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How to make your next preg check your best yet

Chrissy Meyer and Glaucio Lopes for Progressive Dairy Published on 27 June 2019
Preg checking cows

There are so many factors that affect how efficiently you can get cows pregnant. Cow comfort. Cow cooling. Nutrition. Herd health. Genetics. Dry cow, transition and fresh cow management. And the list goes on.

The whole picture can be overwhelming. So here’s a spot check on a few simple pieces to the reproductive improvement puzzle. Check out three areas you can address now to help make your next preg check the best one yet.

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1. Use high-fertility sires

With countless sire options available, it’s often hard to choose the right bulls for your herd. If part of your goal is to make your next preg check your best one yet, then what you’re really trying to do is improve herd fertility. And one of the fastest, simplest ways to do that, in this moment, is to emphasize sire fertility within your customized genetic plan.

When you use a high-fertility bull, you’re upping your odds and improving your chances at creating a pregnancy on the very inseminations where you use that sire.

2. Practice strict compliance and accuracy

Regardless of your repro strategy, your cows will not get pregnant if you don’t comply with the fixed timed- A.I. fertility protocols or maintain an exceptional level of accuracy with heat detection.

When you use timed A.I. …

When it comes to synchronization programs, we can never emphasize enough that compliance is king. To put that in simple, relatable terms, that means combining four things:

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  • The right cow

  • The right hormone

  • The right dose – with attention on the sizes of syringes and needles

  • The right time

If you miss just one of these four critical factors, any chance at creating a pregnancy based off a synchronization schedule is severely diminished or even gone.

When you heat detect…

When your vet is at your dairy for preg check day, you might define success – or even your mood – by the number of times you hear the vet say “pregnant.” But remember, the veterinarian really helps you drive your reproductive efficiency most by finding the open cows. That information allows you to get these non-pregnant cows to their next A.I. as quickly as possible.

In that sense, the fastest method you have on your farm for an open diagnosis is actually timely and accurate heat detection. What we mean by this is: If you wait until your actual preg check day to determine the pregnancy status of every cow bred 28 to 35 days prior, you’ll be checking some cows that may already have been in heat since they were bred.

As milk production per cow continues to increase, cows are less likely to show the primary sign of estrus. And when they do, it’s for shorter periods of time. Some might even argue that cows tend to show their strongest signs of heat during the night, when we’re less likely to have people around devoted to detection.

Heat detection accuracy depends entirely on how well people on the farm are trained to perform this task. So it’s important the right people on your dairy are also trained to find secondary signs of estrus. Some of these include: tail chalk rubbed off, swollen vulva, presence of mucus discharge, dirt on the side, hair loss in the back, etc. The most accurate technique combines two or three of these secondary signs.

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Another way you can increase heat detection accuracy is electronic activity monitors. These systems alert you to the cows with increased activity and decreased eating/rumination as signs of estrus. That helps you find those cows that show signs of heat overnight or don’t show strong primary or secondary signs.

If you have an experienced repro team on your farm, and an activity monitoring system to detect heats with accuracy, you’ll give yourself the best possible chance to find which cows to breed when they come into heat. That means fewer open cows on your next preg check day.

3. Maintain accurate records

Using a software program to maintain your records gives you the best chance of sticking to point No. 2 above. When using a fixed timed- A.I. program, your synchronization schedule should be set up in your software so you can follow it to a T.

If you are using handheld devices in the field to help you find and work with cows, accurate information in the software will help you determine the location of some cows that may have been mistakenly switched to different pens. This increases the chance to find the proper animal to administer the proper treatment at the proper time.

When it comes to heat detection, having accurate data on freshenings, last service date and more will ensure you present the right cows on preg check day and keep your repro program in check.

Of course, other management factors will affect how many cows you confirm as pregnant each cycle. But if you do your own personal check, and use high-fertility sires, practice strict compliance and accuracy, and maintain accurate records, you may find yourself with your next herd check as your best one yet.  end mark

PHOTO: Preg checking the herd. Staff photo.

Glaucio Lopes is AltaU manager for Alta Genetics. Email Glaucio Lopes

Chrissy Meyer
  • Chrissy Meyer

  • Marketing Manager
  • Alta Genetics
  • Email Chrissy Meyerk

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