Newsletter – 2020 – February

President's message

From the DCRC President’s Desk
By Julio Giordano

I hope your 2020 is off to a super start! Your DCRC board of directors and strategic planning committee have been hard at work tidying up a few business matters.

During our November board of directors meeting, we approved a new management agreement with Corner Window Communications. Our association management team has provided excellent guidance since we began working with them in 2017. Virtually the same team has worked with us for three years and we are pleased to continue that partnership. On behalf of DCRC’s membership, the board would like to thank Corner Window Communications staff for their continued support and excellent service!

Based on a recommendation from our association management company and its CPA (certified public accountant) firm, DCRC’s fiscal year will change from a calendar year to July 1-June 30. With meeting revenue and expenses coming late in the calendar year, this fiscal year change allows us to have a “cleaner break” between annual meetings. During this transition, we will have a Jan. 1-June 30, 2020 budget, followed by a July 1, 2020-June 30, 2021 budget. That annual fiscal year timeframe will continue in the years ahead.

Furthermore, we made some revisions to DCRC’s bylaws, approved by the board of directors, then through a vote by our membership. Most of the changes deal with transitioning a director to an officer position in the middle of a term, plus replacing other board members through resignation, removal or ending a term.

In addition, the revised bylaws do not include a Public Relations Committee. This bylaw was eliminated due to staff handling public relations duties through its contract with DCRC.

The DCRC board has also been working on bringing on new board members and special committee members. We are excited to have new people from both industry and academia join the organization as part of key DCRC committees. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage members to participate in various groups that help our organization function and succeed. Do not hesitate to contact DCRC if you would like to join the leadership team!

Now, for some news that’s a little more exciting. Beginning in March, DCRC will start accepting nominations for its annual Herd Reproduction Awards program. This program recognizes outstanding reproductive performance from dairy herds around the world. We appreciate the nominations received from veterinarians, extension agents, AI and pharmaceutical company representatives, and consultants. The window for nominations will run from March 1 to April 30. Details can be found at dcrcouncil.org/awards. Please help us spread the word and let’s make sure that the many herds with outstanding repro performance are nominated.

For the second year, DCRC will provide an expense-paid trip to a graduate student who would like to attend the DCRC Annual Meeting. We call this the DCRC Scholars program. This program is open to graduate students who are focusing on some aspect of dairy cattle reproduction.

To apply for the DCRC Scholars program, applicants must complete the application form, submit an interest statement that details the applicant’s interest in dairy cattle reproduction, career goals and research project(s), and provide a letter of recommendation. Applicants may also share additional information, such as awards, honors and scholarships received.

Eligible candidates must be a DCRC member and enrolled full time at a college or university in a dairy, animal or veterinary science, microbiology or related program at the time of application deadline, with an area of interest that includes dairy cattle reproduction. DCRC is excited to support the next generation of scientists and industry reproduction experts, so please encourage any student you know to apply for this opportunity.

The application deadline is April 30. Applicants will be notified by June 1, regarding the selection committee’s decision. To learn more about the program, click here.

Just a friendly and early reminder: Mark Nov. 11-12, on your calendar for the DCRC Annual Meeting at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton, Wis. I’m looking forward to DCRC’s first annual meeting in America’s Dairyland!

I encourage you to reach out to DCRC leaders (http://www.dcrcouncil.org/about-dairy-cattle-reproduction-council/leadership) and staff (http://www.dcrcouncil.org/about-dairy-cattle-reproduction-council/dcrc_staff) if you have questions, suggestions or would like to volunteer your time or resources to DCRC. And if you’re interested in being a corporate sponsor of DCRC, please let us know.

Keep up to date on DCRC programs and resources by visiting www.dcrcouncil.org. Help us spread the word about DCRC through social media: follow us on Twitter (@DCRCouncil) and Facebook. Your retweets and “likes” help extend the reach of DCRC’s information and programs.

Research Summaries

Genomic predictions for crossbred dairy cattle

Norman et al., 2018, reported that numbers of crossbred cows have increased to more than 200,000 (>5%) of the 3.9 million U.S. milk-recorded cows in 2017. Genomic tools can help predict the genetic merit of both purebreds and crossbreds. According to the authors, dairy farmers have spent more than $1 million to genotype more than 32,000 crossbred animals before U.S. genomic evaluations became available for those animals. Thus, new tools were needed to provide accurate genomic predictions for crossbreds.

Treatments

  • Genotypes of 6,296 crossbred animals were imputed from lower-density chips by including either 3,119 ancestors or 834,367 genotyped animals in the reference population.
  • Crossbreds in the imputation study included 733 Jersey × Holstein F1 animals, 55 Brown Swiss × Holstein F1 animals, 2,300 Holstein backcrosses, 2,026 Jersey backcrosses, 27 Brown Swiss backcrosses, and 502 other crossbreds of various breed combinations.
  • Genomic breed composition was estimated from 60,671 markers, using the known breed identities for purebred, progeny-tested Holstein, Jersey, Brown Swiss, Ayrshire, and Guernsey bulls as the five traits (breed fractions) to be predicted.
  • Estimates of breed composition were adjusted so that no percentages were negative or exceeded 100%, and breed percentages summed 100%. Adjustments set percentages greater than 93.5% equal to 100%, and the resulting value was termed breed base representation (BBR).
  • Missing alleles were imputed by using a crossbred reference population, rather than only the closest purebred reference population.
  • Crossbred predictions were averages of genomic predictions computed using marker effects for each pure breed, which were weighted by the animal’s BBR. Marker and polygenic effects were estimated separately for each breed on the all-breed scale, instead of within-breed scales.

Results

  • Breed composition was estimated from genotypes after imputing lower-density chips to 60,671 markers for all animals in the national database.
  • Genomic predictions weighted by BBR were more accurate than the average of parents’ breeding values and slightly more accurate than predictions using only the predominant breed.
  • Accuracy of genomic predicted transmitting ability (GPTA) was higher than that of parent average (PA) for crossbred cows using truncated data from 2012 to predict later phenotypes in 2016 for all traits except productive life.
  • Separate regressions for the three BBR categories of crossbreds suggest that the methods perform equally well at 50% BBR, 75% BBR, and 90% BBR.
  • Imputation for crossbreds was improved with a reference population that included genotypes from parents and from each pure breed. Methods were developed to adjust the initial genomic breed composition (GBC) to BBR that was limited to a range of 0 to 100% and summed to 100% across breeds. Correlations were high between GBC and BBR. Most of the genotyped crossbreds were JE × HO backcrosses.
  • Crossbred GPTA computed by weighting marker effects for separate breeds by BBR were more accurate than predictions from single-breed GPTA.

Advantages of genomic over pedigree estimates of breed composition are that pedigrees for crossbred animals are often incomplete or inaccurate, and that actual breed contributions differ from expected because of Mendelian sampling. Genomic predictions for crossbreds required estimating marker effects on an all-breed base, rather than within-breed bases, and the crossbred GPTA computed by weighting marker effects for separate breeds by BBR were more accurate than predictions from single-breed GPTA. Crossbred genomic predicted transmitting abilities were implemented by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding in April 2019. With this new tool, producers can better manage their breeding programs and selecting replacement heifers.

Access the paper:
https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(19)31069-0/fulltext

 

Observed progeny performance validates the benefit of mating genetically elite beef sires to dairy females

Total merit indexes have been developed and studied in cattle to improve performance of specific-purpose beef or dairy traits. The increased use of beef semen to create dairy x beef crosses opens the opportunity for validation studies of total merit indexes used to select beef sires for use on dairy females. The objective of the Berry and Ring, 2020, study was to quantify the performance of beef × dairy progeny where the sire excels in either a total merit index encompassing calving performance and beef performance traits (dairy-beef index; DBI) or excels in a sub-index based solely on calving performance (CLV). Also, researchers compared these beef × dairy progeny with dairy × dairy progeny.

Treatments

All cattle data used in the present study were sourced from the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (www.icbf.com) national database. The DBI used to rank the beef sires was that proposed by Berry et al. (2019a) as:

DBI = CLV + BF,
where CLV represents the calving sub-index of the DBI and BF represents the beef sub-index of the DBI. The CLV and BF sub-index were separately defined as:

CLV = calving difficulty + mortality + gestation length
BF = docility + dry matter intake + carcass weight + carcass conformation + carcass fat

A total of 123,785 calving records from 101,773 dairy cows calving in 3,065 dairy herds were used. Of these, 48,875 progeny also had carcass information. The beef sires were stratified into five equally sized groups based separately on their DBI or CLV. Linear and threshold mixed models were used to compare calving and carcass performance of all three sire genotypes.

Results

  • Of the 415 sires that ranked in the highest of the five strata on the CLV sub-index, only 52% of them ranked in the highest stratum for DBI. The percentage of primiparous requiring any assistance at calving was 2 to 3 percentage units greater for the higher DBI sires, relative to both the higher CLV beef sires and the dairy sires (not ranked on anything). No difference existed in multiparous.
  • The extent of calving difficulty in primiparous cows was, however, less in higher DBI beef sires relative to both the higher CLV beef sires and the dairy sires. Perinatal mortality was greatest in the beef sires relative to the dairy sires, but no difference existed between the high CLV or high DBI beef sires.
  • No difference in progeny gestation length was evident between the high DBI or high CLV beef sires, although both were >2 days longer than progeny from dairy sires.
  • The higher DBI sires produced progeny with heavier, more conformed carcasses relative to the progeny from both high CLV beef sires and dairy sires. No differences existed between the progeny of the beef sires ranked highly on the CLV versus those ranked highly on the DBI for the probability of achieving the specification for carcass weight (between 270 and 380 kg) or fat score. The higher DBI animals, however, had a 4 to 10% greater probability of achieving the minimum carcass conformation required.
  • Results indicate that more balanced progeny can be generated using a DBI, helping meet the requirements of both dairy and beef producers. Ignoring market failure across sectors, using higher DBI sires could increase dairy herd profit by 3 to 5% over the status quo approach to selection in dairy (i.e., CLV sub-index).

Validation results from the present study demonstrate that DBI, composed of traits relating to calving performance (of interest to dairy producers) and those related to beef performance (of interest to beef producers), can be used to rank sires on estimated genetic potential to efficiently produce a high-value carcass, while having minimal repercussions on a cows’ milk, health, and reproductive performance. However, room for improvement was evident. Using this index will, on average, produce more valuable beef calves. This will be achieved with a minimal greater effect on the female compared with the current approach to selecting beef sires to achieve greater profit.

Access the paper:
https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(20)30008-4/fulltext

 

On-farm use of disease alerts generated by precision dairy technology

Incorporation of wearable precision dairy monitoring (PDM) into farm management to provide insight into disease detection and its perceived usefulness for dairy producers have not been well explored. As the targeted end users of these products, information is needed on how producers use generated disease alerts, as well as barriers to adoption and usefulness. Therefore, the author’s objective of this research was to assess the perceived usefulness producers attributed to alerts from a daily-generated alert list designed to identify sick or injured cows, or cows that experienced a major management change.

Treatments

Data from 1,171 cows on four commercial farms in Kentucky were collected from October 2015 to October 2016. Each cow was equipped with two PDM technologies – a leg tag (measuring activity in steps per day and lying time in hours per day) and a neck collar (measuring eating time in hours per day). Alerts were generated based on an individual cow’s decrease of ≥30% in activity, lying, and eating time, compared with each cow’s 10-day moving mean.

Producers sorted alerts into three overall categories:

  1. The cow alert was perceived to be true and the cow was visually checked.
  2. The cow alert was perceived to be true, but the cow was not visually checked.
  3. The cow alert behavior change was doubted by the producer and the cow was not visually checked.

Further subdivisions were also provided to explain the choice for an overall category

Results

  • Over the year, 24,012 cow alerts were generated (eating time, n = 9,543; lying time, n = 9,777; activity, n = 1,590; or a combination of behaviors, n = 3,102).
  • 8% of the alerts were doubted by the producer. Although 55% of alerts were perceived to be true, producers visually assessed cows based on only 21% of the alerts, with a large variation between farms (2 to 45% of the alerts visually assessed).
  • Producers were more likely to completely ignore alerts over time. Producers were more likely to perceive cow alerts to be true and visually check cows when ≤20 alerts occurred per day, cows were fresh or in early lactation, alerts occurred during the work week, or when cow alerts were for eating time, activity, or a combination of multiple behaviors.

The authors concluded that behavioral disease alerts must be improved and correspond to an actionable change for producers to use them. Although producers indicated that most of the alerts represented a real behavioral change (55%) and only 8% of the alerts were doubted, 37% of alerts were not evaluated and producers visually followed up on only 21% of the alerts. Incorporating herd management software, creating and managing alerts by lactation stage, and focusing on behaviors producers already find useful could improve future alert use.

Access the paper:
https://www.journalofdairyscience.org/article/S0022-0302(19)31030-6/fulltext

Featured Column

DCRC Repro Award winners achieve top fertility coast to coast

During the 2019 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) Annual Meeting, DCRC recognized 24 outstanding dairy operations as Bronze, Gold, Silver or Platinum winners.

The Platinum winners – Britannia Dairy (Ben and Kevin Pearson), Flandreau, S.D.; Holmesville Dairy (Tim and Travis Holmes families), Argyle, Wis.; Kayhart Brothers Dairy, Steve and Tim Kayhart, Addison, Vt.; Red Top Jerseys (Chris Terra, manager), Chowchilla, Calif.; Schilling Farms (Bill, Andy and Brian Schilling families), Darlington, Wis.; and, Wenzel Hilltop Dairy (Kevin and Jessica Wenzel), Hilbert, Wis. The Platinum herds were featured in the November 2019 Hoard’s Dairyman roundtable discussion. Click here to read the full article.

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

What enhancements have you made to your breeding program?

Britannia: Our three biggest enhancements:

  1. Double ovsynch.
  2. Two prostaglandins in the final week before breeding, whether it be on double ovsynch or regular ovsynch.
  3. Waiting 20 to 24 hours after administering gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) for sexed semen use.

To keep the voluntary waiting period (VWP) in a tight window, our heifers are synchronized with two prostaglandins, tail chalked and then bred after showing a heat to the second prostaglandin.

Holmesville: All cows are ultrasounded by our veterinarian, B.J. Jones, at 32 and 55 days after breeding. If they are open and have a corpus luteum (CL), cows are resynchronized with an ovsynch, where we give GnRH on the day of the vet check, prostaglandin seven days later, GnrH 2.5 days after the prostaglandin and then breed the next day. If the cow is open with no CL, we give GnRH and recheck for a CL the next week, at which time the cow will be ovsynched.

If our heifers are not bred by 13.5 months, we will ultrasound them. Heifers with CLs are given prostaglandin; heifers with no structure are given GnRH and checked in one week for a CL.

We have been very happy with our conception and pregnancy rates with this system. Overall herd pregnancy rate is 40 percent, heat detection rate is 76 percent and conception rate is 53 percent.

Kayhart: In 2013, we decided to revamp our timed AI programs after many years of using a straight presynch-ovsynch program. Researchers at that time seemed to be tweaking protocols a lot as they kept gaining a better understanding of the dairy cow’s reproductive cycle.

I kept reading that the double-ovsynch program had a distinct advantage over other protocols. But for some reason, this was true only when used on first-lactation animals. At that time, we decided to use double ovsynch on first-lactation animals and G-6-G on second-lactation and older cows. We haven’t really drifted from that program since. For the last 12 months, our double-ovsynch cows have had a 59 percent conception rate on first service and the G-6-G for older cows has been at 48 percent.

About 2.5 years ago, we added an additional prostaglandin 24 hours after the final prostaglandin during insemination week. Essentially, we are giving a prostaglandin on Monday and another on Tuesday. This made a measurable difference in both protocol programs but a bigger gain in the G-6-G program.

A few years ago, we started giving GnRH the Monday prior to pregnancy diagnosis. We do pregnancy checks every Monday. In this setup, GnRH is only given during months of challenging summertime breeding, which is typically June until late October for us. If a cow is diagnosed open and has a CL, she will be given prostaglandin and bred Thursday. Results show a 41 percent conception rate here.

If there is no CL present, the cow will receive another dose of GnRH and be rechecked the following Monday. The cow will usually have a CL at this point, will be given prostaglandin and will be bred on Thursday. This has been at 46 percent conception for the last 12 months.

Red Top: In May 2018, we began using double ovsynch for first service on all milk cows. Pregnancy rates were already in the mid-30s at that time, but because we had struggled with preg rates in the summer of 2017, I did not want a repeat in the summer of 2018.

Ironically, I also raised my sexed semen use when we implemented double ovsynch and not only maintained but improved to upper 30 preg rates through the summer. Originally, my intention was to use double ovsynch as a summer tool, but pregnancy rates in the 40-plus range have forced me to stay the course.

Schilling: Heifers enter the breeding pen at 13 months of age and are bred by visual inspection based on the Estrotect patch. Heifers are ultrasounded at 28 days post insemination and, if found open with a CL, are given prostaglandin.

Lactating cows are all bred on an ovsynch 48-hour program for first service. All cows are started on ovsynch at 77 days in milk. GnRH1 is given Tuesday morning; the first prostaglandin is given seven days later on Tuesday morning; a second prostaglandin is administered 24 hours later on Wednesday morning; GnRH2 is given 48 hours after the first prostaglandin on Thursday morning; and breeding is done Thursday – eight hours after the morning GnRH.

Open cows are resynched with a similar program at herd health. If a CL is present, we initiate ovsynch. If a CL is not present, GnRH is given and ovsynch is started seven days later.

Our overall pregnancy rate with these methods is currently 42 percent with an overall 57 percent conception rate. Approximately 62 percent of our breedings are synchronized, with a 62 percent conception rate; 7 percent of cows are classified as standing heat, with a 59 percent conception rate; and 28 percent are classified as chalk breedings, with a 46 percent conception rate.

Wenzel: In the past, we used a presynch program. Currently, we use double ovsynch, which has improved conception almost 10 percent. The only change we made to the program was to add a third prostaglandin. All checked open cows are standard resynch.

Featured Member

(Editor’s Note: For 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)

 

Megan Lauber
University of Wisconsin-Madison Master’s Degree Candidate and 2019 DCRC Scholar
DCRC member since 2016

I am very honored and humbled to be one of the 2019 Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) Scholars to attend the 2019 DCRC Annual Meeting. This program offered me the unique opportunity to attend the annual meeting to network with industry professionals and learn more about cutting-edge research and hot topics in the dairy industry. Furthermore, it allowed me to present preliminary data from my own studies looking to optimize fertility with sexed semen in lactating dairy cows and nulliparous heifers.

At the annual meeting, I enjoyed the outstanding speakers and the diversity of presentations for breakout sessions. The variety of speakers allowed me to learn more about topics closely linked to my research with sexed semen and expanded my knowledge in the areas of dairy reproduction that I do not specifically focus on. I found the closing panel discussing the hot topic of A2 milk very interesting to learn more about its potential implications in the dairy industry. These presentations provided a holistic representation of dairy reproduction.

In between breakout sessions, I appreciated the poster sessions for the opportunity to present some preliminary data of my studies looking to optimize fertility with sexed semen in lactating dairy cows. I found the poster sessions to be very engaging and I enjoyed the ability to interact one on one to discuss my research. It was great to network with other graduate students and industry professionals during the poster sessions to learn more about their research.

I commend DCRC and its members for their dedication to recognize dairy herds excelling in reproductive management and providing these herds the opportunity to attend the meeting to further improve their herds. I believe this also serves as a great reminder of how far the dairy industry has improved in reproductive performance. This speaks volumes on the importance of research conducted in dairy reproduction and its ability to improve herd performance. As the dairy industry continues to evolve, I hope to see these connections between herds and reproductive research strengthen.

Thank you again to the DCRC board of directors and its members for creating the DCRC Scholars program, which provided me the opportunity to attend the annual meeting. It was great to connect with others who are very passionate about the dairy industry and reproductive physiology. The connections and knowledge I obtained from the annual meeting are truly invaluable and I look forward to attending the next annual meeting in Madison, Wis.

DCRC Webinar Series

2020 DCRC Webinar Series Features Top 2019 DCRC Annual Meeting Topics

Mark your calendars for the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s (DCRC) 2020 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 2019 DCRC Annual Meeting.

Save these dates and times:

  • Joseph Dalton, University of Idaho, presents “Genetic markers provide fertility clues.”
    Feb. 28, at 2 p.m. Central time
  • Bob Corbett, Dairy Health Consultation, presents “Preparing heifers for improved reproductive efficiency and production.”
    May 6, at 2 p.m. Central time
  • Luis Mendonca, Kansas State University, presents “Maximizing fertility while minimizing timed AI use.”
    June 26, at 2 p.m. Central time
  • Mark Kirkpatrick, Zoetis, presents “Data organization yields positive returns.”
    Aug. 7, at 2 p.m. Central time

The American Association of Veterinary State Boards granted one Registry of Approved Continuing Education (RACE) credit for the February DCRC webinar. This provides veterinarians with a convenient continuing education opportunity. DCRC will submit RACE approval applications for its May, June and August webinars.

For more information about the DCRC webinars, e-mail Paula Basso, DCRC Education Committee chair, at: paula.basso@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.

The Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council is focused on bringing together all sectors of the dairy industry – producers, consultants, academia and allied industry professionals – for improved reproductive performance. DCRC provides an unprecedented opportunity for all groups to work together to take dairy cattle reproduction to the next level.

Industry Calendar