The dairy forecast is looking rough. Feed prices are sky high and milk prices have started to drop. A market like this favors producers who have a highly efficient management model in place. For those with low reproductive efficiency, it gets harder and harder to farm profitably. If your reproductive program forces your herd's average days in milk (DIM) upwards of 190 DIM or you find yourself needing to purchase replacements because you just can’t seem to get enough heifers, then it is likely beneficial to re-evaluate your management scheme.
John Ellsworth, owner of Success Strategies dairy business and financing consulting firm, has said the best indication that a dairy is able to cash-flow is DIM. We know DIM is driven primarily by reproduction on most farms. There is more to think about than just the cows though. The often forgotten breeding-age heifers need to get pregnant as quickly as possible because they increase your operating costs every day they stand in the breeding pen without carrying a calf. The solution is simple, streamline your reproductive program and your operation should decrease DIM and decrease variance for heifers’ age at first calving.
The mantra for dairy producers to consider is that investing in an efficient reproductive program is not expensive. Rather it is expensive to invest in a less efficient program that appears cheaper on the surface but causes more days open. One easy way to generate a more streamlined and efficient reproductive program is to diagnose non-pregnant cattle early and often. The highly reliable DG29 product available through CRI might be the tool you need for the job.
Blood pregnancy diagnosis with DG29 is a highly accurate and reliable method of diagnosing pregnancy status in dairy cattle. As shown in Figure 1, there are two outcomes of a DG29 examination – cattle either have high or low protein levels. Those cattle with high protein levels are pregnant (reconfirm at a later date). Those with low protein levels have two possible outcomes. One possibility is the protein levels are abnormally low for the stage of gestation and the animal should be rechecked to evaluate the situation (perhaps experienced pregnancy loss, breeding date was incorrect, etc.). The other, more common reason for low protein is that the animal is not pregnant and should be immediately re-enrolled into your breeding program.
If each week, you were to test all cattle at 29 to 35 days post-insemination as part of your reproductive program it would enable a smaller inter-breeding interval on all cattle diagnosed as non-pregnant. This would thereby increase your service rate (or heat detection rate) and drive down days open which will eventually positively affect DIM. It is important to reconfirm all pregnancies shortly after 60 days post-insemination, so cattle that undergo pregnancy loss can be immediately re-enrolled into the breeding program.
A small change in your reproductive program can go a long way. Incorporating proven technology that helps to increase efficiency in your reproductive program probably won’t show as a source of cost savings on your monthly expenditures. However, if you read between the lines and look at vital statistics such as DIM and days open (cows and heifers), you can take comfort in the fact your investment is indeed working – even if it is working behind the scenes.