The latest episode of the Dairy Edge podcast was hosted by Emma Louise Coffey who was joined by George Ramsbottom, a Teagasc dairy specialist, with ending the 2021 breeding season being the main topic of discussion.

During the podcast the topic of when to ‘pull out the bull‘ was discussed, having a set date to end the breeding season means that the end of calving 2022 can also be determined.

Extending the breeding season

Leaving the bull in too long will mean that the calving season is extended and will ultimately cost you money.

In spring-calving herds where all cows are dried in December, late-calvers have lower milk production compared with a February-calved cow producing 6,500L.

  • An April-calving cow produces 900L less;
  • A May-calving cow produces 1,200L less;
  • A June-calving cow produces 1,800L less.

Calving rates

George spoke about the average six-week calving rate currently being achieved nationally, with 65% of spring-calving cows achieving this.

This figure has increased by 10% in the last decade, due to a combination of improved management, genetics and reduced disease burden.

But, despite the gains being made, there is still significant progress required to meet the target six-week calving rate of 90%.

When to ‘pull out the bull’

When you began your breeding season should determine the end date, not removing the bull will mean the calving and breeding will cross-over in 2022.

George recommends a ten-week breeding season to facilitate a ten to eleven week calving spread, allowing farmers a two to three week break between calving 2022 and the beginning of mating.

The majority of spring-calving herds start their breeding season on May 1, to begin calving in early February.

Which means that the ten-week mark is fast approaching on farms that started breeding on May 1.

Ending the breeding season on or before July 20, will confine your calving season to April 2022, continuing to breed cows beyond this means 1,200L less for a May-calving cow and 1,800L less for a June-calving cow.

Breeding starting date Finish of 10 weeks Finish of 12 weeks
April 20June 29July 13
April 27July 6July 20
May 1July 10July 24
May 7July 16July 30