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A.I. & Breeding

From estrus and heat detection to genomics and sexed semen, discover the latest information to improve reproductive performance.

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Editor’s note: The following benchmarks have been compiled using data reported by dairies enrolled in Alta Genetic’s AltaAdvantage program, a progeny testing program. More than 182,500 cows in 175 herds participate in the program nationwide.

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Ask 10 dairy producers their definition of a profitable cow and they’ll likely give you 10 different answers. From a reproductive standpoint, profitable cows are cows that calve in healthy, get bred back in 80 to 120 days in one or two services and stay healthy throughout lactation so they can dry off and repeat the process.

Getting cows bred back quickly after calving has a dramatic impact on profitability. More pregnant cows means you have a greater choice over which cows to cull, eliminating cows before they become problems and resulting in a healthier, more productive herd. More pregnancies will result in more calves, which means more heifer calves to keep as replacements, with extras to sell as breeding stock.

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When Jersey breeder Jim Huffard mated one of his top cow family’s daughters (Schultz Sooner Harmony) to Molly BROOK Brass Major, he thought he’d get an animal with excellent type and milk production. Yet the offspring from the mating, Schultz Brook HALLMARK, exceeded even his own expectations.

“The bulls that are at the top of the list are even better than you might have expected with a mating,” says Huffard. “They have everything in the right place when you make a mating. That is why they’re up there.”

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Marketers have consistently maintained that sex sells, but what about “sexed”? Within dairy’s A.I. industry, the word seems to be proving the slogan is still true. During the last six months, A.I. companies have rolled out sexed semen offerings one after the other. Each of the new programs have clever names. But beyond the fancy titles, there are some suggested do’s and don’ts for using sexed semen products.

“My sense is that sexed semen is here to stay. That it’s a technology that we hope will mature. But even in its present state, there are definitely places where people should be using it,” says John Fetrow, a University of Minnesota researcher.

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New all-breed formula announced
Records from all breeds, including crossbreds, are now combined and analyzed together in one animal model. All relatives, regardless of breed composition, contribute to each animal’s genetic evaluation, and more cows are compared within management group in herds containing multiple breeds and crossbreds.

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During the past several decades, selection for increased milk yield has had a temporal association with declines in fertility and reproductive efficiency in dairy cows. In the U.S., an average annual decrease of 0.5 percent in conception rate at first service occurred between 1975 and 1997. In the United Kingdom (between 1978 and 1996) and in Spain (between 1991 and 2000) conception rate at first service decreased 1 percent per year.

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