Dairy farmers should focus on breeding now, not in three weeks – Teagasc

Dairy farmers should start to focus on breeding now, not when they breed the first cow in their herd, according to Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom.

Decisions made on dairy farms over the next week or two could have a big impact on the success or the failure of the breeding season this spring, the Dairy Advisor said.

One of the main breeding targets for a spring-calving grass-based herd is to have 90% of the cows calved within a six-week time frame, he said.

Teagasc research shows that a 90% six-week calving rate will allow enough time between calving and breeding, so that the majority of the cows in the herd are cycling.

It also shows that increasing the six-week calving rate from 58% to 90% can save a dairy farmer with 80 cows over €21,000 on an annual basis.

Ramsbottom, who spoke at a recent Teagasc spring grazing farm walk in Banagher, Co. Offaly, said there are number of steps farmers can take to improve the success of breeding on their farms this spring.

The Teagasc Dairy Specialist said that farmers will struggle to get thin cows back in calf and farmers should give thin cows extra attention.

Farmers should identify thin cows or cows with a low BCS and target them for once-a-day milking.

“This reduces the energy requirement of the cow and allows to to build condition, which will help her cycle,” he said.

Teagasc Body Condition Score targets:

Source: Teagasc

The Dairy Specialist also said that dairy farmers should start to tail paint their cows three weeks before the start of the breeding season, as this will allow them to identify cows which are not actively bulling.

He also said that this will allow them to find out why these cows are not cycling, through the use of a metricheck, which identifies cows with an infection in the uterus.