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Following last week’s release of the HerdPlus® Dairy Calving reports, ICBF can report a small slippage in the fertility performance of the national dairy herd. The average calving interval increasing by 2 days from 394 days in 2013, to 396 days in 2014 (See graph above).
Similar trends are apparent for other important fertility parameters such as the six-week calving rate, which has seen a 2% decrease to 56% (See Table 1 below). Given the extremely poor weather conditions in the Spring of 2013, these figures are somewhat unsurprising. The National Statistics are based on data from 13,793 herds and 1.11 million cows that were on these farms on 30th June 2014.

These figures indicate that we are still a considerable way off the targets identified by Teagasc as being required to ensure a profitable dairy industry by 2020. For example, the average calving interval of 396 days compared to an industry target of 365 days. Similarly, the six-week calving rate is at 56% compared to an industry target of 70%. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to focus on high EBI bulls with a high fertility sub-index.

UntitledTable 1 shows a summary of the fertility performance for the average, the top 5% and bottom 5% of herds based on data from the latest HerdPlus® Dairy Calving reports. The trends indicate large variation between herds that are achieving exceptional fertility performance (Top 5%) for each of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), to those that are achieving below average performance (Bottom 5%). A full listing of all the dairy statistics can be found on the ICBF Statistics page.

One trait of particular note is the percentage of heifers calved between 22 and 26 months of age. Average performance for this KPI is only 55%, with a number of herds achieving 100% (top 5%), but a similar number achieving 0% (bottom 5%). A key part in achieving two-year calving is having heifers at the correct target weight for breeding (See Table 2). ICBF strongly encourage farmers to weigh their replacement heifers. Heifers that are below target can be identified and corrective action taken. Underweight replacements should be grouped together and fed 1-2kg meal so they achieve the target breeding weight.

Table 2: Target weights for pure bred and crossbred Replacement Heifers at different stages during the 24 month rearing period.