The modern global dairy market rewards herds with optimized reproductive performance and reduced herd turnover rates.
Herd structure is quickly becoming one of the major key performance indicators for evaluating the sustainability and profitability of a dairy farm, with reproductive performance and herd turnover rates playing a key role in structure management.
Herd turnover rate refers to the number of animals exiting a herd within a defined period of time. Typically, one-third of the dairy herd is culled annually, with a large portion of those culls being categorized as involuntary.
The primary reasons dairy cattle leave the herd include:
- Reproductive inefficiency
- Metabolic disease
The University of Wisconsin presented data at this year’s ADSA annual meeting showing the potential to significantly improve profitability through adjustments to herd structural dynamics. Specifically, by focusing on improving herd pregnancy rates and reducing herd turnover (2020 ADSA Annual Meeting, Abstract 306). By focusing on these two elements, producers can tailor their culling programs to yield more profit by increasing milk yield and reducing the costs associated with rearing replacement heifers.
One potential strategy for improving both reproductive performance and herd turnover, is through nutritional modifications.
LinPRO-R is an extruded flaxseed-based feed ingredient that has been specifically designed for dairy cattle. A recent study from the University of California, Davis, concluded that feeding linPRO-R at a rate of 2.5% DM to early and mid-late lactating dairy cattle results in reduced involuntary culling due to health incidences, with incidence of mastitis showing the greatest improvement (Swanepoel and Robinson, 2019)
Furthermore, researchers from Penn State University recently conducted a trial evaluating the effects of linPRO-R in transition cow diets under commercial conditions. Results from this study are awaiting publication, but they suggest a 24% increase in first service conception rates for 1st lactation heifer when linPRO-R was included in both the close-up and fresh cow rations.
In this modern global dairy market, dairy producers with superior reproductive performance and reduced herd turnover will profit.