Wednesday, 20 March 2013 15:43

Free scheme to help lift returns

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A FREE scheme to help dairy farmers lift the reproductive performance of their herds and get more cows in-calf within the first six weeks of mating is being launched this month.

Developed by LIC with support from Dairy NZ and other industry partners, the ‘6 Week Challenge’ will inform farmers to help them improve their 6 week in-calf rate and overall profitability. 

LIC chief executive and dairy farmer Mark Dewdney says the average 6 week in-calf rate on New Zealand dairy farms is 65%, which is below the industry target of 78% and this gap represents an opportunity for many farmers. 

“Getting more cows in-calf in the first six weeks of mating can have a big impact on their bottom line through increased milk production, fewer empties and tighter mating and calving periods. 

“It also allows them to get more from their genetics and artificial breeding investment with more cows carrying high BW calves and therefore increased selection pressure for culling which will speed up genetic gain. 

“Whatever the farm’s focus – growing, higher BW, more days in milk or selling stock – you’ll get there quicker by getting more cows in-calf in the first six weeks.” 

The 6 Week Challenge was developed after research identified reproductive performance to be one of farmers’ top concerns, and an area where they want more help. 

With a seasonal approach, it supports the DairyNZ InCalf Programme and encourages farmers to make incremental changes throughout the year to ultimately get more cows in-calf quicker at mating time.  It lists opportunities and areas of impact for each season, including heifer rearing, body condition and nutrition, heat detection and bull management. 

Dewdney says effective management of these areas will set the cow up and give her the best possible chance of getting in-calf quicker. 

Farmers are also encouraged to seek further support and advice from their vet, farm consultant or coach to help them achieve their goals and stay focussed – much like a sports player would, he said 

“Today’s dairy cows are better than ever before, they’re different from what we milked 20 years ago, with different demands; farming is different too. It’s much more intense and on a larger scale across the board; so what we did 20 years ago won’t necessarily work today. 

“Mating only happens once a year on [most] dairy farms, but with this challenge we’re encouraging a whole farm approach, and [a year-round focus] because it is the herd management practices all year that ultimately impact on its success.” 

Farmers can register to take the challenge at www.6weeks.co.nz and in return will receive an information pack about the challenge, the reproduction year on-farm and areas to focus on at different times of the year. 

Seasonal planning tools will also be issued for farmers to set specific tasks or goals and identify key areas to focus on. Ongoing information and support will be provided and farmers will have the ability to benchmark themselves against others in their area. 

Rural professionals, such as veterinarians and farm consultants, are also being encouraged to register on the website so their clients can easily nominate them to be part of the challenge with them. 

He says farmers can find out their current 6 week in-calf rate from their Fertility Focus Report in MINDA or other herd recording software. 

For more information visit www.6weeks.co.nz or farmers can speak with their local customer relationship manager.

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