Roland Millar talks to us about suckler herd fertility

Suckler herds in the UK produce on average 87 calves for every 100 cows or heifers put to the bull. Maximising output each year from calves sold relies on minimising calf losses, aiming to wean >94 calves per 100 cows/heifers put to the bull, and maintaining a tight calving block with >65% of cows calving the first three week period. Focus on suckler herd fertility.

Increasing the percentage of calves weaned by just 2% could increase calf sales by more than £1000. The average weight of calves weaned is also increased with more calves born early in the season. A compact calving period has the advantages of reduced labour, less risk of disease spread from older to younger calves, increased weaning weights and more even batches of calves to sell. It also increases the number of heifers that reach a suitable weight for bulling and calving at two years of age.

It is easy to understand these targets and appreciate the added value they can bring. Recording data can allow you to benchmark your herd’s performance year on year and assess areas for improvement in order to maximise the output on your farm. Our new suckler herd health plans incorporate a herd production calculator to look at your herd’s health and fertility figures.

For many of you who are just about to start calving, now is a good chance to begin accurately recording some data as it happens.

Key things to record are:

  • Calving dates
  • Assisted calvings/caesareans
  • No. of calves born (alive & dead)
  • Birth weights (accurate weigh bands available from the practice)
  • Total number calved
  • Abortions
  • Calf mortality

By 3-4 weeks after calving cows should be clean and cycling again. It is useful to record a list of cows that had difficult calvings, retained cleansings, twins or prolapses. Get these cows scanned and treated if necessary.

Later calving cows can easily be pulled back into the required calving period by synchronising and AI. Some farms may choose to synchronise and AI all cows and heifers on the first day of the breeding period which is a relatively cheap and easy way to maximise the number of cows calving in the first three weeks of the block.

Vet Impress is an app that is available for all of our farms to make recording data easy. This is free to download and use so please contact us if you would like to set it up.