Katie Mason

A bit of forward planning and organisation will go a long way during the busy mating period. For some farms, calving may just be underway, for early calvers however, pre-mating planning is around the corner.

Here are some top tips to make sure you maximise submission and conception rates in your herd over mating:

Preparing all staff for mating

Heat detection training is always a good idea, even if it is just serves as a refresher course when you have been doing it for years!

Make sure all staff involved in heat detection know the signs of heat (DairyNZ’s INCALF book has some simple and concise information).

It has been demonstrated (by INCALF research) that one person in charge of heat detection will produce better results than multiple people in charge. It will still be important that all staff are ‘on the same page’ and understand the importance of good heat detection in the mating period.

Decide what the plan is for cows which are ‘maybe’ on heat and agree what will happen with these cows ahead of time.

Monitoring BCS and feed intakes

Monitoring body condition score (BCS) between calving and mating is important as condition loss during this period can influence fertility and may mean cows are more likely to be classified as non-cyclers.

Aim for no more than 1 BCS loss between calving and a BCS of 4 for cows and 4.5 for heifers at mating.

Feed budgeting will ensure cows are getting enough to meet the demands of milk production and maintenance of condition. Ask your vet or farm consultant to help you to prepare a 3-month partial feed budget.

Planning the AB and bull mating periods

Decide how many weeks of AB you intend to do.

Plan who your AB technician will be if you are using a commercial AB technician.

Work out where your farm will be on the AB run. Will you be first or last on the list? This will help you plan for how long your cows will be standing on the concrete yard before they are served.

Make sure you have functional and adequate facilities for your AB technician to work.

Plan how many bulls you will need after the AB period. This will depend on your conception rate to AB. Be realistic on AB pregnancy rate.

If you intend to lease or buy bulls, they will need to be disease tested and vaccinated well in advance.

Choose your bulls wisely from a reputable source and make sure they are big enough to serve the cows.

Bulls for heifers will need to be ready up to 10 days before the bulls for the herd.

Minimising impact of uterine infection on fertility

Check all cows that have been calved for at least three weeks for uterine infection. This can be done cheaply and easily by your vet using a metricheck device. Any infection in the uterus will prevent conception and should be treated promptly so it can be resolved before PSM.

Maximising submission rates by managing non-cycler cows

Tail paint and monitor premating heats for five weeks – this will minimise misclassification of cows as non-cyclers when they are not.

Touch up tailpaint every two or three days to make it easy to read and keep good written records of cows on heat. As cows begin to cycle premating, change their tail paint colour. Count and treat (if necessary) cows which remain the original tailpaint colour – these will be your ‘non-cycler’ cows.

Any intervention with treatment is best done as early as possible (to mate cows in the first week after PSM) to maximise return on investment.

Beware of heat detection fatigue in the premating period, remember you still have the whole AB period to heat detect too!

As usual a veterinary consultation ahead of time is recommended to make sure everything runs smoothly. For best results, get all stakeholders, including your vet, other farm professionals and consultants, and all staff around a table at the end of the calving period for a planning session.