April 2011: Fertility targets and achievements – report from (closed group) meeting

A DAIRY monitor farm discussion group meeting (for 11 members of the closed group) was hosted by Andy Goodwin of Dale Farms at Congleton Farm, who are mostly spring block calving dairy farmers.

20110647 -1Farm vet Ed Hayes of Wright and Morten Vets and XL Vets discussed with the group the targets each set and the varying factors that may make a positive impact on their forthcoming service period.

Monitor farmer Phil Asbury explained to the group Clive Hall’s fertility targets for after the 12 week service block: empty rate 9% at 12 weeks (9wks AI/ 3 wks sweeper bull ), this was discussed within the group in comparison to their set targets.

He said that this year the cows started bulling from late March, and that the target was to have 80% of the tail paint rubbed off by the end of April, with the remaining 20% of cows obviously having not expressed heat.

Phil stated that he would focus on those 20% of cows at this point to improve the chance of cycling, for example having Ed check their reproductive tracts with an ultrasound scanner, diet, grass/nutrition and consider a small group of problem cows being milked once per day.

The 12 week service period at Clive Hall, started on 2nd May.

20110651-1Other topics discussed included: heat detection and non-cycling cows, AI technique, disease at calving, method of checking cows for dirty / disease after calving, retained cleansings, importance of easy calving, assessment of non-cycling cows before the service period begins and fertility of bulls.

Ed went on to ask the group, “What are the key factors that will make a difference on fertility rates?” which included the following:

• Minimise disease at calving – national average for disease in UK herds.
o Retained cleansings – 5%
o Milk fever – 5%
- Effective dry cow management

• Calf statistics-national average
o Twins – 3%
o Dead calves – 7%
o Assisted calving – 5%
- Appropriate bull selection
- Identification of calving difficulty

• Identify calving disease promptly and treat effectively, including metritis and whites. Sick animals means lost milk and a poor return to ovarian cyclicity
o Identify affected animals and treat aggressively – tail tape colours to aid identification of uterine disease status
o Sign off cows as clean

• Identify non-cycling cows and attempt to improve submission
o Tail paint before PSM (planned start of mating)
o High risk cows may be in once a day group
o Hormonal intervention following Ed examining cows not seen bulling just before PSM and those cows not served by 3 weeks after PSM.

• Accurate heat detection goes on for expressing heat
o Caution of false heats/missed heats

• High standard of AI technique imperative
o Refresher courses are recommended
o Temperature of the straw should be stable
o Number of straws and thawing time should be taken into consideration
o Thawing technique

• Fertile Bulls- an annual bull breeding soundness exam by a vet is essential
o Scrotal circumference
o Microscopic examination of the semen
o Any physical abnormalities, including lameness
o Number of bulls required

• Set fertility targets and review anually
Submission rate first 24 days of service period 90%
o Conception rate 50%
o Cows bulling before PSM -80%
o Numbers pregnant in 3 week blocks
- Week 3- 45%
- Week 6 -68%
- Week 9 -91%
- Week 12-90%
- Empty rate should be less than 10%

• Good grazing essential

April’s meeting report: Grazing management

FOURTEEN farmers attended a discussion meeting held at Clive Hall to discuss the management system in use by Fletcher & Co.

The focus of the evening meeting was grazing management at Clive Hall, which is the key to success to the group of farms. Monitor Farmer Phil Asbury and Geoff Booth (operations manager Fletcher & Co) led the group on a farm walk across number of fields to discuss the performance and challenges of each, including Clive Hall’s reseeding policy.

Phil and Geoff updated the group on Clive Hall’s challenges for 2011 and other targets and achievements with the aim of increasing margin per litre using the lean system of management, monitoring key performance indicators.

Challenges for 2011

1. To lift pre grazing height in order to:

A. Grow more grass (without impacting quality)

B. Increase grazing round length (normally a 18-22 day circulation rate) when shortfalls are predicted (particularly due to current climatic conditions), therefore reducing the need to feed silage/meal at high expense

2. Replace 100 tonnes DM shortfall (due to current drought) as economically as possible

Targets and Achievements for Clive Hall

1. Calves reared on site up to weaning at 90 kg

2. Replacements to arrive first week of January

3. 45% heifers reared (v 55% bull calves)

4. Empty rate 9% at 10 weeks (9wks AI/ 3 wks sweeper bull ) (Empty rate last year 9% at 12 weeks (9wks AI/ 3 wks sweeper bull ))

5. Cull rate 16% half barrens half in calf May/June (sold as in-calf cows) this is also 2011 target

6. Milk yield; 5200 litres – 2011 target; 5600 litres

7. Grass production; 13.25 tons DM / hectar

8. Grass grazed; 11.5 tons DM / hectare

9. 500 kg wheat feed/dairy concentrates/ cow

10. 4 pence /litre labour charge

Concluding the evening meeting, Phil Asbury stated ‘in order to meet 2011 targets and challenges it is important to maintain the high standards we have already set at Clive Hall. In addition we would like to meet our ‘empty rate’ target so that we can cull the lower achieving cows.

If this objective is met, 5% of the lowest achieving cows will be replaced therefore helping us to meet the milk yield target’. Phil also concluded ‘Although we are on target for grass growth, by looking closer at nutrient management planning and our reseeding policy, this will help reduce the annual forage shortfall’.

Future Events
1. Open Beef and Sheep Monitor Farm Discussion group meeting 24th May 2011- Langford Farm.
Link to more information

2. Open Dairy Monitor Farm Discussion Group; 14th June, venue Clive Hall.
Link to more information