Room to improve performance of NI suckler herd
Reducing both the average calving interval and age of first calving in the Northern Ireland suckler herd will increase the amount of time that cows and replacement heifers are in production.
Visitors to Artie Birt’s farm near Portaferry, Co Down, on Thursday were told that the average age of first calving and average calving interval in the NI suckler herd is 30.6 months and 420 days respectively.
“A suckler cow has got to go in calf to produce a calf every year or else go out of the system. Farmers should be aiming to calve down heifers at 24 months,” Dr Francis Lively from AFBI said.
He said that calving heifers down at 24 months required good management from weaning to calving and that replacement heifers should be treated as priority stock on farms.
“Some farmers question if the extra feeding or access to best quality silage is worth it to achieve growth targets for calving at two-year-old, but look at the additional cost of running heifers for an extra six or 12 months if you calve later,” Lively said.
Average suckler calving interval in NI is 420 days & age 1st calving is 30.6mths. Improvement starts on each individual farm, visitors told pic.twitter.com/P7rAY9Ll5m— Farmers Journal NI (@FJNorth) 1 December 2016
Thursday’s event on Artie's farm was held by AgriSearch to demonstrate how synchronisation and artificial insemination can be used on suckler farms to improve and specifically target genetics through the use of AI bulls while reducing the labour input surrounding observing heats.
Artie runs a herd of 170 mainly Simmental and Limousin cross cows, with Charolais bulls mostly used on cows and easy-calving Simmental and Limousin bulls used on heifers. He has been involved in a research project undertaken by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute looking at the use of synchronisation and AI across 12 suckler herds in NI.
Full coverage of the event and up-to-date results from the project will feature in next week’s edition of the Irish Farmers Journal and on www.farmersjournal.ie.