Poll: Are you happy with your scanning results?

Many farmers have just completed pregnancy-diagnosis scanning on their farms. For those who have yet to do so, it’s sure to be on the agenda in the coming days and weeks.

According to Teagasc’s George Ramsbottom, it’s difficult to assess empty rates in the Irish dairy herd on a national basis.

“There’s all sorts of scare stories going around about fertility. Some of the earlier reports I saw suggested that fertility levels were disappointing.

“But, it all depends on the farm. In some cases we are seeing a rise in fertility and in others we are witnessing a decline.

“If we look at the hard data that we have; we have very little hard data on actual conception rates.

“The hard data we have is on the fertility sub-index – the genetic merit for fertility – and we see it rise continually.”

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In the long-term, he said, that’s associated with an improvement in fertility.

“For example, if we look at the compactness of calving, it’s on the rise the whole time. It’s rising slowly, but it’s still rising.

While there was a reduction in calving interval last spring, my feeling is that it’s due to farmers delaying the start of breeding rather than a reduction in fertility.

Ramsbottom added that people are consciously making the decision to push the start of calving back.

“Gestation length is shortening as we use more and more high-EBI, high calving sub-index bulls. Stocking rates are also going up. Where farmers had 50 cows a couple of years ago, they now have 80.

“The stocking rate is going up substantially on dairy farms. To try and balance it a bit, dairy farmers are calving slightly later.

“No one can really tell you if fertility is up or down this year. My suspicion is that it’s the same as it always was. On some farms it’s going to be good and other farms are going to struggle a bit,” he said.