October 26, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.
Maple Breeze Dairy
What was your pregnancy rate average last year? Last year, the herd’s pregnancy rate average was 29%. In June, our herd reached 31%.
What is your voluntary waiting period for cows? For heifers? For cows, the voluntary waiting period is 64-70 days. Heifers are bred at 13-14 months by our custom raiser.
What is your first service conception rate? For cows, it is 62%, and for heifers, it is 78%.
What is your reproduction program? Do you use a synchronization program? We use a presynch/ovsynch program our veterinarian set up for us. We struggled a bit with our reproduction while using a modified ovsynch program. Now our program starts with a progesterone shot at 29-35 days. Two weeks later, another progesterone shot is given followed by 10 days and a GnRH shot. After seven days, cows are given a succession of one shot per day for three days – progesterone, progesterone and GnRH – followed by being bred the next day. We keep the schedule straight by painting the day they are getting bred on their back hip. Different colors are used to differentiate months. We also keep the schedule on a board in the office.
How do you observe for heat? We breed almost all cows from the timed shots. Breeding is done on Thursdays; however, our Genex technician, Dave Thisius, walks the barn every day.
How do you confirm pregnant or open cows? We have our veterinarian come every two weeks to use ultrasound when cows are around 30-32 days. If a cow is open at the vet check, they are put through a portion of the ovsynch program, starting with a GnRH shot. We wait seven days and then do the four-day succession of two progesterone shots, a shot of GnRH and being bred.
What is your breeding philosophy? How do you select bulls? What traits do you focus on? Does fertility play a role in bull selection? Our herd is a mix of breeds with mostly Holsteins. The Holsteins are mated by our A.I. company, with our emphasis on conception rates, daughter pregnancy rates and milk. The other breeds we have – Brown Swiss, Ayrshire and Milking Shorthorn – are mated on a per-cow basis.
How are cows and heifers bred? Do you have a different philosophy for breeding both? Cows and heifers are bred using the same criteria. There is no difference.
What do you do to settle hard breeders? We try using beef semen.
How many times do you try to breed a cow before you sell her? We breed a cow three times with a dairy bull before using a beef bull once. If a cow is still not pregnant after four breedings, she is culled. Heifers are bred three times before being moved to the steer lot if they are not pregnant.
Is there anything you have done or changed that brought about a significant improvement in your reproductive program? Starting to use the presynch/ovsynch program 1.5 years ago made our pregnancy rate jump. Just before making the switch, our pregnancy rate was about 23%. We kept trying to work on things until we found something that worked. We are glad we worked with our vet to figure out a program that works for us.
Tell us about your farm. We are the sixth generation in the family to farm here. We took over from Bruce’s mom and dad in 2012. Along with the cows, we have 275 acres where we raise corn and alfalfa for feed for our herd. We raise the calves until they are 6 months old. After that, they go to a custom raiser until after they are pregnant. Bruce does all the feeding and breeding, Natalie takes care of calves, and three employees do the milking.
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