Restricted suckling, easy-calving sires, optimum health and correct BCS (body condition score) are among four key areas to maximise cow fertility among herds.
That is according to Brendan Caslin, who previously discussed the topic during Teagasc Sligo Leitrim Donegal’s webinar on cattle breeding: bull safety and fertility.
Restrict to twice daily suckling
He suggested that farmers could restrict early-spring and autumn-calving cows to twice daily suckling, morning and evening.
Caslin explained that “this breaks the bond between the cow and the calf, brings forward heat in cows, and it leaves calf a lot more docile as they are used to being handled”.
“The same applies for younger calves that do not go out, as they are, for example, in a straw-bedded creep area, where you can let them into cows twice a day.”
“The other advantage of that you should be able to see with ease, calves are sick or have a temperature if they do not suckle.”
“The cow should go out and suck its own dam, so you can also see the bully calf that is trying to rob milk from every other cow, and you can make sure they all get their fair share.”
He also advised farmers to avoid using what he branded as “very hard” calving bulls on their herds.
He added that with easier calving bulls, generally, cows tend to ‘clean’ (pass the placenta) quicker and return to heat faster.
Caslin stressed that another key component is administering health vaccinations at correct periods.
He stressed that farmers should work alongside their own veterinary practitioner to construct a herd health plan that is specifically tailored for their enterprise.
“For example, administering a BVD booster vaccine at least 30 days pre-breeding. What can often happen is that heifers are done, there is no problem at all in that they get two doses 30 days apart, the second shot of which is given at least one month before the start of breeding.”
“But what sometimes happens when the cow comes around afterwards, some farmers may forget to give her the booster.”
“A little trick that I tend to do on my own farm at home is when I am dehorning the calf, I vaccinate its mother with a BVD vaccine.”
“In that way, I know that when the calf is dehorned, the cow is being done at the same time, and I can forget about it,” he remarked.
As a fourth aspect, he then discussed body condition score (BCS), and highlighted that cows/heifers should be on an “upward” plane of nutrition.
He told the webinar that each 0.5 drop in BCS between calving and breeding can result in a 10-15% decline in conception rates.
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