Some quick pointers on what you should be doing on your dairy farm this month, from dairy expert Dr Dan Ryan.
- Ensure excellent transition management for cows calving this month. The opportunity to get April calvers back in calf by the end of July will depend primarily on the health of the cow.
- Make sure silage and forage are not contaminated by mycotoxins. Buffer feed cows when they are out to grass. The current mild weather enhances the risk of invasive pit contamination with moulds and the associated heating of forages.
- Your cows may be cycling but are they fit to use sex semen or conventional semen? Using A.I. pre-breed assessment of the reproductive tract using scanning will identify those cows requiring veterinary attention. Ensure you use aids for heat detection such as tail paint, vasectomised bulls with chin ball markers. The average duration of intensity of heat shown by cows has decreased over the last 20 years.
- Scanning your cows prior to breeding will identify the stage of the heat cycle enabling you to focus your attention on specific breeding groups. Remember, missed heats cost on average €250 per cow.
- Grass growth rates over the past month have meant that grass rotation has had to be extended to a point to prevent grass shortages in the second rotation. Ensure adequate high quality buffer feeding supplemented with required minerals and vitamins is used to meet the needs of your dairy herd. Remember egg quality for putting a cow in calf depends primarily on the nutrition of the cow and the environmental stressors during the 8 week period prior to breeding.
- Plan your breeding program giving adequate time spent watching cows. I would focus primarily on an eight-week breeding period using AI to generate replacements for the dairy herd. Spend 20 minutes watching your cows for signs of heat three times daily immediately prior to the morning milking, after the morning milking and after the evening milking.
Dr. Dan Ryan is a cow fertility expert and can be contacted at www.cowsDNA.com