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Improve pregnancy rate to help maximize profitability

September 25, 2018
POSTED BY: Mike Lormore | DVM, MS, MBA | Director | Cattle Technical Services | Zoetis

Quicker pregnancies equal more profit. When cows get pregnant quickly, they produce more milk, have shorter calving intervals and generate more replacements. Managing cows for higher milk production requires a solid reproduction program to optimize your pregnancy rate.

According to a field study by Zoetis and Compeer Financial that analyzed 11 years of herd data from 489 year-end financial and production-record summaries,1 the impact pregnancy rate can have on your profitability is too large to leave to chance.

The profit opportunity

According to the study, a 9% difference in pregnancy rate between the top one-third of herds and the bottom one-third resulted in an additional $143/cow/year in net farm income. Additionally, the top herds in the study also produced almost 7 pounds more milk/cow/day than the bottom herds1,*

Associations between a 21-day pregnancy rate and other financial drivers revealed the impact quick pregnancies can have across a dairy.

Quicker pregnancies produce more milk

In the study, increased energy-corrected milk production was associated with a higher 21-day pregnancy rate and fewer days open.  As animals get pregnant at a more rapid pace, overall milk production on a per day basis goes up. This is because cows spend more time at the front end of the lactation curve, when milk production is higher— ultimately driving profitability. 

Conversely, an elevated somatic cell count (SCC) was associated with a reduced 21-day pregnancy rate. This is due to the negative physiological effect a high SCC has on reproductive performance. When SCC is high, pregnancy rates are sure to be reduced.

Three tips for improving pregnancy rate

Maximize profit opportunities on your dairy with three tips to improve pregnancy rates:

  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 hospital 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% 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 with CLARIFIDE® Plus can help identify heifers that will live longer in your herd.

Don’t leave pregnancy rate, or profitability, to chance. Work with your Zoetis representative to implement these tips and other reproduction practices on your dairy.

Learn more about other Dairy Financial Drivers impacting net herd income by visiting DairyWellness.com.


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

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

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