Body condition ‘number one tool’

CRV national sales and marketing manager Julia Baynes, of Matamata, spoke to dairy farmers about...
CRV national sales and marketing manager Julia Baynes, of Matamata, spoke to dairy farmers about ways to increase the fertility of their herd near Gore last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
A farmer has many levers they can pull to increase the fertility of their herd, CRV national sales and marketing manager Julia Baynes says.

Ms Baynes, addressing a field day near Gore last week, said the national average six week in-calf rate was about 66% and remained static the past seven years.

Before joining CRV in 2023, Ms Baynes spent six years as a large animal vet in Waikato. There were ways to maximise cow fertility going into mating, she said.

She asked farmers at the field day what "levers they can pull" to increase the fertility of their herd.

A farmer said he blood-tested his herd in autumn to ensure levels of trace elements, such as copper and selenium, were where they needed to be.

Another farmer spoke of chasing a shorter gestation period for his herd.

Ms Baynes agreed, as calving slightly earlier allowed more time for a cow’s uterus to recover and gave them a chance to have their first heat so they were having their second heat at the planned start of mating.

A cow had a far lower conception rate if was inseminated at the first "silent" heat, compared to the second "proper" heat, she said.

Mobs should be managed appropriately based on their body condition to ensure they were well fed.

"Your number one tool for fertility is body condition, every single time."

Extensive research had shown a cow with better body condition or a yearling mated at target condition and grown out well, had higher fertility levels "than the skinnier girls".

"You can’t beat good old fashioned feeding in terms of getting those cows in-calf."

Another tool to increase fertility was inseminating the herd with quality bull semen, which was proven to be fertile and get more cows in-calf.

"There are some bulls that are freaks and outperform their friends by quite a significant amount."

A straw containing the semen of three bulls from the same breed was available to beef and dairy farmers abroad.

She hoped the triple-mix straws would one day be available to the New Zealand dairy industry.

"There is a 3.7% increase in conception rate from using those straws."

In the triple-mix straw, one of the semen types might be a "sprinter" and the another type could be a "marathoner" so the sperm lived in the cow for longer.

"You are extending the period of life that sperm has inside that cow — it is a really, really cool tool."

The straws were not yet available in New Zealand where the market offered one sire to one straw.