On this #MemberMonday, discover what drives genetic and reproduction success at Plymouth Dairy Farms, Inc., near LeMars, Iowa. The operation recently earned the Platinum award for the Heifer category of the GENEX Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Awards.
Plymouth Dairy is not a newcomer to the Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Awards. In fact, the dairy earned the Platinum award for the >2,000 cows category last year (and a gold rating the year before). That’s some all-round good management!
The dairy, owned by the Feuerholm family, was founded in 1999 with the first cows milked in August 2000. Over the years, it has expanded to about 3,500 head. The growth, expansion and strong reproduction program are the result of teamwork, with Plymouth Dairy and GENEX committed to a strong and lasting relationship.
Key members of the team at the Plymouth Dairy heifer facility include (L to R) Paige Browning, Andy Nelsen and Chris McGuire.
The dairy's breeding-age heifers are raised offsite, at a nearby facility in Nebraska. A main component of the reproduction success for the heifers is the technician team. They perform professional, high-level heat detection and breeding service day after day.
Another driver of success is the nutrition and health of the animals. Heifers that are in a positive energy balance are the engine that run the show. Paired with quality genetics from GENEX sires that emphasize health and fertility, it is no wonder the dairy earned the award!
“It’s that simple,” explains Chris McGuire of Plymouth Dairy. “Success is due to quality heifers, good nutrition and technicians with a drive to do well.”
What does the award-winning reproduction program look like? Heifers are eligible to breed at 385 days or 12.5 months of age. If a heifer has strong heat expression, then GenChoice™ sexed semen is used on the first two heats. With this strategy, close to 75% of services are to sexed semen. The other 25% is to conventional dairy semen.
If a heifer does not show a heat by 405 days or 13.25 months of age, she is checked by a vet and either receives progesterone or an Eazi-Breed™ CIDR®. A heifer gets four services before a culling decision is made. Combine the excellent genetic and reproduction results along with a knowledgeable and motivated team and an overall focus on employee safety and satisfaction, and you have Plymouth Dairy.
Cooperative member Maple Ridge Dairy of Stratford, Wisconsin, is a platinum winner of the Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Awards. The key to their success is … the power of consistency.
Consistent protocols, consistent care and a consistent team leads to consistent success. For Maple Ridge Dairy, that success, for example, came in 2018 when herdsperson Jami Schultze was named the grand prize winner of the Boehringer Ingelheim Producers for Progress recognition program. The program recognizes dairy producers for their commitment to animal well-being, consumers and the industry through the judicious use of antibiotics.
Jami’s statement following the award announcement demonstrates the level of consistent care the dairy provides: “We treat cows as individuals and believe that every cow deserves a diagnosis. Our veterinarian regularly reviews our mastitis cases and protocols to make sure we’re up to date and giving the best treatment. When we do treat, we make sure to do it responsibly by using the proper antibiotic, dose and duration.”
The dairy’s success also comes in the form of back-to-back Platinum recognition for the GENEX Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Awards. The same level of consistency and attention to detail that is applied to antibiotic use is applied in the reproduction program.
“We stick to the protocols,” notes Jami. “Compliance is very important to us. We try to get as close to 100% compliance as possible.”
That means compliance to their synchronization protocol – a Presynch/Ovsynch program with an added prostaglandin shot. It also means consistency by the GENEX team that walks and chalks in six breeding pens daily.
More important than the award is the reproduction numbers achieved and their impact on farm profitability. For 2018, the dairy averaged a 36% pregnancy rate on cows with 86% pregnant by 150 days in milk. For much of the year, those numbers were achieved while breeding the top 25% of first lactation cows with one service of GenChoice™ sexed semen and breeding the bottom half of cows to beef semen.
Towards the end of the year, the breeding strategy was adjusted so the top 65% of first lactation cows receive one service of sexed semen and then roughly the bottom 70% of cows are bred to beef semen. Cows are ranked by Ideal Commercial Cow™ (ICC$™) index parent average through the Sort‑GateSM program.
The dairy has been consistent in genetic selection on the sire side too. For years, they’ve focused on creating an efficient cow – not too tall and not too short. They’ve also targeted traits such as components, Daughter Pregnancy Rate and Somatic Cell Score. Sire Conception Rate is considered as well.
Back to consistency, it’s taken good cow care and attention to detail to achieve an average somatic cell count of 98,000 and strong energy-corrected milk values. It’s taken the same effort to develop an excellent transition cow program where cows are in a negative energy balance for as little time as possible.
Owner Brian Forrest comments, “It’s not our facilities or technologies that make us successful; it is the people and their dedication to compliance.” It’s the consistency.
GENEX is declaring 2019 as the Year of the Co-op. Member ownership, member loyalty and cooperative ideals are extremely important to GENEX. They were important decades ago when cattle producers like you came together to form GENEX predecessor cooperatives, and they are important today.
“I will be the first to admit we haven’t always waved the cooperative flag as high or as fast as we could,” shares Terri Dallas, GENEX Vice President of Member Relations, “but that’s changing! This is your GENEX where your membership – and your input – matters!”
Now is the time to share your input by becoming a GENEX delegate. Each year GENEX holds delegate elections. It’s a time when you – progressive, business-minded and loyal GENEX members – are asked to step up your involvement in your cooperative. As an elected delegate, you will serve your membership region and district for one year. During that year, you have two primary duties: you are expected to attend and share input at a fall delegate meeting and at the annual meeting held in Minnesota in March. It’s that easy, yet it’s a vital component of GENEX as a cooperative.
How You can Become a GENEX Delegate
1. Any U.S. dairy or beef cattle producer who purchased $500 of semen or products from GENEX between May 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019 and has a signed membership agreement on file with GENEX qualifies as a member.
2. GENEX members will be mailed a letter in June explaining the delegate election process. Enclosed with the letter will be a postcard where the member can nominate himself or herself to be a delegate.
3. Members interested in sharing their input as a delegate should complete the card and mail it back to GENEX. The names of those who nominate themselves will be compiled and ballots created.
4. In early July, the delegate ballots will be sent to all members. Members will vote for delegates who reside in their membership region and district.
5. Members will return their ballots, votes will be counted, and the elected delegates and alternates will be notified.
Have questions about the process or about serving as a delegate, contact Terri Dallas at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.333.1783.
Remember, your input matters to your co-op, and here's your opportunity to share it!
U.S. college graduates with expertise in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment are in great demand but are expected to fill only 61% of the expected annual job openings. While most employers prefer to hire graduates with this expertise, they will be forced to look elsewhere because the forecast calls for more annual job openings than can be filled by these graduates, according to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
GENEX is doing its part in encouraging youth to pursue agricultural careers by offering the GENEX Collegiate Scholarship Program. A minimum of four $750 scholarships will be awarded to deserving candidates who can answer yes to the following questions:
› Are you planning to be enrolled in a two or four year college in fall of 2019 and looking for help to pay for it?
› Is your degree program in an agricultural field?
› Do you have an active role on a GENEX member's farm or ranch?
The deadline to apply is April 1, 2019, so download the application and get started today!
“GENEX leads change,” stated Huub te Plate, GENEX Chief Operating Officer, in his address to delegates at the cooperative’s annual meeting Jan. 23 in Bloomington, Minnesota. “Throughout history, we have delivered key innovations and led industry changes. If we stop changing, we stop leading.”
During his management report, Huub spoke of the changes the cooperative underwent in 2018. The most significant was the formation of a new parent company URUS, through the combination of Cooperative Resources International and Koepon Holding BV. The combination, completed in October 2018, was the culmination of a yearlong process which included a milestone vote of support by GENEX delegates.
“This combination of a cooperative and a privately-owned business was an industry first. It has resulted in an organization of enormous scale - second to none in the cattle artificial insemination industry – and holds many opportunities for GENEX members and customers,” stated Huub.
He went on to explain that areas, such as the genetics program and semen production operations, have been centralized under URUS. Centralizing these activities enables the creation of efficient production facilities to maximize the quantity and quality of semen produced.
Other business changes during the year included the divestiture of CENTRAL LIVESTOCK and the transition to GENEX as a global brand.
GENEX experienced below budget results for 2018. “The U.S. was challenged with continued low milk prices and issues with other commodities,” noted Huub. “These same dynamics that affect your farm or ranch profitability level also impact your cooperative and created an operating environment that made achievement of the budget difficult.”
Also impacting revenue was the industry’s shift to using beef semen on dairy females. “Targeted breeding programs using GenChoice™ sexed semen along with beef semen appear to be a long-term trend. In fact, beef into dairy sales quadrupled throughout the year. This, however, displaced use of conventional dairy semen,” stated Huub. “On the bright side, GENEX is positioned to help you make informed strategic breeding decisions through use of our Calf MathSM and Beef x Dairy programs.”
The international market showed some recovery from the previous year with retail operations in Brazil, Canada and Mexico gaining market share. The dairy market in Brazil was in crisis and sales figures reflected the difficulty, yet beef semen sales were strong. The Mexican dairy industry struggled as well, though herd care product sales and increased interest in beef A.I. showed huge opportunities. Among other major markets, GENEX dairy semen sales growth was realized in China and Russia while they struggled in Argentina. Beef semen sales in Argentina were solid.
Through all the change and the global economic turmoil, GENEX council President John Ruedinger, a dairy producer from Van Dyne, Wisconsin, expresses optimism for the future. “Through all this, we need to hold fast to our cooperative business status and mentality. We need to do more than brand GENEX as a cooperative. We need to remain relevant to members by asking for their feedback and responding to their needs. We need to ensure the next generation of producers is involved in and driving their cooperative’s future.”
John concluded by saying the decision to form URUS is one delegates should be proud of. Their foresight and vision to create a new company means the future is bright and the vision is clear for GENEX.
Members Elected to GENEX Council
Also at the annual meeting, five cattle producers were elected to three-year terms on the cooperative’s 13-member council.
Casey Dugan of Casa Grande, Arizona, was elected to his first term. Casey, a graduate of Northern Arizona University, is owner of Desperado Dairy and a third generation dairy farmer.
Re-elected to the council were Daniel Tetreault of Champlain, New York; Lamar Gockley of Mohnton, Pennsylvania; Kay Olson-Martz of Friendship, Wisconsin; and Jody Schaap of Woodstock, Minnesota.
Following the annual meeting, the GENEX council elected officers. Those holding officer positions for 2019 include:
› John Ruedinger, Van Dyne, Wisconsin - president
› Bobby Robertson, Tahlequah, Oklahoma - first vice president
› Harold House, Nokesville, Virginia - second vice president
› Ron Totten, Stafford, New York - secretary
Connect with us to learn how our world-class cattle genetics, progressive reproductive solutions, and value-added services can advance your operation. Click here to contact us today!