cattle is digital dermatitis (DD), an infectious lesion. Sole ulcers (SU) and white line disease (WLD), non-infectious lesions, affect fewer cows. However, these non-infectious lesions are typically more painful, costly and lead to more complications in treatment, recovery and recurrence.

What causes lameness?

Sometimes, cow rations are blamed for lameness. It’s not so much “what” cows eat that influences hoof health. Instead, it is nutrition’s impact on body condition loss and “when/how” cows eat. Feeding strategies that may be risk factors for lameness include abrupt diet changes, infrequent feeding and feed push-up, ration sorting, inadequate feedbunk access due to overstocking, social interactions and feedbunk design. Anything that prolongs cows’ standing time heightens the risk of lameness.

Usually, environment should take the blame when lameness exceeds industry benchmarks. Key areas to evaluate include footbathing practices, feeding, bedding, cleaning, milking, hoof trimming, flooring type and condition, stall dimensions, stall base, stocking density and pen layout. Also, evaluate animals’ injuries, body condition, claw length and conformation, and leg cleanliness.

Include foot examination notes (date of trimming, affected limb or foot, type of foot lesion) and treatments (e.g., wrap, block, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory) in your herd management electronic records. Make use of this information by analyzing the data. This analysis will help assess epidemiological trends and hoof health factors, such as parity and stage of lactation. This allows dairies to develop and implement lesion-, age- and farm-specific hoof health strategies.

Infectious vs. non-infectious strategies

If a dairy is experiencing infectious lesions, focus on hygiene, biosecurity and footbath management (see below). If non-infectious, focus on cow comfort, animal handling and feedbunk and transition cow management. Regardless of the problem, early detection and prompt and effective treatment are key components of a sound hoof health program. “These practices help reduce severity, increase treatment response rate and thus reduce chronicity,” said Solano.

Basic principles of effective footbath systems

  • Monitor cows’ hind feet to assess infection levels.
  • Recommended frequency depends on DD prevalence and hygiene. There is no rule of thumb, but as a guideline, if a dairy has 5% DD prevalence, use a footbath once or twice per week. At 20%, then four times per week is acceptable. Increase frequency to 5 to 7 times per week with a higher DD prevalence or if there is an outbreak.
  • Footbaths work better when used weekly. At the chosen frequency, footbathing needs to be done consistently to be effective.
  • Replace footbath solution every 200 cow passes or after 24 hours, and when solution depth cannot immerse the foot up to the coronary band.
  • Follow the product’s label for proper concentration.
  • Footbath dimensions should be: length of 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.7 meters), width of 20 to 24 inches (50 to 60 centimeters) and step-in height of 10 inches (25 cm).
  • Wash cows’ feet with a medium-high pressure hose before they enter the footbath.

If prevention has not kept a cow from getting lame, then quick action is the next best step. Quickly, inspect a lame cow in the trimming chute. Solano noted that recent research shows significant effectiveness of using anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., meloxicam, ketoprofen) and a curative trim and block, when treating SU and WLD. Their anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects improve cure rates, but effectiveness differs. New and mildly lame cows experienced greater recovery rates when treated with an anti-inflammatory, whereas there was no difference for chronically lame cows.

Strive for clean, dry environment

To prevent infectious lesions, work to control the spread of DD-associated bacteria, which are often found in manure. Do this by providing an environment that is as clean and dry as possible. A clean and dry environment also enhances udder health and overall animal health, which supports reproduction success.

Solano offered one final tip. “Ensure cows enter the transition period with properly trimmed feet and experience a stress-free transition that minimizes standing time and competition for resources. Focusing efforts in the transition period will make a difference in lameness, mastitis and reproduction.”

References can by found in Laura Solano’s 2018 DCRC Annual Meeting proceedings paper, which is available by logging into to the DCRC Members Only webpage at To view the paper, enter your username and password, and click on the “Proceedings” icon.

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:

DCRC Member Stephen LeBlancStephen LeBlanc
University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College
Professor, Population Medicine
Research Program Director – Animal Production Systems
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
DCRC member since 2006
Strategic Plan Committee Member

A professor at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College, Stephen LeBlanc said he works with a great group of graduate students and colleagues who conduct research on dairy cow health and reproduction. His teaching is mostly with final-year veterinary students in the college’s ambulatory practice and in advanced electives in dairy health management and reproductive medicine. Over the years, Stephen has advised more than 20 graduate students who now work as professors and veterinarians, and in support and advisory roles in the dairy industry.

Despite common-held beliefs, you can “teach an old dog new tricks.” LeBlanc milked his first cow at the age of 19 and he hasn’t looked back since. His academic training and professional career include a bachelor’s degree in animal science, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, work in a private veterinary practice, doctorate degree, another stint in private practice, part-time work as a technical service veterinarian with an animal health company, running a continuing education program for dairy veterinarians, and now a full-time veterinary college professor.

LeBlanc describes dairy cattle physiology as “fascinating.” “Reproduction is fundamental to dairy production and everything in dairy management has effects on reproduction,” said LeBlanc. “So, there is always an opportunity to understand things better and translate that into practical action.”

Speaking of “old,” LeBlanc is a DCRC “founding father.” He spoke at the first DCRC Annual Meeting in 2006 and has been a DCRC member ever since. From 2014 to 2017, he served on the DCRC executive committee, including a year as board chair.

According to LeBlanc, DCRC has become a trusted source of credible, science-based information. “The DCRC Annual Meeting is a showcase of dairy reproduction management’s state-of-the-art tools and technologies,” he said. “DCRC speakers and leaders also look to the future – exploring where our industry can and should go.” LeBlanc also serves in a key role on the DCRC Governance Subcommittee of the Strategic Plan Committee. DCRC is looking to the future as it implements the plan created last year.

Communication and continuing education are at the forefront of DCRC’s activities. Due to his involvement with DCRC, LeBlanc has learned that the best advisers really understand cows and the best managers also excel in understanding and motivating people. “While our meetings and webinars are outstanding sources of the latest scientific information in a practical format, I take inspiration from some of the presentations by outstanding farmers and the thought leaders of our industry,” he said.

When asked about the dairy industry’s biggest reproductive challenges, LeBlanc responded, “For many years, we struggled to translate all that we were learning in research into positive shifts in pregnancy rates on a large scale. Now, we have tools and technologies for management of reproduction, as well as improved practices for overall cow health that allow more and more herds to sustainably approach economically optimal reproductive performance.

“We will be challenged to continue to produce milk – such a wholesome food – in ways that are acceptable to consumers who are not always well informed about science and tradeoffs in food production. Nevertheless, DCRC will continue to showcase approaches and solutions that work for producers, our cows and our customers.”

As a DCRC forefather, LeBlanc shared some DCRC history – from his perspective. “DCRC was founded on a spirit of generous exchange of rigorous information for the collective advancement of the dairy industry,” he said. “All DCRC board of directors, committee members and staff, with whom I have worked, have a strong service ethic and a drive to support progress in dairy fertility and health.” LeBlanc noted that when Jeff Stevenson reviewed DCRC first 10 years, he powerfully underlined that the DCRC awards program recognizes outstanding dairy farmers, rather than advisers and researchers, who are the “supporting cast.” “That reflects the rightful emphasis of the organization.”

Thinking about DCRC’s future, LeBlanc believes DCRC will continue to grow its membership and build programs that support students who lead us into the future. “The organization will thoughtfully and gradually expand its reach beyond North America,” he said. “I have the privilege to work with DCRC’s Strategic Plan Committee; our vision is to position DCRC for continued growth and relevance for years to come.”

DCRC Webinar Series

Next DCRC Webinar Addresses Consumer Trust

June DCRC WebinarMark your calendar for the next Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) webinar – Earning Consumer Trust in Modern Dairy Practices. Amy te Plate-Church, with The Center for Food Integrity, will lead this webinar, scheduled for June 13, at 2 p.m. Central time.

Despite the growing science knowledge gap among consumers, te Plate-Church is optimistic about the dairy industry because consumers trust farmers. However, they don’t trust and understand the complexities of some practices used on today’s dairy farms. Thus, it’s important for farmers (and allied industry) to share their stories, she said.

Rather than conveying facts and figures with consumers, te Plate-Church says it more effective to share values. For example, find a value that you both share, such as having safe food. Then, explain how you produce and market milk that is nutritious and safe for consumers.

CFI research shows that consumers trust values more than facts. “Shared values are three to five times more important in building trust than sharing facts or demonstrating technical skills and/or expertise,” said te Plate-Church. “Think of Theodore Roosevelt’s quote. ‘No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care’.”

During the webinar, te Plate-Church will help participants gain better communication skills through a three-step engagement process. First, listen – without judgement. Second, ask questions to invite dialogue. And third, share your perspective through values.

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. The webinars feature top-rated topics from the 2018 DCRC Annual Meeting.

Save these dates and times for future DCRC webinars:

  • Gustavo Schuenemann, The Ohio State University, presents “Training and Monitoring Herd Managers Based on Attitude and Performance.”

Aug. 12, at 1 p.m. Central time

  • 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

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