Clovis and Portales, N.M.
The Schaaps manage four dairies, including an organic operation, and milk 5,500 cows. They’re also partners in a cheese factory.
Breeding cows back is almost as important as postpartum fresh cow recovery because they both work hand in hand.
Cows that have been cleaned properly will make breeding a lot easier as well as recovery faster. We check our fresh cows twice a week and not daily. The issue with daily is that employees tend to have fresh cows locked up longer than needed. Cows that are locked up too long are slow to recover. More change is noticed in cows that are checked less.
The things we look for in fresh cows are: appetite, discharge, temperature, manure consistency and rumen function. Protocols are in place for the employees to efficiently treat and monitor fresh cows. We always assume that there are sick cows in the pen that need treatment. If your cows are not healthy during freshening, their breeding performance will be affected negatively.
For us, it starts in the dry pen. Dry cow condition is closely monitored on a weekly basis. Fat cows that come into the close-up pen have been dangerous because they are susceptible to metabolic disorders and diseases in regards to D.A.s, retained placentas, milk fevers and ketosis. These cows are separated, fed and treated differently due to the problems that come with fat cows.
We’ve had, in the past, problems with over-conditioned cows that are in need of drenching, which was only a temporary fix, labor intensive and also expensive. Having these issues can hurt your breeding performance.
However, over the years, with forage prices on the rise, we were forced to cut back on feed quality, which gives you a thinner cow and less of these problems. We have not had a D.A. on all of our operations in over six months and have not drenched a cow in two to three years. Thinner cows at freshening are a huge advantage to the breeding program.
Of the four dairies we run, two operate under full A.I., with set-up protocols to have all cows bred by 100 days or less. The other two are bred by bulls. Our voluntary waiting period to breed cows on all dairies is 50 days.
The main difference in the two methods is: Do you want to rely on employee performance or pay for the extra feed used for bulls along with employee safety? Percent pregnancy on all herds using both methods is similar; however, records on the A.I. dairies are more precise than cows bred by bulls. Having good records of days bred helps the consistency with drying cows on time, which gives them adequate time to rest for their next lactation.