Hun­grier cows need a close eye

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Im­prov­ing their sixweek in-calf rate by just 10 per cent means the av­er­age New Zealand dairy farmer (386 cows) stands to ben­e­fit by an ad­di­tional $15,440 (based on a $5.50 per kilo­gram milk solid pay­out).

And ac­cord­ing to LIC Re­pro­duc­tion So­lu­tions ad­viser Joyce Voogt, most farm­ers have the abil­ity to do this.

Farm­ers reap the ben­e­fit of a high six-week in-calf rate in more ways than purely by ex­tra days in­milk, she said.

‘‘Farm­ers would also ben­e­fit from im­proved empty rates as there is a di­rect re­la­tion­ship be­tween them. The more cows there are calv­ing early, the less emp­ties there tend to be.

‘‘Cows which calve in the first three weeks of the calv­ing pe­riod have more time to re­cover and start cy­cling be­fore the next planned start of mat­ing.

‘‘Cows al­ready on their sec­ond or third cy­cle when first mated have bet­ter con­cep­tion rates than cows on their first cy­cle. The ef­fect is cu­mu­la­tive. ‘‘Re­search shows that re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance in New Zealand dairy herds has de­clined in re­cent years with six-week in-calf rates drop­ping from 68 per cent 10 years ago to an alarm­ing 62 per cent in 2011,’’ said Ms Voogt.

‘‘Ap­prox­i­mately 90 per cent of the vari­a­tion in re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance in a herd is due to farm man­age­ment prac­tices while only 10 per cent is at­trib­ut­able to ge­net­ics.

‘‘The ‘ big­ger fish to fry’ in­clude heat de­tec­tion ef­fi­ciency, body con­di­tion score at calv­ing and young stock growth and man­age­ment.

‘‘The eight ‘ in­gre­di­ents’ needed to max­imise herd fer­til­ity are: A com­pact calv­ing; Good young stock rear­ing and heifer man­age­ment;

Body con­di­tion and nu­tri­tion;

Ef­fec­tive and ac­cu­rate heat de­tec­tion;

Iden­ti­fy­ing and deal­ing with non-cy­clers; Cow health; Ge­net­ics and AB prac­tices; Bull man­age­ment. ‘‘All these fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples are cov­ered in the Dairynz In­calf book.

‘‘This in­valu­able re­source is avail­able free of charge to all levy pay­ing farm­ers.

‘‘In­dus­try-wide we are all aware of the grad­ual de­cline in re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance of the na­tional herd and the im­pact this has on farm per­for­mance – fewer days in milk, de­clin­ing six-week in-calf rates, in­creased empty rates and in­creased calv­ing spread.

‘‘Though our cows may not be much larger to­day than they were 10 years ago they sure are hun­grier and they need to eat more be­cause they pro­duce more milk.’’

The na­tional breed­ing ob­jec­tive of ‘‘iden­ti­fy­ing the most ef­fi­cient con­vert­ers of feed into profit’’ means that New Zealand has bred cows who will do just that, at the ex­pense of re­pro­duc­tion, Ms Voogt says.

‘‘Even if man­age­ment prac­tices have re­mained the same over the past 10 to 15 years, where ar­ti­fi­cial breed­ing (AB) has been used then the cows’ and herds’ breed­ing worth and pro­duc­tion will have in­creased and re­sulted in a higher pro­duc­ing, more prof­itable an­i­mal that needs more feed.

‘‘Many farm­ers have in­creased their feed­ing regimes and in­tro­duced sup­ple­men­tary feed, for ex­am­ple palm ker­nel, to re­place feed short­falls.

How­ever, high BW (breed­ing worth) cows need to be fed well, Ms Voogt said. ‘‘If they are not fed enough, these high per­form­ing an­i­mals will con­di­tion-strip to put milk in the vat.

‘‘But dry­ing off early enough, to achieve tar­get body con­di­tion scores is cru­cial as well. For im­proved six-week in-calf rates and empty rates, we need to en­sure heifer and three-year-old cows are well grown and calve down at body con­di­tion score 5.5, while the rest of the herd need to calve at body con­di­tion score 5.

‘‘To­day’s cows are pro­duc­ing 80kg more milk solids than those of 20 years ago.

‘‘Man­aged well we can ‘have our cake and eat it’ with re­gard to our cows but we need to be con­stantly mind­ful of the feed de­mands on them.

‘‘More cows in-calf quicker’’ means think­ing about herd re­pro­duc­tion through­out the year and not just at mat­ing time, said Ms Voogt.

‘‘Re­cent LIC data in­di­cates that about 70 per cent of first calvers en­ter­ing our dairy herds have not been grown to their full po­ten­tial.

‘‘I be­lieve this is a ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to low six-week in-calf rates and high empty rates in our two- and three­year-old cows.

‘‘Cows con­tinue grow­ing un­til they are five years old and when these young­sters are en­ter­ing the herd smaller and lighter than their ma­ture herd­mates they re­ally strug­gle to com­pete.

‘‘In a well man­aged herd a more con­densed calv­ing means more days in milk, more money in the bank.’’

Joyce Voogt

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