Fraser Jones and his team at Calcourt Farm, Welshpool have been working hard to improve the fertility rates in his Holstein Frisian herd from 30% to around 60%. Fraser told us how they did it.
“One key way we improved fertility was by eradicating BVD from our herd. We worked closely with our vet to test, identify and remove all persistently infected cattle which eliminated the source of disease. To prevent future outbreaks, we run a strict vaccination programme alongside continued biosecurity measures.
I also work very closely with my team to emphasise the importance of checking for visual heats, which is critical for the timing of artificial insemination.
I give a financial incentive to staff who correctly identify a bulling cow that later becomes pregnant. This motivates staff and helps us keep on top of spotting visual signs of heat.
With some heats lasting just eight hours it’s essential everyone is at the top of their game and constantly looking for visual signs of heat, so nothing is missed.
To support heat identification, we use a dairy master pedometer system that monitors cow activity. This is especially useful for indicating cows having a silent heat,” explains Fraser.
Fraser improved his fertility expertise by attending the World Wide Sire programme at the Global Dairy Centre in Washington, USA. The course gave him the practical steps needed to make effective herd management improvements.
“The advanced reproduction training programme helped me understand more about herd fertility including the role of hormones and synchronisation programmes.
We used to check all cows for bulling vaginally, but since attending the course one of the biggest changes we’ve made on farm is to switch to checking rectally.
The course gave me the skills to check cows rectally and feel the ovaries for follicles.
As well as reducing the risk of introducing infection, this method has increased contraception rates. We can identify if a cow has a follicle ready and therefore can be artificially inseminated.
We can also identify cows already in calf that don’t need inseminating, saving us semen and time which all contribute to on-farm cost efficiencies,” concludes Fraser.
Fraser’s top tips for improving herd fertility
- Check for bulling (strings) rectally rather than vaginally to reduce risk of introducing infection
- Consider use of an oestrus synchronisation programme to increase the chance of pregnancy
- Motivate staff to check for visual signs of heat