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Improving Fertility in the Dairy Herd

Fertility improvements will drive productivity and reduce the farm carbon footprint, writes  SAC Consulting’s Dairy Consultant Lorna McPherson.

Every day added to a cow’s calving interval, postpones her next lactation and is replaced by an extra day at the end of her current lactation when the yield is lower.  More milk per cow means less methane per litre.

The age of first calving can have a big influence on the carbon footprint of a farm.  Heifers calving at two years tend to be more productive, with better fertility and produce more milk over their lifetime than older calving heifers.  They also tend to have a longer lifespan in the herd and there is a faster rate of genetic improvement in the herd, with lower rearing costs and quicker payback.

Getting cows back into calf

Getting cows back in calf is highly dependent on heat detection rates;  these are easier to improve than conception rates.  A number of fertility aids can be employed to help improve heat detection, although heat detection aids are not a replacement for visual observation and a combination of the two will give the best results. Make sure all staff are trained in heat detection, know the key behavioural signs, and record all heat events appropriately.  In some cases, the use of synchronisation protocols with fixed-time artificial insemination may be an option and eliminate the need for heat detection.  You can read more in our ’Improving fertility in the dairy herd’ practical guide on our ‘Optimising Livestock Performance’ pages here.