To achieve the best expression of heat and the best conception rates, we need to do everything we can to ensure that cows are in good body condition score (BCS) and their feed requirements are met.

In the spring-calving dairy herd, May is the most important month of the year for breeding activity, according to Waterford-based Ned Dunphy from the Farm Relief Services, and veterinary surgeon Ger Cusack of Comeragh Veterinary.

Lameness reducing conception rates

Research shows that cows that are lame graze for shorter periods of time and spend longer periods lying down. Their dry matter intake is reduced, and they tend to lose body condition.

Lame cows are less likely to come into heat and those that do, are likely to have a lower conception rate.

There is a real risk that a cow that is lame during the early part of the breeding season will not conceive until later in the breeding period, or may even end up empty.

It is therefore important that cows that are even mildly lame get treated promptly. At this time of year – because of heat behaviors – there is also greater risk of hoof traumas, leading to sole bruising and white line disease.

The key message here is to keep yard standing time and roadway standing time to a minimum. Allow cows to return to the paddock immediately after exiting the milking parlour.

Consider using a timed or text-activated gap opener, to allow cows to exit the paddock in an unhurried manner, and at their own pace.

This will help reduce the risk of sole bruising and white line damage.

Measures that can help to reduce the incidences of lameness in the herd:

  • Keep roadways even and smooth to minimise the risk of lameness;
  • Minimise the amount of heavy machinery traffic on farm roadways to minimise surface damage;
  • Where roadways meet concrete, put in a raised lip to reduce the level of stone and grit brought onto the yard;
  • Identify and correct cow flow issues such as sharp turns, narrow passages or overcrowding in collecting yards.