Serving heifers the easy way on a Co. Cork dairy farm

James Finn is one of many farmers who is now contract-rearing heifers for a neighbouring dairy farmer. Like many contract rearers, James has another full-time job and is looking for a convenient, efficient and effective way to serve heifers.

James is the local veterinary practitioner and therefore has a greater insight into the options available with respect to synchronisation and Fixed Time AI (FTAI).

“Heifers that calve in the first four weeks of the calving season are more likely to go back in calf,” explained James.

“It is essential that heifers have more than two lactations, as it takes at least one-and-a-half lactations for a heifer to make a return on the investment that has been made in her to bring her to calve down at two years of age.

For heifers to calve early in the year, they must be well grown at the beginning of the breeding season, being at least 60% of adult weight (330-360kg for Holstein Friesians).

Over the last year, James has invested a lot of time and effort to ensure that all the heifers have remained healthy and have grown well to meet this target. Now the challenge is to ensure they are all served, with minimum fuss.

No need for heat detection with a simple progesterone programme

Observing for heats and pulling heifers out for AI is very time consuming and like many farmers, James is keen to have a simple and efficient system.

In the past, he has tried several variations but the system that gives the most reliable results for a reasonable investment is to use a progesterone synchronisation programme.

With just five handlings over a 10-day period, he always gets more than 65% in calf at first service. These and the repeats will all calve down in the first six weeks of the calving period.
*Fixed Time Artificial Insemination

“I contact the AI technician to see what day will suit him to serve my heifers and then I work back from there,” said James.

The programme we use eliminates the need for heat detection, which saves greatly on labour and guarantees a 100% submission rate.

“It’s easy to round the whole group up and insert the CIDRs and give the injections in the mornings before my farm calls build up. Then I just have to give the GnRH the evening before we serve them.

“It is convenient, as I can plan my days around this, and it suits the dairy farmer as he gets a healthy, well grown group of heifers that all calve down during February each year,” James explained.