Sam Chesney's Replacement Heifers

On-farm research commissioned by AgriSearch to investigate the role of synchronisation and artificial insemination (AI) for beef heifers was the main feature at a recent farm walk held on the farm of Sam Chesney, Kircubbin.

Sam and his family run 130 Limousin cross suckler cows on 190 acres of grassland with an emphasis on high herd health status and using stock, regardless of breed, with proven genetic potential.

Francis Lively from AFBI Hillsborough explained the potential benefits of synchronisation of suckler heifers. These include ensuring that heifers produce their first calf early in the season, batch calving, and of course the ability to use proven superior genetics with high estimated breeding values (EBVs).

The pilot study involved 140 suckler heifers on five farms across Northern Ireland. Two of the farms used heat detection and the remaining three farms used fixed-time AI. Support for this project was also received from Zoetis, Genus ABS and AI Services (NI) Ltd. Representatives from all three industry partners were on hand at the event to give the farmers attending the benefit of their considerable experience.

Achieving target weight (60%+ of mature weight) prior to mating; a good plane of nutrition; sound animal health status; having the necessary vaccinations completed pre synchronisation and; following the synchronisation protocol in a timely manner were all key elements of success. The importance of planning ahead and making the necessary arrangements with your vet and AI technician were highlighted as was the use of the correct size of needle for administering the prostaglandin.

Results from the pilot study showed that both synchronisation systems (heat detection & fixed time) resulted in a very similar conception rate (57%) and the use of synchronisation significantly reduced the calving spread of the heifers.