Breeding Season: Setting Goals for Your Herd

As the 2022 breeding season begins on spring calving farms, achieving a compact calving will be a goal for many.

However, more than a quarter of cows calving in the spring still calve in April or later, which contradicts the concept of calving in the spring.

A simplified version of spring calving is to calve cows in early February and March, so that they reach peak milk production based on grass growth rates.

This allows herds calving in the spring to maximize the grass in the feed and have a lower cost of production.

But cows calving in April and May do not fall into this bracket; they are more expensive to keep, dry longer and therefore have less milk sales.

Breeding Season Goals

At the start of the breeding season, farmers should aim for a 90% submission rate over three weeks.

There can be several reasons why this may not be achieved including low fertility, poor heat detection, non-cycling cows and more.

Achieving this goal is not easy, but with good management it is achievable for many dairy operations.

Another goal at the start of the breeding season should be conception rates to first service; a target of 60% should be your goal.

Again, this is difficult to achieve, but it is doable. The fertility of the cows and the timing of artificial insemination (AI) are important factors in achieving this.

If you achieve these goals, you will have a tighter calving spread, with more cows calving in a short period of time.

Not only will this compress the workload in the spring, but it should also result in better profitability for these cows.

For some farms, meeting these goals may not be possible this year, but you should aim to get as close to them as possible.

These goals should be your ultimate goal, but for now, make sure that continuous progression is achieved.

pull the plug

It’s important to keep as many high quality cows in a herd, but it’s also important to know when to pull the plug.

Most herds operate a breeding season that lasts 11 to 16 weeks; once the end date is reached, it is important to stop rearing the cows.

Continuing to breed cows that are not pregnant will only result in cows calving much later than ideal.

Cows calving later than the rest of the herd will be problem cows that have a body condition score (BCS) that is too high and have difficulty calving.

They will also be much less profitable compared to cows calved earlier.