Following the recent release of the HerdPlus Dairy Calving reports, ICBF can report steady improvement in the fertility performance of the national dairy herd. The average calving interval increased by 1 day from 387 days in 2020, to 388 days in 2021 (See graph below). While this figure is disappointing year over year, the overall trend remains largely positive when we look at this figure over the last 10 years.

Graph 1.

Another important fertility parameter six-week calving rate continues to show improvement. It has increased from 65% to 67%. In addition, during the 2021 period there was 0.93 calves/cow/year, this is up from 0.91 in 2020. The National Statistics are based on data from 14,234 herds.

The data shows, we are still a considerable way off the targets identified by Teagasc as being required to ensure a profitable dairy industry.

The average calving interval is 388 days compared to an industry target of 365 days. Similarly, the six-week calving rate is at 67% compared to an industry target of 90%. Therefore, it’s important that we continue to focus on high EBI bulls with a high fertility sub-index in order to achieve these targets.

Table 1.

Table 1 shows a summary of the fertility performance for the average, the top 10% and bottom 10% 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 10%) for each of the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), to those that are achieving below average performance (Bottom 10%). A full listing of all the dairy statistics can be found by clicking here.

One trait of particular note is the percentage of heifers calved between 22 and 26 months of age. Average performance for this KPI is at 74%, with a number of herds achieving 100% (top 10%), but a similar number achieving only 13% (bottom 10%).

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.