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23rd February, 2019

Diverse effects of breeding and feeding policies in the industry.

A common theme at this time of year with the scanning of freshly calved suckler cows is the poor rate of uterine involution and body condition score in the same animals.

This impairment of involution of the reproductive tract extended calving to pregnancy interval, excessive culling of cows which are still eligible on the basis of age to stay in the herd. This situation arises on the basis of pre-calving and post-calving nutritional management and the imposition of a breeding policy to use genetics which will maximise the opportunity for lightweight gain, muscle gain and overall confirmation of the pregnancy.

However, our studies reveal that selection on the basis of sires, which result in calving difficulty, is avoided by the farmers by imposition of a restricted dietary intake in the latter part of pregnancy to ensure delivery of a viable calf. The costs of caesareans are avoided at all costs.  In order to avoid the larger calf syndrome, farmers will starve their suckler cows in the last eight weeks of pregnancy and also restrict dry matter intake in the first six weeks post calving in order to avoid scours among calves engorging themselves on milk from their dams.

This form of breeding of cows with associated restriction on dry matter intakes has a negative impact on reproductive performance. The subsequent calving to pregnancy intervals is dramatically increased. The classical symptoms encountered on farm visits are body condition score of between 1.7 & 2.2, uterine infections and a deep anoestrus state on the basis of USART.

This situation could be avoided using sires with suckler cows that match their ability in terms of calving ease, maintenance of body condition score of 3 through their dry period and greater mobilisation of body reserves during the 6 weeks post calving.