FARMING: Achieving high fertility efficiency can be a challenge
Fertility efficiency is key to the profitability of any livestock enterprise and beef is no exception. It is defined as “achieving the maximum output (kg) of saleable beef per breeding cow per year at the least cost”.
Clearly this is the aim of most farmers however actually achieving high levels of efficiency is the daily challenge!
The three key factors that affect the output (kg of beef) of a suckler herd are weaned calf crop percentage, the percentage of cows calved in the first three weeks and genetics.
The weaned calf crop % is the number of calves reared compared to the number of cows and heifers bulled.
It is a useful figure as it factors in all production losses from getting cows pregnant, keeping cows pregnant and calf mortality (either at birth or due to any diseases after birth).
The industry benchmark target is 94% though a figure of greater than 90% is considered very good.
The figure for the percentage of cows calved in the first three weeks is calculated by working out a due date (279-287 days after day one of breeding season depending on the breed genetics) and counting the number of calves born within three weeks of the due date.
Do not calculate this percentage based on the day the first calf is born as this may well be a one off early calf.
The industry target is to have 65% cows calving in the first three weeks though clearly this is only possible if all cows are cycling on day one of breeding and all the bulls are highly fertile with the capacity to cover all cows in their first 21 day cycle.
Beef cows are usually anoestrus for 50-60 days after calving so herds with extended calving periods will be affected by this and are highly unlikely to achieve such high in calf rates in the first three weeks if bulling begins soon after (or during!) the calving period.
Furthermore poor body condition scores at calving can extend this period of anoestrus.
The benefits of a high weaned calf crop % and a tight calving pattern are considerable though and are worth pursuing.
Genetics is the final factor which has an impact on fertility efficiency.
With ever improving reliability and data available for bull selection there is great opportunity to improve herd fertility, improve growth rates and reduce calving difficulties.