On-farm conception rates in the UK have been declining at a rate of 1% per year over the last 20 years. There are many reasons given for this decline and many different views expressed. The high yielding Holstein cow seems to have suffered the most from a drop in fertility performance.

One factor without doubt is that the steady increase in milk yields has seen a similar decrease in fertility performance. This is probably not surprising given the energy demands on a high yielding Holstein cow.

So are we wasting our time in trying to improve fertility performance? The answer is no but the solution requires a large investment in the environment, nutrition and management of the modern dairy cow.

Three Rivers Veterinary Group use a fertility control program and a 100 day contract scheme to improve fertility performance.
The main factors which must be brought together to improve fertility are:

1. Nutrition.

This covers the areas of ration formulation, mineral supplementation, correct transition diets and correct mixing and delivery of the ration to the cow.

2. Environment and Housing.

This subject covers the areas of good comfortable housing, with yards or modern cubicles which allow good levels of cow comfort. Wide, well lit passageways and good flooring help to reduce injuries and lameness.

3. Breeding.

There is thought to be a genetic relationship between yield and fertility and that genetic selection for yield has partly contributed to this decline in fertility. Whether or not this is the case selection for longevity is now seen as being more important than yield.

4. Good quality records.

This is essential to fertility performance. On farm records may be manual or computerised; this does not matter provided they are accurate and easy to use.

5. Good Heat Detection.

This is probably the area where many farms struggle to get the best performance. The modern Holstein may only show oestrus activity for 6 hours and she may only ride other cows a few times during this period. On dairy farms the rise in cow numbers has been accompanied by a reduction in staffing levels. This has resulted in a requirement for heat detection aids such as Kamars, chalk, paint, pedometers, HeatTime etc. all with varying degrees of success.

6. Reliable insemination of cows.

If DIY AI is used then it is essential that the semen straws are stored correctly and that a good technique is used for thawing and delivering the semen. Generally good quality DIY AI is superior to the use of outside AI where cows can only be served once a day. Three Rivers Veterinary Group can provide refresher AI courses on an individual basis; please contact us for details.

7. A Reliable Veterinary Fertility Control Program.

Three Rivers Veterinary Group operate a Fertility Control program which is designed to ensure that all cows are prepared correctly for the start of the service period and that any non-cycling or non-pregnant cows are picked up as quickly as possible. Monitoring of herd performance using herd records, metabolic profiles and bulk milk quality results in conjunction with Interherd and Herd Companion ensures a quick response to any problems that arise.

8. 100 Day Contract.

The 100 day contract is a revolutionary dairy management program to optimize early pregnancies.