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How to make your next preg check your best one yet

There are so many factors that affect how efficiently you can get cows pregnant. Cow comfort. Cow cooling. Nutrition. Herd health. Genetics. Dry cow, transition and fresh cow management. And the list goes on.

The whole picture can be overwhelming. So to help break it down, we turn to the simple lactation cycle of an Alta 4-EVENT COW. You can make your next preg check the best one yet by focusing on the management practices around the BRED and PREG events of a cow’s lactation.

Here, we share three things you can do today to improve the current reproductive efficiency in your herd – and create more of those profitable Alta 4-EVENT COWS.

1. USE HIGH FERTILITY CONCEPT PLUS SIRES

With countless sire options available, it’s often hard to choose the right bulls for your herd. If part of your goal is to make your next preg check your best one yet, one of the fastest, simplest ways to do that in this moment, is to emphasize sire fertility within your customized genetic plan.

When you use a high fertility sire, you’re upping your odds of creating a pregnancy on the very inseminations where you use that sire. That means more cows that require just one time BRED before they’re confirmed PREGnant.

The trio of high fertility Alta CONCEPT PLUS semen options will improve the fertility in your herd, regardless of which semen type you use.

  • CONCEPT PLUS DxD – High fertility sires will give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a pregnancy with conventional semen.
  • 511 CONCEPT PLUS – High fertility SexedULTRA sires offer a 4%-9% conception rate advantage over the average sexed bull.
  • CONCEPT PLUS BxD – High fertility beef x dairy sires give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a conventional pregnancy with the beef semen you use in your dairy herd.

2. PRACTICE STRICT COMPLIANCE AND ACCURACY

Regardless of your repro strategy, your cows will not get pregnant if you don’t comply with the timed AI protocols and/or maintain an exceptional level of accuracy with heat detection.

When you use timed AI…

With synchronization programs, we can never emphasize enough that compliance is king. To put that in simple, relatable terms, that means combining four things:

  • The right injection
  • The right dose
  • The right cow
  • The right time

If you miss just one of these four critical factors, any chance at creating a pregnancy based off a synchronization schedule is severely diminished, or even gone.

When you heat detect…

The fastest diagnosis that you have on your farm for an open diagnosis is timely, accurate heat detection. What we mean by this, is that if you wait until your actual preg check day to determine the pregnancy status of every cow bred 28-35 days prior, you’ll be checking some cows that may already have showed heat since they were bred.

Regardless if you use an activity monitor system or tail painting, if you’re able to detect heats with accuracy, you’ll give yourself a chance to catch those cows that come into heat. That means fewer open cows on preg check day.

3. MAINTAIN ACCURATE RECORDS

Using a software program to maintain your records gives you the best chance of sticking to point number two above. When using a timed AI program, you can set up your synchronization schedule in your her management software program so you can follow it to a T.

When it comes to heat detection, having accurate data on freshenings, last service date, and more, will ensure you present the right cows on preg check day and keep your repro program on track.

Of course, other management factors will affect how many cows are confirmed pregnant on your next herd check. But if you do your own, personal check on the three points above, you may find that your next preg check is your best one yet.

 

Article by Glaucio Lopes & Chrissy Meyer

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A genetic approach to improved fertility

Alta 4-EVENT COWS don’t happen by accident. It takes a clear focus on the best day-to-day management, and a long-term plan toward breeding and developing a healthy, fertile, and productive herd.

Here, we focus in on how the decisions you make on breeding and genetics can help you create more 4-EVENT COWS in your herd. We share two ways – plus some proof – that genetics are a key piece of the puzzle in main­taining a trouble-free, profitable herd – now and down the road.

1. CREATE MORE PREGNANCIES NOW

If you’re looking for a fertility advantage on inseminations today, sire fertility rankings are where you’ll want to focus. The Alta CONCEPT PLUS sire fertility evaluation ranks each sire on his ability to get cows pregnant. In fact, regardless which semen type you use in your breeding strategy, you’ll find high fertility CONCEPT PLUS options to fit.

Why should you trust Alta’s CONCEPT PLUS ratings? They are based on real pregnancy check results from progressive dairy herds throughout North America. The evaluation also maintains accuracy by accounting for factors like number of times bred, month/season, technician and breeding code effects.

 

  • CONCEPT PLUS DxD – high fertility sires will give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a pregnancy with conventional semen.
  • 511 CONCEPT PLUS – high fertility SexedULTRA sires offer a 4%-9% conception rate advantage over the average sexed bull
  • CONCEPT PLUS BxD – high fertility beef x dairy sires give you a 2%-5% greater chance at creating a conventional pregnancy than the average beef bull used on dairy cows.

If you’re more familiar with sire conception rate (SCR), keep in mind that Alta’s CONCEPT PLUS evaluation is more complete, current, and consistent – and actually served as a basis for SCR. The table below compares what’s included and accounted for in each evaluation.

Comparing sire fertility evaluationsSCRCONCEPT PLUS
Based on real pregnancy check dataXX
Accounts for various factors affecting fertility, including age, month, herd, service number and lactationXX
COMPLETE
Separate ratings available per semen type: conventional, sexed, and beef x dairy breedingsX
Accounts for additional factors affecting fertility, like technician and breeding code effectsX
Data is collected from progressive dairies in North America, and not restricted to US farms on official testX
CURRENT
Ongoing data is collected and evaluated directly from DairyComp and other herd management programsX
Updates are available every other monthX
CONSISTENT
Data is gathered only from large-herd environments with progressive management and reproduction programsX

2. CREATE MORE FERTILE COWS FOR THE FUTURE

While sire fertility selection can get you more pregnancies, and more Alta 4-EVENT COWS now, it takes a long-term plan and genetic selection for female fertility to ensure your herd’s reproduction continues to improve.

Daughter pregnancy rate (DPR), heifer conception rate (HCR) and cow conception rate (CCR) all provide a genetic basis for creating more fertile females. Emphasizing one, or any combination, of these traits in your customized genetic plan means you are breeding a next generation of cows with a greater ability to conceive.

Daughter pregnancy rate is defined as the number of non-pregnant cows that become pregnant within each 21-day period. When a sire has a DPR of 1.0, it means that his daughters are 1% more likely than the average herdmate to become pregnant in a given 21-day window. And each added point of DPR equates to 4 fewer days open.

When referring to HCR and CCR, these traits are defined respectively as a virgin heifer or lactating cow’s ability to conceive. For each of these traits, when a sire has a value of 1.0, it means that his daughters are 1% more likely to conceive than daughters of a sire with an HCR or CCR of 0.0. While DPR is a slightly different calculation than HCR or CCR, all three are a way to measure the fertility of the female herself.

It’s clear to see that the high DPR sires, do indeed, create daughters that become pregnant more quickly than the daughters of low DPR sires.

Lactation 1 cows# of cowsAverage Sire DPRActual Preg rate
Top 25% for highest Sire DPR1742.327%
Bottom 25% for lowest Sire DPR137-1.120%
Difference3.47%

IMPROVE FERTILITY RESULTS – NOW AND INTO THE FUTURE

If your goal is to create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS through improved fertility and reproduction, don’t miss out on the impact that genetics can make in taking you to that next level. Despite the low heritability of fertility traits like DPR, these two tips will help improve your herd’s reproductive results now and into the future:

  1. Improve conception rates now by using sires with the high fertility CONCEPT PLUS rating to boost your herd’s current conception rates.
  2. Improve fertility for the future of your herd by including DPR and/or HCR and CCR in your customized genetic plan to create a next generation of more fertile females.
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The timeline of an Alta sire

You might be wondering what the different sire designations mean, and how they fit into the life cycle of an Alta bull. So let’s break them down…

Alta ADVANTAGE

Most sires begin their journey at Alta among this group of bulls, which is available only to our loyal Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds. Alta ADVANTAGE sires offer diverse trait specialties and elite rankings on many different customized genetic plans.

When a bull is first old enough to be collected, he simply won’t produce enough semen to be readily available to all farms around the globe. So while we work to build semen inventory, we give our committed Alta ADVANTAGE partner herds priority access to these elite, new sires that best fit their customized genetic plans.

G-STARS

Once a bull starts producing enough semen, he is added to the G-STAR sire list. Many new G-STAR bulls are readily available this proof round. Among these sires are a wide array of trait outliers, and high-ranking options to fit your genetic plan. Some of these bulls have even been released long enough to have proven information for sire fertility, so you can choose a balance of both high genetics and high fertility CONCEPT PLUS.

FUTURE STARS

About a year after a bull is first released, we have actual, proven results for both sire fertility and calving ease. We gather this data, analyze the results, and award the FUTURE STAR designation to only the bulls with offspring already born, with results for proof of easy calvings, pregnancy check results that confirm they are above average for sire fertility. They also have calves born already, and their calving ease data shows them to be less than 8% for sire calving ease.

FUTURE STARS are the way to go if you want the benefits of elite genomics but prefer the added peace of mind of proven sire fertility and calving ease. You may give up some production and health as compared to the available G-STAR or ADVANTAGE only sires. But you can rest assured, knowing that you’re upping your chances for a both a pregnancy and a live calf from an easier calving. Because of the known calving ability, FUTURE STARS are often a good option to use on heifers.

PROVEN STARS

About three years after a bull is first released, his earliest daughters will enter the milking string. Once there has been adequate time to collect milk test information from those daughters and/or analyze their actual conformation, the data is compiled by the Council on Dairy Cattle Breeding (CDCB) and Holstein Association USA. That information is then calculated into a sire’s first daughter proof.

From there, as more daughters begin their first lactation, their sire’s reliability continues to increase. PROVEN STAR sires are for those people who only prefer the highest reliability genetic options.

Compare the averages to see the progress

Now that you know the difference between each sire designation, and understand the progression a bull could make as he matures, compare the average genetic level of each group in the table below. You’ll see that the newest, Alta ADVANTAGE bulls have the highest genetic averages – especially for the money-making production and health traits. They’re followed by the G-STAR sires, and then by the more highly reliable FUTURE STARS. You’ll also see the comparison to daughter-proven sire averages, just for reference.

60-40-0TPINM$MilkProtFatCFPPrelPTATUDCFLCPLDPRSCS
Alta ADVANTAGE952277695217746994163761.821.980.717.20.72.70
G-STAR870268587316266486149781.681.840.776.50.82.76
FUTURE STAR822265082915386183144801.901.841.035.80.52.78
PROVEN STAR748255372916816174134951.841.690.934.70.42.81

Despite the big difference in genetic averages between the genomic lists and daughter-proven averages, it’s important to note that every single bull atop our current PROVEN STAR list was once a part of the G-STAR and/or FUTURE STAR lists. This just shows how much, and how fast, we’re making genetic progress!

The track record is significant for our current genomic favorites. Each proof round, we see these genomic bulls deliver on their initial predictions, and eventually graduate to daughter-proven success.

A side-by-side comparison

We can take this comparison of genetic averages one step further. For the sake of simplicity, let’s use the 60-40-0 index to do a side-by-side comparison of our top daughter-proven sires and our top genomic-proven bulls.

Both lists have tremendous options to use. The top daughter-proven bulls are elite among their peers. In fact, AltaTOPSHOT would even rank #2 among our genomic-proven list. The rest widely recognized as popular options around the world. Yet, if we’re talking about using groups of bulls, instead of individual bulls, the genomic-proven average simply outpaces our daughter-proven options by a significant amount.

Top 10 daughter-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO11779AltaTOPSHOT1091
11HO11781AltaUPSHOT980
11HO11487AltaBARK888
11HO11778AltaROBSON859
11HO11718AltaTURNKEY842
11HO11767AltaCONCORD818
11HO11737AltaHIDALGO810
11HO11740AltaFACET803
11HO11750AltaFLACCO802
11HO11669AltaJONAH801
Average870

Top 10 genomic-proven bulls
December 2019

Sire CodeSire Name60-40-0 Index Value
11HO12345AltaSOHOT1108
11HO12346AltaTORRENT1033
11HO12293AltaBUNDLE1027
11HO12194AltaCABOT1013
11HO12219AltaZAREK1009
11HO12168AltaGILMORE1009
11HO12124AltaGOPRO1000
11HO15023AltaGLOW981
11HO14200AltaFAVIAN978
11HO15012AltaROYALTON976
Average 1013

Have confidence in the right genetics for your dairy

With that in mind, have confidence that using a team of sires from the Alta ADVANTAGE, G-STAR or FUTURE STAR lists will help you meet your goals. And if you prefer the peace of mind from higher-reliability proven sires, you’ll certainly find the right bulls to fit your needs among that list.

The most important thing is to select a group of bulls that meet your customized goals for production, health and conformation – the type of bulls that will help you create more Alta 4-EVENT COWS. That is the key for you to drive progress to match your current situation and future goals.

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What’s a fertility leader?

Have you ever really thought about what’s involved to get highly fertile semen from the bull to your tank, and then into your cows or heifers? Fertility leadership is backed by the Alta people, processes and programs involved in every step.

PEOPLE

Fertility excellence is what drives our team! We hire and extensively train only those who share a commitment and passion to your herd’s reproductive success. From semen collection and evaluation to distribution and delivery, our barn and lab staff, veterinarians, distribution crew, technicians, and sales force are all committed to help you get cows pregnant.

PROCESSES

We deliver the highest quality semen through continual innovation. Our scientists on staff are always looking for the best ways to enhance semen quality through extender research, potency trials, and more. We implement the same, strict semen handling processes and quality control checks at each of our AI centers located in six different countries around the world.

PROGRAMS

We choose the industry’s leading sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS, as the only way to measure Alta sire fertility. CONCEPT PLUS is based on pregnancy check results from DairyComp data in our large, progressive partner dairies. We update results every other month for the most reliable sire fertility information – and we’re transparent about which bulls offer superior or inferior fertility.

You can trust CONCEPT PLUS.

Twenty years ago, we challenged traditional fertility evaluations to align with the real needs of progressive herds: creating efficient pregnancies. CONCEPT PLUS goes above and beyond today’s industry evaluations to bring you the most trusted, accurate, and proven designation in sire fertility.

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Create more pregnancies with precision fertility management

Big data is sweeping into agribusiness with precision agriculture. Now, with more information, growing crops and livestock has become more accurate and efficient, allowing you to do more for less.

We’re taking precision agriculture one step further. With precision fertility management, we are helping you turn data into dollars by creating more pregnancies.

Backed by the CONCEPT PLUS gold standard fertility designation, we’ve raised 20 years of fertility experience to a higher standard. We’ve compiled millions of pregnancy check data and delivered it through innovate tools to accurately and efficiently create pregnant cows.

What’s new with CONCEPT PLUS?

If you’ve used sexed semen on your dairy, you already know what millions of pregnancy check results confirm. Sexed semen fertility is not the same as conventional semen fertility.

The data also shows that the same bull may perform well with conventional semen fertility, but not as sexed semen, and vice versa. With that in mind, we now give you access to two separate fertility evaluations, so you can take a precision approach to fertility management.

Know which bulls will give you highest fertility using Alta511 SexedULTRA semen by finding this 511 CONCEPT PLUS designation on a bull’s individual page on Alta Bull Search.

The industry’s most accurate sire fertility evaluation, CONCEPT PLUS designates whether a bull offers elite fertility on conventional breedings.

Can a bull be CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS?

Yes. Since we know that conventional semen fertility and sexed semen fertility are two different traits with low correlations, we now identify them as such. An orange CONCEPT PLUS icon or logo designates the bulls with the best fertility on conventional semen. The purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo shows you which sires offer the best fertility on breedings to Alta511 SexedULTRA.

Why would I want to use sexed semen with average or unknown fertility?

As with any decision you make, there are trade-offs. With Alta’s sexed semen options, it comes down to what you value most in a genetic plan: the most rapid genetic progress or known high fertility.

Let’s say the main goal in your genetic plan is to make the fastest genetic progress possible. In that case you may choose to use bulls that don’t yet have fertility data, or else are proven as average for sexed semen sire fertility. If these bulls best fit your goal of rapid genetic progress, they may not have the CONCEPT PLUS or 511 CONCEPT PLUS designations.

However, if your main focus is to create a pregnancy, the purple 511 CONCEPT PLUS designation will give you confidence you’re boosting your odds at creating pregnancy with sexed semen. The orange CONCEPT PLUS designation will continue to help you recognize which bulls create the most conventional semen pregnancies.

How often does Alta evaluate sire fertility?

We want to help you create more pregnancies. To do that, accurate fertility information is key. To be accurate, the data must be timely. We run a complete evaluate for sire fertility every other month.

We know differences exist in sire fertility, even over shorter periods of time, so to take advantage of the most accurate and current information, we now release new CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS ratings six times per year.

Why should I trust the fertility of Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS sires?

Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS sexed sires will give you the confidence to create more heifers and more pregnancies. We provide the utmost care for our bulls, we follow strict lab SOPs, and ensure careful semen distribution procedures. And more importantly, we make firm culling decisions on bulls with sub-par fertility performance.

You can have confidence in the CONCEPT PLUS and 511 CONCEPT PLUS evaluations because:

  • CONCEPT PLUS is COMPLETE
    • It accounts for the effect a technician or breeding code can play on a sire’s fertility within a given herd.
    • Data is collected from US and Canadian herds, and not limited to US herds on official test.
  • CONCEPT PLUS is CURRENT
    • Our team is always collecting data DairyComp in our partner herds.
  • CONCEPT PLUS is CONSISTENT
    • Data is only gathered from progressive, large-herd environments, where management is consistent, contemporary group sizes are large, and repro programs are aggressive.

 

When you want to create more pregnancies, take a precision approach to maximizing your herd’s fertility by using the right tools for the job. Work with your trusted Alta advisor to define your dairy’s customized genetic plan and create pregnancies with a precision approach to fertility management.

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