You would think that by now I’m farming long enough to have a lot of the answers, but the truth is that I’m nowhere near knowing all that I want to know about farming.

If something doesn’t work out right, or the way that I think it should, it bugs me. I need to know why things have turned out the way they have.

When I was in my early 20s, I had two nephews who would come to stay in the summer. They used to drive me nuts (in a good way), as no matter what we did, they would always ask why.

When I look back now, I realise that they were only doing exactly the same thing that I’m doing now.


Last year conception rates to artificial insemination (AI) in my spring-calving cows and heifers was very poor and it annoyed me as to why this happened. I was suspicious it was weather related.

Down through the years, I have noticed that conception can be impacted by a chop and change in diet – cows need to be either consistently in the house, or out in the field.

I’ve also noticed that in very poor weather when cattle are very unsettled, it can hit conception rates. But last year I was also suspicious that really hot weather was having a negative impact.

As a result, this year I started to take a note of the weather during my breeding season. I began inseminating cows and heifers in the first half of May. At the time, the weather was reasonably settled.

Then into June it got really hot and although the cattle were content, they were sweating any time I brought them in for AI.

When we got on into July, I knew I was in serious trouble – the breeding season had come to an end, but there was still a lot of activity in the field.

However, I have lots of suitable heifers this year, so had already picked out cows for culling – some had bad feet or poor udders, while others were just getting old. I thought it was a good opportunity to have a clear out of any problem cows.

Scanning revealed exactly what I thought. There were a lot of cows not in-calf. The heifers were a little better, but when all was added up, I was still a few light, so I won’t have any in-calf heifers for sale this year.

Given the wet summer, I took the opportunity to wean all the cows that weren’t in-calf and put them in the house for a bit of feeding, before selling them on. It left me with more grass for the rest and meant that I had less cattle trampling around the ground. But having said that, it’s hard to look at a pen full of cows, many of which are young animals, which we will be moving on.

Warm weather during June had a negative impact on cow fertility.


I now started to dissect the results to see if I can come up with any reasons why so many cows have not held to AI.

The first three weeks when the weather was reasonably settled my conception was 75%, which I am fairly satisfied with. Then the second three weeks, when the weather was very hot, conception dropped to less than 50%, which is a real shocker.

It definitely looks like the hot weather had a negative effect on my cow fertility. But what do I do? It’s not easy when I am trying to keep my calving spread very tight. Of course, I could have come in and given one more insemination, but I am very reluctant to go that route.

It is going to be a difficult one to solve, as you will always be hoping for hot weather during the summer.

While disappointed, I’m lucky I have a good number of heifers which will help keep my numbers up. Maybe this is the long-term answer – always keep lots of heifers for breeding. There are lots of things that I can control, but the weather certainly isn’t one.

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