Moving repro efficiency forward

When Chad Abbas, herdsman at Van Voorst Dairy, set out to improve reproduction efficiency a few years ago, he found the answer by combining estrus synchronization with SenseHub® Dairy cow monitoring technology.

At the time, cows on the 1,500-head dairy in Sioux Center, Iowa, were on synchronization programs utilizing ESTRUMATE® (cloprostenol injection) and FERTAGYL® (gonadorelin). Heat detection rates hovered around the 60% range, with pregnancy rates averaging 26%. But Abbas thought they could do better.

“We were just missing too many cows in heat,” he says.

The solution? Adding SenseHub® Dairy monitoring tags to the system. Abbas now receives a daily report of cows and heifers ready to be bred, ensuring heats are no longer missed.

A man standing in front of a barn.

With SenseHub® technology, Abbas improved the herds’ heat detection rate 10% and increased pregnancy rates 5%.

“These results have added more profitability to our bottom line. We’ve had more pregnant cows and less days open, which results in less feed costs and more calves,” he says.

SenseHub Dairy has been a game changer for heifer breeding, too. Van Voorst Dairy houses heifers at a separate facility about 5 miles from the main dairy. Prior to installing SenseHub tags, Abbas hired a breeding technician to walk heifer pens daily, checking for heats and painting tail heads of heifers to be bred. It was a time-consuming task that cost the dairy $1,500 per month.

Now, Abbas simply checks his phone each morning to access a list of heifers in heat generated by the SenseHub system. He makes a quick trip down the road to breed the heifers himself, not only saving the technician fee but also getting better results due to more accurate heat detection.

Monitoring with SenseHub Dairy allowed Abbas to fine-tune other aspects of herd management.  For example, the previous protocol involved moving dry cows to the close-up pen and vaccinating on the same day.

“Monitoring showed cows with low rumination after vaccination, indicating they were off feed. We think the combination of moving and vaccinating them on the same day was a big stressor,” he says. “Now we move the cows one day and vaccinate them five days later.”

SenseHub Dairy has helped Abbas keep a closer eye on all dry cows. “That is a group that we otherwise might not look at as frequently as cows in milk. We can quickly address any issues, get them back on track faster and hopefully maintain a healthy cow,” he says.

Monitoring technology brings labor efficiencies as well, allowing employees to focus time and attention on cows that need it, especially for the fresh cow pen. “There is a report every morning of low rumination or low activity cows and we’re really able to focus attention on just a few cows out of the whole fresh pen,” Abbas says.

“This has been a real game changer for our employees. It’s been an easy system for them to learn and has made them better and more efficient at getting the tasks done that need to be done.”

Abbas appreciated the Merck Animal Health team that installed the SenseHub system, reviewed the basics and then returned later for more comprehensive training.

“The complete package from Merck Animal Health has really worked well here. Everything from ESTRUMATE to FERTAGYL to the dry cow program. And shout out to the SenseHub tags and the sales team that stops in to check how things are going,” he says.

“To be a profitable dairy, it takes cow comfort, it takes efficiencies among employees, and it takes efficiencies with the cows. It takes everyone working together. Merck Animal Health is changing my game for the better.”

Meet other Game Changers who are working to better their operations, ensure their legacies and improve their industry.


FERTAGYL IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Not for use in humans. Keep out of reach of children. For complete safety information, refer to the product label.

ESTRUMATE IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Do not administer ESTRUMATE to a pregnant cow unless abortion is desired. Severe localized post-injection clostridial infections have been reported; in rare instances infection has led to death. Women of childbearing age, asthmatics, and persons with respiratory problems should exercise extreme caution when handling ESTRUMATE. ESTRUMATE is readily absorbed through the skin and can cause abortion and/or bronchospasms; direct contact with the skin should be avoided, and accidental spillage on the skin should be washed off immediately with soap and water. For complete safety information, refer to the product label.

SenseHub Dairy is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease in animals. For the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of disease in animals, you should consult your veterinarian. The accuracy of the data collected and presented through this product is not intended to match that of medical devices or scientific measurement devices.

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