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4 Tips to Tell if your Reproductive Program is on the Right Track

3-22-17 reproductive program

Getting heifers and cows pregnant and keeping those pregnancies to terms is one of the most vital aspects of a dairy. There are a variety of issues and challenges that present themselves through a Reproductive Program, below we have listed a few tips to make sure you keep in mind.

Heat Detection – The first step is to determine when the heifer or cow is in heat. This could be done by visually observing the animal and seeing how she acts and behaves. Talk chalk or paint could also be a good indicator, when it gets rubbed off, it is obvious the cow is in estrus and is allowing others to mount. Pedometers or activity meters are a great tool to use for heat detection. Cows are more active and move around a lot more when they are in heat, so their steps or activity level can go up by almost 400% during this time.

Hormones – Sometimes hormones are utilized to synchronize a group of cows in order to make breeding easier. These are all hormones produced naturally by the cow, but given in an injection to help sync them with the rest of the herd. Using these hormones, farmers synchronize their herd with a scheduled treatment in order to improve pregnancy rates. Once started, it is important to stay on schedule with this system.

Insemination – Ovulation happens 25-32 hours after a cow or heifer begins heat. Sperm need about 6 hours in the reproductive track before they are able to fertilize the egg. Insemination, whether natural or artificial, needs to happen fairly quickly after the animal has been determined to be in heat.

Pregnancy – Determining if a cow is pregnant is another important step in the Reproductive Program. Some people choose to use the “old school” method of uterine palpitations, which occur at 35-40 days after insemination to see if the animal is pregnant. Others choose to use a Pregnancy test kit where they are able to test an animal’s blood or milk to find pregnancy hormones in their system. This is not quite as effective as Transrectal Ultrasonography, which is quickly growing in popularity among farmers. Testing can occur as quickly as 28-32 days after insemination to see if a cow is pregnant. Regardless of which method is chosen, it is best to retest in a few weeks to ensure the cow hasn’t lost the pregnancy.

Sources:

“A Reproductive Update.” Hoard’s Dairyman

“Systematic Breeding Programs.” Penn State Extension

Saving the World, One Seed at a Time

Seed Vault

They call it the “Doomsday Vault”. How can a building that was purposely constructed as a fortress in remote location be so beautiful? The Svalbard Seed Vault has an art installation by Norwegian artist Dyveke Sanne in the entrance, which is made of a variety of shaped stainless steel, prisms, and mirrors. When the sunlight catches them, it looks like light reflecting off clear aqua water. At night, the installation is lit by fiber-optic lights.

This building was designed as a fortress, protecting the precious commodities inside. Finished in 2008, this Svalbard Seed vault is located on an island 800 miles from the North Pole. The vault was chosen to be built in Norway because the country was will to pay 100% of the funding to construct it. As a well-respected country worldwide, Norway understands the importance of housing and protecting the valuable seeds inside. The vault is built into the side of a mountain. The elevation is high enough to prevent risk of flooding. The chance of natural disasters happening in the area is almost non-existent. Naturally cold temperatures and the permafrost covering the mountain ensure the seeds will always stay at a freezing temperature, even if the power were to go out to the cooling systems.

Breaking into the vault would be near-impossible. If you can make it to the island (and avoid the polar bears on the way), there are four locked doors to get through. On top of that, there is an armed guard at all times, along with remote security technology in place.

So why all of the fuss? The vault protects over 800,000 seed samples. It is meant to be a storage facility to replenish the other 1,700 other seed banks in the world in case of emergency – war, weather, natural disaster, etc. Each plant has about 500 seeds stored in the vault, which are wrapped in tin-foil and wrapped in a sealed box in a room with monitored temperature and moisture levels. The seed vault has the capacity to hold up to 4.5 million different varieties of seeds.

The seeds can only be submitted or withdrawn by members of the Multilateral System that follow the rules of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The seed bank that deposits seeds into the vault are the only ones that can withdraw them, unless otherwise specified. The vault is more of a back-up system in case something happens to a seed bank. The first withdrawal was made back in 2015 when the Syrian Civil war damaged a seed bank. The bank was moved from Aleppo to Beirut, and they withdrew their own seeds from the vault to restart it.

The purpose of the vault is to preserve what resources we still have, but also to prevent losing seed diversity. As the world develops, their mission is to preserve as many seeds from as many varieties as possible, in case of future need.

Sources: 

Bradford, Alina. “Facts About the Global Seed Vault.” LiveScience

 “New Seeds from Syria to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.” Government.no

“Svalbard Global Seed Vault.” Government.no

Fencing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

3-8-17 fencing

Fencing is a necessary tool for managing livestock and pastures. There are several different varieties of fencing, and depending on the purpose of the fence, any zoning laws, and the land structure it’s on can significantly change the type of fence needed.

The Good – Fencing helps to protect and control your animals. It keeps them in, and keeps other potential dangers out. Choosing the correct type of fencing is often the most challenging aspect. The fencing must be able to be built over the terrain on your operation. Fencing not only physically encloses animals, but visually lets them know their boundaries. Leaps and bounds have been made in the technology of fencing from post materials and equations to figure out the length between each given one, fencing materials and structure, and longevity. Some fences have a lifespan of up to 50 years with regular maintenance!

The Bad –   A necessary evil: maintenance. Fences are necessary to have, but they must be maintained in order to function properly. Depending on the type of fence used, maintenance could be lessened, but there should still be regular checks to ensure it is intact. High-Tensile wire fencing is long-lasting and flexes slightly so it won’t break. If an animal were to run into it or a tree branch fell on it, the fencing wouldn’t break. If you used a wooden fence, you may need to do a repair. Wooden fences also need to be painted or stained regularly every few years. 

The Ugly –   Initial cost of purchasing and installing the fence. It’s probably going to be a big number, dependent on the feet needed and the kind of fence you choose to purchase. Remember, this is an INVESTMENT. A quality fence could last years or even decades with proper care. You only have to pay the cost of it once. What’s even uglier to think about? Seeing your animals wander away because they aren’t fenced in.

Sources:

Arcuri, Lauren. “Type of Fence on the Farm.” The Spruce

Booher, Matt. “Fencing Doesn’t Have to be a Limiting Factor.” Progressive Cattleman