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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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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.

Bullseye to represent precision fertility management

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.

Alta 511 CONCEPT PLUS logo to designate high fertility sires when using sexed semen

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.

Alta CONCEPT PLUS logo to designate high fertility sires using conventional semen

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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Getting cows in calf

Getting cows in calf

…is key for a dairy farmer’s profitability. That’s why at Alta we always advise to select for high semen fertility bulls. However with Spring joining in full swing, it actually makes it even more important to select for fertility to give your return cows the best chance to get in calf. Getting your in-calf rate to 85% in the first 6 weeks should be your target because it translates to more profit in your pocket.

Concept Plus is the industry leading Sire Conception ranking. Concept Plus has a more robust and accurate semen classification system than any other North American semen fertility rating and is the “go to” ranking for many progressive farmers globally. A sire designated Concept Plus will deliver 2-5% higher conception rates than the average. So by using Concept Plus semen you will give your cows every chance to get pregnant!

Additional to getting your returns in calf, condensing their calving period is possible by selecting for short gestation length sires. This will enable you to better manage the calving period and have more cows returning to milk faster meaning more profit.

SGL is the trait for the expression of gestation length in the US. This figure is expressed in expected days shorter (-) or longer compared to the average of 277 days for Holstein sires. Short gestation length sires, or those with a negative value, will provide a shorter gestation period and can be used to reduce your overall calving period.

To maximise profit at joining for return cows use Concept Plus rated sires who also have a shorter gestation length.

Check our bull search for Concept Plus and high SGL sires.

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Did you know Concept Plus?

Concept Plus  is the stable semen fertility measure for Dairyman globally since 2001?

Concept Plus  has improved accuracy over SCR. That data is included from large progressive dairies in 3 countries? And accounts for more factors that affect accuracy like technician and breeding code effects?

Concept Plus  served as the basis for the new SCR evaluations?

Concept Plus  sires deliver between 2% and 5% higher conception rates than average sires?

 

Stable and accurate

Concept Plus  was first introduced in 2001 because Alta recognised the need for Dairyman globally that getting cows pregnant was a key to farm profit. As a result, Concept Plus  has been the constant source for high semen fertility sires for the last 16 years.

Concept Plus  only uses current data from their Advantage Partner herds located in the US, Canada and Germany. These large progressive dairies provide large contemporary groups for greater accuracy and have always only used palpated pregnancy checks to confirm conception.

 

The extra mile…..

Breeding code and technician effect are also considered in Concept Plus , both these factors alone can account for high levels of variation for sires with limited observations and not accounting for these effects on conception would only reduce overall accuracy. This simple change in addressing fertility data can be the difference in optimising pregnancies and is how Concept Plus  goes the extra mile in providing the most accurate and complete ranking.

 

Concept Plus , the model for SCR

Such is the accuracy of the Concept Plus  program, that US officials adopted this model from their previous NRR model. However, the SCR dataset includes:

  • information from small contemporary groups

SCR uses all information collected via Dairy Software programs, regardless of the herd size so can include low contemporary comparison groups which lowers accuracy.

  • is not exclusive from only herds with high parentage verification

Concept Plus  uses information from Advantage partner herds only. These herds have increased accuracy through parentage verification and high level record keeping, providing a very accurate dataset for calculation

  • does not take into account the Breeding Code and Technician effects within those herds.

There can be vast differences in performance between technicians, Concept Plus  removes this bias by including known technician rates when calculating conception rates. There can also be large differences between breeding codes, by differentiating between them you provide a more accurate semen fertility rating

 

So what does this all mean?

It means that Concept Plus  is the most accurate and reliable semen fertility rating system in the industry and allows us to guarantee high semen fertility sires by removing any poor Concept Plus  rated bulls from our team. In fact, the SCR rating confirms this with Alta sires showing the smallest variation for semen fertility from all the major studs. Moreover, Alta also has the highest overall average amongst this group on SCR.

You can use Concept Plus  sires with confidence knowing that they will deliver between 2 and 5% higher than the average conception on your farm. Click on the link at the bottom for a complete list of Concept Plus  sires

For more information on how Concept Plus  sires from Alta can help get more cows pregnant in your herd, contact your local Alta representative below.

Regional Genetic consultants:

Tony Simpson – Northern Vic/NSW and WA

Peter Clifford – Western Victoria/SA

Jake Harkness – Western Victoria/SA

Callum Moscript – Tasmania/Gippsland

Brett Hazelman – North West Victoria

Julian Pick – National

NAAB CodeNameTPI
011HO11630AltaMORENO2742
011HO11725AltaAMULET2712
011HO11724AltaSTEEL2684
011HO11672AltaKERMIT2667
011HO11821AltaFOREVER2642
011HO11779AltaTOPSHOT2622
011HO11813AltaTOOHOT2619
011HO11652AltaLAMBEAU2552
011HO11747AltaEXEMPLAR2544
011HO11762AltaRINGER2533
NAAB CodeNameJPI
011JE01179VICEROY184
011JE01152REGAL134
011JE01118MARVEL114
011JE01234MACHO111
011JE01195MALACHI98
011JE01122LAYNE97
011JE01213RUFUS87
011JE01150VALSON76
011JE00978KARBALA70
011JE00968APPLEJACK26
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