Newsletter – 2015 – December

President's message

By Dr. Stephen LeBlanc

It is a privilege to begin my term as president of the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council. The organization is now ten years old. Thanks to the vision and generous contributions of our founders and many long-serving leaders, DCRC has a firm foundation on which to build our membership and offerings in the next ten years and beyond. 

We appreciate the ongoing support of our many sponsors to help bring you high-quality information to improve dairy herd reproduction. We marked this milestone with the best-attended Annual Meeting yet in Buffalo, N.Y., last month.

Yet there are still many advisors, veterinarians and leading producers who would benefit from and contribute to DCRC, but are not fully aware of our organization. Please tell your contacts about DCRC and encourage them to join you as members.

Mark your calendars for the 2016 DCRC meeting, November 9 – 10 in Columbus, Ohio. The program committee is already at work on a great program. 

In the meantime, stay tuned for a series of webinars starting early in the New Year. Did you know that as a member, you have access to past webinars to watch and listen to at your convenience? Login on our website, click on the “Members” section, and benefit from these excellent resources.

Our vision is to be the premiere source of independent, rigorous, science-based information to achieve excellent reproductive performance in dairy herds in ways that are effective, economical and sustainable.  Please let us know how we can best help you or your clients to achieve this goal.

Synch Protocols Updated

To help you deal with rapid change and make informed decisions related to synchronization protocols, the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) has created synchronization protocol sheets for dairy cows and dairy heifers. The recently updated documents outline established protocols that may help dairy producers improve on-farm reproductive performance.

These documents are intended for educational purposes; DCRC does not endorse one protocol over another, nor does DCRC endorse synchronization protocols over any of the other approaches to dairy cattle reproduction. The protocol sheets are reviewed regularly by representatives from DCRC. New protocols will be included when they are validated in controlled studies.

2015 Annual Meeting Proceedings Available

The proceedings for the 2015 Annual Meeting that was held in Buffalo, N.Y., November 11 – 13 are now available. You can find a downloadable copy on the DCRC website. Click on the “members only” tab and long in to gain access to the proceedings.

Research Summaries

Gestation Length Effects
Researchers in New Zealand recently examined the impact of gestation length on dairy cow fertility. Their results were published online in the Journal of Dairy Science on Nov.13, 2015.

The data showed that animals born following short gestation lengths had improved fertility (specifically, their probability of being presented for mating in the first 21 days of the mating season was increased by 4 to 5 percentage points and the day of the calving season at which they calved was 2 to 5 days earlier).

Conversely, those animals born following long gestation lengths had decreased fertility (3 to 4% less likely to be presented for mating in the first 21 days of the calving season and calved 3 to 5 days later) compared with animals with average gestation lengths.

In addition:

  • Both short- and long-gestation-length animals produced significantly less milk and relative to intermediate-gestation-length cows.
  • Short gestation length did not affect calving difficulty, but long gestation length was negatively associated with calving difficulty (about 2% higher incidence).

Overall, the researchers determined that the net effects of shortened gestation lengths are likely to be economically positive.

Access the abstract.

Modifying the Ovsynch Protocol
This study conducted at the University of Wisconsin was designed to test a simple modification to Ovsynch®-type protocols—addition of a second prostaglandin F (PGF) treatment. The results were published in the December 2015 Journal of Dairy Science.

The researchers found that reproductive performance can be improved with this second dose. For example, results indicated complete regression of the corpus luteum was greater in cows that received two treatments of PGF compared to those that received one PGF treatment. In addition, pregnancies per insemination (P/AI) were greater in cows that received two doses of PGF compared with one PGF treatment, particularly in cows that are second lactation or greater.

The researchers conclude that this additional dose of PGF increases pregnancies to the Ovsynch protocol by about 10% (38% vs. 34%).

Access the abstract.

Influence Transition Nutrition with Genetic Selection
Until now, little research has focused on understanding the genetic influence on dry matter intake (DMI) in dry cows, despite the importance of the transition period to a successful lactation.

To learn more, researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Florida tracked cow intakes before and after calving and determined heritability for this trait. The results were published in the November 2015 Journal of Dairy Science.

They found that:

  • Prepartum DMI is a moderately heritable trait
  • The correlation between DMI prepartum and in early lactation is high.

These results suggest that DMI in the prepartum period is regulated by similar genetics as DMI during early lactation. Therefore, they conclude that genetic selection to minimize DMI to improve milk production efficiency may contribute to decreased prepartum DMI.

Access the abstract.

Featured Column

Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Rewards Reproductive Excellence

The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council celebrated the winners of the 2015 Reproduction Awards at its Annual Meeting in Buffalo, New York, November 11 – 13. This year, DCRC partnered with Hoard’s Dairyman for the Reproduction Awards Program.

The six Platinum Award winners for 2015 all emphasize quality, compliance, cow comfort, proper nutrition and consistency on their dairies. As a result, the Platinum-winning farms reached annual 21-day pregnancy rates from 32% to a DCRC Reproduction Award contest high of 39%.

Awards were also given for Gold, Silver and Bronze winners. In total 24 awards were granted this year, six in each category.

Little Things Matter
As noted in the Hoard’s Dairyman roundtable, while attention to detail has remained steadfast, what has changed since the inception of this contest nearly a decade ago is the level of competition. In those early contests, pregnancy rates (PR) in the high 20s would have earned Platinum honors. This year, Platinum level herds ranged from 32 to 39 percent. All 24 award winning herds achieved PR higher than 26 percent.

Positive Changes
The dairy producers extensively detailed their reproductive programs, including which changes they’ve made in recent years that have had positive impacts on performance.

Ayers: In 2003, we built a new close-up barn with cows housed in sand-bedded freestalls and we reduced overcrowding. Also, we move cows into the close-up pen only once a week now. In 2005, we built a 420-cow barn which allows us to be around 120 percent capacity without sacrificing cow comfort. We have always had fans over the headlocks and stalls. All barns have soakers; we switched from misters four or five years ago.

Burns: Harvesting of forages at a proper time, for the best quality, pays big dividends. We also work closely with the nutritionist once or twice a week and run dry matters once a week or more.

Dry cow comfort was enhanced when we added a bedded pack. Cow comfort also improved when we changed to sand bedding. We also try to keep cows standing in the holding area to a minimum, trim feet on each cow twice a year, and use water misters to keep cows cool in the holding areas.

Collins: In 2012, we built a new heifer barn that includes sand stalls and natural ventilation. Cows are housed in two tunnel-ventilated barns with misters, alley scrapers and waterbeds. Another barn has circulation fans, scrapers, misters and waterbeds. We have rubber in our drover lanes, holding pen and return aisles from the parlor.

Holmes: All cow breeding pens have grooved floors, lots of fans and misters over the feed rail, and headlocks for easier handling. Shade cloth has been added over our prefresh bunks. We feel this has helped enhance our first-service conception rates in the summer.

Kloppe: We have sprinklers and fans in our freestall barns and sprinklers in our holding pen to help with heat stress in the summer months. This practice, which was implemented nearly 15 years ago, has relieved stress in hot weather. This, in turn, leads to improved conception rates. We now feel that this is a critical component to our operation.

Schilling: We feel cow cooling is critical to maintain conception rates during the summer. Changes we have made the last several years to improve cow cooling include adding three rows of fans per pen over each row of freestalls, feed line water sprinklers, and additional water sprinklers in the holding area. In 2014, additional fans were added over cross alleys.

Dry cow cooling is also stressed with fans over the freestalls. Shade cloth has been added for the outside feeding of dry cows to help keep them cool. We feel that the improved cooling of our dry cows has helped produce healthier follicles which has led to higher first-service conception rates.

A third water well was added recently to help maintain water pressure demand for the sprin¬klers and waterers. We also feel the exceptional cow comfort from sand bedding with adequately sized freestalls has been critical to minimize lameness and allow maximal heat expression.

You can learn more about each of the farms in the roundtable discussion published in the November issue of Hoard’s Dairyman.

Here is the complete list of 2015 DCRC Reproduction Award Winners.

2015 DCRC Reproduction Award Winners

Platinum Winners

Gold Winners

Silver Winners

Bronze Winners

Jesse Ayers
Perrysville, Ohio
Nominated by David Hill
Alta Genetics

Brett Danyow
Ferrisburgh, Vt.
Nominated by
Thomas Frangione
Merck Animal Health

Joe Barman
Black Earth, Wis.
Nominated by
Humberto Rivera
Accelerated Genetics

Leonardo Barozzi Canneto Sull’Oglio, Italy
Nominated by Dario Filillini BouMatic

Jonathan Burns
Hornell, N.Y.
Nominated by
L. Scott DeGroff
Perry Veterinary Clinic

Denis Dunlop
Kuna, Idaho
Nominated by Garth Millard Vet Logic Inc.

Mark Cary, Jenni Cary, Jim Sheldon and Dan Sheldon
Salem, N.Y.
Nominated by Bob Ceglowski Dairy Health and Management Services

Table Rock Farms
Castile, N.Y.
Nominated by
L. Scott DeGroff
Perry Veterinary Clinic

Kevin and Lisa Collins
Greenleaf, Wis.
Nominated by Scott Hecker NorthStar Select Sires

Roger and Kerry Dunn
Coudersport, Pa.
Nominated by Tyler Wagner Alta Genetics

James, Kurt and Justin Magnan
Fairfax, Vt.
Nominated by
Thomas Frangione
Merck Animal Health

Earl and David Fournier
Swanton, Vt.
Nominated by
Thomas Frangione
Merck Animal Health

Jill Gering
New Haven, Mo.
Nominated by Scott Poock University of Missouri

Dennis and Jean McKeen
Albion, Maine
Nominated by
Thomas Frangione
Merck Animal Health

Jeff Rainy
Deming, Wash.
Nominated by Brett Mackay All West Select Sires

Jeffrey Paulen
Howard City, Mich.
Nominated by Jeremy Howard Simplot Animal Sciences

Tim and Penny Holmes, Travis and Stephanie Holmes
Argyle, Wis.
Nominated by Katie Martin Zoetis

Mike Meier
Monett, Mo.
Nominated by Scott Poock University of Missouri

Mark and Mike Stanton
Coeymans Hollow, N.Y.
Nominated by Steven Chuhta Zoetis

Tucker Purchase, Richard and Bonnie Hall
E. Montpelier, Vt.
Nominated by
Thomas Frangione
Merck Animal Health

Schilling Family
Darlington, Wis.
Nominated by Katie Martin Zoetis

Kevin Schrack
Loganton, Pa.
Nominated by Bob Cloninger Centre Herd Health Services

Mark and Jason Torrey
Elba, N.Y.
Nominated by David Keller Genex

Wickstrom and Nyman Families
Chowchilla, Calif.
Nominated by Steven Rosa Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition

For more information about the Reproduction Awards Program and DCRC, visit www.dcrcouncil.org.

Featured Member

Barbara Nedrow
Willow Bend Farm LLC and Springhope Holsteins
Clifton Springs, NY
DCRC Member since 2007

Willow Bend Farm is a 3,000-cow dairy operated by a partnership of the Mueller and Nedrow families. We operate two dairies seven miles apart.

The original farm was founded by George Mueller and now houses 1,200 cows and 2,100 head of young stock. A second location was started in 2003 at the Nedrow farm and now houses 1,800 cows and 400 heifers.

The Nedrow family also owns Springhope Holsteins outside of the partnership.

Dairy Beginnings
I lived on our family’s dairy farm until our herd was dispersed when I was 12 years old. I continued to participate in 4-H dairy programs during high school. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences from Cornell University and a Master of Science degree in Dairy Science from the University of Illinois, focusing on rumen microbiology.

My husband, Kevin, and I operated Nedrow Farms from 1979 – 2003, at which time we merged our farm with Mueller’s Willow Bend Farm to form Willow Bend Farm LLC. I have maintained my interest in the science of dairying throughout my career and have always had an interest in breeding registered cattle as well as high-performing commercial cows.

Currently, I oversee the reproduction, genetics and herd health programs at both dairies. I work closely with the veterinarians and herdsmen at both farms, oversee reproduction programs and select mating sires for the herd. In addition, I serve as a director of Select Sire Power, one of the members of Select Sires, Inc.

Repro Dedication
I have always stressed the importance of excellent reproduction and herd health in developing a high-performing herd of long-lasting cows. Adoption of new techniques in creating many pregnancies efficiently has allowed our business to grow and improve our genetics as well as our herd size.

Use of genetic comparisons, reproductive protocols, sexed semen, genomics, ultrasound and embryo transfer has allowed us to make progress faster than I ever dreamed about as a student.

DCRC Influence
DCRC conferences allow people from all aspects of dairying and dairy business to come together and discuss and exchange ideas and experiences, both formally and informally. I find these gatherings to be very stimulating and I always take helpful ideas home.

I also feel that it is important that DCRC provides an unbiased forum for discussion of current topics. It is just as valuable for me to know if a program does not work rather than only hearing about successful outcomes. I am also interested in the basic biology of why or how a program works. I am excited about the new developments in understanding reproduction at the genetic/genomic level and those implications for us as dairy cattle breeders. Newsletters, webinars, protocol sheets and meetings all help us get the word out on new topics.

Two things that I have taken home from DCRC meetings are:

  • A change in our repro protocol to improve our conception rate (our pregnancy rate went from 24% to 28%)
  • A change in timing of insemination using sexed semen (later is better!)

Industry Challenges
I feel that one of the biggest challenges facing the dairy industry today is keeping current with the explosion of information and technology. Whether it be genetics, genomics, technology or newer methods, it’s difficult to keep current while taking care of things at home on the farm.

Another challenge we face is our image in the public’s eye, and how we convey the truth about best practices of animal husbandry to a public that seems to humanize farm animals.

Industry Calendar