Breeding season is upon us again, so it’s a good time to review what has worked well for this farm in the past and decide if I need to make any alterations this year.
Calving this spring went reasonably well, with most calving without any difficulty. I had one section, but the calf was deformed and there was no way it was going to come out normally.
I have some great calves on the ground, so I will use the same AI bulls that I used last year.
There are 45 cows and heifers in my spring herd. Calving spread in 2021 (from first to last calving) was less than five weeks.
Ten years ago, when I got involved with the NI Suckler Beef Programme, I was calving cows all year round. I was set a target of dividing my cows into two groups, each calving over a nine-week period.
At the time, I thought that this was a big ask for someone who was using 100% AI.
It took a few years to get there, but I did, and it made a massive difference to my whole farming system. Everything was so much more streamlined. There was a time for calving and a time for breeding, and they did not cross paths.
Last year, I decided that I wanted to push the boundaries even more and get my calving all done in less than six weeks.
It meant there was no scope for any slip ups. I could not afford to miss any heats, and I would have to be very successful with my timing and use of AI.
I am going into my third year of using the Moocall heat detection system and without it, I would not have been able to detect all the heats and my calving spread would be more than it is.
The technology requires special tags to be put in the cows’ ears (with a microchip in them). Then I run a teaser with the cows fitted with a collar.
The collar detects interaction with the teaser and when you get enough interaction and a standing heat, you get a text to your mobile phone.
At the start, I was sceptical and every time I got a text, I was running out to the field to see what was happening. It did not take too long to confirm how accurate it was.
Now I very rarely do a field visit when I get a text.
You can also check to see how long the heat has lasted, which helps to verify if it has been a genuine heat.
Up to 25% of the heat alerts come during the night and at least half of them are heats in the early morning, which means that they are more likely to have been missed without the heat system.
But there is so much more that you can do with the system. You can add in calving dates, ease of calving and other management details.
And to top it all, that information is on your mobile phone and easily accessible while out in the field.
Good and bad
When I got the Moocall heat system three years ago, I said that I would report all the good and bad points. There have been issues with loss of tags, false heats and missed heats.
The tag issue seems to have been solved with chatting to the guys at Moocall.
The false heats only seem to happen if cows are gathered together or in bad weather when they cluster under the hedge.
And there only seems to be missed heats when you have a large number of cows in heat together.
Generally, the Moocall has had a positive impact on my farm. Some farmers are probably put off by the cost, and while it is a significant expense, I am now used to the system and don’t know how I would manage without it.
Here’s hoping it works well for me this year and I’ll be finished breeding in less than six weeks.