Poor or inadequate heat detection is a major cause of reproductive inefficiency in dairy herds.
Timed artificial insemination (TAI) results in improved reproductive performance, because all animals are inseminated in a timely manner, regardless of the farm’s heat detection efficiency.
But the perceived freedom from the need to heat detect may have significant practical drawbacks. The automatic submission of cows without regard to their reproductive health status is where problems begin.
For a cow, infertility could be viewed as a way of communicating that something isn’t working in her environment. It could be related to her nutrition, health, comfort level or the combination of all three. It is management’s role to intervene and fix the problem. There’s a high probability that this same infertility-causing issue(s) is having a negative effect on milk production levels of infertile cows and is also negatively affecting the milk production levels of fertile herd mates.
The assumption that all eligible cows are fertile ignores the reality of infertility.
Timeliness in discovering that a problem exists is crucial to minimizing the potential negative economic effects of these issues.
Unfortunately, the prevalent management process is not set up to quickly address this issue.
A farm will only find these open cows about 32-35 days following insemination at pregnancy check. Most likely, a single bad pregnancy check will not cause the alarm to sound and these cows will be resynchronized. Then, another 32-35 days will pass.
Only after a second consecutive unsuccessful pregnancy check management will be aware that a problem exists. Most dairies will then begin examining compliance rates, semen handling, semen viability etc. to try and identify why cows are not conceiving—looking under the proverbial lamp post– all the while continuing to breed cows and incurring the all the expenses related to running those cows repeatedly through the TAI program.
Realistically, it may be three to six months before the actual problem that is causing cow infertility is identified and dealt with.
Yes, convenience has its perils.
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