There is clear evidence of a decline in the reproductive efficiency and fertility of Irish beef cow herds, according to Teagasc, and it is now undertaking a large-scale research to examine this issue in detail.

It highlights for example, that annually only about eight calves are born for every 10 cows; less than 25 per cent of cows produce a calf every 365 days; the interval between successive calvings for the average cow is about six weeks longer than it should be; and, less than 10 per cent of heifers calve for the first time at two years of age.

Furthermore, the latest date from Teagasc outlines that only 17 per cent of calves born to beef cows are bred through artificial insemination (AI).

The Irish agriculture and food development authority is now embarking on a large-scale research project, funded by the Department of Agriculture, which aims to examine the root causes of poor fertility in suckler herds.

This will involve studies, which will be conducted at Grange Research Centre, as well as on farms all over the island of Ireland. To this end, Teagasc is keen to work with farmers on two large projects.

It outlined: “In the first, we intend to measure the contribution of on-farm issues such as mineral status or exposure to various infectious diseases that might reduce cow fertility. In return for their co-operation, farmers will receive, for free: a bull fertility examination; detailed information on soil; forage and cow mineral status; as well as detailed pregnancy scanning. In a second trial, we are planning to develop new heat synchronisation protocols to enable the use of fixed time AI and thus, eliminate the need for heat detection.”

Teagasc explained that participating farmers will have their cows’ heat synchronised, enabling them to maximise AI usage, and cows will subsequently be scanned to confirm pregnancy. “These cows will also be screened for mineral status and reproductive diseases,” it added.

According to Teagasc this will be the largest beef cow fertility project ever undertaken in Ireland and its success is critically dependent on farmer participation.

Farmers interested in becoming involved in either of these two trials can contact their local Teagasc adviser or David Kenny in Teagasc Grange on 087-295 0259 for further information.