Farm Ireland

Thursday 18 January 2018

Key steps to ensuring a successful breeding season on your farm in '13

The calving season is barely finished, but already farmers will be turning their thoughts to the upcoming breeding season. Here are some tips from Teagasc's dairy researcher, Brendan Horan.

Preparing for the breeding season

Get the diet right:

• Keep an average farm cover of 180kg grass drymatter per cow in the lead up to breeding.

• Allocate 16-18kg drymatter per cow per day and graze down to 3.5-4cm to meet the animal's dietary requirements.

• Necessary minerals should be supplied through meals, water, as drenches and boluses, or as a pasture dust.

Measure body condition score (BCS) a month beforehand:

• Target a BCS of 2.9 for cows at mating.

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• The average BCS loss in the six weeks after calving should not be more than 0.75.

• Very thin cows should be put on once-a-day milking in the month before breeding and kept on the regime until they are pregnant.

Set growth targets for young stock:

• Weigh young stock regularly.

• Heifers should be at 60pc of mature weight at mating.

• Breed heifers one week before the main herd to extremely easy calving sires (preferably jersey) to facilitate fast recovery post-calving.

Excellent cow health:

• Use calving records to identify and check problem cows.

• Ensure cow roadways are repaired to avoid lameness.

• All vaccinations should be completed one month before breeding.

Pre-mating heat detection:

• Tail paint every cow twice a week in the month before breeding and record all bulling activity.

• Examine and treat cows that have not been seen in heat before starting.

Brush up:

• Do a refresher DIY AI course.

• Review the main signs of oestrous.

• Use the am/pm rule to inseminate the herd.

During the Breeding Season

Heat detection:

• Step it up during the breeding season. Three 20-minute periods every day at times when cows are generally inactive, such as two hours after the morning milking, early in the afternoon, and two hours after the evening milking.

• Use multiple colours of tail paint to aid detection on cows and top up regularly.

• Scratch cards are a good option on heifers.

• Use a team of bulls with an average EBI of at least €250 and with a minimum fertility index of €125.

Natural mating:

• 8-12 weeks after the start of the AI season, bring in the bull.

• Make sure he's in good condition and has reached the correct bodyweight for his breed and age.

• Monitor bulls carefully for signs of body condition loss, lameness or lethargy.

• Purchased bulls should be sourced from clean herds at least two months in advance of breeding.

• They should be screened for infectious diseases and vaccinated with the same programme as the rest of the herd.

• The breeding season should last no longer than 12-13 weeks.

Irish Independent