Picking the repro measures that can give you an edge

Posted on September 30, 2011 in Dairy Performance
By Dr. Neil Michael In the simplest form, the goal of all reproductive programs is to maximize the production for quality pregnancies during a specified time period with minimal variation and waste.  Producers whose herds show high reproductive performance use a handful of metrics to evaluate and manage their programs.  Some fundamental metrics include: Pregnancy rate (PR) is accepted as the goal standard to measure pregnancy production per specified time period (usually per 21-day period).  Producers using both A.I. and natural service must measure all three components (A.I., bull and whole-herd PR) separately, yet understand that whole-herd PR is what ultimately determines the economic impact of the program on total herd profitability.  Many producers and consultants have been overly confident about reproductive success in recent years by only looking at their A.I. pregnancy rate success. Conception risk (CR) represents the proportion of animals that become pregnant in relation to the total number inseminated.  Producers should evaluate CR trends across time and be sure to monitor differences between parity to detect possible grouping and nutritional opportunities.  Likewise, evaluating CR by sires, technicians and A.I. type (i.e. chalk, TAI, etc.) is important to detect opportunities within each respective aspect of the program. Insemination risk (IR) is also known commonly as heat detection rate or submission risk and represents the proportion of eligible animals inseminated (A.I. programs) compared to the total number of animals eligible.  Dependent upon the type of detection programs in place on your dairy, IR can be influenced by the following factors:

  • Cow factors:  energy balance, cow comfort, foot and leg problems
  • Facility design:  flooring surfaces, lockups or restraint systems, stall design, heat abatement systems
  • Management:  TAI protocol, herdcheck frequency, lack of training or time allocation and overstocking pens

Pregnancy inventory is a simple inventory management tool that monitors the number of pregnancies produced each week or month.  The importance of this metric is related to the fundamental need to continually have a predetermined number of pregnancies in order to generate future revenues.  In addition to obvious usefulness to a dairy’s financial consultants, producers commonly use the pregnancy inventory to manage pregnancies from both youngstock and adults during seasonal challenges like heat stress. Cows open more than 300 days in milk are a substantial financial cost to the dairy operation.  Monitoring the percent or number of animals open more than 300 DIM has become more commonly used as an outcome metric to monitor the economic effectiveness of extended voluntary waiting periods and re-enrollment programs. Blood progesterone sampling can be used on both blood and milk to ensure synchronization efficiency, although blood progesterone is the preferred quantitative test.  Costs for blood progesterone samples approximately $6 per sample, or a total cost of less than $250 to monitor the entire TAI program.  Blood progesterone should also be used routinely to validate the accuracy of heat detection. An extended version of this article originally appeared in the April 27, 2011 issue of Progressive Dairyman magazine.  About the author: Dr. Neil Michael previously worked as the Vita Plus director of dairy initiatives.  He grew up on a dairy and swine farm in northeast Indiana and attended Purdue University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in food science, his DVM degree from the School of Veterinary Medicine and his MBA from the Kranert Business School.  Michael joined the Vita Plus team in 2010 with a special interest in helping producers with transition cow health and economics, reproductive management, and data management related to animal performance and employees.

Category: Dairy Performance
Transition and reproduction