Time to plan beyond forced births

Matamata Chronicle - - Rural Delivery -

Forced births (in­duc­tions) are not al­lowed from spring next year and farm­ers should start tak­ing ac­tion now, says Live­stock Im­prove­ment (LIC).

It had been used for years as a tool to ad­dress calv­ing pat­tern is­sues on dairy farms but it is be­ing phased out.

A few peo­ple still use the tech­nique to bring cows into milk but in­duc­ing the calf can mean calf death.

Farm­ers fac­ing life with­out in­duc­tions in 2015 for the first time needed to start mak­ing some im­por­tant de­ci­sions, said dairy farmer, vet­eri­nar­ian and re­pro­duc­tion so­lu­tions man­ager for LIC, Joyce Voogt.

‘‘Suc­cess for liv­ing with­out in­duc­tions in 2015 and beyond will de­pend on the ac­tions farm­ers take now, start­ing with their plan­ning for mat­ing this year,’’ she said.

Voogt said the dairy in­dus­try had made progress in re­duc­ing the per cen­t­age of rou­tine in­duc­tions in the na­tional dairy herd. ‘‘But with the prac­tice now be­ing banned al­to­gether, there has never been a more im­por­tant time to ad­dress calv­ing spreads in a sus­tain­able way.’’

She said late calv­ing cows would hold a farm back in both pro­duc­tion and re­pro­duc­tion.

‘‘So hav­ing a ro­bust plan to min­imise them is vi­tal and the most nat­u­ral way to do this is by fo­cus­ing on their herd’s six-week in-calf rate, with a proac­tive ap­proach to mat­ing man­age­ment, all year round. For many farm­ers, that needs to start this spring.’’

The in­dus­try tar­get is to get 78 per cent of the herd in-calf within the first six weeks of mat­ing, but with the na­tional av­er­age at 65 per cent, Voogt said that rep­re­sented a sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­nity for many farm­ers to boost prof­its, pro­duc­tion and re­move re­liance on re­pro­duc­tive in­ter­ven­tions like in­duc­tions.

‘‘Late calv­ing cows hold back a herd’s re­pro­duc­tive per­for­mance, so the higher the six- week in- calf rate and the lower the num­ber of late calvers in the herd the more sus­tain­able long-term herd fer­til­ity will be.’’

Voogt says farm­ers will al­ways have some late cows, but the key is to be proac­tive in how they man­age them, and with the new reg­u­la­tions loom­ing, this com­ing mat­ing will be a crit­i­cal time.

‘‘It’s not just a sim­ple as pulling the ser­vice bulls out early this year – mat­ing length de­ci­sions should be made in con­junc­tion with your vet­eri­nar­ian or farm man­age­ment con­sul­tant. Gath­er­ing and us­ing the right herd test­ing and preg­nancy test­ing in­for­ma­tion will be cru­cial for mak­ing the best mat­ing and culling de­ci­sions.’’

Voogt said farm­ers could start by analysing the in­for­ma­tion they have.

‘‘Look­ing at who the late calv­ing cows in the herd are now and why they are there means work can start on ad­dress­ing the un­der­ly­ing causes of calv­ing pat­tern slip­page in the herd.’’

She said the key ar­eas to look at were heifer liveweight and mat­ing date, cow con­di­tion at calv­ing and mat­ing, and early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and man­age­ment of non-cy­clers.

‘‘Many things can im­pact a cow’s abil­ity to get in-calf. Now more than ever, as an in­dus­try, we need to fo­cus max­imis­ing per­for­mance in the first half of mat­ing.’’

Voogt said farm­ers also have ac­cess to new so­lu­tions which can form part of their tool box this mat­ing.

She said more than 1100 peo­ple have also taken a pos­i­tive step by reg­is­ter­ing for LIC’s Six Week Chal­lenge.

The free pro­gramme pro­vides a mat­ing plan­ner tool and prac­ti­cal tips to ap­ply a year-round fo­cus on mat­ing man­age­ment.

AHEAD: In­duc­tions have been used for years as a tool to ad­dress calv­ing pat­tern is­sues on dairy farms but it is be­ing phased out.

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