Although fertility management of the dairy herd is an all year-round job, taking your eye off the ball at this time of year can have a significant knock-on effect.
A recent report from College of Agriculture Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) outlined that a cow due to be calving in February next year, must become pregnant in May of this year.
If this pregnancy is delayed, the cow will either be in late lactation or dry next February – when she should be on target to reach peak milk production.
Having an extended calving interval like this will not only impact milk yields, but also cash flow and additional costs to the dairy farm business.
Research highlights that herd fertility begins in late lactation, with the aim of getting cows to a body condition score (BCS) of 2.75 at drying-off, and maintaining this throughout the dry period.
Minerals for fertility management
Mineral nutrition of the cow is critically important during the dry period. Low calcium and potassium diets can help some farms to reduce clinical and subclinical milk fever, retained fetal membranes and endometritis, all of which lead to poor fertility in the next lactation.
On many farms, sire selection will have been completed during autumn, with heat detection and service being carried out throughout winter.
Pregnancy diagnosis results should be used to inform cull decisions, as cows not in-calf by 85 to 100 days in milk, will quickly impact on a herd’s seasonality of production and profit.
The challenge at this time of year is managing fertility at grass, and deciding which cows should be let out to graze.
Certainly for the highest yielders, consistent energy and protein intakes are essential during the breeding period.
If you have enough high yielders within the herd to justify, these should be batched separately and housed full or part-time to ensure consistency of diet, balanced protein and high energy intakes through the breeding period.
Not only will this maintain milk yields but also reduce issues around fertility.