Breeding replacements from only the best quality cows is vital on every dairy farm, according to Consultant Cathal McAleer.

Working extensively with dairy farmers, McAleer says there is plenty of heightened interest on breeding extra heifers this year due to the removal of milk quotas.

However, he is advising the farmers he works with to breed replacements only from the best cows and use a short gestation beef bull on poor performers in the herd.

An excellent AI straw used on a very poor cow will produce a poor heifer – there’s only so much the bulls genetics can do.

According to McAleer using a beef straw on these poor performers will eliminate the risk of breeding sub standard stock in the future.

A dairy farm manager himself McAleer coincided that few of dairy farmers are disciplined enough to breed all cows to dairy straws and then select out the poor genetics heifers next spring.

They may be born early and are usually kept.


April is the month for dairy farmers to focus on breeding or AI costs in the dairy herd, Teagasc says.

“With average AI/breeding costs of 0.63c/L in 2014 (€32 per cow, 3% of total costs), it is not one of the bigger costs on dairy farms,” it says.

However, there is potential for savings and Teagasc says to start make sure that you select the right team of AI sires for your herd.

  • Select from the ICBF Active Bull List and include some genomic sires to hasten the rate of genetic progress.
  • Use the maximum number of GeneIreland test bulls for your herd.
  • Minimise AI costs by working hard to increase conception rates. Increasing conception rate to first service from 45% to 55% in a 100-cow herd will result in 20 fewer AI straws being used over nine weeks (and at €20 per straw a saving of €400).
  • You must ensure that heifers are at target weight at bulling time (you really should have been working on this before now). Thin cows and late calvers must be milked once a day to allow them to gain the necessary body condition and increase the likelihood of conception.
  • Match the number of AI straws to be used to the number of heifers required to enter the herd in 2018, then use lower cost beef AI straws (must be short gestation length and easy calving).