Farm Ireland

Sunday 17 December 2017

'I had to train my eye in for body condition scoring'

Munster Cattle Breeding Group technician Sean Cunningham (left) and Dermot O'Connor
Munster Cattle Breeding Group technician Sean Cunningham (left) and Dermot O'Connor

Having being depopulated with TB in 2015, Dermot O'Connor assembled a new herd in spring of 2016. The new 154 cow herd consisted of 100 first and second calvers and Dermot wanted this young herd to get off to the best start possible and in particular he decided to focus on body condition score.

Dermot signed up for the service offered by the Munster Cattle Breeding Group whereby they provide a technician to metri-check and body condition score (BCS) all cows in the spring and to repeat the BCS in the autumn. After each visit, Munster AI's vet, Doreen Corridan, provides an intensive one to one consultation based on the findings.

When I asked Dermot why he opted to go the technician route, he answered: "It was for two reasons - one, I was extremely busy this spring and I felt it was an extra pair of helping hands and two, I felt I needed to train my eye in to body condition scoring". Munster technician, Sean Cunningham, carried out the first visit in early April. 10 cows were identified as requiring a washout and a further 28 cows were below a body condition score of 3.0 and were put on once a day milking.

In 2015, 80pc of Dermot's cows were submitted for AI in the first 3 weeks of the breeding season and in 2016 this improved to 90pc. When Dermot scanned the herd two weeks ago, only 12 cows out of the 154 (8pc) were confirmed empty. Cows are currently milking 17litres with 4.33pc fat and 3.71pc protein (1.41kgs milk solids/cow) and are getting 1kg meal. 400kgs of meal have been fed per cow to date.

The next BCS is due to happen in early October and at this stage, it is Dermot's intention is to dry off any cows with a score less than 3.0 at that point. However, any thin March/April calvers will be milked on, but only once a day. Silage hasn't been tested yet, but Dermot is confident that it should be around 70pc DMD and that he will not need to feed meal over the dry period. He will instead depend on extending the dry cow period and on once a day milking to correct any condition score issues.

Dermot incurred an extra cost by employing a technician, to condition score the cows, but by increasing his submission rate by 10pc he has made a huge return in this investment.

More importantly, he has learned how to Body Condition Score cows correctly.

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