Newsletter – 2019 – February

President's message

From the DCRC President’s Desk
By Glaucio Lopes

We are nearly two months into 2019 and I want to extend a warm welcome to the new year, despite the record-low temperatures we have been facing in the Midwestern part of the United States.

Someone once said that the person who had the idea of slicing the year into 12 months was a brilliant individual. If you really stop and think about it, nothing abruptly changes between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 – just the hope. Hope… that, in the new year, things will be different. Hope… that we will gather all of those New Year’s resolutions we collected, take them out of the drawer and make them happen.

So, my question to you is: What was your New Year’s resolution to improve the reproductive efficiency and profitability of your herd in 2019? And how can DCRC help you deliver this progress?

I have been working in corporate America for many years and the flip of calendar pages – from one year to another – has a strong meaning to us. While we have our budgets set for the year, we have to look back, work with our managers and evaluate what we have done in the past year (hence: annual performance reviews). At the same time, we draft individual and department goals for the new year. And as much as I think about this, I see many similarities between what we do and what progressive dairy producers are doing.

It is past the time where we worked hard and hoped for the best. These challenging times we are facing in the dairy industry now are calling for efficiency. And the only pathway to achieve outstanding results and be better day after day is: tracking your herd’s performance and setting up short- and long-term goals.

I encourage you to meet with your staff, consultants and whomever is responsible for getting cows pregnant on your farm and evaluate what was done last year. Based on your reports, you can evaluate what worked well and what needs improvement. Your numbers can tell you a lot and they serve as ground to plant new seeds to harvest better results in the future. In conjunction with your employees and advisers, set up goals for the year and track the evolution to assess improvements and adjust as needed. Make these goals SMART.

  • Specific (clear definition of what you want to do)
  • Measurable (tangible evidence of evolution should be identified)
  • Achievable (stretched enough that you feel challenged but not unrealistic that makes you feel discouraged)
  • Realistic (measuring outcomes, not activities)
  • Timely (always linked to a time frame)

DCRC can help you with some of these tasks. By accessing our website (dcrcouncil.org), you can find our reproductive protocol sheet and the schedule for our free 2019 webinar series. Going beyond, in the members’ section, you can find important literature and recorded webinars to watch at your convenience. And if you are the type of person that learns better in a conference setting, don’t forget to mark down in your calendar November 13-14, 2019, to participate live in the DCRC Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh. We want you to share your 2019 dairy reproduction success stories. Happy 2019 and I look forward to seeing you in Pittsburgh!

Research Summaries

Meta-analysis of the effects of prepartum dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) on performance and health of dairy cows

Feeding acidogenic diets during prepartum improve Ca concentrations in blood during early postpartum, reducing the risk of milk fever. However, less is known about the effects of feeding dietary cation-anion difference (DCAD) diets on milk production and health. In this meta-analysis, Santos et al. evaluated 42 experiments for the effects of feeding DCAD diets in nulliparous (5) and parous (41) cows.

Results:

  • Reducing prepartum DCAD from 200 to -100 mEq/kg predicted a 0.7 and 0.4 kg/d reduction in dry matter intake (DMI) in Holstein nulliparous and parous cows, respectively.
  • Reducing prepartum DCAD from 200 to -100 mEq/kg tended to increase postpartum DMI by about 1.0 kg/d in nulliparous and parous cows.
  • Reducing prepartum DCAD increased milk yield, fat corrected milk, fat, and protein in parous cows, but had no effect in nulliparous cows.
  • Reducing prepartum DCAD from 200 to -100 mEq/kg reduced the incidence of milk fever, retained placenta, and metritis.

In conclusion, reducing prepartum DCAD to -150 mEq/kg of DM benefits postpartum production performance and reduces milk fever and uterine disease in parous cows, but further experiments need to be performed in nulliparous cows.

Access the paper:
https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(19)30003-7/fulltext


Reproductive performance of replacement dairy heifers submitted to first service with programs that favor insemination at detected estrus, timed artificial insemination, or a combination of both

Reducing the time to pregnancy in heifers is critical to net farm income, as it reduces the cost of replacement. Most reproductive management programs for heifers rely on inseminations after detected estrus (AIE), rather than timed artificial insemination (TAI) programs. However, total reliance on AIE may lead to suboptimal reproductive performance when poor estrous detection efficiency occurs due to management constraints. In this study, Masello et al. compared time to pregnancy during the artificial insemination period (AIP) for heifers managed with first AI service programs relying primarily on AIE, TAI, or a combination of both. Heifers from two dairies (n=966) were randomly allocated to one of the following treatments for first AI service with sexed semen, after a voluntary waiting period of 368 d age:

  • PGF + AIE: AIE after estrous synchronization with up to 3 PGF2α treatments every 14 d starting on the first day of AIP. Heifers not AIE up to 9 d after the third PGF2α treatment received a 5-d Cosynch protocol with CIDR (5-d Cosynch: GnRH+CIDR – 5 d – CIDR removal+PGF2α – 3 d – GnRH+TAI).
  • PGF + TAI: 2 PGF2α treatments 14 d apart with the second treatment at the beginning of AIP. Heifers not AIE up to 9 d after the second PGF2α treatment received a 5-d Cosynch protocol.
  • ALL-TAI: TAI after the 5-d Cosynch protocol.

Heifers failing to conceive to a previous AI received a subsequent AI with conventional semen at detected estrus or TAI after the 5-d Cosynch protocol.

Results:

  • First service pregnancy per AI did not differ between treatments (PGF+AIE = 42.0%; PGF+TAI = 47.3%; ALL-TAI = 43.8%).
  • For AIE services synchronized with PGF2α, pregnancy per AI was greater for the PGF+TAI (53%) treatment compared to PGF + AIE (44%).
  • Time to pregnancy for up to 100 d of AIP was reduced for ALL-TAI compared with PGF+AIE but was similar to that of PGF+TAI. Time to pregnancy did not differ between PGF+AIE and PGF+TAI.
  • Median days to pregnancy were 27, 23, and 21 for heifers in PGF+AIE, PGF+TAI, and ALL-TAI, respectively.

In conclusion, a reproductive management strategy where heifers are TAI at or near the beginning of AIP resulted in reduced time to first AI and reduced time to pregnancy, when compared to using mainly PGF+AIE. However, in herds with effective estrous detection programs, the combination of AIE and TAI may result in similar reproductive performance compared with programs that rely mostly on TAI.

Access the paper:
https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(18)31153-6/fulltext


Using in-line milk progesterone data to characterize parameters of luteal activity and their association with fertility in Holstein cows

Based on variations in milk progesterone concentration (P4c), in-line systems identify both the onset and end of luteal phases, determining estrous and pregnancy status. However, the frequent milk sampling starting approximately 3 wk postpartum and continuing until pregnancy provides an opportunity to characterize luteal activity in individual cows and evaluate its associations with fertility. Bruinjé et al. characterized parameters of luteal activity based on milk P4c data from before and after artificial insemination (AI). Records of AI events (n=4,353) and of milk P4c (n=158,961) from 1,891 lactations of 1,423 Holstein cows were evaluated. Milk P4c were measured every 2.2 ± 1.9 d between 23.6 ± 7.3 and 185.3 ± 56.7 d in milk.

The parameters evaluated were:

  • Length of the luteal phase preceding AI
  • Highest P4c during the luteal phase preceding AI
  • Lowest P4c preceding AI that followed a P4c decline
  • Interval between P4c decline and AI
  • Interval between AI and onset of luteal phase
  • P4c at early, mid, and late diestrus

Results:

Parameters associated with reduced probability of pregnancy were:

  • Luteal phase length >14.4 d (7.6% decrease)
  • P4c peak ≤24.7 ng/mL (4.5% decrease)
  • P4c pre-AI >0.5 ng/mL (5.5% decrease)
  • Interval between P4c decline and AI of >1.6 d (4.0% decrease)
  • Interval between AI and onset of luteal phase of <7 or >11 d (9.3 and 12.1% decrease, respectively)
  • P4c at early diestrus ≤0.7 or >3.5 ng/mL (15.2 and 6.7% decrease, respectively)
  • P4c at mid diestrus ≤12.4 ng/mL (12.5% decrease)
  • P4c at late diestrus ≤22.7 ng/mL (9.7% decrease)

In conclusion, parameters of luteal activity associated with reduced probability of pregnancy established in this study could be used as benchmarks in herds monitoring in-line milk P4c profiles in dairy cows. Such parameters include prolonged luteal phase preceding AI, delayed onset of luteal phase post-AI, and sub-optimal P4c before and after AI. Because in-line milk progesterone monitoring is a relatively new tool for reproductive management, further evaluations are needed to optimize the precision of sampling frequency and timing of AI to improve reproductive performance.

Access the paper:
https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(18)30970-6/fulltext

Featured Column

DCRC Repro Award winners share repro protocols

By JoDee Sattler, DCRC marketing & communications director

During the 2018 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) Annual Meeting, DCRC recognized 24 outstanding dairy operations as Bronze, Gold, Silver or Platinum winners.

The Platinum winners – Holmesville Dairy (Tim and Travis Holmes), Argyle, Wis.; Pendora Dairy (Rick and Ingrid Portena), Monkton, Ont., Canada; Rollin’ Green Dairy (Jim, Jeff and Jamie McNeely), Brooklyn, Wis.; Schilling Farms (Schilling Family), Darlington, Wis.; Seidl Mountain View Dairy (Al Seidl and Steve Prader), Luxemburg, Wis.; and Victory Farms (Kevin Souza), Revillo, S.D. – excel at reproductive efficiency, fertility and well-implemented management procedures. The Platinum herds were featured in the November 2018 Hoard’s Dairyman roundtable discussion. Click here to see the full list of award winners.

Following is an excerpt from the Hoard’s Dairyman roundtable discussion that highlights standard operating procedures these dairy producers use to help them reach “elite reproduction status.”

How do you set up fresh cows for future reproductive success?

Holmesville Dairy

Holmesville Dairy: Once our cows calve, we provide a liquid drench as soon as possible and always within 24 hours postcalving. Our drench contains calcium and 12 ounces of propylene glycol mixed with 5 gallons of lukewarm water. We also give each cow vitamin B12 and oxytocin to help prevent retained placentas. We also monitor fresh cows daily for feed intake. If we have a cow that has a retained placenta after 12 hours, we administer Excenel for three to four days for metritis. Cows are vaccinated two weeks after calving with Bovi-Shield Gold 5 L5 HB for reproductive disease. Cows that are carrying twins, based on ultrasound examination, are dried off earlier to try and achieve a longer, 70-day dry cow period to better maintain their body condition.

 

Pendora Dairy: Cows that have recently calved are kept in a group with extra bunk space. These cows are checked daily for temperature and blood beta-hydroxybutyrate acid (BHBA) levels. Cows are treated accordingly to minimize subclinical ketosis. Cows are ultrasounded starting at 24 days in milk (DIM). Cows with uterine or ovarian pathologies are treated and rechecked at 14-day intervals until normal.

Rollin’ Green Dairy

Rollin’ Green Dairy: The smoother a transition period, the better cows will breed back. We try our best to never overcrowd the prefresh or fresh group. Every cow gets an Inforce 3 vaccination and 3-year-old cows or older also get fast and long-acting calcium boluses at calving. There has been a significant improvement in fresh cow health overall since implementing the Inforce protocol. We also blood sample every cow at 6 DIM to check blood ketone levels and make sure there is no subclinical ketosis that may hold her back. We have found that if there are higher BHBA levels at calving, it is an early indicator of illness or metabolic problems soon to come. We use the milk temperature feature on our milking units to catch a fever in our cows sooner than we would have by just observing for illness. We use a strong vaccination schedule staggered throughout different times of the year, based on when we are already handling the cow. We will not keep a cow for a long dry period. It has to be an extremely exceptional cow to stand dry for more than 80 days. We also cull harder than in the past when they aren’t bred back in a timely manner. By not allowing cows to get overconditioned in the dry pen, there is definitely a smoother transition into lactation. Fat cows are an accident waiting to happen. We walk the dry cow pen three times a day – observing for cud chewing, illness and overall behavior. We also use an anionic product and low potassium grass hay in the prefresh diet to make the transition as smooth as possible. We also avoid using sires with high calving ease evaluations and try to reduce the incidence of twinning in the herd by breeding cows at a time of higher blood progesterone levels (after the first Double OvSynch). Cows giving birth to twins are always a problem.

Schilling Farms

Schilling Farms: For the first 20 days after calving, fresh cows are monitored each morning. Temperature, attitude and appetite are closely watched for signs of illness. Early detection and treatment are key in preventing serious fresh cow disease and uterine infections, which ultimately influence conception rates. All fresh cows are given a drench mix that includes calcium propionate, alfalfa meal and probiotics. Cows also are checked between five and 11 DIM for BHBA with a PortaCheck BHB meter. Follow-up treatment for ketosis takes place based on these tests. Prostaglandin (Lutalyse) is given at 10 and 21 DIM to help with uterine involution. Cows are vaccinated with Bovi-Shield Gold 5 L5 HB on Day 21 postcalving to maximize immunity for reproductive-related diseases prior to breeding. Nonestrified fatty acids (NEFAs) are periodically monitored in the prefresh group to assess body condition loss before calving. If NEFAs are high, rations are checked and adjusted. Dry matter intakes (DMI) are monitored on a daily basis with the FeedWatch feed monitoring program to make sure we are maximizing feed intakes in both the prefresh and postfresh groups.

Seidl’s Mountain View: All fresh cows are offered warm water after calving. All animals entering the second lactation also receive a calcium bolus at calving. Cows going into the third or greater lactation receive intravenous (IV) calcium and a calcium bolus at calving. The postfresh group is milked four times a day. That group is locked up after 4 a.m. and then evaluated for intake and rumen fill. All fresh cows receive a calcium bolus and vitamin Probios bolus on the second day postcalving. The fresh cow diet has dry dextrose to help intakes. We do daily temperature checks and give glycol and a calcium bolus, as needed. Fresh animals stay in this pen about three weeks before moving.

Victory Farms: Milking fresh cows four times a day improved DMI. We have found that this also helps with uterine contraction. Early DMI also has an impact on maintaining body condition. We have balanced fresh cow rations to bolster energy levels, optimize electrolyte balancing and use on-farm forages as much as possible. We have focused on enhanced digestibility and improved nutrient absorption in our forages and diets.

What insight would you share with others?

Holmesville Dairy: Engage all the resource people possible so you can maximize your herd’s fertility. We feel breeding is a result of a total team approach from the employees, nutritionists, veterinarian and breeders. Quarterly team meetings have helped keep our group on the same page. Everyone needs to be a team player to have a successful breeding program.

Pendora Dairy

Pendora Dairy: We have a sound dry cow program to minimize fresh cow problems. Try not to overcrowd your cows. Try to keep somatic cell count in check. Also, use sires with high sire conception rate (SCR) and daughter pregnancy rate (DPR).

Rollin’ Green Dairy: We were struggling with reproduction a few short years ago. The majority of the problem was my artificial insemination (AI) technique and I am now a firm believer in getting AI retrained every few years. However, in the process of struggling through the problems we were having, we made substantial improvements to our program by seeking out advice. We rewrote the book on our farm for breeding protocols to get cows pregnant. The changes we made a few years ago as discussed earlier included: AI retraining, walk cows three times a day, watch 21-day interval cows, implement two prostaglandins with OvSynch, make sure every protocol is followed correctly and raised our voluntary waiting period. On our dairy, a million things have to go right for everything to go smoothly, but it only takes one thing to go wrong to wreck it all. No matter what your protocols are, you must follow them as written. Make them part of your daily routine and be very organized. As far as heat detection goes, we have had the most success narrowing in on the few cows that are supposed to be coming into heat. The more time spent in the barn walking and observing cows, the more heats are observed.

Schilling Farms: We feel cow comfort, foot health, cooling, nutrition and fresh cow management are essential for a successful reproductive program. All factors depend on each other for a successful breeding system. In addition, having set protocols and routines for synching and resynching have helped maintain excellent compliance, which is essential to reproductive success. Find breeding companies that you feel comfortable with and that will spend adequate time monitoring cows for heat. We feel our Genex team is excellent and very good at heat detection. Ultrasound has also allowed us to more accurately manage our breeding program.

Seidl’s Mountain View

Seidl’s Mountain View: Compliance is huge and all reproductive therapy must be on time – always. All prostaglandin and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) are given the same day at the same time – all the time. All syringe guns are checked weekly for accuracy and if they are working properly. All cows on timed AI are bred within 16 hours of the GnRH shot. Time must be spent observing cows for heat. Reproduction starts in the dry period – the most important time for the cow. If cows are well cared for, everything else seems to fall into place.

Victory Farms: You need to have good compliance, excellent protocol execution and a good team. That team includes employees and off-farm consultants. I always tell my consultants, “I don’t want to be average.”

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: JoDee@dcrcouncil.org

Julio Giordano
Cornell University
Associate Professor
Ithaca, New York, USA

DCRC Member since 2009

A native of Argentina, Julio Giordano grew up with cows and crops, and studied veterinary medicine. He spent a short time practicing veterinary medicine in Argentina and then headed to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to pursue a master’s degree in reproductive physiology. After successfully completing his master’s degree, Julio pursued at doctorate degree in reproductive physiology management and economics at the University of Wisconsin (UW).

He vividly remembers his first trip to Madison, Wis., when he met with Paul Fricke, UW dairy science professor, and other department faculty members, including Milo Wiltbank. “It was -30 degrees Fahrenheit (-34 degrees Celsius),” he said. “I hadn’t been north of Tennessee before that meeting.”

Julio completed his doctorate degree in 2011 and spent about six months working on a post-doc. During that time, he worked primarily with Victor Cabrera, another UW faculty member, who focuses on model-based decision support in dairy cattle and dairy farm production systems.

Julio’s cold tolerance improved while in Wisconsin and primed him for his position at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. An associate professor of dairy herd management in the department of animal science, Julio is part of the Dairy Cattle Biology and Management Laboratory research group. His appointment is 50 percent research and 50 percent teaching. Part of his research duties include extension outreach to dairy producers, dairy farm personnel and bovine veterinarians.

How did Julio become interested in dairy cattle reproduction? “I had a desire to be an expert in this field,” he said. “I read my first dairy cattle reproduction book when I was 8 years old. I am fascinated by reproduction processes.”

Julio was first exposed to DCRC while at UW – via Fricke. Elected as the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s (DCRC) vice president last fall, Julio previously served as the Education Committee chair.

“DCRC is a great organization for furthering the success of reproduction on today’s dairy farms,” he commented. “I like how it brings together academia, dairy producers and other industry players.

“It’s amazing the impact DCRC has on today’s dairy farms,” Julio added. “I visit a lot of dairies. The DCRC ovulation synchronization protocol sheets are everywhere. They’re used a lot – by dairy producers, farm personnel, AI (artificial insemination) technicians, pharmaceutical company representatives and consultants.”

Julio is proud of DCRC’s resources and information shared during DCRC annual meetings. “The research is communicated in an applied manner and goes to the grassroots level – dairy producer clients and veterinarians.

“Since getting involved with DCRC, I’m amazed at how passionate people are about dairy cattle reproduction,” said Julio. “The research our members support and carry out is valuable.”

DCRC Webinar Series

2019 DCRC Webinar Series Features Top 2018 DCRC Annual Meeting Topics

Mark your calendars for the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s (DCRC) 2019 webinar series. These highly regarded sessions offer access to high-quality information and interaction with industry experts to attendees from across the United States and around the world, all from the comfort of their farm or office. The webinars feature top-rated topics from the 2018 DCRC Annual Meeting.

Save these dates and times:

  • Paul Fricke, University of Wisconsin, presents “Evolution of Timed Artificial Insemination and Overview of DCRC Protocol Sheets.”

Feb. 15, at 2 p.m. Central time

  • José Eduardo P. Santos, University of Florida, presents “Feeding Strategies to Support Health and Fertility During the Transition Period.”

April 26, at 2 p.m. Central time

  • Amy te Plate-Church, The Center for Food Integrity, presents “Earning Consumer Trust in Modern Dairy Practices.”

June 13, at 2 p.m. Central time

  • Gustavo Schuenemann, The Ohio State University, presents “Training and Monitoring Herd Managers Based on Attitude and Performance.”

Aug. 12, at 1 p.m. Central time

For more information about the DCRC webinars, e-mail Natalia Martinez-Patino, DCRC Education Committee chair, at: natalia.martinez-patino@zoetis.com or e-mail DCRC at: dcrc@dcrcouncil.org.

To register for a webinar, please visit www.dcrcouncil.org/webinars and follow all prompts. As the webinar approaches, you will receive an e-mail with information on how to log in for attendance. If you are a DCRC member and cannot attend the ”live” webinar, you may access it (and all past webinars) at www.dcrcouncil.org/webinars.

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