“Our voluntary waiting period or VWP is 77 days for all cows. A few years ago, we backed up the VWP almost a full week,” explained Jeff McNeely. “After moving it back, we haven’t waited longer than 77 days even for high-peaking cows. Almost every cow is serviced before 90 DIM (days in milk),” said McNeely, who co-owns Rollin Green Dairy with his brother, Jamison McNeely, and father, Jim McNeely.
“We never cherry-pick a single cow (breed a cow early) before that 77 days. They are more fertile after that point, and usually the heats seen before then are from cows that have a better chance of settling if they would have followed through with the double ovsynch protocol,” noted McNeely of his farm that won Platinum honors in this year’s Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s 10th annual awards competition. “By waiting longer with the VWP and following through with the double ovsynch protocol, we have consistently averaged almost a 60 percent double ovsynch conception rate,” he went on to explain.
“As far as the heifers are concerned, they are moved into our A.I. breeding pen based on size at around 13 to 14 months,” said the Brooklyn, Wis., dairyman, whose herd averages over 26,000 pounds of milk. “Once in the breeding pen they are given prostaglandin and an Estrotect heat detection sticker is applied. If there is no heat observed, they are then given prostaglandin 14 days later and observed for heat,” he said. “Usually within that month time frame 98 percent of the heifers are given at least one service A.I. Due to facility constraints and the pastures our heifers are on, after a month in the breeding pen, our heifers are put with the bull in the pregnant heifer pen.”
All six of this year’s Platinum winners of the Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council’s awards share additional insight in this Hoard’s Dairyman Intel as well as the Round Table found on pages 695 to 697 of the November issue of Hoard’s Dairyman. This year’s competition drew the second-largest set of nominations to date from 16 U.S. states, Canada, and Italy.
Here are additional responses to the question, “What is your voluntary waiting period?”
Emerald Spring Dairy, Plainview, Minn.: All cows are enrolled in double ovsynch for the first service. First breeding is 70 to 76 DIM. No cows are bred before this time period, even if they show signs of heat earlier. We begin breeding heifers at 13 months.
Jer-Z-Boyz Ranch, Pixley, Calif.: We utilize a 50-day VWP or voluntary waiting period. Exceptionally high milk production typically does not influence our VWP. We start chalking heifers’ tail heads and recording heats at 315 days of age. First service is at 330 days, expecting them to weigh 560 pounds at first service, resulting in a 21-month average age at first calving.
Plymouth Dairy, LeMars, Iowa: Our VWP of 60 DIM is for both cows and first-lactation heifers. Our VWP on all heifers is 385 days of age with a goal to have semen in heifers by 405 days of age or be checked by a veterinarian to determine the next step. All heifers get 20 days of solid heat detection before possibly receiving prostaglandin (Lutalyse) or a CIDR (slow-release progesterone device) determined by the veterinarian on examination.
Schilling Farms, Darlington, Wis.: We use a 75-day VWP for cherry-picked heats, but most cows are bred with an ovsynch first service between 87 and 93 DIM. We have seen positive results in our conception rates and peak milk by raising our VWP for our ovsynch from 60 to 87 days. With improving first-service conception rates, we have slowly raised our VWP over the years with favorable results in both conception rates and improved peak milk.
Most recently, we raised our VWP by another seven days. We also did this to move our hoof trimming prior to breeding, where before cows were getting trimmed four days after the first ovsynch. We do not modify our VWP based on lactation number or milk peaks. Virgin heifers are bred starting at 13 months of age.
Weisenbeck Dairy, Durand, Wis.: Our VWP is 72 days, and it does not change based on lactation. Heifers are first bred at 12 to 13 months, depending on size.
This Hoard’s Dairyman Intel article is part of a nine-part series detailing top reproduction tips from the Platinum winning herds for the 10th annual Dairy Cattle Reproduction Council awards competition.
Click on the links below to view previous reports from this DCRC series:How they handle problem-breeding cows