Fo­cus on ba­sics to halt calv­ing woes

Irish Independent - Farming - - Front Page -

even short­age of pas­ture and tight graz­ing. Cer­tainly, nu­tri­tion, ge­net­ics, body con­di­tion score, min­er­als, an­i­mal health, heat de­tec­tion skills, re­pro­duc­tive in­fec­tions such as BVD and Lepto, AI stor­age and han­dling, bull fer­til­ity and num­bers can all have a detri­men­tal im­pact.

One the­ory is the pos­si­bil­ity that too much starch in the form of ra­tion was fed dur­ing last year’s mat­ing be­cause of a slow, cold spring.

The think­ing is that this pro­moted in­sulin pro­duc­tion, with high in­sulin lev­els hav­ing a detri­men­tal ef­fect on em­bryo qual­ity. How­ever, the re­al­ity is that we are in the busi­ness of com­mer­cial dairy farm­ing, with lim­ited mea­sure­ment of all these fac­tors, so we can't as­sign true blame to any par­tic­u­lar is­sue. So, while I'm not sug­gest­ing that you shouldn't as­sess your per­for­mance and iden­tify ar­eas for im­prove­ment, it's a com­plex bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tem and that's why it's time to fo­cus on the ba­sics and get them right.

A suc­cess­ful mat­ing this year and com­pact calv­ing in 2012 re­ally starts with last year’s heifer calves. Their rear­ing will have de­ter­mined the qual­ity of this year's maiden heifers. To es­tab­lish and main­tain a com­pact calv­ing spread, it is im­por­tant that the maiden heifers are mated at the same time, or even 7-10 days be­fore the dairy herd.

Late-calv­ing heifers have a lower chance of con­ceiv­ing at mat­ing and will ei­ther be­come late-calv­ing cows or will be empty.

There­fore, heifers need to achieve tar­get weights and have weight gain con­tin­u­ally as­sessed through­out the mat­ing pe­riod. We are aim­ing for 60pc of ma­ture body weight at the start of mat­ing. It's also im­por­tant to make sure that the bulls se­lected for the heifers, whether nat­u­ral or AI, have a low calv­ing dif­fi­culty. Where nat­u­ral ser­vice is used, mon­i­tor bull serv­ing be­hav­iour through­out mat­ing to en­sure they are serv­ing cor­rectly.

For the pre-mat­ing pe­riod of the main dairy herd, im­ple­ment the fol­low­ing:

Good plan­ning is re­quired to achieve com­pact calv­ing and the process be­gins by se­lect­ing the dates when mat­ing starts and stops.

Min­imise con­di­tion score loss in early lac­ta­tion and con­sider scor­ing the cows two weeks be­fore mat­ing. Aim for no more than 15pc of cows to have a con­di­tion score of – or less than – 2.75, and for the av­er­age con­di­tion score loss of the herd to be no more than 0.5 from calv­ing to mat­ing.

Make sure the cows have good nu­tri­tion and no un­de­sired con­di­tion score losses are be­ing in­curred by mon­i­tor­ing for:

Suit­able pre-and post-graz­ing yields.

Sup­ple­ments of­fered are be­ing con­sumed.

Daily milk pro­duc­tion, milk fat and pro­tein.

Cows chew­ing their cud and ma­nure con­sis­tently.

Take ac­tion if any of these re­main ab­nor­mal for sev­eral con­sec­u­tive days or if sev­eral of these pa­ram­e­ters are all ab­nor­mal at the same time.

Choose and buy your heat de­tec­tion aids and make sure ev­ery­one knows how to use them.

Use tail paint to de­tect for non-cy­cling cows four weeks be­fore mat­ing, with the goal of hav­ing them all iden­ti­fied by one week be­fore mat­ing. If your pre-mat­ing cy­cling rate is less than 65pc of your herd, then you have a cy­cling prob­lem.

For treat­ment of non-cy­clers, start by fig­ur­ing out how long each non-cy­cler has been calved. If this is more than 30 days, as­sess what fac­tors are caus­ing this an­i­mal to be­come sub-fer­tile and treat ac­cord­ingly. Prob­lems could in­clude de­fi­cien­cies in heat de­tec­tion, poor heifer rear­ing and un­der-weight heifers, high per­cent­age of heifers which re­quire an ex­tra 10 days to start cy­cling, breed, body con­di­tion score, ab­nor­mal calv­ing and uter­ine in­fec­tions.

Bull power. Do you have enough bulls and are they in good health and con­di­tion for mat­ing?

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