Newsletter – 2014 – July

President's message

It’s time to renew your Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council membership to ensure that you continue to reap all the benefits the organization has to offer—including our top-notch annual meeting, cutting-edge education and webinars, and the chance to rub elbows with key industry influencers and researchers.

To keep DCRC strong and vibrant, we need your involvement in other ways too. Committees are a great place to start. This is a chance to help determine the future of the organization while serving your industry at the same time. Plus, the knowledge and contacts you gain brings value to your dairy, customers, practice or company. Ask me or a fellow board member for more details or to volunteer.

Also be sure to check out the latest DCRC webinar featuring Dr. Chuck Sattler of Select Sires discussing “Progeny Testing and Genomics.” The webinar recording is available in the members’ area. The next webinar will take place on September 11, and will feature Darin Mann discussing “Raising Heifers for Repro Success, Costs and Benefits to the Producer.” Invite DCRC’s team experts onto your farm by making a DCRC webinar part of your next team meeting.

Recruit your reproductive team and join us the 2014 Annual DCRC Meeting in Salt Lake City Utah, November 13-14. It’s a great way to empower your team, offering them opportunities to better understand your herd’s reproductive performance and potential opportunities to take positive, impactful action.

The program continues to come together for this world-class event. Here’s a peek at the agenda. See you in Salt Lake City!

A Sneak Peek at the 2014 DCRC Annual Meeting

The calendar pages are flipping quickly, and before you know it, it will be time for the 2014 DCRC Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, November 12 – 14.

Make your plans now to attend this first-rate forum. And be sure to include your dairy’s reproductive team in those plans. Here are a few agenda highlights to give you a hint of what you can expect:

November 13

  • The Market and Milk Prices with Bill Brooks, FC Stone
  • Morning Breakout Sessions
    • Genomic Selection and Reproductive Efficiency of Dairy Cattle with Dr. Tom Spencer, Washington State University and Dr. Pablo Pinedo, Texas A&M University
    • Transition Cow Management and Herd Performance with Emphasis on Record Assessment with Dr. Mike Overton, Elanco Animal Health
    • Epidemiology of Pregnancy Losses and Practical Strategies for Prevention with Dr. Klibs Galvao, University of Florida
  • DCRC Reproduction Awards Program and Awardees Presentation
  • Afternoon Breakout Sessions
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Heifers with Dr. Dale Moore, Washington State University
    • Hypocalcemia and Grouping Transition Cows with Dr. Noah Litherland, Vita Plus
    • Estrus Detection Programs and Economics of Monitoring Systems with Dr. Julio Giordano, Cornell University
  • Afternoon Breakout Sessions II
    • Genetic Selection of Cattle for Improved Immunity and Health with Dr. Bonnie Mallard, University of Guelph
    • Facility Design to Optimize Transition Cow Comfort with Emphasis on Training and Performance with Dr. Gordie Jones, Central Sands Dairy
    • Management of Dairy Personnel with Emphasis on Training and Performance with Dr. Juan Valez, Aurora Organic Dairy

November 14

  • Current Grain and Biofuel Outlook with Dr. Matt Roberts, The Ohio State University
  • Breakout Sessions
    • Genomics and IVF Embryo Transfer on the Farm: What We’ve Done and Why with Greg Andersen, Seagull Bay Dairy
    • Effective Heat Stress Abatement for Reproductive Success with Dr. Robert Collier, University of Arizona
    • Physiology and Management of Anovular Cows with Dr. Milo Wiltbank, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Marketing Milk with Emphasis on Animal Welfare Practices with Teun Verhoeven, Twin Oak Dairy

In addition, be sure to take in the poster sessions, trade show and opportunities to visit with your fellow producers and industry personnel during the conference. It will be time well spent!

Access the full agenda for more details.

Research Summaries

Metritis Vaccines Evaluated
Researchers at Cornell University recently evaluated the effects of five different vaccine formulations (three subcutaneous vaccines and two intravaginal vaccines) containing different combinations of proteins (FimH, LKT, PLO) and inactivated whole cells (E. coli, F. necrophorum and T. pyogenes) on the uterine health of dairy cows. The results were published March 17 in the journal PLOS One.

Results showed that subcutaneous vaccination significantly decreased the incidence of puerperal metritis, whereas intravaginal vaccination was not effective in preventing the disease. Additionally, subcutaneous vaccination significantly reduced rectal temperature at about six days in milk. Reproduction was improved for cows that received subcutaneous vaccines.

Therefore, the scientists concluded that subcutaneous vaccination with inactivated bacterial components and/or protein subunits of E. coli, F. necrophorum and T. pyogenes can prevent puerperal metritis during the first lactation of dairy cows, which could lead to improved reproduction.

Access the paper.

What Is the Effect of an Extended Voluntary Waiting Period on Dairy Cow Profitability?
Manipulating voluntary waiting period (VWP) length has a number of pros and cons. Researchers at the University of Florida set out to determine the effect of extending the VWP during the summer on profitability on a Florida dairy farm. Results were published in the July issue of Journal of Dairy Science.

Holstein cows were enrolled in a group with either a 60-day VWP or an 83-day VWP. First artificial insemination (A.I.) for cows in both groups was performed upon estrus detection after the second prostaglandin treatment of the Presynch protocol or via timed-A.I. if not detected in estrus.

A herd budget simulation predicted future cash flow after culling, or the end of subsequent parity until six years after the start of the study to account for all cash flow consequences of extended VWP.

Cows in the 83-day VWP group had:

  • Greater first-service pregnancy rate
  • Greater days open and a longer calving interval

Delaying breeding did not affect total cash flow because the 83-day VWP group had greater combined profitability for the experimental parity and subsequent parity, but less future cash flow.

At the end of the day, delayed breeding during the summer increased first-service pregnancy rate, but did not improve overall reproductive efficiency and did not affect overall profitability. Therefore, extending the VWP, in this case, was not necessary.

Access the abstract.

Risk Factors that Impact Reaching Reproductive Targets
What’s preventing dairies from reaching reproductive goals? Researchers in Ireland suggest that there are at least six key factors to consider. Results of their investigation were published in the June issue of Journal of Dairy Science.

Risk factors associated with achieving reproductive targets depended on:

  1. Increased metabolic activity of the liver (increased glutamate dehydrogenase at calving and increased γ-glutamyl transpeptidase in week four postpartum)
  2. A competent immune system (increased neutrophils in week one postpartum; decreased α1-acid glycoprotein in weeks one, two and three postpartum)
  3. An endocrine system that was capable of responding by producing sufficient triiodothyronine in week two postpartum, and increased insulin-like growth factor I in weeks three and four postpartum
  4. A lower negative energy balance status (decreased nonesterified fatty acid concentration in week one postpartum; decreased β-hydroxybutyrate concentration in week two postpartum; body condition score (BCS) loss between calving and day 28 postpartum less than 0.5)
  5. Good reproductive tract health (normal uterine scan at day 45 postpartum; clear vaginal mucus discharge at first ovulation and at day 45 postpartum; resumed ovarian cyclicity by the end of the voluntary waiting period)
  6. Adequate diet (to ensure increased glutathione peroxidase in week two and three postpartum and increased magnesium in week four)

Furthermore, the risk factors that increased the odds of a successful first artificial insemination (A.I.) were previous ovulation(s) (odds ratio = 3.17 per ovulation), BCS >2.5 at A.I. (odds ratio = 3.01) and clear vaginal mucus (score = 0) compared with purulent mucus (score >0) 4 days after first A.I. (odds ratio = 2.99).

Access the abstract.

Featured Column: Strategic Actions for Reproductive Management

By Dr. Stephen LeBlanc, University of Guelph

It’s become more and more evident that the transition period is the foundation for a cow’s future success, especially reproductive success. This means dairies need to develop or enhance management strategies that address and improve cow health and performance during this critical time frame.

Three key areas are involved in meeting these goals:

  • Metabolic health in the transition period
  • Postpartum reproductive health
  • Timely implementation of breeding protocols

Meeting Metabolic Challenges
Dairies must actively prevent, detect and treat potential reproductive adversaries like ketosis, metritis and purulent vaginal discharge.

However, these are not easy tasks—from neither a managerial standpoint nor from the cow’s perspective. During transition, a cow’s immune system must quickly switch from its lowered status during pregnancy to quickly ramp up to deal with postpartum clearance of bacterial and tissue debris and then back to a normal state three to four weeks later.

A prompt and effective immune and inflammatory response in the uterus after calving leading to a rapid return to “normal” is the best-case scenario. But as has been well-documented on-farm and in the research, many things can and do go wrong, opening the door for metabolic and reproductive diseases.

For instance, excessive inflammation early after calving seems to be a key feature seen in cows that experience endometritis about one month later. Generally, worse postpartum negative energy balance is associated with more severe or prolonged uterine inflammation.

Repro Tract Health
Presently, more data are available to support the importance of immune response as a critical variable in the development of reproductive tract disease. This underlines the importance of understanding what determines the variation in the effectiveness of the inflammatory response to calving tissue trauma and postpartum pathogen challenges.

Following are a few suggestions of how to identify and manage key transition diseases or conditions:

  • Metritis: This systemic illness reduces production and cow well-being in the short-term. It’s identified based on the occurrence of at least two of the following symptoms: fetid discharge, fever and signs of systemic illness (dullness, poor appetite or decreased milk production). Routine, systematic screening of fresh cows is likely useful to increase early detection of health problems—especially in large herds—but it is likely most useful if training and experience of personnel and facilities allow for assessment of the cows’ attitudes, appetites, ketosis status (once or twice weekly), rumination and abomasal displacement.
    • Treatment of metritis is presently based on the administration of systemic antibiotics.
  • Purulent Vaginal Discharge (PVD): Accurate diagnosis of PVD (formerly called clinical endometritis) requires examination of discharge in the vagina after a minimum of three weeks postpartum. Tools to identify subclinical endometritis are not sufficiently rapid or practical for widespread use in clinical practice, although rapid cow-side tests have been explored.
    • Consistent evidence exists that cows with PVD have improved reproductive performance when treated with a single intrauterine infusion of cephapirin approximately one month before first insemination, relative to receiving no treatment. However, this treatment is not approved in the United States. Prostaglandin as a treatment for PVD has been explored with variable results.
  • Anovular Cows: Dairy managers also must be on the lookout for, and intervene with, anovular cows. Numerous studies have documented that approximately 20% of cows have not ovulated (resumed a normal estrous cycle) by the typical start of the breeding period. These cows have impaired reproductive performance at first artificial insemination (A.I.), even if synchronized for timed-A.I., and it usually takes longer for these cows to become pregnant.
    • Accurate identification typically requires two examinations conducted 11 to 14 days apart that demonstrate the absence of a functional corpus luteum (CL) on the ovaries at both times. This can be done with milk or blood tests to measure progesterone or ultrasound examination of the ovaries.

Timely Repro Interventions
Lastly, once metabolic health and reproductive tract health have been addressed, reproductive performance hinges on timely and effective breeding programs. Strategies must be in place to enable your herd to meet its reproductive targets.

The single most influential variable is time to first insemination, or the efficiency of managing first A.I. The economic goal is to have cows pregnant by 150 days in milk, and under most circumstances, to maximize the proportion becoming pregnant between 85 and 120 days in milk.

Given that typical insemination rates in North American herds are around 40% per 21 days, an important starting point is to set a target for time to first A.I., specifically an upper limit, and to rigorously implement interventions to achieve the goal.

Good programs exist to ensure that practically all cows are inseminated by about 85 DIM and heifers by 14 months. This may be as simple as enrolling all cows that have not been inseminated by 65 to 75 days in milk in a timed-A.I. program like the Ovsynch® protocol. More elaborate programs can help increase the probability of pregnancy at AI.

Whether used in combination with estrus detection—with or without activity monitors—or systematically for all first services, the use of an ovulation synchronization and timed-A.I. protocol to enforce a thoughtful upper limit on time to first A.I. would be a valuable starting point for many herds.

Access the complete paper to learn more about these helpful strategies to intervene as needed and improve your dairy’s overall reproductive success.

Featured Member

Dr. Diego F. Vallejo
ABS Global, Inc.
Lubbock, Texas
Member since 2012

In each issue of the DCRC e-newsletter we will feature a current member who will share what they’ve learned from DCRC and the value they have seen in being a member.

Our company is at the forefront in pioneering and modeling the future of food animal genetics in both the cattle and swine industries to help provide animal protein to feed the world.

Background Perspective
In my position as a technical service consultant for ABS Global in the southwestern United States, I provide customer-tailored solutions as an integrated value and service to support our products. This is accomplished by implementing improved standard operating procedures to dairies in all areas of dairy cattle management and health.

Prior to joining ABS Global, I was a dairy producer and dairy veterinarian practitioner.

Why Reproduction?
I always have been interested in reproduction to the point that I did my graduate studies in dairy theriogenology. I believe reproduction is the driving force to maintain or improve dairy profitability.

DCRC History and Influence
I have been associated with DCRC since I started with ABS Global a little more than two years ago.

I believe DCRC is a driving force where academia, industry and dairy producers can share and brainstorm the needs for better reproductive management strategies.

Two takeaways from recent DCRC events include:

  • As a dairy veterinary practitioner I always suspected postpartum metabolic disorders and overall animal health impacted reproduction efficiency, especially in anovulatory cows. Many of these questions were answered in the last conference by Dr. Jose Santos.
  • I have also learned about the adoption of activity monitoring devices through DCRC and my work in the Southwest. They are another option to tail chalking breeding decisions and offer cow management data.

Industry Challenges
I believe the confusion and miscommunication to our end consumer on the use of hormones in the dairy industry is the biggest reproductive challenge. This has created a movement among dairy farmers to seek activity monitoring systems, replacing our reliance on reproductive management programs dominated by hormonal control, essentially aiming for reproduction efficiency.

Industry Calendar