Whether it involves management practices, genetics or environmental conditions, getting cows bred can be a challenge. In this article we’ve highlighted a successful dairy producer who has been able to manage a strong reproduction program in the midst of all the other operations on the dairy. Mike Larson from Larson Acres, Evansville, Wisconsin shares experiences on what has worked best to get cows bred on their dairy, and provides advice on how other dairyman can learn from their experiences.
Getting cows bred in America’s Dairyland
When it comes to getting cows pregnant, Larson Acres has many different tactics to make sure cows are bred at the right time. The dairy is home to 2,600 Holsteins. Cows are milked three times each day and spend their days resting in a sand-bedded freestall barn. The family also crops over 3,500 acres.
When it comes to reproduction on their farm, Mike Larson says they have taken advantage of scientific research and new technology to keep pregnancy rates high. They use different methods for breeding different groups of cows:
- For first-service breedings, all cows are bred on a presynch program. Cows are given two shots of prostaglandin followed by an Ovsynch™ program. Cows are resynched at 25 days with GnRH and ultrasounded at 32 days after insemination. If they are open, they receive a shot of prostaglandin and are then bred three days later.
- Larson Acres ignores all signs of heat before cows are serviced for the first time. After cows are serviced, they will breed open cows that show natural heats. They also breed a small percentage of their herd by using pedometers, the data from which are linked to software utilized by the milking parlor equipment to identify cows potentially in heat.
- For the past 18 months, the dairy has been using controlled internal drug release (CIDR®) devices to get two types of tough breeders pregnant. The first group is older cows with a body condition score of 2.5 or less. CIDRs are given to these cows after the first prostaglandin shot and removed before the second. The farm has seen a pregnancy rate improvement of four to five points and the reproductive rates are now similar to those of the other cows in the same pen.
- The second group is open cystic cows. If these cows are open at 32 days after breeding, a CIDR is used and cows are given another shot of GnRH. Although this is a relatively new protocol on the farm, early indications are that it’s working.