Kieran O'Mahony of Glen Vets reflects on the implications of a very busy spring on farms...

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    Kieran O'Mahony's picture

    I was scanning cows for a farmer today, and she commented on what a busy time of the year it is.

    No sooner is the calving season winding down, than the breeding season gets into full swing, and every effort is being made to reach the magic targets for submission rate, 6 week calving rate, etc.

    I find that every year is different when it comes to the breeding season. Last year was probably the most successful year I ever saw. Cows were very active, conception rates were excellent, and this Spring bore out the proof that pregnancy rates were also very good. So a lot of cows calved over a shorter period of time, and more calves were on the ground earlier in the calving season. I think this led to greater problems overall with the two main pathological events in the calf shed, Pneumonia and Scour, both of which were very prevalent this Spring.

    Turning to this year, I am seeing  more cows presented to me as non cyclic at scanning visits, with many of them dormant, but some which are cycling but not showing active heat. This to me points to an animal that is under production or nutrition pressure, and certainly the unseasonal weather is probably playing a part in that at the moment. It is too early to predict pregnancy rates, but I don’t think they will match the excellent figures achieved this year.

    During the busiest period of nearly every Spring calving season, there is a lull in calvings of a fortnight or so. This lull seems to occur simultaneously on every farm, and it is often surmised that it corresponds to a period of bad weather during the previous breeding period. I don’t know how true this is, but it would be an interesting theory to follow up at some time. Certainly in our area over the past few weeks we have seen a lot of Grass Tetany cases, and though cows are milking fairly well, the cold wet weather must be taking its toll.

    So returning to my conversation at the crush today; it is indeed a busy time, but soon the bull will be put in charge (is he fertility tested?), the temperatures will rise, and the workload on farms will lighten (but don’t forget to worm the calves). Just in time to start thinking about first cut silage….!