We have a lot of calves hitting the ground this week in Clara. As we move into the third week of calving, we should have half of the herd calved soon. Hopefully it will be all plain sailing to some extent after that.
The use of sexed semen through the first week of breeding with some of the cows and with the majority of the heifers, has held back calf numbers slightly but the percentage of heifer calves is running at about 70%, so it’s working well in that regard.
The easier calvings from the female calves are an added benefit with sexed semen, and the first lactation animals in particular are really hitting the ground running after calving.
The trade-off is a lower number of these girls calving in the first three weeks than normal, with the lower conception rate from this technology.
The heifers that didn’t go in calf on first service, went in calf very quickly afterwards, with the vast majority holding to the second service. They should still calve early in the season and get a good enough chance to go back in-calf early next breeding season.
We will review it all again after calving, but maybe a mix of sexed and conventional straws on the heifers would be the best of both worlds.
We used a very limited amount of sexed semen on the cows and definitely won’t increase the amount used next season.
It has a value for certain cows and certain cow types, but the conventional wisdom that with the lower conception rate and 90% heifers, it’s probably going to result in a similar number of heifer calves on the ground by a certain date.
If conventional semen was used there would be a higher conception rate and 50% heifers.
We have continued to get some grass into the milking cows most days since calving, and with the mild weather, we are leaving the main herd out most nights as well.
They are offered silage before and after milking, so the grass is just a bonus and an opportunity to reduce workload around the yard whenever possible.
Labour is becoming more of an issue every year, with everybody finding it very difficult to source good quality staff for the busy spring period.
We have an exceptional team in place on farm, but we could do with one more person on the roster during the week.
We are promised someone soon through the Farm Relief Services who we work with a lot to employ people. We might even take on a couple to help for the season ahead.
There is a house available on the edge of the farm which is a big help when trying to attract staff.
Hopefully they turn up soon before all of the hard work is done for the season.
Labour is a big challenge for all of us out there looking to even maintain current cow numbers on farm. Other challenges are materialising every day, including new derogation rules, new nitrogen limits and climate action targets.
Even the constant vilifying of farmers in the media and online is a huge threat to the industry.
It might not be death by a thousand cuts quite yet, but there’s definitely a lot of knives being sharpened out there.
The Government seems to have adopted this policy now too, with the mooted voluntary herd reduction schemes and associated compensation payments now kicked to touch in favour of using the new stocking rate limits to reduce emissions instead.
Food shortages in the near future will probably disrupt policy again, and hopefully before too much damage is done to our most important indigenous industry.