Publications (2)5.15 Total impact
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ABSTRACT: Data from lactating Holstein cows in herds that participate in a commercial progeny testing program were analyzed to explain management factors associated with herd-average conception and service rates on large commercial dairies. On-farm herd management software was used as the source of data related to production, reproduction, culling, and milk quality for 108 herds. Also, a survey regarding management, facilities, nutrition, and labor was completed on 86 farms. A total of 41 explanatory variables related to management factors and conditions that could affect conception and service rate were considered in this study. Models explaining conception and service rates were developed using a machine learning algorithm for constructing model trees. The most important explanatory variables associated with conception rate were the percentage of repeated inseminations between 4 and 17 d post-artificial insemination, stocking density in the breeding pen, length of the voluntary waiting period, days at pregnancy examination, and somatic cell score. The most important explanatory variables associated with service rate were the number of lactating cows per breeding technician, use of a resynchronization program, utilization of soakers in the holding area during the summer, and bunk space per cow in the breeding pen. The aforementioned models explained 35% and 40% of the observed variation in conception rate and service rate, respectively, and underline the association of herd-level management factors not strictly related to reproduction with herd reproductive performance.
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ABSTRACT: A survey regarding general management, sire selection, reproductive management, inseminator training and technique, heat abatement, body condition scoring, facility design and grouping, nutrition, employee training and management, and animal health and bio-security was carried out from March to September of 2004 in 153 herds in the Alta Genetics (Watertown, WI) Advantage Progeny Testing Program. A total of 103 herds (67.3%) completed the survey. Herd size was 613 +/- 46 cows, with herds located in Wisconsin (26), California (12), New York (11), Minnesota (10), Michigan (7), Washington (6), Pennsylvania (6), Iowa (5), Idaho (5), Texas (4), Ohio (4), and other states (7). These farms sold 34.5 +/- 0.3 kg of milk/d per cow, with an annual culling rate of 34 +/- 1% and a calving interval of 13.8 +/- 0.1 mo. Cows were observed for estrus 2.8 +/- 0.3 times/d, for a duration of 27 +/- 4 min, but 78% of the respondents admitted that detection of estrus was not the employee's sole responsibility at that time. Managers tried to achieve pregnancy until 8.8 +/- 0.9 failed inseminations, 300 +/- 26 d postpartum, or milk yield <17.7 +/- 0.5 kg/d. Nonpregnant cows were culled at 326 +/- 36 d postpartum or milk yield <16.4 +/- 0.3 kg/ d. Mean durations of the voluntary waiting period were 52 +/- 1.3 and 53 +/- 1.4 d for primiparous and multiparous cows, respectively. Hormonal synchronization or timed artificial insemination programs were used in 87% of the herds, with 86% synchronizing first services, 77% resynchronizing repeat services, and 59% treating cystic, anestrous, or anovular cows. Finding good employees was identified as the greatest labor challenge, followed by training and supervising employees. Mastitis and hairy heel warts were noted as the greatest animal health concerns, followed by lameness, abortions, and death losses, whereas the greatest reproductive challenges were artificial insemination service rate, conception rate, twinning, and retained placenta or metritis. Results of this study can provide a useful benchmark or reference with regard to commonly used management practices on large commercial US dairy farms at the present time.