Reproductive well-being of your dairy herd
A critical factor in the financial performance of your dairy herd is how effectively they become pregnant following calving. In the extreme, a cow that does not conceive means no milk next season plus the loss of her genetic potential if she is culled and not carried over.
Cows will usually start cycling around six weeks after calving and for heifers a little longer, hence the recommendation that R2’s are mated one to two weeks ahead of the main herd.
Getting the reproductive system back in shape after calving takes time and it is a process that will be greatly affected by how well the transition management of the herd has been managed and the general health of an individual cow. Their reproductive efficiency is influenced by ketosis (negative feed balance after calving), mastitis, lameness, any general illness (such as pneumonia) as well as uterine infections.
It is for this reason, we are now more aggressive in our treatment recommendations of such conditions, promoting early intervention and in the case of disease management utilising anti-inflammatory drugs in combination with antibiotics.
Putting disease events to one side, feeding of your herd over the three weeks prior to calving, and then the two to three months following, is the single biggest influence for your herd’s reproductive performance. This also encompasses getting the trace element programme correct, with increasing evidence of the need of added levels during this period.
Having the cows at BCS (body condition score) 5 and the heifers at 5.5 at time of calving is crucial and by the time you reach mating, no less than 85% of the herd should be at a BCS of 4 or higher with individuals gaining weight. All easy to write but in practice this is complex and having the help of an adviser or one of our senior dairy team work with you, will be of help.
Acknowledging non-cycling cows and treating these cows will improve your financial performance in the following season. Routinely we see between 5 and 15% of a herd classified as non-cycling at the planned start of mating. This group of cows and heifers will comprise of animals which are cycling but are not displaying heat as well as those that are not ovulating or cycling.
In addition to feeding, the most effective approach is to treat these cows with hormones ten days before the planned start of mating so as to stimulate the reproductive cycle leading to a successful early mating to AI. Ten days after the start of these programmes any cow that has not displayed a natural heat, is artificially inseminated.
This season, in combination with Tararua Breeding Centre and Samen, we are offering high density fresh semen for inseminating these cattle with the expectation that this will further improve conception rates and maximise their opportunity to become pregnant.
For further information on this service and the treatment of anoestrus cows, please contact one of our senior dairy veterinarians.