Beef calves can be your thirteenth milk cheque

Cogents Andrew Turner (centre) and Hugh Pocock (right) on farm with noted Jersey breeder and Cogent Business Development Manager Ashley Fleming (left) earlier this week.
Cogents Andrew Turner (centre) and Hugh Pocock (right) on farm with noted Jersey breeder and Cogent Business Development Manager Ashley Fleming (left) earlier this week.

Making enhanced use of sexed semen, thereby leaving greater scope for beef bulls, is one way of improving margins on dairy farms at the present time, according to Cogent Breeding’s Chief Executive Andrew Turner.

“Sexed straws can be used on cows and heifers with very good results,” he said.

“As a consequence, the technology can be used to allow farmers secure the breeding heifers they need across a much lower proportion of their herds than would previously have been the case.

“This, in turn, will allow farmers to use a higher proportion of proven beef sires on their breeding stock. In such circumstances, the sale of beef calves or weanlings can be regarded as a much needed 13th milk cheque.”

Mr Turner made these comments while on a recent visit to the Seaforde farm of Cogent Business Development Manager Ashley Fleming. He was joined by the company’s Genetics and Product Development Manager Hugh Pocock.

Both Mr Turner and Mr Pocock believe that world dairy markets will remain challenging for the next six to nine months.

“Individual farmers can do nothing about this,” Mr Turner suggested.

“However, they have total control when it comes to improving the efficiency levels achieved within their businesses.”

Mr Pocock confirmed that sexed straws now account for around 40% of Cogent’s total semen sales.

“But our business model is not simply focussed on selling semen: we are committed to providing a range of breeding and reproduction related services, that will allow milk producers to significantly improve herd performance levels,” he said

Pocock cited the company’s match mating programme as a case in point. He also highlighted Cogent’s commitment to genomics as a sire and, more general, breeding selection tool.

“The accuracy of the technology is now on a par with actual progeny testing,” he explained.

“Cogent is committed to an international breeding programme, which has been designed to identify the best breeding sires form around the worked for use in the UK. And the aplication of genomics has been key in making this happen.”

Mr Pocock confirmed that genomic testing is now an affordable technology that can be used by every dairy farmer when it comes to identifying the best breeding stock on their farms while animals are at the calf stage. He also suggested that the new compulsory BVD tag and test programme could be used as a base from which to increase the amount of genomic assessments carried out in Northern Ireland.