Five easy steps to better heifer reproduction
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Save money in heifer reproduction

January 26, 2021
POSTED BY: Ken Learmont | DVM | Dairy Technical Services | Zoetis
If you think your heifer reproduction program is on track, you may want to look again. Conception rate and percentage of heifers pregnant within three services are metrics commonly used to track performance of heifer reproduction.

Unfortunately, time is the missing component from both of these heifer reproductive measurements. And time wasted is money wasted. There is a sizable financial advantage for a heifer that calves for the first time at 22 months of age versus one that freshens at 24 months of age. In fact, that two-month delay could result in a loss of up to approximately $250 in lifetime net farm income per cow.*,1,2

Measuring how quickly open heifers are converted to pregnant heifers, or the pregnancy rate, is an effective way to build a successful breeding program. Getting heifers inseminated soon after the end of the voluntary waiting period will have an enormous impact on pregnancy rate because heifers have higher fertility than lactating cows. And, it will get them to the milking string sooner.

Follow these five steps to improve management of your heifer reproduction program to help save time and money: 

Step 1: Move heifers to the breeding pen.

Timely pen movement is often overlooked. Heifers should be moved into the artificial insemination (AI) pen as they reach your set height and weight targets and are ready for breeding. On most dairies, heifers should be moved at least every two weeks, but weekly is better.

Step 2: Use prostaglandins on the date of the move.

Administer LUTALYSE® Injection (dinoprost tromethamine injection) or LUTALYSE® HighCon Injection (dinoprost tromethamine injection) on the day of movement and again 10 to 12 days later for heifers not yet inseminated. Research has found that administering LUTALYSE in this protocol can improve breeding success.3

Step 3: Make sure all heifers are inseminated.

EAZI-BREED CIDR® Cattle Insert, the only progesterone implant on the market, is an effective tool to help ensure that all heifers are inseminated within 36 days of arrival into the AI pen. The EAZI-BREED CIDR Cattle Insert should be used for timed breeding on heifers not inseminated during their first 28 days in the breeding pen. 

Step 4: Do routine pregnancy checks.

Conduct pregnancy diagnoses routinely as heifers are moved to the breeding pen to identify pregnant females and move them out, making room for new heifers. All pregnancies should be reconfirmed at 70 to 90 days carried calf.

Step 5: Re-enroll open heifers.

At each pregnancy check, any heifers that aren’t bred should be immediately submitted to a breeding program with LUTALYSE or LUTALYSE HighCon and/or EAZI-BREED CIDR.

Avoid contact with skin by wearing protective gloves when handling EAZI-BREED CIDR inserts. Do not use in heifers of insufficient size or age for breeding or in cattle with abnormal, immature, or infected genital tracts. Do not use inserts more than once.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Women of childbearing age and persons with respiratory problems should exercise extreme caution when handling LUTALYSE/LUTALYSE HighCon. LUTALYSE/LUTALYSE HighCon is readily absorbed through the skin and may cause abortion and/or bronchiospasms, therefore spillage on the skin should be washed off immediately with soap and water. Aseptic technique should be used to reduce the possibility of post-injection clostridial infections. Do not administer LUTALYSE/LUTALYSE HighCon in pregnant cattle unless cessation of pregnancy is desired. See full Prescribing Information for LUTALYSE. See full Prescribing Information for LUTALYSE HighCon.

* Results based on average herd size of 1,087, from Zoetis/Compeer Financial study.

1 Lormore M. What Drives Financial Success on a Dairy? Parsippany, NJ: Zoetis; 2018.

2 Lormore M. The case for a quality dairy replacement program, in Proceedings. NRAES Dairy Calves and Heifers: Integrating Biology and Management Conference 2005.

3 Stevenson JL, Rodrigues JA, Braga FA, et al. Effect of breeding protocols and reproductive tract score on reproductive performance of dairy heifers and economic outcome of breeding programs. J Dairy Sci. 2008;91:3424-3438.


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