‘Dairy farmers spend 95% of their time thinking about cows that fail to come in heat’

The role of synchronisation in dealing with fertility problems and in condensing calving patterns were outlined by international dairy fertility expert Professor Paul Fricke who was the lead speaker at the recent MSD Animal Health fertility roadshow.

Paul Fricke, who is Professor of Dairy Science at the University of Wisconsin, spent an extended period with Teagasc at Moorepark up to 2014 which gave him insights into fertility problems in Irish dairy herds.

He was the keynote speaker at three MSD roadshow meetings in Armagh, Mullingar and Horse and Jockey which attracted wide interest among veterinary practitioners.

“If cows are in milk for more than 100 days and are not back in calf, then there is a fertility problem,” said Prof Fricke.

This is either a people problem, which indicates a problem in heat detection, or a cow problem, which indicates cows are failing to cycle, or a combination of the two.

Highlighting the problem of anoestrus cows he said studies show that dairy farmers spend 95% of their time thinking about cows that fail to come in heat.

He said that effective synchronisation programmes can solve the problem of poor fertility and extended calving periods and gave details of synchronisation programmes that can be used by farmers and vets on cows and heifers which can deliver big gains in pulling back calving date.

Professor Fricke said that where cows go more than 70 days after calving without cycling synchronisation should be considered. Research shows that this can lead to a conception rate of 60% and has the added advantage of having all repeats coming together.

The MSD roadshow meetings were also addressed by Dr Doreen Corridan of Munster Cattle Breeding Group on the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BGDP).

She highlighted the critical target dates of October 2018 for having 20% of females of 16 months in participating herds as 4 or 5 Star and increasing this to 50% by October 2020.

She also highlighted the role of ‘breaking the cow-calf bond’ in increasing fertility in suckler cows and the place of synchronisation in improving conception and calving interval in suckling herds.

Caroline Dunne and Eugene McGrath (right), Market Street Veterinary Clinic, Tralee pictured with Robert Flahive, Castleview Vets Services, Listowel
Caroline Dunne and Eugene McGrath (right), Market Street Veterinary Clinic, Tralee pictured with Robert Flahive, Castleview Vets Services, Listowel.