Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Friday 27 April 2018

Fertility issues now in beef herd as well

Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

It was originally a problem for dairy farmers, but cow fertility is now just as big a problem in the beef herd.

This was the stark reality outlined by Teagasc's Donagh Berry, one of the countries top geneticists, at the International Conference on Animal Records in Cork last week.

Dr Berry points out that more than 200,000 of the national suckler herd are carried by farmers every year because they fail to go in calf.

He says that even the best managed systems are suffering in terms of performance.

"Just look at the impact it's had at Derrypatrick," said Dr Berry.

He believes that an over-emphasis on terminal sire traits has had a serious negative effect on key maternal traits such as milk yield, fertility and health.

"Most beef farmers will tell you that milk is a problem on their own farms now."

But Dr Berry believes the fertility, docility and health data being collected through the Suckler Cow Welfare Scheme (SCWS) is providing powerful pointers on the direction that future breeding decisions need to take.

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"The data we're collecting through these schemes is very accurate.

"Beef farmers are able to score suckler cows on milk yield as well as a milking machine."

"It's vital that the beef industry doesn't go blindly chasing conformation and liveweight gains.

"In fact, there is definitely a role for the dairy herd to start providing beef replacements with good fertility and milk yield characteristics. Dr Berry says that it will take longer to fix the problem of infertility in the beef herd compared to the dairy sector due to the lower levels of AI used. "It will take at least five years to make an impact but the science is there to make it happen," he said.

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