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A.I. & BREEDING

From estrus and heat detection to genomics and sexed semen, discover the latest information to improve reproductive performance.

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When analyzing national breeding indexes, we’ve learned one size does not fit all. In fact, indexes differ quite drastically to accommodate varying breeding philosophies.

While these indexes all aim to create a unified ranking for selecting genetics, the development of any index is challenging.

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There are several ways to get heifers bred quickly after they move into the breeding pen.

“Walk and chalk” is the strategy of choice for Vance Kells, owner of Circle Bar Heifer Ranch in Satanta, Kansas.

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Genomics offers new opportunities for female selection. Breed associations, some A.I. companies and other organizations involved in genetic testing now offer programs for the genotyping of females based on the collection of tissue samples such as hair, nasal swabs or blood.

These samples are sent to accredited laboratories, which use genotyping panels to obtain a genetic profile (called a genotype) for each tested animal. The genotypes are then used by the USDA or by CDN to produce genomic evaluations.

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Reproductive performance on dairy farms has improved in recent years. And that’s important, because poor reproductive programs carry a serious financial cost.

According to data from the University of Missouri, an increase in days open can be valued from $0.50 to $4.50 per day – a pregnant cow is worth $250 to $600 more than an open cow, and each percentage point increase in pregnancy rate (PR) is equal to roughly $35 per cow.

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One of the major factors determining dairy herd efficiency is the amount milk sold per cow per day of life. Several factors contribute to pounds of milk sold per day of life, but reproductive performance is a major contributor.

The two main reproduction influences on lifetime milk production are age at first calving and percentage of time a cow spends in the first months of lactation. A typical lactation curve is shown in Figure 1.

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Although the technology of sexed semen has been around for a while, many still question if it’s worth the investment. After all, the price of sexed semen for many producers is significantly higher than the cost of conventional semen.

As with any new technology, sexed semen should be questioned and analyzed with trusted experts in the veterinary, academic and industrial communities before being applied to an operation. This article will guide you through considerations and applications for sexed semen on any operation.

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