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Low dairy cow conception rate mystery solved and remedied

Low dairy cow conception rate mystery solved and remedied
Mark Murray proved out 2 ways to boost dairy cow conception rates on second or third AI tries, and bolster his calf crop.

Mark Murray likes calves, especially when they come via increased breeding efficiency at Murcrest Farm. Since hosting a New York Farm Viability Institute-funded dairy reproduction project, this Copenhagen, N.Y., dairyman now has two methods improve cow conception rates after first AI service.

“About 15% of our second or later service cows weren’t catching,” he recalls. With 1,000 cows, that’s 150 animals he was struggling to get pregnant.

BIGGER CALF CROP: On-farm research helped Murray significantly increase his farm’s cow conception rate – and Murcrest’s calf crop. Photo: Brian P. Whattam

Then, Murray participated in research with Cornell University Animal Science Assistant Professor Dr. Julio Giordano and veterinarian Dr. Mark Thomas with Dairy Health & Management Services, LLC, at Lowville, N.Y. They evaluated two practices to overcome physiological challenges limiting lactating cow conception.

What was going on
Ovulation synchronization response failures center around no progesterone-secreting corpus luteums, as seen on ultrasound. Without that naturally-released hormone in the ovary, fertilized ovums can’t attach in the uterus. “We were uncertain of the extent of the problem until this project,” Murray adds.

And the treatment options were...
One was PreG-Ovsynch: It involves a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnrH) via injection 7 days before beginning the Ovsynch protocol for timed AI, 17 days later. This treatment leads to good synchrony of ovulation and internal environment, increasing AI fertility.

The other is an Ovsynch+P4: It features placing an intravaginal insert called a Controlled Internal Drug Release, CIDR for short, to slowly release progesterone during the Ovsynch protocol for timed insemination. AI is applied 10 days later.

While both practices worked in the Murcrest trials, Murray is continuing with the Ovsynch+P4 method. “We’ve seen a gain of more than 100% in our low-CR cows,” he says. “The protocol is simple, and requires less time and less money to get better performance.”

“This project helped us find two solutions, and made a big change in how we handle our second and later service cows. A successful reproduction program represents a huge part of our long-term profits through improved herd performance.”

The bigger success picture
Four other dairies in the NYFVI-funded study also found success. Each had a low-CR subgroup of 10% to 20% of lactating cows.

“Across the five participating farms, cows with no CL, or with cysts, had conception rates 23% lower than cows with CL,” says Giordano. “We were able to recover the fertility of that subgroup on each farm.”

His research suggests that farms adopting the breeding practices may see a per-cow per-year net gain of $9 with Ovsynch+P4 to $10 with PreG-Ovsynch. And, higher conception rates means reduced culling, lower replacement costs, improved internal herd growth and lower replacement costs. That improves milk production efficiency, and ultimately dairy farm economic viability.

NYFVI funds projects that help farms realize profitability through applying an ever-increasing knowledge base, affirms its director, David Grusenmeyer. In this case, customized reproductive management met the needs of a specific subset of cows with easy-to-implement protocols.

And, Dr. Mark Thomas, who is president-elect of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, adds, “Now that the results of our trial have been published [in the Journal of Dairy Science] and are becoming known, more dairies are adopting this new synchronization strategy.”

Giordano can be reached at 607-793-6250, [email protected] . Thomas can be contacted at DHMS, 315-376-6563.

NYFVI is a farmer-led nonprofit that invests in innovative projects to increase the success of ag production enterprises, protect farm-based natural resources and produce measurable farm-level results. Visit for more details.

Dunn writes from her farm in Mannsville, N.Y.

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