Shorter gestation condenses calving

It takes a team to run Simon and Janine Hopcroft’s 750-cow dairy farm at Riversdale. It includes ...
It takes a team to run Simon and Janine Hopcroft’s 750-cow dairy farm at Riversdale. It includes (from left, back) Daniel Kinred, Blaire Gaines (1), Hayden Gaines, Kirsty Gaines, Jess Toole (calf rearer), (front) L J (11) and Harlem Kinred (10), Edie Gaines (5), Maggie (5) and Georgia Brown (3). PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY GAINES FAMILY
Drawing the shorter straw is not always a bad thing.

Riversdale sharemilker Hayden Gaines puts all his cows to artificial breeding (AB) but. as he wanted to shorten the calving period, he chose to inseminate the 180 cows not in calf with LIC’s short gestation length semen (SGL).

Mr Gaines reduced the overall calving period on the farm by 10-12 days.

In addition to compacting the calving period, it meant the cows, which would normally be calving later, were in milk and producing for that additional time.

"It also gave them longer to recover and a much better chance to get in calf for the following season."

He is employed by Simon and Janine Hopcroft and milks 750 cows on 250ha near Riversdale.

Each cow produces on average 550kg of milk solids annually and the farm’s target is 425,000kg for this season.

He was the farm’s manager before moving to variable order sharemilking three years ago.

Mr Gaines and wife Kirsty are in the seventh season on the same property, The couple have two daughters, Blaire (13 months), and Edie (5).

LIC’s SGL products benefited their farming system and meant the couple, their two full-time staff and the calf rearer had a slightly less drawn out "full on" few weeks.

"The last thing we want is a long calving period".

The SGL calves generally have a slightly lighter birthweight with no calving difficulties, but overall animal health remains the same.

Depending on what semen was used, the resulting calves were either sent away as bobbies or used as replacements.

"It will be interesting to see how it looks after three or four years, to see if any trends develop."

Mr Gaines also used SGL Hereford semen over the bottom 15% of his herd, so the calves had white faces.

"That is a marker to remind us all on farm that they are to be reared for the beef market."

LIC’s Agri-manager Mark Bennett said the shorter SGL gestation products condensed calving spread.

"Using SGL products at the end of mating does extend mating length but decreases next year’s calving pattern.

"Late calving cows not only have more days in milk but also benefit from a longer period to recovery post calving which is an added bonus."

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