Autumn Breeding will be kicking off within the next few weeks for both Autumn Dairy and Suckler herds. Here are some key areas to focus on before the season starts!
Body Condition Score
Body Condition Scoring (BCS) is a technique used to assess how thin or fat a cow is on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is extremely thin and 5 is extremely fat.
The incorrect BCS can have an adverse effect on the different stages of pregnancy. For example, if BCS is too high there can be issues at calving such such as dystocia as well as as increased risk of milk fever. On the other hand, a cow that is too thin can have trouble cycling or holding a pregnancy. Additionally, too low BCS can result in a reduction in milk supply. Dairy cows should be at a target BCS of 3 at mating.
For sucklers, 2.5 is the generally recommended BCS at breeding.
Many farmers opt to carry out a pre-breeding scan on cows. A pre-breeding scan is ideal for confirming uterine involution has occurred and cows have returned to their pre-pregnancy uterine state. Cows that require attention will also be highlighted during this scan. Some issues include anoestrous or non cycling cows as well as cows currently suffering from uterine infection. In heifers, it can identify animals who have immature ovaries who may not be suitable for breeding.
It is important to identify potential issues so that they can be addressed correctly before the beginning of breeding.
For example, anoestrous cows (non-cyclers) are often not picked up until they have not been submitted for AI. This can be up to 3 weeks. It be harder to identify non-cyclers if a bull is running with the dairy herd or with sucklers and these cows are often missed. If a cow is experiencing an issue returning to cyclicity, there are many drug protocols available. But in order to identify the correct protocol required a scan is recommended. For example, an anoestrous cow has no functional corpus luteum therefore drugs like prostaglandins will have no effect and a full progestogen based protocol is a better option based on veterinary advice. Other issues can include cystic ovaries which will also need intervention.
For sucklers, having a suckling calf at foot can have an effect on the fertility status of the dam due to the calf-dam bond. A way around this is to limit suckling to morning and evenings. Alternatively, a progestogen protocol can be used to restore fertility in most cases> Again speak with your veterinary practitioner to find the right protocol for your herd.
Another way to identify issue cows is to record pre-breeding heats. The absence of such can indicate a cow is not cycling. Ideally for best conception rates cows should be bulled from the second heat onwards for early calvers. Recording first heats allows enough time for uterine involution, this is not always practical for late calving animals as in order to keep tight calving patterns, so at least 30 days after calving should be observed before breeding.
If you record a heat observation in Herdwatch you will receive a push notification in 21 days time letting you know that the cow should be in heat today. You will see a list of females in heat on your Watchboard. This gives you the best chance to get your cows back in calf as soon as possible.
Heat observations can be recorded easily by following these steps...
>Tap the Orange Plus Button (+) in the bottom right hand corner
> Tap Heat Observation
> Set your reminder in days
>Set the number of cycles you want to be reminded for (i.e.21 or 42 days)
> Tap Next
> Select the animal in heat
> Tap Save
When the animal(s) is due, you will receive a push notification and she will appear in the Watchboard under Heat Due Today. So you know to keep a closer eye on her!
Keep a consistent and well balanced diet in front of cows. Fluctuations in energy will negatively effect fertility. Additionally, abrupt changes in diet can negatively impact the uterine environment. The rumen microbiome can be altered by feed type so any feed changes need to be implemented gradually and ideally, not during breeding and the early post breeding period. Ideally, diets should be assessed by a qualified nutritionist or at the very least, feeds and silage should be tested to determine quality, and supplementation provided if necessary to meet the energy requirements of the group.
Pay attention to parasite control for animals to be bred as healthier cows are more likely to go in calf and hold their pregnancy than cows who have a parasite burden. External and internal parasites can cause additional stress on cows. High parasite load has been identified as the cause of embryo and pregnancy loss in some cases. A herd specific parasite control plan should be implemented with the assistance of your veterinary practitioner.
All treatments can be added to the remedy section in Herdwatch by following the below simple steps:
> Tap the Orange Plus Button (+) in the bottom right-hand corner.
> Tap Cattle Treatment.
> Pick the Remedy from your remedies cabinet - If it's not in your cabinet, simply tap on "Add new Treatment + Purchase" at the top and select or scan the remedy.
> Select the date the treatment was given.
> Fill out the rest of the treatment details such as administered by and the quantity given.
> Tap Next in the bottom right-hand corner.
> Select the animals you treated.
> Tap Save in the bottom right-hand corner.
Tip: When selecting which animals were treated, you can create custom groups and filters which makes selecting animals for batch dosing simple.
How can the Watchboard section in Herdwatch help me this breeding season?
When heat observations or serves are recorded into Herdwatch, the app will remember the dates and use the Watchboard to remind you when they are due to repeat. Herdwatch will send you a daily push notification when you have events on your Watchboard that needs attention.
The Watchboard covers two main are for breeding records:
Watch for Repeat - The Watch for Repeat view shows a list of cows who need to be watched for a possible repeat as they were served between 20 and 22 days ago.
Heat Due Today - This view will show any animals that are suspected to be on heat from a heat observation task. This is mainly used in the weeks leading up to the breeding season start date.
The power of having this information in the Watchboard is that it will send you a daily reminder (in the morning) that there's cows due to repeat or due to be bullying so you never miss a chance to get your cows in calf again!
You too can join over 18,000 other happy farmers saving time on farm paperwork and managing their farms more efficiently by downloading the Herdwatch app today.