RURAL MATTERS. The Circle Of Life By Jonathan Sharp
A cow has to have a calf to produce milk and to be most efficient she should have one every year. Fertility is one of the most critical factors to manage on the dairy farm. The photo here is of a Bray Breeding board; it shows the herd’s fertility status at a glance. Each of the magnets you can see is a breeding female on the farm, they are coloured differently on each side; the one showing white are new calved, the green ones have been on heat, orange ones are served, purple confirmed in calf, yellow dry and blue in the transition group. The pointers move round every day (manually) so I can tell when a cow is due to calve or to dry off etc. It is one of the most useful pieces of equipment on the farm and the first thing I look at in the morning. My Bray Breeding board was bought second-hand at a farm sale for 43 pound twenty years ago and represents some of the best money I’ve spent related to my work.
The transition group are the cow three weeks pre calving they get a special diet to prepare them for the next lactation and imminent calving. It includes a mineral formulation by the vet to make sure the cows are in tip-top form and it does work as we have very little calving problems. If calving is easy then the transition into the next lactation should be easy. The next challenge is getting them back in calf again! New calved cows wear a collar that monitors their movements letting me know if the cow is sick (less than normal movement) or in heat (more movement). Cows mount each other when in heat this is a throwback to the day when they were wild. Males live apart from the rest of the herd so that was a way of signalling that their services were needed.
We start serving at 40 days post calving, that way we should be fertilizing an egg that was formed while the cow was dry. If we don’t serve them until 90 days we’re dealing with an egg that was formed while the cow was milking heavily and tends not to be as fertile.
We have the vet every Friday morning scanning cows to make sure they are in calf and to check for twins. We run at 6% twins but about twice that are scanned with twins and either lose one or both calves so those cows are rescanned at 80 days.
I hope I’m not getting too technical with my explanations about dairy farming but I would like you to get an idea about what goes in to providing you with that white liquid you pour on your cornflakes in the morning!
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