Addressing fertility indicators to improve dairy production efficiencies

Fertility is one of the major factors affecting the efficiency of any dairy herd. It can account for one of the major costs of production, and also normally represents an area where significant improvements can be made. AHDB Dairy estimates that poor fertility costs £25,000 per year in the average performing 100 cow herd, which equates to 3.2 p/litre as a result of lost milk production, fewer calves, higher culling and veterinary costs.

While the first step in reducing unnecessary fertility losses is a detailed assessment of individual herd fertility performance, it is important to appreciate that fertility is best appraised as part of a whole farm review.

Reproductive management is a complex area, involving decisions on genetics, managing growth rates for timely breeding of replacement heifers and achieving a high pregnancy rate, which is dependent on good heat detection and conception rates.

Maximising fertility in the dairy herd will improve annual milk production and reduce carbon footprint and is a focus for two of the Our Farms Network farms; Clyngwyn and Rhyd y Gofaint. 

The project aims to provide action points to improve specific KPI’s for both farms to improve reproduction efficiency. In particular, the aim is to make improvements to boost the 6-week or 100 days in calf rates on the spring calving and year-round calving herd respectively. Changes will prospectively be made to several management practices, as there is usually no single cause of poor fertility, aiming to tighten the calving block/calving interval but without increasing the empty rate to more than 10%.
Some of the influencing factors that we will be concentrating on are:

  • Increasing heat detection rate
  • Calving the heifers well - youngstock health and growth
  • Mating management and interventions
  • Disease status

Through driving further improvement in efficiency in these key business areas, the project will also contribute to the Sustainable Land Management outcomes including:

  • Reduce the farms’ greenhouse gas emissions
  • Contribute to high flock health and welfare.