Teagasc reiterates importance of two-year-old calving to profitable suckler herds

Research from Grange shows that two-year-old calving is a critical component of a profitable spring-calving herd, according to Teagasc.

The Advisory body was keen to reitierate the message in this months advisory update to farmers.

It says that data from the ICBF shows that only 16% of heifers calve at 22-26 months in Ireland. Teagasc says farmers are very reluctant to try it and some will come up with more reasons not try it, such as: heifers aren’t big enough for bulling; and, it will stunt their growth.

According to Teagasc, farmers should be discussing the positives, which in its view are: 1) more output from the heifer leads to more calves to sell, which puts more money in your pocket: 2) reduced costs – Grange showed that for a 50-cow herd with a 20% replacement rate, you can achieve two-year-old calving.

Teagasc says a heifer needs to weigh 400kg at breeding and to achieve this she must be 270kg at weaning and 320-340kg by mid-December. Each additional month that calving is delayed costs €490 or €50/heifer/month; and the has the potential to reduce number of groups of stock on your farm.

It says now is the time to target weanling heifers on your farm for two-year-old calving.

Advice

  • These heifers should come from the best cows in your herd and be sired by bulls with strong maternal traits.
  • Heifers should have been born early in the year (January/February 2014) to allow them to be heavier at bulling. They need to have achieved a daily liveweight gain of 1.1- 1.3kg/day up to weaning.
  • Target weight next spring at breeding is 400kg so they have to be fed well over the first winter to achieve 60-80kg.
  • They will need good quality silage plus 1-2kg of concentrates. They should be earmarked to be turned out to early spring grass.
  • Your target weight in spring for your heifer is 60% of her mature weight at breeding, e.g., targeting cow mature weight of 670kg means breeding at 400kg in spring 2015.
  • Heifers should be bred to an easy calving sire with a calving difficulty of <4%.
  • It says in-calf heifers need to gain 0.4kg/day over the winter.
  • If fluke is an issue, dose going into the winter. 65DMD silage ad lib should be adequate to produce a heifer that is “fit not fat”.
  • Introduce minerals six to eight weeks pre calving.
  • Heifers should not be “starved” pre calving, as this will have a knock-on effect on re-breeding.
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