Team and Leader F J Gordon
Organisations Involved Agricultural Research Institute of Northern Ireland (F Gordon), University College Dublin (D Kelleher and M Rath), Teagasc Moorepark (K O'Farrell).
Background and Summary
Within the industry there are major concerns regarding the length of time animals remain within the dairy herd (survivability), with a clear view that is deteriorating. This increasing problem may reflect a number of aspects, such as a declining fertility, increasing instances of health problems, or simply the fact that cows are being subjected to greater metabolic stress arising from the increased levels of performance, which are now achieved. It is important to clarify these issues, and in particular to examine those factors which are contributing to poor reproductive performance (calving index), and survivability.
The proposed study will examine a comprehensive data set derived from 700 farms across Ireland to determine the influence of a range of factors on reproductive performance and survivability. The factors to be examined will include: - genetic merit of cow, source of genetics (e.g. USA Vs New Zealand), level of herd concentrate input, proportion of herd feed nutrients derived from grass and forage and individual cow yield. The raw data required for this study have already been collected as part of a previous project.
Survival rate of cows in the dairy herd is of major importance (major differences between heifer rearing costs and cull cow price). This study will determine the factors which influence this. This will enable farmers to minimise depreciation costs in dairy herds. If replacement rate could be reduced by only 1% it would save the industry around £1 million per annum.