Fertility management programme will
improve fertility and health of dairy herds
A new management programme to improve fertility and the health
of dairy herds across Cornwall has started on four Cornish
dairy farms thanks to the vision of local veterinary surgeon
Tim Bebbington and investment from Objective One project Rural
The future fertility management project aims to transfer
knowledge and ideas on improving welfare and fertility in
dairy herds and ultimately improve farm incomes.
Dutch vet, Dirk Zaaijer, has developed the concept and the
programme is being piloted on four local farms in conjunction
with Launceston vet Tim Bebbington.
The programme has been developed to address three of the
biggest health issues, mastitis, lameness and fertility that
are consistently found to be the major reasons for culling
Tim Bebbington reports: "As the yield of cows increases,
the difficulty in getting cows in calf grows this is
now the biggest problem on many large high yielding herds.
NMR figures show an escalating decline in first service conception
rates and a lengthening in calving intervals."
Many dairy farmers have come to accept this situation as
inevitable. Some farms do not attempt to serve cows early
because past experience teaches that the results are so disappointing.
These cows will milk on but eventually may be culled out -
often as they are potentially entering their most productive
There has been debate that this decline in fertility is genetic
and that that breeding can offer a solution. However it is
evident that maiden heifers generally hold as they always
have done and there is a need to look further at herd management
Tim says: "As vets we often examine cows and report
that they are cycling however they have not been seen bulling.
We may question efficiency of heat detection but as herds
are growing many farmers have less time to devote to this.
There are now studies that show the high yielding dairy cow
does not show bulling behaviour for as long or as strongly
as she used to do. On many farms it is not so much heat detection
as heat expression that is the problem."
The future fertility management programme addresses the feeding
of the modern dairy cow. Their genetic capacity to produce
milk is such that they no longer fit the feeding systems commonly
applied to them. In other words cows will produce milk when
they are unable to maintain their body condition. The most
sensitive part of their metabolism, their reproduction, is
the first to be affected in this state of negative energy
The future fertility program is based on implementing new
health concepts and strict nutritional management. It works
by analysing key cow characteristics such as their condition,
the proportion with a normal fertility cycle, dung consistency
and digestibility and their uterine contractility.
The herds are visited monthly to examine the cow and its
diet. A report follows on exactly what the cow's health says
about its diet. A diagnosis is made and the ration altered
Tim Bebbington explains: "Dirk's programme is a joint
venture between dairy farmers, vets and nutritional advisers
to decide what is right for the herd. In just a couple of
months of the program being implemented on the study farms
one herd's milk protein increased by 0.2% and another's milk
quantity increased by 500 litres Bulling expression on one
seasonally calving herd has improved dramatically. The feedback
we have received has been very positive it not only promises
financial results but many farmers feel they are not getting
independent nutritional advice and are not confident enough
to question the advice they are given."
The winter housing period offers dairy farmers the most control
over the nutrition of their cows. Now is a good time to monitor
the effectiveness of the ration and the messages the cow sends
out through her rumen, dung and reproductive function.
A series of demonstrations and study reports for dairy farmers,
at the Duchy College Farm, and meetings for vets and nutritionists
are planned for early 2005. The first of these meetings will
be held on Tuesday 11th January at 7.30 pm at the Lanhydrock
Golf Club, Bodmin. To register your interest please contact
Tim Bebbington on 01566 772371 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information please contact Carolyn Daw Tel 01822
833488 or email:email@example.com.
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439
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