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♦ Breeder Checkup Can Help Drive Repro Success
♦ Breeder Checkup Can Help Drive Repro Success

Breeder Checkup Can Help Drive Repro Success

Miguel Perez, A.I. Complete Manager, Genex and
Phillip Lunn, Dairy Account Manager, Genex

While Genex professionals provide many members with cattle artificial insemination (A.I.) service, there are also dairies across the U.S. that utilize on-farm herd inseminators. These farm-employed breeders may be graduates of an A.I. school or may have received on-the-job training. Regardless, continual learning and evaluation is necessary to achieve ongoing breeding program success.

Genex provides a service aimed at assisting herd inseminators in attaining optimal results. A breeding program audit - a Genex program called A.I. AccuCheck - is a comprehensive observation and evaluation of a herd inseminator's technique designed to monitor performance and facilitate the exchange of knowledge and new information.

Why is there a need for A.I. AccuCheck? in today's dairy industry, herd inseminators are busy and often have a difficult time keeping up with advancements in A.I. simply because they are focused on their daily work. in other instances, breeders are taught how to perform a task but not why it is important to do it correctly. Other herd inseminators are veterans of the position, having been trained quite a few years ago with no follow-up. Finally, though one may not like to admit it, it is human nature to cut corners and develop bad habits over time.

A.I. AccuCheck provides opportunity for Genex training specialists to share new techniques and recent research with herd inseminators while supplementing inadequate or outdated training. The program helps a breeder understand the impact they have on the dairy's bottom line.

Regular, comprehensive evaluations can also help to uncover small problems before they become larger issues. In dairy reproductive program, one of the unfortunate realities is that problems can be hidden for weeks until a vet check. On a large dairy, this can amount to hundreds of services and thousands of dollars in lost opportunity.

So, what is evaluated during an A.I. AccuCheck? The simple answer is - everything. Experienced Genex professionals evaluate every aspect of breeder performance. During this evaluation, we communicate to the breeder that our goal is to help them improve their performance and make them an even more valuable farm employee. The evaluation is not about finding fault; it's about identifying areas of opportunity, incorporating research-based proven techniques and praising breeders for what they do correctly.

Let's look at some attributes of the A.I. AccuCheck program:

Scheduling: While the frequency of visits may vary from farm to farm, it's important they occur on a regular basis. This helps to detect problems early. It also enables the breeder and Genex training specialist to get to know each other. Initially, the breeder may be nervous to have someone evaluating their work. however, over time the breeder should realize the knowledge gained and personal development achieved only makes him or her a more valuable farm employee.

Equipment: For reproductive success one must make sure all equipment is in good working order and functioning properly. An A.I. AccuCheck evaluation includes examining equipment. For instance, is the thaw unit the right temperature? Is it clean? How often is the water changed? If a gun warmer is used, how often is the insert cleaned or changed? Is it dirty inside? Genex training specialists also observe how equipment (scissors, tweezers, etc.) is stored. Those items should be stored in a container, such as a breeding kit, for cleanliness and to prevent loss or damage.

Heat Detection: If heat detection is used, the Genex training specialist walks pens with the breeder to see if detection is conducted properly. Is tail chalk or paint being applied and read correctly? Does the breeder know and understand the signs of heat? If the breeder is asked how they decided a particular cow is or is not in heat, can they respond directly and confidently?

Semen Handling: more infractions are committed in this performance area than any other, so it's important to go through a semen handling checklist with the breeder explaining the importance of each step and the consequences of cutting corners. Also evaluated is thaw time, time from straw thawing to semen deposition, etc.

A.I. Technique: The Genex training specialist observes every part of the insemination process from the point of entry into the cow until the breeder withdraws the insemination gun. Observation indicates how gentle the breeder is while working the gun through the cervix, the level of ease the breeder has in moving the gun through the cervix, the speed at which semen is deposited, the semen deposit location and more.

Cleanliness: Cleanliness cannot be overlooked. Cleanliness is observed in every step - from semen handling until the breeder withdraws the A.I. gun. Specific areas examined include: Is a paper towel used to wipe the vulva before inserting the insemination gun? Is the A.I. kit and everything inside it clean? Is the inside of the gun warmer (if used) clean? Being clean not only makes a breeder look professional but also increases the chance of attaining  pregnancy. One needs to ensure cleanliness each time the cow is entered for breeding; the uterus of a cow is the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, leading to infections.

Record-keeping: Accurate record-keeping is necessary for evaluating reproductive program performance. Remember, performance results are only as accurate as the data points recorded. Therefore it is important to correctly and consistently record the bulls being used, the technician name or number, and other comments related to the breeding event. With accurate and detailed information, the dairy management team is better able to monitor the reproductive program success and make decisions regarding farm reproduction and profit goals.

Following a thorough evaluation, the most significant areas for improvement are focused on first. Then over time, smaller issues can be tweaked. The goal is not to overwhelm the breeder or dairy with changes but to make manageable improvements over a logical timeframe.

The success of a dairy's reproductive program is important as it directly affects the farm's bottom line. Through A.I. AccuCheck and the assistance of a Genex training specialist, on-farm inseminators are re-motivated to drive reproductive program success as they develop and refine their technique and learn the science behind their work.

To learn more about having a breeding program evaluation conducted on your dairy, contact your local Genex representative. A.I. AccuCheck is not available in all locations.

August 2014