Friday, February 26, 2016

Just How Cost Effective is A.I.?

By: Sarah Thorson, Genex Beef Education Instructor

In many parts of the country calving season is just getting started, but with bulls sales off to a hot start again this spring many producers are already thinking ahead to breeding season.  While calf prices fell dramatically last fall, it seems that bull prices have not come down as much, with many early sales averaging within a few hundred dollars of last year’s record high prices. 
The last couple of years I have said that there has never been a better time for commercial cattle producers to try Artificial Insemination (A.I.), and this year is certainly no exception, in fact A.I. may be more cost effective this year than it has been at any time in the past! Couple that with the advantage of using proven genetics and a more uniform calf crop with more calves born earlier in the breeding season and you’ve got a recipe for success during a downturn in the cattle market.

Just how cost effective is A.I.? 

As you can see, in this scenario, there is actually a $2.36/calf advantage to using A.I.  You don’t have to take my word for it though, I encourage to run this example with your own numbers.  If you have any questions about any Genex products or services please do not hesitate to give your local Genex representative a call.  They are equipped with the tools and knowledge to help make your next breeding project a success.  

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Changing Faces of Genex Delegates

Just as the face of agriculture is changing, so too is the Genex delegate demographic. New faces emerge every year, accepting the challenge of learning something new and representing the membership in their area. Being a part of the leadership team for your cooperative allows you to stay abreast of the latest developments, while putting you in contact with others in the industry who may be facing the same experiences as you, and most importantly it allows you to shape the future of YOUR cooperative.

Today I want to introduce you to Alexa Kayhart. She may not be what you think of when you envision a delegate of an agricultural cooperative, but Alexa is exactly what makes cooperative governance so powerful, because of the diversity and perspective she brings to meetings.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your farming/ranching operation.
My name is Alexa Kayhart, I am a fourth generation dairy farmer in the beautiful town of Addison, Vermont, directly on the coast of Lake Champlain. I am 21 years old and a senior in college this year. I am finishing up my final year of school at Vermont Tech where I am studying diversified agriculture and entrepreneurship. My dad and uncle are at home running the farm where we currently milk 800 Holsteins. My plans are to finish up school, travel a bit and work with farmers all over the country before I return home to carry on the next generation of Kayhart Brothers Dairy!

2. Why did you decide to become a delegate?
Honestly? I did it because we needed an individual in our district and had no volunteers. I couldn't be happier that I was presented with the opportunity and only wonder why I didn't get involved earlier! As I sit here in the airport ready to go home from the CRI Annual Meeting, telling my story about being a delegate, I already can't wait for next year's meeting. It's a great opportunity to network and meet farmers from all over the world and
 simultaneously learn about the wonderful co-op we are a part of!

3. What are your duties and responsibilities as a delegate?
As a delegate, it is my main responsibility to relay information between the board of directors and the folks back home whether that be the technicians or other farmers. As a delegate we are expected to attend the annual meeting in Minnesota to participate in decision making and elections of new board members. Being an active delegate means learning about the co-op and helping to make decisions when necessary. We also get the opportunity to learn a lot about our co-op as well as positive ways to effectively promote the dairy industry, which we all know we need more of!

4. What type of time commitment is required of a delegate?
The time commitment isn’t much. We are asked to attend the annual meeting in Minnesota for two days in January and then also attend a regional meeting (only one day) in fall. All of the trips are reimbursed by CRI and the only thing that is asked of us is our presence.

5. As a newer annual meeting attendee, what has caught your attention?
This was my second year serving as a delegate, and I am amazed at how each year I get to meet new people and build off old connections I made the previous year. Everyone in our cooperative is so kind and for the most part there for the same reasons - to meet new people and support their cooperative. It makes good conversations easy to come by!

6. What would you tell someone who may be considering getting involved in the governance of their cooperative?
I couldn't be any fonder of this opportunity. It's a wonderful cooperative, and I've been so lucky to be a delegate for the past two years. The time commitment is minimal, and if you love to meet and network with other farmers from all over the world, this is a great way to do just that. Give it a try for just one year, and I promise you will have a hard time giving your spot to anyone else!

Do you have questions about becoming a delegate? We would be happy to provide more information, or point you to someone you could talk with. Just put your questions in the comments section below.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Importance of Body Condition Score

By Kim Egan, DVM, Genex National Account Senior Consultant

Monitoring body condition score (BCS) is not a new concept, but there has been a lot of research and industry-wide discussion about BCS recently. BCS is not only affected by ration balancing and delivery, it is affected by pen moves, stocking density and dystocia or poor maternity handling. BCS is also heritable and all bulls that are genomic tested can receive a BCS evaluation.

Evaluate body condition scoreLoss of body condition in the post-fresh period due to negative energy balance leads to fat mobilization. A first test fat to protein ratio greater than 1.4 is indicative of this process. Cows with higher fat to protein ratios have been shown to have higher BHBA levels and greater loss of body condition in the first four weeks post-fresh (Sawall and Litherland, UMN, 2014).

BHBA levels over 1.2 mmol/L indicate subclinical ketosis. The average frequency is 25-30% of cows experiencing subclinical ketosis according (McArt, et al, March 2015). This article also puts the cost of subclinical ketosis at $117/case. That is about $30,000/ year on a 1,000 cow dairy with a 25% subclinical ketosis rate. That cost rises significantly if further disorders, such as displaced abomasum or metritis are subsequent.

BCS is included in the ICC$ index to help improve transition cow health. The difference
in fat to protein ratio for cows 40-100 DIM, all in the same herd, at different genetic levels of ICC$ is apparent (see graph 1).

Additional articles (Randall et al, June 2015; Bicalho et al, July 2009) discuss correlation between low body condition and predisposition to lameness due to thinning of the digital cushion.

A presentation at the 2015 American Dairy Science Association annual meeting, and research at the University of Wisconsin have both evaluated loss of body condition in the fresh period and consequential reduced reproductive performance. Dr. Fricke’s research showed cows that lost BCS between 0-21 DIM had a 25% conception rate at first service, cows that maintained body condition had a 38% conception rate at first service, and those that gained BCS had an 84% conception rate at first service!

BCS is really all encompassing – nutrition, facilities, handling, genetics all have an effect. Feel confident we are working to improve dairy cow health, reproduction, and farm profitability by improving body condition using ICC$.

Monday, February 1, 2016

You Won't Believe What We Found in this Semen Tank!

In honor of our Spring Tank Special. I thought I would throw it back to 1998 and an article written by then Vice President of Technical Services, Dr. Robert Bower. This article appeared in our Dairy Horizons magazine.

How In The World Did All of That Get in There?

"I'm having trouble getting semen out of my tank."

An altogether common statement heard from folks who breed their own cows. It's not hard for a cane to slip down alongside the canister and fall into the bottom of the tank. But, usually, that just makes it harder to put the canister back in its proper place.

This time they could not get the canisters out without a struggle.

The young farm wife, with her little boy in tow, had brought their farm tank into our lab to see if we could help with their problem. Diana, our Distribution Supervisor, told her we would try to help. The first trick was to get the canisters out and put them in a transfer unit so the semen would remain frozen. It was a trick because whatever was in the bottom of the tank made it very difficult to move the canisters. With a lot of juggling and shaking, a canister was finally removed, and then another and, after some time, all six were safely transferred.

By shining a flashlight inside the tank, we could see there were some objects in the bottom, but it was difficult to say what they were and they appeared to be too small to be removed with a retrieving device. The only solution would be to empty the liquid nitrogen from the tank and try to dump the objects out.

The liquid was carefully poured into a storage vessel until, finally, only vapor belched from the opening and we could hear objects tumbling down in the upturned tank.

With shaking and jiggling, the tank began to reveal its hidden trove - some nails, coins, and screws. Then more and more items fell from the cold cavern. When the rattling finally stopped and everything that did not belong in the tank was out, a startling inventory lay on the floor:

  • Ice Scraper
  • Pair of Child's Ballet Shoes
  • Child's Running Shoe
  • Baby Bottle with Nipple
  • Wooden Clothes Pins
  • Nails
  • Screws
  • Paper Clips
  • Coins
  • Wallet containing $13, a Credit Card, and a Social Security Card
  • Eye Glass Case
  • Ball Point Pens
  • Several Socks
  • Pieces of Rope
  • Door Pulls
  • Roll of Electrical Tape
  • Denim Pencil Case
  • Pieces of Paper
  • Pieces of Chalk
  • Semen Cane
  • Several Loose Straws
When the young woman finally overcame the shock, she asked, "How in the world did all of that get in there?" As she spoke the words, her son's chin sunk lower and lower into his chest, his eyes averting his mother's.

When the tank was safely recharged with nitrogen and the canisters of semen were replaced, we were able to give a very receptive student a lesson in tank safety and security. Farm semen tanks should be locked when not in use to prevent theft and potentially serious accidents to children.

Unfortunately, not every tank problem can be solved with a visit to Genex Distribution and a padlock. If it is time for an upgrade, additional, or even your first tank, now is the time to buy, during our Spring Tank Special.

Have you had to retrieve any odd items from your tank? Share your story in the comments below.