‘Poor fertility No 1 barrier to milk profit’

Poor fertility performance is still the number one barrier to profitable milk production in Ireland. This is according to Dr Pat Dillon, head of Teagasc Animal and Grassland, Research and Innovation Programme, speaking in advance of a dairy breeding strategy open day to be held in Moorepark next month.

“A more compact calving pattern in early spring will allow dairy farmers to produce more milk and increase overall farm profit,” he outlined.

“The important components of achieving compact calving are breeding a high EBI herd, generating high-quality replacement heifers, maintaining optimum cow body condition score, achieving high herd health status plus the timely treatment of problem cows including late calvers with appropriative reproductive treatment,” Dr Dillon added.

A Teagasc Open Day for all dairy farmers entitled ‘Breeding Strategies for an Expanding Dairy Industry’ will take place at the Moorepark Dairygold Research Farm in Kilworth, County Cork at 10am on Wednesday the 9 April 2014.

According to Teagasc, this event will provide dairy farmers with direction on breeding strategies for the coming breeding season.

It noted: “Although fertility performance has improved on Irish dairy farms, current performance continues to be substantially below optimum, negatively impacting upon milk supply pattern and consequently dairy farm profit. Based on Irish Cattle Breeding Federation data, the average calving interval is 394 days compared to an industry target of 365 days. Similarly, the six-week calving rate of mature cows is 58 per cent compared to an industry target of 70 per cent.”

The Next Generation Dairy Herd, currently being evaluated by Teagasc at the Dairygold Research Farm, will be exhibited on the day, including up-to-date results.

Teagasc outlined that this herd with an EBI of €244 represents the top EBI herd in the country and are the type of cows that Irish dairy farmers will be milking in 10 years based on current rate of genetic gain.

Additionally, in association with the Irish Grassland Association, the latest results in relation to robotic milking will be highlighted. A grass-based robotic milking system is currently being developed in the Dairygold farm. Dairy farmers will have the opportunity to see the key management factors that are required to operate a successful automatic milking system.

Compact calving, generating additional high EBI replacements, increasing AI usage, incorporating sexed semen and increasing overall profitability of the dairy herd will be the focus of the day.

Two international speakers, Professors’ Matt Lucy and Paul Fricke, have been invited to speak at the open day. Both of whom have played important roles in fertility programmes, both in the US and internationally. 

In addition, there will be an open forum at the end of the open day, providing an opportunity to discuss the latest developments in reproductive technologies such as sexed semen and genomics. This event will also offer dairy farmers an opportunity to meet with ICBF, Animal Health Ireland and the main AI organisations.

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