“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” That statement has clear application in any business and shows the management team if they are moving towards or away from their goals.
In animal husbandry, this concept and its interpretation can apply to every area of your dairy. However, it’s especially critical when dealing with reproduction, since it becomes the driving force of the dairy operation. No pregnancies = no milk. It’s that simple.
Record keeping is an essential starting point for a sound reproduction program. However if you don’t use the information properly, record keeping alone is useless. Comparing where you started to your current reproductive outcomes and goals and then making adjustments to your projections will help your dairy’s bottom line the most.
Where to Start
First, determine some key indicators of reproduction success to compare to your dairy. Such indicators may be services per conception (or conception rate), heat detection rate, pregnancy rate, distribution of days in milk (DIM) to first insemination, fertility to first insemination, interval from calving to conception or calving interval. These indicators can be obtained from your farm cow cards, computer software or from your testing center if you are on official test.
There are many other reproduction parameters that can be useful in your analysis, but those listed above are the most important for an initial diagnostic evaluation. In any case, the Accelerated Genetics ReproAnalysis team can help you identify the right numbers.
Once your reproduction parameters have been determined, you need to identify all the management situations around your reproduction program (facilities, cleanliness, breed, nutrition, personnel, etc.) that may explain the results you are getting today (good or bad). Identifying your actual results and your weak points in the program is necessary to set realistic goals and optimize your future results. Accelerated Genetics’ ReproAnalysis team members can help you design a plan of achievable goals after performing a diagnostic evaluation.
There are many reproduction parameters that consultants, veterinarians and producers can track, and they are all important under specific circumstances. No matter whether you get good or bad results from the evaluation, you need to set goals so you can track your progress over time.
Some important goals should include voluntary waiting period parameters, number of cows inseminated per week (unless you are seasonal breeder) and number of pregnancies achieved per week, month or 21-day period (pregnancy rate).
If you found areas of low performance in your program, you need to identify those weak points and design a plan to improve results. The goal set in this plan needs to follow the “SMART” criteria: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-framed. Also, you need to have a responsible person in charge and have a periodical evaluation of each goal.
Feeding your computer with data and doing periodical records analysis are two completely different exercises. Often, dairy producers with acceptable record keeping system feel comfortable with their reproduction results based on a few good vet checks. Unfortunately, they don’t know how other factors on their dairies, such as seasonal effects, recent nutritional changes, changes in labor, are affecting their reproduction.
Having a good reproduction analysis today does not immediately guarantee that a dairy will be in a good position six months down the road. Instead, periodical reproduction evaluations, about two or three times a year, should be part of a regular dairy reproduction management program.
The ReproAnalysis team from Accelerated Genetics can work with your consulting team and/or herd veterinarian to guide you through the entire reproduction analysis process, from the very beginning of a diagnostic situation to setting goals, training, and designing a plan to monitoring the results and keeping your dairy profitable. Contact your Accelerated Genetics representative for more information on ReproAnalysis.
The example above shows a 500-cow herd with a 30 percent culling rate, 6 percent abortion rate, a calving interval goal of 13 months and an actual conception rate of 30 percent. With this information, you can use the simple equation on top to determine your herd goals. If the problem identified was low heat detection, you need to technically train one person to be responsible for achieving a goal for 97 cows inseminated per month, or about 25 per week, to achieve your goal.
Source: Dr. Humberto Rivera, Reproduction Specialist, Accelerated Genetics