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Semex’s Reproductive Link FA L L 2 0 1 1

In this issue: ai24™ Getting More Pregnancies at Majestic View Dairy LLC Activity Monitoring System Researcher, ‘This is the right way’ Analyzing Semen Key To High Fertility & Quality More Heifers = More Profit With SEMEXX™

ai24™: Getting More Pregnancies At Majestic-View

Brenda Lee-Turner, Semex Marketing Communications Specialist Sarah Johnsen and Amanda Abing say the decision to install ai24™ on their 900-cow Majestic-View Dairy LLC was based on longterm savings.

“It (ai24™) just tells you who to breed,” says Amanda. “We didn’t have trouble breeding them before… It was finding them.”

Working side-by-side together as herdsmen on this family-run, 900-cow dairy for three years, these sisters know their dairying. Growing up they both were integral parts of the operation, caring for calves and covering milkings. After attending technical colleges to beef up their dairy knowledge and experience, they eventually came back to work together on the dairy their parents, Ron and Terri Abing, own in partnership with John Haskins.

The ai24™ system utilizes infrared technology to collect activity information on the cows in the herd to determine normal activity levels. Once this base has been established, the control unit identifies cows that are displaying above average or below average activity.

With 16 fulltime and 16 part-time employees, 1500 acres of corn and 1000 acres of alfalfa to manage, this dairy has to be efficient. Semex Representatives Chris Sheahan and Dan Ambort were the first to approach them about the advantages of the ai24™’s heat detection system. “We did the math on the savings and presented it to the family,” says Amanda. “Then we visited Cam-Kal-Car Dairy in Browntown, WI, and our parents agreed.” Since installing ai24™ in January 2010, the dairy has realized very real savings. “Our expectation was to cut back on shots,” says Sarah. “And we had already gone to tail chalking instead of the 100% shot protocol the previous herdsman had been using.” “Now, we’re saving $17,000 a year,” says Amanda. “We’ve gone from 50% shots down to 25%.” “And, we eliminated one AI technician all together this year,” adds Sarah. “This (ai24™) really takes the thought out of breeding. And, we can actually take a day off now! The breeder just goes to the printer and uses the list. It’s so reliable.”


More than just counting steps, the ai24™ tag calculates movement intensity including rubbing between cows, body movements and unusual behavior like additional head and neck movements that are also indicators of estrus. The information is recorded and monitored in the neck tag placed on the cow every two hours and stored for 24 hours.

at 62% pregnant and 12% open after 150 days – the number of pregnancies has gone up. Because of that and the new sand bedding, we’ve been able to sell cows and get more income.” “People ask us about getting rid of shots and debate other systems out there,” Amanda says. “SCR (manufacturer) convinced us that it’s the better system and they’re always working with us. The support we get from SCR, Micro and Semex is hard to beat, and we know the battery life is 7-10 years. I wouldn’t want to try anything else.” “Once this system is paid off, it’s paid off,” says Sarah. “You don’t have to keep buying it – it will save us $17,000 or more every year.”

Sarah adds, “We tell people to look into your bills. What does it Sarah Johnsen and Amanda Abing, cost you for CIDRs, and re-synch? Majestic View Dairy LLC, Lancaster, WI And then, what will it save you to get them pregnant sooner and have more replacements. We did that. We When the cow passes under the ID station, know this system works.” during each of the three milking shifts at Majestic-View, the tag is triggered to send the data back to the control box.

This information is available for the dairy to view in a graphical display for up to 60 days, showing the user the cow’s behavior in the last two cycles. THE RESULTS Besides their financial returns, these sisters have seen increases in their reproduction records. “During a six month time frame we increased our pregnancy rate by 4%,” commented Sarah. “Our conception rate hasn’t changed a lot, but we’re getting more cows pregnant. We’ve been

With the ai24™ system, new protocols and sand bedding, the Majestic-View cows have never been healthier or the dairy more efficient. In fact, this dairy has become so efficient that Amanda has taken a job as a herdsman at another dairy, reducing the labor at MajesticView even further. Part-time herdsman Nicki Wetter is moving into a fulltime role working with Sarah. “I’m not going to miss her too much,” jokes Sarah. “Now we can actually have the same days off and compare notes between the dairies!”

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

Activity monitoring system researcher: ‘This is the right way’ Reprinted With Permission From Progressive Dairyman • By Progressive Dairyman Editor Dario Martinez The use of activity monitoring systems on dairies across the globe has broadened over the past 25 years, beginning with the use of pedometers and gradually expanding to allow the introduction of systems that focus solely on heat detection in dairy cattle. SCR Engineers, a privately held company based in Israel, first began exploring activity monitoring systems 10 years ago. They now license a specific heat activity monitoring system for sale through two partners in the U.S., focusing on large and medium-size dairies.

Bar started working in the dairy industry as a dairy manager and then decided to learn more about cows, so he traveled to Switzerland to study veterinary medicine. In 2004, he pursued a doctorate from Cornell University that focused on the cost of mastitis for dairy producers. Upon completion of his doctorate, Bar returned to Israel and joined the team of researchers at SCR.

Heatime R Tag

Bar explains that the current heat detection activity monitoring system, the Heatime R Tag, is very Doron Bar, chief scientist at SCR and a widely different from the device that was first developed. respected global activity monitoring system However, he states that the first system had researcher, says the company first started to create already integrated key, innovative ideas such as electronic identification devices with activity meters the two-hour interval period in the tag’s memory. one decade ago. At first, the devices focused on “This tag does not just average the activity milk flow, like pulsators, and then transitioned between readings, but instead recalls the to products like the free-flow optic milk meters information per hour,” Bar says. “It is like a marketed and sold worldwide today. minicomputer inside of the tag.” “We are always interested in looking for In 2004, SCR developed the three-dimensional information about cows and trying to help these accelerometer for the tag, which is the actual cows become healthier and have better fertility,” measuring device or meter. Accelerometers are Bar says.

How the system works The Heatime R Tag is basically a collar tag that monitors individual cows’ activity levels and the intensity of that activity. Depending on the activity recorded for an individual cow, the system will trigger and inform the producer when the cow is in heat. The producer can also pull up the records from that cow and even see graphs that detail the cow’s past activity. When the heat activity meter is used solely as a stand-alone system, the user can pull up two main lists of cows. One list will consist of cows that are recommended for insemination due to high activity, while the other list includes cows that may need to be checked because they have been flagged as being possibly sick. The system collects individual cow records that can be analyzed on a herd level. The cows’ tags are read each time they come near a reader, which can be installed in many places on a dairy, including around water troughs or at milking parlor entrances and exits. When the tag is read, 22 to 24 hours of information is sent from the reader to a terminal where the information can then be analyzed. The information is presented in a two-hour interval activity index. “Even if the tags are read two, three or 10 times a day, you always have the same information,” Bar says.

Accelerometers vs. pedometers Bar says that the way his collar system stands apart from others, such as simple pedometers, lies in its ability to detect activity in a detailed way. He explains that, in contrast to pedometers, his activity meters can be programmed to pick up specific movements.

becoming an industry standard and are used in a wide variety of applications, including smartphones. Most smartphones today use accelerometer technology, one of which is the phone’s tilt sensor. Accelerometers are responsible for automatically detecting and changing from a vertical to horizontal position or vice versa when the phone rotates. In the beginning, the Heatime system was part of a complete herd management system that included other electronic monitoring features. Then, researchers started to analyze exactly how the cows’ movements were related to estrus behavior. The system became predictive enough of estrus behavior that SCR then decided to create a separate system that would just serve the purpose of heat detection. “For example, a cow low in estrogen or even a cow that, judging by her progesterone levels, should be in heat will show very low heat activity,” Bar says. “If a cow does express estrus and is also ovulating, then we see very strong heat activity from her in the system.”

Understanding how his activity monitoring system works lies in understanding that a cow’s activity is measured, not counted. For example, if there are three cows going to a milking parlor where one cow is in heat, one is sick and one is normal, all three will most likely show the same amount of activity, in terms of number of steps. The cow in heat may even show less activity, in terms of steps, because she could be jumping and running.

of exposure to outside elements like sunlight and humidity. It also had to be strong enough to withstand rough conditions and remain intact, like being bumped around or getting stuck in headlocks.

“I won’t blame anyone for using pedometers on a dairy,” Bar says. “If the dairy has a very strict routine set in place, it can work excellently, and it’s simple.”

when compared to countries in Europe and the Middle East, Bar says. Within a span of 2.5 years, this system quickly grew in popularity in England, accounting for its use in 30 percent of the breeding protocols used on dairies.

“All of these factors led to quite a long time on the development side of the tag,” Bar says.

His monitoring device has a six year guarantee but has been reported to last up to eight years. With accelerometer technology, you are not simply Bar believes that another major challenge to measuring the cow’s movement and activity, but introducing these systems in the U.S. is convincing also the intensity of the activity, Bar says. The sick producers to change how they have been cow will show a low activity index because she managing their reproductive programs. He asserts has fewer movements that are less intense. that his heat activity monitoring system is a good alternative to heat detection protocols currently However, Bar does believe pedometers can in place on many U.S. dairies, such as visual function well as activity monitoring systems, observation and timed-A.I. breeding programs. especially when it comes to heat detection, because pedometers have 25 years of product Current trends demonstrate that the U.S. is still development behind them. not taking full advantage of these types of tools,

Challenges One challenge faced by activity monitoring systems today is streamlining the flow of information, making sure it’s not too much information and making the software easy to manage.

“Dairy producers understand that this is worth looking into,” Bar says.“I’m sure that this is the right way to go, because that’s the way we breed cows in our country and in other countries with great success. There’s no reason it won’t also succeed in the U.S.”

“We have a lot of farmers in our company, so Currently, SCR distributes the Heatime R Tag everything we do is oriented to make this system a to more than 1 million cows on approximately useful tool – not a complicated procedure,” Bar says. 8,000 farms all over the world through its global partners, including Semex and Micro Dairy Logic Bar explains that creating durable materials to in the U.S. house the tag was one of the main challenges throughout the product’s development. The outer housing of the tag needed to last through years

Analyzing semen Key to high fertility & quality Patrick Blondin, PhD, Director of Research & Development, L’Alliance Boviteq

Semex’s R&D Adds CASA To Its Aresenal Semex believes one of the keys to ensuring 200 code semen is of the highest quality and fertility possible is by developing better semen analysis tools. At many AI centers, microscopes are used to analyze semen. These evaluations, unfortunately, are not always objective with variations of up to 60% reported in the literature. Semex has taken semen analysis to the next level by investing in a more advanced tool, the Computer-Assisted Sperm Analysis (CASA) system. CASA is a powerful tool that provides an objective analysis of sperm motility and quality. This technology utilizes a microscope, a digital camera to capture images and specialized software that analyzes the semen’s movements.

HOW DOES IT WORK? One of the most important characteristics analyzed before semen is released to the field is the sperm’s ability to travel up the female reproductive tract after insemination. This is commonly called the sperm’s motility. These motility tests are conducted post-thaw and are commonly considered the measurement of choice when determining if semen has been damaged in the freezing process. The essential principle behind CASA is that it takes a successive series of digital pictures of the sperm, utilizes computer software algorithms to scan the images, identifies individual sperm and then traces their motility. This gives a view of how well sperm can travel in the desirable straight line.

FERTILITY ASSESSMENT It has been shown in scientific literature that CASA can be used to assess semen fertility. There is a well-established positive correlation between semen motility and fertility, with semen that has high motility (movement) being more fertile than those with lower motility. CASA improves the accuracy of this data collection, and avoids any errors due to subjective evaluation by different technicians. This makes CASA an extremely powerful tool for predicting fertility.

CASA AT SEMEX Semex’s R&D partner, L’Alliance Boviteq, has developed strong expertise in frozen-thawed semen analysis with this CASA technology. They have analyzed a large semen bank with CASA, and correlated these results to field fertility data. This has helped establish cut-off values that allow for an incredibly accurate quality and fertility assessment. This expertise has been transferred to Semex’s AI centers, which are all now equipped with the CASA technology.


WHAT DOES IT DO? CASA is able to also breakdown a sperm’s trajectory, or movements, into multiple motility parameters, scoring the semen sample on these results. This gives the semen motility a more objective numerical evaluation, and provides Semex with the information needed to determine if the semen is of good quality, or if it should be discarded before it is ever sent to the field. The parameters typically collected using CASA systems are velocity (speed), linearity (straightness of path) and lateral displacement of sperm as they progress along their paths. Each of these parameters give specific information regarding the sperm, and thus can be correlated to its potential field fertility. To get this information, the software detects the motile/immotile sperm automatically, performs an accurate count and accordingly provides the concentration, percentage of motility and velocity results.

TOTAL & PROGRESSIVE MOTILITY EVALUATION The percentage of total motility and progressive motility are the most important motility parameters in the evaluation. Total motility refers to the fraction of sperm that display any type of movement. A sperm that swims forward in essentially a straight line is desirable; this is called progressively motile. Sperm that swim in abnormal paths, such as tight circles, are called non-progressively motile sperm and are undesirable.




SEMEX GOLD STANDARD The cut-off values used to assess frozen semen quality are now part of Semex’s quality control and the Semex Gold Standard. CASA’s integration within Semex is one of a multi-step plan in the Semex Gold Standard, leading to the Semex product’s standardization worldwide. This will further ensure quality and fertility of code 200 semen for Semex’s clients through the production and distribution chains. Also, as part of Semex’s Gold Standard, Boviteq is transferring new, innovative tools to Semex’s AI centers. Because motility alone does not determine fertility, we are integrating other tools that conduct even better cellular diagnostics. One tool that Boviteq has developed intensively is Flow Cytometry. As seen in the figure above, Flow Cytometry, like CASA, gives lab technicians better objective analyses, and therefore more precise quality control testing. CASA and Flow Cytometry do not analyze the same parameters and thus, when done simultaneously, can give a more complete fertility analysis.

MORE HEIFERS = MORE PROFIT WITH SEMEXX™ Tom Kroetsch, Semex Director, Production and Quality Control

Figure 1 at below illustrates fertility as a Non-Return Rate (NRR) of SEMEXX™ sexed and Semex conventional semen from the same bulls used over the same period of time based on special CDN reports. These CDN reports show SEMEXX™ to be at 53.9% and conventional semen at 72.3% NRR. It’s well-known that the fertility of all sexed semen is below that of conventional semen. Therefore, a term has been developed within the sexed semen industry to describe this relationship between sexed and conventional fertility. This term is called ‘percent of conventional’, meaning this figure describes the sexed semen fertiliy as a percentage of conventional semen by the same bulls.

In 2004, the Semex Alliance’s research and development arm, L’Alliance Boviteq, purchased their first semen sexing machine. Since then, Boviteq’s team of scientists have worked hard to ensure that Semex’s sexed semen product, SEMEXX™, is among the very best on the market. Recent data released by the Canadian Dairy Network (CDN) underscores this commitment, showing that producers looking to capitalize on gender-sorted semen can trust the Semex’s code 777 SEMEXX™ product to accurately deliver more heifer calves and increase their profitability.

When looking at a ‘percent of conventional’ value, over 70% is considered acceptable for sexed semen fertility.

The performance of sex sorted semen is measured by two parameters: 1. Fertility

The SEMEXX™ product has continued to show steady improvement in this area, surpassing the acceptable recommendation of 70%. As shown in Figure 1 Semex’s SEMEXX™ product has achieved 74.6% ‘percent of conventional’ in Canada. In Figure 2, SEMEXX™ users can remain confident in their choice of 777 semen, as it is proven to deliver over 40% more heifers than the conventional semen! And at 93.2% females SEMEXX™ is well above the expected 90% industry standard.

2. Percent of calves born of the desired sex Semex’s SEMEXX™ sexed semen product has proven to be an outstanding success based on both of these measures.

FIGURE 2: Sex of Holstein Calves (%) obtained with FIGURE 2: FIGURE 1: conventional semen SemexxTMCalves (%) obtained with Sexand of Holstein SemexxTM vs Conventional Semen Fertility - Holstein FIGUREHeifers 1: CANADIAN DAIRY NETWORK – JULY 2011 Semen Fertility - Holstein100% %and SemexxTM TM conventional semen vs Conventional Heifers Semexx

20% 0%


% % 53.972.3



40% 20%

Conventional 0%

Sexed % of Conv Conventional Sexed

80% 60% 40% 20% 0%

% of Conv


100% 80%


% 50.36 49.6460% % 49.64% 50.36 Percentage







Non-Return Rate (%)

Non-Return Rate (%)




40% 20%

male 0% female female male female conventional sexed conventional

Now Offering Much More Than Just Heat Detection

2866 Agriculture Drive, Madison, WI 53718 1-877-545-ai24

Ask your Semex Representative today about the new ai24™ SCR HR-Tag™, a one-of-a-kind technology that combines rumination, heat detection and cow identification in one unit!

female sexed

Semex's Reproductive Link September 2011  

The ai24™ newsletter brings additional reproductive information to Semex's customers – improving their profitability and results through bot...

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