UW-Dairy Repro$ helps dairy producers evaluate reproduction programs

Contact: Victor Cabrera, 608-265-8506, vcabrera@wisc.edu

Madison, Wis. – Dairy producers know evaluating the economics of reproductive programs isn’t always as easy as it sounds. However, there is a new tool available to help farmers assess those complex issues.

UW-Dairy Repro$ is a decision support system that allows dairy producers to calculate and compare the economic value of dairy reproductive programs to help them make the best economic decisions for their situations. UW-Dairy Repro$ can be accessed at DairyMGT.info : Tools: Reproduction. Nothing similar to this tool has been available before.

“An important part of milk production is the reproduction program that goes along with other management strategies a farmer uses when making production decisions,” said Victor Cabrera and Julio Giordano, University of Wisconsin-Extension dairy systems management specialist and Ph.D. student, respectively, who developed UW-Dairy Repro$.

They noted, “Many times dairy farmers struggle when they have to select the best reproductive management program because some of these programs may be able to maximize herd reproductive performance by improving service risk and breeding efficiency, but they do not know if the cost incurred with their application will offset the extra income generated by having better reproduction efficiency.”

Farmers may have a good understanding of the reproductive efficiency of current and alternative programs, but they usually have a difficult time assessing the economic impact of these programs on their farms because of the complexity involved in the calculations. The UW-Dairy Repro$ makes these calculations easy and straight forward.

Cabrera notes that there are hundreds of variables a producer needs to look at when thinking about the economics of reproduction programs. “More important than the costs though is the income that will come with a good reproductive program and how to take advantage of peak milk production by ensuring that cows get pregnant at the right time,” he said.

In UW-Dairy Repro$, calculations are based on user-input information. The tool is completely customizable and flexible allowing the user to represent any potential farm scenario and reproductive program. The tool is highly interactive and the user can always make changes to uncertain variables and see the impacts of those changes in the economic performance of defined reproductive programs.

The UW-Dairy Repro$ can be better appreciated with the use of a practical and realistic example.

Let’s suppose a farmer managing a 1000-cow dairy herd with a rolling herd average of 28,000 lb/cow/year is using a defined protocol of Presynch-Ovsynch 14 for first timed artificial insemination (TAI) service. The pregnancy diagnosis is performed by rectal palpation on day 39 post AI and those non-pregnant cows are enrolled in Ovsynch for resynchronization. Therefore, the interbreeding interval for this program is 49 days. The farmer also applies heat breeding before and between these TAI services. The farm records indicate that the herd has a conception rate (CR) of 33% in first TAI and 28% in second and subsequent TAI. The records also indicate that they detect around 50% of cows for heat breeding with a CR of 32% for first service and 28% for second and subsequent services. According to the above information and additional information for Wisconsin in May 2010, the UW-Dairy Repro$ estimated that each cow in this herd made a net present value (NPV) of $6.38/day.

The farmer wants to explore an alternative reproduction program. This alternative program will only imply small managerial changes compared to the current one. This alternative program would use Presynch-Ovsynch 12 for first service TAI. Additionally, the alternative program would reduce the interbreeding interval in 7 days because it will use ultrasonography instead of palpation to detect non-pregnant cows. Research shows that Presynch-Ovsynch 12 improves the CR by at least 5 percentage points compared to the current Presynch-Ovsynch 14. After adjusting these parameters, the UW-Dairy Repro$ estimated that each cow in the herd could produce a NPV of $6.49/day with this alternative program. Consequently, the alternative reproduction program would improve the NPV by $0.11/day per cow or by $43,000/year for the whole herd.

The rationale behind using heat breeding or “cherry picking” before and between TAI services is to take advantage of cows detected on heat to breed them outside of the synchronization protocol. Although this technique may sometimes boost the economic return of a reproductive program, it may also be counterproductive because it prevents those cows detected on heat to continue in the TAI program. Let’s suppose in the above example that the farmer wants to see the impact of not using “cherry picking.”  By removing heat detection, the CR is expected to improve by 5 percentage points for first TAI and 2 percentage points for second and subsequent TAI services. This scenario could be easily analyzed with the UW-Dairy Repro$, which indicates that this managerial change would be beneficial for this farm. The NPV would increase to $6.43/cow/day for the current Presynch-Ovsynch 14 protocol. Even more, if the heat detection is removed for the alternative Presynch-Ovsynch 12 program, the NPV would reach up to $6.54/cow/day.

In sum, the application of the UW-Dairy Repro$ tool would help the manager to realize that the current program could be improved by $0.16/cow/day or $58,000/herd/year on this farm by switching to 100% TAI, using Presynch-Ovsynch 12 for first service TAI, and using ultrasonography for pregnancy diagnosis.


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