Advice for dairy farmers: Breeding tips from labour efficient farms

Almost one in ten farmers finds breeding their cows to be the most difficult task of the year.

Being organised in advance can make it an easier job.

Here are some of the practices used on the most labour efficient farms.

  • Have a definite start date and finish date for the breeding season (13 weeks).
  • Decide on the number of heifers you want and the number of artificial insemination straws needed (allow 5.5 straws per heifer in the parlour three years from now).
  • Use ICBF HerdPlus SireAdvice to match the sires chosen to cows in advance.
  • Use a heat detection aid.
  • Consider using an AI technician, rather than DIY, if you are under time pressure.
  • AI cows once a day only, in the morning.
  • Synchronise heifers and confine heifer AI to 10-12 days.
  • Move heifers home for AI.
  • You must have a drafting facility; it is not too late to install one for 2016.
  • A teaser bull is very useful for the second half of the breeding season (if you don’t have one for 2016, then plan to have one for next year)

Controlling breeding/AI costs

Firstly,breeding/AI investment must be made, but make sure that you select the right team of AI sires for your herd.

* The starting point must be an examination of your ICBF EBI report with your adviser.

* Achieving a submission rate of over 90% is critical to achieving a high six-week calving rate. 

Starting recording heats about a month before the breeding season begins reduces the number of cows that you need to check before AI starts. 

Then, 10 days before breeding begins, check cows that haven’t shown heats, and are more than 30 days calved.

* Tail paint is the cheapest heat detection aid available and must be used; alternatives are available, but may be slightly more expensive.

* Use of GeneIreland AI sires is a great way to access high-quality, high-EBI sires for very small money.

A small number of black and white packs and a larger number of crossbred packs may still be available.

Farmers committed to the industry long-term, who are milk recording and actively recording data on ICBF, should consider applying. Contact 1850-600900 for details.

* You can minimise AI costs by working hard to increase conception rates. Increasing conception rate to first service from 45% to 55% in a 100-cow herd will result in 20 fewer AI straws over nine weeks (and at €20 per straw, a saving of €400).

You must ensure that heifers are at target weight at bulling time (you really should have been working on this before now).

Thin cows and late calvers must be milked once a day to allow them gain necessary body condition and increase the likelihood of conception.


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