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Maximise income with better calving ratios


Experience: Jamie Costin addressing the seminar.

Experience: Jamie Costin addressing the seminar.

Experience: Jamie Costin addressing the seminar.

Improving the calving pattern and reducing the percentage of the herd not in-calf can add €5,750 to the annual profit on a 100 cow herd.

This was one of the key messages from Linda O'Neill at the Positive Farmer's Conference last week.

She urged delegates to concentrate on a six week in-calf rate for 90pc of the herd, by improving body condition, heat detection, and bull strength and fertility where natural mating is practiced.

Ms O'Neill managed the transition at Mount Melleray dairy farm in Cappoquin, Waterford from a high-cost, year-round calving system to a medium-cost, medium-output business.


She now works as a consultant with New Zealand semen distributor, Livestock Improvement Corporation.(LIC).

She told the conference that a 10pc improvement in the six-week in-calf rate could be worth €2,500 in a 100 cow herd, along with a further €3,250 from a 5pc reduction in the empty rate of the herd.

Ms O'Neill added that cows that have a difficult calving or incorrect body score were more difficult to get back in-calf within the six week target.

She recommended running one bull for every 25 cows - in some cases every 15 cows - and always ensuring that the bulls are fertile by having the semen tested.

Former Olympic and World Championship athlete, Jamie Costin, said that when he returned to full-time farming at Ring, Co Waterford in 2012, the home farm was considerably less profitable compared to other farmers in his local Deise discussion group.

"We identified that the six-week calving rate of our herd was the one area where we were consistently behind the group on every year's figures.

"The rolling average of our herd from 2007 to 2011 was 46pc in six weeks.

"We have managed to bring this up to 75pc in 2014, which is still less than the average figure for our discussion group.

"Based on scanning the six week calving rate for this spring should be 85pc," he said.


He said he found the expertise to achieve his target within the discussion group.

"There was no single cure all, no simple panacea for fertility issues. We researched what the best farmers around us were doing.

"Then we simply copied what we felt were their most effective management practices that were missing on our own farm," he said.

The measures included: once-a-day milking for six weeks after calving to stop the huge drop in body score; using boluses on animals due for breeding; tail painting; more frequent observation for heat detection, and changing from DIY to a professional technician for AI.

Indo Farming