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economics and the swift speed at which advancements have occurred mean yesterday’s reproductive goals are already out of date.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.
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