Time to consider synchronisation
SUCKLER producers could see significant economic, genetic and management benefits if they incorporate oestrus synchronisation programmes into their herd management.
Genus ABS European beef business development manager Dominic Mason says the profitability of suckler herds is dependent of maximising the calving percentage and then producing calves which closely match the market’s requirements.
“Our experience shows oestrus synchronisation can have a big impact on these key performance measures while delivering other significant benefits.”
A technique widely adopted in the dairy sector, synchronisation programmes enable groups of cows or heifers to be prepared for breeding at a time selected in advance by using a programme of treatments to synchronise oestrus activity followed by insemination.
The programmes allow for closer management of cows in the time prior to service and open up the herd to the benefits of using AI.
Mr Mason points out protocols are available to synchronise either heat or ovulation but the programme needs careful planning if the best results are to be achieved. Different programmes should be adopted for cows and for heifers.
“With synchronisation of oestrus, you are increasing your control over the most crucial activity in the suckler herd calendar,” he says. “In addition you can create the opportunity to influence the genetics of the herd, both to animals for finishing and for herd replacements.”
Mr Mason says these programmes are not a replacement for good stockmanship and the best results are achieved where animals are well-managed in the periods immediately before, during and after synchronisation.
According to Mr Mason the increased conception rates, combined with more animals being served in a short time window, can lead to a much tighter calving window.
This can simplify management of both cows and calves as they can be managed as a tighter batch. Some of the biggest benefits, however, have been as a result of the use of AI.
“The average beef cow herd in the UK is less than 30 cows and, as such, many farms are unable to purchase top quality stock bulls to cover both the terminal and maternal aspects of the herd.
“Consequently, either the value of finished calves or the quality of replacements will be compromised. With AI you open up the herd to an enormous genetic pool and can select the sires to deliver the best quality finished animals and good quality herd replacements.
“With strong beef prices it makes sense to produce as many of the best quality calves as possible,” says Mr Mason.
“Oestrus synchronisation is one management tool that can have a big impact on suckler herd profitability.”
FERTILITY remains a major drain on suckler herd productivity with an average annual calving rate of just 70 per cent. This reduces the number of calves produced, spreads the calving window, which complicates management, and means cows have to be run empty, which increases costs.