Heifer raiser Darin Mann of M&M Feedlot in Parma, Idaho, is focused on getting animals bred and back to the dairy producer in a timely manner. Darin provides six tips for how he effectively gets heifers bred on his ranch:
1. Sort animals upon arrival. Heifers arrive at M&M Feedlot at 400 pounds. At arrival, heifers are sorted into groups based on their weight in 50-pound increments. This allows for animals of the same size to be fed and managed the same and creates consistency across animals within one pen, says Darin.
2. Breed animals once they meet three criteria. Every Monday, Darin sorts to breed heifers based on three criteria:
- Age of 12 – 13 months
- Minimum height of 49 inches at the withers
- Weigh at least 840 pounds
If an animal does not meet all three criteria, it will not be sent to the breeding pen, but will be rechecked a week later to see if the requirements are then met. Darin says this step is especially important to remove variability between heifers, which is helpful for the technicians breeding them. He also shares that this technique can save time and money by ensuring heifers are bred in a timely manner.
3. Use prostaglandin for timely breeding. Every Monday, heifers entering the breeding pen receive a dose of prostaglandin. By Wednesday and Thursday, approximately 70 percent of the heifers have been bred, which helps to tighten their window for heat detection efficiency. Darin explains that the one dose of prostaglandin can save 10 to 12 days of feed because of the shortened days to first breeding. A second dose of prostaglandin is given to all heifers that have been in the breeding pen for 11 days and not shown a heat.
4. Have a veterinarian at the heifer ranch every week. Herd veterinarian Brian Voortman is at the ranch each week for pregnancy checks. This helps to identify open heifers quickly so they can be rebred in a timely fashion. Also, hard breeders can be identified and the appropriate assistance can be provided.
5. Reconfirm pregnancy.Heifers diagnosed pregnant are re-examined at 110 to 115 days postbreeding to confirm pregnancy. This ensures that heifers returning to the dairy are indeed pregnant, and allows Darin to re-enroll open heifers into the breeding program.
6. Pay attention to management details. Keeping corrals clean and animals healthy are especially important for the success of Darin’s reproductive program. He notes that nutrition is one of the key determining factors to a successful reproductive program, as a properly balanced diet ensures animals gain the appropriate weight in a timely fashion. When pregnancy per A.I. takes a dip, Darin says he first looks at these management factors rather than looking at the technician, who is often scrutinized first. Their technician, Jim Britton from ABS Global Inc., has been with M&M Feedlot for the past 13 years.
Source: Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council