Why is having a compact calving pattern so important?
The calving pattern on farms is what sets the top-performing herds apart from the lower-performing herds, in terms of maximising milk output from grazed grass.
Speaking at a recent breeding information event, Shane Leane – breeding advisor with Progressive Genetics – discussed why having a compact calving pattern is so important for your farm.
Explaining why, he said: “What we want to achieve in any system is a highly profitable farm.
“We also want a resilient farm system, so we are able to control what happens inside our own farm gate despite milk price volatility.
“The other big thing on the agenda at the minute is environmental sustainability and producing low greenhouse gases per kilograms of milk. So, we want a farm that is resilient, sustainable and has a low impact on the environment.”
The best way to achieve this is to match your herd’s energy demand to the grass growth curve, through an optimal calving start date and a compact calving pattern.
“The above graph [grass growth versus herd feed requirements] shows what we are trying to achieve in a grass-based system – matching the herd’s feed requirements to the grass growth curve.
“The challenge for most dairy farms is to take advantage of this grass as much as possible and achieve those low costs of production.
“What we need to do is match our calving pattern to this grass growth curve. So, for this to be possible we want our cows calving in a very compact period of time to increase our herd demand and match it to our grass supply.
“To have our calving pattern at this level of compactness [target 90% in 6-weeks] there are some breeding targets we have to achieve.
“The important thing is to be realistic within your own system when setting these targets. If you’re currently at a submissions rate of 62% it is a huge jump to try and hit 90%,” highlighted Shane.
“These really are the targets [see above] you want to be achieving in a 10 to 12-week breeding season.
“I have highlighted this six-week calving rate because it really is the driving force behind any grass-based system, to take advantage of the spring grass growth.
“Yes, a compact calving adds a lot of work at a busy time of year, but in terms of setting up a resilient system it is essential,” concluded Shane.