Early breeding results are not good
The weather continues to place stress on spring breeding programmes. Unseasonably low temperatures and cold winds have led to poor grass-growth rates and grazing conditions, in particular on heavy land.
The fact that farmers were still wearing their winter coats at the end of May is perhaps the best barometer of the working environment.
Breeding cows today will result in cows calving in the second week of March next year. It is now essential to ensure you have a full picture of the reproductive status in your herd. Some farmers who believe they are overstocked are willing to cull all empty cows after a shortened breeding programme. But this approach may result in unacceptable levels of culling.
The Food Harvest 2020 vision of a 50pc increase in food production has resulted in an unplanned strategy for increased milk production inside the farm gate. Farmers should base potential for expansion on their ability to maintain herd health with the required financial investment in land, stock, housing and milking facilities.
This past winter has shown the implications of treating silage resources as an inventory cost on the business. The big challenge this year will be to build a 20pc silage reserve in the event of an extended winter.
Many farmers have been forced to graze silage ground which would have been fit in two-to-three weeks. High nitrogen uptake in this grass has resulted in severe milk yield reductions, with cows scouring. This will reduce heat detection and pregnancy rates.
It is essential to continue diet supplementation with concentrates where grass supply on the grazing platform is restricted.
Checks employing USART (ultrasonographic assessment of the reproductive tract) technology are revealing an unacceptable percentage of non-cycling maiden heifers and undetected heats in dairy cows, which is giving a false impression of pregnancy rates to the first service. Remember that embryonic death beyond 25 days of pregnancy may delay the return to heat by nine weeks.