A leading animal science researcher has spoken at an open meeting of Fermanagh Grassland Club on breeding and nutrition management in livestock herds, especially suckler enterprises.
Professor David Kenny, a researcher at the Teagasc’s Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Grange, Co. Meath, addressed farmers at a meeting attended by Grassland Club members as well as other farmers which was sponsored by the Vaughan Trust.
The content of his address concentrated on general reproductive management, cow nutrition, breeding replacement heifers, bull fertility, AI use, synchronisation regimen for timed AI and an update on the All-Island suckler cow fertility project(in conjunction with AFBINI) which examined aspects of disease prevalence (BVD, leptospirosis, IBR and neosporosis) and mineral status of cows in suckler herds across both NI and ROI.
He said it was a desire to achieve a 365-day calving interval and keeping suckler cows and bulls fit and fertile.
He also focussed on the important interval between calving and getting the cow ready for breeding again.
“Reproduction efficiency is key to biological and economic sustainability,” he said.
He said farmers should have cows calving once a year as every day beyond that costs a lot of money. Compact calving should be achieved - having 80 per cent of cows calved in 42 days as well as calving heifers at 24 months.
A survey on Irish herds showed that the calving interval of suckler herds was 399 days, well above the 365 day interval desired. This, said Professor Kenny, costs in the region of 2.20 Euros per cow per day.
Culling was also an important factor. He said the main reasons for culling was age (one third) and fertility (one third).
Professor Kenny said the strategy was to improve cost efficiency. Every day farmers reduced feed costs, when the cow was empty, the better.
He also looked at factors affecting reproduction efficiency.
Focussing on nutrition and puberty in heifers, Professor Kenny said beef heifers at 14 months old, should be 65 per cent of mature weight and 65-70 per cent at the time of first breeding at 15 months. It was also important to keep breeding heifers on a level plane of nutrition.
Professor Kenny also referred to synchronisation and genomics.