Monday, June 17, 2024

Fertility aids discovered

  CONCEPTIONS   Beef cow-calf newsletter            April May 2023

In Iowa there is a company called Em Labs which produces three products we stock:  P Test (strips to catch urine to detect pregnancy after six weeks post-breeding), Heifer Plus and its companion Bull Plus  which are enzymatic additives that influence the sex of the calf when using conventional (non-sorted) frozen semen.

Heifer Plus and Bull Plus have in various trials produced calf crops of 75% or more the desired sex – IF you do everything strictly according to the instructions.    If you go over the incubation times recommended, calf sex will go the other way from what you desired.    So these work, but are not guaranteed to work without an exact replication of the steps recommended.

It seems that, whether or not you get the sex desired in the calf, you do get a calf.    Fertility of semen seems to be enhanced by use of this product, and that is a consistent result.

Given many of you are shooting for a narrow calving window, a chance of improved conception is valuable.     Clitoral stimulation (page one) seems to add 10% to conception rates.   Using the sheath protectors (we stock two kinds) seems to gain another 5% at a minimal cost.    Now with the Em Lab “heifer plus” and “bull plus” options we might gain still another 10%.

For those of you using synchronization, which has never matched the conception rates that are possible from natural heats, these aids to conception are well worth considering.


We stock  C I D R s

They come in packages of ten, but if you only need a few, we will accommodate you.

We stock  “Estru Tech”  strips

They come in packages of 50, which are ten sheets with five strips on each sheet. 
Again, if you only need a few, we will sell individual sheets.

We stock  “tail paint”  in a variety of colors

Another economical tool, especially if you wish to catch repeats after a group breeding session.    Tail paint usually lasts the length of a heat cycle (three weeks) unless you get a hard rainfall.


Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Having trouble budgeting all the technological breeding expense ?


There have always been more than one successful approach to breeding a herd of cows that gets more productive and profitable in each generation.   But only the approaches that are covered by patents generate enough money to advertise…

More tried and true methods that can be self-managed and achieved at a lower operating cost may only come your way by word of mouth.     Do you need sexed semen, Genomic testing, IVF- ET generated service sires at the highest rankings, Ov-Synch control over cycling, OR do you just need semen from “good bulls” at a reasonable cost and a bit of guidance on which bulls match the physical qualities of your cows?     (Which can get your cows bred $100 per cow cheaper than when you swallow all the patented technologies and their associated genetic theories.)

Dairying today remains a high overhead, low profit margin commodity production business.    We provide a low cost, practical and sustainable approach to creating profitable long-life herd replacements and preparing for premium market opportunities.    Give us consideration!


MIch Livestock Service, Inc.               ph (989) 834- 2661      

Monday, June 10, 2024

Planning a breeding approach that makes sense and conserves cash


How should we define “Genetic Value” anyway, on an imputed index from pedigree and DNA, or from the actual, realized performance of our cows over their lifetime of production?   

I recently updated analyzation for a thoughtful career dairyman in west central Michigan, who had recently bought cows from a nearby herd dispersal.    Of the four cows he brought home, two have already left his herd within months of their purchase.    In spite of eyeballing them at the farm of origin, they proved unable to adapt to his environment  (and it is a well-managed, cow-friendly environment).    
Lack of adaptation to an environmental change is a key reason auction barn cows only last an average 1.5 lactations in their new home.

This dairyman has cows within his herd that have achieved seven lactations and do not show any signs of impending failure.     These are the cows he would most like to be dams of future herd replacements.    He believes strongly that “cows with longevity survival produce heifers with the same ability”  [especially when care is taken in mating as in his use of “aAa” analysis]

What he particularly likes about these successful matured cows is that, as the ME tables always predicted, they tend to milk 30% more in fourth, fifth, & sixth lactations than they did with first lactation (20% more than second lactation, 10% more than third lactation).

This brings up the key fallacy in the various Genomic mating concepts built around use of sexed semen to produce all your future replacements from “unproven” virgin heifers, on the basis of their higher Genomic (DNA + pedigree) rankings.     The common weakness with ALL such sales promotions is that
your cows are treated as having no “breeding” value whatsoever.   All the progress your herd needs to make then has to come from selection of sires on indexes… which is a blatant contradiction of the known biology, in which 50% of the genes in your calves’ genotype come from the dam – a gene contribution equal to what is received from her sire.

Genetic progress on pedigree index is illusory if cows are turning over (leaving the herd) in the third lactation, as is the national average.    The genetic selection for high peaks in first lactation and an acceleration of the growth of heifers has had the effect of shortening herdlife—ie, cows are ”matured” in second lactation and “aging” (physically failing) in third lactation.     The sort of heifer that proves to be a more regular-breeding, long-term high lifetime cow will have a flatter and more persistent lactation curve than the “accelerated” herdmate…  and
she has inherited that from her longer lifetime, successfully adapted mother who preserved that from her own ancestry based in earlier generations of more broadly-based selection approaches.   These are the only animals that live up to the “ME” predictions given to the records of all tested heifers.

It appears to take all the first lactation and part of the second lactation production to pay back costs of raising heifers.     To be a profitable dairy, it takes lots of mature and maturing cows…   

What is the “PTA” value of realized maturity?

So you might get 20,000 pounds of milk in the first lactation from a typical TMR-fed nutritionist balanced ration.     30% more at maturity is 6000 pounds more…   
This is twice the PTA milk value of the very highest sires in AI today.    

Thus the matching of cows to sires under the “aAa” system which is proven to provide longer herdlife replacements, has a PTA Milk “value” equal to the highest of Genomic imputations… in other words, you want to see all that paper progress realized in your future herd performance.

The average USA cow on DHIA test produces milk for 2.5 lactations (this varies by geography).    This means the average cow leaving during third lactation has overstated her sire’s PTA value by its calculation from Mature Equivalent (ME) factors by 15%.     

For an AI sire to live up to the imputed ME production levels in his genetic evaluation across all his offspring, he would need to have a PTA- PL (Productive Life) value of + 7.0.    I am unaware of any current progeny evaluated sires exceeding a PL value of +3.5.    

While there are plenty of young Genomic sires with imputed PTA values well in excess of those achieved once sires have progeny in production for evaluation, the industry must come to grips with the biological reality:  
Possession of desired “marker” genes associated with PTA traits has no direct causation to the complex physiological and metabolic processes which any cow brings to her “real world” environment within a physique that must be capable of all desired cow functions  (even feed consumption-- production—component synthesis—reproduction and calving recovery—completion of physical growth— immune function --stamina and sustained vigor—mobility – social herd adaptation – human interaction).     Most of this list has no direct link to any traits measured in PTA form.     

Why is it so hard for realized generational progress  (as documented in the five-year step-up of “the genetic base” from national herd averages)  which has been no more than 100 pounds of milk yearly (500 PTA pounds per five-year “base change”) all through the PTA calculation era—to approach the expectations of sire PTA values of 1000 to 2000 pounds milk deviations?

Actually, data from AI sired cows in the Netherlands shows that the highest ranking of USA milk bulls only provide their PTA estimates in their first lactation deviations:  typically only half as much deviation in second lactation; and then deviation disappears in third lactations.    Milk production over their lifetime is not increasing:  it is merely accelerated in their first lactations at the expense of a longer-life productivity.    [Data sourced from CRV dutch DHI dairy database]

It must be admitted that “genetic value” as currently calculated only answers maybe one third of what is required in selection of economic genes, matching cows to bulls on characteristics of the desired physique, and creating the rearing environment to harvest quality replacements.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Startling presentation at Michigan Hay & Forage Council Annual Meeting

  CONCEPTIONS   Dairy Route Newsletter               April-May 2023 

Daniel Olson of Lena, Wisconsin, active dairy farmer, owner of “Forage Innovations LLC” and a founding member of the ”Grassworks” initiative, was the keynote speaker for this years MHGFC annual meeting.     In his afternoon presentation he reported on an ongoing research project of University of Wisconsin, in which over ten years replacement heifers for the University herd are split between “confinement TMR” and “rotational grazing” until they freshen.    Those heifers who were raised outside on pasturage and winter fed mixed-grass hay are producing more milk (as much as 1900 pounds more!) in first lactations than the confined, bunk fed contemporaries.    Key reasons:   the grazed heifers develop more ruminant capacity, have more muscle tone at calving (thus calve easier), and less foot and leg trouble.    

One-sided research:  how it misleads us

There is a report in “Journal of Dairy Science” on another recent research in which Holstein heifers bred to Angus sires for their first calves were compared to heifers bred calving-ease Holstein sires.   There was NO loss of production or other economically negative results.

It has been part of the “sales pitch” for use of sexed semen on heifers from high genomic value sires that these heifers would somehow milk more from that service than if lower genetic value mating sires had been used.     The object here?    Clearly, to help justify the premium price for the sexed semen (and downplay the reduced conception rates from sexed product).

Ultimately, this same genetic acceleration theory would have you breed your matured cows to [sexed male] beef semen to produce a salable deacon calf, generally bringing a higher price at auction than a pure dairy blood deacon.    The sales pitch:  these old cows have lower genomic value, so focus producing replacements from your newest generation of heifers”.   

Maybe the beef semen should go into the “unproven” heifers instead?    And raise them out on pasture, so they milk more on first lactation?     Thus suggests the most recent researches


Monday, June 3, 2024

Cover crops and double cropping with animals is a winning choice


The NRCS has worked hard to convince people that ”No Til” will save some soil structure and reduce erosion from runoff of rainfall on compacted soils.    High costs of no-till equipment, however, has led many farmers to crop monocultures.
Over time, monocultural row cropping still leads to compaction (compared to a planned crop rotation) but more damage to soil fertility is being done by removing cattle from the land.    

Periodic growth of cover crops can be harvested by animals cheaper than they can be tilled or terminated prior to growing a cash crop.    Animals aid the growth of soil biology, helping to keep the balance needed between bacteria and fungi.

The productivity of your animals and your cost of raising them to market (either for meat or breeding or show stock) improves when you give them access to all your land at some time in the growing season (and maybe after as well).

Mich Livestock Service, Inc    “For the Best in Bulls”   AND  “For the most useful forage Seeds”
At your service since 1952…    strategies to  synergistically  combine cattle and seed genetics