September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
What is your pregnancy rate average for last year? According to our most recent DHIA report, our herd's pregnancy rate was 31 percent for September 2011 to September 2012.
What is your reproduction program? How do you get cows pregnant? Usually, about 80 percent of our herd is bred between 60 - 75 days. For the past two months, we've been watching for natural heats because we weren't having as much success as we should have with the synch system; however, we still use an ovsynch program. I always try to be flexible and try different things. The cows are only in the barn for milking time during the spring, summer and fall. That helps with heat detection Our cows wear Estrotect patches, which also helps with heat detection. They are the best heat detection device we've tried because it gives us the results we want. They stick on their back really well. We also chart the breeding and due dates. The wheel is our reference guide and it helps us a lot.
Do you use seasonal breeding or avoid certain months? No, we breed year-round.
How often do you do pregnancy checks? Our vet comes out to the farm to pregnancy check every week.
What is your breeding philosophy? How do you select bulls? What traits do you focus on? Does fertility play a role in bull selection? One of the A.I. companies chooses the matings for our cows. We had been crossbreeding a lot of our cows in the past, but now we're not focusing on crossing anymore. Lately, we've been breeding all our cows back to Holsteins. Any mating the A.I. company chooses is an improvement to our herd, but we have been leaning more towards more milk and productive life. We do not use sexed semen because we finish out all our steers so we don't mind when we get bulls.
What percentage of your herd is bred through A.I. or a bull? Our herd has been bred 100 percent A.I. for the past five years.
If you use A.I., who breeds your cattle? Curt does the majority of the breeding; however, we also have an A.I. technician come to the farm every Friday.
Do you have a different philosophy when breeding heifers vs. cows? About 80 percent of our cows are bred to genomic young sires with a few proven bulls thrown in there. Our heifers are bred to all proven bulls, focusing on calving ease.
What do you do to settle hard breeders? How many times do you try to breed a cow before you sell her? It depends on if the cow is milking well or not. If she is, then we will sometimes breed her up to 10 times before we sell her. Once she gets to the 300-day mark, we start thinking if she's still worth keeping. If she isn't milking well and we know she's a hard settler, then we will sell her. We haven't had too many problems with hard breeders, but we have also tried other things like breeding her twice in one day.
What is your target size/weight/age for breeding heifers? The heifers are usually in our breeding program at 14 months. We used to only focus on age, but now we're starting to look at size and weight. Since we built our new heifer shed with headlocks last year, the heifers have been doing well and gaining more weight. The headlocks make it a lot easier to breed the heifers. We also have a breeding room in the facility so we can keep all our supplies near the heifers.
Is there anything you have done or changed that brought about a significant improvement in your reproductive program? The biggest change has been the heifer facility. We used to have to catch heifers behind gates to breed them or run them with the cows to see if they were in heat. Now that they're all in one spot with headlocks, it makes breeding them a lot easier. We're also open to new things. If something isn't working in our breeding program, we know we have to change it.
Tell us about your farm. We are cousins and took over the farm from our dads in 1999. Our cows are milked in a 110-stall stanchion/tiestall barn. We added on 42 stalls to the barn about three years ago. We raise all our own replacements and finish out all our steers. We own 550 acres of land and rent 100. We grow corn, soybeans and hay.
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