How to ensure your cows are in good condition ahead of breeding

Dairy herd management during April should focus on having the maximum number of eligible cows cycling at mating start date (MSD), Teagasc says.

It says that having cows in good body condition and free from uterine infection is important. Assessing your cows on an individual basis is also important, here’s how:

  • Tail paint all cows (including late calvers) now as this helps to identify all normal cycling cows and reduces the need for pre-breeding checks.
  • Use records to identify all cows with increased risk of uterine infection, e.g., cows with difficult calving, retained placenta, or observed mucus discharge.
  • Examine this group [those with increased risk of uterine infection] using MetriCheck or scanning in early to mid April.
  • Treat problem cows (e.g., PG and/or antibiotic therapy). This increases recovery time before mating. Antibiotic treatment should be complete 30 days before breeding.
  • Record the body condition score (BCS) of every cow in the milking herd and mark cows in poor condition: a BCS of 2.5 or less increases the risk of non-cycling. 

These and other ‘at-risk’ cows can be placed on once-a-day (OAD) milking. Mark with leg band or tape and leave these with the main herd, it advises.

Teagasc says that OAD milking improves BCS if feeding levels are maintained as normal.

Nutrition
  • Where a high proportion of the herd is in poor condition, assess the plane of nutrition. Is daily grass intake adequate?
  • Are supplements fed correctly where deficits arise? Total feed allowance may have to increase at a herd level.
  • Where concentrate supplements are needed, offer a high energy (UFL)/low protein ration based on digestible fibre/pulp-based ingredients.
  • Ensure that mineral requirements are met through adequate supplementation via water/feed.

Teagasc says that at 10 days before AI starts, all cows calved over 30 days and not seen in heat should be examined to assess cyclicity.

After that it says that non-cycling cows can be treated with a controlled internal drug release (CIDR) protocol to induce heat. Delaying this intervention until three to four weeks into breeding will reduce submission rate, Teagasc says.

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