Here is an example for am breeding using 56 Hour cosynch. Timing is very important in any timed breeding program including this one! Hope to get more up on this subject soon…..
This sexed semen article is a copy that was published in the Texas Dairy Review in June 2010 where you can find here. I thought it would be of interest to my readers. It might be a little out of date, but I think I can add extra post in the future about the subject of Sexed Semen. – Enjoy!
Sexed semen has been one of the newest technologies available to dairymen for reproduction of their herds in the past few years. The mechanically-engineered Gender Enhanced Semen (GES) has been around since the early 1980s but did not hit the commercial market until the early 2000s. Once it was released, dairy producers were anxious to use the marketing tool to increase heifer population and ultimately enable their dairies to produce more milk.
But, is the industry headed down the right path with the use of sexed semen? While the majority of dairymen, scientists, and big A.I. companies may say “yes” because of its obvious benefits, others are not so sure and feel it adds to the overwhelming problems and contradictions already present in the dairy industry.
Competing without sexed semen
Eric Danzeisen, partner with Wout Vander Goot, of Sierra Desert Breeders, based in Tulare, California, began their AI breeding service in 2007 and have found they can successfully compete in the AI market without selling sexed semen. Within three short years, they have rapidly grown their core customer base, even during the recent economic recession.
“We are doing as well or better than some other AI breeding companies. We don’t sell sexed semen because of our concerns,” Danzeisen said. “We saw what happened with BST after it was the big rage and then dwindled away. We don’t know if that will happen with sexed semen or not but it’s a concern we have considered.”
Old fashioned AI
Danzeisen and sales representative Josh Verburg said they can attribute most of their business success to long hours and hard work. “You just have to get out there and look at the genetics if you want to sell good semen to dairymen. We don’t just look at numbers on a piece of paper—we check out the genetics the old-fashioned way – through the best cow families and looking at milking daughters.”
Danzeisen and Verburg said personalized service and fashioning their business away from the popular trend of sexed semen, sets them apart from other AI companies. They are convinced that conventional AI breeding has proved its effectiveness over its many years of use but since sexed semen is relatively new, no one really knows what can happen with it in the future.
Overuse of sexed semen
The breeder specialists said problems in the dairy industry become even more apparent with the overuse of sexed semen. In the latest episode of spiraling milk prices, dairy industry experts across the nation claim the biggest part of the price problem is due to too much milk on the market.
“That fits the popular trend of growing your milk production,” Danzeisen and Verburg said. “But, when you add more and more heifers to the mix, and keep adding them, it becomes an overall production problem for dairymen that works against them, instead of for them.”
Economics show too much milk diminishes negotiating power that results in milk prices bottoming out, as seen at the end of 2008 through 2009. Cooperatives maintain they cannot get good milk prices when processors have an overabundance of the product—and claim the responsibility lies with its producers. Meanwhile, the value of the world’s most unique and nutritious commodity becomes insignificant.
No stopping point
“This popular dairy philosophy of ‘more is better’ provides no stopping point,” Danzeisen said. “My producers feel they have to grow to keep up with modern trends to compete in the market and it would be next to impossible to get a producer to limit his own production when his peers or neighbors will not.”
Danziesen sees this as the same mindset for the overuse of sexed semen and “more” can be detrimental to the overall financial health of producers and the entire industry.
Contradictions in financial reward
One dairy producer mentioned to Danziesen the incredibly high cull rate among some producers. But, to cull cows, only to go out and buy more sexed semen to increase a herd, is not a good business decision. This is especially true, the producer added, when considering it takes about $1800 to grow out a heifer yet it is only worth about $1100 on the market. Where is the financial reward in this?
Another contradiction is Cooperatives Working Together (CWT), when a few years ago it initiated an effort to curtail milk production. “Dairy producers pay .10 cents per hundredweight into the program to kill cows, yet, they turn right around and buy sexed semen to grow more heifers which means more milk—the very thing they are trying to get rid of,” Verburg said.
“Killing 280,000 cows last year and producing approximately 300,000 new heifers at the same time, does not make sense,” he added.
Control in world market
Danziesen pointed out that as the U.S. enters a world milk market, American genetics are very much in demand. “Third world nations are now constructing basic, and in some cases, huge infrastructures to compete with our milk markets. It is crucial to minimize the effects of American genetics through sexed semen worldwide.
“If we have added 300,000 new heifers, how many more heifers were produced worldwide with the best genetics in the world?” Danzeisen asked.
In today’s industry, producers are aware of the importance of exhibiting a good public image. As seen with the public’s outrage of BST, it is becoming clear the public is moving toward natural and organic products and does not take well to products that are mechanically engineered.
“As AI breeders, we realize there are more benefits to sexed semen than not. But, it isn’t natural to sort semen to get exactly what you want and it hasn’t been around long enough to see if the public will accept this practice once they discover it,” Danziesen said.
Since some cooperatives in the past required producers to quit using BST, Danziesen wonders if they will ask producers to quit using sexed semen. “Not just because of the public, but also because of the overpopulated heifer industry.”
Experts have said sexed semen is not a “band aid” for poor reproductive performance and advise producers to focus on keeping their herds healthy and disease-free.
Drawbacks against rewards
Thomas R. Overton, associate professor, DVM, MPVM, Dairy Production Medicine at the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine, addresses sexed semen in his article, “Economic considerations of sexed semen on your dairy,” (2007).
He outlines the genetic improvements sexed semen provides but also points to its drawbacks and the risks that should be weighed against potential rewards.
In part, he said while the use of sexed semen may increase the proportion of live female calves born yearly, more pregnancies are needed to return cows to the next lactation than are needed to produce the necessary herd replacements. “Producing more heifers than are needed by the dairy industry is not desirable,” Overton said.
He said the downside to sexed semen technology for increased replacement heifers is: every cow should not produce a heifer calf; only the best cows should be producing daughters for maximal genetic gain; there is an extra cost for sexed semen; and, there can be problems with reduced fertility.
Too many heifers, less value
Like too much milk, Overton said too many heifers in excess of industry needs will have less value. He added the use of sexed semen is risky if the producer is only trying to capture value from high heifer prices.
Overton said a major advantage to sexed semen for herd expansion is it increases biosecurity. But, he advises producers to consider filling rates for barns and pens, meaning many expanding herds will still need to buy cows. He said producers should plan for the extra heifers and determine if there is enough room for the increase.
Extra cost considered?
“Hutches, pens, labor, capital, feed supplies, and storage facilities are some of the many areas that can become overwhelmed if heifer numbers increase by 70% (from a 50% heifer ratio to an 85% ratio),” he said.
Danzeisen and Verburg concur dairy producers should be aware of the consequences of using sexed semen. “It might make financial sense to do so on your dairy farm, but taking two steps forward yesterday might have actually depleted your bank account today.”
In the past 10 yrs. the dairy industry has made significant strides in efforts to get cows pregnant, we’ve seen reproduction improve from various factors whether it has come from improved cow transition, nutrition approach, management practices, or environment it certainly has been a focus in our herds. I am all too aware of the focus of pregnancy rate of the lactating herd with my former career in the AI Industry, until the advent and commercial acceptance of sexed semen there was little pressure put on heifer breeding. The metric that I saw used the most was, “What % was pregnant at vet check?” If this number was quite high ~90%+ then little was done to look into how we were doing in terms of heifer reproduction.
Now this is not to say that there were not producers, consultants, etc. paying attention in more detail to heifer reproduction but I’d say the focus changed almost instantly when sexed semen was commercially adopted by a couple major studs in 2005. Heifer conception rate became a metric in the cross-hairs as the costs of the heifer breeding program increased with the cost of sexed semen and the fertility drag resulting in more services and days-on-feed to get heifers pregnant. The graph below shows how a small increase in conception rate can impact a population of heifers/cows getting pregnant efficiently.
Group A Group B
Starting Head Count: 1000 Starting Head Count:1000
Conception Rate: 55% Conception Rate: 65%
# Preg/Service Animals still open # Preg/Service Animals still open
- 550.0 450.0 650.0 350.0
- 247.5 202.5 192.5 157.5
- 111.4 91.1 86.6 70.9
- 50.1 41.0 39.0 31.9
While conception rate is a very good metric in looking at reproductive results in both heifers and cows we need to focus on more metrics in our heifer breeding program. Heat detection cannot be overlooked in our heifer program, we also need to have properly trained AI Technicians, quality facilities to be able to heat detect, highly fertile service sires and proper immunization. (Chebel et al. 2010) With the above being mentioned, I’d like to focus on the “how to” in having a successful heifer AI program. Once determining the age or weight that you want your heifers to be bred at we need to focus on how we can get the heifer bred in a timely matter.
At this time I believe there are three solid options to begin with (these protocols can also be used in conjunction with one another):
- Chalking/Observation protocol
- PGF-2a induced protocol
- 100% Timed AI protocol.
The chalking/observation protocol is a common practice in the western US and involves locking the breeding age heifers daily and placing a strip of chalk on the tailhead to utilize for estrous detection. Advantages: Easy to implement if have facilities to lock heifers & low cost. Disadvantages: Does not submit heifers to insemination that do not show heat.
The PGF-2a protocol is simply determining the heifers you want bred and administering a dose of PGF-2a and observing for heat utilizing observation, chalk, or some other heat detection device such as a Kamar® patch. The animals not showing heat and thus not being inseminated can be given another shot 1 or 2 weeks (to be determined with your veterinarian) later to induce a heat on those remaining animals. Advantages: Easy to set up, get inseminations in tight window which can allow for quicker flow through breeding pen if short on space. Outcome can yield tight distribution of average age at 1st calving. Disadvantages: Requires giving shots, additional record keeping, and some additional cost.
The final protocol mentioned is a 100% Timed-AI program. In the past ovsynch protocols have not performed well on virgin heifers because heifers have 3 follicular waves vs. lactating dairy cows having 2 and the program not being set up to work with 3 follicular waves. The 5 day program with the CIDR has addressed the follicular wave pattern of heifers and is the program of choice if you want to time AI your heifers.Advantages: Heifers get bred in a tight window, faster flow through breeding pens, great option if you do not have facilities to lock heifers daily or have heifers on pasture. Disadvantages: Shot compliance is mandatory; need accurate record keeping, and additional cost.
The chart below shows a comparison of conception rate between two groups and the outcome on age fresh just due to conception rate differences. Keep in mind this is assuming 100% heat detection, if we factored in heat detection rate and open heifers at vet check this distribution would be even wider.
Group A Starting Age: 13.00
Starting Head Count: 1000
Conception Rate: 50%
Serv# #Preg/serv #Anim open % open % calv at age Age @ 1st calf
- 500.0 500.0 50% 50% 22.0
- 150.0 350.0 35% 15% 22.7
- 105.0 245.0 25% 11% 23.4
- 73.5 171.5 17% 7% 24.1
- 51.5 120.1 12% 5% 24.8
- 36.0 84.0 8% 4% 25.5
- 25.2 58.8 6% 3% 26.2
- 17.6 41.2 4% 2% 26.9
Group B Starting Age: 13.00
Starting Head Count: 1000
Conception Rate: 60%
Serv# #Preg/serv #Anim open % open % calv at age Age @ 1st calf
- 600.0 400.0 40% 60% 22.0
- 120.0 280.0 28% 12% 22.7
- 84.0 196.0 20% 8% 23.4
- 58.8 137.2 14% 6% 24.1
- 41.2 96.0 10% 4% 24.8
- 28.8 67.2 7% 3% 25.5
- 20.2 47.1 5% 2% 26.2
- 14.1 32.9 3% 1% 26.9
All these programs need the following to maximize their efficiency:
- Heifers moved in a timely manner, preferably once a week or every other week move in heifers qualified by age/weight for breeding and move out pregnant animals.
- Consistent pregnancy checks, if checking cow herd weekly check heifers as well. Don’t go more than two weeks without pregnancy check.
- High level of accurate heat detection.
- High fertility service sires.
Heifer breeding protocol suggestions (s):Please visit with your veterinarian on which alternative or variation of protocol would work best for your herd.
- Chalk heifers and heat detect. Vet check weekly or every other week. Administer PGF-2a to open heifers and missed heats/heifers not showing heat since last vet check.
- Chalk heifers and heat detect. After 2-3 days (allow technician adequate time to get chalk on heifers) in breeding pen administer PGF-2a to all heifers not bred. Continue daily chalking and insemination of heifers showing heat. 2 weeks after 1st PGF-2a shot give another shot to all heifers not bred. Vet checks same as above and PGF-2a open heifers.
- Follow protocol of Option#2 except on open heifers utilize 5d CIDR Cosynch to insure open heifers are being bred.
- Set up all heifers qualified to be bred on 5d CIDR Cosynch protocol, chalk & heat detect daily and inseminate those heifers coming into heat. Re-enroll open heifers at vet check onto 5d CIDR program.
The group at Progressive Dairy Solutions wants you to use whatever program you find best for your operation that results in getting your virgin heifers pregnant is a very efficient manner allowing you to keep rearing costs low and produce a constant flow of fresh 1st lactation animals into your milking herd.
Ricardo Chebel 2010. New Strategies for Synchronization of Dairy Heifers and Economic Considerations.
by Tony Timmons
I see a great deal of opportunity in our heifer breeding programs and this time it’s not the AI Technician’s fault. In order to get a heifer bred you need to get her exposed to the technician or bull. I see a large variance in age of heifers coming into the close up pen and it’s largely due to when she was exposed to the AI/Bull program. The following steps are just a few practical reminders in order to make sure we are minimizing the stragglers out past 26 months of age coming fresh.
We tend to perform most cow protocols on a weekly basis, let’s take that to the heifer program. Move eligible heifers minimum every other week but preferably weekly to the breeding pen or pens.
Set standards on when a heifer is eligible to get bred: once she moves to pen x, once she’s x inches tall, x pounds, whatever the standard are make sure they are communicated to everyone involved in the heifer repo program.
Move heifers confirmed pregnant out of the AI pen bi-weekly or preferably weekly. At the least if you are only vet checking 1X per month on heifers move heifers out of the AI corral that are over ~42 days since last heat into another pen and fill that place with an open heifer. You can vet check the heifer in another pen, do not compromise the next heifer’s eligibility to get pregnant due to pen space.
If you are behind or short on space here are a few protocols that can help speed up the process in moving the heifers through the AI string.
Utilize a simple prostaglandin program to get more heifers in heat. Bring heifers into pen, chalk for a day or two then administer the approved dose of prostaglandin (PgF) to the heifer, breed any coming into heat. Continue to heat detect daily, those heifers not showing signs of estrous can be given another PgF shot 10-14 days later, continue with heat detection and breed those coming into heat. After the 2nd PgF shot you may want to arm those heifers not bred to find any heifers that may need to be culled due to inadequate structures or lack of a reproductive structure.
You may want to utilize the 5 Day CIDR-synch protocol on all heifers entering the AI corral for 1st service insemination. Or utilize this protocol after you’ve previously attempted to bring the heifer into heat with previous PgF protocol.
Vet check heifers in a timely manner. If you are checking 1x per month @40 days since last heat (DSLH) you will be checking heifers that are 40-70 days since last heat. This can be ok if you are not preventing other heifers from entering the heifer corral and have good heat detection but this is an area of opportunity which can be addressed by more frequent vet checks, lowering the DSLH you preg check, or both.
Re-enroll open heifers. Open heifers that have come up open at vet check are sure to become our stragglers entering the milking herd past 26-27 months of age. This is the main reason you may want to lower DSLH you preg check. If you are in a positive situation on heifer numbers this may be a good place to cull or get the animal pregnant then sell her, but if you are short on heifers you need to get her bred back quickly. I suggest looking at the 5 Day CIDR-sync protocol in order to do so.
These are just a few proactive steps to take to insure that we are not slowing the flow of the dairy due to our heifer breeding program.
~ Tony Timmons, dairy nutritionist
Have you ever wanted to learn the basics of Embryo Transfer? Well, you get your chance October 18, 19 and 20th of 2011 at Red Knob Farm in Peach Bottom, PA! It is put on by our NE distributor Precision Diagnositics LLC by
Doug Speicher and Nate Cossaboom. These highly trained individuals are the best to learn from!
This is for anyone interested! “We always get a mix of people at our course”, commented Nate Cossaboom in the Progressive Dairyman article. “We have veterinarians, veterinarian students, experienced dairy and beef farmers, and A.I technicians taking the course.” This year we even have somebody flying out from Washington State!
Learn something new or use it as a refresher course. Space is limited and the time is near. Give Doug or Nate a call for more details!
Increasing your pregnancy rate (PR) is always a topic that nutritionist, veterinarians and other consultants like to talk about because it is what keeps all dairies in business. As you all know without pregnant cows you will be hit hard financially down the road.
Their first instinct is to talk about Heat detection (HD). They always say the heat detection must be increased to increase PR. This drives me nuts! They should quit listening to professors and do their own math! It is true that you can increase PR if you increase HD rates, as long as you keep the same conception rates (CR)! What they don’t say is how increasing your CR will increase your PR even faster! I will give you a quick review of PR.
CR X HD = PR
.20 X .80 = 16
.30 X .70 = 21
.40 X .60 = 24
.50 X .50 = 25
As you can see as you increase your CR and lower your HD you actually increase your PR!!! This is never ever mentioned! I know this is pretty simple, but CR are just as important (if not more) than HD. I’m not disregarding HD, but there are lots of things people can do to pay more attention to CR.
You must be aware that there are so many things you can do to increase PR including the “little” things like semen handling and placement. Be very clean in everything that you do and be aware of cold shock. The diet of the cow must be correct for high CR. Make sure you review an AI manual even when things are going good. It is very easy for breeders to get in bad habits! You might get good results for a while, but it is a matter of time when you sit back and wonder what went wrong! Review Review Review your procedure constantly!
I have a simple challenge to decide what kind of breeding straw is better! Most breeders I know (technician and in-house) prefer 1/2 cc straws. The only ones that like 1/4 cc straw is the ones that believe that 1/4 cc straws get 1-2% better conception rates and that is only because they believe their semen jock who stops by with some crazy number they pulled off some “study”. So here is my challenge….
- We breed 1000 Holstein cows to our Holstein double strength 1/2 cc straw
- You breed the same 1000 Holstein cows at the same time with your Jersey 1/4 cc straw
- We breed another 1000 Holstein cows to our Jersey double strength 1/2 cc straw
- You breed the same 1000 Holstein cows at the same time with your Holstein 1/4 cc straw
The results will be monitored when the cows calve. If more of them calve with cross calves on the first 1000 breedings and Holsteins calves on the second 1000 breedings you win! If more of them calve with Holsteins calves on the first 1000 breedings and cross calves on the second 1000 breedings we win! The environment will be the same so we will not have to compare conception results. We will have a total of 2000 cows in our study in the same environment. Pretty simple and it should end the debate forever!
Who is in???