October hasn’t been an easy month. Just as the season looked like being the best ever, the skies opened. Heavy rain brought poor grass utilisation, flooding made some land unavailable while low light stifled grass growth. The net effect was loss of production, loss of pasture cover, loss of cow body condition and, of course, loss of profit. As luck would have it this disaster came just before mating; at the very time the cows needed to be fully fed and satisfied.
Not a good lead into mating, but the dates have to be set for future circumstances, so mate we must.
The target In Calf figures we should be heading for have traditionally been 90% submission rate and 66% conception rate, giving about 60% of non pregnant cows in calf with each cycle.
WHERE DOES THE REALITY LIE?
Nationally our In Calf rates are dropping and the truth would be nearer 50%. America is said to be down in the forties.
The accepted reason for the drop is thought to be production. The higher the cows’ production the harder it is to get the cows in calf. Certainly the per cow production is climbing across the nation.
As conception seemed harder to achieve, the use of inductions, for early calving, became more and more popular, until farmers woke to the true cost of the whole exercise. CIDRs are the current trend to keep the wider veterinary profession in riches. Both methods enable a less fertile cow to produce a less fertile daughter to get back into the herd.
Culling any cow that is not in calf by a given date can be heart wrenching, as the best producers are loaded onto the truck.
The answer must lie in doing everything correctly. Going back to basics. Calve the cows in very good condition. Feed them well through the ‘transition’ period and on to the mating time. Slip some high energy fibrous feed into the diet if the grass is too lush. Keep Magnesium up to them, and Calcium to initially get the uterus back into shape and then to reduce the draw from the bones of the body. Copper and Selenium must be kept at optimum levels, so too with Iodine. Don’t forget Zinc combined with an amino acid. Lameness must be avoided and quick action must be taken on cows with retained afterbirths. It is so simple!
BUT WHEN ALL THAT IS DONE THE PRODUCTION GOES UP!
Didn’t we say the higher the production the harder it is to get them in calf? Not easy is it? May be farmers and scientists have pursued production too vigorously at the expense of fertility, especially with Holstein\Friesians.
This year the rains came and upset the cows’ production dramatically, with falls of 30% being mentioned. Now the sun has returned, the grass has started to grow and the cows are being fed well for their LOWER levels of production…. and locally the cows seem to be cycling well.
Those dark foreboding clouds of early October obviously had a wee bit of silver lining.