Many farmers last week were focused on harvesting silage.

Fortunately, the broken Irish weather turned to sunshine and elevated temperatures. Grass sugars increased dramatically and wilting of grass was feasible before ensiling to create top quality silage.

From Wednesday through Saturday night farmers had an opportunity to harvest their first crop of silage. With the excellent modern harvesting equipment, it is now possible to complete in one day what would taken a week in times gone by. Labour requirements have been dramatically reduced on the part of the farm staff as this work is carried out by specialist contractors.

Fortunately, farmers see the importance of reproductive performance in their herds. Farm visits have been scheduled in advance and events such as silage harvesting do not impinge on the important routine of scanning the cows for reproductive status. This week saw a crossroads in our business. At this time of year we encounter the last herds getting a prebreed scan where cows will not start calving until the last week of February 2015.

We do get calls to scan cows which have not been detected in heat for the first three weeks of the breeding season. We use these latter visits to show clients the financial gains to be made by identifying problematic breeding cows early post calving. Finally, we now begin to start pregnancy assessments for herds which started their breeding programmes at the end of March and early April.

We had one excellent example this week of a 60 cow dairy herd with a calving pattern stretching from the 15th of January through to the middle of May. A stock bull was introduced to the herd in the first week of January. Using our scanman technology, we had the days calved available as we scanned the cows.

Based on this data and the fitness of the cow to go in calf, we were able to accurately conclude that the bull was infertile. The client concluded that this infertility cost him in excess of €10,000, but was “the most important” days work completed all year.

Dr. Dan Ryan is a cow fertility expert and can be contacted at