Newsletter – 2017 – October

President's message

From the DCRC President’s Desk
By Todd Bilby

Have you registered for the DCRC Annual Meeting yet? If not, please register today! Online registration ends Oct. 27. After that date, you will have to register on site. Reminder: this year’s meeting falls on Wednesday and Thursday, rather than the traditional Thursday and Friday.

Luis Mendonca and the program committee have pulled together an information-packed agenda. Key subject areas include informing consumers, new technologies, dairy data management, reproductive management strategies, herd health and employee management.

Plus, we have the added bonus of a preconference symposium, featuring seminars sponsored by Elanco, Merck and Zoetis. This provides additional instructional time for meeting attendees at no extra charge. Topics include Physiologic and Economic Perspectives Around Achieving High Fertility in High Producing Dairy Cows and Expanding Our Knowledge on Postcalving Health and Immunosuppression.

For more information about this year’s meeting venue – Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, Reno, Nev. – visit The DCRC hotel reservation link is:

I look forward to seeing you in Reno!

Director elections

Also, I encourage you to vote for next year’s DCRC board of directors. Candidates are listed below.

Vice President (2-year term, ascending to president in 2019)
– Douglas S. Hammon, Managing Veterinarian, Dairy Technical Services, Zoetis
– Gláucio Lopes, AltaU Manager, Alta Genetics

– Klibs N. Galvão, Associate Professor of Dairy Cattle Reproduction and Medicine
College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Florida
– Jeffrey S. Stevenson, Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University

– Melodie Chan, Senior Manager Veterinary Services – Cattle/Equine/Genetics, Zoetis
– Matthew D. Utt, Director of Research, Select Sires, Inc.

To view the candidate bios and statements of interest, click here.

Just three more webinars remain for 2017. I encourage you to sit back, listen and learn. The remaining webinars are listed below:

Klibs Galvao (Portuguese webinar): Identification and treatment of uterine diseases in dairy cows.
Oct. 27, 2017, 1 p.m. Central Time
Register Here

Stephen LeBlanc: Using Activity Monitors in Dairy Herd Reproductive Management
Nov. 3, 2017, 1 p.m. Central Time
Register Here

Francisco Penagaricano (Spanish webinar): Genomics, embryos and fertility.
Dec. 15, 2017, 1 p.m. Central Time
Register Here

For more information, email Dr. Pablo Pinedo, DCRC Education Committee Chair, at or email DCRC at

Research Summaries

Evidence that mastitis can cause pregnancy loss in dairy cows: A systematic review of observational studies

Clinical mastitis has been associated with increased circulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF-α, IL-1β, and IL-8, increased concentrations of PGF2α, impaired embryonic development, luteolysis, and pregnancy loss in dairy cows. In this study, Dahl et al. performed a systematic review of epidemiological studies investigating clinical or subclinical mastitis as predisposing factors for pregnancy loss. Although an initial number of 651 records were identified, at the end of the screening process only 8 papers qualified for review. Among these, especially two studies (Risco et al., 1999; Moore et al., 2005) provided strong epidemiological evidence of the relationship between pregnancy loss and mastitis. This study is published in the October 2017 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.

  • Risco et al., 1999 showed that cows within 90 d after diagnosis of clinical mastitis had 2.7 times greater odds of pregnancy loss compared to cows without mastitis [OR= 2.7; Confidence Interval = 1.3 to 5.6].
  • Moore et al., 2005 demonstrated that cows diagnosed with subclinical mastitis within 30 d before AI had 3.6 times greater odds of pregnancy loss compared to cows without subclinical mastitis [OR= 3.6; Confidence Interval = 1.0 to 13.4].

Access the abstract

Fertility of Double-Ovsynch protocol vs. AI after estrous detection

The authors investigated artificial insemination (AI) submission rate and pregnancy per AI at first service of lactating Holstein cows submitted to timed AI Double-Ovsynch (DO) protocol versus AI to a detected estrus after synchronization of estrus (EST) at a similar day in milk range. The results were published in the August 2017 issue of the Journal of Dairy Science.

  • Authors reported that the by design, days in milk at first insemination did not differ between treatments (76.9 ± 0.2 vs. 76.7 ± 0.3 for DO vs. EST cows, respectively).
  • Authors also revealed that more DO cows were inseminated within 7 d after the end of the voluntary waiting period than EST cows (100.0 vs. 77.5%).
  • In addition, authors reported that DO cows had greater pregnancy per insemination than EST cows at both 33 d (49.0 vs. 38.6%) and 63 d (44.6 vs. 36.4%)
  • They also reported that pregnancy loss from 33 to 63 d after insemination did not differ between treatments.
  • Primiparous cows had greater pregnancy per insemination than multiparous cows 33 and 63 d after insemination, but the treatment by parity interaction was not significant.
  • Synchronization rate to the hormonal protocols was 85.3%, which did not differ between treatments; nonetheless, synchronized DO cows had greater pregnancy per insemination 33 d after insemination than synchronized EST cows (54.7 vs. 44.5%).

In conclusion, the authors suggested that greater pregnancy per insemination might have been a result of increased progesterone concentrations during growth of the dominant follicle coupled with ovulation of smaller dominant follicles when cows are submitted to timed AI after a Double-Ovsynch protocol, when compared with cows inseminated after a detected estrus. In addition, authors pointed out that timing of insemination relative to ovulation is more precise when cows are submitted to a synchronization protocol than when they are inseminated after a detected estrus.

Access the abstract

Post implantation development reveals that biopsy procedure can segregate ‘healthy’ from ‘unhealthy’ bovine embryos and prevent miscarriages

The authors compared pregnancy loss in cattle implanted with IVF blastocysts that were either biopsied (treatment) or non-biopsied (control). Ovum were collected through ultrasound-guided follicular aspirations and subsequently matured in vitro and fertilized with sex-sorted semen. At 155 h post insemination, grade I blastocysts were subjected to manually operated blade biopsy of roughly 20% of the blastocyst opposite the inner cell mass. Following biopsy, embryos were examined for blastocoel re-expansion and loaded into straws for implantation into a synchronized recipient female. Pregnancy diagnosis occurred 30 d after implantation. Pregnancy loss was grouped into 3 categories: early embryonic loss (first trimester), abortion (second and third trimester), or stillbirth (parturition).  Results were published in the September 2017 issue of Animal Reproduction Science.

  • Blastocyst stage did not affect re-expansion of biopsied embryos, but did affect pregnancy rate as fewer pregnancies were established in biopsied regular blastocysts (37.83%) and biopsied expanded blastocysts (61.01%).
  • Percentage of pregnant recipients for n = 82 transferred control embryos at the end of 30 d was 62.5%. Live calves were obtained from 42.0% of control embryos.
  • Percentage of pregnant recipients for n = 103 biopsied embryos at the end of 30 d was 50.9%. Live calves were obtained from 47.1% of biopsied embryos.
  • Early pregnancy loss was greater in control versus biopsied embryos (17.6 vs 0.0%, respectively), but no differences in abortion or stillbirth were observed.

In conclusion, the embryo biopsy procedure did not have any detrimental impact on pregnancy establishment or delivery of a live calf. This technique could aid in the selection of healthier embryos.

Access the abstract

Featured Column

Editor’s note: This column is based on Nancy Charlton’s presentation given at the 2016 DCRC Annual Meeting.

Data and analysis keys to reproductive success

As concerns over falling reproductive performance escalated around the turn of the century, dairy cattle breeders and advisers decided to take on this trend by putting more emphasis on reproduction-related genetic traits (e.g., daughter pregnancy rate [DPR] and sire conception rate [SCR]) and seeking out effective heat detection tools. Today, many real-time tools are available, but continued focus is needed to learn how to use data and implement reproductive management changes with guidance from advisers.

About half of all operations (51.5 percent) use bulls for breeding dairy cows (National Animal Health Monitoring System, 2014). Some dairy producers believe a bull can get more cows pregnant and using a bull reduces labor required for heat detection. Natural service stymies genetic progress and puts people and animals in harm’s way.

If visual heat detection is a challenge on your dairy operation, it’s time to take a closer look at heat detection technologies that monitor cattle activity, motion and/or behavior. Examples of devices used to indicate that the cow was mounted include heat patches, tail paint and tail chalk, which are relatively simple and inexpensive. Outside North America, some researchers have monitored vaginal electrical resistance. Decreased electrical resistance is detected when cows and heifers are in estrus. This tool has been used mostly in research applications.

Milking equipment manufacturers and other dairy industry vendors offer a variety of activity systems, including DelPro Activity (DeLaval), Heat time (SCR), CowScout (GEA), Heat Seeker (BouMatic), Cow Monitor (Select Sires), MooMonitor+ (Dairy Master), AFI Acti II(AFI), Heat Watch II (CowChips), Track a Cow (Animart) and Flashmate (Gallagher, Australia). These activity monitors focus on measuring increased cow activity in comparison with normal baseline or expected activity. Increased activity is associated with a risk of being in estrus.

Beyond activity monitoring systems and milk samples (collected via in-line systems), dairy producers can assess various physiological measures. These assessments can start right after freshening and are used in conjunction with physical health measurements (e.g., milk progesterone and beta-hydroxy butyrate [BHB] analysis) and real-time heat detection data for analysis to better manage individual cows.

Tools to diagnose pregnant cows

Historically, manual transrectal palpation was conducted to diagnose pregnancy. This technique can be time consuming and “cost time” (day 32 post-insemination is the earliest) in a cow’s reproductive cycle. Transrectal ultrasonography surfaced more than two decades ago. Highly skilled technicians can detect pregnancy at day 25 post-insemination. Progesterone testing can now be done on farm in real time via in-line milk sampling. Sampling time is based on using a biomodel that predicts the cow’s risk for ovulation. Pregnancy-Associated Glycoproteins (PAG) tests look for the presence of maternal PAG to confirm pregnancy with a 98.5 percent sensitivity (Byrem et al., 2012).

Herd Navigator, technology developed by DeLaval and FOSS, is an example of an in-line milk sampling laboratory that tests milk for components. This system looks for lactate dehydrogenase, BHB and progesterone. Lactate dehydrogenase is a milk enzyme and is an indicator of udder inflammation and infection. BHB reflects the daily risk of ketosis. Progesterone can assess the estrous cycle stage.

While confirming pregnancy is a key component to reproduction management programs, dairy producers also need to find open cows for enrollment in resynchronization programs or determine if further action is needed. Transrectal ultrasonography of cows 28 to 35 days after insemination finds cows that failed to conceive or experienced early embryonic loss up until this time. However, further losses are common on all dairy farms; therefore, a follow-up exam at 42 to 66 days after insemination finds abortions, fetal gender and/or twins. Activity systems help find 21- to 24-day repeats, as well as detect early embryonic losses or abortions after an initial positive pregnancy diagnosis.

Like pregnancy diagnostic tools, progesterone (via blood or milk) and PAG test results can be used for pregnancy status (positive, negative or suspicious) on that day. When test results yield “suspicious status,” recheck with a new sample or palpate the cow.

Smooth transition period helps cows conceive

How do you set up cows for reproductive success? Gather data so you know each cow’s status. For example, monitor body condition. Rapid weight loss can impair health and ultimately impede conception/pregnancy (e.g., more anovulation and possibly poorer quality oocytes). Keep in mind that healthy dry and transition periods help set up cows for reproductive success.

It is recommended that cows calve at 3.0 body condition score (BCS) and heifers at 3.25, to minimize BCS-related health disorders at calving (Roche et. al., 2013). Recent data indicated even lower BCS might be beneficial. Roche et al. (2009, 2013) summarized how BCS is related to health disorders. Any negative event at calving and up until 60 days in milk has been associated with decreased conception risk (Santos et al., 2010).

If health prevention tools failed, the next best health management strategy is typically early intervention. Increases in non-esterified fatty acid (NEFA) and BHB concentrations are associated with decreased dry matter intake and metritis (Huzzey et al., 2007). Body condition influences reproductive health (Roche et al., 2009). Simultaneously monitoring NEFA/BHB in relation to BCS should be an integral part of a dairy producer’s strategy. With automated/in-line technology, data are gathered and presented in reports. Work with your advisers on how to use these reports for a strategic reproductive program.

In conclusion, tools to monitor cow health in the transition period, before breeding, in addition to tools to detect abnormal cows are tools of the future. Quality dairy producers want to minimize the number of abnormal cows. However, when they do have them, they should demand that the tool allows them to intervene early. If the cow fails to respond, then she is a prospective cull. Implement management strategies so more than 80 percent of cows at the end of the voluntary waiting period are cyclic and fertile; at least 70 percent of cows are pregnant by day 150; involuntary culls (non-replacements) are less than 20 percent; and of this 20 percent, less than 50 percent should be reproductive culls.

The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council does not support one product over another. Any mention herein is only meant as an example, not an endorsement.

Featured Member

Editor’s Note: Each issue, DCRC interviews a member to learn more about his/her career, involvement with DCRC and thoughts about dairy cattle and reproduction. We encourage you to recommend someone for this feature by contacting JoDee Sattler at:

Cris Hatch
All West/Select Sires
Turlock, California, USA
DCRC Member since 2006

I am the All West/Select Sires district manager for Central California. Also, I spend a lot of time as a Select Reproductive Solutions (SRS) specialist and work with many of the top dairy herds in California’s Central Valley.

All West/Select Sires has been in the bovine genetics business since 1941 and we have been part of the Select Sires federation since 1975. We are a member-owned cooperative, which continues to pay back patronage to its members every year.

For nearly 30 years, I have been behind cows as a technician. However, I don’t breed cows very often in my current role.

I am interested in dairy cattle reproduction because I want to keep up with the latest information. Current information provides me with tools to help my herd managers meet their maximum reproductive efficiency.

I have been going to the DCRC meetings since they started and enjoy being part of them every year. Why? DCRC brings together the top dairy reproductive researchers and dairy producers from around the country to share what they are learning.

I like the applicability of the research and experiences shared at DCRC meetings. For example, I have learned what Ovsynch programs are working and which ones are not. Plus, I have gained helpful insights about heifer breeding programs. This information gives me a much better understanding of the optimal breeding age for various scenarios.

When it comes to reproductive challenges facing the dairy industry, synchronization program management comes to mind. “Sync” programs can take a toll on AI technicians. In addition, there’s still room for improvement in transition cow management. Cows that get through this period seamlessly will be better positioned to breed back efficiently.

When I think of DCRC, “top researchers” comes to mind. The organization has attracted top researchers to its meetings during its short history. However, I have seen a much bigger push to get dairy producers engaged in the meetings. This is a good idea.

Looking to the future, I think DCRC will continue to provide cutting edge information, while also showing how reproductive strategies and tools can be effectively implemented on dairy farms.

Webinar Series

Mark your calendars for the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s (DCRC) 2017 webinar series. These highly regarded sessions offer attendees from across the United States and around the world access to high-quality information and interaction with industry experts from the comfort of their farm or office.

The 2017 series features seven presentations, giving you numerous opportunities to learn more about important dairy reproduction topics. The webinars feature top-rated topics from previous DCRC annual meetings, as well as other areas of reproductive importance. Again this year, DCRC will offer a webinar in Spanish – slated for Dec. 15. And for the first time, DCRC will offer a webinar in Portuguese, which is scheduled for Oct. 27.

Each webinar begins at 1 p.m. Central time. We look forward to you joining us!

Save these dates:

  • Identificação e tratamento de doenças uterinas em vacas leiteiras (Identification and Treatment of Uterine Diseases in Dairy Cows) with Dr. Klibs Galvao in Portuguese
  • Activity Monitors for Reproductive Management with Dr. Stephen LeBlanc
  • Aplicación de tecnologías genómicas para la selección en rebaños lecheros comerciales (Application of Genomic Technologies for Selection in Commercial Dairy Farms) with Dr. Francisco Peñagaricano in Spanish

To register for a webinar, please visit Webinars 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

Special thanks to our sponsors who make these webinars possible.

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