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Reproductive efficiency in dairy herds

There are many things that can have an impact on a herd’s reproduction (or mating) results but in terms of what we can influence there are two broad headings – Submission rate and Conception rate

There are many factors that can affect both of these headings including (but not limited to) cyclicity, energy balance, heat stress, parity, milk production, diet and disease. The aim is therefore to try and reduce the impact of as many of these as we can in order to achieve a good 6-week in-calf rate.

“Semen deficiency” (i.e. haven’t been put up to be mated) is a common cause of issues that goes unrecognised, if we don’t get cows mated early enough then they will inevitably be late or empty; more cows mated early in the season means the likelihood of better results, it’s a numbers game.

Assuming a very average case scenario for conception rates at say 45%, if we submit 95 of 100 cows in the first three weeks then 43 will be in calf. If we submit the remaining 57 in the next three weeks then generally conception rates improve to second service so let’s say 50% of 57 equals 29 cows in calf, add that to the initial 43 and we have 72 in calf out of the 100 within six weeks (72% 6-week in-calf rate). Considering the average 6-week in-calf rate across the farms we benchmark was 65% (2021-22 season) then 72% is quite a jump up for many, and that’s at conservative conception rate assumptions. If we lift the 6-week in-calf rate it equates to around $5/cow for each percentage point lift so from 65% to 72% is 7% or 7 x $5 equals $35/cow. In an average 350 cow herd this amounts to around $12,500 coming from additional milk revenue (numbers based on a $6 payout – you can see I am still being conservative!).

So, how do we achieve that submission rate? 95% in the first three weeks is impossible! Not with early intervention and action. If you take a proactive approach to this, then it is entirely possible to reach these numbers, but you do need to be proactive. Putting an active mating plan in place helps to achieve these results but it does require good planning and timely intervention. Yes, CIDRs and why wait programs can make a big difference. If they are applied appropriately to the herd, then 95-100% submission rates in the first three weeks are achievable.

“Oh, but they cost too much money…” yes, they do cost money but if we take our 350-cow herd again as an example, say we used 100 CIDRs (quite a lot for a herd that size!) then this would cost around $5000. The return on this is $12,500 or 250% return on investment. Now I’m not a financial advisor but I’m pretty sure a good “investment” at the moment is only going to return you around 8% per annum.

The above numbers don’t take into account the reduction in empty rates that can occur with a better 6-week in-calf rate. This can also add up to quite a saving, assuming $10/cow in the herd (DairyNZ figures) for every percentage point decrease in empty rate, this adds $10,000 to the bottom line in our 350-cow herd if we achieve a 3% reduction in empty rate. along with this you have the option to be more selective in your culling choices etc as you have more options up your sleave at the end of the season.

So, if submission rate is sorted that just leaves conception rate, and there are multiple things that can affect this also but that’s for another day.

If you would like to improve your submission rates, please contact your local team to have a chat and put a plan in place now for next season, the next mating season begins now!

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