It won’t be long until Spring is upon us and we hear how there is a grand stretch in the evening, see the daffodils starting to flower and the calving shed filling up. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of actions for dairy farmers to consider in 2023, to help with their herd’s efficiency and profitability.

  1. Join the HerdPlus service
  2. Begin Milk Recording
  3. Genotype Replacement Heifers
  4. Use Gene Ireland Bulls
  5. Heifer Weighing

1. Join HerdPlus

HerdPlus is ICBF’s comprehensive information service designed to aid farmers with their management and breeding decisions to subsequently increase on-farm profit. The ICBF database combines data from many different sources including; Animal Events data, AI data, Carcass data, Genomic data, Milk Recording data, Weight data etc. and compiles it into easy-to-use profiles, reports & applications.HerdPlus is a tool that can benefit everyone no matter what your breeding goals are.

New members can join HerdPlus for €100 (base price) + €0.50c for every dairy cow calved (based on the most recent calving report). For example; A herd that calves down 100 cows will pay €150. €100 + €50 (€0.50c x 100 cows). With this small investment, you can increase your herd’s genetic merit, a result that is cumulative and permanent. Maybe you are already signed up to HerdPlus but feel like you are not maximising the service? Give us a call on 023-8820452 and a member of the HerdPlus team will go through the various aspects of the service to ensure you get value for your money.

Benefits:

  • Access to comprehensive profiles & reports for your herd. These are extremely useful for tracking individual and ovverall herd performance on a variety of KPIs
  • Use the Sire Advice application when selciting bulls to maximise genetic gain in your herd, while also preventing any instances of inbreeding
  • Select your best replacement heifers
  • Create sales catalogues when selling stock
  • Record animal data quickly & easily online or via theHerdPlus App. All data recorded automatically syncs with Farm Software providers who havelinks to the ICBF database.
  • Maximise your herds genetic gain!

2. Start Milk Recording

This year is the year! Milk Recording nationally is growing and herds of all sizes are seeing the benefits. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Milk Recording highlights your best and worst performers in terms of their milk production. This  information combined with EBI is key to making the most profitable breeding decisions for the future. The Milk Recording data feeds directly into our Cow’s Own Worth (C.O.W.) profile which is specifically designed to aid famers with their culling decisions. By not identifying the bottom 20% of the herd you may be preventing genetic gain and reducing your potential profits.

If you are interested in signing up to Milk Recording, please contact your local Milk Recording Organisation.

Munster Bovine: 022-43228

Progressive Genetics: 046-954-1230

Tipperary Co-op: Andrew O’Neill 086-1836505

Benefits:

  • Identify best and worst performing animals in your herd
  • Track the SCC of individual females
  • Gradually reduce herd SCC and increase milk price
  • Make more informed breeding decisions

3. Genotype Replacement Heifers

Genomics is breeding using DNA (Genotype) to help better predict how well an animal will perform in the future. DNA is passed from parents to offspring and is therefore central to breeding. Genotyping has a lot of benefits to herdowners, including parentage verification, increased reliability in their EBI and higher levels of traceability.

Across the national herd, the rates of incorrect sire recording is somewhere between 5 and 10% which means that for every 100 calves born, 10 of them will not be from the sire recorded. Keeping these incorrectly recorded heifers on as replacements can lessen the rate of genetic gain in your herd and hurt your pocket in the long term.

You can begin genotyping your heifers for as little as €22/head through the genomic services in HerdPlus.

Benefits:

  • Parentage verification – breed confidently from your best replacements
  • Genotyping increases reliability% figures even before the animal has produced any offspring
  •  Genotyping ensures that from birth there is full traceability of every meat sample

4. Use Gene Ireland Bulls

Dairy Gene Ireland has been running for several years now with great success. The young bulls are selected by the AI companies and put forward for testing. These young bulls are the future of the Irish dairy herd and participants of the programme have access to the next generation of young bulls much earlier, allowing for a quicker rate of genetic gain in the herd.  Farmers order a number of straws of these genomically selected (GS) young bulls to include with their team of bulls for the breeding season. The data gathered from programme participants provides a great insight into the performance of these young bulls in comparison to a known entity such as daughter proven bulls.

Benefits:

  • Gene Ireland participants see faster rates of genetic gain in their herd
  • Gene Ireland straws come at a discounted rate
  • Shorter gestation, higher sustainability and increased productivity
  • A genotyping discount is available to Gene Ireland users. Uncalved females can be genopted for for €18/head (as opposed to the standard €22/head)

5. Heifer Weighing

Having heifers calve down at the correct weight is vital to a farms profitability. Poor fertility in replacement heifers is often due to heifers being underweight at mating start date (MSD). This can be avoided if weight and weight gain of the heifers is regularly monitored. Research has shown lower survival rates to third lactation and reduced milk yields are the consequences of failing to achieve the target weight-for-age when rearing replacement heifers. By weighing your replacement heifers regularly, you can identify any poor performing replacements and rectify when needed.

HerdPlus have a new Heifer Weight Profile which allows farmers to benchmark their heifer weights based on industry targets for their age. Poorly performing heifers are highlighted in red on the profile allowing farmers to make decisions on time. You can view your heifer weight profile by logging into HerdPlus and going to View Profiles > Heifer weight. 

Benefits:

  • Easily identify poor performing replacements
  • Ensure heifers are of optimum weight at mating start date and calving.
  • Ensure maximum profitability and efficiency in the herd

These are just some of the useful tips that the team in HerdPlus believe would benefit all dairy farmers. To discuss any of the abovementioned, call the HerdPlus office on 023-8820452 or email [email protected]

Happy New Year!