Suckler herd profitability tops agenda

Aurelie Moralis, Zoetis.
Aurelie Moralis, Zoetis.

Experience from the NI Suckler Beef program and from research centres in Ireland has highlighted that managing and improving fertility is one of the easiest ways to increase beef enterprise margins without making any major structural business changes.

This will be the key theme addressed by Zoetis veterinary consultant Aurelie Moralis, courtesy of her presentation to the YFCU ‘Inspire’ Agri Conference. The event takes place in the Glenavon House Hotel, Cookstown, on 21 January 2017.

In Northern Ireland, the average age at which suckler cows produce their first calf is 31 months with subsequent calving intervals of 399 days thereafter. Both measures are substantially longer than the industry target of 24 months and 365 days respectively.

Synchronisation and artificial insemination (AI) have many advantages in the suckler herd including:

l Access to quality terminal sires with accurate Estimated Breeding Value (EBV) data allowing selection of specific traits such as easy calving for heifers, terminal characteristics (i.e. growth, carcass) for beef production or maternal characteristics (i.e. milk) for breeding replacements.

l Increasing the percentage of cows calved in the first 21 days of the calving period by having groups of cows/ heifers all bred on day one of the mating period. Having a more compact calving period has an economic benefit by having batches of uniform, quality calves that are heavier at weaning.

However, the use of artificial insemination is still uncommon in the UK commercial beef suckler herd and less than 20% of suckler cows in Northern Ireland are bred using AI. Many beef farmers do not consider AI due to the problems of heat detection and handling for AI and some are concerned about poor conception rates when using AI after natural heat detection or in conjunction with synchronisation.

Aurelie Moralis will outline the management techniques and husbandry practices to achieve good results from synchronised artificial insemination.

“From this basis synchronised AI can offer an opportunity for farmers to maximise the benefits from improvements in grassland management and animal health,” she said.

Robert McConaghy, chair of the YFCU agriculture and rural affairs committee, said the Inspire conference takes place at a time of tremendous change for agriculture in Northern Ireland.

“But with change comes opportunity. And it is this driver which will form the backdrop to the event.

“We want to enthuse and excite delegates about the tremendous prospects that exist as they plan the future of their own farming and related businesses. Regardless of sector, the event has something to offer every agribusiness.”

Robert continued: “Our conference is an event which will provide speakers with an opportunity to address all of the key drivers for farming moving forwards: market prospects, the future support needs of the industry and the absolute necessity to improve technical efficiency levels at farm level.

“As a result, it will resonate with farmers and stakeholder representatives of all ages.”

For further information, telephone YFCU on (028) 9037 0713 or visit