Easter might be the most obvious moveable feast on most people’s calendars, but for dairy farmers, Magic Day is the date with the most variability on our yearly planners.
It’s the day when growth outstrips demand, when supplementary feeding can be reduced and when ground can be closed up confidently for first cut silage. It’s also the day when spring pressure comes off to some extent.
This year, it’s been a bit more elusive and evasive than usual with some late frosts just holding back growth enough to keep things tight for an extra week or two.
The scales are still in the balance, so to speak, with a small surplus but no real burst of growth just yet.
We had half of the herd served after 11 days of breeding so we are on course for our 90% submission rate target
The main thing is that we have enough grass every day to fully feed the cows with 4kg of concentrate and the diet has been fairly constant at that for the last few weeks and, most importantly, through the first two weeks of the breeding season.
Hopefully, this will help to drive a good conception rate to first service.
We had half of the herd served after 11 days of breeding so we are on course for our 90% submission rate target.
We have also identified and scanned some cows that haven’t shown a heat since calving and a few of these will go on a progesterone programme to hopefully bring them into heat next week.
As cows hit 40 days after calving with no heat, we will get them checked out and hopefully improve their chances of getting back in calf this year.
We used a small amount of sexed semen on healthy young cows in the first week of breeding and also used it on most of the maiden heifers that showed strong heats after their synchronisation programme.
We will know our fate with this in another two weeks but if we get a higher repeat rate from these straws, hopefully we will still catch them early enough in the season.
The stock bulls are out with the heifers now to pick up any repeats.
Ninety-five out of 100 of the heifers were served after synchronisation which we are happy enough with
The heifers came bulling over three days after their synchronisation programme of two shots of progesterone.
This should result in the repeats coming in across five or six days so the bulls shouldn’t be under too much pressure.
Ninety-five out of 100 of the heifers were served after synchronisation which we are happy enough with. The rest will hopefully be picked up by the bull.
We will continue to artificially inseminate the cows for the full breeding season again this year, switching to more beef as we get later in the season.
We might also run the bulling cows with a bull in a nearby paddock or shed after AI to see if any need a natural mating to get them to hold. This should be done easily enough with the heat detection tags and drafting system that we have on farm now.
All of this technology is making life a lot easier around breeding and helping to make the right decisions with plenty of information.
It should also result in very high-quality beef calves from high dairy-beef index (DBI) bulls to sell next spring. This is getting more important every year as beef farmers get more discerning about which calves they are prepared to buy and rear at the current cost structure.
This year’s calves are more or less tidied up and gone out of the yard with very strong demand for both Friesian bulls and for the beef calves.
The challenge is trying to keep the calf quality right while also increasing cow production and profitability over the next few years.