Friday, January 6, 2017

Top 10 A.I. Technique Mistakes

I was recently reading an article in Progressive Dairyman which reported the cost for days open in a dairy animal to be between $3 and $5. Many factors come into play with determining if an animal becomes pregnant or not, and several of them are beyond our control as dairy producers. However, one of the variables we can control is our A.I. technique. I asked Eric Maynard, GENEX Dairy Education Instructor, to give me the top ten A.I. technique and semen handling mistakes people make.

1)  Incorrect or Poor Semen Placement. Several years ago, researchers at the Pennsylvania State University developed radiography techniques to clearly evaluate insemination accuracy. These techniques overcome some of the limitations of the earlier dye techniques used to evaluate placement. The study was reported in which 20 professional technicians and 20 owner-inseminators were evaluated using the radiography technique. Each person inseminated a total of 20 reproductive tracts. Radiographs were taken to access inseminating gun placement. The data showed that only 39 percent of the gun tip placements were in the uterine body. A total of 25 percent of the gun tip placements were in the cervix. Twenty-three percent were in the right uterine horn, and 13 percent were in the left uterine horn. Sixty percent of the semen was distributed either in the cervix or disproportionately in one uterine horn. Only 40 percent of the semen was located in the uterine body or equally distributed in both uterine horns.

2) Lack of reproductive knowledge. Failure to understand the anatomical and functional relationships among the various tissues and organs of the reproductive system may lead to consistent insemination errors.

3)  Animals are not in heat. Ensure that the cow to be bred is truly in heat. Research studies indicate between 7 and 20 percent of the cattle inseminated are not in heat.

4)  Careless handling of A.I. gun. Once the insemination device is assembled, it must be protected from contamination and cold shock temperatures.

5)  Improper straw handling. Shake the straw after removing it from the tank to eliminate any drops of nitrogen at the end of the cotton plug. This will prevent the plug bursting off when it is put in the water bath. If you have a large group of animals to inseminate, use semen more promptly by having one person thawing and loading while another breeds the animals.                                                        

6)  Contamination. The vulva region must be thoroughly wiped clean with a paper towel. This is important in helping prevent the interior of the reproductive tract from becoming contaminated and possibly infected. A folded paper towel can be inserted into the lower portion of the vulva. The insemination rod can then be placed between the folds of the towel and inserted into the vagina without contacting the lips of the vulva.

7)  Poor A.I. gun angle. To avoid the possibility of entering the urethral opening on the floor of the vagina, the insemination rod should be inserted into the vulva upward at a 30 ̊ to 40 ̊ angle.

8)  Incorrect hand placement. During the process of semen deposition, take care that the fingers of the palpating hand are not inadvertently blocking a uterine horn or misdirecting the flow of semen in some manner.

9)  Incomplete semen deposition. Be careful not to pull the insemination rod back through the cervix while the semen is being expelled.

10) Animal movement during insemination. If the cow has moved during semen deposition or you think the rod has moved, stop the semen deposition and correctly reposition the rod tip before continuing semen deposition.

If you would prefer a more comprehensive evaluation of your A.I. technique, talk to your GENEX representative about the A.I. AccuCheck℠ program

Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Year of Reflection, Learning and Breakthroughs

The end of December. It’s the time of year people reflect back on the past 365 days filled with laughter, success, hard times and hope. At GENEX we also like to take the time to look at our journey in 2016. Not only do we adapt to difficult times (like those darn low milk and beef prices) and use them to learn and create something positive, but we also appreciate the successes and breakthroughs we’ve accomplished. Yes, even with the unavoidable bumps along the way, 2016 was another year GENEX could be proud of. Take a look at the synopsis below of our 2016 blog posts (and be sure to read them in their entirety if you haven’t already)!

GENEX kicked off the year by giving members and customers a taste of a standout GENESIS family: The Prudence Family. From the formidable 1HO11881 Co-op PRINCETON-ET son to Prudence’s first milking daughters, this family is sure to add profitability to any herd.
Co-op SPS Prudence 7079-ET, Co-op GRFT Prudence 7162-ET, 
and Co-op Val Prudence 7207

On January 17, while some people were celebrating Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day, our GENEX Ideal Commercial Cow was celebrating her resolutions, from maintaining a desirable Body Condition Score (BCS) to being more efficient through the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index. Be sure to check out the full blog post to read the other two resolutions our cow stuck with.

As January progressed, GENEX Beef gave readers a taste of the self-proclaimed Super Bowl of Livestock Shows - the National Western Stock Show. Read more to see who scored big.
McCurry Brothers of Sedgwick, Kansas, won the Grand Champion Pen with a pen of S A V BISMARCK 5682 daughters and Reserve Champion Pen was a group of PVF INSIGHT 0129 heifers from Bear Mountain Angus, Palisade, Nebraska.

We closed out January by highlighting one of GENEX’s driving forces behind its success - its delegates. GENEX delegate Scott Erthum took the time to explain the roles of delegates and why he chose to become one.

Check out our throwback post in February to see what was hidden in one particular semen tank. You’d be surprised at what was found (or maybe you’ve found some of those same items hidden in your semen tanks at some point).

Once you’re done reading that post (or perhaps done digging through your own semen tank to see what hidden treasures it holds), be sure to take a look at this article by Kim Egan, DVM, GENEX Dairy Consultant Manager, to understand the importance of BCS and what you can do to help your cattle maintain proper BCS.

While you’re at it, take a look at what it’s like to be a GENEX delegate through the eyes of someone who’s quite demographically different from the first GENEX delegate we covered. Alexa Kayhart is a prime example of how all members and customers can benefit as a delegate.

Members and customers not only benefit by serving as a delegate, but they also benefit by using artificial insemination (A.I.) service to breed their cattle. This blog post shows how cost effective A.I. can be!

Once you’re done reading how beneficial A.I. can be, read about PregCheck™ fertility rankings, so you can make better mating decisions.

Our March 15th blog post was uploaded in celebration and advocacy of a day near and dear to our hearts - National Agriculture Day. Revisit this post to learn how YOU can agvocate. And check out this blog post as well for a little #WisdomWednesday.

Read our post from April 19th to learn when to pregnancy check and why. Your increased pregnancy rates can thank us later ;)

To celebrate National Beef Month, it only made sense that our May 17th blog post feature one of GENEX’s elite (and no, we’re not referring to our bulls, although those are pretty stellar too, if we do say so ourselves). This post featured one of our many standout Independent Contractors, Duane Frehse.

In June, GENEX Communications Specialist Brenda Brady spent an important (and fun!) day at a local daycare to educate young and eager minds about agriculture.

Since the past six months have been a little more recent, I won’t continue to ramble on with each and every blog post we’ve written since then. However, I will list them here for you to check out for yourself (and I highly encourage you to do so! From educational to light-hearted to personable to GENEX-specific information, we’ve got it all)! We hope to see you back at the GENEX blog next year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

From a Delegate's Point of View

GENEX recently wrapped up its fall delegate meetings. Nine different meetings took place giving delegates from across the country the chance to learn of changes taking place within GENEX and an opportunity to provide feedback for the future of the cooperative. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ron Koetsier, a delegate from California on the delegate experience. Ron is a second generation dairy farmer who now farms in partnership with his son, Ron Jr. They milk 1,150 cows and farm 400 acres near Visalia.

What is the time commitment of being a GENEX delegate? 3 to 5 days a year, depending on where you live and where the meetings are located

Ron participating in the GENEX Fall Delegate Meeting.
What is your experience and/or history with cooperatives? We were members of Eastern A.I. (a GENEX predecessor). We are also members of Land O'Lakes Cooperative, and I have served as a Unit Delegate.

Why did you decide to become involved with GENEX governance? Because I then can provide input into what goes on in the cooperative. Delegate input really does matter. A recent example is the change in requirements to become a member. We were asked to provide our feedback, and the cooperative acted based on it. I also gain a lot of information from other delegates. It is certainly a learning experience. I learn way more than what I put in.

What advice do you have for others who may be considering becoming a delegate? Do it. You will pick up new ideas from the like-minded individuals you are around. It is very enlightening as you will find out how cooperatives operate. Becoming involved is an excellent growing opportunity and everyone can contribute, whether you have 50 or 5,000 cows.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Ideal Commercial Cows … at the heart of every dairy operation

Hopping in a truck and traveling the back roads of rural America … who doesn’t love this? It’s there that you see the heart of America, dairy farmers, true entrepreneurs, the original business man and woman.

So what is driving today's commercial dairy operations? What is it dairy producers need and want from their genetics and their genetic partners? This question drives what we do here at GENEX day in and day out.

Heifers at a feed bunk on a commercial dairy

Healthy. Trouble-free. Durable. Invisible. Profitable. These are just some of the words you are using to describe what you need on your operation. With meeting your needs as our priority, the concept of a new, innovative genetic index for creating commercial cows was born. After that initial grassroots spark, GENEX launched the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index in August 2014. Then and now, the ICC$ index is a Holstein sire ranking tool which uses real-time economic indicators and science-based genetic principles to address the needs of commercial dairy producers – your needs. 

Sitting down with real-world dairy producers, such as Darin Dykstra of Dykstra Dairy in Maurice, Iowa, you gain a true perspective on the realities of commercial dairy farming. Darin uses the ICC$ index because it matches his dairy breeding principles. He shares, “I want a functional, durable, long-lasting cow that produces lots of high component milk. The less events she has on her cow card the better. That is a great cow for any commercial dairy farmer."

Don Bennink, an industry-leading commercial producer from North Florida Holsteins in Bell, Florida, and a supplier of elite genetics for A.I. companies across the industry, also shared his perspective on the ICC$ index. He stated, “The Ideal Commercial Cow index is probably the largest step forward we have seen in meeting the commercial producer’s needs.”

Breeding for an Even Healthier Herd
With the December sire summaries, GENEX is helping you breed for even healthier ideal commercial cows. We have announced the addition of three proprietary health traits to the ICC$ index. Subclinical Ketosis (SCK), Metritis (MTR) and Foot Health (FH) breeding values will help you breed for lower BHBA (a cause of ketosis), fewer cases of metritis and fewer foot health issues. We bring you the SCK, MTR and FH values because ketosis, metritis and lameness conditions have both a large presence in modern dairy operations and a large impact on bottom-line farm profitability.

Remember, ICC$ is the summation of five easy-to-use sub-indexes: Health, Production Efficiency, Fertility and Fitness, Milking Ability and Calving Ability. Sub-index values are available for each bull so you can narrow your genetic emphasis to these specific areas of farm management, as needed. The new health traits - SCK, MTR and FH - have been added to the Health sub-index.

Young girl looking at a cow in a hospital pen.

The proprietary traits were established by Cooperative Resources International (CRI) scientists with the International Center for Biotechnology (ICB). In developing the breeding values, the CRI ICB staff used science, research and an extensive database including nearly 4 million cows and 26 million health events. Additionally, the SCK breeding values are the result of CRI ICB staff calculations and collaborative research by professionals at the University of Wisconsin Department of Dairy Science and School of Veterinary Medicine and CRI subsidiary AgSource Cooperative Services. 

You asked. GENEX delivered.
When asked why he uses GENEX as his genetics supplier and partner, commercial dairyman Darin Dykstra answers, “Functional, durable and invisible - that is what I’m looking for. ICC$ selection provides that.”

Monday, November 28, 2016


Genex has a great team of Independent Contractors across the country who serve our members and customers. Each Monday morning during the month of November, we featured one of our #RepsthatRock. on the GenexBeef Facebook page. These folks are so fabulous that we wanted to share their stories on the blog as well. Here’s a glimpse at five; tune-in next spring when we feature another set of representatives. 

Independent Contractor Cassie Herrera has been part of the Genex sales force

for five years and covers the state of Washington. Cassie loves the work she does, stating the best part of her job is breeding cattle and helping ranchers build the herd that best fits them. She also enjoys working on group projects with fellow Genex sales reps and appreciates the knowledge and professionalism each person brings to the table. Outside of work, Cassie enjoys spending time with family, watching her son rodeo, and playing football and basketball. When asked about her favorite beef entrée, Cassie noted, “Nothing beats a tenderloin steak.”

Mark Fowler has been an Independent Contractor since April 2016, serving

ranches in North and South Carolina. Mark has farmed and raised cattle his entire adult life, and he thoroughly enjoys meeting new customers and viewing standout cattle from elite Genex bulls. He recently attended the Genex Progeny Tour, where he viewed firsthand some of the bulls at Genex Hawkeye West in Montana. In his spare time, Mark enjoys hunting, fishing, going to church, and spending time with his family and friends. Host a cookout with New York Strip (cooked medium well), and Mark will be there!

Dawn Letellier became an Independent Contractor in January 2015, serving

customers in western south central South Dakota. Dawn earned an associate's degree in ag technology from Mitchell Technical Institute, and she currently owns and operates a cow/calf operation. Throughout her time with Genex, she's really enjoyed helping producers select bulls for their herds and seeing the mating results. Dawn's hobbies include reading and hunting. When it comes to beef, Dawn can't pass up a good prime rib.

Tyler and Cassie Schleich are a team of Independent Contractors covering western Illinois. Tyler joined Genex in 2007, and Cassie jumped on board to help her husband in 2012. Cassie and Tyler grew up with beef cattle, and they both pursued agriculture degrees from Western Illinois University. They love having the opportunity to help cattlemen improve their operations; they’ve worked hard to gain customers’ trust and establish strong relationships, which they attribute to the success they have today. While working with Genex, they’ve appreciated the A.I. schools, which is where Cassie learned to breed cattle. When Tyler and Cassie have a chance to get out of the barn, they enjoy spending time by the pool with their daughter and traveling to St. Louis to watch the Cardinals play baseball. When it comes to beef, Tyler loves brisket and Cassie enjoys a beef kabob on the grill.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Holiday That Makes Your Heart and Belly Full

By: Brooke Handy, Public Relations Coordinator, CRI

For me, and I’m sure many of you as well, Thanksgiving has always been a time to reflect. What I am thankful for changes year to year, but there are always a few constants.

As the weather gets colder, I’m thankful for Carhartt® coveralls to help block the wind-chill (I wish -30 was a number that only existed in math class), decent chore boots (without holes) and fuzzy socks to keep my feet warm and dry.

I’m thankful for good, maternal cows that raise big, healthy babies every year (also for my favorite farm dog that always has my back when those same cows are breathing down my neck while I'm checking calves).

I’m thankful chore time is always family time, even if a few of us aren’t speaking to each other by the time we get back to the house.

I’m thankful for old, reliable trucks that have a permanent layer of dirt embedded in the upholstery. No matter how worn, tattered and run-down it gets, it keeps chugging along, hauling feed, fencing supplies or a few helping hands.

I’m thankful I grew up in a farm family that instilled the importance of hard work, honesty and the ability to scale a fence in 0.3 seconds flat.

I’m thankful for a career in the agriculture industry that has allowed me to meet the most sincere, hard-working individuals from all over America.

I’m thankful for our loyal members and customers who pour their heart and souls into what they do. The producers who work sun up to sun down to provide for not only themselves, but for the rest of the world as well.

I’m thankful for all the Genex employees who work long days to help our customers and members reach their herd goals.

I’m thankful for a short workweek that will end with glorious Thanksgiving food, especially pie –  every kind of pie you can imagine.

Most of all, I am thankful for the opportunity to sit around a table with my family this Thanksgiving, enjoying the fruits of many farmers’ labor and the ability to go back for seconds (okay, maybe thirds).

I hope your holiday is full of food, laughter and family. And I hope you are just as lucky as me to have so many things to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 18, 2016

My Top 10 Ag Idioms

By: Brooke Schultz, Communications Coordinator, CRI

Take a deep breath and brace yourself – I’m about to shower you with a fun play on words related to agriculture. Maybe it’s just the English nerd in me, but I have a weird fascination for idioms, what they stand for and where they originated. I figured what better way to merge my nerdy language enthusiasm with your passion for agriculture?

Before I begin spewing idioms at you, it would probably help if you understood what an idiom is. Similar to a metaphor, an idiom is a set expression or phrase that is not interpreted literally. The phrase is understood to mean something quite different from what the individual words of the phrase would imply. Examples of idioms include: raining cats and dogs, sick as a dog, jumping the gun, piece of cake, break a leg, etc.

So, what are some of the fun idioms used that relate to agriculture? I’ve listed my 10 favorites below. Take a look!

1.    Born in a barn.
One could guess this phrase was originated in reference to farmers leaving their barn doors open to allow cattle to head out to the pasture freely. This was probably my dad’s favorite saying while I was growing up. Since he paid the heat bill, he was sure to let my brother and me (and even our friends) know he was unhappy when we left the front door open by quipping this phrase. (To which I would respond in typical teenage fashion, “I don’t know, dad, was I? You were there and would know better than me.” Thankfully my dad and I had a good relationship where we could banter back and forth like that.)

 2.    Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
This idiom seems pretty self-explanatory – Don’t make assumptions and rely on something you’re unsure about. It would be a bummer to think you’re going to have 10 chickens, only to find out three of them died so you only have seven. (Or, to make it a little more relatable to members and customers ... planning on having xx amount of calves born and join the herd, only to have a significant number of them die from a disease outbreak.) That could really throw a wrench in future plans and profitability.

 3.    Take the bull by the horns.
Warning: Do not try this at home. (Actually, you probably shouldn’t try this anywhere.) Rather than taking this idiom literally, one should know this implies you should confront a problem head on. Yes, when there is an issue that needs to be handled, you should put your boots on, saddle up and take the bull by the horns. (Idioms! Idioms everywhere!)

4.    Cream of the crop.
The best of the best. The bee’s knees. The cat’s meow. The crème de la crème. Need I say more? I mean, I think we all know it’s a fairly shared opinion that the cream is the best part of the milk. Speaking of milk...

5.    Milk it for all it’s worth.
No, I’m not referring to literally milking your cow for all she’s worth (although you can go ahead and do that too)! Rather, this idiom means to take full advantage of a situation. Like on those rare occasions you actually have a day off, you should milk it for all it’s worth. (Sleep in. Spend some much needed time with family. Take a road trip. Visit the beach. Do anything and everything you would want to do on your day off. Trust me, you’ve earned it!)

6.    You reap what you sow.
While literally, yes, you reap what you sow (aka you gather what you plant), this idiom means everything that happens to you is a result of your own actions. Every action has a consequence, so make sure what you sow is worth the reap. And since we’re on the topic of crops...

7.    Make hay while the sun shines.
Seize the day! Carpe diem! As a farmer or rancher, you know it’s imperative to take advantage of good weather, so what do you do? You make hay while the sun shines (literally).

8.    Hold your horses.
Put simply: wait a moment. While the origin of this idiom hasn’t been verified, most explanations historically relate to horse riding or driving a horse-drawn vehicle. (You know those chickens I referred to earlier? You should probably hold your horses on counting them before they hatch.)

9.    Bull in a china shop.
Can you imagine a bull let loose in a store filled with expensive, fragile china? I’m sure my grandmother would be cringing at the thought. This idiom describes individuals who are careless in the way they move or behave. I cannot count how many times I’ve used this phrase to describe a particular friend who just plows through delicate spaces. (See what I did there?)

10.   A needle in a haystack.

I’m sure you all know objects compared to “a needle in a haystack” refers to something that is extremely difficult or impossible to find ... like when you’re running around taking care of a million things, then misplace your car keys in the process. We all know finding them is like finding a needle in a haystack (and then you eventually find them in the fridge 20 minutes later). Or when you’re about to begin harvesting, only to realize you cannot find that hitch pin you swore you just had. Or maybe you parents have heard it when your children are looking for something but just CANNOT find it (only for you to find it within five minutes of looking).

Well, there you have it, folks. My top 10 ag idioms. I hope this blog post gave you a break from your mundane chores and responsibilities and helped you realize how colorful and fun our language can be!