The dairy world is one of continuous improvement. Tight margins, expense of heifer rearing and the drive to improve herd genetic potential have made excellent reproduction even more important to you. Over the last several years, much has been learned and implemented to improve cow comfort, nutrition and health. Genetics, fertility-enhancing synchronization programs and market pressures have all had an impact as well.
Today’s economics and the swift speed at which advancements have occurred mean yesterday’s reproductive goals are already out of date. Here are the top five statistics tracked on dairies today and updated performance goals for each.
1. Percent pregnant by 150 Days in Milk (DIM).
Many herds GENEX works with have exceeded the goal of 75% of cows pregnant by 150 DIM, a goal that was sought after just a few short years ago. The GENEX Dairy Performance NavigatorSM (DPNSM) program shows the top 10% of herds by milk production (out of 180 Holstein herds over 500 cows) now average 83% of the herd pregnant by 150 DIM.
› A new goal of >80% of cows pregnant by 150 DIM is appropriate and achievable.
2. 3-week pregnancy rate.
Depending on which software program you use, the calculation of cows that are eligible to be bred may vary. Ultimately, the pregnancy rate is driven by conception rates and service rates. Factors that diminish estrus expression or detection or reduce conception will reduce the pregnancy rate. Many factors that affect reproductive success are shown in the image below.
Holstein herds in the DPN program with 500 cows or more average 25% annual pregnancy rates; however, the top 10% by cow pregnancy rate have achieved a 35.9% average.
› A good goal for 3-week pregnancy rate is now ≥ 30%.
3. Conception by breeding code, service number, semen type.
Many herds are using sex-sorted semen in the lactating herd as well as in heifers; this product generally has lower conception than conventional semen. There are also differences in synchronization programs for first service and later services. It is best to track conception of differing breeding codes (example: resynchronization versus heat detection) and semen types, so if change in reproductive performance is desired, the areas can be monitored in relation to the goal and to historical performance. Good goals match the following:
› The top 10% of Holstein herds by cow preg rate in the DPNSM program are achieving first service conception >50% in their lactating herds.
› For heifers, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association Gold Standard for first service conception rate with sexed semen is 60%.
4. Percent of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months old.
This is still a favorite measure of the overall efficiency of the virgin heifer reproductive program. The range can be adjusted based on your voluntary waiting period but should allow time for breeding and pregnancy diagnosis. Delays in moving heifers into the breeding pen or inadequate heat detection will reduce this percentage. Skipping the pregnancy examinations or missing data will also skew the measure. Increased percentages reflect efficient use of days (or months) heifers are fed before freshening and returning income to your dairy.
› Currently, the top 10% of Holstein herds by heifer pregnancy rate in the DPNSM program are achieving 75% of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months. That is an excellent goal for any dairy.
5. Number of eligible animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated.
Many farms are achieving 100% of animals (both cows and heifers) inseminated within 28 days of their voluntary waiting period. It is important to have a fixed goal by which all animals should be inseminated (note: your goal may be different than 28 days or may include weight for heifers). Animals removed from breeding pens and/or missed on synchronization programs may not be inseminated, reducing the service rate and the dairy’s efficiency.
› The goal for number of animals beyond the first service deadline that are not inseminated is zero.
Have you ever wondered what a large artificial insemination (A.I.) breeding project is like? The logistics and planning required can seem overwhelming and is often the reason beef cattle producers choose not to A.I. However, if the logistics can be solved - and they most always can - the advantages of A.I. can help improve your bottom line. Think more calves born earlier in the breeding season, the ability to use proven genetics and value-added replacement females.
Follow along on this recent breeding project and you will understand why GENEX is known for offering the industry’s best chute-side service!
Sarah Thorson, GENEX Beef Education & Marketing Manager, makes her way down to the hotel lobby where Justin Hergenreder, GENEX Beef Large Herd Development Manager, is anxiously waiting to get on the road. Justin is the logistics guy. If you are concerned about the facilities, time or labor involved in a breeding project, Justin is the person to talk to. While Sarah grabs a cup of coffee and a quick bite to eat, Justin briefs her on the day’s events. There are about 550 total head of cows to breed at two different locations. Talk about logistics! As always, Justin has a plan and is confident the day will go smoothly.
After a quick trip to the local doughnut shop to get a treat for the cowboy crew, Justin and Sarah arrive at the ranch. The ranch’s cowboy crew has already been hard at work. They have gathered the first group of cows and are just finishing sorting the calves off. Troy Carruthers and Matt Dolezal, GENEX Independent Contractors, have arrived as well, and the GENEX team gets to work setting up the double-stall breeding barn, filling thaw units with water and plugging in the A.I. gun warmers. The portable breeding barn makes it possible to breed cows almost anywhere. If you have some kind of corral and alley (portable, temporary or permanent), the breeding barn can be backed up to it and, when things are moving smoothly, 80 females can easily be bred per hour.
A portable breeding barn makes it possible to breed cows almost anywhere. The breeding barn can be backed up to a portable, temporary or permanent corral and alley for efficient and stress-free breeding.
The first cows start rolling through the chute right on schedule. There are about 280 cows to be bred at the first location. The GENEX team quickly falls into place. Justin, Troy and Matt take turns A.I.ing in a three-man rotation, while Sarah starts off the morning thawing semen.
The cows are being bred with semen from 1AN01300 INVESTMENT. The ranch feeds their own calves, so INVESTMENT was a great choice as his progeny are known to feed well. That, however, isn’t the only reason they chose him. INVESTMENT also has a 103 PregCheck™ ranking. The PregCheck™ fertility ranking system, proprietary to GENEX, is the first of its kind in the beef industry and evaluates an individual sire’s frozen semen conception rate. While everyone knows some A.I. sires get more cows pregnant than others, in the past it was difficult to measure a bull’s conception ability. With PregCheck™ rankings it’s easy! At a 103 ranking, you can expect INVESTMENT to achieve about three more pregnancies per 100 breedings than his contemporaries. On the 550 cows being bred today, that’s 16 extra A.I. calves!
The cowboy crew loads up their horses and heads five miles down the road to the second group of cows while the GENEX team finishes the first group, cleans up the breeding barn, hooks it to Justin’s pick-up and heads out. At the next location it’s a tight squeeze for the breeding barn, but Justin gets it backed up and the team works to put everything back where it belongs while the cowboys finish sorting.
After a quick breeding barn picnic consisting of Little Debbie® Honey Buns and Double Stuf OREO cookies (no one said a breeding project would be good for your diet), the GENEX team is back at work. This time Matt takes a turn thawing semen, and Sarah jumps into the breeding rotation.
Although Sarah’s been breeding cows for almost 20 years, her job as the Beef Marketing and Education Manager keeps her at a desk most days, so she loves an opportunity to be out at a breeding project. She always learns something and is amazed at how efficiently the team can manage a project of this magnitude. Everyone has a role to play. As indicated, Justin is the logistics guy. He takes his job very seriously. While he is always up for a joke in the breeding barn, he also sets the tone and keeps things moving. He is also the cleanest A.I. technician ever; don’t you dare run into him with a poopy glove on! Matt is an Angus genetics and pedigree guru. He knows what it takes to make a good one. Troy is the energizer bunny of the breeding barn. He never seems to get tired. Everyone else is always willing to take a turn thawing semen so they can stand in one place for a while. Not Troy. He wants to be where the action is.
Chute-side service breeding projects are a team effort. You get the cattle to the alleyway, and GENEX takes care of the breeding!
A quick look out the back window of the breeding barn shows the corral behind the alley is nearly empty! The last few cows flow smoothly through the barn, and the job is done! Everything is packed up and the breeding barn is hooked to Troy’s pick-up, so he can drop it off for tomorrow’s breeding project. There are another 300 head to breed tomorrow morning! It’s been an awesome day. Things couldn’t have gone smoother, but now it’s time for a cheeseburger, fries and a hot shower!
This is just one example of a recent GENEX breeding project. Nearly every day of the spring breeding season, 17 full-time employees and 180 independent contractors are working on breeding projects of all sizes throughout the U.S. Don’t let logistics be the thing that keeps you from using A.I. to add value to your breeding program. The GENEX team has the experience to help you make a plan that will achieve your goals. Whether looking to add value to replacement females, have more calves born earlier in the breeding season or benefit from use of proven genetics, GENEX will be with you every step of the way!
Farmer cooperatives in South Africa and Peru will improve their profitability, productivity, resilience and competitiveness in the marketplace as the result of a new five-year, $7.7 million grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This project coordinated by GENEX, a cattle genetics cooperative headquartered in Shawano, Wisconsin, will build on work completed in the previous eight years through similar grant-funded activities.
GENEX is the program partner for this USAID Cooperative Development Program (CDP), which focuses on building the capacity of cooperative businesses for self-reliance, local ownership and sustainability. As a cooperative itself, GENEX sees the value in living out the cooperative principle of cooperation among cooperatives.
“The CDP is an opportunity for our cooperative to share its business values while using its products and services to improve farms of all shapes and sizes, worldwide,” explains Matt Gartman, a dairy farmer from Sheboygan, Wisconsin, who participated in GENEX’s previous CDP activities in South Africa by presenting on cooperative governance.
Building on past success
Since 2010, GENEX has worked in South Africa to help build agricultural cooperative businesses. The goal has been to elevate these developing businesses as suppliers to local and regional processors, sellers of value-added products, and buyers of inputs from local and regional firms. The strategy included a business-driven approach to helping farmers run strong commercial-scale businesses.
As an example, during the first phase of the project GENEX staff with expertise in beef cattle genetics and reproduction traveled to South Africa to provide consultation and training to a cooperative desiring to offer artificial insemination services to members. The GENEX representatives worked with local partners to provide training and conduct the first inseminations. Opportunities like this - within the grant-funded venture - create new markets for GENEX products while also benefiting smallholder farmers.
In the previous round of funding, GENEX CDP activities in South Africa have helped 13 cooperatives achieve substantial growth. In eight years, the cooperatives experienced a 713% growth in sales, 510% growth in profit and near-total growth in patronage dividends.
The next step
With the new five-year, $7.7 million grant, GENEX intends to further support South African and Peruvian dairy and beef producers and their cooperatives. Together with in-country partners, GENEX will provide business-planning guidance, technical assistance from industry mentors, better access to affordable financing, and finally, training and networking to develop sound cooperative governance. The overall goal is to improve the producers’ and cooperatives’ profitability, productivity, resilience and competitiveness in the marketplace.
After his experience in South Africa, Gartman reflects on the results he witnessed and hopes for the project’s future. “It’s clear to see the CDP has and will provide farmers with an opportunity to grow their livelihoods while also bringing value-added U.S. goods to an expanding market. It’s all about cooperatives helping cooperatives succeed in the global agriculture industry.”
Searching and sorting dairy bulls from across the industry got a lot easier last fall with the release of the GENEX Dairy Bull Search App. As excitement and downloads have increased, so have suggestions for new features. Saving favorite sires, creating favorites lists, saving your filter parameters and sharing are just a few of the newest features to make your app experience more useful.
Choose sire favorites in one of two ways:
› Select the heart icon directly from any bull screen
› Filter bulls using your criteria. Click the orange select bulls button and tap any of the bulls listed to be added to your favorites list.
Sharing Favorites Lists
Share your favorites list as a PDF or Excel/CSV file by tapping the download button (down arrow) at the top of the screen. Once your list is generated, tap the share button (up arrow) to share via text message, email, etc.
Creating and Saving Filters
Filter the bulls list by entering parameters for company, index, traits and more. Save those filters for use the next time you come back to the app.
Available for your Desktop too!
The app can be downloaded to your desktop from the Microsoft Store. Utilize all of these fantastic features from the comfort of your office chair!
DOWNLOAD THE APP TODAY
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