‘Dairy fertility is a race against time’

The six week in-calf rate is a great measure for farm profitability or key performance indicator for your dairy farm, according to Linda O’Neill, Livestock Improvement Company (LIC).

She says that the six week in-calf rate is a consistent measure, regardless of when you started your breeding calving period.

“It’s something that dairy discussion groups need to talk about more.”

Speaking at the Positive Farmers Confernece in Clonmel, she said that there is a big variation among farms, and said that the industry target is for 78% of cows going in calf in the first six weeks.

“I see a lot of farmers with 50% averages. It drives empty rate. If you have a high six week in-calf rate you will be driving a better empty rate.”

She said the financial benefits, on a 100-cow herd, of a 10% improvement in the six-week INCR is worth €2,500.

Getting dairy cows in calf in the first six weeks, she said, is a race against time. “Every dairy cow is in a constant race against time to make money for you.”

The more cows that calve in the first six weeks, she said, means:

  • More days in milk;
  • More AB replacements;
  • Fewer empty cows; and a,
  • Tighter mating and calving periods.

The eight ingredients of the fertility cake, she said, are:

  • Calving pattern – are 90% calving in the first six weeks? Spread out calving patterns mean less days in milk.
  • Heifer management – there is a lot of opportunity to improve on most farms, she said. Do you weigh your heifers? Do you know the targets along the way?
  • Body condition scoring and nutrition – if BCD is wrong the six-week in-calf rate is poor in general.
  • Heat detection – the more information about your cows you have, the better.
  • Service bulls – poor performance can impact on the natural mating period and a higher than expected empty rate.
  • Artificial breeding practices & genetics – poor performance impacts on genetics and Ai practices.
  • Non-cycler issues – the three week submission rate below 90%, while herds with treatment rates over 20% should look for underlying causes.
  • Cow health – all illnesses can impact on herds, but uterine infections, metabolic disease, BVD and lameness are the key issues.

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