Further fertility improvements in the National Dairy Herd

Following last week’s release of the HerdPlus® Dairy Calving reports, ICBF can report further improvement has taken place in the fertility performance of the national dairy herd,with the average calving interval having improved by 3 days from 397 days in 2012 to 394 days in 2013 (See graph above).

Similar trends are apparent for other important fertility parameters such as the six-week calving rate, which has seen a 3% improvement to 58% (See Table 1 below). These improvements are significant and bode well for the future profitability of our national dairy herd. The statistics are based on data from 13,750 herds and 1.07 million cows that were on these farms on 30th June 2013.

The positive trends we are seeing today are a direct result of the focus the industry has made on fertility, with most of the AI bulls on the ICBF Active Bull List now having a high percentage of their EBI coming from fertility. High EBI bulls with a high fertility sub-index have been used extensively across the country over the last five or six years and empty cows with low EBI have been replaced with high EBI replacements.

While these trends are positive, we are still considerably off the targets identified by Teagasc as being required to ensure a profitable dairy industry by 2020. For example, the average calving interval of 394 days compared to an industry target of 365 days. Similarly, the six-week calving rate is at 58% 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.

Dairy_Calving_Stats_2013Table 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%).

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 59%, 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.

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

If you are interested in weighing your replacements, please contact HerdPlus® on 1850 600900.

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