Fertility Management: Taking things to the next level

Having recently hosted a beef fertility management workshop in Northern Ireland, I wanted to share some of the fascinating ways the event helped inspire vets to get involved in all aspects of beef fertility management – including timed AI of beef cows and heifers.

The event was hosted by Zoetis, held at the Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute (AFBI) and was introduced by the esteemed Dr Francis Lively, who recently led a beef fertility research project jointly funded by the DARD Research Challenge Fund and AgriSearch. His research involved approximately 1,000 cows and heifers on 12 farms throughout Northern Ireland, making it the perfect way to link international research with local data.

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Zoetis Senior Account Manager Patrick MacFarlane with some of the attendees

Building a sustainable beef industry

Can the US and Europe compete globally on a commodity basis? Not according to Professor David Patterson, Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology at the University of Missouri.

In his talk, he highlighted the need for these regions to identify their strengths and continue to develop them to provide a long-term sustainable beef industry.

The use of timed AI protocols

David also discussed how the use of artificial insemination (AI) allows selecting bulls with high accuracy EBVs for calving-ease and gestation length reducing the amount of difficult calvings down the line. AI also provides an opportunity to select for maternal traits EBVs to produce high quality future replacements or terminal sires for superior growth or carcass grades.

This reinforces the need for farmers and vets to work closely together to optimise the management of replacement heifers. Heifers that conceive earlier during their first breeding season stay in the herd longer and, ultimately, produce more pounds of beef over their lifetime.

David stated that to be successful with timed AI protocols heifers should achieve a minimum of 65% of mature body weight at breeding. Vets can assess the heifer’s reproductive maturity by rectal palpation of the uterus and ovaries 6 to 8 weeks prior to breeding to identify which heifers are suitable.

The opportunities in cows for increasing profits lie in managing females from the later calving intervals forward towards the first and second calving intervals. Compact calving herds see 61% of the calves born by day 21, 85% by day 42 and 94% by day 63.

Lactation anoestrus in cows is an unavoidable physiological phenomenon which can be “managed” through minimising calving difficulties and managing body condition scores at calving and breeding.

Breeding protocols based on CIDR® in conjunction with prostaglandin(PG) and GnRH are licensed for use in cycling and non-cycling cows (i.e. lactation anoestrus) and heifers, can be used in conjunction with fixed time AI and are an effective tool to help control reproductive physiology.

David also advised on the control of infectious infertility in both heifers and cows and stated that vaccination protocols should be implemented at least 4 weeks prior to breeding.

Finally, he concluded that the expanded use of reproductive and genomic technologies provides an opportunity for the future to improve efficiency and profitability of global beef production.

For more information on how you can help achieve your production goals, speak to your vet today.

CIDR® contains 1.38 g progesterone:POM-V. For further information please see the product SPC, or contact your veterinary surgeon, SQP or Zoetis UK Ltd, Walton Oaks, Dorking Road, Walton on the Hill, Tadworth, Surrey, KT20 7NS. Customer Support 0845 3008034. http://www.zoetis.co.uk/. Always seek the advice of your medicines provider. Use medicines responsibly (http://www.noah.co.uk/responsible).

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