Dairy research looks at reproductive benchmarks

SOUTH DAKOTA - Research published in the latest issue of the Journal of Dairy Science looks at the effect of management practices on reproductive performance of dairy cattle.
calendar icon 18 December 2006
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South Dakota State University Extension Dairy Specialist Alvaro Garcia said the University of Wisconsin research could be helpful to South Dakota producers.

“The greatest overall difficulty faced by dairy producers was to find good employees, and once identified, to be able to train them adequately,” Garcia said. “These findings are consistent with issues faced by herds undergoing expansion in South Dakota. Dairy Extension programs addressing hiring, managing and training employees, particularly in aspects dealing with milk quality and mastitis control, are currently in demand.”

The most critical animal health concerns identified in the Wisconsin study were mastitis, hairy heel warts, lameness, abortions, death losses, Johne’s disease, and ketosis. These herds, which averaged 613 cows, were continuously expanding, with plans to increase the number of milking cows by more than 50 percent in the next five years.

The average production on these farms was 76 pounds per cow per day, with an annual culling rate of 34 percent and a calving interval of 13.8 months.

In the Wisconsin trial, the sire was not identified in over 60 percent of the animals that were purchased over the past five years, which makes it very difficult to assess their future genetic potential. Reproductive success is critical for farms that want to grow from within. Reproductive failure as a result of unsuccessful breeding programs will increase the need to rely on purchased replacements with all its associated disease risks. Among the reproductive problems that the producers identified were artificial insemination (AI) service rate, conception rate, twinning, and retained placenta or metritis.

Heat detection has been consistently identified as one of the problems that lead to poor reproductive performance. Producers who participated of this survey recognized that although cows were observed for estrus three times a day, this was done while performing other chores.

“Not concentrating exclusively on heat detection may result in missed opportunities and extended calving intervals,” Garcia said.

Nearly all farms used a voluntary waiting period of just over 50 days post-calving, both for primiparous and multiparous cows before starting to inseminate. Of all the herds in the study 87 percent used hormonal synchronization or timed artificial insemination programs, 86 percent synchronized first services, 77 percent re-synchronized repeat services, and 59 percent treated cows for cysts, anestrous, or anovulation.

This study could be used to provide benchmarks of commonly used management practices on commercial dairies of similar size that are currently undergoing expansion in South Dakota, Garcia said.

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