Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of Dairy Financial Driver Profitability Quick Tips. Information is based on work by Zoetis and Compeer Financial to analyze 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production record summaries to identify key drivers of net farm income. Quicker pregnancies are essential to keep milk flowing and the next generation of herd replacements growing.

Director of US Dairy Veterinary Operations / Pfizer Animal Health

A 9 percent difference in pregnancy rate added up to a $143-per-cow-per-year difference in net farm income between the top one-third of herds and the bottom one-third of herds, according to a study by Zoetis and Compeer Financial that analyzed 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production record summaries.

Optimizing pregnancy rate is not only about making sure cows efficiently move through the stages of production, but also about ensuring cows spend less time in late lactation when milk production is lower. Your goal should be to have cows spend more time at the front end of the lactation curve, ultimately driving profitability.

Follow these three tips to improve pregnancy rates and maximize profit opportunity:

1. Get cows pregnant earlier in lactation

Staying at the front end of the milking curve means more efficient milk production. Optimize pregnancy rate by implementing a high-conception rate fertility synchronization program followed by an intensive heat detection program to identify open cows for prompt re-insemination.


2. Keep your fresh cows healthy

Good fresh cow care is key to ensuring fresh cows are ready to breed. Evaluate your fresh cow program to make sure stress is minimized, rations are balanced and health evaluations are done at the front and back of a cow. Look for signs of illness such as loss of appetite, drooping ears, depressed attitude, increased temperature, abnormal tail carriage and vaginal discharge, in addition to the telltale foul smell, which may signal a metritis infection. If metritis is an issue, eliminate the need for pen moves and avoid the cost of discarding milk by using a proven, on-label treatment.

3. Calve in the right heifers for your dairy

First-lactation animals typically make 15 percent less milk than second-lactation animals. Therefore, it’s important to manage and monitor heifer inventories closely with the goal of balancing your heifer and adult cow population. Having the right number of heifers with genetics that achieve your herd goals will allow you to minimize replacement costs while avoiding milk production gaps. Genomic testing can help identify heifers that will live longer in your herd.

The bottom line is getting cows pregnant at a faster rate increases milk production – which is ultimately the driving force behind profitability.  end mark

References omitted but are available upon request. Click here to email an editor.

Mike Lormore, DVM, MS, MBA, is director of cattle technical services at Zoetis.

—From Zoetis news release