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Dollars and Sense: Herd Health and Reproduction

Dairy Herd Today – Breeding cows back is almost as important as postpartum fresh cow recovery because they both work hand in hand.

Cows that have been cleaned properly will make breeding a lot easier as well as recover faster. We check our fresh cows twice a week—not daily. The issue with daily is that employees tend to have fresh cows locked up longer than needed. Cows that are locked up too long are slow to recover. More change is noticed in cows that are checked less often.

The things we look for in fresh cows are: appetite, discharge, temperature, manure consistency and
rumen function. Protocols are in place for the employees to efficiently treat and monitor fresh cows. We always assume that there are sick cows in the pen that need treatment. If your cows are not healthy during freshening, their breeding performance will be negatively affected.

For us, it starts in the dry pen. Dry cow condition is closely monitored on a weekly basis. Fat cows that come into the close-up pen are dangerous because they are susceptible to metabolic disorders and diseases, such as displaced abomasums, retained placentas, milk fevers and ketosis. For that reason, cows are separated, fed and treated differently.

In the past, we’ve had problems with overconditioned cows that are in need of drenching, which was only a temporary fix, labor-intensive and expensive. Having these issues can hurt your breeding performance.

However, with forage prices on the rise, we were forced to cut back on feed quality, which gives you a thinner cow and fewer of these problems. We have not had a displaced abomasum on any of our operations in the last six months and have not drenched a cow in two to three years.
Thinner cows at freshening are a huge advantage to the breeding program.

Of the four dairies we run, two operate under full AI, with protocols set up to have all cows bred by 100 days or less. The other two dairies are bred by bulls. Our voluntary waiting period to breed cows on all dairies is 50 days.

The main difference between the two methods is: Do you want to rely on employee performance or pay for the extra feed used for bulls along with employee safety? Percent pregnancy on herds is similar using both methods; however, records on the AI dairies are more precise than cows bred by bulls. Having good records of days bred helps the consistency with drying cows on time, which gives them adequate time to rest for their next lactation.

In our experience, cow health and breeding are always beginning and never ending. Cow health is 100% ration, and the beginning of her lactation is just as important
as the end.

Schaap’s most recent prices

$19.25/cwt. (3.77% bf, 3.2% prt)

Cull cows    
$67 to $72/cwt.

Springing heifers  
$1,300 to $1,500/head

Alfalfa hay 
(milk cow) $295 to $310/ton


Rolled milo

Canola meal

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