April 2021 Newsletter
With Lambing and Calving now well progressed it is surprising how quickly our attention turns to getting Spring calving cows back in calf again!
Selection of heifers in a beef suckler herd is often something I take great interest in as I observe various farmers. There is no doubt that having a tight calving block really helps to have a good selection of heifers well enough grown to be selected for bulling. Selecting heifers has to go hand in hand with selecting cull cows. It is important to turn over enough cull cows to keep the herd young and productive whilst removing poor performing cows. The price of a cull suckler cow is currently higher than a bulling heifer so it makes no sense to keep problematic stock. Cull cows should be selected before the bull is turned out so the culls are not served; all too often they end up back in calf and the problem cow survives! Replacement heifers should be your genetically most advanced animals so it makes sense to introduce them to the herd. The best heifers should be selected for breeding, but how do we define the “best”. I would say that there are a number of criteria that we should look at:
- Health status – we should aim to breed out carriers of Neospora and Johne’s so it is worth screening for these if present on the farm.
- Growth Rates – It stands to reason that the best grown heifers will pass on heritable traits for growth, be that milk production from the Dam or feed conversion efficiency.
- Temperament – Only heifers with good temperament should be chosen, the mothering ability of the Dam can also be considered.
- Conformation – We obviously want to select heifers that would grade well, and walk well.
- Calving ease – It is sensible to try and exclude heifers that had a complicated calving.
Something we are doing now for a number of herds is Pelvic Measuring; this involves inserting a large set of callipers into the rectum to measure the width and height of the pelvis to calculate the area. When combined with a multiplication factor from the age and weight of the heifer we can calculate the weight of calf such a heifer could be able to deliver. What we tend to find when we measure a group of heifers is there are generally a few surprise heifers with poor pelvic area that would otherwise have been selected. Hopefully by excluding these we can reduce bad calvings in the future and help increase productivity. If you would like to find out more then please get in touch.
Every year we investigate a few herds with poor fertility. There are any number of reasons but one of the most common is a poorly performing bull. A fertility check of the bull before the breeding season will help ensure that area is covered, but please check him in good time so there is time to re-check or go shopping for another! The cows can also be to blame so it is worth checking the trace element status and screening for any infectious causes of infertility prior to mating. It is far better to be prepared and to pre-empt problems before you have a disaster on your hands. Multi-min is an injectable trace element product that may well fit the bill and as an injection is easier than a bolus to administer.
We are very sorry to be saying goodbye to Charlotte at the start of May. Love has drawn her South to Devon but we are very grateful to her for her diligence and enthusiasm over the past few years. We wish her every success with her future career.