This year's Dairy Cattle Reproduction Councils award winners have a great deal of insight to share on how they get cows safe in calf. What follows are responses to additional questions above and beyond the Round Table in the November 2015 issue on pages 730 to 733.

How do you manage postfresh cows to optimize breeding success?
Ayers: After calving, all fresh cows and first-calf heifers go into our fresh cow pen. Cows receive two Bovikalc pills (calcium supplement) in the first 24 hours. Cows with twins get a third in 36 hours. Every morning we check temps along with evaluating appetites, rumen fill, manure consistency, retained placentas (RPs) and risk for metritis. We treat metritis and RPs as needed.
Cows stay in the fresh cow pen 7 to 10 days and heifers normally leave by Day 7. Rarely do we have a displaced abomasum (DA) or treat a cow for ketosis. A smooth transition period and feeding added bypass fat (Megalac) also helps to keep body condition scores (BCS) where we want them.

Burns: We place great effort on our postfresh nutritional program to ensure productive and reproductive success. We balance the diet to a lower intake in hopes of meeting our postfresh cow's requirements for milk production, micronutrients, and energy to the best of our ability.
This is an area that we are extremely mindful of supplementing with the right combination of fatty acids. Healthy cows make more milk and healthy cows breed back faster. If we don't get the energy and metabolizable protein right, our cows will strip too much body condition and that situation will have a negative impact on her ability to conceive and hold a pregnancy. We do this by providing both the right fatty acid combination along with as much fermentable carbohydrates as the rumen can utilize.
We also utilize the BHBA (postpartum beta-hydroxy butyrate) testing on fresh cows to minimize ketosis. We minimize high-risk cows going into a dry period by culling in late lactation.

Collins: We feed consistent pre- and postfresh diets. In addition, our team checks temperatures one to seven days postfresh and sleeves cows with any suspicion of metritis. That being the case, we try to be aggressive on treating metritis and ketosis. Overall, cows are kept in the postfresh pen for 17 to 20 days (or longer if there is a problem). It's also important to maintain low stocking density in the fresh pen.

Holmes: We drench all fresh cows as soon as possible after calving. At that same time all fresh cows and heifers get oxytocin, vitamin B12 and vitamin B complex. After milk is tested negative for antibiotics, they go in the postfresh pen for about 30 days. We never fill the postfresh pen to more than a 100 percent stocking density.

Kloppe: Our veterinarian conducts a postcalving check on cows and first-calving heifers 30 days postpartum. We check reproductive conditions (ovarian cysts, signs of uterus infections) within 30 to 55 days postpartum. After calving, the older cows are put in a small group for one to two days to monitor for milk fever. All fresh cows and heifers get blood taken once a week for four weeks to check for early ketosis.

Schilling: Fresh cows are monitored for the first 20 days after calving in the lockups each morning. Temperature, attitude and appetite are closely watched for signs of illness. Early detection and treatment is key in preventing serious fresh cow diseases and uterine infections which may influence our conception rates.
All fresh cows are pumped with a fresh cow drench mix that includes calcium propionate, alfalfa meal and probiotics. In addition, all cows are checked at 5 and 11 days in milk (DIM) for BHBA with an Abbott Precision Xtra meter and cows are treated for ketosis, if needed, based on test results.
NEFAs (nonesterified fatty acids) are periodically monitored in the prefresh group to assess body condition loss before calving. If NEFAs are high, rations are checked and adjusted. Dry matter intakes (DMI) are monitored with the Feed Watch feed tracking system daily in order to make sure that we are maximizing our feed intakes in the prefresh and postfresh groups.
Prostaglandin (Lutalyse) is given at 10 and 21 DIM to help with uterine involution. Cows are vaccinated with Bovishield Gold 5 L5 HB on Day 21 to maximize immunity to reproductive diseases prior to breeding.

Do you utilize synchronization programs?
Ayers: All first-service cows are bred by timed A.I. We use PG-3-G on cows with prostanglandin (PGF) given on Day 0, GnRH Day 3, GnRH Day 10, PGF Day 17, GnRH Day 19, and cows are bred on Day 20.
On first-lactation heifers we use PG-4-G with PGF given on Day 0, GnRH Day 4, GnRH Day 10, PGF Day 17, GnRH Day 19, and breed on Day 20.

Burns: We use a presynch 14-ovsynch, with all cows receiving 5 to 6 cc Lutalyse (prostaglandin) 14 days after calving, setup Lutalyse on Day 45 to 51, GnRH on Day 59 to 65, Lutalyse on Day 66 to 72 days, and GnRH 56 hours later at Day 68 to 74. We breed 12 to 14 hours after GnRH.

Collins: We use presynch-ovsynch with cows resynched on Day 14. At 35 to 40 DIM, cows are given Lutalyse on a Monday. Two weeks later, we administer a second Lutalyse followed by GnRH two weeks after that. One week later Lutalyse is given with a dose of GnRH follow-up that Wednesday in the afternoon. Cows are bred 16 to 18 hours later. To minimize expenses on therapies and semen, our veterinarian ultrasounds all cows at the third Lutalyse.

Holmes: Cows are started on presynch-ovsynch every week. Cows are given Lutalyse at 54 DIM but are not bred if they show heat. At 68 DIM, we give a second Lutalyse dose and cows are bred if heat is detected. If not bred on the second Lutalyse, we start the ovsynch program 12 days later. That includes GnRH followed by Lutalyse seven days later with GnRH eight hours later with breeding 16 to 20 hours after that.

Kloppe: We utilize prostaglandin for cows with metritis and pyometra. Also, any cows late in the voluntary waiting period, those diagnosed with cysts or those that do not show any heats after 55 days are given GnRH seven days prior to prostaglandin.

Schilling: Every animal is given Lutalyse (prostaglandin) at 21 to 24 DIM to help clean up metritis or endometritis. We do that on Tuesdays and Saturdays. There is no formal presynchronization program.
Lactating cows are all bred on an ovsynch 48-hour program for first service. All cows are started on ovsynch at 70 DIM. One 4 cc dose of Cystorelin (GnRH) is given Tuesday morning; 5 cc of Lutalyse is given seven days later on Tuesday morning; a second Lutalyse (5 cc) is given 24 hours later on Wednesday morning; and GnRH2 (2 cc) is given 48 hours after the second Lutalyse dose on Thursday morning. Breeding is done Thursday, eight hours after the morning GnRH.
Open cows are resynched with a similar program at herd health. If a corpus luteum (CL) is present, ovsynch is started. If a CL is not present, 4 cc of GnRH is given and ovsynch is started seven days later.

Who does your A.I. breeding?
Ayers: John Kline breeds half the herd at 6 a.m. and Jesse Ayers breeds the other half at 7:15 a.m. We breed about 22 to 25 cows per week on average. We have three different groups that we breed in each week. Being able to breed four to five cows at a time is much more efficient for us than one or two daily. In that way, we are able to spend that time each day working with fresh cows.

Burns: An independent A.I. technician and trained farm personnel breed the cows. There is more than one person on farm trained to breed cows, therefore time off is of no concern. Cows showing heat are bred following the a.m./p.m. breeding rule (if seen in heat in the a.m., breed in the p.m. and vice versa). However, depending on the circumstance, they may be bred immediately after observation of heat.

Collins: Select Sires chalks and breeds animals. Carl Klug breeds timed A.I. We use Select Sires and Alta Genetics bulls.

Holmes: Genex A.I. technician Tim Heiring provides the farm with once-a-day service. Genex relief personnel provides service when Tim is off.

Kloppe: Jill Gerling, herd manager, and Megan Barrett, her assistant, do breeding procedures. We prefer to breed within 10 hours of heat detection.

Schilling: Cows and heifers are bred once every day by Genex technician Tim Heiring. Trisha Pernot and others provide relief for Tim and assist with service on ovsynch breeding days and with keeping the cows painted.

What role does nutrition play in your program?
Ayers: We feel that nutrition plays one of the biggest roles in sound reproduction success. We work closely with our nutritionist, Ben Mercer, who walks the groups every two weeks to monitor manure consistency, BCS and overall health of the herd. We feed prefresh cows (three weeks prior to calving) Animate which virtually eliminates milk fever along with Bovikalc boluses at freshening. Treating metritis and retained placentas are very important to getting uteruses back into shape to breed well.

Burns: Nutrition, along with cow comfort, is a key component to our reproductive success. Similar to a lot of dairies, we struggle with keeping pen populations as low as we would like. As a result, we have to support our cows, as much as possible, in every other way. We start in the dry period where we keep intakes as high as possible. We control the energy so cows don't gain too much weight or drop in feed intake. We feed a diet fortified in organic trace minerals as well as delivering adequate amounts of metabolizable protein and amino acids.
As she moves into the prefresh pen, we also feed a DCAD (dietary cation-anion difference) balanced diet to ensure we don't have problems with milk fever, RPs or subclinical hypocalcemia. You can't really focus on "one" disease. Any time one fresh cow disease rears its head, it is simply an indication that something is out of balance.

Collins: We utilize the Feed Watch program tied into our Dairy Comp herd software. Feed is custom harvested and put in within 24 hours of cutting alfalfa, and corn silage is put in bunkers over three to four days. This ensures a consistent feed source with a stable moisture content. We use Agri-King inoculants, shredlage and kernel processing, and drive-over piles with double plastic, both clear and white. Reassure is given to pre- and postfresh cows. Overall, we're not using many bells and whistles, just mastering the basics.

Holmes: We feel the nutrition program is a key factor in our reproductive success. We work closely with our local Vita Plus dealer, Spensley Feed, and their nutritionists, John Wienkes and Mike VanSchyndle. We feed a low-energy, prefresh diet and keep the ration consistent. The postfresh ration is balanced to challenge the cows as hard as we can without pushing them over the edge.
Our nutritionists body condition score cows at dry-off, before calving and throughout their lactation. Cows must stay on a positive energy balance as soon as possible after calving to maintain our reproduction goals. We feed organic trace minerals, organic selenium and B-vitamins to both the pre- and postfresh groups along with a 60 percent propylene glycol to the postfresh group. We also amino-acid balance the pre- and postfresh rations.

Kloppe: We have a nutritionist who creates and monitors the rations for all our dairy cattle. We have a close-up group that consists of cows and first-calf heifers. The prefresh ration has the same ingredients as the early lactating herd with ionic salts add to reduce milk fever. They enter this group three weeks prior calving. Postfresh cows are put into the early lactating group or heifer group as soon as they calve. Some older cows are put in a small group for one to two days to monitor and manage milk fever.

Schilling: We believe in a team approach for our reproduction success. We work closely with our local Vita Plus Dealer, Spensley Feeds, and their nutritionists, Mike Van Schyndle and John Wienkes. We feed a low-energy, prefresh ration and implement the best feedbunk management possible to achieve the highest dry matter intake we can through the pre- and postfresh periods. We track body condition scores through the pre- and postfresh period to keep cows on a positive energy balance . . . if cows lose too much body weight, reproduction drops.
We use organic trace minerals, and organic selenium and B-vitamins for both the pre- and postfresh groups along with a 60 percent propylene glycol to the postfresh group, along with amino-acid balancing.
Using Feed Watch, we are able to monitor dry matter intakes closer and stay ahead of pre- and postfresh issues that lead to lower reproduction. Pen moves are critical to keep intakes up and keep over stocking down.

How do you keep track of heats and breeding records?
Ayers: We have a daily input sheet where all breedings, fresh cows, culls and dry cows are recorded. Jesse records information into Dairy Comp 305 five or six days a week. For breedings, we record date, cow number, technician, service sire number and breeding code. Breeding codes are very important when running trials to see if other protocols are worthwhile to continue. Dairy Comp can do lots of analysis, but you have to keep accurate records for it to be worthwhile.

Burns: All data is stored on Dairy Comp 305. All heats and breedings are recorded with the information entered by the farm owner to avoid any misinformation or confusion. We use a handwritten notebook for pregnancy checks and problem cows as a backup to Dairy Comp. The more information you have for each cow, the better your decision-making will be for each cow.

Collins: We enter everything into Dairy Comp 305. Select Sires enters any heats and breedings, and the herdsman on the farm enters ovsynch breedings. Additionally, all health events are entered including RPs, ketosis, milk fever, hard calving and so forth. Matings are done by both Select Sires and Alta Genetics and are in the Dairy Comp system as well.

Holmes: Tim Heiring enters all heats and breeding into Dairy Comp 305 and into a hard copy breeding booklet. All heats observed before the cows or heifers have reached their voluntary waiting periods are considered a "heat too soon." Breedings are recorded as standing heat, paint, Lutalyse 2, double breed (bred again 24 hours or less after first initial breeding), presynch, and vet synch.
Accurate recording of heats early on aids in the process of "cherry picking" cows to breed as they reach their VWP. Also, based on how the cow's last breeding was coded, we can determine whether or not to breed the cow that is mid-cycle with questionable paint rub. All said and done, the more accurate the records, the better.

Kloppe: We use PC Dart to record all heats and breedings. Jill Gerling, herd manager, records all data in the program. We print off heat detection lists weekly to assist us in watching heats twice daily. We find that if the same person who breeds the animal records the data, there is a reduced likelihood that information is lost or incorrectly recorded. We even record heats for heifers that are not yet of breeding age and cows during the voluntary waiting period.

Schilling: All reproductive data is recorded on the Dairy Comp 305 herd management software. Heats and breedings are entered by the breeders. Brian records herd health data and ovsynch protocols. Dairy Comp 305 is used to provide protocol lists and herd check lists.

How do you confirm pregnant or open cows?
Ayers: vWe pregnancy check weekly at 39 days postbreeding. Dr. Byers uses ultrasound for pregnancy diagnosis. We also record twins as we have found 75 to 80 percent of cows with twins will calve one to two weeks early so we give them a longer dry period. All cows are resynched with GnRH one week prior to vet check. All open cows with good CL get prostaglandin. Cows with no CL get a second GnRH and then complete the ovsynch protocol.

Burns: We pregnancy check every two weeks, 30 to 43 days since last heat (DSLH). Cows that are 37 to 43 DSLH receive GnRH one week prior to herd check. Animals 30 to 36 DSLH, if open with a CL, get started on ovsynch. If animals have a follicular cyst, less than 1 cm CL or no dominant structure, they are administered GnRH seven days apart and then rechecked at the following pregnancy check for a dominant CL. All pregnancies are done using an ultrasound, twins are noted and cows are rechecked at 60 to 90 DSLH.

Collins: We have our veterinarian come out once a week to check cows. He ultrasounds at 35 days since A.I. and gender checks at 67 days post-A.I. Cows are recheced at 180 days post-A.I.

Holmes: Dr. B.J. Jones, from Center Hill Vet Clinic in Darlington, comes every Tuesday late morning. He will ultrasound at 32 days postbreeding. If the cow is pregnant, he will ultrasound again at 58 days to confirm the pregnancy, check for twins and also will sex the fetus.
If the cow is open with a CL or cyst, the cow will be started on an ovsynch-resynch program. If open and no structures are present, the cow will be resynched with a GnRH-prostagland-GnRH (GPG) protocol. These cows are rechecked in one week, and if a CL is present, they are resynched with Ovsynch 56. Cows that bleed off are also started on ovsynch approximately one week after bleed off. If over 210 DIM, she will be put on the DNB list.

Kloppe: Our veterinarian does herd health checks every two weeks using ultrasound to confirm pregnant cows. After breeding, checks are done at 35 days and rechecks are performed after 50 days.
Schilling: Cows are ultrasound at 33 days carried calf (DCC) to determine pregnancy. Open cows with a CL are resynched with ovsynch starting with 4 cc GnRH and then double Lutalyse doses 24 hours apart. Open cows without a CL are given 4 cc GnRH and rechecked the following week for a CL. Pregnant cows are re-ultrasound at 60 DCC to confirm pregnancy, determine fetal sex and to check for twins.

What are some changes you might implement to improve reproduction?
Ayers: We are always open to change and try to listen to success stories from other farmers. So far, we are not a huge fan of activity monitors. The technology is changing so quickly, and that system you put in today is outdated next year. If we think something would benefit us, we usually run trials to find out for sure before changing.

Burns: We are looking into a better heat observation system such as transponders. Also, a better cooling system in the barn to mitigate for summer heat would be a plus. Eventually, we would like to upgrade the milking parlor to use technology more efficiently, such as daily milk weights, temperatures and ketone levels in the milk.

Collins: We would like to put sand in all breeding groups for added comfort and less slipping.

Holmes: Synchronization protocols are constantly evaluated to use the most current research. We are considering adding a second prostaglandin in our ovsynch program 24 hours after the third Lutalyse. We are continually looking at ways to improve cow comfort and are considering adding a stall extender to lengthen the stalls.

Kloppe: We look forward to implementing smartphone technology in the upcoming years to simplify processes. Additionally, we are eager to learn how transponders, which we just began using in summer 2015, will improve our rates.

Schilling: Two things we changed after last year's Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council meeting and after listening to Paul Fricke that we have implemented include:
  • Raising our first dose of GnRH in our ovsynch protocol from 2 cc to 4 cc
  • Adding an additional 5 cc Lutalyse 24 hours after our first Lutalyse in our ovsynch protocol
As our herd production level has continued to improve and as our stocking density has gone up, we feel those two technologies have helped us maintain and possibly improve our conception rates.

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