By the time you read this newsletter, spring calving will be well under way – for some of you perhaps already over! I appreciate there are a hundred and one tasks to carry out following calving, from ear tagging to turnout. But to ensure a smooth service period, resulting in an improved calving next year, here are some top tips.
1. Select cows carefully: previous articles have detailed effective culling decisions. Remember to consider the welfare implications for putting some cows (e.g. chronically lame) back to bull and the cost of getting a cow “right” again. Check records for disease status and previous reproductive/calving performance.
2. Assess body condition: thin cows will need extra help through peak lactation. Pre-calving nutrition has the biggest impact on post-calving fertility; however a rising plane of nutrition after calving to improve BCS and body fat will promote earlier ovulation. Now is the time to assess the trace element status of the herd with some blood samples, as correcting deficiencies through bolusing etc must be done in a timely manner for good results during service. Take time to assess grass availability and any fields that underperformed last grazing season.
3. Manage heifer service: calving heifers at two years old rather than three can double your margin per hectare. Conception earlier in the service window increases calf weaning weights, as well as future conception rates and earlier calving. Heifers should be served at 65% of mature weight, once they have received their vaccines and are in good body condition. Now is the time to discuss synchronisation programs and AI with your vet, as well as reproductive tract scoring and pelvic measurement to ensure you are selecting the best heifers to enter the herd..
4. Assess the bull: even proven bulls can go wrong, as we sometimes discover (too late!) at PD sessions. A timely breeding soundness examination by a vet could pay dividends for the herd. A focus on improving your herd’s genetics by monitoring reproduction, calving ease and calf weaning weight can influence bull choice.
5. Pay attention to foot health: the prevalence and impact of lameness is often underestimated in suckler herds. It will cause reduced fertility and milk yields, resulting in fewer, smaller calves at weaning. Foot trimming, or at least a rigorous lameness assessment of the herd (with a rigorous culling policy for lame cows) by a Vet Tech will improve production, even if lame cows seem to get in calf each year.
6. Control infectious disease: some routine bloods before service can prevent a disaster at the hands of BVD or IBR later on. Make sure all vaccines are up to date including any bought-in stock. Most important is checking everything has BVD protection before it gets in calf.
7. Control liver fluke: chronic fluke will limit body condition and cause increased risk of problems at calving time. These all have a knock-on effect on start of ovulation and conception at service.
Team beef are keen to discuss ways that you can fine tune your enterprise and improve the profitability and sustainability of your herd. The beef advisory package is a great way to utilise your vet in the most cost effective way. Speak to your vet to find out more.
Tom Warboys – Synergy Farm Health, Veterinary Surgeon BVetMed PGDipVCP MRCVS