Heat Stress & Reproduction: Part 4 Strategies During Difficult Financial Times

In Part 3 of this series, we learned about the don’ts of reproductive management. As a follow up, Part 4 focuses on what producers could do with reproductive management to get by during tight financial times. Hear more from UW-Extension and industry specialists in the fourth and final podcast of the Heat Stress & Reproduction series.


Liz Binversie, UW-Extension Brown County Agriculture Educator


Paul Fricke, PhD, Dairy Cattle Reproductive Specialist, UW-Madison/UW-Extension

Heather Schlesser, PhD, UW-Extension Marathon County Dairy Agent

Dr. Vicky Lauer, Professional Services Veterinarian, ANIMART


Time: 5:23 minutes


Liz Binversie:  Greetings!  I’m Liz Binversie, Agriculture Educator for UW-Extension in Brown County, Wisconsin. In our fourth and final podcast we’re going to talk about advice producers can use during these difficult financial times. On the panel today is Paul Fricke, Dairy Cattle Reproductive Specialist for UW-Madison and UW-Extension, Heather Schlesser, Dairy Agent for UW-Extension in Marathon County, and Dr. Vicky Lauer, Professional Services Veterinarian for ANIMART.  It certainly has been a challenging year, Paul. What is your advice to producers during these difficult financial times?

Paul Fricke: Thanks for that question. What I am going to do is focus on reproduction and some of the positive things we can do to mitigate the problems with heat stress. Obviously this summer is going to be a summer when we are also at a time with low milk prices.  I’ll illustrate that by just describing an economic simulation that was done at the University of Florida. Obviously Florida is a place where they have extended periods of pretty severe heat stress. They asked a really simple question, “What would happen if we completely stopped breeding cows for four months during the hot summer heat stress?” Thought there is that again conception rates can get down to ten percent or less in Florida during times of heat stress, so they said “Is it worth even trying to get cows pregnant at that low of a conception rate?” And they compared that to just doing a timed insemination program during the heat stress. Now the positive thing about a timed insemination program is you breed 100% of cows, the conception rates are going to suffer, you’re going to have low conception rates, but you’re still trying to get those cows pregnant. The economics of those strategies were very clear. If you stop breeding cows, it affects your future milk production to the extent that when heat stress is over and when milk prices rebound, and eventually they will do so, you compromise the rolling herd average of the herd so much by backing off on repro, it was an incredibly negative affect on cash flow on the farm.  And so the bottom line is that what can we do proactively during this time of heat stress? We can focus using the tools that we have available such as using a timed insemination program.  I would not focus on the low conception rates. Rather I would focus on keeping the service rates up throughout this period of heat stress and in trying to continue to get cows pregnant. Now the difference between Florida and here in Wisconsin, is we do have periods of heat stress but they’re very compressed typically here in Wisconsin, and so we don’t suffer from months and months of heat stress, or continual heat stress. We have these periods of heat stress. It’s hard to anticipate when they’re going to happen and so again I would just encourage people to stick with their reproductive program, reply on the tools they have available, and continue to try to get those cows pregnant regardless of the milk price, regardless of the heat stress. So with that, Heather do you have anything you’d like to add to that?

Heather Schlesser:  Yes, thank you Paul. I think along with continuing to do all the synchronization and trying to get those cows pregnant, utilizing those heat detection aids such as paints and chalks is very vital. If you are still doing heat detection, checking in the early mornings and in the evening when the cattle are moving more, maybe the temps are a little bit cooler, you might be able to detect more heats at that point in time as well.  It’s really important not to cut corners, to try and supply some of the heat abatement type systems, whether it’s increasing the shade access that the cattle have available to them, installing a few fans to keep them cool, and just really trying to keep the animals cool and to do as best as you can with heat detection if you’re not using timed AI.  Dr. Vicky, would you like to add some more?

Dr. Vicky Lauer:  Thanks, Heather. Just a couple things. If you are using sexed semen, it is always an option to switch to conventional semen, especially if you have an overabundance of heifers. The bull calf market is still pretty good, so that would be an option, too. At least you get a little extra income coming from those bull calves.  If you are genomic testing your cows and you know kind of your low-end cows, one good option is just put some beef semen into those cows. Then again, you’re getting a little extra profit because you’ve got a beef-cross calf, and then you’re going to save money on the semen because you’re using beef genetics as well.

Liz Binversie: Thank you to our wonderful panel. If you’d like to reach any of our specialists, you can do so by email.