New Year, New Me! – 5 things for the dairy farmer to consider in 2019

The New Year brings fitness regimes, dry January and many many resolutions! Sometimes it can be hard to settle back in after a festive season of indulgence. With resolutions in mind, we take a look at 5 things for dairy farmers to consider this year.

Join HerdPlus

HerdPlus is a tool that can benefit everyone no matter what your breeding goals are. The breeding and performance information that herd-owners receive through HerdPlus is information which can be used to:

  • Select your most profitable heifers to keep as replacements
  • Track submission rates, find out your herd’s calving interval and identify what cows should be culled
  • Avoid inbreeding when mating animals; reduce the need for filing with reports easily located online
  • View stock numbers broken down by month and category of animal and create the best matings for your cows
  • Prevent inbreeding and maximize your herd’s genetic gain.

Sign up to Milk Recording

The most obvious benefit of milk recording is that it allows the farmer to track their best and worst producers. This allows the farmer to make management decisions such as; which cows are underperforming and may be suitable to cull or, which cows are producing in your system and are more suitable for breeding replacements. Regular milk recording will also allow the herd owner to keep track of the somatic cell count (SCC) of each cow. This will identify and facilitate the management of repeat offenders and could dramatically decrease your herds overall SCC and improve milk price.

Weigh your maiden heifers ahead of breeding season

One trait that is of particular importance is percentage of heifers calved between 22 and 26 months of age. A key part in achieving two-year calving is having heifers at the correct target weight for breeding (See Table 1). 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.

Genotype your heifers

Genotyping your females provides an array of advantages. These include:

  • Higher reliability EBI figures: Genotyping increases reliability % figures even before the animal has produced any offspring. You will attain more accurate PTA’s for milk, solids and calving interval and a more accurate EBI overall.
  • Parentage verification:  A genotyped animal can have its Sire & Dam confirmed.
  • Breed verification: Genotyping will be able to identify an animal’s breed makeup.
  • Genetic diseases: An animal’s carrier status for a number of diseases and major genes is also possible.

Record Health Events

On-farm recorded data is a vital element of the Irish genetic evaluation process and the creation of the Euro-Star and EBI indexes. Every herd owner in Ireland can act as a data collector for ICBF and in doing so contribute vital information to the database. Recording data may initially seem like extra hassle amongst an already busy schedule of work, but it will undoubtedly prove to be a worthwhile investment in the long term. Comprehensive levels of accurately recorded data being fed into the ICBF database will result in more reliable genetic indexes being achieved in a shorter period of time. You will then be better equipped to make more informed and profitable decisions when choosing stock to breed from as a result of high reliability indexes.