Reproductive performance is an integral part of the New Zealand dairy farm system. We need cows to get in calf efficiently each season as there is limited time between calving and mating. If cows calve early they recover earlier and can begin cycling again sooner - they're in a race against time. They get their first (least fertile) heat out of the way before mating starts. This increases their chance of getting back in-calf in the first six weeks of mating.
From the day a heifer calf is born, you control the factors that influence her future fertility and whether she gets in calf on time, every time. The ‘fertility for life’ cycle of that animal involves calf and heifer rearing; first mating, pregnancy and calving; subsequent matings, pregnancies, calvings; and, eventually, culling. Success will require your attention throughout the cycle.
Herd reproductive management is a complex topic that has a significant impact on other areas of dairy farm management. The principles that support a well-managed reproductive programme are consistent with other aspects of farm management.
The following benefits are associated with improved reproduction:
- Fewer cows culled as empties allows increased culling of genuine low-producing cows, increases in herd size or a reduction in the number of heifer replacements required.
- Increased profit since earlier calved cows generate more milk income than later calved cows in most herds.
- More compact calving pattern with fewer late-calved cows, fewer empty cows and fewer cows requiring hormonal intervention.
- More cows getting in calf early in the AB period, providing more replacement heifers, or the potential for a shorter AB period.
- More AB heifers born early in the calving season which streamlines calf rearing and heifer management, allowing farm staff to focus on other tasks.
- Fewer days feeding dry cows and observing cows for calving problems.