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Benefits of calving down between 22-26 months

On 30 September Teagasc and Glanbia Ingredients Ireland (GII) held a farm walk on the farm of Philip Fogarty, Islands, Urlingford, Co. Kilkenny.

The walk centred on the Fogarty’s heifer rearing system, with a particular focus on the importance of calving heifers at 2 years of age.

Philip Fogarty (second from right in photo) farms with his father Philip (third from right). They farm 88 ha of which 30 ha are leased. The milking platform consists of 63 ha. They are currently milking 159cows. The heifers are reared on an outside leased block.

Last year, the farm recorded a net profit of €952 per cow. The average for profit monitor farms was €646 per cow. The driver of this profit on this farm is excellent milk solids produced at low cost.

Table 1: Current vs last year’s performance

Table 1 shows the current performance and performance last year. (The above net profit does not include a cost for drawings, capital repayments and tax.)

The EBI of the herd is very good. The fertility performance was excellent with only 8% of the herd not in calf and all the heifers in calf. All the heifers calve down between 22 – 26 months.

Table 2: Performance

The heifers are the backbone of the system. Achieving target weights and good genetics and management are pivotal to this.

Philip feeds half the amount of meal to his heifers compared to the profit monitor average. This resulted in a saving of €50 per replacement livestock unit (Lu) last year. Once the heifers are weaned they do not get any meal until their first winter. The lighter heifers are let to grass first the following spring. Quality grass is the driver of good weight gains on this farm. On average, the weanling heifers gain more than 0.7kg per day.

On 29 September, the weanling heifers averaged a weight of 202kg. All heifers less than 185kg were put into a separate bunch to receive preferential treatment.

The in-calf heifers are well on target, recording an average weight of 485kg. The average weight of the mature cows was 585kg. The Fogarty’s have their own weighing scales, allowing them to keep an eye on performance.

Table 3: Replacement Weight targets

Philip places a huge emphasis on calf health and in particular the first 10 weeks of life. Calves are not weaned until they reach 90kg. Philip puts a lot of work into colostrum feeding. Each calf gets their own mothers milk within 2 hours of birth with a stomach tube.

The benefits of calving down between 22 to 26 months

  1. Greater lifetime production
  2. Better conception rates
  3. Lower rearing costs
  4. Less labour
  5. Carry more milking stock

70% of heifers calving down at 22 – 26 months reach 3rd lactation. 50% of heifers calving down at 30 months and reach their 3rd lactation. Only 50% of heifers calving down at 30 months actually stay in the herd long enough to cover their rearing costs.

First Published 10 Octoer 2016

Tagged with: GII Agribusiness All Dairy

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