Sheryl and Glenn Taylor have plenty to do at their 260-cow Tayl-Wind Farm in Cassville, N.Y. But Sheryl Taylor, who organizes and monitors the farm’s reproductive program, still sets aside time to participate in a Cornell Pro-Dairy online dairy management course.
The result has been increased herd efficiency and time and money saved.
“Continuing education is invaluable if you are farming today,” says Sheryl, a Cornell dairy science graduate. “It is becoming more critical to stay on top of new developments in products and methods. Technology continues to move at a rapid pace and, while it is not necessary for everyone to use it, I think technology will continue to raise the bar of achievable results.”
A grant from the New York Farm Viability Institute helped start the online dairy management course. It covers various topics in a seven-week format that includes PowerPoint presentations, weekly homework assignments and quizzes. Participants must have a high-speed internet connection or mobile connection.
Sheryl, who has taught agriculture at SUNY Morrisville and Cobleskill for the past 10 years, likes the webinar approach.
“The internet puts information right at your fingertips. Motivating yourself to learn, learning how to learn and learning how to apply your knowledge are keys to running a successful farm business,” she says. “The dairy cattle reproduction topics were excellent and a good update on best management practices. The anatomy and physiology module was a great refresher on how the connection between the cow’s brain, pituitary gland and reproductive organs create the opportunity for pregnancy. It is easy to forget how much is supposed to go on naturally inside a cow, and then apply how we can help optimize the results.”
Positive results on the farm
“Each topic was very applicable for use on the farm and helped us tweak what we were doing,” Sheryl says. “For example, we utilize an activity monitoring system for both the cows and heifers. We are now more dedicated to watching the list of heifers not bred shortly after our voluntary waiting period (VWP) of 13 months and taking appropriate steps to get them into heat.”
In the Synchronization Protocols and Breeding Strategies module, Cornell dairy researcher Julio Giordano talks about his work on new practices to improve pregnancy rates.
“One of the changes we made was adding a second prostaglandin shot on day 8 of the ovsynch cycle to increase the number of cows that would respond to timed AI on Day 10,” Sheryl says.
The online discussion, by presenters and participants, on the most optimum presynch protocols for pregnancy rates, costs and labor led to a cost-effective change in Tayl-Wind’s pre-synch protocol.
POSITIVE CHANGES: Sheryl and Glenn Taylor have implemented several successful changes to their farm’s reproductive program.
“In our robotic milking herd, stale cows sometimes get lazy and open cows come in heat and cause chaos, so we focus on setting cows up to breed back as soon as possible after our VWP. As a result, we continue to see a decrease in our breeding expense, which is a combination of our AI service, semen and fertility programs, and due to the herd staying ‘fresh,’” she says.
Another adjustment the Taylors made was lengthening the VWP on milking 2-year-olds.
“The longer VWP gives them a chance to peak higher and also breed off prostaglandin shots versus a complete presynch/ovsynch program,” she says. “That saved us time and money on set-up shots, and we have maintained our pregnancy rate.”
For Sheryl, the bottom line is this: “I think farms are going to have to have good reproductive management to survive. Fresh cows not only provide for internal herd growth, they make more milk.
“If time was unlimited, I would like to always be taking a course and learning or reinforcing new information.”
In March, Pro-Dairy is offering an online calf management course for people working directly with calves. Topics will include calf anatomy and physiology, nutrition, environment, and health topics. There is a course fee.
Dunn writes from her farm in Mannsville. N.Y.