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Scanning shows lower than normal conception rates

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Eamon O'Connell

Eamon O'Connell

Picture Credit:Brian Gavin Press

Eamon O'Connell

Lower than normal conception rates in dairy herds are being blamed on high milk yields off grass this spring.

While results of scanning to date have varied, a trend is emerging of lower conception rates among cows inseminated early in the breeding season. 

Dan Ryan of Reprodoc said that results show an empty-cow rate of 14pc in what he described as "high-input, high-output" dairy herds.  However, he said a similar trend was not evident in low-input herds, with the empty rates at around 8pc.

Nenagh-based vet Eamon O'Connell maintained that scanning identified a definite drop in conception rates to first service. While the target conception rate to first service is generally around 65-70pc, Mr O'Connell said many herds this year are "sub-60pc". 

Mr O'Connell said the bulk of these cows were picked up on the next cycle, with overall conception rates at 88-90pc. Both Mr Ryan and Mr O'Connell cited the strong grass growth and high milk yields recorded this May as contributors to this year's poorer than normal breeding  performance. Mr Ryan pointed out that the twinning rate in cows increased at times of high milk yield. 

However, the risk of early embryo death is also far higher with twins, he explained.  Mr O'Connell maintained that reduced meal feeding this spring due to strong grass supplies added to the fall-off in conception rates. The difficulties in managing bigger numbers of cows have also contributed to the slide in breeding performance, according to Sean Ramsbottom from Timahoe.

Mr Ramsbottom said his scanning results to date indicated a conception of 88-89pc. This is back slightly on 2018. "Farmers are struggling with the big numbers. Skilled labour and good herdsmen are very hard to come by," he said.

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