Calving far from seasonal event on Irish suckler farms
Calving spread is also identified in ICBF statistics big issue hampering profitability on beef farms.
According to their figures only three per cent of herds calve over three months of the year. The figures also show that as herd size increases, calving interval decreases which means that bigger herds are much more efficient when it comes to reproduction.
The greatest proportion of herds calving 1-10 females shows these herds calving in 3 months of the year (3.33 calvings per month for a 10 cow herd). In the 11-20 category herds in the highest proportion are calving in 5 months (4 calvings per month for a 20 cow herd). The 21-30 category is at 6 months (5 calvings per month for a 30 cow herd) and the >30 category is at 7 months per year (7.14 calves per month for a 50 cow herd).
An absence of tight, defined calving seasons on beef farms is evident from the above stats. Teagasc says the question is always asked is there any advantage in having a short compact calving spread and the answer had to be an emphatic, yes.
It highlights the following points should be borne in mind in relation to a compact calving season:
- Less labour and time spent supervising cows at calving.
- Less disease as there is less mixing of calves of different ages.
- Improved heat detection if using Al as if more cows in the herd are at the same stage in the reproductive cycle or in heat together there is stronger heat behaviour.
- Calves that are born earlier have a higher weaning weight. Having late calves born in April, May and into June will result in light calves to sell in the Autumn.
- The herd can be treated as a unit for feeding, weaning, parasite control and grassland management. It also keeps numbers of grazing groups to a minimum.
- Facilitates marketing as a uniform group of weanlings, stores or finishing cattle. It provides a uniform group of replacement heifers at breeding.
This will be one of the key areas which will be addressed at a major open day for beef farmers and the industry taking place on June 18 in Teagasc, Grange, Co. Meath.