When management is top class but fertility is still a problem

Gareth Bell, right, Genus ABS, discusses herd fertility on the Reid farm with Gordon Reid, left and David McCord, RMS Team Leader, Genus ABS. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Gareth Bell, right, Genus ABS, discusses herd fertility on the Reid farm with Gordon Reid, left and David McCord, RMS Team Leader, Genus ABS. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Using genetics from the best cow families in Europe;monthly visits from the nutritionist to balance rations; regular foot bathing and hoof trimming to ensure that lameness would not be a problem, cows in excellent body condition and a detailed herd health plan in place.

This excellent management system was producing a 10,500 litre average in Robert and Gordon Reid’s 200 cow herd just outside Banbridge in Co Down. So what was the problem?

Gordon explained: “ While we had a good herd average we felt that the cows were capable of an even higher production, which would protect the enterprise in today’s volatile milk market.”

When discussing his thoughts with his Genus ABS representative Gareth Bell, it was decided to do an in-depth analysis of the herd’s performance and it was noted that the fertility in the herd could be improved.

When hearing about the very busy work schedule that this father and son team put in every day with a 200 cow herd being milked three times daily and housed all year round, Gareth suggested that they should have a specialist technician assisting with heat detection, inseminations and compiling and analysing the results. This could be provided with Genus ABS’ Reproductive Management System (RMS).

Gareth explained: “In the modern dairy herd research statistics show that 55% of heats last eight hours or less, while 50% have five or fewer mounts and 60% of heats occur at night. It is quite normal for 15 to 25 % of cows that are cycling to fail to express heat at any one time ie. silent heats. In view of these statistics it is very difficult for a farm with this workload to be completely on top of heat detection.”

Gordon was sceptical at first and thought the cost would be a further drain on the profit margin from the herd. However he decided he would give it a try. That was two years ago. James Woods RMS manager with Genus ABS reports: “The herd is now averaging an extra 3 litres per cow per day and the overall herd average is up by 1,200 litres which more than pays for the cost of the RMS service”.

James explained: “RMS is a daily heat detection and insemination service, provided by a highly trained technician who uses a system of tail chalking to identify standing heats. Any disturbance of the chalk, which is topped up every day, is an indication that the cow may have displayed bulling behaviour and the technician will then check for secondary signs of heat before inseminating. This allows them to pick up significantly more heats, in particular more ‘marginal’ heats. Trials on dairy cows showed RMS is more effective than other common heat detection aids, achieving a calving interval 23 days shorter than the other methods. RMS becomes part of a team on farm, this includes the farmer’s veterinary surgeon and his nutrition adviser.”

Gordon Reid said: “The data collected is excellent and its detailed analysis allows us to make informed decisions much quicker thus we are much more proactive about treating cows that are not cycling. The increased production and efficiency that RMS has brought to our business is very welcome when you consider the current milk price.”

Gordon’s father, Robert added: “All of the predictions are that dairy farmers will have to be in a position to cope with volatile markets in the future. We feel that we now have much better control of the dairy enterprise and are much better prepared to cope with this scenario due to the increased efficiency that RMS has brought our business.”

For more details on the RMS or any fertility matters please contact your local Genus ABS representative, or James Woods on 07772 227 886.