Only 5pc of recorded herds are achieving lactation targets
Cow fertility and longevity are critical components of herd profitability. While reproductive performance has improved in recent years, the average performance on Irish dairy farms remains below the optimum. Currently only 5pc of milk recording herds are achieving the target number of lactations.
The optimum average parity in a stable herd is 4.5 lactations, which equates to an annual replacement rate of 18pc. Expanding herds, with more heifers than normal coming in will have a lower number of lactations per cow. For these herds the average number of lactations per cow culled will give a more appropriate figure.
The reality is that a heifer will take an average of 1.63 lactations before she starts leaving any profit. Any heifer that leaves the herd before this has not fully paid off her rearing costs. National statistics show that 16.5pc of Irish cows do not survive beyond the mid point of their second lactation. At the current milk price, replacement costs is vitally important.
Recent studies in Moorepark show that genetic selection using the EBI will deliver improved performance and profitability under intensive grass based systems. The NGH herd is comparing the national average genetics (EBI of €133) to the top 1pc (EBI €249). The trends after two seasons are clear. The top 1pc are producing more milk solids with 14pc higher six and 12 week in-calf rates.
But excellent genetics will not compensate for poor management and likewise best management practices will not fully compensate for poor genetics.
Most herds can't do anything about genetics until next April. But body condition at calving has a big effect on getting cows back in calf next season.
The benefits are trouble-free calving, improved conception rates, reduced empty rates and increased milk solids production for the coming year. October is the time to focus on the Body Condition Score (BCS) and plans to get cows to the target BCS at calving which is 3.25. There are three main options for managing body condition.
Feed level and quality