Northland farmer Ken Hames has been elected to the Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) board.
The data, from the 2016-17 season, is from almost 4000 herds with a detailed fertility focus report in Minda, representing about 30% of NZ herds.
The statistics illustrate herd achievement compared to industry targets, which are the benchmarks set by the industry to help farmers measure their animals’ reproductive performance and identify areas for improvement.
Malcolm Ellis, LIC general manager NZ markets, says the highlight of the national statistics is a marked improvement in calving pattern, with more farmers achieving the target of having 60% of the herd calved within three weeks.
Last season, 67% of herds hit that target, up from 52% in 2014. This is now the third consecutive year calving patterns have improved, “a great achievement that can deliver big benefits to a farm’s bottom line”.
“It should also provide a solid base to make further improvements across the board this coming mating season.
“A tighter front end calving pattern allows more cows to recover from calving and start cycling before mating starts, giving them a higher chance of conceiving early in the mating period. This means more cows are in-calf earlier and then more days in milk before Christmas.”
Ellis says the calving pattern also helps drive the most important measure, the six week in-calf rate, with the target to get 78% of the herd in-calf in the first six weeks of mating.
The latest stats show a modest drop in the 6-week in-calf rate, with the national average now at 66%, down 0.9% on the previous year.
The chief contributor to the drop in 6-week in-calf rate was a decline in submission rate – the percentage of cows that received at least one AB insemination or natural mating during the first 3 weeks of mating. The national average herd submission rate declined by 2.1% and the heifers were slightly harder hit with a 2.3% decline on last year.
This is understandable given the season, Ellis says.
“The low dairy payout and a challenging spring in many regions would have played a part in some of these key performance indicators dropping slightly but farmers can flip this into an opportunity this coming mating period.”
Ellis cautioned farmers about shortening mating length solely to tighten calving pattern, as that can lead to more empties.
“In the lead up to this year’s mating season the most important thing farmers can do is make sure their cows have a good body condition score and they are nailing their heat detection.”
Ellis emphasised a concentrated calving pattern next season starts with a good mating management programme this season.
“Many will identify the ‘start of the season’ as June 1, others the start of calving as ‘when it all gets underway’ but I have no doubt that the fortunes and success of next season start with mating. Planning, attention to detail and heat detection are key.”