Expanding dairy farmers ‘buying in infertility’

The expanding national dairy herd is running the risk of buying infertile and sub-standard cows by not researching the key figures of a cow’s performance, experts have warned.

Speaking at a recent LIC/Eurogene breeding meeting in Co. Monaghan, Larry Burke territory manager with Eurogene said dairy farmers are not using figures enough when purchasing replacements.

“Farmers are buying in infertility,” Burke said bluntly.

A farmer who is selling cows in the mart is selling 10% of his herd. Those 10% he’s selling are usually not the top 10%. A farmer is not taking this into account when he’s buying in the mart.

“When a cow lands into the yard, he’s buying with his eyes. Put a cow into the ring with a big bag of milk and lads would knock each other down to get the cow.

“Figures go out the window…the reality is that the cow might not have been in calf for a year and a half,” Burke added.

Use beef to address infertility

Burke said dairy farmers should use more beef AI to get late calvers, as well as cows with fertility problems, in calf.

“If you use a Hereford, the semen has a longer life in the cow. Angus and Herefords, but especially Herefords, are particularly good. A Hereford straw can last anything up to eight hours longer than a Friesian.

“If you put a Friesian straw and Hereford straw into the same cow, 80% of the time it’s a whitehead that comes out,” Burke said.

Other speakers at the event included: Joyce Voogt from LIC; Paul Crosson from LacPatrick; and representatives of LIC Saber technology.

Voogt said dairy farmers need to tighten their calving patterns to as close to six weeks as possible to keep cows at optimum fertility.

“Farmers don’t put enough pressure on the female side of the herd,” Joyce said, adding that a six-week calving pattern allows for cows to have a couple heat cycles before having to get the cow in calf.

“After the six weeks, you’re lucky if the cow has one practice heat before having to get her back in calf.

If your breeding season starts on May 1 and you have any cows standing in the shed now not yet calved, there’s a higher chance of reproductive failure…those girls need to be looked after.

By getting the cows cycling and in-calf quicker, Voogt said the number of lactations will increase which ultimately drive profitability on farms.

“You need to get your cows through as many lactations as possible. The cows between the ages of four and eight, they are the workforce of the herd in terms of production. You want to keep those cows there,” Voogt concluded.