One percent doesn’t seem like a big deal in some measurements. Going from 98 to 99% on a test is still very near perfect. Getting 19 or 20% off on a tool sale is significant, but not drastic. But improving conception rate or heat detection rate by 1% is not only significant, it can totally change the look of your herd’s reproductive health.
We talked with one of Select Reproductive Solutions (SRS) specialists, Bill Van de Graaf of Sunnyside, WA, on what a difference 1% can make.
“I’m going to use some slides from DC 305 to illustrate just how big of a change improving conception rate or heat detection rate can improve pregnancy rates. It’s incredible to see it, and if we can work together with our producers to improve just a little in these areas, the resulting output is outstanding.”
“In this first slide, I highlighted three consecutive 21-day periods that have the same heat detection rate. Based on this, following are slides to show was the conception rates were for each of those periods.”
“To get the preg rate we can multiply the heat detection rate by the conception rate. So for example, in the first period (2/12 through 3/4), it would be 30% conception x 64% heat detection = 19.2% pregnancy rate, while the other pregnancy rates come out to 21.8% and 22.4% respectively. Basically if you improve overall conception by 3%, you will improve your pregnancy rate by 2% if you get over 60% heat detection.”
That’s all good to know, but how can a producer improve these conception rates and ultimately pregnancy rates? Bill has had success in herds he works with by improving heat detection (chalking cows on a regular basis), providing herd technicians with refresher courses, and of course reducing heat stress on cows, which will be a prominent factor for All-West customers very soon.
“You can see in this slide that the example dairy drops below 20% conception rate during the summer months, so my job is to look at how they handle heat stress and work on improvements there first.”
In a Hoard’s Dairyman online article, “Boosting preg rates pays multiple dividends,” author Jeff Stevenson of Kansas State University states, “The value of each percentage point bump runs about $66, so moving two points would yield an additional $132 per cow. As herd pregnancy rate rises, the value of the increase lessens but is still significant in herds with 20% preg rate.” He also explained “Payback from improvements in pregnancy rate will take time.” Benefits include more milk revenues, more calf revenues and increased value of culls/dairy sales of cows.
Kit Watson who’s an All-West technician and SRS specialist knows this all too well. He works with herds in the same east central part of Washington state.
“When talking about raising reproductive performance by 1%, the 21 day pregnancy rate must be the measurement we use.
There are an infinite amount of factors that influence reproduction performance, and the 21 day pregnancy rate is the closest metric to measure overall reproduction on a farm. The impact of raising this rate by 1% can be converted to an economic value, which is encouraging to farmers. The lower the preg rate is, the greater the economic return can be. As a higher preg rate is achieved, that economic value of a 1% gain is marginally decreased. This value is controlled by milk income over feed costs, newborn value, reproductive costs, and culling and mortality costs.
Farmers I work with like to see that dollar value on changes made in their reproductive program. I get excited when I see opportunity to improve a preg rate and get the farmer more value in his cows. Even small changes on the farm can convert into big dollars. I often look to improve things like semen handling, heat abatement, stress, and synchronization protocols.
Every change we make to the reproductive program can be monitored and evaluated to measure the success and calculate the added economic value. When evaluating these small 1% gains, I like to monitor the farm frequently to understand not only how those changes are taking place, but to discover other avenues of increasing performance in the future.
Overall, increasing preg rate by 1% can equate to real dollars in your pocket. These savings can be significant. Paying attention to the details pays off.