Might be time to think about pulling out the bull

As we draw closer to the end of July, the breeding season will be coming to an end on many dairy farms across the country.

The breeding season kicked off on some herds in mid-April, while the bulk of dairy farms started the breeding season around the end of April heading into the first week in May.

For the majority, cows were served with AI for the first few weeks and then a stock bull was let in to ‘mop up’, while other farms opted to go all AI and not keep any stock bull.

In terms of farms that used a stock bull this year, it might be time to start thinking about pulling the bull out.

Realistically, cows that are served between now and next week are likely to calve next year around the end of April, heading into May – which is what farmers want to be avoiding.

Speaking on this topic, Teagasc advisor, John McCabe, said: “Over the last two years, 1.4-1.5 million cows have calved, on average, in Ireland.

Of that number, roughly 390,000 of those cows calved over a three-month period in April, May and June.

“Ideally, you would want no more than 10% calving in April and none calving in May and June.

“The advice is to keep the breeding season length to about 12 weeks. So, just say you started breeding on April 27, you would have 12 weeks breeding done by July 20.

“A cow served on July 20 will calve down next year around April 29 – which means she will be turning into a late calver.

“Ideally, you want 70% of the herd calving in February, 20% calving in March and 10% in April, but there are always stragglers on farms – calving in late April into May and in some cases June.

“So, if you want to avoid May or June calvers it might be time to think about taking out the bull now.”