July 9th, 2019 - Fertility Improvement Overview Meeting

Published 10 July 19

On July 9th we hosted the forth #TeamDairy Strategic Dairy Farm meeting and the second around the topic of fertility at Buscot Wick Farm in Oxfordshire operated by Phil Kinch and his herd manager Ben Redman.

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Following previous good fertility rates, they had a dramatic drop last year. A meeting was hosted in October to share their proposed approaches to tackling the issue and now nine months on we revisited Phil and his team to assess the positive progress and results.

Phil and Ben were joined by guest speaker Dave Gilbert from Horizon Vets who has worked with the wider team involved at Buscoot Wick on analysing their data and benchmarking this with data from farmers from across the country.

The event attended by 90 farmers and industry shared the main news of a dramatic turnaround in their six-week calving rate from 75% to a predicted rate of circa 89%.

Some of the key takeaways that were critical factors for success shared by the team included:

  • Review your own data carefully – during a quiet time look at your data carefully and establish what key factors are influencing your numbers rather than simply copying what might be deemed successful on another farm. Be careful when considering stats against others that they are recorded like for like and remember that there are multiple influencing factors.
  • They brought heifer fertility back in-house - synchronising heifers, serving based on a consistent heat detection method and by ensuring the timing of service was optimal.
  • Improved performance with heavy use of sexed semen – According to herd manager Ben Redman, over the last three years sexed semen has improved dramatically and as long as you are getting your timing of service correct there is no reason why you cannot achieve similar conception rates to conventional semen.
  • Investment in a collar system for heat detection – whilst they recognised this may not be for everyone and farms need to consider what is right for them, herd manager Ben Redman shared how the investment in a system of rumination collars that provided data every 20 minutes dramatically improved the accuracy and timing of each cows serving. He felt this contributed to fertility rates and better consistency and that the £45K investment would be cost effective over seven years, as well as allowing him more freedom with app updates when off the farm. Through careful management this factor alone has lifted the submission rate by 10-15% and conception rates by 10%. Other benefits included improved detection of sick cows.
  • Close monitoring and management of cow body condition scores to ensure any changes are made in good time to adjust any overly thin or fat cows. 
  • There is no one silver bullet – It was clear from the discussion between hosts, attendees and the speaker that a multi-faceted approach with small strategic changes and careful management is the key factor contributing to delivering fertility success.
  • Developing systems that can be repeatable – Phil explained that he is always looking for systems and processes that are repeatable. In his opinion this ensured that they could maximise efficiency but that it also helped attract staff and improve continuity.

You can access the core presentation for this day here 

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