Six-week challenge for dairy farmers
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.