Increased milk production and fertility

Alan Hamilton, Broughshane discusses heat detection, fertility and sire selection with Paul Marrs, Genus ABS. Photograph - Steven McAuley
Alan Hamilton, Broughshane discusses heat detection, fertility and sire selection with Paul Marrs, Genus ABS. Photograph - Steven McAuley

“We wanted to increase milk production and the number of heifer calves in addition to getting better quality beef calves.”

Twenty-three-year old, Alan Hamilton, is an enthusiastic young dairy farmer who farms in partnership with his father, James, near Broughshane.

They milk 110 dairy cows and manage around 300 head of cattle. Friesian stock bulls have been used for the last 20 years on the cows with Aberdeen Angus used on heifers.

Alan commented: “Using stock bulls means that you are judging them on the performance of their ancestors and siblings, so I wanted to introduce bulls proven for the attributes I wished to improve. I decided to introduce AI but wanted to ensure that I would get a good fertility rate with the change.”

Paul Marrs, from Genus ABS suggested the introduction of Genus ABS Breeder Tags in order to improve heat detection plus the GMS breeding programme which matches sires to each individual cow so that all aspects of production, health and conformation are maximised, thus ensuring, not only improved pregnancy rates but also breeding the most suitable cows for the business.

Alan decided to investigate various systems and techniques for heat detection.

He reported: “I looked at a number of techniques and systems and noted that the Genus ABS Breeder Tags used a unique technology whereby data is recorded every two minutes, 24 hours a day and is transmitted wirelessly, removing the need for cows to pass by a data collection point. With the option to have a range of up to two km the system is also well suited for grazing cows and is ideal for use on bulling heifers.”

He added: “I realised that this system was worth a try. It was installed in September 2017 and was very effective in our grazing paddocks. The maiden heifers are also covered on this system showing great results.

“In October we put the first pedometers on to six heifers, all held to first service using sexed semen. Since the start of breeding this year in October we have 63 cows and heifers scanned in calf using only 74 straws - 1.17 straws per animal.”

Alan went on to say that in addition to measuring activity, the pedometer collects extra information including step count and lying time. Together these give a more accurate overall analysis of behaviour and better determination of heat.

A further benefit is the fact that the details are analysed in a comprehensive back up package which allows the farmer to assess progress and to see further opportunities for improvement. He added: “It is not only the fertility programme that is analysed but health aspects which may need attention are also highlighted by the graphs provided.”

Alan also works closely with his vet, who gives him advice on fertility protocols which will help him to move forward to maximise profitability within the herd.

Cows that don’t cycle naturally get treated to prostaglandin at 50 days post calving. If they don’t come in to heat these cows are put on to a Fixed Time AI programme using a Prid/Cidr. They found this system easy to manage as the cows not bred are flagged at 50 days post calving.

Dairy bulls used this year are Boastful, Balisto, Chad, while the beef sires are Aberdeen Angus (Shadwell Jafar Eric), Charolais (Tweedale Lookout) and Belgian Blue (Fertility plus).

Alan added: “Our goal is to have as many cows in calf for 100 days in milk as possible to maximise profitability within the herd, in addition to maintaining good fertility and milk components while increasing milk yield.”

For further information on Genus ABS Breeder Tags or the GMS system, contact your Genus ABS representative or phone the office on 028 3833 1451.