Achieving breeding targets with Tracesure boluses

Howard Stokes with calving chartHoward Stokes with calving chart
Howard Stokes with calving chart | User (UGC)
Heifer replacements feeding into a Holstein Friesian herd are hitting target weights for breeding at 15 months since a slow-release trace element bolus was introduced in a strategy to improve youngstock performance.

Somerset-based Wyke Farms, the UK’s biggest independent cheesemaker, produces 14,000 tonnes of cheese a year, from milk produced by its own dairy herd of 1,200 Holstein Friesians and other local farms.

It rears 400 heifers a year to maintain cow numbers and hitting target weights at bulling underpins herd profitability. But heifers had been falling short of the 400kg target, says head stockman Howard Stokes.

“We weren’t getting the performance at weaning age, so they weren’t filling out and ‘doing’ post-weaning. We had to delay serving them until they were 16 or 17 months but this was not profitable.

“We had been adding a general-purpose mineral to the forage but because of bullying at the trough, the animals that really needed it tended to miss out,” Mr Stokes explains.

That system has now changed and, instead, heifers are bolused at three months with Tracesure Cu/I Calf and copper, following by Tracesure Cu/I Cattle at 12 months and 18 months.

“We are now hitting breeding targets at 15 months,” Mr. Stokes reports. Heifers are reared at an offlying site in a region deficient in copper. Mr. Stokes says there is a noticeable difference in the colour of the coats of heifers once they have been bolused. “Their black coats had a brown tinge but we no longer see that, they shine now.”

Sexed semen is used to ensure there are sufficient heifers feeding into the all-year-round calving herd; a conception rate of 73% is achieved from sexed semen.

“We don’t have any veterinary input, if they are fed properly and kept well they will bull every 21 days, no problem,” says Mr. Stokes.

The bolus, he says takes the guesswork out of mineral intakes. “The bolus saves a lot of work and guesswork. Before we would be chasing ourselves wondering what wasn’t working.”

For further information on boluses browse or contact Northern Ireland and Donegal representative Neill Acheson 07795 434 986 [email protected]

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