March 2015 Fertility and Breeding Notes

Doreen Corridan MVB MRCVS PhD 

Munster Cattle Breeding


Milk Recording

Doing an early milk recording in the first 30-60 days of lactation helps you answer the following questions:
Is your Dry Cow Therapy working?
Are you getting new infections in the dry period?
Are your 1st calved heifers having issues with SCC?
Do you know who to treat promptly?

Doing an early milk recording in the first 30-60 days of lactation helps you answer the following questions:• Is your Dry Cow Therapy working?• Are you getting new infections in the dry period?• Are your 1st calved heifers having issues with SCC?• Do you know who to treat promptly?


Key point-Early lactation mastitis is a high risk-Do an early milk recording in March


Johnes Testing and Herd Health 2015

Every herd should be tested for Johnes to establish their status.  Herds that have been testing, and are implementing controls at the calf rearing stage, are having a lot of success with reducing the levels of Johnes in the herd.  Testing through milk recording is the most cost effective and convenient way of testing. 


In the herd health programme the Dairygold Laboratory can collect the bulk milk sample for you and test it three times during the year for BVD, Lepto, IBR, Neospora, Salmonella, PI3, RSV, Liver Fluke, Stomach Worm and Lungworm. If you wish to learn more about this call Patrick Kelly 02243228.


Key point-Every herd should be testing for Johnes to establish their status.

If you have not already got your bull vasectomised for the 2015 season now is an opportune time to do so. In most herds the key is to keep a young bull coming along each year as most herds need two bulls, it also allows for a bull getting hurt or a bull getting aggressive and needing to be culled. 
Key point-If not already done, get a young bull vasectomised.
Stock Bull MOT/NCT

The stock bull or bulls for cleaning up need to be purchased now if not already on the farm, to allow time for acclimatisation, to nutritionally adjust him, vaccinate him with whatever vaccines you are doing on the farm and allow him time to gain experience. If your bull is already on the farm since last year work out his conception rate last year and if you have any doubt organise with your vet to get him fertility tested. Get his feet checked and trimmed, if he was wintered outdoors treat him for parasites and include him in the herd vaccination routine.
Key point-Now is the time to check your stock bull to ensure he is in full working order. If you need to purchase a bull, do so ASAP to allow time for getting him ready for the breeding season.
Calf Rearing
Calf rearing can begin to get difficult on farms in March as the numbers of young calves increase. More emphasis needs to be put on increasing the immunity of the calf (by colostrum feeding and vaccination) and reducing the environmental challenges of increased stocking rate.
Colostrum management is getting more important as the season moves on due to increased challenges, try and get 3 litres into each calf in the first two hours after birth. In herds where scour is an issue talk to your vet about vaccinating the cows and increasing the quality of the colostrum fed.
In herds where pneumonia is an issue, talk to your vet how you can achieve a
Dry lie for the calves
Plenty fresh air
No draughts
Boost immunity by vaccination and improved nutrition and reduce stocking rate and reduce contact with older cattle.
Key point: Back to basics-get 3 litres of colostrum into each calf in the first 2 hours of life.
Maiden Heifers
We are now 6 -7 weeks from the breeding season. We need to get all the maiden heifers bred and in calf in the first month of the breeding season. These heifers need to be at 340-400Kg at mating for optimum results.
If we begin breeding on the 20th April we have 50 days to achieve the target weight. Weigh all heifers now:
If some are under or just at target weight, group them separately.
Get them out to grass as soon as possible.
Depending on grass availability and heifer weight it may be necessary to feed at grass
Key point: Weigh your maiden heifers now to see if they are on target for breeding.  Give them preferential treatment if under target.
March is the month for BVD and Leptospirosis to get both in one month before the breeding season. Both are licensed to be done at the one time. Adhere to the principles of vaccination:
Only vaccinate healthy animals.
Maintain the cold chain, store between 2-8oC, do not freeze. Collect the vaccine from your supplier or get it delivered in a cool box, store in a fridge at 2-8oC.
Avoid using opened bottles previously used, get the correct pack sizes for your farm.
Maintain hygienic conditions throughout vaccination, keep hands or gloves clean, vaccination on dry days when skin is clean and dry.
Use a new needle and syringe for the vaccine.
Ensure the primary dose is properly completed in the maiden heifers, and the cows will receive their annual booster
Condition Score

Cows in the breeding season need to be in a BCS of 2.75 to 3.0 having lost no more than 0.5 BCS since calving, having calved at between 3.0 and 3.25. 
Act now to prevent the late calvers becoming too fat.
Avoid negative energy balance pre-calving.
Insist on maximising intakes in early lactation.
Key point: Act now to limit excessive condition score loss in early lactation.