Thursday 25 December 2014

Wet summer impacted on our pregnancy rates

Published 19/09/2012 | 06:00

This year, we have undoubtedly been at the behest of the Irish climate. However, the sunshine and warm temperatures during the early part of September provided some respite for Derrypatrick and it is clear that another warm, dry spell will prove beneficial.

The fine weather was also a blessing for the Derrypatrick open day last Thursday.

There was clear empathy with the performance at pasture for this year. I think farmers were relieved to see any hardship endured during the year was not within the confines of their own farm.

As with every open day, the amazement at the performance of the finishing bulls on such a relatively simple mix (87pc rolled barley, 6pc soya, 6pc molasses and 1pc minerals) was also evident.

It is, however, somewhat frustrating that farmers fail to realise the power of grazed grass and the potential which it has to drive a farm system. Although grassland management may strike some farmers as difficult to grasp, our ability to harness this low cost feed will prove beneficial in terms of performance.

The more grass we can grow, the more stock we can have, and therefore the more output the system will deliver.

Second cut silage was harvested on September 5, which was 36 days later than usual.

A combination of poor ground conditions and poor growth hampered our ability to harvest prior to this date.

Ground conditions have improved considerably, allowing us to finally graze out paddocks efficiently. Grass growth is estimated to be 32kg of DM ha-1 for this week. Our feed demand is currently estimated to be 31kg DM ha-1. In essence, this is not sufficient for the long-term autumn grazing plan and may lead to a shortfall in grass supply for our last few rotations.

We may, however, see a flourish of growth for the last few weeks of September and hopefully into early October. We will, however, reduce overall feed demand by housing the replacement heifers (feeding silage) and push down post grazing heights where possible.

Pregnancy scanning in late August revealed an overall conception rate of 82pc for 2012 (a decrease of 8pc for last year).

The breakdown across the breeds clearly indicates that our control cow (Limousin x Holstein Friesian), in an extreme year, is performing ahead of the other three breed types (see Table 1).

In terms of the ranking for this year, Limousin x Simmental was relatively on par with 86pc in-calf and both Charolais breeds in last place.

In terms of the ranking for this year, Limousin x Simmental was intermediate at 86pc in-calf, with both Charolais breeds a joint fourth.

It should also be noted, however, that we have pulled forward our mean calving date by an estimated two weeks for 2013 (28/02/13).

This will allow us to turn out earlier and to have a more compact calving pattern.

We also observed during scanning that the wet June and July this year had an impact on the breeding season. Approximately 10pc of all females scanned in-calf were estimated to be conceived during this period. This is further testament to the freak circumstances observed this summer.

It is also apparent that the Limousin x Holstein Friesian breed has the lowest body condition score at all times of the year (post calving, May and August), yet this breed has the highest in-calf rate for 2012

The lower body condition score recorded for Limousin x Holstein Friesian is a reflection on her calf performance, which is evident from the calf average daily gain.

Currently, the difference in calf average daily gain stands at an impressive 0.24kg/day (Limousin x Holstein Friesian vs Charolais x Limousin). Calf average daily gain, for all the breeds, has decreased when compared to last year.

All four breed types are back on average by approximately 0.06kg/day. The same trend across the breeds, however, is still apparent, with milk being a clear driver in output.

Finally, I would like to thank all those staff involved with the organisation of the open day.

A sincere thank you to all staff at Grange, Teagasc advisory staff, beef specialists, researchers and everyone who attended the day.

Denis Minogue is a beef specialist at Teagasc Grange and has responsibility for the Derrypatrick Herd. Email: denis.minogue@teagasc.ie

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