One of the things Schuenemann emphasizes in his training programs is proper management during the transition period, which is three to four weeks prior to calving and approximately one month post-calving. This, he said, is  "key to reproductive success." Some of the issues that dairy farmers need to address during this crucial period include avoiding overstocking of animals and commingling (mixing together) of mature cows with heifers; making sure cows get balanced food rations; and having a reliable and well-trained group of workers who can properly handle calving and identify and assist cows that experience difficult births as well as sick cows after calving.

Proactive management also involves choosing the right tool or set of tools to maximize reproductive success.

"The choice of reproduction protocol needs to match the particular conditions of each farm, its resources, its objectives and the skill of its workers," Schuenemann explained. "All dairy farmers are unique, even if they are only a mile apart from each other. So it's very important to assess human resources on the farm. Some may adopt techniques that are more time-sensitive and cost more in synchronization hormones, but which have the potential for higher pregnancy rates. Others may do better with heat detection and trying to take advantage of normal estrus.

"You don't want a farmer to fail because he picked a technique that doesn't work for his conditions. Every farm is an integrated system; decisions made on one area of the farm will have an impact on other areas of the farm."

Ohio State resources for dairy farmers are available at http://dairy.osu.edu and http://vet.osu.edu/extension/dairy-resources.

OARDC and OSU Extension are the research and outreach arms, respectively, of Ohio State's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.