High fertility drives profit – Dr Shane Thomson, Holbrook Vet Centre

August 6, 2019 4:13 pm

According to Dr Shane Thomson, fertility is the ability for a cow to become pregnant, but it goes further, and includes being able to calve unassisted and raise a calf to weaning, early in the calving period, every 12 months, starting as a 2 year old heifer. 

 ‘Fertility is not high pregnancy rates, it is the conception pattern, the ability to have a large number of calves born early in the calving period.’ 

Shane highlighted that fertility drives profit by increase averaged age and weight of calves, majority of calves being in the ideal calving window, matching pasture growth with feed demands, increase ongoing performance of females. 

There are also other considerations like improved management efficiencies, eg management of calving, calf marking, weaning and marketing of even sale groups 

Using an example of the same 100 cows, managed two different way, a 6 week joining versus a 10 week joining, generated a $70 differential, based mostly on the weight. 

For Shane the main benefit of high fertility is that, ‘starting females as early calvers is the biggest step to managing an early calving herd.’ 

And how do you improve fertility? ‘Understand and work towards breeding targets, understand and manage conception pattern and put your hand up an manage your herd’s fertility’. 

‘It is important to note that fertility has a very low heritability, it’s about making correct management decisions and placing selection pressure on reproductive performance.’ 

All of which is influenced by the management of females, bulls, disease and pregnancy. 

Shane noted that there are a number of risks associated with high fertility which include: 

  • Short joinings put increased pressure on the breeding program 
  • Longer joinings often saw disease come and go with the joining 
  • Increased risk means we need to manage to prevent lost income through program failures 
  • Most sub-fertility problems investigated involved new bulls or bulls in a single sire joining situation 

But at the end of the day it is all about identifying and mitigating these common risks and ensuring the correct management practices are in place.