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Hard-to-breed cows will be more common this summer.

Dairy Pipeline: July 1996

by Bennet Cassell
Extension Dairy Scientist
Genetics and Management
Virginia Tech

DHI averages for Virginia show that producers are keeping more problem breeders in their herds than in years past. Higher milk prices may encourage producers to keep some of these cows and low cull cow prices provide little incentive to cull heavily. What should producers do when these ladies come in heat? A cow with 200 days open and 4 or 5 unsuccessful AI services isn't a good candidate for $20 semen! How about using young sires? I suggest that pedigrees be examined before buying young sire semen. Select them on parent average (PA) for MFP$. Parent average is the average PTA of the sire and dam of the young bull. In Holsteins, a good target right now would be to use youngsters with PA values of at least $200. Higher is better. Ask your semen distributor for some choices and lay in a small inventory for breedings in August and September when summer heat stress is also a problem. Limit purchases to 5 to 10 units of semen per young sire for each 100 cows in the herd. Another option would be to buy some $10 (or cheaper) semen on proven bulls. Choose bulls with high MFP$ and forget about the other traits. The immediate object is to get the cow bred, but half of them are going to have heifers and most producers freshen all their heifers. Don't get stuck with a large group of heifers by mediocre AI bulls because of this summer's breeding problems. How about using a herd bull? I always oppose this practice for genetic, safety, and herd health reasons, but this year producers need to ask whether they can afford to give bulls access to expensive lactating cow rations. Return on investment in natural service has always been questionable, but is even more iffy this year. Stick with AI. Costs can be held down while making satisfactory genetic progress.

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