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Measuring dairy herd fertility
  1. RJ Esslemont


The use of the calving index as a measure of herd fertility ignores the proportion of the herd that is culled, generally for failing to conceive. It is more important to consider the total cost of long calving intervals, high culling rate and even low pregnancy rates in an integrated index that reflects inefficient management, than to have to cope with balancing a number of separate physical indicators. In a study of 91 herds containing 14,524 cows a full range of physical indices was examined. The average herd calving interval was 380.3 days, with a culling rate of 23.1 per cent. Of the cows calving, 76.9 per cent recalved, a figure which when adjusted for the calving interval (CIA calving rate) became 73.8 per cent. In quartiles split on the basis of CIA calving rate, the top quartile achieved 82 per cent with a calving index of 375.2, and a culling rate of 16.7 per cent. These standards were achieved by serving 91.9 per cent of the cows after calving, at an interval to first service of 67.2 days. The submission rate for artificial insemination in the first 24 days after the earliest service date was 57.5 per cent and the overall pregnancy rate was 51.2 per cent. As a result 92.1 per cent of the cows served, and 85.3 per cent of those which calved, conceived again, with an average of 1.9 services per conception. Assessing fertility on a financial basis, with costs attributed to calving interval, culling rate and pregnancy rate to give a fertility index, the average herd was losing pounds 62/cow/year, compared with target levels.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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