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24th October, 2020

Six-week extension in the winter housing period causing significant herd health problems in County Kerry.

Farm visits today in County Kerry revealed farmers severely stressed with the inability to cope with the optimization of herd health during this critical phase of the production cycle.

Farmers are currently into week 8-10 of the calving season. In the normal year the calves would be out grazing by day and slurry fication would enable slurry storage to be depleted. At present, land is saturated on the very best of farms, leaving it impossible to successfully graze cows. Farmers are not set up with a housing environment conducive to management of large numbers of freshly calved cows.

  • There has been significant increase in herd health problems such as mastitis, pneumonia and mortellaro. The problems are exacerbated by the fact that they still have approximately one third of their herd still to calf. These cows have been confined for an extended period over and above the norm because freshly calved cows are still housed on a full-time basis.
  • Smart scan technology reveals that reproductive problems associated with the stressors of an extended housing period are resulting in an increased incidence of reproductive abnormalities.
  • Impaired reproductive performance associated with dry cow fresh cow transition will reduce chances of getting cows in calf. It is essential that you conduct smart scan assessment of cows that are calved to date at this point in time and then the later calvers in 4 to 6 weeks’ time.
  • Prices at farm level have been exacerbated by the fact that there is minimal payment for Friesian bull calves sold off farm.

In conclusion the current inclement weather has played as a significant stressor for both man and beast and farmers are considering using sexed semen for dairy cows this spring to avoid problems in the sale of Friesian bull calves in 2021, it is essential to identify those cows fit for the use sexed semen using smart scan technology.