In August 2007 six enterprising farmers milking 1300 cows decided that the Reproductive Management Service (RMS) started by Genus ABS had a lot to offer and was worth trying out.
Five years later 66 farmers had realised the benefits and the RMS grew to 17,000 cows.
Now on the tenth anniversary of the service, RMS covers 29,500 cows, which is 10% of the national herd, and involves 105 farms. Such is the pace of expansion that another new route is starting this month and a second one in November.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary the company held a draw for all farmers in the scheme, with a prize of two months free RMS for the lucky winner. That winner was the herd of Thomas and Wesley McFarland between Omagh and Newtownstewart, so who better to comment on the reasons for joining the service which they have been using for the past seven years.
Wesley McFarland explained: “Initially there were two reasons. Firstly we were under serious pressure time wise and the pregnancy rate in the herd was not showing any improvement. Secondly we were using bulls and were not achieving the improvement in performance that we expected from the heifers entering the herd.”
Were their expectations from the system realised? Wesley added: “The improved pregnancy rate was the immediate benefit. This meant more fresh cows in the herd which naturally increased milk output.
“After a couple of years there was a marked improvement in the heifers entering the herd because we were using proven genetics that were tailored specifically for the type of cows in the herd and our ambitions for the herd. The increased pregnancy rate gave us more heifers to sell in addition to those needed for herd replacements, and because of their superior breeding they were a more valuable asset.”
Wesley continues. “When the milk price decreased I used Genus ABS beef sires on the cows that were not needed for herd replacements and then had a valuable crop of calves to sell at a time when the milk cheque was a lot smaller.”
A lot of dairy farmers are sceptical of the costs of RMS and the McFarland’s were no exception. Wesley outlined their concern: “We felt that it was a lot of money and very labour intensive with a technician visiting the farm every day, but we needed the help with fertility issues and wanted to improve the quality of the herd, so initially we thought we would just try it for a few years.
“However, as time went on we realised that this was more than a simple service to help improve pregnancy rates, it is an integrated, pro-active programme whereby Genus ABS involves the nutritionist and the vet, ensuring that all partners are collaborating for the good of the herd.
“Detailed information and its analysis are provided in the service, which indicates if there are any areas that need attention and also enables us to keep a track on the performance of the enterprise. So seven years later we are still on RMS having found it an invaluable service which monitors and evaluates the entire dairy enterprise.”
Richard Walker, the Genus ABS representative in the Northwest called to congratulate the McFarland’s on winning the draw and commented on the success of their herd pointing out that the 21 day pregnancy rate for the 320 cow herd is an excellent 25% with an annual herd average yield of 8500 Litres. Richard comments: “The McFarland’s run a system where all cows are grazed during the summer months with the majority of calving taking place from October to March.
“The herd has been able to grow substantially since starting on RMS, they have also been able to hold a heifer sale on many occasions with many satisfied customers returning.
“Top bulls have always been used on the herd with sires such as Garrett, Jeeves, Legend and Bossman having milking daughters in the herd currently. The sires used at present include the high ranking Balisto, Battlecry and Red Hot Darrell.”
Ervin McKinstry, General Manager, Ireland with Genus ABS thanked all of the RMS herd owners for their support over the years and congratulated them on their excellent husbandry skills and attention to detail.
James Woods, RMS Manager, concludes: “I would like to make special mention of all our technicians who call daily at the farms. The technicians start their day at 4am and have to visit seven or eight farms to monitor the herds, AI cows and update the herd records.
“ They are working on their own providing a detailed and professional service which is the backbone of the entire RMS programe and have to get to the farms, 364 days a year, no matter what the weather.”
Farmers who would like to discuss RMS, without obligation, or who would like to have information on the new routes being planned can contact James Woods on 07772 227 886 or get in touch with their local Genus ABS representative.