Top 10 Tips for Dairy Cow Breeding

Cattle Breeding

April 6, 2020

Ensure optimum health of your Dairy Cows this Spring with Terra NutriTech Minerals.

As we approach the dairy cow breeding season for 2020, it is time to be thinking about what decisions and actions we take. Our wide range of minerals focuses on animal welfare ensuring better breeding performance. Successful breeding of dairy cows involves many factors. However, one of the major reasons impacting on fertility, healthy calving and overall production is an inadequate mineral and vitamin supplementation.

Despite the worldwide pandemic, calving season must go-ahead and these top 10 tips should help it all go according to plan.

Good decisions and a focus on quality breeding procedures can make a huge difference in herd performance and profitability.

In grass-based system achieving a tight six-week calf rate can mean, maximum days at grass and a more profitable season. We aim to retain 82% of the herd and ensure a replacement rate of under 18%. Getting our cows back in calf can really help us here.

So as we approach breeding time, here are 10 Tips for Success to get a tight calving pattern and successful breeding season for Dairy Cows.

  1. Make a decision on mating start date now. Pick your team of bulls based on the genetic decisions and direction your farm will be taking production, fertility and health-wise. Utilise EBI and AI (Artificial Insemination) to improve the fertility of your herd. Herds using bulls make sure they get a full MOT before breeding and receive any vaccines necessary. All bulls should now be fertility tested to make sure they are firing on all cylinders.
  1. Check your facilities like drafting gates and prepare for breeding. Have simple systems for you AI man to come on the farm. Put in place safe social distancing protocols and have good facilities for them to wash hands, themselves and equipment entering and leaving the farm. Make sure all handling facilities are working well and easily for the AI man, ideally on their own.
  1. Collection of equipment should focus on anything you need for breeding time such as heat detection aids, metrichecks or other tools.
  1. Correct mineral levels result in improved reproduction rates. If the cow is deficient in any mineral it won’t perform to its potential. Adequate copper levels are essential for strong heats. Selenium and cobalt for conception. Low iodine levels have been linked to failed conception and cows not holding. If you are concerned we suggest grass analysis, blood/milk mineral analysis on the cows and a custom blend being formulated for your herd.
minerals for health cows
  1. Pull out a problem cow group before breeding and get them checked. These are the ladies that have had milk fever, twins LDA or been sick since calving time. This group should include all thin cows or any cow calved.
  1. Begin pre-breeding heat detection. Apply one colour tail paint to all cows calved greater than 35 days in the morning after milking. Keep a record of any cows not seen bulling and get them examined. Assess the overall herd body condition score now. Review this while applying pre-breeding heat detection. Mark any thin cows and assess their need for OAD (once a day feeding). Look at current outputs of the herd and inputs and make sure cows are fully fed before breeding time. We cannot have any cows losing condition and we must ensure that cows under-conditioned catch up using milking OAD.
  1. OAD milking can be used for 3-4 weeks to allow cows to catch up. Cows in significant negative energy or those losing body condition will not cycle or produce and egg and must receive special attention.
  1. Plan your heat detection protocols. Use every aid possible and continually have a plan to observe and record heats once breeding starts. Look for the classic signs of mounting and standing heats. However, also everyone on the farm should notice any other unusual heat behaviour.
  1. Everyone on-farm working with the cows should be making observations. Set up some recording system to ensure all heats are recorded. Recorded heats should be noted by number to watch out for repeats. If using tail paint, ensure you top up regularly and clip the rump before applying it. Crayons and scratch cards work well also, especially in heifers. If you are using electronic heat detection combine this with observations to make sure timing is good. Watch the timing of AI in relation to heat detection. We should still apply the am/pm rule but if an animal is in heat and AI man is coming, get her served.
  1. Replacement Heifers are a very important group and BCS and weight must be checked before breeding. We want our heifers calving down first so consider synchronisation of these to ensure them caving in early.

Our team can always offer you advice to help your Farm Performance

At Terra NutriTECH, our team are always looking to help improve your farm efficiency and the health of your Herd. Cattle Breeding advice is only the start of the journey for animal welfare. Mineral and vitamin supplementation are therefore an important area for dairy farmers to invest in, as deficiencies will affect the health and reproductive ability of dairy cattle. Any dietary issue that impacts on the cow and calf will also impact on profitability. It is therefore essential that all aspects of the cows’ health are considered and rectified so that optimal production is achieved. Be sure to take extra precautions on your farm during this time of COVID-19. This will ensure that your staff remain healthy and performing well during this time.

Please call Ronan on 087 7086714  to find out about using an automated mineral dosing system. There are many health benefits for your cattle. Continue planning for the year ahead.

We also recommend the services of our sister company Terra Services who specialise in farming-related services and products such as water troughs and piping accessories.