Newsletter – 2018 – August

President's message

From the DCRC President’s Desk
By Ronaldo Cerri

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer and getting ready for the new calendar year coming up! As usual, I start this letter with a big thank you note to the hard work of the DCRC board, committees and our dear G&G staff. A lot has been accomplished and lot more is in the works!

As discussed in our last newsletter, the DCRC is continuing to work hard to finalize a document that will summarize our discussions and findings, but most importantly to lay down actionable items and deadlines of our new strategic plan. G&G has been instrumental in steering this discussion and push us towards a stronger DCRC. Again, I would like to personally thank those who committed their valuable time and effort to participate in this strategic plan: Todd Bilby, Paul Fricke, Corey Geiger, Stephen LeBlanc, Fabio Lima, Glaucio Lopes, Neil Michael, Matt Utt, the G&G team and Steve Drake, our mediator.

The highlight of the DCRC annual program, the Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, November 14-16, is getting closer and closer. The program has just been finalized (please click here for the link). Many thanks to Rafael Bisinotto and the program committee for all the effort to make this happen! The program is full of hot topics and incredible speakers, many of which were suggested by our attendees of the last DCRC meeting, and can now be viewed at our website. It is never too late to remind our members and attendees, that due to contractual obligations, the 2018 (only) meeting goes back to the Wednesday night welcome reception, Thursday morning pre-conference symposium, and Thursday – Friday general and breakout sessions.

As a reminder of our webinar series, our next guest will be Dr. Rodrigo Bicalho with a talk on new alternatives for the prevention and treatment of uterine diseases. This webinar will be held in Portuguese (July 11, 2018, 1 PM CST, click here to register), an initiative that started a couple of years ago by the education committee aimed at increasing the international reach of DCRC. Thank you to Dr. Fabio Lima for the wonderful job chairing the education committee and organizing the webinar series.

Also, please check our membership promotions and take a few minutes to renew your membership and help get the word out to colleagues and students regarding the value of DCRC membership. In addition, help us spread the word through social media—follow us on Twitter (@DCRCouncil) and Facebook. Your retweets and ‘likes’ help extend the reach of DCRC’s information and programs. This is an especially important task that we ask everyone involved with DCRC to do. The work behind the curtains to promote and spread the word about the importance and benefits of DCRC is key to our success!

I wish all of our valued (and future) members a great rest of the summer and hope to see you in Indianapolis!


Research Summaries

Influences of sire conception rate on pregnancy establishment in dairy cattle

A group of researchers from the University of Missouri performed a study to investigate sire influences on pregnancy establishment in cattle. The results are published in the Journal Biology of Reproduction.

  • Establishing pregnancy in cattle is a complex process that includes ovulation, fertilization, blastocyst formation and growth into an elongated conceptus, pregnancy recognition signaling and embryo and placenta development.
  • Ten Holstein bulls were classified as high or low fertility, based on their sire conception rate (SCR) value in the study.
  • Through a field trial, authors found that pregnancy at first timed insemination was not different between high and low SCR bulls.
  • Their next step was to phenotype 5 or 10 sires, using in vitro and in vivo embryo production.
  • There was no effect of SCR classification on in vitro embryo cleavage rate, but low SCR sires produced fewer d 8 blastocysts.
  • In superovulated heifers, high SCR bulls produced a lower percentage of unfertilized oocytes and fewer degenerated embryos, compared with low SCR bulls.
  • Researchers transferred 3 to 5 in vivo-produced embryos to recipient heifers from either high or low SCR sires on d 7 postestrus for conceptus recovery.
  • D 16 conceptus recovery and length were not different between SCR groups, and the conceptus transcriptome was not appreciably different between high and low SCR sires.

Authors reported that with in vivo, more unfertilized embryos were recovered from superovulated heifers inseminated with low SCR bulls than in high SCR bulls. However, in vitro cleavage rate (as an indicator of fertilization) was not different between low and high SCR bulls, or individual sires. The authors indicated that these results suggest that processes involving sperm transport and capacitation in the female tract could be affected in heifers bred with low SCR semen, resulting in decreased fertilization rates in vivo. The authors concluded that understanding the sire’s genetic contributions to pregnancy establishment is crucial to increase reproductive efficiency in dairy cattle.

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Assessment of daily activity patterns and biomarkers of pain, inflammation and stress in lactating dairy cows diagnosed with clinical metritis

A group of researchers from The Ohio State University and University of Helsinki assessed daily activity patterns and circulating concentrations of biomarkers of pain, inflammation and stress in lactating dairy cows diagnosed with clinical metritis in a case-control study. The results are published in the Journal of Dairy Science.

  • Cows diagnosed with clinical metritis (n = 100) at 7 ± 3 d in milk were matched according to lactation and days in milk to cows without clinical metritis (NO-CM; n = 100).
  • Researchers collected blood samples and assessed circulating concentration of substance P (pain marker), haptoglobin (inflammation marker), cortisol (stress marker), total calcium (metabolic marker), β-hydroxybutyrate (metabolic marker) and blood cells (hematology marker).
  • On study d1, authors evaluated body condition score and placed activity monitors on the hind leg of a subset of cows (CM, n = 56; CON, n = 56) until study d 7.
  • CM cows tended to spend more time lying than NO-CM cows (CM = 628.92 min/d; NO-CM = 591.23 min/d); and the activity analysis by parity revealed that CM primiparous cows spent more time lying than NO-CM primiparous cows, but no differences for multiparous cows were found.
  • Cows in the CM group had a higher circulating concentration of substance P and haptoglobin, when compared with NO-CM cows.
  • Cows with clinical metritis had lower body condition score. A greater proportion of cows in this group had hypocalcemia, when compared with cows without clinical metritis.
  • The circulating concentration of leukocytes and erythrocytes were decreased in cows with clinical metritis, compared with cows without clinical metritis.

Authors concluded that concentrations of markers of inflammation, stress, pain and activity were affected in cows diagnosed with clinical metritis. Thus, strategies aimed to minimize the negative effects associated with clinical metritis may be required to improve dairy cow welfare.

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Effect of pre- and postpartum supplementation with lipid-encapsulated conjugated linoleic acid on reproductive performance and the growth hormone–insulin-like growth factor-I axis in multiparous, high-producing dairy cows

Some of the factors that may influence fertility decline are negative energy balance, metabolic disorders, disarrays of the growth hormone- insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) axis, and disorders of fat metabolism. There is a relationship between conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and increased IGF-1. CLA supplementation has been shown to improve energy status and body condition score. In this study, Csillik et al. (2018) evaluated the effect of CLA supplementation on reproductive parameters and some related metabolic factors in dairy cows.

Multiparous Holstein-Friesian cows (n = 60) were put in 3 treatment groups:

  • CLA1 group (n = 20) was supplemented with lipid-encapsulated CLA, providing cis-9, trans-11 and trans-10,cis-12 CLA from d 21 before expected calving until d 7 after AI.
  • CLA2 group (n = 20) was supplemented with the same CLA, beginning at calving until d 7 after AI.
  • Control group (n = 20) received an isocaloric, isonitrogenous and isolipidic diet.


  • Plasma IGF-I levels remained higher in both CLA-treated groups at wk 5 after calving, and on the day of AI, compared with the control group.
  • Leptin concentrations tended to be higher throughout the early postpartum period in the cows that received CLA supplementation, compared with the control group.
  • Plasma progesterone concentration was higher in both supplemented groups – on d 2 to 5 following the synchronized ovulation – than in controls.
  • Both CLA-supplemented groups conceived earlier, compared with control – d 97 ± 19, d 97 ± 23, and d 113 ± 30 for CLA1, CLA2, and control, respectively.

Authors concluded that CLA supplementation increased IGF-1 and leptin, and stimulated early luteal function – reducing the interval from calving to conception.

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Featured Column

Management – from Conception through Weaning – Influences Future Productivity

By JoDee Sattler, DCRC marketing & communications director

Even before birth, management strategies influence a calf’s future productivity. If a calf experiences trauma, such as dystocia, or inadequate nutrition, she will not reach her genetic potential as a lactating cow.

During the 2017 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council Annual Meeting, Jim Quigley, Provimi North America, Brookville, Ohio, shared some studies that focused on young calf management and future productivity. Here’s a synopsis.

Epigenetic programming may affect the bovine fetus and influence acquisition of passive immunity, growth and future productivity (Handy et al., 2011). Also known as genetic programming, epigenetics relates to the expression of genes as influenced by the environment.

Pre-fresh energy

Maternal energy density during the last 21 days before calving negatively affects growth, development, immunity and antioxidant capability of neonatal calves (Gao et al., 2012). Rations in this study consisted of straw, hay and grains to reach 13 per crude protein (dry matter [DM] basis) and increasing amounts of net energy – 5.25, 5.88 and 6.48 megajoules per kilogram (MJ/kg) of DM.

Prenatal heat stress on the dam negatively affects calf body weight, metabolism and immune function (Tao et al., 2012, 2013, 2014; Montiero et al., 2014; Strong et al., 2015; Dahl et al., 2016). Another dry period heat stress study (Monteiro et al., 2016) showed no difference for dead on arrivals or calf survival at 4 months of age. However, the number of calves leaving the herd before puberty was greater – eight (dams housed in non-cooled area) vs. one (dams housed in cooled area). Additionally, the number of heifers completing first lactation was greater in the cooled treatment.

Similarly, heifers born to dams that were cooled produced more milk through 35weeks of lactation, compared with heifers from dams not cooled. The difference was 1.6 pounds (5 kg) per day. First-lactation milk production is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Weekly milk production from heifers born from cows that were cooled (Cooling) or not cooled (Heat Stress) during the dry period. Source: Monteiro et al. (2016).

Early calf experiences

Dystocial calves are less likely to survive calving, compared with eustocial calves. If they do survive, they will mostly likely produce less milk during their first lactation. Furthermore, dystocial calves are more likely to develop disease, probably because of poorer acquisition of passive immunity and subsequent predisposition to infection. Heinrichs and Heinrichs (2011) reported that increasing delivery score reduced first-lactation milk production by nearly 440 pounds (200 kg) for each unit increase in score.

Numerous studies address the profoundness of colostrum management. At least two studies looked at the effects of colostrum ingestion on future lactations. Faber et al. (2005) compared feeding 4.22 quarts (4 liters) vs. 2.11 quarts (2 liters) of colostrum. Newborn calves consuming 4.22 quarts grew faster (2.3 pounds [1.03 kg] vs. 1.77 pounds [0.80 kg] per day), experienced fewer sick days (5 vs. 8) and produced 1,213 pounds (550 kg) of additional milk during two lactations. Furthermore, DeNise et al. (1989) reported that neonatal serum immunoglobulin G (IgG) concentration was an important source of variation for mature equivalent (ME) milk (b = 18.7 pounds [8.5 kg] per IgG unit) and ME fat (b = 0.53 pound [0.24 kg] per IgG unit) produced during the first lactation.

Influence of ADG, size on future production

Chester-Jones et al. (2017) compared the effects of average daily gain (ADG) from 0 to 6 weeks of age on first-lactation milk production. For every 2.2 pounds (1 kg) of ADG at 6 weeks of age, 305-day milk yield improved 1,005 pounds (456 kg). However, this study showed significant variation.

Interestingly, Chester-Jones et al. (2017) found that body weight was a better milk production predictor than ADG. This can be explained by the fact that smaller calves (at birth) will likely produce less milk in first or all lactations, compared with larger calves (e.g., Ghoraishy and Rokouei, 2013; Hoseyni et al., 2016, Aghakeshmiri et al., 2017). Hoseyni et al. (2016) also reported that calves born to multiparous cows produced more milk in their first lactation compared with calves born to primiparous cows.

“The adage that ‘more milk = more milk’ could possibly be better defined as ‘more growth = more milk’,” said Quigley. “Nutrition to optimize lifetime milk production may be best provided by feeding more liquid before weaning; however, more research in the literature indicates that pre-weaning nutrition provided by either liquid or dry feed can optimize milk production. The finding by Gelsinger et al. (2016) that pre-weaning nutrition only accounts for about 3 percent of variation in first-lactation milk production indicates that time, effort and energy spent to manage calf health, weaning transition and post-weaning growth are good investments.”

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:

Featured Member

Kenneth “Ken” Learmont
Zoetis Dairy Technical Services Veterinarian
Gonvick, Minnesota
DCRC Member since 2014

A dairy technical services veterinarian with Zoetis, Kenneth “Ken” Learmont services clients – dairy veterinarians, dairy producers and their employees – in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri. Additionally, he works with his Zoetis Dairy Field Force colleagues to coach them on animal health and productivity, animal welfare, antibiotic stewardship and responsible and sustainable food production.

Ken grew up in rural, northern Minnesota and worked for local dairy and beef producers during his summer breaks. After graduating from the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, he spent 34 years as a food animal practitioner in a private veterinary practice. He has been with Zoetis the past five years.

Regarding dairy cattle reproduction, Ken said reproduction is so critical for the sustained productivity of animal agriculture and food production. “Without good reproductive performance, there’s no future generation of livestock, there’s no milk production, and there’s no survival of the species,” he said. “Also, good reproduction performance is at the pinnacle of all other inputs and management practices that occur on the farm.

“Nutrition, environment, genetics and management successes will ultimately be measured by great reproductive performance. By focusing on how reproduction is performing on the dairy, it allows me to explore many different aspects of the dairy’s operation in the quest to drive reproduction success to better levels.”

Ken joined DCRC after starting his employment with Zoetis. Prior to that time, he used DCRC resources, such as the website and DCRC’s approved synchronization protocols, with his dairy producer clients when working as a private dairy practice veterinarian.

As the leading organization in dairy cattle reproduction, Ken described DCRC as a “hub.” He said, “DCRC is like the hub of the dairy reproductive science wheel; it’s the central point where researchers, dairy producers and dairy industry share their knowledge and common interest, and from which the latest reproduction information is distributed to the rest of the industry.”

DCRC asked Ken to list a couple beneficiary  things he learned about dairy cattle reproduction due to DCRC events or communications. He responded, “Boy, this is a tough one because there is so much valuable information I’ve been able to get through DCRC’s communications. Probably the more recent knowledge and its application I’ve found to be of great value has been in understanding how to improve conception rates by managing progesterone levels better at the initiation of Ovsynch protocols and how to get progesterone levels lower prior to insemination at the end of Ovsynch protocols. The other great information that is ongoing revolves around transition cow management and its impact on not only reproduction but also production, removals and profitability.”

For dairy cattle reproductive challenges, Ken said the industry has made a lot of progress through genetic improvement. Dairy producers now have tools to choose sires with high fertility. Plus, genomic test results used in female selection help improve fertility and disease traits. “We can now select for healthier and more productive cattle. Consequently, today’s reproductive challenges may be less cow related and more about making sure we share that our fertility programs and animal management systems fit in well with good animal stewardship and welfare practices. That way consumers can recognize the care and comfort dairy animals receive on an ongoing basis.”

Looking back at how DCRC has influenced his career, Ken noted that he was in private veterinary practice when the first commercially available prostaglandin product was approved for use in cattle. “When it was first launched, our ideas about its value and application were very limited,” he said. It took a few years before research ideas emerged regarding how prostaglandin could be used to improve fertility. “As more research took place and more people got involved in dairy cattle reproduction research, the need for an organization to bring all the research and individuals involved into a common group became apparent. It was because of this need, and thanks to those individuals who had the foresight and put in the effort to create the organization, that DCRC was formed. It’s a great organization that has evolved along with the evolution of the science behind improving dairy cattle reproduction.”

Looking forward, Ken sees the organization continuing to evolve and leading the dairy industry with science and research that considers new technologies, such as activity, spatial and health monitoring (alerts), genomics, nutrition, animal welfare and cattle comfort, along with the understanding and use of hormones and physiology to continue to improve reproduction and cow productivity.


DCRC Webinar Series

Mark your calendars for the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s 2018 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 webinars feature top-rated topics from previous DCRC Annual Meetings, as well as other areas of reproductive importance. Like last year, DCRC will offer a webinar in Spanish and one in Portuguese. Each webinar begins at 1 p.m. Central Time. We look forward to you joining us!

Save these dates:

  • Rodrigo Bicalho (Portuguese Webinar), Novas alternativas para prevenção e tratamento de doenças uterinas (New Alternatives for Prevention and Treatment of Uterine Diseases), August 22, 2018, at 1 p.m. Central Time. Register here.
  • Julio Giordano, Impact of Voluntary Waiting Period Duration on the Reproductive Performance and Profitability (Sponsored by Merck), October 25, 2018, at 1 p.m. Central Time. Register here.
  • Pablo Pinedo (Spanish Webinar), Rasgos genómicos asociados con la fertilidad de las vacas lecheras (Genomic Traits Associated with the Fertility of Dairy Cows), December 19, 2018, at 1 p.m. Central Time. Register here.

To register for a webinar, please visit Webinars and follow all prompts. As the webinar approaches, you will receive an e-mail with information on how to log in for attendance.

Each 2018 DCRC webinar provides one American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists (ARPAS) continuing education unit (CEU). To report ARPAS CEUs, go to:

For more information, e-mail Fabio Lima, DCRC Education Committee chair, at: or e-mail DCRC at:

If you are a DCRC member and cannot attend the ”live” webinar, you may access it (and all past webinars) at

Industry Calendar