Vets report 'serious' mating management problems on dairy farms

Teagasc dairy specialist George Ramsbottom
Teagasc dairy specialist George Ramsbottom

Martin Ryan

Dairy farmers are being advised not to push back the calving season for 2019 by more than a week despite the impact of recent storms and the extended winter.

Vets are reporting "serious problems" on many dairy farms with farmers indicating they plan to delay the breeding season slightly this year.

AI centres confirm that the breeding season has got off to a "slow" start, but they are hoping for a pick-up in demand over the next few weeks.

Aidan Doyle from Summerhill Veterinary Clinic, Nenagh told farmers at North Tipperary IFA Executive that "farmers are going to push back the calving season because they are experiencing serious difficulties this year".

He said that compact calving combined with the late spring has compounded management problems.

"We are encouraging farmers to ensure that their cows are in good condition before starting the mating season. It has been a difficult winter and spring on farms. Some cows are not in the condition score that is recommended," he advised.

Teagasc dairy advisor George Ramsbottom said he would be surprised if farmers were planning to defer calving by more than a few days as this was the most which could be justified.

"Teagasc advice remains that February is the most profitable month to calve spring calving cows.

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Stocking rates

"We'd recommend that cows are calved compactly from early February on dry, free draining farms and from 10-14 days later on heavier wet farms," he said.

"With increased stocking rates prevailing on many farms, there should be renewed emphasis placed on planning for and providing sufficient high quality silage."

Terry Dillon from the Munster Cattle Breeding (AI) centre said the breeding season has got off to "a very slow start" so far.

"Because of the shorter gestation of many bulls now we find that farmers have pushed back the mating date by up to 10 days and peak is now around May Day," he said.

"Pushing back calving dates may be done by some farmers with heifers, but we would generally advise against it, because it is a lot harder to bring calvings forward again if they do push back next year," he said.

Larry Feeney of Progressive Genetics said with shorter gestations, some farmers find cows are now calving earlier than they would like.

He said that some delay in calvings for 2019 "will only be going back to calving closer to where they were" in the past.

John Lynch, Dovea AI representative in the intensive Limerick dairy region, said he definitely feels "the calving date is going to be pushed back" in 2019 because some are finding it very hard to cope.

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