Semex’s Reproductive Link SUMMER 2012
In this issue: HR-Tag® At Paul Frost Farm, LLC: Getting Semen In The Right Cows Your Cows Want To Be Cool This Summer Heat Detection Systems Can Reduce Days Open By 27 Days Semex Sponsors World Dairy Expo Virtual Farm Tour
Getting Semen In Cows At The Right Time
Jake Kempel, Semex Partner Development Manager
The Paul Frost Farm, LLC is a progressive family farm owned by Paul and Greta Frost near the southeastern Wisconsin town of Waterford. The Frosts began farming on their own in the mid 1970’s, and started their dairy in 1988 with 40 cows in a stanchion barn. By 1995 they were milking 120 cows in two barns. Just a year later, the Frosts underwent their first major expansion as their children expressed interest in the dairy, building a new freestall barn with a double eight parlor that accommodated 200 cows. In 1998 they added a second freestall barn, bumping cow capacity to 450 and making the parlor a double 12. The most recent addition was completed in 2000, increasing cow capacity to 600 cows for this 1500-acre farm. This family operation consists of owners Paul and Greta Frost, and sons Spencer (wife Heidi, children Gus and Maggie) and Stewart (fiancé Shannon). Their herdsman, Jimmy Lang, is also a key component to this operation’s success. Truly a team effort, Spencer manages the farm finances, Stewart manages the crops and the dairy and Jim is the cowman, in charge of reproduction and cow care. Along with Paul, this group operates as a team, helping each other out and covering the daily farm work. Stewart has always been open to trying new things and technologies in order to increase efficiency and profitability. In 2009, he and Jimmy identified that their reproduction program of full tail chalking was not as effective as they needed it to be, and moved to a G6G/Ovsynch program with tail chalking and some resynchronization for repeat breeders. This protocol brought along its own challenges and with it the Frosts realized that they needed to reduce the time their cows spent in headlocks and move them more quickly through the breeding pens in order to make room for the next wave of
cows needing to be serviced. Also, the Frosts saw that administering shots in the pens and parlors was disturbing the cows, and they also wanted to reduce hormone shots and the labor involved in their reproduction program. Activity monitoring was interesting to Stewart as it answered these needs, and after visiting a neighboring Semex ai24™ customer with Semex Genetic Consultant Gale Shelbourn and me in April 2011, Stewart decided to put the ai24™ SCR-H-tag technology to work. A year later, herdsman Jimmy shared some key areas where ai24™ has helped his daily routine. “I no longer have to chalk cows and guess who is in heat. I am now able to dedicate a lot more time to areas that would have required another person before.” “It takes me about 20 minutes in the morning and afternoon to check the list of who needs to be bred, see if the time is right yet and place semen in the cows that need it,” Jimmy says. “We are breeding twice a day to get more semen in cows at the right time, maximizing conception rates.” According to Stewart, the dairy has reduced hormone shots and related expenses. “We have reduced our hormone shots per cow from five to one and a half since installing ai24™. We are still using a pre-sych to help clean cows out and get them cycling sooner. We have also reduced hormone shot labor by one and a half hours per day, five days a week. This has really opened up our mornings to be spent on fresh cows or outside the barns on the crops.” Reducing pen disturbance and lockup time due to chalking and hormone injections allows for the Holsteins at Frost Farms to increase both their dry matter intake and the time they spend lying down, helping them produce more milk which means
more profit at Frost Farms. “We have been able to increase the speed at which we get cows pregnant while reducing semen usage and checking a lot less open cows at herd check,” says Stewart. “Looking ahead, the number of animals due to calve every month is higher than it has ever been!” In the 10 months before they installed ai24™ the Frosts had conception rates of 34% (first service) and 28% (second service) with their G6G program. At this time, services per conception (SPC) was 3.2 and they bred 986 cows, producing 310 pregnancies. Milking the same number of cows in the 10 months following installation, conception rates Stewart Frost with Semex Partner rose to 36% (first Development Manager, Jake Kempel service) and 36% (second service) while SPC dropped to 3.0 and they bred 1,085 cows, producing 357 pregnancies. That’s an impressive 47 more pregnancies attained with ai24™ than with their G6G program.
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Just like on the dairy, every dose counts at Semex. We work hard to ensure that each and every dose stamped with the 200 stud code is the very best product available, from the bull to the farm tank. Semex’s focused and dedicated staff prides itself on exceeding industry standards for sire care, laboratory, warehouse and transportation services. This commitment to excellence and belief that every dose counts, guarantees that Semex sires are the most reliable, fertile and profitable choice for dairymen everywhere.
Focus on Fertility Call (877) 545-ai24 or visit www.semex.com
YOUR COWS WANT TO BE COOL THIS SUMMER Mark Carson, MSc. BSc. (Agr)., EastGen Reproductive Specialist
Cows like it cool and they’re most comfortable and perform best when the air temperature is below 68°F. When temperatures get above 68°F for extended periods of time, a cow’s hormone levels change, altering her behavior and decreasing her ability to get pregnant. Heat and its partner humidity, coupled with other factors in the late summer months, such as new forages entering the rations and less time to work with cows, make summer the most challenging time for producers to get their cows in calf. To keep pregnancy rates up during the summer months, focus on ways to maintain both insemination and conception rates. One obvious way is to cool your cows. There are a variety of barn designs, fan makes and sprinklers systems that can help accomplish this goal. But, even the barns with the best cooling systems can still have cows that experience heat stress, making it necessary to deploy other strategies. Keeping transition cows cool and comfortable is key to your reproductive program. As the most important group in your breeding program, you know that a cow that goes through a positive transition has an increased chance of getting pregnant. Successful transition cow programs keep dry matter intake (DMI) up in both the pre and post calving stages. During the summer months, this becomes even more important as the spoilage accompanying rising temperatures causes the ration’s palatability to drop. To help combat this, you may want to consider delivering rations more than once a day, controlling DMI and reducing spoilage. Also, the common practice of delivering dry cow rations every other day is not recommended during the summer months, as the ration’s palatability will drop on day two. Reducing spoilage and cooling the cows at the bunk will help ensure the DMI stays up and that the cows keep ruminating. Calving ease sires should be looked at more closely for those cows, and especially your heifers scheduled to calve during the summer months. Carefully choosing these ideal mating sires in October and November will help your herd get off to the best start possible as they enter the milking line, the transition period and it will put them in good shape to breed 60 days later. Also, combat uterine infections by making sure calving areas are kept clean. Bacteria grow faster in summer temperatures, and infections such as metritis can quickly lower your cows’ future fertility. Measuring the influence of summer stressors on your cows’ health and reproductive performance is important. A great practice is to measure the following diseases year round and then see if there’s an increase in the warmer months: retained placenta, ketosis, displaced abomasum, metritis and mastitis. Another simple way to assess your reproductive program’s effectiveness during the summer months is to look at first service conception rates
by month fresh. This figure gives you a rough estimate of how well your cows that freshened in the summer faired when it came time to breed them. Chances are, if your herd is having first service conception problems in fall months (see Figure 1), it can be linked back to transition cow issues during the summer months. Heat detection is one of the more common challenges that summer temperatures present. When cows are heat stressed they show fewer visible heat signs, with some cows having silent heats and others not cycling at all. This results in a drop in insemination rates. The best way to assess your herd’s heat detection rate in the summer is to monitor the 21-day insemination rate, making sure it does not drop as temperatures increase. Setting a goal to maintain a herd insemination rate of 60% during the summer months will help ensure that no open cows slip through the cracks. No matter what is happening in the field and elsewhere during the summer months it is very important to maintain regular herd health checks, identifying open cows and taking action to get them pregnant. Not staying on top of your open cows during the summer months will certainly have a negative impact on your days in milk in the fall and winter months. A good idea to help you find those cows you are not seeing in heat is to discuss possible Timed A.I. (TAI) or electronic heat detection systems with your veterinarian, as these systems will help you find cows you are missing. Herds already using a mix of heat detection and TAI for cows that haven’t shown any signs of estrous don’t normally see their insemination rates drop during the summer months. However, for these herds a number worth checking is the ratio of visual and/or activity monitoring breedings versus TAI breedings by month. Most herds see some degree of increased TAI during the summer months and in some cases this shift can be striking. For example, a herd that normally breeds 25% TAI during the winter months may suddenly notice TAI breedings jump to 50% in the summer months. If your herd has a dramatic increase in TAI usage during the summer it could be a sign that your cows are heat stressed, and it may be worth investing in more cooling equipment. Keeping pregnancy rates up during times of heat stress involves more than just cooling cows. Do the following to help ensure your herd’s reproduction doesn’t fall behind this summer: 1. Keep conception rates up through the summer and fall by keeping DMI intake up, especially with your transition cows. 2. Pay extra attention to calving eases when choosing mating sires on your heifers in October and November, this will help facilitate better transitions in the summer months. 3. Monitor insemination rates to make sure they don’t slip when temperatures rise, and watch to see what breeding tools are being used during the summer.
Herd: All Lactating Cows
Fresh in May•1st Breeding July
Fresh in June•1st Breeding August
Fresh in July•1st Breeding September
Fresh in August•1st Breeding October
Fresh in Sept•1st Breeding November
Fresh in October•1st Breeding December
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With an April 2011 installation, the ai24™ results include the warmer summer months and also the month of October which, historically, is their biggest breeding month. Using the month of October as a benchmark, the reproduction gains seen with ai24™ are obvious: • October 2009 (heavy tail chalking program): 29% first service conception rate and 4.6 SPC • October 2010 (G6G program): 42% first service conception rate and 2.6 SPC • October 2011 (ai24™ system): 48% first service conception rate and 2.3 SPC The Frosts were running a very good synchronization program before they installed ai24™ and they were very excited to see these gains. In this same time period, they have also reduced the calving interval from 13.3 to 12.8 months, dropped days in milk from 172 to 152 days and had their days open be as low as 115 days. With savings also seen in areas such as hormones, labor, supplies, semen usage and lock up times, Stewart estimates the system will be paid for in two years. Although he quickly adds that a fair amount of this payback was already seen within his first 10 months of installing ai24™! The Frosts speak highly of their Semex representative Gale Shelbourn, appreciating his knowledge, service and dedication, with Jimmy stating that Gale goes out of his way to take care of them. We’re part of the team at Frosts, and I perform herd walk throughs, help monitor reproduction and enjoy sitting down with both Gale and Stewart, bouncing ideas off of each other.
The team at Paul Frost Farm LLC (l to r): Jimmy Lang, Spencer Frost, Stewart Frost and Paul Frost
“I no longer have to chalk cows and guess who is in heat. I am now able to dedicate a lot more time to areas that would have required another person before.” A recent study completed by the University of Guelph found that activity monitoring systems can help reduce days open by
UP TO 27 DAYS
in some herd management systems. This is accomplished by simply increasing the insemination rate in the herd. Activity monitoring systems such as Semex’s ai24™ have seen tremendous growth in recent years, helping to reduce days open by assisting the dairymen in getting cows pregnant more quickly. Some cows show heat for as little as six hours, making the ai24™ technology valuable as it works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A recent study completed by the University of Guelph found that activity monitoring systems can help reduce days open by up to 27 days in some herd management systems. This is accomplished by simply increasing the insemination rate in the herd. One of the ways activity monitoring systems help to
increase insemination rates is by helping to lower the days between first and second services for cows that did not get pregnant on first service. Two of the three herds in the University of Guelph study were able to rebreed open cows up to 7 to 10 days faster than cows bred in a predominately timed A.I. based system. Also, herds that maximize activity monitoring systems find more than just cows in heat, they’re also able to manage the herd’s health through the activity tool. This tool helps to identify the cows that are not cycling, but also those have not exhibited their typical movements, allowing dairymen to take action more quickly.
SEMEX SPONSORS WDE VIRTUAL FARM TOUR Since 2001, World Dairy Expo’s Virtual Farm Tours have become a producer favorite, allowing them to visit a variety of dairies from around the U.S. without leaving the show. Presented free of charge each day during the show, the 2012 Virtual Farm Tours will focus on a variety of management topics including optimizing nutrition, environmental stewardship, mating decisions, financial management, unique marketing, automation, expansion and milk quality. Semex’s Virtual Farm Tour is slated for Wednesday, October 3 at noon and features Golden Oaks Farms of Wauconda, Illinois. The Golden Oaks Farm was started in 1948 by the Crown Family of Chicago and since then, has grown to a 720-cow herd with a rolling herd average of 27,965 pounds. Located just 45 minutes from Chicago, Golden Oaks goes above and beyond to partner with their urban neighbors. In recent years, they have worked hard to positively respond to growing concerns for the rapidly encroaching urban community. In response, Golden Oaks recently established Midwest
Organic Recycling, a composting site that mixes farm and compost waste, turning it into compost. This vibrant business helps to provide the community with a positive perception of dairy farming and its practices. Additionally, last fall the cows at Golden Oaks were outfitted with the ai24™ SCR HR-Tags™. These tags measures cow movement, providing valuable information for both heat detection and rumination. In return, Golden Oaks is able to identify sick cows more quickly, utilizing a more natural approach to heat detection. Golden Oaks was honored in 2010 with the Illinois Environmental Stewardship Award and has received numerous recognitions for their herd’s superior genetics. ai24™’s SCR HR-Tag™ is a revolutionary technology that combines rumination, incredibly accurate heat detection and cow identification functionality in one unit, giving dairymen a tool to monitor their cows 24 hours a day. This technology changes the way dairymen manage and interact with their herd, providing value through reduced days open, early detection of health problems, increased pregnancy rates and much more For more information on all of the WDE Virtual Farm Tours visit www.world-dairy-expo.com.
BEAT THE SUMMER HEAT
Semex Genetic Consultants work hard to find the right solutions to reduce summer heat stress on your dairy including these products and services:
Semex researchers have developed Repromix™, a pooled semen product combining three high fertility sires into one powerful “cocktail.” Each one of the three sires in a straw of Repromix™ is proven to have high fertility and high overall semen quality. Our Repromax™ sires are ones proven to be high fertility sires, with no genetic sacrifices.
Semex Fertility Calculator
Your Semex Genetic Consultant will collect herd conception data and goals to prepare a customized report showing the value of using Semex sires in your breeding program.
Contact your Semex Genetic Consultant to incorporate the right solutions into your breeding program.
2866 Agriculture Drive, Madison, WI 53718 1-877-545-ai24