Whenever I go through our National Milk Records (NMR) reports, following monthly milk recording, I’m always grateful that we don’t seem to have any major problems with infertility in the herd – especially when I hear of the impact it is having on profitability on some farms.

Our latest NMR fertility summary shows rolling 12 month figures for the herd:

Service per conception 1.77
% Conceived to 1st 56
Days to Conception 94
Calving Index (days) 371 (293 cows)

The figures for our herd are not quite ‘text book’ but they are pretty close and I have learned over the years that we can choose to have fertile cows. This starts with breeding the right sort of cow – not necessarily selecting one particular breed. Our herd is predominantly comprised of Montbeliardes and crossbred cows, which goes a long way to explaining why fertility is good in the herd. The fact that we have robust cows and are only pursuing milk yields of around 7,000 – 7,500 litres a head, means that there is less pressure on the cows and this aids general health too.

We are blissfully free of metabolic disorders such as displaced abomasums – what are they? We did have a few cases of milk fever back in the wet summer months and we do currently have a cow with mastitis plus a few lame cows. I’m not trying to make claims for how clever we are here – I just want to remind people that infertile, unhealthy cows are, to some extent, something we choose to have or not to have.

Too often farmers are coerced into buying expensive solutions for fundamental problems in their herd, which mask the real problem. I often read about farms where cows are routinely placed on hormone programmes in an attempt to induce a reproductive cycle that should come naturally to a fit and healthy cow. In addition, there seems to be an increasing number of heat detection aids on the market, replacing the observation powers of stockmen with pedometers and computers to track each cow’s every move. Here we rely on a very able cowman, who knows every cow and picks up any changes in behaviour that might indicate whether she is either on heat or unwell.

If you want fertile and healthy cows, get back to basics, regain control of your farm and enjoy a simpler life. Oh and by the way, you can also enjoy more calves born each year with a higher value per head, fewer cull cows and reduced vet costs.


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