Newsletter – 2016 – October

President's message

Note from the President’s Desk:

By Dr. Stephen LeBlanc

The past year has been very positive for DCRC. We are nearing our headline event of the year, our Annual Meeting November 10 – 11 in Columbus, Ohio, on a good trajectory.

Our membership has grown by about 30 percent over the last year. This encouraging trend is thanks to the efforts of many members of the DCRC board and committees to promote our organization and its benefits. We have also launched initiatives to offer free trial membership to students and to people from outside North America. We have increased the number of webinars by 50 percent this year, including a very successful first webinar in Spanish.

While this is a good news story, we know that there is still plenty of room for DCRC to grow. If you see the benefits of the annual meeting, webinars, herd awards, newsletters and online resources, tell a friend. Spread the word through social media—follow us on Twitter (@DCRCouncil) and Facebook. Your retweets and ‘likes’ help extend our reach.

If there is more we can do to support you in achieving good reproductive performance in your herd or those of your clients, tell us.

DCRC benefits from the generosity and enthusiasm of its board and committee members. These are the people who give their time in the background to shepherd the organization and to plan and deliver our meeting, awards program, educational resources and member services. Most serve three-year terms of quiet, but valued work for DCRC. Please take the time to thank these leaders for their contributions.

We are fortunate to have good support from our sponsors. Many of these companies have been with DCRC since our beginning in 2006. Others have become supporters as we have grown and developed. While we especially recognize them at the annual meeting, the generous support of all of our sponsors is an important part of helping DCRC bring resources and events to our members throughout the year.

Our goal is to help the dairy industry to sustainably achieve excellent reproductive performance. We aim to continue to grow DCRC by delivering rigorous, independent science-based information, sharing best practices and innovation and recognizing and learning from leaders in our industry.

Be a part of this success.

Election Update

DCRC Election Update

The2016 DCRC election is underway online, with a voting link emailed directly to members. If you are a member of DCRC and did not receive that link, email

The slate of candidates include:

Ronaldo Vp

Dr. Ronaldo Cerri, DCRC Vice President

University of Florida, 2010, Post-Doc
University of California, Davis, 2008, PhD
University of California, Davis, 2004, MSc
Sao Paulo State University, 2001, DVM


The research I am currently working aims to discover and develop solutions to fertility issues that affect dairy cattle. Our laboratory has focused on technologies to improve reproduction efficiency in cattle, such as the use of automated methods for detection of estrus and ovulation. Moreover, we try to better understand the effects of inflammation and health disorders on the cross-communication between the uterus and the embryo. The laboratory actively collaborates with colleagues in Canada and overseas to complement different areas of study and maximize the strengths within each group.

Glaucio Vp

Dr. Glaucio Lopes, DCRC Vice President

Dr. Gláucio Lopes is a veterinarian native of Brazil. He earned his DVM degree in his home country in 2006, and practiced as a solo veterinarian in commercial dairy farms for nearly 2 years. He then joined Dr. Ricardo Chebel, at Department of Cooperative Extension, at the University of California – Davis, to work as a veterinary specialist and research assistant.  Lopes worked for 18 months at the Veterinary Medicine Teaching and Research Center in Tulare, CA.In the summer of 2009, Lopes joined Dr. Paul Fricke in the Department of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where in 2011 he completed his Masters of Science degree in Reproductive Physiology. In August, 2011, Lopes joined Accelerated Genetics and World Wide Sires as a Reproduction Specialist, where he leaded the ReproConnections® reproductive support team.

Dr. Lopes had a chance to develop a volunteer work in Uganda, supporting the CNFA – Farmer to Farmer Program, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and his work focused on guidance of small farmers on common cattle pests and diseases, and handling of animal food. In 2015 Dr. Lopes spent a short tenure at SCR Dairy, where he worked as a Large Herd Manager and Reproduction Specialist. In June of 2016, Dr. Lopes joined the People Development Team at Alta Genetics as the Alta University Manager. On his new role, Dr. Lopes is responsible for organizing and delivering the Alta University Program, a dairy manager school designed to present new and most successful dairy practices for progressive dairy owners and managers. He also helps with Alta’s internal staff training program.   

Dr. Lopes is a member of the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and serves as the chair of the Educational Committee of the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC). He currently lives in Madison, WI with his girlfriend Tatiana Muñoz and his 2 year-old Australian Shepard mix Emma.

Alex Dir

Dr. Alex Souza, DCRC Director

My name is Alex Souza. I graduated from Sao Paulo State veterinary school in Brazil (2002).  While at the vet-school, I worked closely with Dr. Jose Vasconcelos on several research projects and management issues of commercial dairies in Brazil. After vet school, I moved to the US to work on my Master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (2005), in Dr. Milo Wiltbank’s lab.  My focus was on herd health and fertility in commercial dairy herds. Following that, I did my PhD at Dr. Pietro Baruselli’s lab (2008) in Brazil in a joint venture with the University of Wisconsin-Madison (co-advisor Dr. Milo Wiltbank). During my PhD I developed a synchronization program that is commonly used in high producing dairy herds worldwide known as “Double-Ovsynch”. Afterwards, I did my Post-Doc at UW-Madison but am now redirecting my efforts to try to understand nutritional factors that can influence embryo quality and fertility in dairy cattle. Later (from 2012-2014), I held the position of Dairy Advisor at University of California-Davis and was based in the Central California Valley. My appointment was divided 50% research and 50% extension in dairy cattle. I also had the great opportunity to work on behalf of semen companies (Accelerated Genetics and Select Sires) as well as for the Animal Health industry for about 8 years altogether. Currently, I’m based in Brazil working on several collaborative projects with universities, private industry, and am in charge of key projects in association with the R&D team and bovine branch of Ceva Animal Health.

Tom Dir

Dr. Tom Van Dyke, DCRC Director

Dr. Tom Van Dyke is Veterinary Professional Services Manager for Merial Limited.  He received his DVM from University of Georgia in 1976.  Before joining Merial, Dr. Van Dyke was in private veterinary practice for 30 years in Virginia and Tennessee serving dairy, cow-calf, and stocker clients.  Initially tending to individual sick or lame animals, his interests progressed to disease prevention, nutrition, and production.

When he started his own veterinary practice, Farm Success, Inc. Dr. Van Dyke also became a student of farm management and successful business solutions.  During this time he also owned and operated two dairy enterprises: Wolfden Farm a conventional confined TMR fed herd and Grassland Farm, a pasture based system.

With Merial, Dr. Van Dyke continues to promote practices which contribute to animal well being and profitable production.  He is primarily engaged in cattle reproduction, new therapeutic approaches to Bovine Respiratory Disease, and milk quality.  Other areas of focus include, low stress cattle handling, immunology, and parasite management.  Back home Dr. Van Dyke now has stocker cattle and beef heifer development projects ongoing.

In addition, several changes to the DCRC bylaws have been proposed, as outlined on the election ballot.

Online voting will be open through November 9, and election results will be announced at the 2016 DCRC annual meeting on November 10.

Research Summaries

Genetic Influence on Embryo Production

Researchers at the University of Guelph recently set out to assess the genetic correlation between the number of embryos produced by Holstein donors using in vivo and in vitro techniques—and the number of donor embryos produced as a heifer and as a cow. The results were published in the September issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.

Results indicated that genetic correlations between records produced in vivo and in vitro were moderately high and positive. This suggests that donors with high genetic potential for in vivo superovulation tend also to have high potential to produce multiple embryos in vitro.

Similarly, the moderately high genetic correlations found between heifer and cow records indicate that a donor tends to produce a comparable number of embryos as a heifer or as a cow. The researchers also noted that the service sires seem not to play an important role on the total number of embryos produced by a donor.

Access the abstract.

Milk Protein as an Indicator of Reproductive Performance

Milk protein concentration (percentage) has been positively associated with a range of measures of reproductive performance in dairy cows. This is likely due to factors affecting both milk protein concentration and reproductive performance possibly being mediated, in part, by energy balance during early lactation. However, it is likely that factors other than energy balance are also involved in these relationships.

A retrospective study was conducted by Australian researchers to learn more about this concept. The results were published online by the Journal of Dairy Science on September 21, 2016.

The researchers found:

  • Higher milk protein concentration was associated with better reproductive performance. For the first 150 days of lactation, the positive associations were strongest from 31 to 60 days and only slightly lower for all periods up to 150 days of lactation.
  • Estimated associations for protein concentration from 31 to 60 days were stronger than for 0 to 30 days.
  • In addition, milk protein concentration during a cow’s breeding period was positively associated with the subsequent pregnancy rate, even after adjusting for milk protein concentration in the cow’s first or second month of lactation.

The researchers say these results indicate that the association between milk protein concentration and reproductive performance is partly due to factors other than the extent of negative energy balance in early lactation. However, it is possible that energy balance accounts for some of the relationship, since as the magnitude and direction of energy balance can vary within and between cows throughout lactation.

Access the abstract.

Do you Monitor Transition Period Blood Glucose Levels?

Researchers at Cornell University recently investigated the association between the metabolic indicators non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) and glucose during the transition period and the development of uterine diseases. The research was published online by the Journal of Theriogenology on September 30, 2016.

Results showed that plasma glucose concentration can be associated with the occurrence of metritis and clinical endometritis (purulent vaginal discharge). Moreover, cows with an increased calving to conception interval (greater than 150 days) presented higher plasma glucose concentrations than cows that became pregnant within the first 150 days.

Glucose at three days in milk was the best predictor for metritis and endometritis diagnosis. Additional analyses showed that cows with higher levels of glucose at day three had:

  • 6.6 times higher odds of being diagnosed with metritis than cows with lower glucose levels
  • 3.5 times higher odds of developing clinical endometritis than cows with lower glucose levels

The researchers also noted a negative correlation between daily milk yield in the first and second weeks of lactation and plasma glucose concentrations measured at days seven and 14, respectively.

Access the abstract

Featured Column

Featured Column:
Genomic Applications
By Jonathan Lamb, Lamb Farms, Inc., Oakfield, New York

It’s only been seven years since genomics was introduced to the dairy industry, and no one could have predicted how rapidly the technology has been embraced.

Genomics has been accepted for a number of reasons as evidenced by the following points:

  1. The number of genomic‐coded sires actively marketed has increased rapidly
  2. The value of high-end seed stock has exploded in recent years (even bringing in outside investor groups to capitalize on this new technology)
  3. A number of new companies have entered the genomic testing arena

In addition, the cost of genomic tests has become more economical—and the number and type of tests available have rapidly increased. Further, the information provided with each test continues to improve.

As a result, the United States is leading the industry in the number of predictor cattle (cows that have official milk records and/or classified by official breed organizations) as well as the number of animals genomically tested.

What Does This Mean?

Genetics hasn’t always been a popular topic on some dairies, but genomics is quickly changing the conversation since the technology makes progress much easier to realize. Therefore, the importance of genetics is more appreciated by dairies than ever before—because more producers are realizing its importance and the financial benefits of improved animal health and productivity.

Genomics has two significant applications for producers:

  • To identify elite breeding stock to quickly enhance genetic progress and develop the next generation of animals
  • To identify those animals likely to be most profitable

Identify and Develop Top Performance

All dairy producers stand to gain with this most exciting aspect of genomics because our industry has entered a new era of progress. As elite heifers and bulls of the industry are being identified more quickly, their genetics are being propagated at a greater rate than previously possible.

Generational intervals have decreased to allow for more genetic gain, more quickly. This means the end-user of the genetics is rewarded by using elite genomic bulls to make faster progress.

The technology works well for those wanting to identify the top animals in their herd and then propagate their genetics. Producers aiming for elite genetics should work to ensure that their best cattle are in the top 2 percent of the industry, especially if they plan on intensively flushing or using in vitro fertilization.

If animals are not in this elite group, it is likely more economical (because of the high costs of embryo transfer) to buy semen from highly ranked genomic sires (high GTPI or Net Merit$) to make rapid genetic progress.

The “test and cull” strategy is another avenue to apply genomics. This strategy works well for farms wanting to remove lower genetic merit animals from their herd (such as the lowest performing 15 percent, or whichever target works best to help meet farm goals).

Putting Genomics to Work

Although results are impressive, keep in mind that genomic testing is only part of a sound genetic plan. Have a comprehensive breeding plan should be in place before investing in genomic tests for heifers. Ideally, this plan should be implemented at least nine months before genomically testing calves.

Using inexpensive and genetically inferior semen together with a test and cull strategy will limit genetic gain. Investing in good sires should be the first part of the breeding strategy. Common sense also must prevail because a heifer with severely damaged lungs will not be your top performing cow as her phenotype (environment) will trump her genotype (genetic makeup), regardless of her genomic results.

If you need assistance with developing a breeding plan, ask your genetics provider for help. A good strategy would be to start with a composite index like the total performance index (TPI) formula, Net Merit$ rankings or designing a weighting between production, health and conformational traits that meets the goals of your herd.

Patience and discipline are required in breeding cattle because cattle will exhibit the traits you breed for, but it does take time.

Weighting individual traits too high will lead to breeding cows that lack balance. For example, breeding only for daughter pregnancy rate will present a missed opportunity to make meaningful progress in other economically significant traits.

Reproduction Effects

In recent years, we have made substantial progress and many herds are now seeing pregnancy rates greater than ever before—especially in Holstein herds. Greater pregnancy rates stem from improved environments and management (heat detection, timed artificial insemination programs and more), as well as significant strides in improving Holstein genetics.

As the composite indexes (TPI and Net Merit$) continue to carry significant weight toward reproduction, these improvements will continue. Genomics will play a substantial role in helping to achieve the desired results.

Genomic Research Update

According to information presented at the 2015 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Annual Meeting, promising research results provide evidence that:

  1. There may be ample opportunity to make significant gains in Holstein heifer fertility using genomic selection.
  2. A large number of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) associated with daughter pregnancy rate (DPR) that are not negatively associated with production traits exist, perhaps allowing for selection for DPR without compromising production.
  3. Identification of genomic loci associated with fertility in first-calf Holstein lactating cows is underway, with results expected soon.
  4. Although fertility traits are influenced strongly by the environment, evidence exists supporting genetic variability providing opportunity for selection as suggested by a partial recovery in dairy fertility since the incorporation of DPR into bull genetic evaluations.
  5. Identifying genetic variation (SNPs) associated with uterine health, resumption of postpartum ovulation, establishment and maintenance of pregnancy in cows would provide a wider understanding of the genetic structure of fertility traits.
  6. A significant number of accurate fertility phenotypes has been collected to be matched with the corresponding genotypes, allowing the evaluation of the association between direct measures of fertility and genomic variation on dairy cows under different management practices and environments.
  7. These new resources would then be incorporated into existing selection programs for implementation at the farm level, assisting genetics companies and dairy producers to make rational and cost effective decisions for genetic selection to reduce the risk of uterine diseases and to improve fertility.

Be sure to attend the 2016 DCRC annual meeting to learn more.

Featured Member

Karmella Dolecheck
Graduate Research Assistant
University of Kentucky
Lexington, Kentucky
DCRC Member since 2013

I work with the Dairy Systems Management research group at the University of Kentucky, which has a broad focus on applied topics including application of precision dairy technologies, milk quality, cow housing and welfare and economic decision support.

My current research focuses on economic decision support. I build models to analyze investment opportunities in the dairy industry (i.e., feed additives, vaccinations, etc.). I have a special interest in disease prevention and treatment, specifically, much of my disease modeling research focuses on lameness consequences, prevention and treatment.

Dairy Newcomer 

I grew up in Southern Idaho where I was heavily involved in 4-H and National FFA Organization, showing almost every species except dairy. I finally became interested in the dairy industry during my undergraduate experience at Utah State University.

While there, I was involved with dairy nutrition research projects and also had the opportunity to spend a summer at the William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute in Chazy, New York. 

After earning my Bachelor of Science degree, I moved to Kentucky to study dairy reproductive management under Dr. William Silvia and Dr. Jeffrey Bewley. I completed a Master of Science degree in 2014 and continued my Ph.D. under Dr. Bewley, focusing on dairy economic decision support.

Reproduction Interest 

I was originally drawn to dairy reproduction because of its obvious importance. Not only does the dairy industry rely on offspring, like all other livestock sectors, but our main product (milk) is also directly linked to the ability of the cow to reproduce.

Of course, I realize many other components of management are important—nutrition, health and more—but, ultimately, reproduction still remains near the top of the list.

I continue to be interested in reproduction because there are so many ways to approach it. From synchronization protocols to on-cow technologies to a combination of approaches, there are many options that can each be successfully implemented to maintain and/or improve reproductive performance.

DCRC Influence 

When you search “dairy reproduction” on Google, DCRC is one of the first results listed. Being a go-to resource is the number one way that DCRC educates about and improves dairy reproduction. Serving as an official resource that anyone, anywhere can access is hugely beneficial for not only the industry, but also the public.

The most important thing I’ve learned from DCRC events, newsletters, webinars and other resources is that there is more than one way to structure a successful dairy reproduction program.

Reproduction’s Future

From synchronization protocols to on-animal technologies to tail painting/chalking, many strategies can work and work well. As members of the industry we should focus on finding the right solution to each specific problem rather than trying to make one solution work for everyone.

For many years now consumer conception and preference have been shaping the dairy industry. So far, dairy reproduction has escaped severe criticism. But I foresee that the future will include more restrictions and oversight on the use of synchronization hormones and other reproductive tools. Because of this we need to be proactive about responsibly using our resources and seeking even more new alternatives. 

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