Inefficiency in Reproduction Eats at Profits

US - Now that many producers are unable to utilize rBST, maximizing the dairy operation's reproductive efficiency is more critical than ever, said a Purdue University expert.
calendar icon 22 October 2008
clock icon 2 minute read

Allen Bridges, expert in reproductive management, said with the loss of recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) - which increased milk production by 10 percent to 15 percent, and, in some cases, was demonstrated to increase fertility in lactating cows - producers are again struggling with reproductive efficiency in their herds.

"When the calving interval is extended to 18 months, that's a loss of $128 per cow."
Allen Bridges

Bridges said that milk production efficiency is at its best when dairy producers have a 13-month calving interval and anything beyond will have costs associated with it.

"When the calving interval is extended from 13 months to 16 months, that means a loss of at least $80 per cow," Bridges said. "When the calving interval is extended to 18 months, that's a loss of $128 per cow."

Bridges said that the basics to cow management are paramount for reproductive success. Providing adequate nutrition, minimizing the number of cows that have not reinitiated estrous cycles after calving, maximizing cow comfort and maintaining good herd health are essential, he said.

Other tools available to improve reproductive efficiency include estrous synchronization and timed artificial insemination. More information about these technologies is available online at

Timed artificial insemination is designed to precisely control ovulation rather than just estrous expression, which is sometimes hard to detect or, even when signs are shown, farm employees aren't around. Timed artificial insemination allows females to be inseminated at a predetermined time in the absence of estrous detection. One such program widely used in the dairy industry is called Ovsynch.

"When using a timed AI program such as Ovsynch compared to just estrous detection, it's been demonstrated that days to first AI decrease from 83 days to 54 days," Bridges said. "Additionally, Ovsynch reduced the average days open from 118 days to 99 days."

Estrous resynchronization, used when cows don't conceive after the first artificial insemination, helps to reduce the interval from the initial insemination to the next. Many programs exist. Some are capable of resynchronizing estrus in cows that are not pregnant, while others involve hormone treatment and timed artificial insemination for non-pregnant cows.

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