Newsletter – 2016 – February

President's message

By Dr. Stephen LeBlanc

DCRC is growing! Members of our organization know about the many benefits that DCRC offers, like an annual meeting that is second-to-none for the latest information on management to achieve excellent reproduction.

Members also may access:

  • Online papers
  • Protocols
  • Presentations
  • Past webinars

This year we are expanding our line-up of webinars from four to six, including our first webinar in Spanish this summer. Webinars are online presentations for 45 to 60 minutes with live slides and audio, and time for participants to ask questions. It’s a great way to conveniently get the latest dairy reproduction information from your home or office.

If you can’t join live, members can watch and listen at their leisure after the broadcast. The schedule is available online and kicked off with a great talk by Dr. Paul Fricke on February 26. If you missed it, the presentation will soon be available on our website for members.

We’re opening our doors to enable more people learn about the benefits of DCRC membership. Undergraduate, graduate, and veterinary students are invited to join with a free three-month trial membership.

We are also promoting DCRC with outreach at large cattle reproduction meetings in South America this year.

Please tell your dairy colleagues and neighbors about DCRC. Follow us on Twitter: @DCRCouncil and check us out on Facebook. Your re-tweets and ‘likes’ help to spread the word about DCRC.

DCRC recognizes herds from around the world that have outstanding reproductive performance with our annual awards. In addition to honoring their achievements, these herds are a source of inspiration and information for everyone in our industry.

The 2016 awards program is open for nominations until April 30. If you are an advisor, veterinarian or service provider to an exemplary herd, nominate them for a DCRC award. Details are available at

Website News

DCRC is pleased to announce several new updates to our website, including more information about trial memberships for students and e-members. And learn more about the FASS Job Resource Center.

Visit to read more about these new opportunities:

  • 3 month free-trial for all students
    A 3-month free trial of DCRC membership is now available to all undergraduate and graduate students interested in joining DCRC. Sign up now to take advantage of this special offer.
  • 6 month free-trial for e-members
    A 6-month free trial of DCRC E-Membership is now available to anyone outside of North America interested in joining DCRC. Sign up now to take advantage of this special offer.
  • The FASS Job Resource Center is available to all DCRC members
    The FASS Job Resource Center links open job positions with interested scientists to serve and advance the field of animal science. Learn more here.
Webinar Series

The line-up for the DCRC 2016 webinar series is complete. Plan now to attend these valuable sessions to access high-quality information and interact with industry experts.

The 2016 series includes six presentations, giving you even more opportunities to learn more about important dairy reproductive subjects. The webinars feature top-rated topics from previous DCRC Annual Meetings. Also new this year is DCRC’s first webinar in Spanish—slated for June 24. Each webinar begins at 1 p.m. Central Time.

Mark your calendar for these dates:

  • Fertility Programs to Achieve High 21-day Pregnancy Rates in High-Producing Holstein Dairy Herds with Dr. Paul Fricke – Sponsored by Merck Animal Health
  • Managing Ketosis in the Transition Cow for Health and Reproduction with Dr. Stephen LeBlanc
  • Estratégias para mejorar el desempeño reproductivo en lecherias de alta producción (Strategies to improve reproduction performance in high producing dairy herds) with Dr. Julio Giordano
  • Facility Design to Optimize Transition Cow Comfort with Emphasis on Confinement Systems with Dr. Gordie Jones
  • Metrics to Asses Reproductive Efficiency in Dairy Herds with Dr. Luis Mendonca
  • Ten Years of Sexed Semen in North America with Dr. George Seidel

To register for a webinar, please click on the link associated with your desired webinar and follow all prompts. As the webinar approaches, you will receive an email with information on how to log in for attendance. Can’t make it live? DCRC members may access all past webinars at

For more information, email Glaucio Lopes, DCRC Education Committee Chair, at or email DCRC at

Research Summaries

Improving Postpartum Cyclicity
Researchers in France recently evaluated the effects of breed, genetic merit for milk yield, and feeding system on cyclicity of first-lactation dairy cows. The results were published in the February 2016 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.

From 2006 to 2013, the researchers tracked the ability to resume ovarian activity for 97 Holstein and 97 Normande first-lactation cows. Two grazing-based strategies were used—a high feeding system (maize silage in winter and grazing plus concentrate) and a low feeding system (grass silage in winter and grazing with no concentrate).

Results show:

  • Holstein cows produced more milk and lost more body weight from week one to week 14 of lactation than Normande cows
  • Normande cows had earlier resumption of cyclicity than Holstein cows
  • Cows in the high feeding system produced more milk and lost less body weight from week one to week 14 of lactation than cows in the low feeding system
  • No effect of feeding system or milk yield was observed on cyclicity

Access the abstract.

Rectal Palpation Safe
Researchers at Texas A&M University recently evaluated the effect of rectal palpation of the amniotic vesicle for pregnancy diagnosis during the late embryonic period on pregnancy loss, calving rates and abnormalities in newborn calves. The results were published in the February 2016 Journal of Theriogenology.

The examinations were performed by one experienced veterinarian between days 34 and 45 after artificial insemination on 680 lactation cows on two commercial dairies. All cows were reevaluated by transrectal ultrasonography only between two and four weeks later.

The researchers concluded that amniotic vesicle palpation during the late embryonic period for pregnancy diagnosis did not increase the pregnancy loss, calving rates or produce abnormalities in calves.

Access the abstract.

Don’t Forget about Cattle STDs
A review published in the March 2016 issue of Journal of Theriogenology reminds dairy producers, veterinarians and advisors to pay attention to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in dairy cattle because of the potential harm to future reproductive performance.

The discussion centered on STDs caused by Tritrichomonas foetus (T. foetus) and Campylobacter fetus (C. fetus) subsp. venerealis, with a focus on prevalence, pathogenesis and diagnosis in cows and bulls. Diagnosis and control are problematic because these diseases cause severe reproductive losses in cows, but are clinically asymptomatic in bulls. These facts allow the disease to insidiously cause reproductive losses, especially in the absence of sanitary preventive program.

The researchers note that current diagnostic methods of C. fetus venerealis and T. foetus (microbial culture and PCR) should be improved in order to develop a countrywide highly sensitive and specific test to identify positive animals

Access the abstract.

Featured Column

Breaking Through Heat Stress Bottlenecks

Cooling cows may not be top-of-mind at the moment, but the need for heat abatement programs to kick into gear is just around the corner. Soon sprinklers, fans and other cooling technologies will be working overtime to reduce the negative effects of warmer temperatures.

While decreased milk production is a readily seen heat stress casualty, reproductive performance is an even greater victim of rising temperatures and humidity.

Estrus expression, follicle quality, pregnancy and conception rates, as well as embryo quality all drop dramatically in summer months while embryo losses increase. For example:

  • Dairy cows are 3.7 times more likely to lose their embryo during hot versus cool seasons.1
  • Another study found undetected estrus events estimated at 76% to 82% on a Florida dairy for the months of June through September.
    • That percentage dipped down to 44% to 65% for the months of October through May.2

In addition, data3 from Israel showed a 7% milk production decrease in the summer and a 51% drop in conception rate in herds producing milk at an average level. Estrus detection efficiency may also be reduced as a result of heat stress.

These disturbing data more than make the case for cooling cows. Yet even dairies that have invested in heat abatement technologies often find there are areas that benefit from increased cooling analysis.

Hunt for Hot Spots
The first step in any evaluation is to scrutinize current equipment to make sure it’s working properly. Once that’s done, it’s time to determine whether enough cooling is in place.

To do so, assess where any ‘hot’ spots may exist for the cows. This can be as simple as placing thermometers in key areas around the dairy and tracking peak temperatures, as well as how long cows spend in these areas. Record how warm these places get and when the spikes occur.

Dairies that have invested in animal monitoring systems can also use rumination time and ambient temperature to determine animals’ reaction to their environment. Users can evaluate where cows are on the dairy at a given time and then analyze a location’s impact on rumination. This information can then be used to gauge the effectiveness of cooling strategies.

Several smart phone apps4 are also available to help producers to make timely decisions on managing the livestock environment and reducing animal stress. These tools enable users to monitor environmental temperatures and humidity to modify heat abatement measures as needed.

Targeted Solutions
Once you’ve found where problem areas exist, work with your dairy’s advisors to determine the best way to remedy the situation.

It may be as straightforward as adding more waterers to parlor exit lanes, adding shade to walking lanes and dry lot pens, or improving fan placement and volume in holding areas. In other cases, it may call for a more intense revamp of your entire heat abatement program, so be sure to work with your team to be sure that you do so in the most efficient way possible.

Also, be sure to include dry cow cooling needs in your cooling analysis. Results5 published in the October 2015 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science show that compared to cooled cows, heat-stressed dry cows exhibited:

  • Higher rectal temperatures
  • Greater respiration rates
  • Decreased dry matter intake

In addition, research6 shows that calves born to heat-stressed dams weighed 13 pounds less at birth and 28 pounds less at weaning than calves born to dams with access to cooling. Calves born to heat-stressed dams also had reduced passive transfer of immunity and compromised cell-mediated immunity compared to calves born to cooled cows.

The link between successful passive transfer and improved calf performance is well-established, so the potential influence of impaired immune status on calf performance in hot weather (regardless of feeding level) should not be forgotten.6


Cooling Considerations
When fine-tuning heat abatement strategies on your dairy, keep these six factors7 from experts at Kansas State University in mind:

  1. Consider the temperature of the location.
  2. Consider the relative humidity of location.
  3. Consider the cooling mechanisms of the cow that you will target.
  4. Increase soaking frequency at THE feed lane as temperature increases.
  5. Provide minimal supplemental airspeed over feed lanes and freestalls.
  6. If utilizing evaporative cooling systems, consider adding feedline soakers to increase cow cooling during peak feeding periods.


1 Thatcher WW, Collier RJ. Effects of climate on bovine reproduction. In: D.A. Morrow, ed. Current Therapy in Theriogenology 2, Philadelphia: W.B. Sanders, Co., 1986;301-309.
2 Lopez-Gatius F, Santolaria P, Yaniz JL, Garbayo JM, Hunder RHF. Timing of early foetal loss for single and twin pregnancies in dairy cattle. Reprod Domest Anim 2004;39:429-433.
3 De Vries A. Economics of Heat Stress: Implications for Management. Available at: Accessed February 1, 2016.
4 Bilby TR. Diagnostic Tools and Heat Stress Apps. In Proceedings. 2014 High Plains Dairy Conference. Available at: Accessed February 3, 2016.
5 Karimi MT, Ghorbani GR, Kargar S, Drackley JK. Late-gestation heat stress abatement on performance and behavior of Holstein dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2015;98:6865-6875.
6 Jones C, Heinrichs J. Heat Stress in Dairy Calves. Penn State University Extension. Available at: Accessed February 1, 2016.
7 Brouk MJ, Smith JF, Harner JP III. Effectiveness of Cow Cooling Strategies Under Different Environmental Conditions. In Proceedings. 6th Western Dairy Management Conference. Available at: Accessed January 29, 2016.

Featured Member

Mark Carson
EastGen Genetics (Semex partner)
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
DCRC Member since 2008

I work for EastGen, which is a farmer-owned cooperative and one of three Semex partners. EastGen provides genetics and reproductive solution services across the Canadian provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

Dairy Roots
I grew up working with my dad feeding heifers and preparing them for export to Mexico and the United States. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Animal Science from the University of Guelph. Then, I earned a Master of Science degree in Dairy Health Management from the Ontario Veterinary College, where I worked with Dr. Todd Duffield, Dr. Stephen LeBlanc and Dr. Ken Leslie on a transition cow health project.

As the Solutions Manager, I look after all the tools and consultant based services that EastGen provides its customers. I work with my team to conduct on-farm reproductive and genetic consultations, as well as sale and support activity monitoring solutions.

Reproduction Emphasis
There’s no genetic gain without pregnancy. I like to work with dairy producers to get the most out of their genetics, through progressive herd management. I enjoy analyzing herd data generated by a farm’s management software to find opportunities for improvement and help dairy producers understand their herds from a new prospective.

I also enjoy working with activity monitoring technology and collaborating with dairy producers to get the full value out of the equipment.

DCRC Influence
DCRC helps to get different ideas and strategies into the marketplace. When I first joined DCRC eight years ago, I remember reading about herds that were maintaining pregnancy rates of 30% and thinking, “How is that possible?”

Through information and strategies that organizations such DCRC have provided, I now work with a number of herds that are in the 30% pregnancy rate range.

Two takeaways from DCRC include:

  • How other dairy producers achieve outstanding reproductive performance results. It’s very useful to learn first-hand from dairy producers accounts about how they achieve goals.
  • Updates on the latest time A.I. protocols and technologies available or those that will be available is always useful in the field.

Challenges Ahead
I believe there is always room to improve conception rate, especially in older, third-lactation and higher cows. I also believe there is also a huge opportunity for dairy producers to integrate and optimize the usage of new technologies such as automated activity and health monitoring aids.

The challenge is that we’re creating a lot of on-farm data through automated technologies, but we’re not able to fully utilize the information because of the format in which it’s available. Or we simply don’t understand how to use the data on a herd level yet.

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