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Eight key areas of repro management

Eight key areas of repro management

Assess how your farm is performing by measuring how you’re going in eight key areas.

Making improvements in these eight areas will help lift the reproductive performance of your herd.

Aim for 87% or more of your cows to be calved by week six of calving.

This will give you: 

  • more days in milk
  • a break between calving and mating
  • more time for your cows to recover and reach peak fertility before mating starts.

Cows that calve after week six of calving are called ‘late calvers’ and have lower submission, conception and in-calf rates.

Three and six week calving rates of first calvers are the other key calving pattern targets. First calvers have higher calving pattern targets than the rest of the herd. If your first calvers are below target they’re more likely to struggle at the subsequent mating. If they don’t get back in-calf early as a first calver, they’ll calve later the following year. This will make it harder for them to get in-calf early, or at all, as a second calver (three-year-old).

Heifers that meet target liveweights at 15 and 22 months are more likely to get in-calf quickly at 15 months old and get back in-calf early as a first calver.

This will help them to get in-calf quickly, calve early, and get back in-calf early as a first calver. Research shows they generally outperform under-target herd-mates in:

  •  

    milk production in their first two lactations

  •  

    reproductive performance

First calvers take approximately 10 days longer than cows to recover from calving and start cycling again, so it’s common to mate them ahead of the herd at 15 months old. Because of this, calving pattern targets vary depending on how far ahead of the main herd they were mated.The other key target for first calvers is the 90% three week submission rate.

  •  

    same mating start date – 75% calved by three weeks and 92% by six weeks

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    one week ahead – 82% and 96%

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    two weeks ahead – 87% and 98%

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    three weeks ahead – 92% and 99%

The other key target for first calvers is the 90% three week submission rate.

Failure to reach the calving pattern or submission rate targets could be a reflection of: 

  •  

    liveweight at 15 and 22 months old

  •  

    bull power or bull management

  •  

    body condition score at calving (target is 5.5)

  •  

    calving pattern

  •  

    management and body condition

Nutrition and body condition influence many of the other key management areas.

Convert NZ BCS to Ireland BCS

Body condition score (BCS) is a visual measurement of a cow’s body fat reserves. Meeting BCS targets at calving and mating is important to help cows:

  •  

    achieve a high 6-week in-calf rate

  •  

    achieve optimal health

  •  

    maximise production and reproductive performance 

  •  

    cycle naturally during the first three weeks of mating

Mature cows need to be BCS 5.0 at calving. First and second calvers should be BCS 5.5. For mating, cows should ideally be at BCS 4.5, but not below BCS 4.0. 

Range is important, too. A group of mature cows might have an average calving BCS of 5.0, but this doesn’t mean each cow is actually BCS 5. In reality 50% of the group may be under BCS 5 and the other 50% over BCS 

Cows must be submitted for AI at the right time to achieve good conception rates.

Good heat detection is critical and can be costly when done poorly. Good heat detection practices can help deliver:

  •  

    more days in milk (18-24 days lost for every missed heat)

  •  

    higher conception rate

  •  

    higher 6-week in-calf rate

  •  

    lower empty rate

  •  

    more AI replacements

In the first three weeks of mating, 95% of your early-calved mature cows should be inseminated. You should also have less than 13% short returns. Herds that meet these targets are likely to have fewer missed heats or ‘invented heats’ (cows mated but were not truly on heat).

Non-cycling (anoestrus) cows can reduce your herd’s reproductive performance.

When they occur in large numbers they can be an indication of other underlying issues. Non-cyclers can:

  •  

    depress 3-week submission rate

  •  

    depress conception rate to first service

     
  •  

    cost money through interventions, or lower 3-week submission rates if not dealt with

Aim to have at least 85% of your herd cycling naturally before mating starts.

Check the percentage of non-cycling cows you've identified and treated. If you’ve treated more than the 15% target, the underlying causes of your non-cycling cows should be reviewed. 

Animals below BCS targets, undergrown heifers, and those that have had twins, difficult or assisted calvings are more likely to end up as non-cyclers.

Read more about non-cycling cows.

Make sure your bull selection and management is right.

Poor bull selection, inadequate bull power, and poor management can contribute to:

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    high not in-calf rates

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    disease outbreaks, such as BVD

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    calving difficulty

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    poor bull health or performance, such as lame or infertile bulls

Aim to continue to meet target in-calf rates during the natural mating period. Review service bull selection, numbers and management if the in-calf rate falls behind target during the natural mating period.

Artificial insemination technique and semen handling practices impact conception rates.

It’s also important to select the right sires to help you avoid genetic contributions that might lower herd fertility. 

Best practice in these areas can help:

  •  

    achieve high 6-week in-calf rates

  •  

    improve the genetic quality and asset worth of your herd 

  •  

    maximise conception rates during the AI period

Artificial insemination practices can’t be monitored at an individual herd level. Performance needs to be assessed across multiple herds and technicians. If you have concerns about AI technician performance, contact your AI service provider for assistance.

For a hands-on, tailored approach to AI and genetics speak with a your local LIC representative.

If you’re a DIY operator contact your AI service provider to obtain more information or if you have any specific questions.

Healthy cows are more productive and perform better in the long term for your herd.

Healthy cows are more likely to:

  •  

    perform well productively and reproductively

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    need fewer interventions and health treatments

  •  

    remain in the herd for longer

You should aim to meet the InCalf Cow Health Tool targets.

Use this worksheet to help decide what areas you need to focus on to maximise your herd's fertility.