Newsletter – 2015 – October

President's message

The 2015 DCRC Annual Meeting in Buffalo, New York, is almost here. If you haven’t already done so, register now so you don’t miss out on this fantastic learning and networking opportunity with leading industry experts and progressive dairy producers.

The meeting kicks off November 11 with a special preconference seminar for veterinarians sponsored by Arm & Hammer Animal Nutrition and Elanco Animal Health. The preconference seminar is followed by the not-to-be-missed DCRC welcome reception, which begins at 6 p.m.

The general session begins bright and early on November 12 with a complimentary breakfast at 6:30 a.m., followed by a full day-and-a-half of dairy reproduction learning opportunities. This year’s excellent program covers the full spectrum of factors that influence reproduction—from nutrition to economics to reproductive management tools. Be sure to check out this incredible occasion to dig into the many facets of reproduction, as well as learn from the 2016 Reproduction Award winners.

Our sincere thanks to all of our sponsors whose generosity enables DCRC to hold our impressive Annual Meeting, as well as supports programming throughout the year—including this newsletter, our popular webinars and more. We couldn’t accomplish our goals without you and we appreciate your partnership in encouraging and guiding the dairying industry to achieve greater reproductive performance.

Here’s more good news! The newly revised reproductive protocols will be unveiled at the Annual Meeting. The education committee has worked diligently to compile the latest scientifically proven synchronization programs for your reference. The results of their labor will be available to Annual Meeting attendees and will also be posted in the member-only section of the DCRC website.

Also, don’t forget about the recently created 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

Meanwhile, all current members are reminded to renew their membership for 2016.

Finally, thank you for the privilege of serving as your DCRC president this past year. It’s been my pleasure to serve this organization and its members. We face a bright future, and I encourage you to actively participate in DCRC and its committees to keep our organization strong and vibrant.

See you in Buffalo!

Research Summaries

Specific Timing Increases Success of Sexed Semen in Lactating Cows

Research published in Theriogenology online on Oct. 8, 2015, evaluated the interval between peak estrous activity determined by an electronic device and artificial insemination (A.I.) with sexed semen in lactating Jersey cows. The goal was to determine the best timing of A.I. to achieve optimum conception rates. 

Researchers in Minnesota tracked 678 Jersey cows using activity and rumination monitors. Results showed:

  • The interval from peak activity to A.I. was 9.8 hours (± 0.5 hours)
  • The length of high activity among cows diagnosed in estrus was 17.3 (± 0.3 hours)
  • The mean interval from reaching activity threshold (AT) to ovulation was 25.7 (± 1.2 hours)
  • Pregnancy per A.I. at the second pregnancy check (66 ± 3 days after A.I.) was higher for cows inseminated between 23 and 41 hours after reaching the activity threshold.

The researchers concluded that inseminating lactating Jersey cows with sex-sorted semen closer to expected ovulation yielded the highest probability of pregnancy.

Access the abstract.

Cervical Inflammation Negatively Impacts Reproduction

Researchers in Germany recently set out to determine whether cervicitis (cervical inflammation) in dairy cows is an independent disease and if it has effects on reproductive performance. Results were published in Theriogenology online on Sept. 23, 2015.

The researchers examined 416 cows from 33 dairy farms between 42 days and 50 days postpartum.

In the study, cervical inflammation was diagnosed in 60.8% of cows. Unexpectedly, in 66.3% of cows examined, cervical inflammation occurred without endometritis.

While days to first service were not affected by cervical inflammation, results did show that total conception and pregnancy rates decreased in cows with severe cervical inflammation.

  • Number of days open in animals with cervical inflammation―but without endometritis―tended to be lower than in cows with cervical inflammation plus endometritis (P=0.092).
  • The number of days open relative to percentage of neutrophils (white blood cells) ≥ 5% was lower when the cervical mucus compared to the uterine mucus was affected (P< 0.05).
  • Total conception and pregnancy rates of animals 200 days in milk decreased significantly in cows with severe cervical inflammation.

Therefore, results suggest that cervical inflammation occurs independently of endometritis and is associated with poorer reproductive performance.

Access the abstract.

Cooling Dry Cows Positively Affects Productivity

Researchers have again verified the importance of cooling dry cows, especially cows in second lactation and higher, during the final three weeks of gestation. Their results were published in the October 2015 Journal of Dairy Science.

Cows in the study were housed in sand-bedded stalls. Areas for cooled cows were equipped with sprinklers and fans that were on from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Heat-stressed cows were not exposed to fans or sprinklers. After calving, all cows were housed in a barn with cooling devices.

Compared to cooled cows, heat-stressed cows exhibited:

  • Greater rectal temperatures (103.1 vs. 102.6⁰F)
  • Greater respiration rates (70.4 vs. 63.3 breaths/minute)
  • Decreased dry matter intake(30.2 vs. 34.2 lbs./day)

Cooled cows produced more milk during 180 days in milk (98.3 vs. 89.3 lbs./day) The cooled cows also exhibited shorter standing times than their heat-stressed counterparts (390.4 vs. 474.0 minutes/day).

These results confirm that heat stress abatement in the late gestation period improves performance of dairy cows in the ensuing lactation.

Access the abstract.                           

Featured Column

Sire Selection Definitions 101

Sire selection decisions are the basis for your dairy’s reproductive and productive future, yet how much time do you spend on evaluating the data and charts generated to help make these assessments faster and easier? Or do you avoid reviewing sire selection tools because you find them confusing?

Granted, the information can be overwhelming, but don’t let this abundance of material hold you back from making the best selection decisions for your herd. Embrace these facts and figures and watch your herd’s genetic progress rapidly improve.

The following definitions of basic sire selection terms from Francisco Peñagaricano, faculty member in the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Florida, can help you master—or at least increase your comfort level with—these components of building a better herd from the inside out.

Everyone making breeding decisions on your operation should have a basic understanding of these important factors and what they mean to herd improvement.

3 Central Concepts
Dairy bulls are genetically evaluated for several traits, including different production, health, fertility and type traits; this genetic information is regularly compiled and published by each specific breed organization as sire summaries, explains Peñagaricano.

There are at least three values that appear in the sire summaries to consider to make proper sire selection decisions:

  • Predicted transmitting ability (PTA). A measure of the genetic merit of the bull for a given trait.
  • Reliability. A measure of the degree of confidence in the PTA of the bull.
  • Percentile rank. A measure of the rank or position of the bull within the evaluated population for the trait of interest.

Understanding PTAs
PTAs are the genetic predictions to use when making sire selection decisions. PTA is an estimate of the relative genetic superiority (or inferiority) that a particular dairy bull will pass to its offspring for a given trait.

Note that the PTA value of one animal has no special meaning because a PTA is not an absolute value: PTAs are deviations from some preset value (the so-called base) that is determined individually by each breed. However, PTAs are exceptional tools for comparing and ranking available bulls.

The difference between the PTAs of two animals is an estimate of the difference you can expect to observe in the performance of their progeny.

For example, this table shows PTAs for protein yield, productive life and daughter pregnancy rate of two dairy bulls.

Bulls

 

Protein Yield (pounds)

Productive Life (months)

Daughter Pregnancy Rate (%)

A

42

4.0

1.6

B

30

3.0

2.1

Difference

12

1.0

-0.5

Based on this information you would expect:

  • Daughters of bull A will produce on average 12 more pounds of protein in 305 days than the daughters of bull B.
  • An average daughter of bull A will survive one more month in the herd than an average daughter of bull B.
  • On average, 0.5% more daughters of bull B will get pregnant in a 21-day period compared with the daughters of bull A.

Keep in mind you can only compare PTAs among animals that were evaluated within the same genetic evaluation.

Understanding Reliability
Reliability(REL or %R) measures the accuracy or degree of confidence in the PTA. It is expressed as a percentage and ranges from 1 to 99. Technically, it is defined as the squared correlation between the true transmitting ability and the predicted ability of a given animal.

REL is a function of the heritability of the trait and the amount of information available for the animal; basically, as heritability and the amount of information increase, REL also increases.

Therefore:

  • A bull has a more reliable PTA for protein yield than for daughter pregnancy rate because protein yield has a higher heritability.
  • Similarly, a bull with many daughters has a more reliable PTA for any given trait than a bull with no or just few daughters.

Although you should not select or exclude potential sires based only on reliability, use REL values as a guide to decide how intensively to use a bull in your herd.

For instance, you might choose to purchase 120 units of semen from a progeny-tested bull with 95% REL, or you might choose to purchase 20 units of semen from each of six different young bulls (with better genetic merit than the progeny-tested bull) but with only 70% REL.

Understanding Percentile Rank
Percentile rankis displayed as a table or graph of PTA distributions. This is useful information regarding the rank or position of a given bull within the population evaluated for a given trait of interest.

The interpretation of the percentile rank is very straightforward: if a bull ranks for a given trait at the 95th percentile, this means that the bull is genetically superior to 95 percent of all the evaluated bulls of its breed.

For example, this table shows the percentile rank of PTAs for protein yield, productive life, and daughter pregnancy rate for progeny-tested A.I. Holstein bulls (bulls entered A.I. since February 2008; official proofs from USDA-AGIL August 2015).

Percentile

Protein Yield

Productive Life

Daughter Pregnancy Rate

99th (Top 1%)

48

6.9

4.3

95th (Top 5%)

36

5.2

3.2

90th (Top 10%)

31

4.3

2.5

80th (Top 20%)

25

3.2

1.7

50th (Top 50%)

11

1.0

0.0

Based on this table, note that the bull A from the first tableranks in the top 5% for protein yield while bull B ranks in the top 20% of the bull population for this trait. Moreover, bull B ranks in the top 20% for daughter pregnancy rate while bull A ranks in the top 50% (its PTA for DPR is a little below the threshold of the 80th percentile).

Overall, dairy sires should be selected very carefully because they will have a great impact on the profitability of the dairy, concludes Peñagaricano. For more information, visit http://dairy.ifas.ufl.edu/dairyupdate/DairyUpdateFall2015.pdf

Featured Member

King Smith
Western U.S. Manager of Technical Services Program, Select Sires Inc.
Stephenville, Texas
DCRC Member since 2006

As the Western U.S. Manager of Technical Services Programs for Select Sires Inc., I have the opportunity to work with our personnel and the dairy producers in my territory to teach, train and update them on the latest reproductive technologies available.

Select Sires Inc., is North America’s largest artificial insemination (A.I.) organization and comprises nine farmer-owned and -controlled cooperatives.

Background Basics
I have been involved in dairy/agriculture for the last 29 years. I began my dairy career as a teenager working on a Holstein dairy/beef ranch and have been involved in the industry ever since. I was assigned the role of heat detecting the dairy herd as I moved cows to and from the parlor. It amazed me that such a simple procedure could have such a huge impact on a dairy’s profitability.  

I attended Texas A&M University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics. 

Since then, I have held many different positions in the A.I. industry. I began by working with a cattle reproduction company, developing skills with every aspect of cattle reproduction—from semen collection, sales and storage to embryo transfer.

My experience includes managing a small genetics company, owning and operating a breeding and consulting company, managing a five-state sales area for an A.I. company and Western Region Training Manager for that same organization. I have served in my current role for more than five years. 

I have always enjoyed helping producers and teaching them how to develop a successful reproductive program. Maintaining my interest and education in dairy reproduction allows me to continue to do this. 

DCRC’s Influence
The first thing I learned from DCRC was that the goal of a 20% pregnancy rate was no longer acceptable. As I watched dairies receive reproduction awards at DCRC conferences for consistent pregnancy rates of 30% and higher, it became very apparent that the bar set in the late 1990s had considerably raised. 

Second, DCRC has had a major impact both on how the dairy industry views reproductive programs and by the way it continues to educate the industry about the evolving reproductive tools available to producers.

DCRC can continue to influence national and international dairy reproduction education and improvement by continuing to provide topics that not only showcase the reproductive results that are possible, but also provide strategies that all herds can take home with them. We need to not only show new protocols and technologies that have been developed, but offer on-farm examples of these protocols in action and results obtained.  

Future Considerations
We have many tools available to us in today’s dairy industry to help achieve successful reproduction, but as I travel around the country, I find it’s more and more difficult for dairies to continually maintain extremely high results. I believe there are two main reasons for this: 

  • First, finding and keeping highly trained and qualified personnel to perform and manage reproductive programs
  • Second, things at dairies are always changing—from the types and quality of feed, to the ever-changing environment that we are forced to dairy in. 
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