Hopefully, this fall issue of the Journal finds everyone in good health and spirits despite our difficult times.
My philosophy always has been to focus on things we have control over and hope the rest will fall into place. The roller coaster ride of the past six months has put that philosophy to the test.
A lot of us will still have the satisfaction of seeing our inventories of corn silage replenished, watching combines gobble up decent corn and soybean yields, and getting manure hauled one more time before snow starts to fly. For some, there will be huge voids, such as the absence of show ring competitions, missed trade shows and conferences, and delayed return to normal family life like school as usual, going to church, and having family get-togethers. We just need to believe that we will be stronger on the other side.
As depressing as mailbox milk prices were this spring and early summer, one bright spot has been the strong demand, both foreign and domestic, for Guernseys. While demand for the more prominent breeds has been weak, Guernsey values stayed strong. However, the decline in Guernsey numbers will make it very hard for our breed capitalize on this demand going forward.
We all know that Guernsey milk is second to none. But we must ask ourselves how long those seeking Guernseys will wait before they settle for alternatives.
The current demand is putting much-needed dollars in breeders’ hands. The international sales have helped expand the Guernsey footprint in other parts of the world. The downside is that there ultimately will be less revenue for our Association through fewer registrations and less participation in TPE, classification, and other programs.
Here are strategies to consider that will help maintain our breed numbers, support our association, and improve margins on our farms:
• Use sexed semen to get more heifer calves. Guernsey Gold Sires sales reflect greater demand for sexed semen and there will be more made available to meet this demand.
• Since sexed semen is more expensive, it needs to be used wisely. Use it on good candidates, especially heifers and your more fertile cow families.
• To improve your odds of success, pay attention to Daughter Pregnancy Rate (DPR) or Genomic DPR (GDPR) and Heifer Conception Rate when picking bulls.
• DPR does make a difference. The table show results from 193 pregnant heifers in our herd now. Heifers with a DPR above +1 averaged only 1.28 Services Per Conception (SPC). Those heifers who had a DPR of less than zero required more than three services per conception.
• Breed cows when they need to be bred . . . not when you think you want the calf to be born. The best heat for conception may be the one you just passed on.
• Breed late in the cycle. We seem to have the best luck when breeding about 18 hours after standing heat. We can’t always do this because most of our heifers are on a once-a-day breeding program.
• As always, but especially now, remember that herd health and nutrition are very important.
We are in challenging times, for sure. But we all can benefit from the good demand for Guernsey cattle, semen, and embryos. We just need make sure that our day-to-day strategies are positive for our own operations, our breed, and our association.