How to control dairy breeding costs

April is the month for dairy farmers to focus on breeding or AI costs in the dairy herd, Teagasc says.

“With average AI/breeding costs of 0.63c/L in 2014 (€32 per cow, 3% of total costs), it is not one of the bigger costs on dairy farms,” it says.

However, there is potential for savings and Teagasc says to start make sure that you select the right team of AI sires for your herd.

  • Select from the ICBF Active Bull List and include some genomic sires to hasten the rate of genetic progress.
  • Use the maximum number of GeneIreland test bulls for your herd.
  • Minimise AI costs by working hard to increase conception rates. Increasing conception rate to first service from 45% to 55% in a 100-cow herd will result in 20 fewer AI straws being used over nine weeks (and at €20 per straw a saving of €400).
  • You must ensure that heifers are at target weight at bulling time (you really should have been working on this before now). Thin cows and late calvers must be milked once a day to allow them to gain the necessary body condition and increase the likelihood of conception.
  • Match the number of AI straws to be used to the number of heifers required to enter the herd in 2018, then use lower cost beef AI straws (must be short gestation length and easy calving).

Problems

  • Problem cows should be seen by a vet (records are very useful). Otherwise, aim to keep veterinary interventions to a minimum. Heifers should be synchronised.
  • Scanning is useful where herd infertility is an issue; otherwise, it is questionable.

Teagasc says tail paint is the cheapest heat detection aid available and must be used; alternatives are available but may be slightly more expensive.

As a one-off means of reducing costs, it says, farmers could use the AI straws remaining in the AI flask from 2014 (DIY operators only).

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