Boosting dairy cow reproduction – All about feed

A dairy cow trial, based in France, has revealed significant reproductive and performance benefits when the animals’ daily feed rations were supplemented with a yeast probiotic, an approach which boosts both conception rates and milk yields.

Negative energy balance and systemic inflammation during the calving period both have serious long-term effects on dairy cows, often being a key factor in future reproductive failures. Both issues contribute to cows suffering extended conception intervals, long term breeding problems and decreased milk production. As such, they’re also widely recognised as two of the main factors behind rising culling rates, contributing hugely to current dairy farm losses.

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

Benefits of focusing on rumen health

Improving rumen health during the transition period, therefore, should have a beneficial effect on cow health in general, while also boosting milk yields and quality. In this context, supplementing dairy cow diets is a crucial part of combatting the dangers attached to negative energy balance in cows, leading to improved conception rates, benefits which have been proven by trial data.

It has been shown, for example, that the yeast probiotic, Actisaf, can help to improve reproductive performance (Julien et al. 2018), by reinforcing a dairy cow’s general status. This is the headline conclusion of a long-term study carried out on a French dairy farm in which the impact of using Actisaf as a dietary supplement was assessed across 123 Holstein dairy cows. The supplement was given as part of the daily diet for the 123 milking cows, covering many different stages of lactation.

Effects monitored on each cow

Breeding and milk production data was collected for all 123 animals, with assessments being made for each individual cow, throughout the study period. The supplementation period covered one complete year, during which all lactating cows in the herd received Actisaf at a recommended dose of 5g/cow/day, mixed into their daily ration.

Study data, covering 2 successive milking cycles, was then compared to a ‘control’ reference period. This was based on the herd’s results for a previous year, when no probiotic supplementation was given.

Improved reproductive performance

Trial results showed that Actisaf had a strong, beneficial effect on reproductive performance, with the herd requiring a significantly lower number of inseminations to achieve pregnancy, 3.46, for the trial period versus 4.02 (p<0,01) for the control, see Figure 1.

In addition, the Acisaf supplemented cows showed a reduction of both calving to conception intervals – 134 vs 146 – and calving interval – 425 vs 444. Actisaf supplemented cows also achieved an overall increase in milk production of an average of 3.3 litres per cow per day (+ 27.6 vs 24.3), see Figure 2.

Economic and performance benefits

The conclusion was that optimising the diet with Actisaf not only improved milk production per lactation but also boosted reproduction success rates, as expressed by both increased conception rates to 1st service and fewer days lost prior to conception. These results confirm the benefits recorded by using Actisaf in dairy cows as previously published by Julien et al., 2018.

In summary, it was shown that Actisaf may contribute to a reduction in the number of replacements required, due to the extended longevity of the existing cows.

The return on investment (ROI) from using Actisaf, as recorded during the study, was 1:6. This was calculated by taking consideration of the cost of the supplementation against the added value of the extra milk produced and the reduced cost of needing fewer artificial inseminations. The improved ROI demonstrated that by boosting both milk and reproductive performances, Actisaf led to in turn to enhanced economic benefits and herd profitability.

Author: Mohamed Mammeri, Global Product Manager, Phileo by Lesaffre

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Lensegrav Ranch to Disperse Cow Herd – Tri-State Livestock News

Dave and Rhonda Lensegrav have built their cowherd, working toward the ideal female, for over 40 years. Photo by Ruth Weichmann

Dave Lensegrav has been selecting replacement heifers since he was eight years old. For over sixty-five years he has kept back the best of the best, building a widely known herd of Balancer cattle and selling bulls to the public for forty years.

Dave and his wife Rhonda, of Meadow, South Dakota, started AIing their cattle to Gelbvieh bulls when semen first became available in the 1970s. They bred their herd up to purebred Gelbvieh but returned to crossing Angus blood on the Gelbvieh cattle due to the highly desirable traits that crossing the two breeds produced.

“We were one of the first spring calving programs in the U.S. to use Gelbvieh semen,” Dave recalled.

Over the years, Lensegravs have selected for easy fleshing, deep bodied, growthy cattle with strong maternal ability and good marbling. In the 1970s, Dave consigned five bulls to a bull test at the Matt Sutton ranch started by South Dakota Gelbvieh breeders. When the bulls were sold, Dave’s five sold in the top seven bulls out of approximately seventy head. Something was obviously working.

“When you put two breeds together the heterosis brings out the best of both,” Dave said. “You get something better than what either breed offers by itself. It seems like you can take straight bred cattle and breed on traits forever before they are consistent, but with combining the two breeds it happens much faster.”

“The Gelbvieh are gentle cattle,” Rhonda said. “Gelbvieh also reach sexual maturity very early.”

“The Angus add marbling,” Dave said. “The Gelbvieh are long and thick, but when you stick the Angus back on it adds depth of body. The synergy between the two breeds puts it all together. It’s easy to maintain and it has worked very well for us.”

Lensegrav’s Balancer cows have stood the test of time on the ranch. Spring, 2020, will mark their 40th and final annual bull sale. Their yearling bulls have averaged four to five thousand dollars per head for many years; their top sale averaged over $7,400 on 100 head.

Health reasons are prompting Dave and Rhonda to change their pace. Approximately 120 head of three to six year old cows are being offered for sale private treaty. Anyone looking for some fantastic proven cows should give Dave a call.

Dave and Rhonda would like to thank all of their loyal and faithful customers for their support over the years. Don’t overlook the opportunity these genetics could afford you.

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New quality heifer sales help improve beef cow-calf herds – Gasconade County Republican

Duane Dailey

Being in the beef business is not a get-rich-quick career. Building a quality cow herd takes time; requiring breeding cows, waiting nine months for a calf and then the calf is raised to be sold. All takes time.

Adding quality beef takes longer.

Missouri herd owners using Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program learn timing. But, they earn big bucks using MU Extension Show-Me-Select protocols.

Fall sales of spring-calving SMS heifers are half over. Three remaining sales offer lessons for those thinking of making more money. The sales benefit sellers and buyers. Nearest is Farmington, Dec 13.

Top heifer producers add $500 per calf to their herds. Long-time sale consignors gain repeat buyers who know the value they gain.

With popularity growing, six sales are not enough. Two MU Extension area livestock specialists will change that. Northwest Missouri and Central Ozarks have been under served.

Now Anita Ellis in Callaway County is well on the way for a spring sale a Vienna, Mo., auction.

Jenna Monnig in Mercer County is getting started for Northwest. Beef herd owners can step forward to help make a sale happen in the region.

The recent SMS sale at Kirksville shows the time frame. It’s been going five years there. “We’re gaining traction,” said Zac Erwin, their local MU livestock specialist. Repeat buyers add to a sale. That was learned going back over two decades of SMS sales. It takes time for buyers to learn the huge value from calving ease, fewer deaths and better DNA. Genetics is only part of heifer improvement.

At SMS sales, buyers gain more than a strong heifer that can push out a calf. They buy data. Sale catalogs tell EPDs, the Expected Progeny Difference, or genetic potential.

Raising quality beef heifers takes new learning. Only heifers from herd owners enrolled in the year-long program sell in the trademarked sales. The black-and-gold ear tags add value. It can be big bucks. Some producers have been in the program from the beginning over two decades ago. They build their herds.

At the Joplin sale, John Wheeler continues to gain from his black-baldies, or crossbred heifers. He uses an old-fashioned but proven approach. Crossing Angus and Herefords gives heterosis, the gains from crossbreeding. That method kinda slipped away. Expect to see more people copy Wheeler’s style.

Missouri has a huge cow herd that would benefit from heifer protocols taught by MU Extension. Those continue to build from research at MU Thompson Farm, Spickard.

At some Thompson Farm Field Days, I’ve seen times we had more herd owners from south of the Missouri River attend than from nearby counties.

Local owners should have an edge in learning, I’d think.

The sale at Vienna will be next spring for fall-calving heifers. That fits the Ozarks which has longer grazing seasons and shorter winters.

Up north, winters are harsher and longer, not as good for raising baby calves. With warming winters in the past decade, fall calving moved north.

The new north sale talk starts with a meeting to be in Trenton, Dec. 16, at 6 p.m. at Barton Farm. Watch for details. Attend, to get in on the ground floor.

I’ve seen some early participants expect to gain top dollar in their first year. Added dollars come from growing reputations. Buyers learn the value of Show-Me-Select. But, some drop out after one year. Don’t give up quickly. Quality builds over time. Prices go up in time.

At a recent sale, SMS heifers averaged over $200 more than bred heifers selling at local sales. That’s a first step up.

Many learn the steermates gain value also. They don’t create quality cows. They make superior Prime beef carcasses at the packing plant. Those steers gain bonus prices.

If left free of politics, Missouri beef producers sell that Prime beef abroad. The world loves our beef.

To join, contact Extension field livestock specialists. Or start at the local office. Ask me at

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Why VR Headsets on Russian Cows Are Nothing to Moo About – Observer

Experts (in cow anxiety) noted a reduced anxiety and improved emotional mood in the herd that was adorned in VR goggles.

Experts (in cow anxiety) noted a reduced anxiety and improved emotional mood in the herd that was adorned in VR goggles. Moscow Region of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Is this another Russia hoax?

Photos have been circulating around the internet of cows wearing VR headsets. And no, these cows aren’t playing the dance/movement game, Beat Saber.

SEE ALSO: How This Viral Video App Uses Blockchain to Counter Deepfakes

There’s a very easy explanation for all this: Russian farmers, outside of Moscow, have been fitting their cows with VR headsets in an attempt to increase milk production.


Yes, supposedly an elaborate experiment is being conducted in Russia—in which cows are equipped with VR headsets to reduce anxiety and increase milk production. (Dutch and Scottish researchers found that calm cows produce more milk.) The Russians are said to have worked with designers to create a VR environment to simulate greener pastures and a summer field.

How is all of this known?

Well, the Moscow Region of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food issued a press release, in Russian, stating all of this. The title of the press release, according to Google translate, reads: “On a Farm Near Moscow Tested VR Glasses for Cows.”

It goes on to say (via Google translate): 

The global trend towards universal computerization greatly simplifies work processes in many areas, and allows achieving unprecedented results. Russian milk producers are not far behind world standards and are even ready to offer the market new and unexpected solutions.

A prototype of virtual reality glasses was tested on a farm in the Moscow Region to improve cow conditions.

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Hmm? I’m a little skeptical. But if it’s true—cows wearing VR headsets—how flippin’ awesome is that!? And to think, at one time I was impressed by Keyboard Cat.

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The VR goggles weren’t just grabbed off the shelf of the local Moscow Best Buy but specifically designed to fit the cow’s head shape (or cow-shaped head). Meanwhile, the VR-scape simulates a “unique summer field simulation program.”

Experts (in cow anxiety) noted a reduced anxiety and improved emotional mood in the herd that was adorned in VR goggles. And I am one who feels for cow anxiety; every day they must experience the loss of a friend or loved one who has been turned into steak and hamburgers.

A little skepticism here: According to Agricultural Safety and Health, cows have poor depth perception. Certain fence and gate configurations may challenge a cow’s depth perception, making it difficult to move the animal efficiently. And also making it difficult to design an efficient cow-orientated VR landscape. Moscow Times stated that cows perceive shades of red better than shades of green and blue, which helped researchers design an ideal cow simulated environment.

In the spirit of fair play, the VR world can take back their power from its moo-making friends by playing the virtual reality Cow Milking Simulator game.

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Still, VR on animals is nothing new. Here’s what happened when someone fitted their dog with a VR headset, which garnered no less than seven million views, though the dog looks very, very anxious. 

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Russian farmers have also been noted to play classical music on loudspeakers around the farm to sooth cows’ anxiety.

Though, there only seems to be one photo out there of a particular cow on a farm wearing a VR headset, if it’s true that this is a method to relieve cow anxiety and gain a better quality of milk, then (get ready to laugh) that’s something to moo about.

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Virtual reality won't make cows happier… – Cosmos

By Sarah Webber from the University of Melbourne and Marcus Carter from the University of Sydney, Australia

Earlier this week, Russian farmers announced they are testing virtual reality (VR) for dairy cows.

Conducted at the RusMoloko farm near Moscow, the trials supposedly use specially adapted goggles to show the animals a view of a pleasant field in summer. The idea is to make the cows happier, which in turn could make them produce more milk.

Some have doubts over whether the tests are real, and it wouldn’t be the first time pictures of animals in VR headsets have been used to capture public attention. Similar images of CatVR and “virtual free range” chickens have appeared in the past.

But to take the idea seriously, at least for a moment: can animals perceive virtual reality the same way we do? And would it do them any good?

The grass may be greener in virtual reality, but you can’t eat it.
Moscow Ministry of Agriculture and Food

Virtual entertainment for animals

Unfortunately for the emerging VR industry, there is little to suggest that gazing on a virtual landscape will make cattle happier.

Visual stimulation may be beneficial to some species of animals, but the research relates mostly to primates. Horses in a stable do seem to benefit from a view of other horses and an open window. But the sounds, smells, breeze and associated temperature changes in the real world make for a far richer sensory experience than VR can offer.

Could virtual reality for animals ever be a good idea? Cognition researchers working with chimpanzees have given the animals access to a virtual maze environment to study their spatial cognition abilities.

In this research the chimps were given food rewards when they successfully located objects in the maze. There’s no evidence they enjoyed the VR experience for its own sake. And the chimps didn’t wear VR headsets; the virtual world was displayed on a computer screen and the animals navigated using a joystick.

A visual VR experience might be appealing to humans, but would likely have less inherent value for animals. Humans can understand symbolic imagery, complex language-based events, and the written word. So visual technologies such as television, smartphones and VR can provide us with long-lasting entertainment, intellectual stimulation, and social connection.

This is not so for other species. While some dogs might watch TV, their interest is usually short-lived unless it has a meaningful outcome, such as the opportunity to chase and bark at animals on the screen. Similarly, some cats play with iPads and digital toys for short periods, but usually only keep up the behaviour if they are intermittently given a reward when they catch the “prey”.

Real entertainment for cows

Despite evidence that cattle have the capacity for complex thoughts and feelings, an increasing number of cows are housed year-round in relatively boring and restrictive indoor environments.

At the same time, there is interest in providing cattle with “environmental enrichment”. This takes the form of objects and activities to provide physical and mental stimulation, in the same vein as toys and puzzles for pets and zoo animals. As well as improving the animals’ well-being, it seems to improve dairy production outcomes.

Good animal enrichment addresses the physical and behavioural needs of different species that are not already met in their existing environment. Good enrichment can also give animals more agency – more control over their lives and their environment. For cows, enrichment might look more like a sophisticated brush than a VR headset.

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Cows can choose how and when to use the brushing machine.

In our research, we have investigated approaches to designing technology-based enrichment that responds to animals’ real needs. In 2016 we trialled digital enrichment for orangutans at Melbourne Zoo, offering the animals a range of games and apps that could be made more complex as animals learn.

How tech for animals can change humans

There seems to be something inherently fascinating in seeing animals using technology that is “meant for humans”.

When we provided digital games for orangutans at Melbourne Zoo, we investigated the effect on visitors’ perceptions of the primates. We found that seeing the animals using technology influenced people’s empathy for the orangutans. Others have also proposed that digital games for pigs might encourage people to reflect on the needs of farm animals.

So while VR for cows may not directly improve their well-being, it just might encourage people to think more about what animals need.The Conversation

Sarah Webber, Research Fellow in Human-Computer Interaction and Animal-Computer Interaction, University of Melbourne and Marcus Carter, Lecturer in Digital Cultures, SOAR Fellow., University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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A55: A cow on grass near the major road has closed it – BBC News

A cow that closed the A55 has been moved to safety by the emergency services.

North Wales Police dubbed the rescue ‘good moos’ after shifting the bovine.

The road had been closed in both directions because the animal was “on the loose” on a grass verge.

Traffic cameras show queuing vehicles on the North Wales Expressway, which was shut between Junction 28 for Rhuallt and Waen and Junction 29 at Pant-y-Dulath.

North Wales Police wrote on Twitter: “We had to close the road to ensure a happy ending – thank you for your patience if you were stuck in the queues – things are now mooving again!”

The cow had been described as being “on the loose on the grass next to the road”, by monitoring service Inrix.

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Disrupting the cow – The Boston Globe


In our new report, “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030,” we analyze how the many different products derived from the cow — from burgers and milk to leather and collagen — will be completely disrupted by new technologies and business models.

By 2030, we estimate the number of cows in the United States will have fallen by 50 percent, and the beef and dairy industries will be all but bankrupt as animal-derived foods are replaced by modern equivalents that are superior and cost less than half as much to produce. All other livestock industries will suffer a similar fate.

This is primarily a protein disruption driven by economics. Extraordinary advances in precision biology mean we can now program micro-organisms to produce almost any protein using a process we call precision fermentation, or PF. In fact, 90 percent of the cheese made in America today is made with PF proteins. This is not genetic modification of foods — proteins have no genetic material.

Due to rapid improvements in underlying biological and information technologies, the cost of PF is falling exponentially — from $1 million per kilogram in 2000 to about $100 today. With the technologies we have today, we project these costs will fall even lower — to $10 per kilogram by 2023-25. This means PF proteins will be five times cheaper to produce than animal proteins by 2030 and 10 times less expensive by 2035.


These advances are now being combined with an entirely new model of production we call Food-as-Software. Imagine this: Scientists will design proteins that food developers can download anywhere in the world to produce food locally. In the process, we can bypass animals completely and build our food at the molecular level to our precise specifications. Fermentation farms will become the new food farms.

This innovative business model ensures fast iteration of ever-improving products. Modern foods will not only be less expensive than animal-derived products, but more nutritious, better tasting, and more convenient — with an almost unimaginable variety. Precision biology will allow us to create hundreds of trillions of unique proteins — the only limitation will be the molecular chef’s imagination.

The modern food system will use 10-25 times less feedstock and 10 times less water while producing less than a tenth of the waste and pollution. The current industrial food production system has as much chance of competing with it as a pay phone does with an iPhone.

The key to understanding the speed and scale of modern food disruption is the fact that only a small percentage of ingredients need to be replaced for an entire product to be disrupted. For example, PF proteins need to replace only a tiny portion of a jug of milk, just 3.3 percent, to bring about the collapse of the whole dairy industry. These PF proteins — casein and whey — are already being produced in Silicon Valley. Sharp cheddar and chocolate milk, yogurt and butter will be replaced by modern alternatives, triggering a death spiral of increasing prices and decreasing demand for the industrial livestock industry.


The benefits of modern food disruption are profound. Cost savings alone will see the average US family save more than $1,200 a year, keeping an additional $100 billion a year in Americans’ pockets by 2030, while a decentralized, local production system will be more stable and resilient, meaning far greater food security. We also expect the new industry to generate nearly as many jobs (1 million) as it destroys (1.1 million).

Modern foods will be far healthier than industrial livestock products too. They could help reduce cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and diabetes, estimated to cost the United States $1.7 trillion each year.

Removing animals from food production will also see US greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture fall 65 percent by 2035, a significant contributor to climate change. And with modern foods using much less land, about 500 million acres will be freed for other uses — almost as much land as the Louisiana Purchase. This presents the greatest opportunity for environmental restoration in human history. Consider if this land were used to maximize carbon sequestration — capturing and storing carbon dioxide — all current sources of US greenhouse gas emissions could be fully offset by 2035.


While this market disruption is inevitable, policy makers, investors, businesses, and voters can affect how quickly these products are made more widely available. Countries with more open and competitive markets will surge ahead, while those without risk monopolies controlling the modern food system’s massive benefits.

That’s why we hope to jump-start the conversation. In the next 10 years, we can move from a centralized system dependent on scarce, extractive resources to a localized, resilient system based on abundant, creative production. If the United States resists this change, it risks locking in an expensive and obsolete market, while other countries capture the benefits of this nascent, trillion-dollar industry. Modern foods offer extraordinary opportunities for all of humanity, but much of the wealth, jobs, and geopolitical advantage will accrue to those who lead the way. Do we want to lead or lose another 21st-century industry? The choice is ours.

Tony Seba is cofounder of RethinkX. He and Catherine Tubb coauthored, “Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030 — The Second Domestication of Plants and Animals, the Disruption of the Cow, and the Collapse of Industrial Livestock Farming.”

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Virtual Reality Used To Relax Cows Into Producing More Milk – Forbes

Virtual reality is coming for the cows. As announced by Moscow’s Ministry of Agriculture and Food, a team of researchers and vets have developed VR headsets for dairy cows living on a farm just outside of Moscow. The reason? To convince these cows that they’re standing in summer fields, rather than cold wintery ones. Not only does this calm them down and reduce any anxiety, but it ultimately makes them produce more milk.

Yes, VR is so promising as a new technology it’s even been applied to animals. Of course, the Russian cows didn’t don Oculus Rifts or HTC Vives, but were rather kitted out with specially designed headsets large enough to fit their bovine heads and also durable enough to withstand farm conditions. As for the particular summer environment they were immersed in, the designers gave it a warm and predominantly red color scheme, since studies on cattle vision have shown that cows perceive the red part of the visible spectrum better than others.

Importantly, experts recorded a drop in anxiety among the cows and an increase in the overall emotional mood of their herd. As for the impact on milk yields, this will be demonstrated by a further comprehensive study, although the Ministry expects it to increase, given the well-established links between emotional well-being and milk production.

It may be small-scale, but this trial raises some profound questions about the likely function of VR, particularly when it becomes a more widespread technology. In this case, VR is essentially being used to distract attention away from a harsh environment, to trick the cows into thinking that they’re standing in a nice warm field when, in actual fact, they really aren’t.

There’s a danger that VR will be used by and on people to much the same purpose. At a time of environmental breakdown, of increasing authoritarianism, and of growing inequality, there’s a risk that VR could become a seductive distraction. Instead of protesting about social ills and trying to solve them, we may instead find ourselves increasingly turning to our VR headsets to play the latest VR games or to lose ourselves in virtual environments and social networks, simply because it’s easier and more pleasurable.

This is all very speculative and dystopian, but there is evidence that something like this has already happened with existing technologies. In research published last year in the Journal of Happiness Studies, it was found that people are more likely to watch TV when they’re unhappy. The researchers also found that “being older, female, single, and unemployed as well as having lower income and poorer health predicted longer durations of TV watching.”

In other words, existing media such as TV and video games are already used to compensate for dissatisfaction with our lives and living conditions. They also seem to make it less likely that we’ll actually do something constructive to change our situations for the better, as shown by a paper published in 2017. Written by researchers at Princeton University and the University of Chicago, this study found that video games account “for 23 to 46%” of the decline in work by men aged 21-30 during the period between 2000 and 2015.

This kind of situation can only be made worse by VR, which by nature is much more immersive than previous media, and which has been shown to have a greater power to influence human emotions. In the future, we might increasingly turn to virtual reality to give us a quick fix of excitement and “happiness,” but as with the cows in Moscow, this won’t change the reality of our lives.

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