What’s your strategy like for this year’s breeding season?
The breeding season has started for some and is only beginning for others; however, by now you should have a plan in place on how you are going to manage the breeding season on your farm.
Without a plan the breeding season can become a lot busier than it needs to be and can lead to a lot of confusion.
The plan doesn’t necessarily have to be written down, but it should be clear in your head because once you begin breeding, the time for thinking things through is a lot less.
What cow is getting what?
It’s not when the AI technician is in the yard that you should be deciding whether the cow in the crush is getting a replacement straw, a beef straw or no straw.
The herd should be divided into three groups: cows being bred for replacements; cows getting beef AI; and cows marked for culling.
The best thing to do is examine your EBI report and/or milk recording report, come up with a target performance level and any cows below this target should either get beef AI or perhaps they need to be considered for culling – i.e. not to be bred off.
Eliminating those cows with poor genetic merit will ensure the best genetics are coming through in your future replacement heifers.
Your plan should include how you intend to get as many cows bred as quickly as possible. The target three-week submission rate is 90%, so you should try to achieve this or get as close as possible to this figure.
If you begin breeding and you are not achieving this target, you may need to up your heat detection game.
This could include going out and observing cows a few hours after milking in the morning, evening or even in the middle of the day; or perhaps your method of heat detection needs to be looked at to see if anything needs to be changed.
All cows bred must be recorded and your progress should be reviewed throughout the season.
Dealing with non-cyclers
It is vital that your plan includes how you are going to deal with non-cyclers.
Some farmers carry out pre-breeding heat detection and catch any non-cyclers then; others wait until they have started breeding and scan what is not bred after three-weeks.
If a cow is calved less than 35 days she will not be showing signs of heat, so these cows usually just need more time to resume cycling.
Finally, your plan should include when the vasectomised bulls and/or stock bulls will be let out to the herd.
The important thing to remember with vasectomised bulls is not to introduce them to the herd too early. As the amount of cows bred increases, the harder it is to detect cows in heat which is usually an indication that additional heat detection is needed.
The best thing to do is to introduce them after three-weeks of breeding, when the activity has died down and picking up cows becomes more difficult.Also Read: ‘Vasectomised bulls make picking up heifers a piece of cake’
If you’re planning on using stock bulls they need to be purchased now; or if they are already in the yard they should be fertility tested.