Friday, May 25, 2018

Getting the Boys Ready for the Camera

A few weeks ago I revisited a post I had written on picturing cows. Having assisted with the process many times got me to thinking about picturing our bulls. I use their photos all of the time on social media, flyers and advertisements, but I have never been present to see if it is any different. So I did a little checking, and as luck would have it, we were due to picture nine bulls in the middle of May. So I was off to our Ford barn for a morning of learning and observation.

The first thing I discovered actually occurred even before I made it to the barn. The genomic era has us picturing bulls at a younger age than in the past. This makes for a much easier and safer day. In the past, waiting to take photos of daughter-proven bulls meant their attitudes (and hormones) were in full swing. In fact, in order to provide an element of safety for the handler, a cage was built and mounted to the back of a tractor. The sire handler would ride inside of the cage and the bull would be walked to the area outside of the barn where the photos would be taken.

Which brings me to difference number one between picturing cows and our bulls.

1.  Bull photos are taken in the collection arena. Since we have the technology to add a scenic background to the photos, there is no need to take the bulls out of the environment they are used to. This adds to the safety element for everyone (bulls included) involved.

Since we export semen across the world, strict biosecurity protocols are in place. This brings me to differences two and three.

2.  In order to enter the Ford barn, individuals must shower, change clothes, suit up or a combination of the three. I was lucky enough to get a white disposable coverall suit to wear. Sorry, no pictures were available.😉 Those who work with the animals have clothes they keep in the locker room, and they change every day when they come to work.

3.  All of the supplies, from the boards that are used under the animal's feet, to the clippers and fitting sprays were bought specifically for the Ford barn and never leave the facility.

My last difference between bull and cow picturing became evident after I watched a couple of bulls go through the process. 

4.  With cow photos, we always have the same individual hold the animals. With our bull photos, a specific sire handler holds the bull. Since each bull has a handler, this also adds to the
safety and efficiency factors.

The process of picturing bulls went much more smoothly than I thought was possible. The animals were extremely calm and responded well to those setting their feet. I actually found the bulls I watched that day were better behaved than most of the cows I have assisted with. I attribute that to the fact the bulls are worked daily and are used to being led, whereas the cows we take photos of are commercial cows who aren't usually used to a halter. 
Here is a little time-lapse video to give you an idea of what takes place the day of bull picturing.

Thanks to Nate, Kenny, Luke, Andy, Jesse, Morgan and especially our talented photographer, Sarah Damrow, for allowing me to spend time observing.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Future is Agriculture

As part of our commitment to the future of agriculture, each year GENEX awards scholarships to college students pursuing degrees in agriculture. GENEX, a part of Cooperative Resources International (CRI), awards college students who are actively involved on a member’s farm or ranch and exhibit a passion of leading the way for the agriculture industry.

The six recipients of this year’s CRI Collegiate Scholarship exemplify the drive, dedication and devotion that agriculture requires. Their response to what agriculture means to them is proof:

Students earning the $750 scholarship include: Jessica Schmitt of Fort Atkinson, Iowa; Lantz Adams of Laton, California; Matthew Grossman of Pittsville, Wisconsin; Donovan Buss of York, Nebraska; Bridger Gordon of Whitewood, South Dakota; and Erica Helmer of Plymouth, Wisconsin.

These applicants are a promise to a bright future in agriculture.

“We are proud to support youth who are interested in furthering their education and commitment to agriculture,” states Terri Dallas, Vice President of Communications. “Not only do these students understand the importance of agriculture; they are tremendous advocates for it as well.”

The hard work, passion and leadership skills needed for the agriculture industry is not lost on these students. In their applications they described opportunities that helped them grow, such as interning for a congressman in Washington D.C., volunteering on mission trips, leading FFA chapters and 4-H clubs, taking advanced placement classes to push themselves academically, spearheading educational events to spread agriculture awareness, and managing critical roles on the operations they work.

“These applicants are a promise to a bright future in agriculture,” states Terri. “Along with their exceptional leadership, the heart and determination they demonstrate sends a strong message that tomorrow’s agriculture is in good hands.”

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fertility: The New Normal

By Kim Egan, DVM, Director of Strategic Accounts, GENEX

The world of dairy is one of continuous improvement. Tight margins, expense of heifer rearing, and the drive to improve herd genetic potential have made excellent reproduction an even more important item on many farms. Over the last several years, much has been learned and implemented to improve cow comfort, nutrition, and health. Genetics, fertility-enhancing synchronization programs and market pressures have all had an impact as well. An article written in 2015 regarding reproductive goals is already out-of-date. Below are the top five items being tracked on dairies today and updated goals for reproductive performance given the advancements over the last few years.

1) Percent pregnant by 150 Days in Milk (DIM). It seems many of the herds we work with have exceeded the goal of 75% that we were looking at a few years ago. Confirming this, our Dairy Performance Navigator system shows the top 10% of herds by milk production out of 280 Holstein herds, each with over 500 cows, now average 81% of the herd pregnant by 150 DIM. GENEX Excellence in Reproduction Award winners for 2017 averaged 88% pregnant by 150 DIM. A new goal of >80% of cows pregnant by 150 DIM seems appropriate now.

2) 3-week pregnancy rate. Depending on the program your farm uses, the calculation of cows that are eligible to be bred may vary. Ultimately, the pregnancy rate is driven by conception rates and service rates. Factors that diminish estrus expression or detection or reduce conception will reduce the pregnancy rate. Many factors that affect reproductive success are shown below.
Holstein herds with 500 cows or more in our Dairy Performance Navigator℠ (DPN℠) program average 25% annual pregnancy rates, with the top 10% by cow pregnancy rate achieving an average of 34%. A good goal for 3-week pregnancy rate is now 30%.

3) Conception by breeding code, service number, semen type. Many herds are using sex-sorted semen in the lactating herd as well as their heifers, this frequently has lower conception than conventional semen. There are also differences in synchronization programs for first service and later services. It is best to track conception of differing breeding codes (ex: resynchronization versus heat detection) and semen types, so that if change in reproductive performance is desired, the areas can be monitored in relation to the goal and to historical performance. Good goals here would match the following: The top 10% of Holstein herd by cow pregnancy rate in our DPNprogram are achieving first service conception >45% in their lactating herds. For heifers, the Dairy Calf and Heifer Association gold standard for first service conception rate with sexed semen is 60%.  

4) Percent of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months old. This is still a favorite measure of the overall efficiency of the virgin heifer reproductive program. The range can be adjusted based on your voluntary waiting period, but should allow time for breeding and pregnancy diagnosis. Delays in moving heifers into the breeding pen or inadequate heat detection will reduce this percentage. Skipping the pregnancy examinations or missing data will also skew this data. Increased percentages reflect efficient use of days (or months) heifers are fed before freshening and return income to the dairy. Currently, the top 10% of Holstein herds by heifer pregnancy rate in our DPN
program are achieving 85% of heifers pregnant at 15-17 months, that is an excellent goal for any dairy farm.

5) Number of eligible animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated. Many farms are achieving 100% of animals (both cows and heifers) inseminated within 28 days of their voluntary waiting period. It is important to have a fixed goal by which all animals should be inseminated, yours may be different than 28 days or may include weight for the heifers. Animals removed from breeding pens and/or missed on synchronization programs may not be inseminated, reducing the service rate and reducing the dairy’s efficiency. The goal for animals beyond first service deadline not inseminated is zero.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Easy A.I. Steps for Added Success

With a lot of beef breeding projects in full swing and dairy farmers looking for additional efficiencies, I thought it would be a great time to talk about proper artificial insemination technique. Last year I posted about common A.I. mistakes, so today's topic is going to be on doing things correctly. Whether you are just learning or a seasoned veteran, check out this list! 

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Lights! Camera! Action! The Tale of a GENEX Casting Call

The scene began at the 2017 National Angus Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. GENEX put out a casting call for a bull. Breeders could send in their boy's portfolio for a chance to win a lease contract (8 by 10 glossy head shots were not required 😉).  

Over 50 aspiring GENEX sires applied, from there our team narrowed the cast of characters to five.

The final decision was a difficult one, and after much deliberation by our beef team, a selection was made.

1AN01436 CROCKETT is an outstanding combination of  phenotype, pedigree and EPDs and is backed by an outstanding dam and grandam that have been productive members of the Brown herd in Tennessee for many years.

CROCKETT is now available from a GENEX representative near you!

Friday, April 20, 2018

No More Guessing About How Your Cows Feel

Okay, I'll admit it. Sometimes I find myself staring at my cows, daydreaming. I am wondering what they are thinking, how they are feeling and how I could help them be both more comfortable and productive (I think the former would help the latter!). While we haven't figured out how to tap into a cow's thoughts quite yet, we now have the ability to better monitor their health, nutrition, reproductive status and comfort. Enter SCR Heatime®.

SCR Heatime® is an advanced cow monitoring system designed to collect and analyze data that can be used for individual cow management and immediate decision implementation related to breeding, cow health and ration formulation. These systems successfully deliver insights dairy producers need, when they need them.

Use SCR Heatime® to:
» Recognize sick cows much earlier, which reduces time spent watching cows to identify         those that are sick 
» Use rumination data to detect potential health concerns
» Avoid over-treating animals and track successful treatments» Identify stressors» See how cows adjust to feed changes» Identify more cows in heat and create a timeline for insemination» Reduce hormone dependency by 50-80%

The fantastic thing about purchasing a system from the team at GENEX is just that - the GENEX team! Count on our professional staff to provide installation, set-up, continued training and technical support.

For more on SCR Heatime®, visit our website or talk to your GENEX representative, and make daydreaming about how your cows feel a thing of the past.

Monday, April 9, 2018

April Jersey Sire Summary Highlights

15 Sires Added to Industry-Leading GENEX Jersey Lineup

1JE01054 ACHIEVER {3}, an exciting Avon son, leads the GENEX new releases at an impressive +803 for the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index, +710 Cheese Merit (CM$) and +210 JPI™. He has an exceptional +27.2 JUI™ while improving yield with a +541 Cheese Maximizer (ChMAX$) sub-index ranking. ACHIEVER {3} will add impressive longevity at +6.6 Productive Life (PL) while also improving component percentages. He is available in GenChoice™ sexed semen only.

1JE01073 HALL {4} is an early 1JE00922 RONALDO {3} son joining the lineup at +791 ICC$, +662 CM$ and +196 JPI™. Use HALL {4} to add production efficiency with a +628 ChMAX$ sub-index rank. He is +144 combined Fat & Protein (CFP) and over +1100 Milk. He is available in GenChoice™ semen only.
1JE01073 HALL {4}

1JE01047 ARENA {3} is another Avon son at +739 ICC$ and +651 CM$. He is extremely balanced with impressive rankings on all three sub-indexes, along with a +0.3 Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR), +29.2 JUI™ and +125 CFP. ARENA {3} is 91 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE01041 KAZAN {3} is +735 ICC$ and +183 JPI™. This Avon son comes in at +594 CM$ and +127 CFP while maintaining +14.4 JUI™ and +0.3 DPR. KAZAN is GenChoice™ only.
1JE01069 AMPLIFY {3}, a new 1JE00892 VANDRELL {2} son is +709 ICC$, +666 CM$ and +194 JPI™. Use AMPLIFY {3} to add positive component percentages, improve udders (+19.3 JUI™) and daughter fertility (+0.4 DPR). He is 92 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE01076 JACK BAUER {3} is an early 1JE00921 EUSEBIO {4} son debuting at +680 ICC$, +582 CM$ and +175 JPI™. He will add milk yield while siring daughters with impressive udders at +21.9 JUI™. JACK BAUER {3} is 92 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE01046 FRESCA {3}
A group of Marlo sons were added to the lineup in 1JE01028 APPROACH {3} at +698 ICC$, 1JE01048 EVERLASTING {3} at +678 ICC$, 1JE01046 FRESCA {3} at +673 ICC$, 1JE01036 NORBERT {3} at +664 ICC$ and 1JE00970 STEPH {3} at +615 ICC$. All five will add impressive component yields, especially Fat while also improving udders with high JUI™ values. FRESCA {3} and NORBERT {3} are +590 and +576 CM$ respectively and are both available in GenChoice™ semen only.

Additional Highlights

1JE01057 CESPEDES {3} maintains his spot as an industry leader. This Marlo son carries an
impressive +215 JPI™ and +754 CM$ and is the ICC$ index leader at +841. CESPEDES {3} is an exceptional yield sire with +137 CFP while also possessing a positive DPR value. Use this sire to improve udders (+22.4 JUI™) and improve component percentages. CESPEDES {3} is 92 BBR and available in GenChoice™ semen only.

1JE00922 RONALDO {3} added early production daughters and ranks well at +769 ICC$, +645 CM$ and +194 JPI™. With over +1700 Milk and +158 CFP, RONALDO daughters are sure to add production.