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Extension > Agriculture > Dairy Extension > Reproduction and genetics > A Successful Reproduction Program is More Than a Good Synch Program

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A Successful Reproduction Program is More Than a Good Synch Program

Jim Salfer

Published in Dairy Star February 19, 2010

Most dairy farmers find it a challenge to consistently get cows pregnant. For some producers it is the major frustration that they deal with every day. Reproduction is a very multi-faceted complicated process. Not only does the cow's physiology need to cooperate, dairy managers must inseminate the cow with fertile, high quality semen at the correct time.

Many producers have implemented synchronization programs that have helped eliminate some of the challenges of catching cows in heat. However, even among dairy producers on the same synchronization programs there is a wide range in success. With an excellent reproduction program, most producers should be able to achieve a 20% pregnancy rate. If your pregnancy rate is not at this level, here are some areas that you should examine:

Farm management factors:

Cow factors:

Reproductive program factors:

There is nothing magic about successful reproductive programs. Success is based on attention to detail. Table 1 comes from the 2009 Minnesota DHI Yardstick, which shows a summary of Reproduction data based on Rolling Herd Averages for Holstein herds as of December 2008.

Use the table to compare your herd and to help set some reproduction goals for the year ahead. Farms that have successful reproductive programs have developed systems and processes that allow cows to transition well into lactation and quickly ramp up on dry matter intake to minimize weight loss. They have developed a system to get all cows inseminated within 21 days of the start of the voluntary waiting period. They focus on identifying open cows and getting them re-inseminated in a timely manner. These dairies regularly monitor the herd's performance and work with their management team to make adjustments as needed.

Table 1. DHI Yardstick for 2009 (based on Holstein herds as of Dec. 2008).
Rolling Herd Average, milk lb <15,000 15,000 - 16,999 17,000 - 18,999 19,000 - 20,999 21,000 - 22,999 23,000 - 24,999 25,000+
Number of Herds 127
142 279 445 415 313 272
Minimum Calving Interval 16 15.5 14.9 14.6 14.3 14.1 14
Avg Days to 1st Breeding 116 115 98 99 91 87 83
Avg Days Open 208 192 172 165 156 148 147
Heat Detection Index 19 23 28 31 36 41 43
% Cows in Heat by VWP* 6 7 9 10 10 12 14
Annual Turnover Rate 34 37 36 35 36 36 37
Services per Conception 2 2 2.1 2.1 2.2 2.2 2.3
Pregnancy Rate 10 12 13 14 15 16 17
* VWP = Voluntary Waiting Period.


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