Latest industry performance trends and their implications
In seasonal dairy herds, mating is the one chance we get each year to advance our herds’ reproductive performance.
There are financial and herd improvement benefits of lifting herd 6-week in-calf rate and minimising empty rate and the wastage it causes.
We’ve been looking at industry performance over the last 3 years using herds with detailed Fertility Focus Reports® (FFR) in MINDA® and we’d like to update you on the results of the trends analysis.
In 2015 3646 herds of our approximately 8400 FFR-generating herds in MINDA now produced detailed FFRs. At 43%, that’s a sizeable proportion. Although these detailed-FFR herds on average have higher performance than the intermediate-FFR herds, they do reveal some interesting trends.
There’s some good news for the industry and some important areas of opportunity on many farms.
Areas for focus
While the underlying areas of body condition management and heifer growth and management remain important the immediate areas farmers can focus on during the pre-mating period are:
- heat detection,
- dealing proactively with non-cycling/ anoestrous cows (young cows particularly)
- cow health
- mating heifers ahead of the herd to allow them more recovery time once they calve down as first calvers
LIC is promoting:
- pre-mating heat monitoring,
- early management of cows at risk of not being submitted in the first 3 weeks of AB,
- high levels of heat detection efficiency on farm,
- closer monitoring of performance using MINDA, and
- AB length sufficient to generate enough replacements
Farmers and advisors can
- identify the herd risk profile for animals that have historically not submitted during the first 3 weeks of AB using MINDA®
- decide on a plan to help such cows
- make a plan to ensure you generate enough AB replacement calves from cows and yearling heifers to reach your herd improvement goals
How to identify areas for focus
- MINDA records are a useful place to start when identifying who the unsubmitted cows were last year, and a conversation about how to prevent as many of them this year naturally follows
- You can seek advice from your veterinarians around the best options for dealing with non-cyclers
- Cost: benefit calculator tools available to vets are useful for working through the options
- Articles on options for dealing with non-cycling cows are on our websites - www.6weeks.co.nz and the reproduction section in www.lic.co.nz
- Hormonal treatments do not address the underlying causes of prolonged anoestrous, so management changes such as improving body condition at calving should also be investigated2
- Follow up with a long term plan to ensure young stock reach key heifer liveweight targets and body condition targets at calving in cows
Key trends in herds recording in MINDA generating detailed Fertility Focus® reports in 2015
- Total mating length is shortening
This has important implications for empty rates and emphasises the importance of lifting 3- and 6-week in-calf rates. See Figures 1 and 2.
Figure 1. 3 Year Trend Total Mating Length for detailed FFR herds
Figure 2. Estimated expected empty rates by 6-week in-calf rate and mating length
- Not enough cows are being submitted during the early AB period
3-week submission rate of the herd is static, and well below the industry target of 90%. 3-week submission rate offers the biggest and most immediate opportunity for improvement. See Figure 3.
Figure 3. National averages for detailed FFR only
- 3 week calving pattern of first calvers has improved – great news!
See Figure 4. Heifer liveweights recorded in MINDA rose to more than 1.9 million events last season. It appears the industry is focussing more on heifer live weights.
Figure 4. National averages for detailed FFR only
- Faster 2-year-old calving pattern has not yet translated into higher 3-week submission rates of 2-year-olds
See Figures 3 and 4. Management of first calvers is an area farmers should focus on. It’s important to ensure those girls maintain an early calving pattern as second calvers.
- Herd 3 week calving pattern is also improving
Contributing factors to this could include heifers calving faster and more late calving cows being culled. See Figure 5.
Figure 5. National averages detailed FFR only
- Heat detection has room to improve in many herds
The average submission rate of early calved mature cows was 86% against the industry target of 95%. See Figure 3.
Minimising missed heats is likely to be an important area limiting reproductive performance in an estimated 25% of dairy herds according to InCalf research1.
LIC has also noticed a drop off in the proportion of 2- and 3-year-old cows receiving synchrony interventions and in the proportion of interventions used in total. This could be contributing to lower 3 week submission rates.
Low submission rates are of particular concern in herds with historically spread out calving patterns whose owners wish to shorten total mating length.
It is important to get as many cows in calf as early as possible if farmers wish to shorten total mating length without generating excessive numbers of empty cows.
Article prepared by;Key Account and Reproduction Solutions Team, LIC. Sept 2016
1. DairyNZ (2007), The InCalf Book for New Zealand Dairy Farmers, p 150. DairyNZ: Hamilton, New Zealand
2. Rhodes, F. M., McDougall, S., Burke, C. R., Verkerk, G. A., and Macmillan, K. L. (2003). Invited Review: Treatment of Cows with an Extended Postpartum Anestrous Interval. Journal of Dairy Science, 86: 1876-1894.