Unprecedented prolonged low milk prices are wreaking havoc on Michigan dairy farms. Dairy producers are working hard to find ways to cut costs and maximize daily milk sales. But reducing management costs, especially reproduction, may prolong financial recovery after milk prices return to profitable levels.
Short-cutting reproductive management programs can reduce the number of cows that become pregnant each month, but with disastrous results within a year or so. Fewer monthly calvings reduce the percent of the herd in peak milk thus decreasing the herd’s average daily milk outputs. It’s crucial for producers to always have the largest possible percentage of cows in peak milk and even more so when milk prices rebound.
Five key management goals can help to ensure optimal reproduction.
- Ensure sure all cows receive first artificial insemination (AI) no later than 90 days in milk.
- The herd veterinarian should diagnose cows for pregnancy 32 to 38 days after AI.
- All non-pregnant cows at vet check should receive AI within three weeks of diagnosis.
- Cows diagnosed pregnant should be re-examined by a veterinarian approximately one month later to detect any pregnancy loss.
- Producers should utilize high-ranking sire conception rate (SCR) bulls to maximize the chances for pregnancy.
Don’t think about using herd bulls as a cheaper way to manage reproduction. Herd bulls can stall genetic progress and can often experience high rates of infertility. In addition, bulls are very dangerous and pose a safety risk for farm employees.
To summarize, shortcuts in dairy cow reproductive programs can stall future milk production on farms. Maintain an intensive approach to reproductive management to take advantage of the good times when they return. Utilize fertility programs to ensure cows receive AI in a timely manner. Calendars for these programs can be found here, in addition to a current list of high-ranking SCR bulls.