Six-week chal­lenge for dairy farm­ers

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Afree pro­gramme to help dairy farm­ers lift the re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance of their herds and get more cows in-calf within the first six weeks of mat­ing will be launched next month.

Devel­oped by farmer-owned co-op­er­a­tive LIC with sup­port from Dairy NZ and other in­dus­try part­ners, the six-week chal­lenge will pro­vide farm­ers with a range of tools and in­for­ma­tion to help them im­prove their six-week in-calf rate and over­all prof­itabil­ity.

LIC chief ex­ec­u­tive and dairy farmer Mark Dewd­ney said the av­er­age six-week in-calf rate on New Zealand dairy farms was now 65 per cent, which is be­low the in­dus­try tar­get of 78 per cent.

He said the gap rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity for many farm­ers.

‘‘Get­ting more cows in-calf in the first six weeks of mat­ing can have a big im­pact on their bot­tom line through in­creased milk pro­duc­tion, less emp­ties and tighter mat­ing and calv­ing pe­ri­ods.

‘‘It also al­lows them to get more from their ge­net­ics and ar­ti­fi­cial breed­ing in­vest­ment with more cows car­ry­ing high BW calves and there­fore in­creased se­lec­tion pres­sure for culling which will speed up ge­netic gain.

‘‘What­ever the farm’s fo­cus – grow­ing, higher BW, more days in milk or sell­ing stock – you’ll get there quicker by get­ting more cows in-calf in the first six weeks,’’ Mr Dewd­ney said.

The six-week chal­lenge was devel­oped af­ter re­search iden­ti­fied re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance to be one of farm­ers’ top con­cerns, and an area where they wanted more help.

With a sea­sonal ap­proach, Mr Dewd­ney said it sup­ports the DairyNZ in-calf pro­gramme and en­cour­ages farm­ers to make in­cre­men­tal changes through­out the year to ul­ti­mately get more cows in-calf quicker at mat­ing time.

It high­lights op­por­tu­ni­ties and ar­eas of im­pact for each sea­son, in­clud­ing heifer rear­ing, body con­di­tion and nutri­tion, heat de­tec­tion and bull man­age­ment.

He said ef­fec­tive man­age­ment of th­ese ar­eas would set the cow up and give her the best pos­si­ble chance of get­ting in-calf quicker.

Farm­ers were also en­cour­aged to seek fur­ther sup­port and ad­vice from their vet, farm con­sul­tant or coach to help them achieve their goals and stay fo­cussed – much like a sports player would, he said.

‘‘To­day’s dairy cows are bet­ter than ever be­fore; they’re dif­fer­ent to what we milked 20 years ago, with dif­fer­ent de­mands, and farm­ing is dif­fer­ent too.

‘‘It’s much more in­tense and on a larger scale across the board – so what we did 20 years ago won’t nec­es­sar­ily work to­day.

‘‘Mat­ing only hap­pens once a year on the ma­jor­ity of dairy farms, but with this chal­lenge we’re en­cour­ag­ing a whole-farm ap­proach, and for it to be a fo­cus all year – be­cause it is the herd man­age­ment prac­tices all year that ul­ti­mately im­pact on its success.’’

When the pro­gramme is launched next month, farm­ers can reg­is­ter to take the chal­lenge at www.6weeks.co.nz.

Those who reg­is­ter will re­ceive an in­for­ma­tion pack about the chal­lenge, the re­pro­duc­tion year on-farm and ar­eas to fo­cus on at dif­fer­ent times of the year.

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