Friday, May 26, 2017

Giving Birth Takes a Lot Out of a Cow – Including Calcium

Giving birth is no simple task. This is true for nearly all species, including cattle. Bringing new life into this world can truly be a miracle, but behind all the awe and beauty is a mother who struggled for hours, giving her all and sacrificing her own body to give life to her offspring (and to add milk to your tank).

While it is important to properly care for a newborn calf, it is also important to ensure the mother receives the care she needs. After all, she did just give birth so you could collect her milk. And giving birth takes a lot out of a cow – including calcium.

Proper calcium levels in a cow are crucial, especially post-calving. Without proper blood calcium levels, cows could experience hypocalcemia (aka milk fever). Hypocalcemia can lead to increased injury, decreased feed intake, increased risk of ketosis, increased risk of displaced abomasum and lower milk production. Therefore, preventative measures should be taken to reduce the possibility of hypocalcemia.

What can you do to maintain blood calcium levels? Typically, you administer some type of calcium bolus or supplement. The standard bolus routine is fighting a cow to swallow two (or more) giant boluses. (If only there was a bolus with a smooth shape and sleek coating to help ease the swallowing process. Amiright?) And even worse – not only do you need to try to catch the cow once, but you usually need to try to catch that same cow again 12 hours later to give it the second bolus. (Talk about inconvenient. Like you don’t already have enough on your plate.) Calcium supplementation can be a headache, that’s for sure. Luckily, GENEX continually looks for ways to make producers’ lives easier. That’s why we set out to create a calcium supplement unlike any other on the market.

Noting producers’ concerns regarding administration, shape and size, GENEX created a calcium supplement that not only provides plenty of calcium but also includes vitamin D and magnesium to help transfer the calcium into the blood stream. This product, RumiLife® CAL24™ nutritional supplement, was suggested by members and made for members. What makes this calcium supplementation different from the others?
›    RumiLife® CAL24™ nutritional supplement comes in one package (containing two boluses) that provides enough calcium so you don’t have to catch the cow a second time. Both boluses in the package can be given right away as opposed to giving the second bolus 12 hours later.
·       ›Each package contains 100 grams of calcium, a mixture between fast-releasing calcium chloride and a slower releasing Calmin. (Calmin is a seaweed-derived highly available source of calcium and magnesium that is absorbable over time.) The calcium chloride ensures the cow receives calcium quickly, while the Calmin slowly releases calcium (thus eliminating the need to give a second bolus 12 hours later).
·       RumiLife® CAL24™ nutritional supplement is missile shaped and coated which makes it easy for a Jersey or Holstein cow to swallow. (This calcium supplement is cow tested, Jersey approved.)

RumiLife® CAL24™ nutritional supplement not only provides rapid calcium absorption and supplements blood calcium; it also provides peace of mind for you.

Curious about the RumiLife® CAL24™ nutritional supplement? Need some in your life NOW? Contact your GENEX representative for more information.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Five Rules of Working in a Breeding Barn

By: Sarah Thorson, Beef Marketing and Education Manager

 I spent most of last week on a breeding project in western Nebraska, where over the course of four days we bred just over 1,000 heifers and cows. I always enjoy when I get invited to lend an extra hand on a breeding project. I may be biased, but I truly believe that I get to work with the most talented group of people in the A.I. industry, and last week the team we assembled was no exception. Joining me in the breeding barn were GENEX Independent Contractors, Matt Dolezal and Troy Carruthers, and Large Herd Beef Development Manager, Justin Hergenreder. Since we had a lot of time in the breeding barn together I asked them what their top five rules for working in a breeding a barn would be. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. What happens in the breeding barn, stays in the breeding barn. Just like in Vegas, when you get four people in a relatively small space for extended periods of time, you never know what’s going to happen or what the topic of conversation may be, but whatever it is, it stays in the barn.
  2. Sometimes things get messy… this one probably goes without too much explanation. I blame it on the fact that I am significantly shorter, with shorter arms, than most everyone else in the breeding barn, but it always seems that no matter how hard I try to stay clean, I always end up dirtier than everyone else.
  3. Just because you are dirty, doesn’t mean I should be too. This one goes with #2. The people that have managed the art of staying clean in the breeding barn, steer clear of those that have not.
  4. Be nice to the person thawing semen. I added this one myself, because I did most of the semen thawing last week! Whatever the reason though, you should be nice to the semen thawer, they can help set the pace in the barn and make everyone’s life much easier.
  5. Work hard, but have fun doing it. Because if you can’t have a little fun in the breeding barn, where can you?
What would you add to the rules? Let us know in the comments section below!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Lessons From Our Rural Moms Part 4

I'm not sure what it is about a mom that makes her so extraordinary. Maybe it is her ability to seemingly effortlessly pull off amazing feats of organization or that look she can give you from clear across a crowded room that lets you know you should knock.  it.  off.  right.  now. Or, perhaps it is the magic her kisses possess to make all of the ouchies go away. Whatever it is, I can tell you there is something special about the women we are lucky enough to call mom. For the next couple of days, in honor of Mother's Day, we will share a few stories about rural moms, because I'm sure you will all agree, rural moms have a completely different set of challenges to conquer!

I didn’t grow up on a farm; I married a farmer.  My first experience driving tractor was during a time when the whole family had to pick stones. I was told to keep the tractor straight but never where the brakes were (You can probably see where this one is going!).  Someone was in front of the tractor picking stones, and I had to frantically yell out, ‘Move!’ Everyone laughed, and they then told me where the brakes were. The odd thing is, my mother had the same experience when she was younger. We now share the same type of story.

Being married to a farmer, I have repeated told my kids how to be safe on the farm. They get tired of hearing it over and over. We recently brought home a new puppy, and I am reviewing it all over again. Now it’s their chance to train the puppy with what they have learned about safety!

Thank you to all moms, but especially those who have the added pressure of raising rural kids. The job is not easy, but you certainly make it look that way!
Image credit: Pork Network

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lessons From Our Rural Moms Part 3

I'm not sure what it is about a mom that makes her so extraordinary. Maybe it is her ability to seemingly effortlessly pull off amazing feats of organization or that look she can give you from clear across a crowded room that lets you know you should knock.  it.  off.  right.  now. Or, perhaps it is the magic her kisses possess to make all of the ouchies go away. Whatever it is, I can tell you there is something special about the women we are lucky enough to call mom. For the next couple of days, in honor of Mother's Day, we will share a few stories about rural moms, because I'm sure you will all agree, rural moms have a completely different set of challenges to conquer!

I didn’t grow up on a farm. Neither good nor bad – that’s simply fact. My mother, however, had rural roots. (I think that’s fairly inevitable since she hailed from east central Iowa. Olin, Iowa, to be exact.) That rural background impacted her personality and lifestyle, and then, in turn, impacted me.

While growing up, many of the lessons my mom taught my brothers and I stemmed from that background:

She taught us how to win and lose with class. After all, she’d been there. Sure, she’d earned blue ribbons, but she’d earned white ribbons and participation ribbons as well. She knew what it meant to win with grace and lose with dignity. She passed that lesson on to us.
She taught us how to care for and respect animals. Back in her childhood, my mom raised and showed beef cattle. Since we grew up in town, we didn’t have cows of our own. Instead she let us raise and show rabbits (lots of rabbits … probably more than city ordinance would have allowed). Still, it taught us responsibility in caring for animals. As we got older, one brother showed cattle and the rest of us showed sheep (all were housed at friends’ farms). Every step of the way, she was there beside us, supporting us and serving as an example of how to care for and respect the animals.
She taught us to do everything to the fullest, even the dreaded 4-H record books. She would never do it for us, but she’d sit next to us as we pounded away on the typewriter filling out the forms and writing stories about our projects. I’m certain it was much in the same way her father did for her.

This Mother’s Day, I thank my mom for the lessons she has taught me – the lessons that stemmed from her rural upbringing. Happy Mother’s Day!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Lessons From Our Rural Moms Part 2

I'm not sure what it is about a mom that makes her so extraordinary. Maybe it is her ability to seemingly effortlessly pull off amazing feats of organization or that look she can give you from clear across a crowded room that lets you know you should knock.  it.  off.  right.  now. Or, perhaps it is the magic her kisses possess to make all of the ouchies go away. Whatever it is, I can tell you there is something special about the women we are lucky enough to call mom. For the next couple of days, in honor of Mother's Day, we will share a few stories about rural moms, because I'm sure you will all agree, rural moms have a completely different set of challenges to conquer!

My mom wasn’t raised on a ranch, so after my parents got married, not only did she have to learn what it meant to be a rancher’s wife, but also what it meant to be a rancher.  She worked side by side with my dad at almost every odd job in the book, including milk testing cows – in eastern Montana, so they could realize their dream of supporting their family on the ranch.  She threw everything into learning the ins and outs of every aspect of ranching, and it is safe to say that we all know that things wouldn’t run nearly as smoothly without her, especially when it comes to the ranch record keeping. 

One of my favorite memories of growing up was when my mom, and couple other moms (who I over 20 year’s later still consider my “second moms”) took on the task of coaching my 4-H livestock judging team, which was made up of myself and 3 other 12-13 year old girls.  Frustrated with our inability to give reasons on a set of yearling bulls without blushing and dissolving into fits of nervous giggles, the moms had us standing in the middle of the yard yelling, “Testicle! Testicle! Testicle!” at the top our lungs!  Needless to say, I got over the fear of giving that set of reasons fairly quickly and still share a laugh about it nearly every time I happen to run into another member of my former judging team.

Thirty-seven years later, my mom is still my dad’s number 1 ranch-hand.  A couple of months ago I was being interviewed for a newspaper article that was going to be written about our family operation.  The gal that was writing the article was asking me whose job it was to do various tasks on the ranch, and I found myself repeating my mom’s name over and over.  From submitting data to the American Simmental Association, to paying the bills, to pulling the records together for the bull sale catalog and coordinating all of the advertising - my mom is truly the one who keeps the ranch running behind the scenes.  On the rare occasion that my sister, brother and I are all back at the ranch at the same time she usually takes on, what I consider, the toughest job of them all, wrangling five grandchildren ranging in ages from nine years to 18 months.  She does it with grace and patience, eager to teach them the ways of the ranch.  My 9 year old, Grace, is always eager to help, but still intimidated by the cows, but my mom is always there to guide her, keeping a watchful eye as Grace records weaning weights or mixes vaccines.  And when my 5 year old, Harper, is caught inscribing the number of her favorite calf, 661, on the door of the brand-new sale barn with permanent marker, she takes it all in stride.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, and all the other farm and ranch moms out there!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Lessons From Our Rural Moms Part 1

I'm not sure what it is about a mom that makes her so extraordinary. Maybe it is her ability to seemingly effortlessly pull off amazing feats of organization or that look she can give you from clear across a crowded room that lets you know you should knock.  it.  off.  right.  now. Or, perhaps it is the magic her kisses possess to make all of the ouchies go away. Whatever it is, I can tell you there is something special about the women we are lucky enough to call mom. For the next couple of days, in honor of Mother's Day, we will share a few stories about rural moms, because I'm sure you will all agree, rural moms have a completely different set of challenges to conquer!

Farm Mom (noun): jack-of-all-trades, keeper of all things, multi-tasker, marathon runner

While growing up, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. Remember those forms you’d have to fill out for school that asked for your parents’ occupations? She wrote Farm Mom in that field and would comment, “I wonder if anyone reads these things.”

At the time I never appreciated all the things she did. Somehow she managed to keep the home fires burning while my dad traveled quite a bit for his job. In addition to keeping things running on our beef farm, she was a member of community groups, church committees and helped with school activities. Like a marathon runner, she could dash outside, do chores and be done just in time to change her clothes, pause momentarily to ask ‘Does my hair smell like the barn?’ before running a kid to town for some evening extracurricular activity. She could fly around her kitchen and whip together a well-rounded meal better than any mom I knew. And if you were that kid she ran to town earlier, she’d most likely remember to come pick you up!

She taught me many life lessons but here’s a few I wanted to share:

  › You can do anything you set your mind to
  › Quitting isn’t an option
  › Wearing nail polish in the show ring isn’t appropriate (I’m not sure where she came up with this one?)

  › Be respectful, kind and courteous to everyone because you never know where you might run across them later in life
  › She [attempted] to teach me how to cook one meal each summer, although I’m still not a good cook.

Today, as a mom myself, I aspire to be just like her. To keep the home fires burning while my husband travels, be respectful to everyone I meet and make sure my hair doesn’t smell too much like the barn!

Here's my mom participating in Mom Showmanship (circa 1993) and it doesn't appear she was wearing nail polish. Practicing what she preached!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Selecting Recipients for Embryo Transfer

For commercial dairies looking to increase herd progress and improve their overall bottom line or purebred operations striving to produce the next great cow or bull, embryo transfer (ET) and in-vitro fertilization (IVF) programs are becoming increasingly common. Technologies, such as donor aspiration and IVF lab techniques, are contributing to the popularity of ET and IVF programs among many types of operations.

To establish an effective and efficient ET or IVF program, a dairy’s management team must consider both the donors and the embryo recipients. Selection and care of elite genetic merit donor animals is critical for obvious reasons, but the selection and maintenance of recipients has significant implications too. Selecting recipient animals based on health, genetics and fertility – and maintaining
optimal conditions throughout the pregnancy – results in more high genetic merit calves on the ground.

Consider these factors when selecting and caring for embryo recipients:

Health. The basics of a healthy recipient are like that of the donor; she must be reproductively and
nutritionally sound. Heifers serving as recipients should have reached puberty, have a sound reproductive tract and have exhibited a first heat. Ideally, cows should have calved without any problems and be free of ovarian cysts, metritis or other issues. As a general rule, recipient candidates should be on a good nutritional plane and have proper body condition to support a healthy pregnancy.

Genetics. The genetics of the recipient animal have often been disregarded since she is “only carrying the embryo.” Donors are selected based on their high genetic merit, but those same traits are not applicable to recipients. Instead, it is important to consider traits which might contribute to getting the most calves on the ground.

When looking at a group of lower genetic merit animals as potential recipients, the dairy management team should sort those animals by traits that can contribute to conception and calving rate. A reliable Daughter Stillbirth (DSB) and Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) evaluation can more accurately determine which animals should be used to carry embryos of high genetic value with the most success.

Fertility. Numerous studies show conception rates in dairy cattle are typically higher when heifers
are used as recipients versus cows. This is true for several reasons. First, heifers do not have the lactational stress cows do, particularly first lactation cows which are transitioning for the first time and still growing to reach their mature size. Also, heifers typically have less reproductive issues such
as cysts or infections from a hard calving. However, using only heifers as recipients is usually not practical or viable either, and cows can make perfectly acceptable recipients.

Consider this scenario. Many dairies are genomic testing their females, and often cull older, low genetic merit cows in favor of younger, high genomic animals. Still, these older cows typically produce quite a bit more milk than their 2-year-old counterparts. In this scenario, it can make sense to use older, lower genetic merit cows as recipients. By serving as an embryo recipient, the cow gives birth to a valuable calf and remains in the herd contributing significant pounds of milk. When selecting which older cows should serve as recipients, DPR and DSB are again the traits on which to sort them.

In conclusion, as ET and IVF continues to become more common in strategic breeding programs, strive to use healthy heifers or lower-ranking cows with desirable DPR and DSB values to carry high value pregnancies. Higher genetic merit females can then be used as donors or bred with more valuable semen. Ultimately, the genetic progress made through ET and IVF can lead to profitable future generations and dollars in the producer’s pocket.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Award Winners

This year's GENEX Excellence in Genetics & Reproduction Award Winners represent six states; several are repeat winners, and for some, this is their first time on the list. However, they all know about the commitment it takes to maintain an efficient reproduction program. Here are the winners and a few of the things they have in common.

For more on each individual platinum-winning farm, check out our Horizons Dairy Edition, pages 27 through 31.

Friday, April 14, 2017

GENEX Jersey April Sire Summary Highlights

It was an exciting proof run for GENEX as our Jerseys captured 14 of the top 25 spots on both the genomic Cheese Merit $ and genomic JPI™ lists!

New Sires

1JE00966 FUTURE {3} leads the new releases. He debuts with an impressive +208 JPI™ and tops our Cheese Merit (CM$) list at +733. An early Marlo son out of an impressive Marvel dam, FUTURE {3} is an elite Combined Fat & Protein (CFP) sire at +125, carrying positive percentages for both Fat and Protein as well. He will also add daughter fertility with a +0.5 Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) and elite udders with a +29.4 JUI™. His full brother, 1JE00962 DEGROM {3}, was also activated. He transmits elite production and impressive udders. He comes in at +697 CM$, +194 JPI™ and +27.0 JUI™. With positive component percentages, DEGROM {3} adds production profit (+114 CFP) and also longevity (+7.4 Productive Life).
Dam of FUTURE {3} and DEGROM {3}: Faria Brothers Marvel Messi {4}, VG-84%
1JE0967 FRANKY {4} is a Harris out of an Aztec that adds elite component yield at +80 Fat and +54 Protein for a +134 CFP. He is +632 CM$ and +172 JPI™. Use FRANKY to also improve milk quality with his low +2.77 Somatic Cell Score (SCS).
1JE00967 FRANKY {4}

1JE00961 FRODO {3} joined the lineup at +173 JPI™ and just over +600 CM$. A VANDRELL out of a Very Good Galvanize, FRODO {3} adds balanced production at +1189 Milk and +120 CFP. He will be ideal to use in the heifer pens with a +2.6 Heifer Conception Rate (HCR).

1JE00956 RUTH {3} is a production powerhouse. This Harris son tops the production list at +1951 Milk and an impressive +144 CFP. RUTH {3} is +578 CM$ and +176 JPI™. He will also improve udders with a +15.7 JUI™. Note RUTH {3} is JH1C.
1JE00965 RUTH {3}

1JE00958 NICO {5}, another Harris son, provides a balanced genetic profile for production and type. He is +175 JPI™ and +573 CM$ with +118 CFP. NICO {5} also improves udders (+18.5 JUI™), longevity (+4.7 Productive Life) and milk quality (+2.82 SCS).

1JE00968 INTEL {3} another VANDRELL son, earns a spot in the lineup at +164 JPI™ and +561 CM$. He is +108 CFP and adds fluid production at nearly +1400 Milk. With a +0.7 Cow Conception Rate and a +2.0 HCR, INTEL {3} should add some fertility to any breeding program. Note INTEL {3} is JH1C.
1JE00968 INTEL {3}

1JE00937 BIRDMAN {3} rounds out the new releases. This Harris out of a Renegade is another elite production sire. BIRDMAN {3} is +146 JPI™ and +509 CM$ with +1650 Milk and +121 CFP.
1JE00937 BIRDMAN {3}
Other Highlights

Continuing her elite genetic stamp, JX Faria Brothers Action Dean Smith {1}, EX-92 family members remain at the top of the elite lists. 1JE00892 VANDRELL {2} maintains his elite CM$ yield at +713 and is our highest JPI™ sire at +217. From the same maternal line as VANDRELL {2} is 1JE00922 RONALDO {3}. He posts our highest CFP value at +153 and is +206 JPI™ and +696 CM$

Friday, April 7, 2017

GENEX April Sire Summary Highlights

Leading the way for the Ideal Commercial Cow (ICC$) index following the April proofs
is 1HO11955 BEYOND. This Josuper son is a health trait specialist at +1.7 Daughter
Pregnancy Rate (DPR) and +8.7 Productive Life (PL). Use this sire with confidence to
boost production and component yields (+1784 Milk, +135 Combined Fat & Protein).

1HO11665 GENIUS maintains an elite rank, this time second on the ICC$ list with an
exceptional +1072. This Montross son has an elite genetic profile offering production and
outstanding udders and feet and legs.
Dam of GENIUS: Co-op Robust Galina 6447, VG-85

From the Super Apple family, 1HO11889 AVENGER has an outstanding +1058 ICC$.
This sire has an unmatched combination of +4.6 DPR and +8.9 PL. Use AVENGER with
confidence to sire moderate-framed daughters with desirable body condition. He also
excels for two proprietary GENEX health traits at 104 Subclinical Ketosis (SCK) and
109 Metritis (MTR).
Dam of AVENGER: Richlawn Super April Apple, VG-88, VG-MS, DOM
New release 1HO11989 ROMERO is elite in all indexes having an impressive +1054
ICC, +907 Lifetime Net Merit (LNM$) and +2728 TPI®. This sire is the complete package
offering production, fertility and longevity.
Dam of ROMERO: Hollermann Cabriolet 960G

A Bayonet son from the well-known Sharky Robin family, 1HO12433 ROCKSTAR checks
all the boxes for production, health and longevity. This new sire has a +1026 ICC$ and
+2732 TPI®. With a 6.6% Sire Calving Ease (SCE), he’s a great option for heifer pens. He
also features a +2.7 DPR and +8.5 PL. ROCKSTAR is joined by a full brother, 1HO12428
RAIDEN, at +983 ICC$ and +2739 TPI®. Look to these sires for type and health.
Dam of ROCKSTAR and RAIDEN: Co-op Moonboy Rescue-ET, VG-85, VG-MS

An excellent combination of production and type are found in 1HO11960 REZIN, a bull
that was first released as a genomic giant in February. This Montross son offers elite
+2013 Milk, +143 Combined Fat & Protein (CFP) and +2.00 Type. Look to REZIN for his
striking production and daughter fertility (+2.1 DPR).
Dam of REZIN: Peach-State HLRachel-ET, VG-85

Continuing to top our elite sires, 1HO11905 BLOWTORCH has a TPI® of +2752. This
Silver son also ranks extremely well at +1006 ICC$. Use BLOWTORCH for production,
type and tremendous udders (+1604 Milk, +2.07 Type, +1.71 Udder Composite).

Adding some red to the lineup, 1HO12427 AVERY-RED joins the active list as a high
Type (+2.05) Red and White sire. This Olympian *RC son out of a Supersire will add
variety while also improving udders at +1.88 Udder Composite.

1HO12423 KATANA-P is a polled Tesla son that adds exciting pedigree diversity to any
polled breeding program. With a 6.7% SCE, use KATANA-P in the heifer pens to improve
profit with over +1500 Milk and over +1.00 on all type indexes.
On the daughter-proven LNM$ list, 1HO10396 CABRIOLET had another impressive
day. He stands at +875 LNM$. This Robust son is extreme profitability with excellent
production at +960 Milk and +151 CFP. He can be used in heifer pens and sires
daughters that will last in the herd (4.7% SCE, +7.4 PL).
Aardema Cabriolet 7820
For more highlights, check out our GENEX Dairy Facebook page, where Sire Procurement Specialist Dan Bauer recorded two FB Live segments.

Friday, March 31, 2017

PregCheck™ Rankings-The A.I. Industry’s Only Data-Driven Sire Fertility Rankings

PregCheck™ rankings are an evaluation of an individual sire’s frozen semen conception rate. The model and data collection process is a first of its kind in the beef industry.

What is the validity of PregCheck™ rankings as a selection tool?
The statistical analysis is calculated by CRI’s International Center for Biotechnology (ICB) researchers. These researchers assisted GENEX in being the first to the marketplace with a dairy sire fertility evaluation which has led to industry-wide fertility domination for the past decade. The beef fertility model is identical to what is used to evaluate fertility in dairy sires, except it is set to a beef base. This means all beef sires in the database are compared to other beef sires, not dairy sires.

What does the PregCheck™ ranking number mean?
Using 100 as the base, the fertility rankings are calculated as an index and designed to predict an individual sire’s frozen semen conception rate. For example, Bull A has a 104 PregCheck™ with 93% reliability versus Bull B with a 99 PregCheck™ and 75% reliability. At 93% reliable, Bull A can be used with confidence; he will perform 4% above the average of his contemporaries for conception rate, and is likely 5% higher than Bull B for conception rate. At only 75% reliable, there is still some uncertainty as to how Bull B will actually perform over time until he is bred to more females. However, at this point Bull B is trending below the average of his contemporaries.

Where does the data come from and is it reliable?
PregCheck™ rankings are the result of real breedings which have shown differences between sires. Each bull’s ranking comes with an associated reliability value. As the
reliability value increases, the amount of change in the ranking will decrease when additional pregnancy data is included in future analyses. For a reliable evaluation, which is about 70%, a sire must have approximately 400 breedings in the database.

What is the advantage to GENEX members and customers who use PregCheck™ fertility rankings as a sire selection tool?

GENEX feels the true advantage is the ability to eliminate inferior fertility sires from a breeding program. GENEX members and customers can expect increased conception rates resulting in more A.I. pregnancies and pounds of calf per year, as demonstrated below.

Where can PregCheck™ rankings be found?
GENEX is proud to be the first A.I. organization to quantify individual beef sire fertility. Members and customers can find rankings on the GENEX website and published in the
Beef Genetic Management Guide. While all GENEX sires are procured with producer
profitability in mind, PregCheck™ fertility rankings offer members and customers another selection option to improve bottom lines.

Do you want to learn more about our PregCheck™ fertility rankings? Contact your local GENEX representative or leave a comment below. Also, check out our previous blog, written by Patsy Houghton, about how they use PregCheck™ fertility rankings at Heartland Cattle Company. 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Creating More Pregnancies

By: Patsy Houghton, President and General Manager, Heartland Cattle Company

Heartland Cattle Company is a 5000-head Professional Heifer Development and Research Center in southwest Nebraska. Over the past 26 years, we have developed and artificially inseminated (A.I.) over 105,000 beef heifers. We believe in 35 or 45-day breeding programs using visual heat detection and total A.I. There are no excuses for open heifers. We have consistently met our fertility goals: 70% first service conception rate (FSCR), 85% seasonal pregnancy rate (PR) for 35-day heifers and 90% PR for 45-day heifers.

Over the past few years, we’ve noticed more variation in the fertility of A.I. sires. Typically, the fertility of A.I. sires ranges from 50 to 90% for FSCR, with outlier bulls ranging all the way from 0 to 100%. We’ve also learned that, by itself, evaluating semen under a microscope for morphology, motility and morbidity is not always a good predictor of fertility.

Variations in FSCR means reduced seasonal PR, fewer calves born and less pounds weaned. This is why fertility is so important to a rancher’s bottom line. Any measure that predicts and/or improves sire fertility will help keep cow/calf producers in business, especially during tough market times!

The ability to identify A.I. sires that will consistently deliver a 70% and higher first service conception rate is a big step in the right direction. That’s why we pay close attention to the PregCheck™ fertility rankings GENEX provides. Using 100 as the base, PregCheck™ fertility rankings are calculated as an index and are designed to predict an individual sire’s frozen semen conception rate.

So, let’s compare two bulls with PregCheck™ fertility rankings. Bull A has a 104 PregCheck™ fertility ranking with 93% reliability versus Bull B with a 99 PregCheck™ fertility ranking and 75% reliability. At 93% reliability, we are confident Bull A will perform at 4% above the average of his peers for conception rate, and he will likely perform 5% higher than Bull B for conception rate. At only 75% reliable, there is still some uncertainty as to how Bull B will actually perform over time until he is bred to more females, but at this point Bull B is trending below the average of his peers.

We’ve had a number of opportunities to compare GENEX PregCheck™ fertility rankings to actual service sire fertility and are happy to report a nice correlation between the two. As the database expands, we believe PregCheck™ fertility rankings will only get better with time.

At Heartland Cattle Company, we appreciate the value of measuring economically important traits. Fertility tops this list! If we are weighing the pros and cons of two or more service sires, the bull with the higher PregCheck™ fertility ranking wins! We are also confident any sire that doesn’t meet reasonable conception rate goals will be removed from the GENEX lineup. In our eyes, this reflects integrity and customer commitment. All of us at Heartland Cattle Company want to thank GENEX for their proactive approach to solving what has become one of our industry’s biggest challenges!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Using A.I. on Your Ranch

95 cents compared to $2.28 per gallon – that’s the difference 30 years have made in the price of a gallon of gas. Just as gas prices have changed drastically, so have the wants and demands of cattle producers.

Producers considering artificial insemination (A.I.) have many of the same concerns and wants for their program. I’m here to lay those concerns to rest and show how A.I. and GENEX chute-side service will make you money and propel you into the future. So slap some bacon on a biscuit and let’s go! We’re burning daylight.

Cost is always the first question. First of all, you need to sit down with your GENEX representative and determine the best plan for your operation. Costs will vary depending on herd size, location and labor needs. In most cases A.I. is cheaper than buying, maintaining and utilizing a bull for two to five years.

Remember these costs will vary:
·         Eazi-Breed™ CIDR® – $11
·         GnRH – $5 ($2.5x2)
·         PG – $3
·         ESTROTECT™ – $1.30
·         Semen – $20
·         Breeding Service Fee – $10

The process
Working with your GENEX representative, you will make a detailed plan for your A.I. project, including choosing a synchronization protocol that fits your operation. In order for synchronization to be successful on your ranch, you must commit to learning the protocol and executing it exactly, this means making sure the right cows, get the right shots, on the right days. On breeding day, you get the cattle to the alley way and GENEX takes care of the rest.

Ask the professionals: GENEX strives to bring you the best of the best for bull power. Visit with your local representative to determine the sires best suited for your goals.

Calving season
Just because you bred your cows in a 4-hour period does not mean they will calve in a 4-hour period! After a successful A.I. program, expect females to calve in a 10- to 14-day period. University studies have shown no more than 20% of your herd will calve on any one day.

How many clean-up bulls will I need after A.I.?
This question is highly variable. The answer has a lot to do with the age of your bulls, size of pastures, environment and number of females. and environment. GENEX staff can provide the correct recommendation to ensure you turn out enough bull power to cover the non-A.I. females.

A.I. is one of the most beneficial and easiest ways to make your cow herd more profitable. With beef prices where they are, every pregnancy counts and every early calf means more pounds. More pounds = more DOLLARS! Utilizing A.I. will tighten your calving interval, add performance to your calf crop and allow you to actively control the type of cattle you raise.

When you are ready to set up an A.I. program, contact your GENEX representative. GENEX is here to help add dollars to your program.

Friday, March 10, 2017

GENEX Distribution Center

Have you ever wondered what distribution looks like at a major cattle genetics company? Well, wonder no longer! Brian Brickle, Distribution Specialist, takes us on a quick tour of the GENEX Distribution Center in Shawano, Wisconsin. If you ever get the chance, be sure to ask Brian to show you his liquid nitrogen demonstrations. They are pretty amazing!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Reducing Your New Employee Cull Rate

There goes another one down the road. It seems to be more and more difficult to keep them with your herd. No, I'm not talking about your cows. I'm talking about your new employees.

As farms have grown from small dairies to large businesses, they have increasingly had to rely on employees with no previous agricultural experience. In some cases, farm workers never had a desire to be a part of the rural environment, but it was the job available when they needed work. These entry-level positions are often in the milking parlor where the work is seen as hard, dirty and unglamorous with low pay. For those reasons, it can be difficult to find good help and often even harder to keep those you do find. But after the individual is hired, it’s your turn. It’s your responsibility to make employees believe they made the right job choice and to help yourself by reducing the turnover rate among newly hired staff.

So, how do you make a new employee feel they made the right choice? A new employee requires five fundamental things in a new job:

1. Explanation: What is my role? Why is it important?
At the interview give the applicant a clear job description (including working conditions) and help them understand the importance their job is to the operation of the dairy farm.  It is critical to let people know the schedule has to be filled every day of the year.

2. Education: What knowledge or skills do I need?
Prospective milkers often do not arrive with a great deal of formal education, but that does not mean we should not take initiative to educate them. If you start the new employee with the idea this is a place where you learn and expand yourself, they are more likely to stay.

One common fear is educated employees will take their new skills and move on to another job. The reality is, if you don’t teach people they will quickly get bored, and you will lose them anyway. It is important to encourage the new employee in the education process to help them feel part of the team.

3. Training: How do I carry out my role?
I have seen dairies take someone with no cow experience and throw them into the parlor to see what happens. That is not training! The situation leaves people feeling lost, intimidated and frustrated. Now, more than ever, our dairies are under scrutiny. You have an obligation to the industry to make sure employees are properly trained and know how to handle a cow. There are good training resources available. Be sure to use them.

4. Evaluating: How will my performance be measured?
Everyone wants to be seen as doing a good job. Therefore, everyone needs to know how their performance is measured and what performance level is acceptable. It has to be a simple evaluation method conducted on a very regular basis. Performance milestones are also critical to ensure employees are on track for success and should be celebrated when reached.

5. Reporting: What feedback will I receive?
Keep lines of communication open. Employees can feel in the dark about their job performance because they do not receive feedback about their quality of work. Or if they do, it may not be constructive feedback. This creates unease in the workplace. Feedback needs to be informational and instructional for the employee to improve. If someone is not reaching their defined objectives, it needs to be brought to their attention immediately with a clear direction of how they can improve and how long that improvement should take. Employees also need to know what the ramifications are if they do not start reaching their objectives.

Company policy should be for each person to introduce themselves to new employees, so everyone is aware when a new person starts. Plan a welcome for the new employee. Assign one person to greet the new employee, show them around the farm and give them insight into how the team functions.

Assign someone to answer the new employee’s questions and listen to his or her concerns and suggestions. Entry level does not translate into unimportant. Take time to really acknowledge how much you value this new employee. Work with them and mentor them. You can quickly become an important part of the person’s life – giving them more than a job, giving them a place to belong.

Provide the new employee with the tools needed to succeed. Then give them time to succeed. Dairies frequently look at cull rate in the first 30 days after calving and adjust management to keep that number as low as possible. In the same way, measure turnover rate in staff in the first 30 days. Consider the training and other resource cost to the dairy. Be willing to adjust management
to keep the employee cull rate low as well.

Friday, February 17, 2017

It’s Calving Season

All the hard work and dedication you have put in throughout the last nine months is about to pay off – it’s calving season!

Let’s turn back the calendar to late spring 2016 when you started going through calving records and bloodlines to find the perfect mating for your heifers and cows. You started virgin heifers on a nutritional program to prepare them to conceive, calve and catch up with the rest of the group. Next, you focused on the second calvers so they were prepared to breed back and get established into the program (which we all know is a challenge in itself). All this preparation eventually led to A.I. day, and since then you have patiently waited for calving season.

The moments leading up to calving season mean you must brave the cold, windy and possibly damp conditions. More importantly, the cattle need to be properly cared for in these conditions to ensure a successful survival rate throughout winter. The nights get long and sleep becomes few and far between. Checking the cattle every second or third hour on the clock can take a toll on your body. Although your mind and body grows weary during this time of year, seeing the results of hard work and dedication hit the ground is more rewarding than one can explain.

Seeing first calf heifers become mothers for the first time, and watching second calvers begin to establish themselves within the herd, is remarkable. Seeing that calf hit the ground wet, full of life and vigor, makes you appreciate the beauty of Mother Nature. It is that moment you remember why you love what you do and wouldn't change it for the world.

Do you have any #calvingseason17 stories? What are you seeing in GENEX progeny? We would love to hear about it.

Author Colten Muir is an Independent Contractor for GENEX. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

This Farm Has No Love for Valentine's Day

It was a typical cold winter day in Wisconsin, but the events that took place on our farm the afternoon of February 14, 2002, were anything but ordinary. Our farm’s main operator, my Mother-in-law, Juli, was in the process of letting cows in for the night milking. A first-calf heifer wasn’t as eager as the rest to come in, so Juli was going out to fetch her. When Juli was several steps out of the barn, she caught a glimpse of the herd bull coming at her. In that split second, Juli was able to make it to the gate, but not before the bull had hit her several times. Adrenaline and sheer muscle allowed Juli to pull herself over the gate, but her broken body now lie on the snow and ice. Thankfully, my Father-in-law came home from work about 15 to 30 minutes after the attack and found her. Juli was rushed to the hospital where she underwent several surgeries. She still has scars and aches and pains as a result of the incident, but we can rejoice that she is still with us as we approach the 15-year anniversary of that day. We now look at Valentine’s Day a whole new way. It is a day we remember how precious life is, and how quickly everything can change.  

I grew up on a farm that exclusively bred artificially, so when I met my husband, and heard this story, I tried to understand the reasons behind a herd bull. Now, working for GENEX, I understand it even less. I am thrilled to be working in the agriculture industry and passionate about A.I. and how it allows farmers:

› Safety. (Refer to the above story, enough said.)

› Maximized Reproductive Performance. By utilizing bulls with known high fertility levels, you can improve conception rates and those of future generations as well

› Improved Herd Genetics. Lifetime Net Merit $, calculated by the USDA, measures the net profit over the lifetime of a bull’s average daughter. USDA comparisons show daughter-proven active A.I. bulls average a $254 LNM advantage over non-A.I. bulls averaging -51. Genomic-tested active A.I. bulls average a $496 LNM advantage over non-A.I. bulls.*

› Improved Production. The USDA calculates milk production in pounds, reflecting the expected milk production of each bull’s future mature daughters. USDA comparisons show daughter-proven active A.I. bulls average a 709 lb advantage over non-A.I. bulls. Genomic-proven active A.I. bulls average a 1,049 lb advantage over non- A.I. bulls.*

I know, I know, you are saying, but it is more work without a bull; they can detect heat better. With today’s synchronization protocols and/or cow monitoring systems, heat detection is relatively easy.
There is a cost advantage to having a bull, you say. Is there really? Plug your numbers into this worksheet to determine some of the hidden costs of bull breeding.

So this Valentine’s Day, do your herd, your checkbook and your family a huge favor and switch to artificial insemination.

 *According to the USDA AIPL Summary of April 2015 Evaluations (