September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Attention to nutrition maintains reproductive performance for Groths

Sand bedding for the milking herd has been one of the key factors in maintaining successful reproductive performance on the Groth farm.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN
Sand bedding for the milking herd has been one of the key factors in maintaining successful reproductive performance on the Groth farm.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA SHEEHAN

Glen Groth
Groth Family Farms
Ridgeway, Minn.
Winona County
65 cows

What was your pregnancy rate average last year? 26 percent

What is your reproduction program? How do you get cows pregnant? We watch for natural heats and have a voluntary waiting period of around 60 days. The 60-day VWP isn't set in stone as I will breed cows a little earlier than that on occasion. When we have a group of cows that are 60 to 80 days in milk (DIM) and have not been bred yet, I will give them Lutalyse and breed off of those heats. The remaining unbred cows will get another Lutalyse shot two weeks after the first one to bring them into heat. If I have cows that go beyond 120 DIM and are still not pregnant, I will use a standard ovsynch protocol.

Do you use seasonal breeding or avoid certain months? No. If a cow is in heat or I even suspect she is in heat, I breed her no matter what the season. You never know if, or when, you will get another chance to get a cow pregnant.

How often do you do pregnancy checks? Dr. England from Winona Veterinary Hospital comes to check for pregnancies once a month. We ultrasound fresh cows between 25 and 35 DIM to evaluate uterine condition and to determine if a cow is cycling. We ultrasound cows again a minimum of 30 days after breeding and we recheck all pregnant cows at around 100 days.

What is your breeding philosophy? How do you select bulls? What traits do you focus on? Does fertility play a role in bull selection? Do you use sexed semen? Do you use daughter proven bulls or genomic tested bulls? I do not select for fertility or use sexed semen. I choose high TPI, high type, high productive life bulls that are positive for milk production. The most important trait I select for is productive life. High productive life cows are the kind a commercial dairyman wants as they are the cows that do not give farmers a reproductive, milk quality or mobility reason to cull them. Although it isn't a very heritable trait, I figure I'll see some genetic progress if I keep choosing extreme productive life. I heavily use genomic bulls without milking daughters.

What percentage of your herd is bred through A.I. or a bull? 100 percent A.I.

If you use A.I., who breeds your cattle? I breed my own cows, but once or twice a year I have to call a technician if there is one I can't get.

Do you have a different philosophy when breeding heifers versus cows? The only change I make for breeding heifers is that they are only bred to bulls that are less than eight for calving ease.

What do you do to settle hard breeders? How many times do you try to breed a cow before you sell her? I will keep breeding a cow until about 200 DIM. If it is a particularly good cow with a history of maintaining steady production, I might give her a couple more chances. If a cow's production is trailing off (less than 70 pounds) or has a high SCC, I'll cull her earlier than 200 DIM instead of breeding her.

What is your target size/weight/age for breeding heifers? I usually start breeding heifers at 14 months of age, but will occasionally breed a heifer that is 13 months of age if she is big enough. They are housed in a barn we built in 2010. It has two pens with loose housing and lockups.

Is there anything you have done or changed that brought about a significant improvement in your reproductive program? Sand bedded freestalls, keeping disease to a minimum, and good hoof health are all factors, but I think paying very close attention to nutrition does the most to maintain reproductive performance. Since we started feeding a TMR five years ago and began pushing for high production, our reproductive performance has picked up significantly. Morgan Allen, with Big Gain feeds, and the crew with Ag Specialists have worked hard to improve production, herd health and reproduction on our farm. Since our herd is small, I don't have a good way of separating cows by stage of lactation so I feed every cow as if she is at peak production. This helps to maintain an acceptable energy balance for the cows that are eligible for breeding. I began feeding a TMR to our dry cows and pregnant heifers last fall and since then our cows have maintained better body condition in early lactation so I think I will see further improvement in our pregnancy rate. I spend a lot of money on feed, but if you give a cow the ingredients she needs for high performance and good health she will show you a good return on your investment.
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