Profitability of Irish dairy farms in a seasonal production cycle is underpinned by the reproductive performance of the herd, namely having a compact calving block with a high percentage of cows calving during the first six weeks.
Teagasc targets 80% of cows to calve down in the first six weeks and to have an average calving interval of 365 days - every 1% increase in your herd’s six-week submission rate is worth €8/cow per annum.
If your six-week submission rate increases by 25%, this equates to €21,000 in additional profitability in a 100-cow herd.
An extended calving pattern is less profitable due to the lower yields and higher feed costs associated with late-calving cows, for example a cow calving in May will generate €400 less profit in comparison with a cow calving in February.
The key to reproductive efficiency and achieving these targets is based around having high submission rates of over 90% during the first three weeks of breeding, as well as excellent conception rates.
Currently, only 58% of the Irish dairy herd calves down in the first six weeks of breeding, so, nationally, there is without a doubt scope to improve.
With breeding now finished on spring-calving herds and attention turning to autumn grassland management and eventually drying off, it is a good time to sit down and evaluate the breeding season just gone.
Have I achieved my targets? What can I do to improve?
Improving reproductive performance requires a multi-factorial approach, the areas that need the most focus are genetics, nutrition and heat detection.
Improving herd genetics for fertility is a slow and ongoing process, with gains made year on year as the profile of the herd changes.
On the other hand, improvements in performance can be realised quite quickly by assessing how we manage cow nutrition and particularly by looking at and improving the quality and accuracy of heat detection.
Having cows at an adequate body condition score ahead of breeding gives them the best chance to resume cycling quickly after calving, so they are submitted for breeding in the first three weeks.
To achieve a 90% submission rate in the first three weeks of breeding requires that first of all cows are cycling and then the ability to detect all heats and have cows submitted for AI.
With 70% of all heats occurring between 7pm and 7am, it becomes a challenge to visually observe every heat, with missed heats being a major factor in farms not achieving their targets.
Using a vasectomised (teaser) bull can ease the workload during breeding season by reducing the time spent observing cows or tail-painting and reducing the likelihood of missing a heat.
This applies whether you are using a chin ball or an electronic system such as Moocall Heat. The bull does the work for you.
Teasers can be particularly useful when breeding slows down and activity levels in the herd considerably less.
It is more difficult to see heats at this point and they can be easily missed if relying on observation or tail paint. Missing a heat or a repeat mid-season leads to a late-calving cow.
Short and silent heats can be an issue that leads to a reduction in cows submitted for AI where these heats are going undetected.
Cows have been shown to express stronger signs of heat in the presence of a bull. A teaser bull can help pick up on these shorter heats and in turn improve submission rates.
Why Moocall Heat?
A vasectomised bull fitted with a Moocall Heat collar has proven to increase submission rates and reduce the number of missed heats, while saving on the time spent visually observing cows for signs of heat.
Moocall Heat sends a message to the farmer once the vasectomised bull detects a cow in standing heat, giving an optimum time to serve the cow.
Moocall Heat also allows complete control and tracking of breeding performance through the Moocall Breedmanager App.
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