Volume 19 Issue 2

March 2018

Heifer Inventories...

Weathering the storm

An opportunity for financial breathing room

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recently Age at Non Heifers Cull reviewed a Herd Size First Completion to maintain Rate Calving Rate herd size producer’s records with the A 2,500 24 24% 7% 642 question posed to B 2,500 25 38% 15% 1,138 me, “how many Difference 1 14% 8% 496 heifers do we need?” At this table here shows an example of the farm the parlor is maxed out, the barns herd previously referenced compared to are full, and their goal is to maintain an average herd. herd size in the most efficient manner In this scenario, Dairy A will need possible. 496 fewer replacement heifers than This herd uses DHI, so doing the Dairy B to maintain herd size. Using research was fairly easy, but in the \$1,800 as a conservative estimate on the process I was astounded at the financial cost to raise a replacement heifer that benefit and advantage this dairy is \$892,800 of cost advantage Dairy enjoyed due to a low involuntary cull A has over Dairy B. Dividing the total rate, low calf mortality and excellent opportunity for cost savings by the reproduction. They have everything size of the herd you end up with about going for them and it shows... to the \$357/cow/year. That is real money, tune of almost \$900,000/year. Doesn’t regardless of your herd size. sound realistic? Let’s look at the math. But wait, it’s never a bad thing to have The equation for heifers needed too many heifers, right? It’s no new to maintain herd size is relatively concept to question whether you should simple and has been covered in many be raising all the heifers that are born publications, and is shown here: Herd on your dairy. Rearing replacements is Size X (Age at first calving ÷ 24) X Cull Rate X (1+ Non-Completion Rate). The an expensive enterprise and it is hard to argue that you should spend time and money raising heifers you don’t need. This article will take a look at the numbers that drive herd growth, and in doing so highlight opportunities for your operation to increase its competitive edge. Continued on next page

You are experts at weathering any situation on your farm, low milk prices no exception. While we sympathize with you, that does little good for helping you. What we can do, is share solutions that producers are using to make a difference on their farms. Inside you will find articles about solutions producers implemented that are providing an economic advantage to their farm. NorthStar’s mission has long been to “enhance producer profitability through integrated services.” By combining our expertise and passion for genetics, reproduction, diagnostics, animal health, DHI and records analysis, we are properly equipped to help you find opportunities that make a difference to your bottom line. We encourage you to peruse the articles and see what producers say about the solutions provided by NorthStar. When you are ready to apply any of these ideas please give us a call or talk with your area NorthStar representative. We are ready to help.

Heifer Inventories Continued

Age at First Calving

Cull Rate

Rarely a high priority, heifer reproduction drives how quickly your replacements enter the milking string, and in doing so, decreases the number of heifers you must have in inventory to keep the herd size consistent. This table places all other variables equal except Age at First Calving.

Animals leaving the herd is perhaps the most obvious factor impacting how many replacements you will need, but how to achieve a low cull rate is perhaps not so easy. In this example, you can see that the majority of the advantage Dairy A enjoys is because of its low cull rate and as a result of it 37 percent fewer heifers will need to be raised giving them an estimated advantage of \$277/ cow/year (385 x 1800 ÷ 2500 = \$277.20).

Herd

Herd Size

Age at First Calving

Cull Rate

Non Completion Rate

Heifers to maintain herd size

A

2,500

23

30%

10%

791

B

2,500

25.5

30%

10%

877

2.5

0%

0%

86

Difference

A 2.5 month difference in calving age drives the number of heifers needed down by 9.8 percent and translates to an estimated savings of almost \$62/cow/year (86 x 1800 ÷ 2500 = 62). Before you decide to start breeding heifers earlier you need to answer a couple questions. Are your heifers large enough to start breeding earlier? Do your DHI records support the decision to calve heifers in younger? There is often a very distinct correlation between production in the first lactation and age at calving. Many factors contribute to whether a heifer’s production is positively or negatively impacted by a change in age at first calving. DHI records will tell you if it is the right decision for your dairy, or if management practices need to be changed to allow the opportunity to calve in younger heifers.

Non Completion Rate Heifer rearing can be a tricky business but when done well it reduces the number of heifers needed. I like to set a goal of less than a 10 percent non-completion rate, but rates as low as 5 percent are achievable. Here, you can see how increased success at getting heifers from the hutches to the parlor reduces the number of heifers needed by 7.5 percent and gives an estimated advantage of \$43.20/cow/year (60 x 1800 ÷ 2500 = \$43.20). Herd

Herd Size

Age at First Calving

Cull Rate

Non Completion Rate

Heifers to maintain herd size

A

2,500

24

30%

7%

803

B

2,500

24

30%

15%

863

0

0%

8%

60

Difference

It is worth noting that another implication of a quality heifer rearing program is its contribution to heifer growth and the ability to breed animals younger, thereby helping to drive down age at first calving.

Herd

Herd Size

Age at First Calving

Cull Rate

Non Completion Rate

Heifers to maintain herd size

A

2,500

24

24%

10%

660

B

2,500

24

38%

10%

1045

0

14%

0%

385

Difference

The building blocks of a low cull rate include cow health and reproduction; however a quality transition program is perhaps the single biggest factor in both cow health and subsequent fertility. A 21-day pregnancy rate approaching 30 percent is achievable and significantly reduces the number of cows that must be culled due to lack of pregnancy or low production. Often the road to that 30 percent pregnancy rate starts in the dry cow barn where quality transition management begins. The implications for a poor transition can’t be overstated, and perhaps the most tangible direct cost comes in the form of cows that enter the “culled” column due to death. Not only do these animals drive the need for replacements up, they also make no contribution to your checkbook. The reasons and remedies for high cull rates are too numerous to tackle in this article; however it is worth stopping to consider how much reducing your cull rate can impact your replacement needs and your bottom line.

Final Thoughts In an increasingly competitive industry, it is important to give yourself every advantage available. I would challenge you to plug your numbers in the formula and explore how much opportunity exists. The late great Zig Ziglar said, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” The hardest part is the first step and the first step is knowing where you stand. Your NorthStar team is willing and able to help you find your numbers and explore your opportunities. If you would like help, contact me or talk with your local NorthStar representative.

Doug Moyer, Director, DHI Services Contact Doug at: moyerd@northstarcooperative.com

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NorthStar Cooperative, Inc.

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Photos (top to bottom): Peak Louanne Byont 20009-ET (VG-85), Rock Hill Dairy LLC, Dexter, NM; Brubaker Farms Trenton 6415-Grade, Brubaker Farms, Mt. Joy, PA; Dunn-Brook Wsp Lisa Mae-ET (VG-87), Seldom Seen Genetics, Menomonie, WI. All bulls listed except PETRONE are eligible for semen export to Canada. CDCB/HA Genomic Evaluation 12-17 data. ®TPI is a registered trademark of Holstein Association USA. SS934-1217 Product of the USA.

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Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.

3

We all need a little help sometimes Kailey Watson

A

s a business owner you have a few “keys to success” stored in your mind’s library. Unfortunately, there is one key to operating a successful dairy that often gets tossed off the shelf – the willingness to ask for help. According to dairy producer Chris Osentoski, allowing others to help was the turning point in making his dairy more successful. “It’s not easy to admit that you need help making improvements on your farm,” explained Osentoski. “But looking at our herd’s progress today, I’m so glad I asked for help from my NorthStar team!” Utilizing NorthStar’s Dairy Herd Information (DHI) and genetic consulting (SMS) services for more than 10 years, the 280-cow Holstein herd has experienced progression in production and health, but felt some aspects of their reproduction program could be better. “Doing the breeding myself, it was really discouraging to see that cows weren’t getting pregnant,” admitted Osentoski. “I couldn’t understand why because I had a very aggressive approach, breeding any cow showing the slightest signs of heat.” “Understanding my frustration, Leigh [Franklin, NorthStar Sales Representative] put me in contact with Karmen [Loney, NorthStar Reproductive Solutions Specialist],” recalled Osentoski. “I was hesitant to reach out to her at first – mostly because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I could use some help.”

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After visiting the herd and reviewing their DHI and reproduction records, Loney determined that Osentoski had the necessary tools but needed help with a few finer details of the breeding process. Providing an A.I. refresher course was the first step in combatting Osentoski’s low pregnancy rate. “Karmen helped me expand my breeding techniques, which was a huge factor in improving our pregnancy rate,” claimed Osentoski. “Today, our pregnancy rate has reached 30 percent! That alone has increased our bottom line significantly.” Having doubled their pregnancy rate, the Cass City, Michigan herd also credits their bi-annual records

Looking at our herd's progress, I'm so glad I asked for help from my NorthStar team! analysis from NorthStar for increasing their profitability. “Though a lot of improvement in our reproduction program is due to the breeding techniques Karmen showed me, we have also gained a lot of knowledge about our herd from the analysis she provides,” explained Osentoski. “With these reports, we can see how well we’re doing in nearly every aspect of the dairy because they factor in all of our DHI data and other important information we track in PCDART. Our nutritionist also refers to these reports when determining if a ration change has positively or negatively impacted NorthStar Cooperative, Inc.

our herd’s reproduction.” “From the data in the reports, Karmen helped us determine that a presynch program could be beneficial for our reproduction program,” stated Osentoski. “We start with a shot of Lutalyse® at 45 DIM and two weeks later we give another shot. If we’re still not seeing signs of heat, we’ll get those cows started on Ovsynch. Once we had this program going we were able to make small tweaks to advance further, which has really helped our two-yearolds who weren’t getting pregnant. We also changed their VWP to 70, and we’ve been really happy with the results!” With continuous improvements in the herd’s reproduction program and the use of gender SELECTed® semen, now Osentoski’s biggest issue is finding housing for the dairy’s 300+ heifers. “We had to expand our heifer barn, and we’ll likely have to complete another expansion soon,” explained Osentoski. “It may seem like a pain some days, but it’s definitely a good problem to have!” As a professional in your industry, asking for help may sometimes feel like admitting defeat; however, Osentoski is proof that sometimes all we need is a little help. “The in-depth reports, along with refresher work on A.I. technique has strengthened our dairy’s bottom line by increasing our pregnancy rate and decreasing our semen expenses," said Ostentoski. "In today’s market, we’re all looking for ways to improve our herds – we can’t afford to not ask for help!”

You can make A2 milk, but should you?

J

Todd Byrem, Ph.D., Director, AntelBio | Contact Todd at: byremt@antelbio.com

udging by recent inquiries at NorthStar the story surrounding A2 milk must be reaching new heights. Questions such as; can we test our milk for A2, how can we transition our herd to A2 milk, and are there really beneficial health effects to drinking A2 milk are but a few we have fielded lately. Current science can only answer some of these questions; the rest, only time will tell. What is A2 Scientifically the term A2 refers to a specific variant of a milk protein called beta-casein, which makes up 30 percent of the total protein in milk. Overall, caseins, including alpha-, beta-, gammaand kappa-casein, are the major protein in milk, that after processing we enjoy as curds, on pizzas, and in the glue we ate in kindergarten. There are multiple forms of beta-casein, each unique due to a variation in the beta-casein gene, but the two most predominant in bovine milk are A1 and A2. Phylogenetic analysis has shown that the original beta-casein gene in bovines encoded the A2 form and that between 8,000-10,000 years ago a mutation resulted in the emergence of

the A1 form. Over time the A1 form has increased in frequency, particularly in Holsteins, until today where 60 percent of beta-casein in milk is A1 and 40 percent is A2. The mutation in the original A2 beta-casein gene resulted in a single amino acid substitution in the final protein. The result of this amino acid change is that upon digestion in humans, the A1 form releases a bioactive peptide (fragment). This bioactive peptide, if it escapes further digestion and is absorbed into the blood stream, can interact with our cells and affect their function. Identifying A1 & A2 in your herd The easiest and least costly way of determining if a single cow is producing the A1 or A2 protein or both is to run a genetic test on her DNA from hair, blood or tissue samples. Although there is a difference in the protein itself, the difference is so small that the cost of finding the difference in a milk assay is prohibitive. Either way, both DNA- and protein- based assays have been patented by The a2 Milk Company® and are available only through partnering laboratories that have licensed rights to the test

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(Neogen® GeneSeek® and UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory). With genetic testing, if the cow is homozygous A1/A1, she produces the A1 protein. If she is homozygous A2/ A2, she produces the A2 protein. If she is heterozygous, she produces both forms. The decision to transition a herd to A2 milk should be carefully considered. The entire A2 milk story is yet to be written as there are many uncertainties surrounding the health implications and future demand for it. In addition to patenting the tests for genotyping, The a2 Milk Company has trademarked “a2 Milk®,” which adds both significant complexity to the marketing and sales in this market. That said, the inheritance and production of beta-casein variants obey simple Mendelian genetics, so transitioning a herd to produce solely A2 milk is not complicated. Making an A2 herd There are many routes to breed for the production of A2 milk. A low-cost, passive route would be to select homozygous A2/A2 sires for mating. Elimination of the A1 gene Continued on next page

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Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.

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A2 Milk Continued in a herd using this route would take many generations. Although there are numerous A2/A2 sires available for selection, a strictly A2 lineup would be limited for the improvement in other traits that may have a more certain economic future (Net Merit, Productive Life, Wellness, etc) A more active and much costlier route would be to genomically test females and mate A2/A2 females with female-sorted A2/A2 sires for replacements. Coupled with IVF, a herd could eliminate the A1 gene in as little as two years. With the uncertainty in the direction of the market for A2 milk, the costlier, more aggressive route will carry greater risks for payoff. Final thoughts As with any deviation from the commercial norm, the return on investing in A2 breeding will depend on the success of this niche market. Clearly, the consumption of A1 milk and milk products is not solely detrimental to human health. As with any source of essential nutrients, the benefits of consuming today’s milk

products greatly, greatly exceed the risks. Similarly, there are no specific health benefits that can be ascribed solely to the consumption of A2 milk. There is scientific evidence that the digestion of A1 beta-casein, but not A2 beta-casein, produces a bioactive peptide that can alter cellular function in humans. However, our further digestion, absorption and reaction to the bioactive peptide is influenced by so many genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors that findings from population health studies are and will forever remain inconclusive. Still, there is nothing wrong with special branding of milk products. It would behoove the dairy industry to produce an array of products that can meet the demands of as many consumers as possible. In some people that have demonstrated an intolerance to milk consumption, A2 milk has fulfilled their desire to include milk products in their diet. Imagine fearing the consequences of a sundae – the horror! There is a market for A2 Milk, but science may have little to do with its eventual size and potential for US dairy producers.

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CowManager: a

trustworthy employee Kailey Watson

I

f your herd manager works 24 hours a day, seven days a week, never sleeps and consistently monitors your whole herd for signs of heat – stop reading, sit back in your favorite chair and kick your feet up! For everyone else, it’s time to learn more about the CowManager® herd health monitoring system. CowManager works as a valuable employee, alerting you when an animal is in heat or has a possible health issue. CowManager utilizes ear tags instead of pedometers or collars that competing systems use. The ear tags work as a double temperature sensor, while recording movements specific to eating, ruminating, walking and estrus. Through multi-view options, you can have access to CowManager’s valuable, minute-by-minute data from multiple computers and smart phones, allowing you to save costs on labor and ensuring your herd’s wellbeing. Many producers like Jim Slavik, have already entrusted their herd to CowManager. “After we lost our herdsman, we were stuck without the help and time needed to breed cows and administer shots for our Ovsynch program,” explained the Ashley, Michigan producer. “We interviewed a few individuals, but didn’t find the right person to fit our needs; all-the-while our pregnancy rate began to decrease.” In need of help with their reproductive program, the 180-cow Holstein herd installed CowManager in April 2017. “After talking to another dairy producer who was raving about the results, we decided it was time

to give it a try,” stated Slavik. “The installation was simple. We tagged 25 fresh cows that were within 45-60 DIM and after 10 days we started receiving valuable data, tracking heat cycles in our targeted fresh cows.” With CowManager’s fertility module, producers receive heat cycle alerts which provide insight on the optimal time for insemination, allowing for higher conception and pregnancy rates. “CowManager has improved my daily routine significantly, by freeing up the hours I used to spend checking the herd for signs of heat and administering Ovsynch shots,” explained Slavik. “My wife, son and I all receive alerts straight to our phones which tell us which animal is in heat and where in her heat cycle she is. The accuracy that CowManager has provided has allowed us to get rid of our Ovsynch program entirely. We now rely 100 percent on the systems data for tracking heats.” Trusting CowManager with the herd’s valuable heat information has paid off for the dairy, as they quickly experienced increased pregnancy rates. “The first pregnancy check we did after installing the system was a true testament to CowManager’s worth,” claimed Slavik. “My son Bryce, who is also our herd vet, was really impressed after the first palpation confirming 12 out of 14 pregnant. He said it had been a long time since he checked so many pregnant cows on our dairy.” “However, I was still a little skeptical since it was Spring, and our cows typically hold pregnancies better during

that time,” admitted Slavik. “But month after month we keep hitting it out of the ball park on our pregnancy check days. Since April, our pregnancy rate has increased by 9 percent and our conception rate is averaging 46 percent! In fact, now our worst month for pregnancies is still better than what we were averaging before installing CowManager.” With continuous improvements in their reproductive program, Slavik decided to install another router in the dairy’s heifer barn tagging 20 heifers in November. “We saved so much money with CowManager that it just made sense to install tags in our heifers as well,” explained Slavik. “We were wasting time and money on shots for our Ovsynch program, and when I sat down and did the math, the cost of installing CowManager was equivalent to one month of an employee’s salary. That’s a steal considering CowManager is the best herd manager I’ve ever employed!” “The service and support we get with CowManager has also been a great advantage,” stated Slavik. “Even though I’m not tech savvy, I honestly haven’t had trouble using this system." With an ever-increasing pregnancy rate and 24/7 heat detection information in the palm of his hand, Slavik believes he made the right decision by “hiring” CowManager. “This program has already proved its worth and has provided all of the advantages it promised,” stated Slavik. “I’m definitely not disappointed!”

Enhancing producer profitability through integrated services.

7

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Talk to your DHI Specialist or call 800.631.3510 to learn more. gender SELECTed is a trademark of Select Sires Inc. SexedULTRA is a trademark of Inguran LLC. All gender SELECTed semen is processed using Sexed ULTRA technology. Limitations and Conditions of Sale: gender SELECTed semen shall be used only for the single insemination of one female bovine during natural ovulation with the intent to produce single offspring unless specifically approved on an individual customer basis by Sexing Technologies in writing. As a condition of purchasing gender SELECTed semen, the purchaser agrees that gender SELECTed semen will not be reverse sorted or re-sorted unless specifically permitted, in advance, on a case-by-case basis by Select Sires in writing. Select Sires intends to monitor the use of the gender SELECTed semen and vigorously enforce these restrictions on use. Please see http://www.selectsires.com/ designations/genderselected.html for additional details. NorthStar Cooperative, its agents or employees cannot and do not guarantee the conception rate, gender, quality or productivity to be obtained in connection with the use of its products, recommended techniques or services. WE MAKE NO WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, WHICH EXTEND BEYOND THE DESCRIPTION OF ITS PRODUCTS OR SERVICES AND HEREBY DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. In the unlikely event that any of our products or services shall be proven to be defective, damages resulting from their use shall exclude consequential damages and be limited to their purchase price.

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The Point - March 2018
The Point - March 2018