Farm Ireland

Sunday 19 August 2018

Breeding problems ahead for 'thin' cows

Fodder crisis may have another costly knock-on effect as vets warn of fertility troubles

Good body condition score was vital ahead of breeding. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Good body condition score was vital ahead of breeding. Picture Credit:Frank McGrath
Glanbia's chief executive Jim Bergin
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

Concerns are being raised over the fast-approaching breeding season as farmers continue to deal with the fallout from the weather woes.

Farmers will be counting the costs of mounting feed and forage bills for months to come as they finally get a reprieve with a marked pick-up in grass growth over the past week.

However, vets and AI technicians looking towards the breeding season for cow herds have warned there may be a costly knock-on impact.

Glanbia Ireland's Jim Bergin said he had concerns as lower proteins in recent weeks were indicators of condition.

"In actual fact, it is next year that that will come through; it is not just a one year thing," said Mr Bergin.

"We would have concern with the calving date next year," he added. "It is very hard to say that you'll have compact calving next year."

Tipperary-based vet Eamon O'Connell said that in some cases cows were "thin", and that a good body condition score was vital ahead of breeding.

"We are expecting a lot of repeats from the first service. It will affect compact calving; there will be more empty cows and later calving," he said.

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Teagasc advisor George Ramsbottom said delayed turnout on farms across the country would have a knock-on effect on fertility.

"Where cow condition is poor, I would recommend they go on once a day until they are bred. Improving BCS will result in an improvement in fertility," he said.

Grass growth has picked up strongly across the country, with 41kg DM/ha/day recorded in the south and 39kg DM/ha/day in the west.

Fodder stocks

Mr Bergin said that Glanbia was carefully monitoring fodder stocks and it was unlikely it would be importing much more.

However, he said supplementary feeding was likely to continue for the coming weeks as grass growth gets back on track.

"The emergency is probably over but the recovery is only starting," he added.

In the west, Aurivo stated demand had decreased and they had no more imports planned. Teagasc, meanwhile, confirmed that calls over fodder shortages had slowed, and its register of those in need now almost matched the volumes of fodder on offer.

However, Teagasc's Siobhan Kavanagh pointed out that while rising soil temperatures had aided the grass growth, there were still difficulties for those on heavier ground. She said those with particularly sodden land in parts of Kerry, west Cork, Mayo, Sligo and Limerick were still being affected as they try to get stock out.

Dairy feed sales are continuing at record levels, with mills running 24/7 and merchants throughout the country reporting sales upwards of 30pc.

Kerry Group said the situation had improved, but in certain "pockets" there was still a need for additional fodder. It continued to import large bale maize and grass silage from Britain over the weekend.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," a spokesman said.

Kerry Group reported last week that milk supplies were back by around 9-11pc in recent weeks, with year-to-date supplies down 3pc overall.

Dairy processors are moving to revise downwards milk pool forecasts for the year, after many regions saw collections reduce in recent weeks.

Glanbia said they now expected 3pc growth in collections this year, compared with an original projected growth of 8pc.

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