Compact calving is still as vital as ever in the post-quota era quota
Published 15/04/2015 | 02:30
Some farmers are questioning the importance of compact calving and the six-week calving rate now that quotas will no longer be an issue.
But calving compactly has never been more important. Increased milk price volatility makes it even more critical that we maximise grazed grass in the diet. The change in growth rate over the last week shows how essential it is to have most of the herd at peak intake in order to take advantage of grazed grass from April on.
Occasionally farmers will quote the increased workload associated with calving half the herd in two to three weeks as being a negative of calving compactly. This is less of an issue where there are no herd health problems such as difficult calvings, mastitis or milk fever around calving time. The other factor is your calf rearing set up. Would small changes here make you more labour efficient during the calving season?
There are significant costs associated with poor fertility in grass-based dairy herds. These costs are magnified within an industry that has the potential to expand. A study by Teagasc and ICBF in 2014 used a model to simulate the overall economic effects of fertility at farm level.
The study quantified the economic effect of a number of key variables associated with reproductive inefficiency in a dairy herd and related them to a six-week calving rate for both cows and heifers. The variables used were increased culling costs, effects of sub optimum calving dates, increased AI and intervention costs and increased labour costs.
The effect of a change in each of the components was simulated in the model and the costs associated with each component were quantified. This was based on a milk price of 29.5c/l.
National data from ICBF was analysed over a four-year period. This was used to quantify the relationship between the six-week calving rate of a herd with survivability (percentage), calving interval (days) and the level of AI usage.
The overall objective was to create one single variable that explained the costs associated with infertility within a dairy herd. Each 1pc change in the six-week calving rate was associated with €8.22/cow/yr in the herd. Essentially improving the six-week calving rate from 65pc to 80pc is worth over €9,000 per year for an 80-cow herd.