A herd in sync

February 5, 2010 05:12 AM


Ron Gibson
West Weber, Utah

Our dairy measures reproductive efficiency by utilizing three key measurements: pregnancy rate, first-cycle pregnancy rate and percent pregnant at 150 days in milk (DIM).

Currently, the 12-month pregnancy rate for our dairy is 26%, the first-cycle pregnancy rate is 43% and 87% of the herd is pregnant at 150 DIM. Utilizing a Presynch/Ovsynch program has helped us achieve our current level of reproductive efficiency.

When our veterinarian started using ultrasound, it allowed us to diagnose pregnancy as early as 28 days. This made it possible to change our resynchronization program so that open animals could be bred sooner, cutting down the days between first and second breedings.
Herd health and reproduction go hand in hand.

Unhealthy cows never breed well. A good transition program is crucial to the success of the breeding program. Close-ups are housed in sand-bedded freestalls, which are maintained on a daily basis to provide optimal comfort. This pen is never stocked at a rate of more than 80% of the available feedbunk space in order to maximize cows' dry matter intake.

When cows are near calving, they are moved into a well-maintained open shed that's bedded with fresh, clean straw. This pen is kept under 24-hour surveillance. After calving, cows are moved for two to three days into a fresh pen that's also bedded with clean straw. Animals are closely observed for any postcalving complications. They are then moved to a fresh cow pen where they are monitored for 20 to 30 days prior to initiation of the breeding period.

In monitoring fresh cows, it's very important to have the ability to detect health problems early. Our employees do an incredible job of monitoring and treating our special-needs and fresh cows.

After transition and we have healthy cows ready to breed, timing of our breeding program is critical. Cows receive their first prostaglandin injection of the presynchronization protocol at 27 to 33 DIM. All cows are bred between 65 and 71 DIM.

As stated, 43% of all cows in the 65- to 72-day window conceive on first service. Most never show visual signs of heat. After the first breeding, we breed upon visual signs of heat.

If a cow is confirmed open at 28 to 34 days postbreeding with ultrasound, we resynchronize. Basically, it is impossible for a cow to miss more than one cycle without being bred. Cows that are rebred are inseminated at 42 days since last heat, or exactly two heat cycles. Over time, our whole herd becomes synchronized.

Weekly contact with my nutritionist helps ensure that our close-up and lactating rations are dialed in for optimum performance. Essential fatty acids like those in Megalac R enhance reproduction tremendously. I believe it's very difficult to get a pregnancy rate above 25% without essential fatty acids in the ration.

Gibson's December Prices  
Milk (3.79 bf, 3.17% prt): $15.43cwt.
Cull cows: $42/cwt.
Springing heifers: $1,400/head
Alfalfa: $100/ton
Cottonseed: $316/ton (spot)
Corn:  $197/ton (spot)


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