Dan Ryan: Identify cows that aren't fit to breed - and earmark them for culling
This has been an extremely difficult season to date. Grazing conditions and indeed the opportunity for zero grazing have been challenging.
However, those farmers who have maintained supplemental concentrates to avoid a continuity of negative energy balance and, in turn, maintain optimal body condition scores are reaping the rewards of high submission rates and pregnancy rates of close to 50pc to the first AI.
Our experience from whole herd pre-breed scans, using the smart scan technology, has revealed that first lactation cows are losing too much BCS in the first six weeks post calving. These cows are faced with either an anoestrus or a deep anoestrus state when the breeding season begins.
Basically, these cows are not cycling. The use of synchronisation programmes to induce heats in those cows will meet with very poor success as the cows are not fit to be bred.
There is a lesson to be learned here for the future management of our first lactation cows. These animals need to calve down having achieved an optimal weight at calving. The risks associated with competition for both rest areas and feed space have to be avoided.
Considering the costs of introducing these first lactation animals to the herd, it is unquestionably foolish to cull them after their first lactation because of poor first cow transition management.
Late-calving cows have been neglected on many farms. This has resulted in a high incidence of milk fever, ketosis and displaced stomachs.
Pre-breed scans in these cows have revealed a high incidence of post-calving uterine infections. These are not simply rectified by a uterine wash-out. These late calvers will require immediate veterinary attention to give them an opportunity of showing heat and going in calf.