Farmers using DIY AI should make sure that all serves are uploaded to ICBF, either directly or through farm software. After cows are scanned and pregnancy diagnosis uploaded, a breeding report can be generated from ICBF, which has lots of useful information. Conception rate to first service is a good indicator of fertility status. The target is 55%-60%, but many herds are languishing in the mid-40s. The poor weather at the start of breeding this year may have had an impact.

Probably of greater importance is the six week in-calf rate. The target here is 75%-80% of the cows to be in-calf in the first six weeks, but considering the average six week calving rate (including first-calving heifers) is just 67%, most farmers are achieving well short of this target. The six week in-calf rate is a function of the submission rate and conception rate to first and second service.

Where these figures are low, questions need to be asked. On the cow side, was body condition score adequate? Was mineral status OK? Were they on a rising plane of nutrition and was heat detection good enough? The report also details the conception performance of each bull used and this can often throw up anomalies. Some bulls can have conception rates of above 70% while others can be very low. Some of this depends on what cows they are used on and there could be some bias here, but it is something worth looking at. As the industry moves, rightly or wrongly, to using younger and younger AI bulls, semen quality is likely to become more of an issue and is something farmers need to be aware of.

Chlorine free

There was a good discussion at the Moorepark Open Day about chlorine-free wash routines. The importance of hot water was emphasised again and again. David Gleeson from Teagasc says that there is little to no extra cost involved in doing more hot washes, as the amount of product required in a hot wash is less than that needed in cold washes. So, make sure and adjust the amount of product used depending on the type of wash. David says more farmers are starting to flush warm water through after the first rinse and before the hot wash circulation, in order to help maintain the temperature of the wash cycle for longer. Another key message is to check and calibrate automatic pumps, as chlorine-free liquid products are much more viscous and are slower to travel through pipes.

When a problem with TBC or thermoduric arises, farmers should check the insides of claw pieces and pipework for evidence of a waxy biofilm. This indicates an inadequate wash routine. A good wash routine will keep a parlour clean, but where there is a build-up of biofilm or scum, a higher rate of caustic or more acid washes may be required for a number of washes to get on top of it and then revert to the standard wash routine.

Farmers were advised to speak to their milking machine technician about how they go about cleaning the vacuum line, as this can often cause problems. Dump lines should be washed as part of the daily wash, even when they are not being used.