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

Burkholders practice seasonal breeding

Once heifer calves reach two-years-old, Burkholder breeds them to Jersey or Angus for calving ease.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA
Once heifer calves reach two-years-old, Burkholder breeds them to Jersey or Angus for calving ease.<br /><!-- 1upcrlf -->PHOTO BY KRISTA KUZMA

Dwight Burkholder
Claremont, Minn.
Dodge County
64 cows

What is your pregnancy rate average for last year? It runs around 30 percent.

What is your reproduction program? How do you get cows pregnant? We breed all cows on observation of heats and using kamar heat detection strips. I'd be lost without those strips. We don't use a synch program. We use a limited amount of lutalyse to cycle cows that have a good cl, but we haven't yet observed a heat on and want to get bred. We breed all our cows starting May 15 and generally have the majority bred in the three weeks following.

Do you use seasonal breeding or avoid certain months? Yes, our farm has been seasonally breeding for seven years. Breeding is done in late May through early June, which is optimal weather for getting cows pregnant. Our cows are dry for about six to eight weeks during the winter.

How often do you do pregnancy checks? Because we are a seasonal dairy, we pregnancy check in July and immediately cycle any open cows. We use the DHIA ELISA pregnancy testing option quite a bit, too. Some years we have used the ELISA test exclusively.

What is your breeding philosophy? How do you select bulls? What traits do you focus on? Does fertility play a role in bull selection? I am looking for an easy-keeping, moderate-milking cow that breeds back like a farm cat. Bulls are selected first and foremost on daughter pregnancy rate (DPR). I never use a bull with a negative DPR. Beyond that we mate our cows using the aAa mating program. Each cow is mated with a bull according to the code that is called for. Good components are also something that is important to us. I'm also excited about the potential to use more polled genetics. Our herd is crossbred using Holstein, Jersey and sometimes a third breed. I've used many breeds for the last cross, but haven't found one I like yet. Bottom-end cows are bred to Angus. This helps improve our herd, but gives us a better price for our calves when selling. We don't need all our replacements anyway so this works out well.

What percentage of your herd is bred through A.I. or a bull? Our cows are bred using 100 percent A.I. For a few years we used a bull on heifers just for convenience, but we quit that practice three years ago. We miss the convenience but nothing else about the bulls.

If you use A.I., who breeds your cattle? I (Dwight) do all the breeding.

Do you have a different philosophy when breeding heifers vs. cows? All heifers get bred to Jersey or Angus for calving ease issues. When freshening all the cows in about a month like we do, we have to be proactive to avoid a lot of calving issues and this is one thing that does eliminate calving issues.

What do you do to settle hard breeders? How many times do you try to breed a cow before you sell her? We just keep trying. It is rare that we won't eventually succeed. Of course, being strictly seasonal, that means that the cow will be sold if she falls outside our accepted calving window of March 1 to April 30. I am fortunate to have a couple of local dairymen who buy the cows from me that are going to calve later than I want. Usually I only have to sell about one each year. Having a crossbred herd and having the cows out on pasture where they show good heats really helps get cows bred.

What is your target size/weight/age for breeding heifers? I don't really pay attention to these factors. When May 20 rolls around each year, anything on the farm that shows a heat gets semen. Because I use Jersey or Angus on the heifers, the weight and size is not a big factor. They are just going to calve when they are two-years-old regardless.

Is there anything you have done or changed that brought about a significant improvement in your reproductive program? The two biggest factors that have greatly improved reproduction on our farm is crossbreeding and rotational, intensive grazing. When we made those two changes about 12 years ago, reproduction problems became almost a non-issue.

Tell us about your farm. My wife, Darla, and I have eight children: Justin, 19, Jessica, 17, Kara, 15, Katelyn, 12, Meredith, 10, Matthew, 7, Micah, 7, and Angie, 3. We have a 200-acre farm. About 66 acres are used as pasture, 20 acres as corn for earlage production and the balance of acres are used for hay or forage production for winter months. We have been seasonal for seven years, drying off all the cows around Christmas and freshening most of our herd in about four weeks in March of every year. This allows us time to focus on other things other than milking cows for a few weeks out of the year. In the Bible, the book of James tells us that "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights". We are humbled and thankful to God for His blessings and gifts to us these 20 years on this farm. Truly, we are only stewards of His great blessings and want to give God the credit for our successes no matter how large or small.

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