Farm Ireland
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Friday 17 August 2018

Fine weather has boosted dairy herd submission rates to 80pc plus

Dairy cows in lush pasture with blue ocean in background
Dairy cows in lush pasture with blue ocean in background
Cookbook Author Roz Purcell on the Quality Kitchen Stage at Bord Bia's stand at the Bloom Festival in Phoenix Park where 20 show gardens, 13 postcard gardens and 200 retail stands were on display. Photo: Fennell Photography
Mary Kingston

Mary Kingston

For a number of years silage time seems to have coincided with erratic weather patterns which has made the first cut a 'snatch and grab' operation.

It's hard to believe given the spring we've put down, that we're now blessed with sunshine, heat and consecutive days of dry weather.

It's certainly good for the soul as most farmers came into May rather downbeat and worn out

On the breeding front, a few herds seemed to have a slow start, with submission rates somewhat lower in the first week.

Yet once fine weather came so did good strong heats and while submission rates to 21 days have varied substantially between herds, most managed to surpass 80pc mark with a number doing in excess of 90pc.

With potentially only a week or so left for those doing six weeks AI, the opportunity to put the bulls in signals the chance to truly kick off the wellies and take the potential opportunity for a well-earned break.

Bearing this in mind, and to ensure good in-calf rates during the natural mating period, it's imperative that when AI is ceased that enough bulls are put in with the cows.

To calculate the number of bulls that you need to run with your herd depends on estimated number of non-pregnant cows you will have at the end of the AI period.

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At least one bull is required for every 30 non-pregnant cows in the paddock, with additional bulls required to allow for regular bull rotations and to replace bulls that become inactive or unhealthy e.g. lame.

Your estimated bull number is calculated using your three-week submission rate, an estimated conception rate and the number weeks that AI has been used for.

The table shows estimates of the required number of bulls to be in the paddock with the cows of varying herd size, submission rate and AI period assuming a conception rate of 50pc.

Always round numbers up to the next whole number e.g. 1.4 requires two bulls. Also a 'half resting, half working' bull rotation policy will require double the number of bulls shown in the table.

For example if you have 100 cows and had a submission rate of 82pc, after six weeks of AI, ideally you would require a rotation of three bulls to run with the cows (1.2 x 2), with two bulls in the paddock at all times.

An absolute minimum would be to have two bulls. If you haven't enough bulls consider the use of AI for longer.

While I pray this weather continues at home, I know that there will others that are wishing for some rain.

When you're farming, it's easy to think that we're all facing the same conditions but in reality on-farm situations are extremely varied.

It's hard to believe the extremes, when comparing places on wet farms where a tractor would still get stuck to the ability to drive a full articulated trailer of silage over other ground.

Either way, it seems at this stage that most are flush with grass as the grass plant seems in a fury to go to seed.

Regular weekly grass walks are essential to maintain grass quality especially when grass growth exceeds 100kg DM/ha as it has on many farms - where even a once-a-week inspection isn't enough.

Taking out surpluses in the form of grass bales is generally the order of the day. Others have initiated pre-mowing and in places topping, though given that silage stocks were on their knees it seems a waste of grass and fuel.

It also begs the question of whether to be more aggressive with the removal of surpluses through bales.

Reseeding is another option to manage pasture given the limited opportunity in spring.

However, if you've a dry farm and you're wishing for rain you need to be realistic about the possibility of even drier conditions and the increasing risks this poses of a reseed failure.

Considering the rainfall to date I'd speculate that there is a possibility of a drier summer than in previous years as often rainfall totals may line-up with the law of averages, but when it comes to the weather who knows really what the year will hold?

Mary Kinston is a discussion group facilitator and consultant, and farms with her husband in Co Kerry

Indo Farming

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