Dairy-specific goal-setting can be useful in the evaluation of your reproductive program. Obviously, these values may vary depending on your management style. The following are some useful reproductive goals which apply to most dairy herds:
• Recent pregnancy rate is greater than 20 percent.
• 50 percent of the herd is confirmed pregnant at any given time.
• First service percent pregnant is greater than 30 percent.
• Average days to first breeding is ½ estrous cycle (about 10 days) greater than your voluntary waiting period (VWP). (In a herd with a VWP of 60 days, the average days to first breeding should be 70 days).
• Heat detection rate is greater than 50 percent.
Research shows that most high-producing cows are in heat for about seven hours and will show three to 12 standing events during that period. This only gives us a very small window to detect heat and breed. Work with your dairy team to develop a simple, but effective, protocol to optimize the reproductive performance of your herd.
Mark J. Thomas is a veterinarian and partner in Countryside Veterinary Clinic, LLP in Lowville, N.Y.