Nearly 300 dairy cattle reproduction enthusiasts gathered Nov. 10-11, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio, for the 11th Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) annual meeting.
Progressive dairy farmers, veterinarians, nutritionists and industry allies from pharmaceutical, genetic and tech companies shared experiences with professors, researchers and extension agents working in universities all around the U.S. and Canada.
The diverse group of attendees created the perfect environment to consider repro issues and promote better practices to take this area of management to the next level.
For the first time ever, the program committee maximized the exchange of ideas by offering group discussion breakout sessions. One workshop focused on record analysis using DairyComp 305 and PCDart. Another session featured a panel discussion of on-farm breeding management and animal health.
A third small group discussion featured three dairymen, all with different reproductive program approaches. One producer relied on 100 percent fixed-time A.I., one relied heavily on estrus detection by tail paint removal, and one used an activity and rumination system for estrus detection.
Discussion on each chosen method for repro provided attendees with a wide variety of perspectives.
In addition, Dr. Stephen LeBlanc, University of Guelph and DCRC president, highlighted the new and current features present on the members-only section of DCRC’s website, such as:
- Unlimited access to “Ask the Expert” questions and answers
- Educational resources from past conferences
- Previous volumes of the DCRC e-newsletter
- New and archived webinars
- Newly revised reproduction protocols
Fitting consumer needs and wants
Dr. Mike McCloskey, co-founder and CEO of Select Milk Producers and chairman of the board for Fair Oaks Farm, kicked off the meeting with an outstanding presentation on the future of dairy management, aiming to “fit the consumer needs and wants.”
His presentation focused not only on the dairyman and practices at the farm level, but also how advisers working in this industry on a daily basis should be mindful of consumers’ concerns when delivering their consultative advice.
In his own experience, McCloskey stated that the average consumer simply wants to know farmers are doing their best and looking to improve every day.
Consumers want to know that not only do farmers provide a comfortable environment conducive for animal wellbeing, and produce and deliver a high-quality and nutritious dairy product, but that they also offer a production system that is sustainable and friendly to the environment.
McCloskey stated, “If you want to sell a product, you have to be transparent in consumers’ eyes.”
He said consumers are confused between the mixed messages they hear from those without agricultural backgrounds and from what he deemed “irresponsible marketing” delivered by some large companies and fast-food chains.
To confront this, the dairy community has to be confident defending their practices. He mentioned that caution should be taken with antibiotic and hormone use, and that dairymen should look for good science and adoption of technologies that can help tell a successful and trustworthy story.
Maximizing conception rates: looking for real opportunities
Dr. Christian Rippe from Arm and Hammer Animal Nutrition exposed his ideas of how people should look for real opportunities in their efforts to maximize conception rates. He focused on the effect of an extended dry period and its deleterious effect on early lactation performance and, by extension, overall herd conception rate.
Rippe stated that excessively long dry periods caused decreased daily milk yield and reduced fat and protein content per standard at full lactation. Animals fresh after a long dry period also carry a greater risk for culling, shorter lactations, health issues and poor reproductive performance.
In this scenario, he said these cows would be more likely to develop metabolic diseases postpartum, take longer to become pregnant, increase body condition score and present the same problems on the following lactation, creating a snowball effect.
He concluded that designing a different and proactive fresh cow protocol for cows in the high-risk category can produce significant improvement in overall herd conception rates with a reduction in culling rates and metabolic disorders during the first 30 days in milk.
An update on synchronization programs
Richard Pursley, assistant professor at Michigan State University and the brain (together with Milo Wiltbank) behind the development of the OvSynch protocol for fixed-time A.I., delivered an update on what’s new on fertility programs.
In his talk, Pursley stressed the importance of strictly following every step of the protocol to guarantee its success.
The first critical step for optimal synchronization is to control the emergence of the ovulatory follicle. In order to decrease the variability of response to the first GnRH injection of the program, a pre-synchronization strategy, such as G6G, double Ovsynch or Presynch-Ovsynch 10 or 11 must be implemented.
The pre-synchronization approach not only increases the odds of pregnancy but also allows producers to delay their first service to around 80 days in milk, avoiding lactations that are too short. In addition, twinning and pregnancy losses following first pregnancy diagnosis were reduced because of increased progesterone concentrations during the development of the ovulatory follicle.
The increased progesterone seems to be beneficial to improve embryo quality and decrease multiple ovulations.
Producers should also aim to enhance luteal regression. Studies have shown the odds of pregnancy decrease dramatically if a cow has a functional corpus luteum at the moment she receives timed A.I. In other words, the corpus luteum has to regress completely after one (or two) injections of prostaglandin.
More information about the Dairy Cattle Reproductive Council can be found online.
There you can learn more about the 2016 annual meeting and access content exclusively for members. DCRC is an organization with long-term interest in raising awareness of issues critical to reproductive performance.
PHOTO: Dairy producers recognized for excellent reproductive programs shared insights at the DCRC annual meeting. Photo provided by BJ Jones.
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