Three very well attended suckler beef farm walks hosting a total of 310 farmers on the use of synchronisation and AI were held at the end of March in Northern Ireland. The first meeting was held in County Fermanagh at Stephen Maguire’s farm.
Stephen has a herd of approximately 60 cows, all spring calving, with some bull calves sold as weanlings in the autumn and the rest sold as stores in the spring. He is part of the Northern Ireland Suckler Beef Program and has a keen focus on utilising the grass source available to maximise output per hectare.
In 2015 Stephen synchronised a batch of cows and heifers as part of an AFBI research project jointly funded by the DARD Research Challenge Fund and AgriSearch with in-kind contributions from Zoetis, Genus ABS and AI services. Stephen synchronised 5 heifers and 28 cows with protocols using CIDR® , Acegon®, and Prellim® with the view to maximise growth rates and have heavier cattle at the point of sale through the use of high genetic merit bulls with known EBV’s. Excluding problem cows the conception rates to first service were 60% for the heifers and 61% for the cows and average calving interval is running at 363 days.
Stephen’s comments on synchronisation protocols were positive, "synchronisation has worked well for me so far as I think it is very compatible with my farm system and layout. I definitely see it as the way forward for me in the future.” The number of bulls on farm has reduced from two or three to one bull for sweeping up. Stephen quantifies the cost of keeping a bull at about £50 per calf on the ground. This year Stephen has synchronised a batch of 15 heifers averaging 375 kg and has served them using female sexed semen. The heifers were born in January and February last year and weaned at the start of August averaging 256 kg. Cows will be synchronised in April and May.
Stephen recognises the importance of lactation anoestrus in beef cows and is running an interesting system. Calves are separated from the cows and graze outside in a small paddock whilst the cows are kept inside. Calves are let in and out to their mothers twice daily. Keeping calves outside of the dam’s sight reduces the length of time cows are in lactation anoestrus and helps them to start cycling earlier.
Throughout the presentations it was emphasised that in order to be successful with synchronised AI in beef suckler cows and heifers farmers should manage body condition scores and put in place health plans to control infectious disease such as BVDv, leptospirosis and IBR.
With margins from benchmarking results showing differences of £450 per cow in between top and bottom performers the key to profitability comes from a combination of many factors.
ACEGON contains 50 μ/ml gonadorelin (as gonadorelin acetate): POM-V. CIDR contains 1.38 g progesterone:POM-V. PRELLIM contains 0.075mg/ml d-cloprostenol (as d-cloprostenol sodium): 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). AH192/16
Judith is an RCVS advanced practitioner is Cattle Health and Production. She qualified from the Royal (Dick) Veterinary College in 2003, working in predominantly large animal practice for almost 10 years until joining Zoetis (previously known as Pfizer Animal Health) in 2012 as the National Veterinary Manager responsible for the dairy cow portfolio of products.
Jude’s areas of interest are the health and production of cattle, mastitis and udder health and cattle fertility. She has contributed to research on mastitis, lameness and cattle surgery. Jude has just finished her 3 year term on the British Cattle Veterinary Association Board of Directors but continues to be actively involved in many industry bodies and committees as well as doing consultancy work for some practices.
Jude comes from a small farming village in Lancashire and in her spare time is often found walking her dogs on the side of a hill somewhere “up north”.