Failure to get cycling cows bred is one of the most costly mistakes on today's dairy farms. It negatively impacts every other aspect of herd management with a snowballing effect, suggests Mike O'Connor, Penn State dairy extension specialist.
That's why O'Connor led a round of Dairy Advocacy and Resource Team (DART) educational meetings in October to help dairy industry professionals gear up efforts to help farmers. Nearly 200 dairy support people attending the series sponsored by Pennsylvania's Center for Dairy Excellence.
Strive for 20% pregnancy rate
All dairy herds should strive for a goal of a 20% pregnancy rate, says O'Connor. Heat detection and submission rate for insemination are the two most common factors impacting pregnancy rates.
Focus on accuracy and efficiency of heat detection, the submission rate for insemination, transition cow management, early lactation nutrition, handling of semen, and cow comfort and conditioning, he advises. He also suggests establishing a waiting period so cows receive the first insemination on a timely basis -- at 75 to 80 days.
Consider risk management tools
David Dowler, Crawford County Extension educator, also urged development of a risk management plan for each dairy. "Producers need to protect both their income and costs in this highly-volatile industry," he contends.
"Consider milk price contracting to protect their income. Look at contracting grains, using crop insurance and evaluating other options for protecting costs."
You'll find O'Connor's and Dowler's PowerPoint presentations at www.centerfordairyexcellence.org. Click on 'Education' and 'DART'). Or for a paper copy, contact the Center at (717) 346-0846.