Newsletter – 2015 – August

President's message

We have some exciting updates and information about new initiatives to share with you this month!

To extend DCRC’s global reach and broaden its membership, we have recently created an international Electronic Membership for dairy industry partners outside of North America. This new membership category features a reduced price to international members who are not able to travel to the annual meeting in a given year. Annual E-membership cost is $65.

E-Members receive:

  • Access to Ask the Expert
  • Unlimited access to education resources from past conferences
  • Unlimited access to previous volumes of the DCRC E-Newsletter
  • Access to new and previous webinars

Should an international e-member attend an annual meeting, they would be required to upgrade to regular membership (at full cost) with meeting registration.

Meanwhile, all current members are reminded to renew their membership for 2016. Don’t miss out on the opportunities available to you through DCRC. Take a few minutes to renew and be sure to visit with your friends, colleagues and students about the value of DCRC membership. If they have an interest in dairy reproduction, this is the organization to join!

We have a new webinar slated for Wednesday, September 23 at 11 a.m. Central time. Dr. Juan Velez of Aurora Organic Farms will share his perspective about enhancing employee training and performance programs to promote dairy teamwork.

Also, remember that registration is now open for the 2015 DCRC Annual Meeting November 12 – 13 in Buffalo, N.Y., so don’t delay in making your plans to attend.


The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council is holding elections for two openings on its Board of Directors. Electronic voting begins September 1 and will close at 11 a.m. (EST) on November 12. Members are invited to vote for one candidate for each office. The winning candidates will be announced on Thursday, November 12, at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Buffalo, New York.

The candidates are:


  • Todd Bilby
  • Alex Souza


  • Paul Fricke
  • Gustavo Schuenemann

Access an electronic ballot here.

Research Summaries

Lying/Estrous Behavior of Dairy Heifers
Researchers from the University of British Columbia recently studied how estrus affected the lying and standing behavior of Holstein heifers. They monitored these behaviors from seven days prior to the onset of estrus to two days after estrus with leg-mounted accelerometers for 269 estrus episodes. Results were published in the August 2015 Journal of Theriogenology.

The researchers found that total daily standing times were longer on the day of estrus.

  • The longest standing bout increased from 232 minutes (plus or minus five minutes) seven days before estrus to 488 (plus or minus 16 minutes) on the day of estrus.
  • On the day of estrus, the longest standing bout started within -2 to 4 hours of estrus onset.

As a result, the researchers concluded that measurements of standing and lying changed during estrus and were correlated to walking activity. Furthermore, the large increase in duration of the longest standing bout and its occurrence in proximity of estrus onset suggest potential for automation. They note that incorporating measurements of standing and lying behavior—corrected for sources of variation—could improve estrus detection systems.

Access the abstract.


Meta-Analysis: Effects of Dietary Fat on Dairy Cow Fertility
This Australian meta-analysis of 17 studies containing 26 comparisons studied the effects of including oilseeds, calcium salts of fatty acids, tallow, conjugated linoleic acids and fatty acid prills on reproduction. The results were published in the August 2015 Journal of Dairy Science.

The researchers found that the overall proportion of cows pregnant was increased by 27% when fats were fed in the transition period, but individual fat groups did not increase the proportion. In addition, they found that feeding fat during the transition period strongly resulted in a consistent reduced calving interval across studies.

The researchers determined that these data support the conclusion that adding of fats to transition cow rations improves dairy cattle fertility.

Access the abstract.


Impact of infections on reproductive performance
Researchers in New Zealand and Canada recently examined the associations between intrauterine bacterial infections with E. coli and T. pyogenes and any bacterial growth, purulent vaginal discharge, evidence of endometritis and reproductive performance. Results were published in the June 2015 Journal of Theriogenology.

Reproductive tract bacterial infections, particularly those caused by E. coli and T. pyogenes, can have a negative impact on reproductive performance. It has been hypothesized that the presence of E. coli early postpartum may increase the risk of isolation of T. pyogenes later postpartum.

To determine if that was the case, the researchers examined 272 cows from six herds, collecting intrauterine samples the day of calving, 21 days postpartum and 42 days postpartum.

They found:

  • No association between the presence of E. coli at calving and probability of isolation of T. pyogenes three weeks later;
  • However, E. coli-positive cows at calving were more likely to be diagnosed with E. coli at day 21.
  • Escherichia coli at calving or T. pyogenes at day 21 increased the risk of purulent vaginal discharge diagnosis three weeks later.
  • Cows with any bacterial growth at day 21, irrespective of species, were less likely to conceive.

Access the abstract.

Featured Column

Putting Genomics and Embryo Transfer to Work On-Farm

By Greg Andersen, manager and owner, Seagull Bay Dairy

The world’s population trends imply that land and livestock producers throughout the world need to grow production of protein, grain and fiber by a significant percentage in the coming decades.

For dairy producers, adopting technologies including genomic selection for breeding purposes coupled with in vitro fertilization reproductive practices will aid in increasing production and production efficiencies to meet this growing demand.

The integration of these tools have become an integral part of the management strategy at Seagull Bay Dairy, American Falls, Idaho.

The operation uses both genomic testing and in vitro fertilization (IVF) and in vitro culture (IVC) reproductive practices services in its elite breeding program to accelerate genetic advancement in its herd, as well as breed high-ranking males that will be used by producers across the world.

The dairy herd consists of 2,200 cows on two sites 50 miles apart. Seagull Bay Dairy is home to 550 early lactation cows, 150 close-up cows and heifers, 400 heifers from 200 – 450 pounds and 225 calves on milk. All donor females also are housed at Seagull Bay Dairy.

Its sister operation, Andersen Dairy, houses 1,450 lactating cows, 150 far-off dry cows, 600 pregnant heifers and 600 breeding and prebreeding heifers. All embryo transfer is done at Andersen Dairy.

Following is an outline of how the operation has incorporated genomic testing and IVF/IVC into its regular management routines.

The Process
The dairy’s current recipient pool allows it to transfer between 30 and 50 embryos every other week. The strategy is to have enough recipients ready so there is no need to freeze any IVF embryos. In contrast, when needed, the highest-quality embryos are frozen at the lab and transferred at the next earliest possible transfer day when recipients are available.

All healthy virgin heifers older than 12 months are potential embryo recipients. Potential recipient heifers receive a dose of prostaglandin F2a 48 hours before the time the dairy begins to observe estrus for the following week’s IVF-IVC transfers.

Observed heats are recorded for timing eight and seven days before transfer day. Heifers are observed morning, noon and evening each of these target days—and those that stand for mounting for more than one time period are recorded.

Since June 2013, the dairy has averaged 17 oocytes per collection and six viable embryos per donor Recipient pregnancy rates for fresh embryos averaged 42.1% in 2013 and 38.3% in 2014.

For 29 transfer dates, pregnancy rates have ranged from 23 to 67% with a median (42%) slightly above the mean (40%). Of note, the greatest pregnancy percentage results are from collections done with most of the donors being over 15 months old.

Although many opportunities exist for genetic advancement in this herd by using IVF-IVC technology, significant drawbacks must be considered for other reproduction effects. Age at first calving has increased from 22.7 months in May 2013 to 23.9 months in September 2014. It is important to consider these additional costs when implementing new reproduction and breeding strategies into a herd.

Genomic Impact on Breeding Program
The Holstein breeding program at Seagull Bay Dairy is focused on breeding cattle with high net merit (NM) in addition to elite predicted transmitting ability for pounds of protein and pounds of fat.

In addition, the dairy selects for health traits such as somatic cell score, daughter pregnancy rate and calving ease. Predicted transmitting ability for type receives minor emphasis in our breeding selection. The dairy is taking care to choose donors and potential sire mates that are not extreme for increase in stature.

Genomic Selection
All of Seagull Bay Dairy’s Holstein male and female calves with a parent average for NM above 650 pounds are genomically tested. Tissue samples are collected for all of the calves in a given month near the end of the month in which they were born.

Genomic predictions for each calf are received four to five weeks later. These genomic predictions are used to divide the males and females in different classes. Heifers will either be classified as

  1. Potential donors
  2. Potential to market
  3. Available to be moved to the general herd

The highest NM females that also excel in production and fitness traits are destined for the dairy’s donor program. Other high NM females that might be used as donors in other breeding programs will often be sold at high profile public auctions. Females with NM values below the 90th percentile will be raised with the general herd and either artificially inseminated or used as a recipient for embryos with higher NM potential.

Seagull Bay Dairy also uses genomic predictions when purchasing elite females from other herds to add to donor groups.

Males also are divided into three classes:

  1. Market to stud
  2. Market as breeding stock
  3. Market as feeder cattle

Males with elite genetic values for NM are either leased or sold to various genetics companies

throughout North America. Males with extreme elite predicted transmitting ability for pounds of protein and pounds of fat, but more moderate NM values are often still attractive enough to be sold to the major bull buyers.

Those with more moderate NM values accompanied with calving ease scores lower than nine are raised to be sold as breeding stock to other dairy and heifer herds throughout the western U.S. Bulls with calving ease greater than nine are castrated and sold as feeder steers.

Other Genomic Testing Applications
Genomic testing also has a host of additional applications. For example, it helps verify parentage. Any errors in recording at breeding or calving can be correctly identified by a genomic test.

Some economic benefit exists for herds that wish to test all of their females—especially if the cost of the test decreases significantly over time. Based upon herd goals, females might be sorted into breeding plans based upon their genomic prediction level. Lower predicted transmitting ability NM females could be bred to male sex-sorted beef semen whereas higher predicted transmitting ability females could be inseminated with female sex-sorted semen from elite dairy sires.

Using genomic information from both the herd females and the desired genomic tested sires could improve the rate of a herd’s genetic gain.

In addition, if all females have a genomic prediction, it would be simpler to match sire and dam to avoid increased inbreeding as well as managing for haplotypes that affect fertility.

Herd managers also might rank their females based upon using their own custom index that emphasizes the traits most economically valuable for their business. Phenotypic matings based on physical appearance likely will become obsolete as more cattle are genomically tested. Corrective mating for type traits also might be done based upon information obtained via genomic predictions.

For additional details about how the dairy has integrated these technologies, visit

Featured Member

Dr. Fernando Cavazos, DVM
ABS Global technical services veterinarian, primarily working in Mexico
DCRC Member since 2006

I was born in Saltillo, Coahuila, in northern Mé xico. One of my uncles owned a dairy farm when I was growing up—when I was 12 years old I decided to study veterinary medicine and focus on a bovine practice. I obtained my veterinary degree at the National University of Mé xico in 1973. I worked for 22 years as a field veterinarian until 1994, when I joined ABS on a part-time basis. A couple of years later, I accepted a full-time position as a Tech Service veterinarian.

ABS Global was founded more than 70 years ago and always has been one of the leading genetic companies in the world. ABS is now owned by Genus plc, a British organization with enormous experience in bovine and swine genetics

Currently, I coordinate the efforts and activities of my colleagues, the veterinarians of ABS Technical Service in Latin America. A great deal of my responsibilities are related to my work as a technical service veterinarian in Mé xico—which accounts for about 70% of my time.

Reproduction Focus
All my professional experience as a veterinarian has centered around reproduction and fertility in beef and dairy cows. It is a fascinating field in which one never stops learning about new discoveries and developments.

I think that perhaps the biggest reproductive challenge the industry faces is to solve the problem of embryo losses and pregnancy losses in general.

DCRC Connection
I became a member of the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council shortly after it was created.

My affiliation with the organization has helped me gain additional knowledge in two key areas:

  • New protocols for synchronization of ovulation to perform timed-artificial insemination.
  • How to troubleshoot postpartum uterine health problems.
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