Time to plan beyond forced births
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.