Successful reproduction lies at the heart of any dairy operation – without regular calvings there will be difficulties in producing the desired amount of milk. As a direct result of this, infertility – or perhaps, more accurately, the inability of the cow to get pregnant – is the main reason for early culling of dairy cows.
Poor reproduction rates result in high turnover in the herd
Modern dairy farming has seen something of a negative trend in fertility in recent years, and this has resulted in the increased turnover in the herd. There are many reasons for this: increased incidents of uterus inflammation, longer intervals to normality of sexual organs, lower egg quality and an increased rate of miscarriages all play their part in this trend.
But sometimes it may be the human part of the equation. Heat detection is the key – if the cow’s heat expression is missed, the opportunity to inseminate successfully is lost. Likewise, reproduction problems can occur if an animal is stressed or suffering from infection, or even not getting the nutrition it needs.
A modern herd in western Europe would be aiming for an optimal calving interval of 12-13 months, or almost one calf per cow and year. Longer than this, and profits are threatened: it is reckoned that for every day the calving interval is extended, farmers can lose up to 3 euros per cow and day. But a longer calving interval also carries with it a heightened risk of the cow suffering from a wide variety of other diseases.
Three cornerstones to successful reproduction rates
There are three basic cornerstones to a high pregnancy rate. The first of these is optimized heat detection. With accurate management and advanced milk analysis tools, a cow’s state of heat can be detected to within an accuracy of 95%, thus providing optimal indication for performing successful insemination.
The second cornerstone focuses on optimized feed intake. In order to receive optimal nutrition, cows need constant access to high quality and tasty rations, and they need space in which to eat. To make the most of the nutrition they receive, they also need to be in good health, and the rations should not be changed around the moment of calving.
The third of these cornerstones might be simply labeled, “the common sense factor.” Healthy, well-nourished and well-managed cows that live their lives in a stress- and disease-free environment will be most successful at getting and staying pregnant.
A happy cow is a healthy cow is a productive cow is a profitable cow.
And here’s how: