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.
The team at Omro Dairy, near Omro, Wisconsin, is always striving to improve. That determined go-getter attitude helped the team earn platinum recognition in the GENEX Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Awards contest.
GENEX representatives Carlos Marin (far left) and Kim Egan (far right) presented the Omro Dairy team of Victor Montoya, Carlos Zelada, Jorge Montoya and John Vosters with their platinum recognition plaque in the 2,000+ cow category.
Omro Dairy joined the Milk Source family of farms in 1999. In recent years, changes and transformations have taken place on the farm. First, it was transformed from a Holstein herd to a complete Jersey herd.
In early 2017, they also transitioned from a Pre-Synch program with a 50 day voluntary waiting period and “cherry picking” to a Double Ovsynch program with a 60-day voluntary waiting period for first service.
The team at Omro has made the transition from conventional semen to entirely sexed or beef semen as well.
Altogether, the team is achieving over 83% of the herd pregnant by 150 days in milk, keeping the Jersey herd under 165 days in milk on average. There are very few fresh cow illnesses or culls, which is also an important factor in outstanding reproduction. Once confirmed pregnant, only 6% have an abort event. Heat detection is a key component of the reproductive program after first service, with about half of the cows becoming pregnant to standing heat breedings after first service.
Calm and quiet cattle handling is important to this team, and it is evident in the demeanor of the Jerseys as they play with their tongues and lounge in their sand beds. There is not a seasonal difference in conception either. With curtain sidewalls, fans and sprinklers, cows are kept comfortable year-round.
The breeding team at Omro Dairy certainly takes pride in their work. Every six to eight weeks, GENEX staff utilize the A.I. AccuCheck program to ensure no protocol drift in heat detection, semen handling or insemination technique. Proper functioning and cleanliness of equipment is also inspected.
While other things on the dairy may change, the breeding team remains consistent (with only one new team member), and every member of the team helps provide encouragement and training for the ultimate success of the program.
Congratulations to Omro Dairy and thank you for being a GENEX member!
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 email@example.com or 888.333.1783.
Remember, your input matters to your co-op, and here's your opportunity to share it!
Years ago, cattle producers like you came together to organize a cooperative business that would genetically improve cattle performance and deliver economical cattle reproductive services. Today, that cooperative – GENEX – still fulfills those needs for producer members and yet offers so much more: world-class cattle genetics, progressive reproductive solutions, value-added products and innovative services.
Just as in the beginning, cattle producers remain the heart of GENEX. GENEX is governed by producer members, and GENEX management value members’ grassroots input. In short, GENEX has your interests in mind in its daily operations.
On this #membermonday, GENEX is proud to feature one of its 9,000+ members across the USA. This member, from southern Wisconsin, is a recent recipient of a platinum GENEX Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Award. This member is Truttmann Dairy LLC of Blanchardville, Wisconsin. The dairy is operated by Dan and Shelly Truttmann along with Dan’s father Dwight, brother Doug and nine employees.
Reproduction at Truttmann Dairy LLC is the result of team effort! Pictured (right to left) are members of the team: Doug Truttmann, Allie (the dog), Collin Legler, Dwight Truttmann, Dan Truttmann, veterinarian Tim Bruns, and GENEX representatives Lindsey Geddes and Scott Schultz.
Getting to Know the Dairy
The Truttmann family began farming in the early 90s, utilizing rotational grazing while focusing on growing cow numbers. In 1998, they built their first barn. By 2012, the herd outgrew the grazing acreage, and the Truttmanns turned their focus to cow comfort and production within a freestall facility (though they still utilize some rotational grazing for bred heifers).
Today, the dairy consists of 472 milk cows, mostly Jerseys with a few Holsteins. The herd averages 67 pounds of milk, 4.9% fat and 3.7% protein.
The dairy excels in reproduction with a 37% pregnancy rate, 53.9% pregnant at first service and 80% bred by 150 days in milk (DIM). The breeding protocol includes an 80 DIM voluntary wait period with cows bred, on average, at 83 DIM.
Cows are bred on a natural heat as much as possible with activity information provided through the SCR Heatime® system (now known as an Allflex Livestock Intelligence system). If a cow does not come into heat by 100 DIM, they double lute her and watch for heat. If necessary, the process is repeated 14 days later and in rare instances followed with Ovsynch.
The top 50% of cows receive up to two services of sexed semen. If needed, one service is to conventional semen before being bred to beef. The bottom 50% of the herd is all bred to beef. Altogether, that equates to 58% sexed semen use along with a 52% sexed semen conception rate.
“It has taken a team to get where we are repro-wise,” explains Lindsey Geddes, GENEX Reproductive Program Senior Technician who provides the breeding service. “From the healthy happy cows to the owners, employees, nutritionist John Binversie with Quality Liquid Feeds, veterinarian Tim Bruns, and the GENEX team (including reproductive consultant Adam Koppes; sales manager Scott Schultz; and relief technician Charles Hookstead), it’s a team effort.”
Dan enjoys working with GENEX because of the bull lineup (particularly the positive DPR Jersey sires) and because he can trust GENEX representatives to have the dairy’s best interest at heart. “Lindsey and Scott take great care of us and our herd! Lindsey’s personality is bigger than even the Jerseys, and she does an amazing job of knowing the herd and not missing a thing. I never have to think about whether the job is done right. It always is.”
Changes Lead to Improvements
Three years ago, the dairy’s reproduction program changed after putting in the SCR system with activity and rumination monitoring collars. Dan wanted the system specifically for health monitoring for the pre- and post-fresh cows and wasn’t certain it would do a better job at heat detection than tail chalk.
“However, after two weeks, we let the collars do the work and our conception rate improved soon after,” notes Dan. “Our preg rate has gone up by 10 points, all while cutting hormone use to near zero and significantly increasing the use of sexed semen.”
Lindsey explains she too was initially worried about relying fully on the collars but soon learned to love the system as well.
Dan adds, “We don’t miss heats like before. The system is great at detecting estrus and showing how strong a heat is. It has forced us to wait a bit longer before breeding, knowing the optimal time to breed. In addition to helping improve reproductive performance, it has helped keep the herd healthy and minimize lameness too.”
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