Breeding for Success

February 2, 2009 06:00 PM

*Extended comments highlighted in blue.

Mark Rodgers
West Glover, Vt.
Herd health and reproduction are important aspects of any profitable dairy operation and a challenge for all.

Our dairy is 100% artificially inseminated and we plan to breed cows at 55 days in milk. We now exclusively use a Select Sires technician after evaluating pregnancy rates for a year. Cows with a history of settling on first or second service that had a normal calving and show a good heat are bred to sexed semen, first and second service. All other cows and all third service repeats are bred to young sires from one of our three programs.

All heifers are bred at 13 months to sexed semen, first and second service, followed up with proven calving ease sires for repeats. In 2008, one-third of our calvings were the result of sexed semen, with 67 of 68 calves being heifers. Forty-eight percent of the calvings from nonselected semen produced heifers.

We use PCDART as a herd management system and print appropriate reports for reproductive management as well as all aspects of our herd. We have regularly scheduled reproductive herd checks every other week. All animals that may have had any calving difficulties are checked at 30 to 40 days and, if necessary, therapy is continued as recommended.

All cows observed in heat by 60 days in milk are examined and are started on a synchronization program based on their stage of cycle. Many cows will just receive Lutalyse and are bred on observed heat or based on activity with our ALPRO activity monitors. Cystic cows are treated with cystorelin or Lutalyse as recommended and started on Ovsynch with Eazi-Breed CIDRs.

For the past five years, all cows and heifers are pregnancy-checked with ultrasound down to 28 days. Ultrasound has provided valuable information and confidence at early stages of pregnancy or for determining if the animal needs to be recycled. We utilize ultrasound also to determine twinning in order to provide 60-day dry periods to cows due with twins instead of our standard 45 days.

We vaccinate for IBR, BVD 1&2, PI3, BRSV, and five strains of Lepto using either Titanium 5L5 or Master Guard 10 annually.
We also treat all cows and animals down to three months with an approved topical dewormer for internal and external parasite control in the fall and, if necessary, again in the winter for lice.

Body condition is closely monitored in both cows and heifers to maintain proper condition without overconditioning. Heifers are on an all-haylage diet with minerals but little or no grain after 12 months except when the temperature is –10°F or less. This keeps them growing to calve at 1,300 lb. without getting fat.

Rodger's December Prices  
Milk (3.98% bf, 3.25% prt): $18.50/cwt.
Cull cows: $76/cwt. dressed
Springing heifers: $1,800/head
Alfalfa hay: Cost prohibitive (Last repot: $320/ton
Whole Cottonseed: $302/ton
Ground Corn: $187/ton

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