Outstanding reproductive performance is the result of a myriad of decisions and practices implemented on the dairy. To better understand how the best dairies get reproduction right, we’ve explored what the winning dairies from the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) Reproduction Awards have shared with us over the past five years:
1. It starts with healthy cows. DCRC Reproduction Award winners point to vaccination programs and ongoing health monitoring as keys to ensuring their herds achieve top reproductive function.
2. Program compliance and consistency matter. No matter the reproductive program they use, these dairies select a program and stick with it.
3. Responsiveness to trends. Top managers identify key reproductive trends and make timely, informed changes when needed, but not without research and discussions with their team.
4. Comfort comes first. Cow comfort drives performance in the milking parlor and the breeding pen, making comfort the top of the farm’s priority list.
5. Manage the transition cow. Reproduction starts long before the voluntary wait period ends. DCRC Award winners focus on the time period from prefresh through early lactation to ensure optimal reproduction is achieved.
6. Deliver the right ration. Successful dairies work closely with their nutritionist to make sure the ration delivers critical nutrients for optimal reproductive function.
7. Be prepared for hot weather. Top herds implement soakers, misters, fans and emerging technology to keep cows cool and minimize reproductive decline in the summer.
8. Hire the right people and train them. The right employees and partners drive their business, and these dairies invest in people and training to achieve 100% compliance.
9. Take a team approach to reproduction. Top dairies use a team approach to reproduction to ensure success is achieved. These groups brainstorm new and innovative approaches to improving herd reproduction.
10. Stay focused on herd goals. It’s all about setting goals and working together to achieve them. Leading reproductive herds don’t deviate from the plan without solid consensus from their team.
To learn more about the DCRC Reproduction Awards and previous winners, visit www.dcrcouncil.org/awards.
Dr. Andrew Skidmore works in Technical Services with Merck Animal Health and is the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council (DCRC) Reproduction Awards chairman