Weather is always a factor in farming and with expert analysis telling us that we can expect increased variability and more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events globally, it seems that climate change will have a serious effect on planning and decision making on farms going forward.
None was this more so evident this year than in the UK and Ireland with one of the toughest and longest winters in recent history the knock on effects are expected to be seen well into 2019.
Lack of fodder and poor weather conditions were certainly not the start to the breeding season that most farmers were anticipating, for many farmers this year the breeding season commenced much later than usual and we are all aware of the financial importance of an early and compact calving season.
Events such as these make us realise more than ever that decision making on farms must be anticipatory and proactive, we need to identify where and when we are vulnerable and where possible implement solutions and technology which will allow us to adapt to new and developing situations.
One such farmer affected by this years conditions is Finbarr O’Connell, based in Macroom, Co. Cork, the heart of dairy land in Ireland Finbarr along with his wife milk 85 cows. In 2017 after scanning his herd Finbarr discovered he had an empty rate of 20%, this along with the tough conditions led Finbarr to look into a solution that would help him with manage his breeding more successfully and in January of this year he purchased 100 HerdInsights collars.
“I purchased the collars in January, so I could receive the benefits of the collars for pre-breeding, this worked very well for me as I was able to identify 12 problem cows which I was able to get sorted and cycling for insemination, without the collars these cows would of either not got in calve or would have ended up slipping to late calvers.
Like many Irish farmers Finbarr normally lets cows out mid-February.. “so when It got to the first week of April and first week of breeding and the cows were still inside with poor quality round bale silage I was getting concerned”.
This year many farmers took the decision to put off breeding “But I took the decision to go ahead” says Finbarr. “In my first 3 weeks I inseminated 100% of my cows that were eligible, I was delighted. The national target is 90% in 3 weeks, but the national average was only 58% in 2017”.
Recently Finbarr scanned any cows that were 30 days since their last insemination with results being that 75% of the herd will be calving in 4-5 weeks. In addition 85% of the cows that were scanned held to their first insemination and with a national target of 66% Finbarr is delighted with this result.
"Last year my calving season was 16 weeks but this year I am able to stop at 11 weeks due to so many cows being in calve, my plan now is that I will do away with the danger of bulls and concentrate on just using AI".
“I came into a very tough season with an empty rate of 20%, HerdInsights technology has helped me to turn that around and now I can look forward to facing into 2019 on a much more positive note, while I have had to face increased costs in feed etc.. at least I am now gaining profits in breeding and health management…”