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5 Things I can't do without: Featuring Pagel's Ponderosa Dairy

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 16 October 2015
staff at pagel's ponderosa dairy

The bar for reproductive performance is set high at Pagel’s Ponderosa of Casco, Wisconsin, but a skilled and reliable team take it to the next level.

According to the dairy’s herd manager, Chris Szydel, the 5,800-cow herd averages a 21-day pregnancy rate of 34 percent, conception rate of 50 percent and a heat detection rate of 67 percent using tail chalking. These impressive numbers are achieved with a voluntary waiting period of 64 days.



The team’s success would not be possible without the right players. “We are very fortunate to have a great group of guys,” Szydel says. “We hand-picked everybody on our team.”

Their synergy is demonstrated every two weeks on breeding day. Starting in the early morning hours, six trained breeders service nearly 400 cows before noon. Afterward, the team sits down for a group discussion to review how things went.

Szydel also credits Dr. Don Niles’ leadership in achieving a high level of reproductive success. Niles, a veterinarian, establishes strategies, protocols and management practices for Pagel’s Ponderosa, as well as Dairy Dreams LLC, a separate dairy that he owns in partnership with the John Pagel family.

“Don organizes the breeding program,” Szydel says. “Our job is to implement it and make sure every cow gets the attention she needs.”

The dairy’s reproduction team shares what they feel are the five keys essential for success:


1. Our “no cow left behind” philosophy. A timed-A.I. program can only be successful with rock-solid compliance. Synchronizing cows, as well as the breeding and vet check list, have to be found and tended to on the correct day. The team is committed to making this happen on every cow.

2. A finely trained team with mutual support for all. We focus on cooperation over competition. We also work closely with our breeding company, Genex. Every three to four months, they come out to check protocols like gun loading and semen handling.

3. It takes a village to make a pregnancy. All technicians are proud to look at the herd check results. However, here it is understood that the credit for a pregnancy goes far beyond that.

It is shared not just with the technician who bred her, but also with the team members who tended to her calving, gave her vaccines at the correct time, milked her safely and cleanly, and delivered all other aspects of proper cow care.

4. Make a plan and stick with it. The total breeding program needs to be laid out as a plan that all can adhere to. Decisions as to how different conditions are handled should be planned out ahead, not made at cow-side in the heat of the moment.

5. Assemble your own dream team. There is a tremendous amount of new research and information available on dairy reproduction.


Assemble a team of advisors from the A.I. industry, along with your veterinary service and other professionals whose knowledge, enthusiasm and passion match your own. Put them to work fine-tuning your program and then follow your plan.

Our team also benefits from meeting with our breeding company every six months to evaluate herd performance and genetics.  PD

PHOTO: Cooperation and teamwork are exemplified at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy. On their biweekly breeding day, this handpicked team works together seamlessly to service around 400 cows. From left to right: Cosme Mendez, Lalo Rodriguez, Alfredo Reyna, Santos Rodriguez, Chris Szydel, J.J. Pagel, Ryan Schultz, Chris Kinnard (Genex) and Alfredo Rodriguez. Photo by Peggy Coffeen.

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