HerdInsights: How to achieve an efficient and effective breeding program
It is essential to understand the primary and secondary signs of a heat in order to achieve accurate and efficient heat detection.
Getting it right is a challenge that involves a significant amount of labour expense, effort and guesswork. Yet getting cows in calf quickly is at the core of every farmer’s business.
Importance of compact calving season
To maximise production from grazed grass, cows should calve close to the time when grass begins to grow rapidly. In addition, a compact calving pattern allows caving and breeding tasks to be separated providing the opportunity to achieve better results for both.
According to Teagasc figures a cow calving in May will generate €400 less profit due to higher feed costs and reduced yield and for every 100 cows a compact calving system is worth on average €10,000-12,000 per year.
Currently, in Ireland, we are looking at a 58% six-week in-calf rate, with a recommended target of 90%.
Where to start?
Good reproductive performance of a herd comes down to managing the animals well throughout the season, helping them to calve early and recover quickly year-on-year.
If the proportion of the herd cycling is lower than 70% it is unlikely that the three-week submission rate target of 90% will be met; so, to achieve this, it is essential that non-cycling cows are identified and dealt with early.
Benefits to improving herd reproductive performance include:
- Higher six-week in-calf rate;
- More days in milk;
- Tighter calving pattern;
- Earlier identification of reproductive health issues pre breeding;
- Reduction in empty rates;
- Improved conception rates.
Importance of heat detection
A high rate of heat detection is critical to achieving good fertility performance in the dairy herd, particularly when artificial insemination (AI) is being used.
Optimal conception rates are achieved with AI around 12 hours after the onset of oestrus; therefore, poor accuracy leads to cows being inseminated at the incorrect time and will decrease conception rates to an individual service.
However, with continued expanding herds, more cows per person, fewer management hours per cow, achieving the high rates of heat detection which is required is a task that is becoming more and more difficult.
In order to achieve this and to avoid the pressure and costs of adding additional labour units, many farmers are now investing in heat detection systems such as HerdInsights.
For example, Ciaran Kavanagh, who is currently milking a herd of 200 cows, was finding the breeding season quite difficult. As he mentions it is a time when you are dealing with the ‘unknowns’ and also a time that requires additional labour which was proving more difficult and expensive to get.
He was looking for a solution that would cut down on labour, allow him to gain efficiencies from his breeding program and take the unknown’s out of the breeding season.
HerdInsights – a cloud-based ‘Smart Collar’ – uses a multi-metric analysis to improve the efficiency of farm breeding programs and reduces health care costs through early illness detection.
By using a multi-metric analysis on each individual cows’ behaviour, HerdInsights can detect both primary heat detection signs such as mounting along with secondary signs, including chin resting and resting time; therefore taking the guesswork out of it for the farmer with less time and hassle.
As Ciaran explains on his video to gain even further efficiencies, he linked this system to his ATL drafting gate which means the cows walk into the parlour, the system identifies if they are in heat and on leaving the parlour, they are automatically drafted into the mating yard.
It has enabled Ciaran to achieve submission rates of 93% within the first three weeks and, more importantly as he outlines, it meant that there was no stress through the breeding season.
HerdInsights integrates with the ATL drafting system to enable farmers to combine leading heat detection technology with automatic drafting to provide a more effective and efficient breeding program.
For more information, contact HerdInsights today at: www.collinsagri.com.
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